To Anyone Who’s Gay, Mentally Ill and Coping With the Pulse Shooting Anniversary

“Never let anyone make you feel invisible, ignored or undeserving…”

Below is a list of the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse Shooting so we never forget:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedes Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old

Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When a hateful man took the lives of 49 men and women on June 12, 2016, I vomited for two days. I did not leave my home. I posted tearful pleas on social media for people to teach their children about love, empathy, tolerance and how not to hate those who are different. I screamed at the video recording on my phone, “We must be better. We must be different.”

I was simply “another gay person” affected by this slaying.

However, I happen to have rapid cycling bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. This event left me reeling. I became paranoid that if I ever left my home, my son would be left without a mother. I winced when my girlfriend held my hand because my heart beat so fast I thought it would break from my chest. I could not breathe. I could not sleep. There was no reprieve. I felt compelled to grieve for the 49 lives lost. My emotions were unchecked. 
I was angry at myself that I was alive, complaining about so-called “first world problems” and having suicidal thoughts when they had died for being who they are, for being who I am. I felt unrelenting guilt for my depression. I was alive, I was breathing and my heart was beating. How dare I be so ungrateful after what happened? My anxiety and fear felt like nothing compared to what they must have felt in their last moments.
However, one day, as I was in tears, my son came to me and said, in the wisdom of a 4-year-old, “Don’t be sad, Mommy. Be brave.” The Pulse victims, casualties and their first responders were brave. They were strong. I had a light bulb moment. It took time and medication changes, but I found courage in Pulse. A pulse is a heartbeat. My heart was beating. My guilt turned to action. It was OK to grieve in the same way it was OK to recover from mental illness. It was OK to hold my girlfriend’s hand. It was OK to go outside.
I may have confused fear with anxiety. I still could not tell you. If I let fear win, the opposition wins.
I am mentally ill and that’s OK.

I am gay and that’s OK.

Forty-nine people died and that will never be OK.
They will never win.
Love is a victory and I intend to celebrate it every day.
So, to anyone out there on the fringes like me, I can only offer the truth. The truth is, the atmosphere for the mentally ill and LGBTQIA community can feel dark. The truth is, we feel each other’s pain, because we are a worldwide family and their blood is our blood. The rainbow flag flies above our cause because of its fierce colors. It demands to be seen and heard. If you’re like me, be seen and be heard; in the doctor’s office, in the psychiatrist’s office or even simply at the grocery store. Never let anyone make you feel invisible, ignored or underserving in the medical community or in the human family. And if you ever feel alone, know that I am on the fringes right there with you.

This post previously appeared on The Mighty 

I Don’t Think You Understand 

Don’t think you understand that I wanna care 
Don’t think you understand I’m on the edge of the bridge 

I’m on the precipice 

I don’t think you understand that I don’t wanna fall 

I’m one heartbeat away from losing it all 

I don’t think you understand 

That I wanna smile and I wanna dance 

But right now I barely stand a chance

I just wanna sleep 

I just wanna slumber 

I don’t think you understand I’m being pulled under 

I fight like hell to take a breathe again 

I fight like hell to not fall in 

I don’t think you understand my constant struggle

I don’t think you understand what it’s like to beg for your life on your knees 

To pray for relief 

I don’t think you understand 

I’m always on the edge 

I’m one heartbeat away and I scared I don’t stand a chance 

Waiting 

Waiting on something to happen; I don’t know what it is. Ever get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that everything you’ve ever known is about to be turned on its head? I couldn’t keep it in my mind any longer. I have to express this mysterious intuition to someone, anyone and in this day and age, the entire internet seems as good a forum as any. 

How My Father’s Suicide Forced Me To Acknowledge My Own Mental Illness

I was a fatherless daughter.

When I was 2, my father died. It was not an “accident.” It was not old age. He died by suicide.

Every year, Father’s Day cruelly mocked me. My relationships with men were cautionary tales. I was in a spiral.

Self-harm, a teenage eating disorder, attempted suicide and depression were gaslighted to a degree in which I was convinced I was a moody teenager looking for attention. Barely surpassing legal drinking age, my life was in such disarray I gut-wrenchingly decided to place a son for adoption to give him his best shot.

I still was not convinced my father’s suicide had any effect on me.

Blur of my early 20s passed and I got married, had another son and lived that picket fence life I saw on TGIF growing up. Then, one day, I crashed. I had a breakdown. Forced to admit I needed help, I sought a psychiatrist. My doctor asked me questions off of a clipboard, made a few check marks and asked me what brought me in. He soon zeroed in on my father. My father coped with an unnamed mental illness with alcohol until one day he needed the pain to end. There, 26 years after the fact, I broke down in a stranger’s office, angry and abandoned. My doctor diagnosed me with rapid cycling bipolar disorder with generalized anxiety disorder. My quirks, my moodiness and my struggles had a name. In that moment, I knew I had to survive for my little boy. I struggle every. single. day. But, I take my meds and I journal and blog and do whatever the hell I need to in order to be my best self in that day.

I cannot say I never got anything from my father. I find myself talking to him, asking if he’s proud of me.

My heart breaks for the little girl who cried herself to sleep, convinced that she had somehow made her daddy leave her. Logic and grief cannot exist together. My life has since changed. I came out to my family, my ex-husband is a wonderful friend and we co-parent beautifully. I forgive my father. I now understand that though we both have mental illnesses, he nor I are “weak.” Mental illness carries a deadly stigma. He paid the price. In his own way, he saved my life. I advocate for suicide prevention and equal medical care for mental health. We can change the outcome so that my past does not have to be anyone’s future.

This post originally appeared on The Mighty. 

Mixed Nights. 

It starts like an itch & then my face is wet. It is not raining. The sky is clear, especially for this time of night.

I am crying.

Barely five minutes ago I was laughing.
The depression drowns out the mania & sometimes they mix like a cocktail, having the same effect of making me sick. These mixed states are one of the very worst parts of my illness. I’m quite literally at two different poles of the disease. Right now, it’s nearly 3:00am as I am writing this and my mascara is blurring because I am raw, vulnerable and simply do not know what to do but write.
I write because I am scared. I am scared of my own mind. Am I truly feeling my emotions or is it my bipolar disorder? Am I happy or it is hypomania? Am I angry & irritable because the situation warrants it or is this a full manic episode? Am I crying because I am sad or is it a depressive episode? Bipolar disorder lies. I feel like I cannot control my own mind at times. I feel like I cannot trust my own intuition. Is it intuition or paranoia? The questions stack like the foundation of a terrible building.
I am strong. I am a fighter. There will be a sunrise and tomorrow this might be a vague memory of a nightmare I would rather soon forget. For now, I fight my way through the dark because I stopped crying. Putting my thoughts to print purges it from the crevices of my mind. Sharing lightens the burden I feel.
I get asked often, “What are tips for getting through mixed episodes?” and I want to offer a platitude or an encouraging word, but mostly I am honest and tell them how I do it.

One night at a time.

 

This post originally appeared on The Mighty.

Auto Pilot

 

I hear a commercial vaguely on the television, my son is playing in his room where I hear the occasional roar of a pretend dinosaur and there is a quiet jingle of a collar as my dogs run around.

Inside my mind there is a constant stream of disconcerting thoughts I have no control over. I feel gut wrenching guilt, bottomless hopelessness and an abyss of emotions I have no actual words for.

It is like I am underwater, my senses are dulled and I am not entirely sure how it is 8:00pm when it was only 3:30pm a few minutes ago. Didn’t I just pick my son up? No, I made him dinner. Did he have a vegetable? Yes, I cut carrots. I need to put him in pajamas. He’s already in pajamas. The day has whizzed by and I realize I am on auto pilot, again.

Deep within the confines of our illnesses, we can occasionally feel like we are imprisoned in our own mind. Despite the chaotic storm inside ourselves, the world continues to rotate and life goes on. My bipolar disease and anxiety carry me adrift and I feel lost. However, there is an anchor in the back of myself. It is the part of myself that grounds me in reality and allows me to carry on throughout my day because my life must, indeed, go on.

Sometimes, my days are blurry and vague. The sunshine seems a little harsh. That’s okay. Eventually I come back to myself and I am in charge again.

 

This post originally appeared on The Mighty.

When You Can’t Be There

My mom asked me to take her somewhere today. 

I’d explain to her that the side effects of my medication left me up most of the night & I am now too fatigued to drive anywhere. My muscles and joints ache and my memory isn’t the greatest. I’d explain that my mood isn’t currently stable. I’d explain that standing in line in the DMV is not an option for me since I cannot stand for long periods of time. I’d explain that large crowds and driving thru morning commuter traffic is a trigger for a panic attack and when I have one in public especially, I’m humiliated and the symptoms mimic those of a heart attack. 
You see, I’d explain if I could. However, despite my best efforts, she wouldn’t understand. It’s not from a malicious source. She just… doesn’t get it. 

So, I’m going to tell her I’m busy. It’s true. I’m busy resting because I have to conserve energy to pick my son up from school later. I’m busy trying to concentrate to the best of my ability because I have a test for college due tonight. I’m busy regulating my emotions so I don’t hurt those around me in a mixed episode of mania and depression. 

I’m busy.