**This was originally a thread on Twitter. I decided to post it here to make it more accessible and easier to read. Grammar corrections and basic changes for readability were made.There are helpful resources at the end of the article.
When I saw this comment today about people with BPD, or borderline personality disorder, among many others I’ve seen over the last several years since my diagnosis, it truly got under my skin.
People with BPD are not monsters who deserve to be ditched and locked up in an institution. Those are cruel comments to make and very telling that someone knows nothing of the diagnosis. So, I’d like to educate since I have BPD and have gone into remission with it.
BPD is, commonly, a trauma diagnosis. People with it have often been abused — sometimes severely — from an early age. It shifts how you view others and the world, and it involves cyclic behavior and emotions due to trauma responses. Many people with BPD self-harm and act on impulse.
Many also regret their actions deeply and hate the idea of hurting anyone, but due to abandonment and trust issues, may lash out in ways they normally would not. To be transparent, I developed cyclic behaviors of starting a goal, failing due to my diagnoses, self-sabotaging — which included self-harm in the way of cutting — and I pushed people away because my emotions were so intense from self-hatred, I wanted others equally near and away from me. I experienced painful turmoil at the smallest failures. I felt like I deserved nothing, not even life, when I hurt someone or failed a goal, such as not being able to keep a job.
Let me follow up with something important. Those I affected negatively and hurt had a right to leave. No one’s diagnosis gives them a right to hurt another person. Please keep in mind, however, that not all people with BPD lash out at others. Which brings me to the other type of BPD.
‘Quiet BPD’ is more internal. The person is more likely to hurt themselves rather than others, and often have comorbid diagnoses like PTSD, depression, anxiety, or others that exacerbate self-harm behaviors as well as the cycle of self-sabotage and inner turmoil.
Before I knew how the world treated people with BPD, when I got the diagnosis, I was happy to finally have an answer as to why I couldn’t function. I was still living in an abusive environment at the time, however, which didn’t help. I attempted suicide three times, before and after a diagnosis.
I admitted myself each time voluntarily to the hospital. I couldn’t handle the constant trauma that wouldn’t stop that started in my childhood. And it continued as I lived with abusive people who at first did not accept my diagnosis.
I soon got a good psychiatrist, a counselor, a case manager, the right medication, and attended a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group that lasted for a year. I was horrified when I realized what I’d done, how I’d treated people, and how serious the trauma was that affected my life. I’d always made excuses for my abusers and reasoned out why I deserved the abuse, so not only did I have c-PTSD and other mental illnesses, but I had a diagnosis that would be a stain on my record forever according to a lot of people on the internet. The trauma I experienced, and the BPD label I unfortunately gained, are not anything I asked for or wanted.
It doesn’t matter about the amount of work a lot of us do. It doesn’t matter that I’ve learned and become a better person, and I no longer do the things I used to. It seriously sucks to do all that work for so many years, and go through all that turmoil, only to be talked about like we should be abandoned and institutionalized by default. That’s inhumane. It’s cruel to generalize and further verbally abuse an already traumatized group of people who are doing all they can. Especially those who have worked hard to recover.
I realize not everyone with BPD will recover, and I realize BPD makes some people do horrible things. But that’s the only part of the picture people want to see. That’s like saying, ‘my abuser was named Jesse, so all Jesses are abusers.’ That’s absolutely asinine. No one does that.
It’s extremely triggering to work so hard to become better only to still be placed in a box of defeat — only to be despised because you have a certain diagnosis. To be told you won’t and can’t recover when that’s demonstrably false. It’s reinforcing the traumatic cycles people with BPD have. Stop doing this.
People who stigmatize us and say cruel inaccuracies about BPD, as a whole, are no better than the kind of people they claim we are.
Finally, here are a few links to some good resources to round this out.
“The support of family and friends is critical in the treatment of BPD, as many people with this condition may isolate themselves from relationships—even when they need them most.” — Borderline Personality Disorder, NAMI.
Resources for those supporting, and caring for, loved ones with mental illnesses are very important as well. You must take care of yourself first so you can care for others. — Family Members and Caregivers, NAMI.
“Research has shown that outcomes can be quite good for people with BPD, particularly if they are engaged in treatment. With specialized therapy, most people with borderline personality disorder find their symptoms are reduced and their lives are improved.” — Overview of BPD, NEABPD.
Since impulsive behaviors and addictions are common in people with BPD and other mental health diagnoses, and have been for me, something that really helps is tracking behaviors to stop them. I Am Sober has been a life-saving app (iOS and Android!). It also tracks self-harm habits, which can become a dangerous addiction. That is what I use it for. — I Am Sober.
I hope more and more people with BPD can feel brave enough to speak up about the truth of our diagnosis. We are tired of being abandoned by doctors and caregivers, verbally abused by the internet, and being treated as less-than-human simply because we are sorely misunderstood.
When I started watching Bo Burnham’s special, Inside, it was late evening but still sunny outside. When it ended, my apartment was dark and I sat for an amount of time I can’t remember in awe. I finally got off the couch to write this post.
I’ve rarely seen anything that made me feel so many things that intensely. It was nothing short of genius, but what really hit me the hardest was at the end of the film. I empathized with Bo’s story about agoraphobia and panic attacks.
From late 2016 into 2018, I remained inside due to severe anxiety and agoraphobia. I lied in bed most days, not eating, too afraid of my own body’s mysterious illness. It later turned out to be a severe case of GERD, and my anxiety only made it worse. I became anorexic during that time.
When 2019 came around, my life started to improve. I was finally on medication and had a doctor who, at last, believed me about my stomach. I gained weight back and was no longer weak and dizzy. My fear of the outside receded slowly but surely, and in middle to late 2019, I started going to the coffee shop almost every day to write. I couldn’t afford a laptop, but I had a tablet with a keyboard. My agoraphobia was gone.
I had been on testosterone for my transition for a year at least — finally on the right kind that my body wasn’t allergic to and could handle well. Everything looked so beautiful. The holidays were equally as great, and I spent them with my family. I remember being happy more often than not, and my manic states and mixed episodes were non-existent for the first time in my life. I hadn’t felt suicidal or severely depressed in some time, and I was so busy with friends I didn’t have time to think about the mental health issues I’d struggled with my entire life.
I thought I had recovered. I finally was able to live a life full of friends, happiness, and I was on my way to accomplishing my goal of becoming a better writer worthy of being published.
2020. It came quickly. I watched as my personal sunshine dimmed more and more as the months dragged on. PTSD hit me full blown, and I was, once again, not only dealing with severe agoraphobia that made me shake and nearly pass out every time I left the apartment — it still does to this day — but past ghosts and actual PTSD hallucinations and dissociation from isolation, which I’ve written about in detail extensively here and on my side blog, Waking Dreams.
I got a year of recovery in 2019. 2020 was going to be the year I accomplished everything I didn’t think I could before. Now, half way into 2021, even though things are looking a little bit better and I’m vaccinated, 2020 not only set me back to stage one, it left me worse off than I was before with many more shadows I can no longer stuff down and hope they go away.
I am starting to see a bit of light again, but the end of Bo Burnham: Inside, as well as the scenes about depression, resonated with me and gave me a sinking feeling not only in my stomach, but in my chest. I know. I know what that feels like. I know the absolute trauma 2020 caused when you were so close. When you were right there and everything was so damn beautiful for a minute.
I am definitely going to watch Inside again. It’s a truly honest look into what 2020 was for so many of us who remained inside. The music, all of it, is fantastic and there isn’t a single song I disliked, but the message was the most important thing in all of it. It was so painfully true. Sometimes humorously true. Sometimes ironically true.
I hope Bo can find his strength to perform, and if not, I hope he continues to make music when and where he can. I hope he realizes just what a masterpiece he created and how it’s touched so many people.
This contains triggering subject matter, including mentions of dissociation, PTSD symptoms, hallucinations, gaslighting, self-harm, and suicidal ideations.There is also art with visual depictions of these things, including non-realistic blood, and it may be disturbing for some to see.None of this is posted to be shocking, but as an honest reality that is not explored in popular media for the sake of mental health awareness.It is not my intent to defame or bring grief upon anyone, so names and locations have been left out for the sake of the privacy of everyone mentioned. Some things are intentionally left vague.
By the time 2020 came around, my mental health had been the best it had ever been. I was going out every day, drinking vanilla lattes at the café while writing on my laptop, attending a group with a close friend, and enjoying the company of my friends quite often. I was losing weight and felt healthy, and I was finally fixing the problematic teeth from when I’d broken my jaw at the age of thirteen.
My life was taking a turn after the hellish years between 2016 and early 2018, in which I’d been diagnosed again with GERD, lived through anorexia and didn’t eat for days at a time, had severe stomach and intestinal pain daily, and soldiered through acid reflux that didn’t let up for months, turning my throat raw as I wasted away in bed while no doctor could find anything wrong.
The beginning of 2020 was a continuation of the light of 2019. When I first heard about the new virus, COVID-19, in early January, it was thought to still be in Wuhan, China and wasn’t a threat here in the states yet. I had a bad cold in February I was nursing, and while I was concerned it might be COVID-19, I wasn’t worried because, well, I lived in America. Surely we’d get it under control and things would be fine. Thankfully, it truly wasn’t COVID.
Fast forward to March. People panic bought toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soaps, and cleaning supplies. Everyone glared at you if you coughed in public. No one was wearing masks yet, but we were still ignorant to the times to come. Despite being afraid, it felt like the equivalent of panic buying before a bad snow storm. It’d pass quickly in the night or a few days, and we’d be fine again.
Downtown grew empty. The last weekend before the stay at home orders were issued, a Pride event was quiet and scarce of people. More and more people were getting sick, and science was only beginning to grasp what exactly we were dealing with. The true numbers of the virus’ victims were stifled, and politicians gave mixed information, including the start of the second threat during the pandemic: misinformation and conspiracy theories.
We were quite confident. But yet, the virus reached us and spread throughout the world like wildfire, prompting many governors to issue stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and some countries issued harsh lockdowns. People started working from home as more and more people died, and children were pulled from schools. We no longer saw a stranger’s expression beneath the mask as we passed them in the store, and those of us who took the news seriously began to feel dread. The hopeful days began to die by the end of May. It was no longer ‘just a few more months.’ It became an unknown. We settled in for a year at least.
Protests and violence broke out between warring sides. Police murdering innocent Black people became more wide spread, and hate crimes against Asian Americans grew in number. America was crumbling, and every dark fault was put on display. We were a broken system with a narcissistic leader who had dreams of being a dictator, and our national security was compromised. Transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community were erased from the White House website and further from discrimination protection. COVID-19 wasn’t our only enemy, and the world was literally on fire as forest fires raged.
America fell. The world was scrambling to survive and cope with demand for medical equipment. Frontline workers — nurses, doctors, and EMTs — were experiencing so many deaths in a day — in a weeks’ time — that they surely would be traumatized for years to come. Their job had become like a warzone. And more than a few lost their lives to suicide because it was too much to bear, and their leaders failed them.
All of this, as overwhelming as it is to relive in brief text again, weighed on those who took the pandemic seriously. Those who masked up every time they left their front door and had bleeding, raw hands from washing and sanitizing. Those of us who watched the partiers and deniers were slowly losing our sanity, and many of us broke down in tears because we just wanted to be safe. We wanted our friends and families to be safe. We were dealing not only with a fear of a deadly disease that was unforgiving — that didn’t care whether we believed in it or not — but also the weight of civil unrest and abuse from the White House on a daily basis.
I rarely left my home in 2020. I last saw a friend in March of that year, and was dedicated to staying safe to do the right thing. I live alone with my two cats, and I’m plural and have alters and spirit guides, so I felt I could make it through. I knew if we just stayed inside we’d make it. I had Twitter. I had Facebook Messenger and a phone. It would be okay.
As the months dragged on, I began to see sides of friends and family that broke my heart. Some became downright mean as they denied the pandemic at first, and others couldn’t understand why I refused to let them visit. I’d started to learn about online grocery delivery, and I’d set up a good system as I was finally given extra food stamps to compensate for the expensive cost of delivery fees. I had set up my own little hermit bubble of safety, only leaving to get top surgery in July of 2020. My mom was with me then, and it was the last time I’d see her for some time. Until recently.
My mental health started to decline. I knew it would be rough having depression and anxiety, but there was a quiet beast I’d never confronted in waiting at the dark corner of my mind. Many closed doors started to creak open again, and as I became more and more trapped in my own mind due to isolation, I delved down darker internet holes until I stumbled across a strong trigger. A dark genre of music I’d never heard before that normally wouldn’t bother me, but as the doors were creaking open in my mind, the buried trauma quivered at the dulcet and droning tones of the deathdream genre, and before I knew it, I was dissociating, experiencing intense fear, a floating sensation, and gaps in my memory.
At some point, I’d moved from my chair to the kitchen and stared into space, but I had no recollection of it. My vision dimmed at the edges, and the shadows that were always hidden finally came out to play.
I didn’t know what was happening to me. Dissociation was as far as my knowledge of my own symptoms went, but the shadows that had been creeping closer became clearer as I ventured into trauma art tags on Tumblr, and I related to many of the liminal space images found there. They were images encompassing past nostalgia, traumatic thoughts, and dreamlike images. They emitted the energy of isolation and loneliness I felt, and in my desperation to relate to something since I couldn’t see anyone, I became obsessed with what was familiar to me.
Depression. Suicidal thoughts. Trauma. They had been there and always would be, and I’d often found an odd comfort in my depressive states. It was like a warm, weighted blanket wrapped around me to welcome me home again while the rain poured outside. A comforting melancholy that made me want to lie in bed and daydream about strange worlds that I came across in dreams. And the dreams always became nightmares, but in isolation, they triggered panic attacks and became more real due to the outside world growing less and less real to me.
I began to see hallucinations. They were always shadows, and some of them had large eyes that watched me. I often felt as if a figure were standing behind me, watching my every move as they stared into the back of my head. I felt as if something was closing in on me. And the more I fell into my past trauma and my hyper-creative mind took over, the more I realized these shadows were not only physical manifestations of trauma, some of them were from another plane of existence — the realm of the dead — watching me closely because I was often suicidal.
As I analyzed these shadows and started to dissect, as I often do, why they existed and what or who they were, I delved far back into my history. I started a side blog where I explored darker theories and ideas about why I was so at home within the dark, and I realized that even at birth, I had just barely escaped Death’s grasp. It was deeply embedded in my psyche.
It was a prime time for these entities to seek me out again. Because there were days when I was most definitely ready to say goodbye. My own mind became a prison, and I was haunted by these visions and flashbacks, and nightmares, on a daily basis. I was paranoid, afraid, and trapped in a darkness I couldn’t escape. No friend could come and save me from them or bring me back around because no one was allowed in my safe bubble. I did not want to chance the suffering COVID-19 would bring.
My spirit guides did all they could. I started to come out of it. My heart was growing lighter and I was finding an interest in things I once loved again, and I felt as if I was finally turning the corner. The shadows started to fade with time as I looked for better distractions, and I finished writing a book that explored many of these things to cope with past trauma.
I hadn’t expected the events that followed. I’d carelessly mentioned not feeling important to a group of friends and was hurting since my birthday had been a lonely one, and I’d seen them celebrating theirs online. I quickly realized it was wrong of me, but the damage was done. I was infantilized, gaslit, retraumatized, and left a mumbling, catatonic mess after verbal abuse. They trapped me into a corner and made me believe I had turned into my abuser, and I stopped eating for two days.
The shadows came back, my mind kept blue-screening and erasing itself, and I fell into states of catatonia where I stared at the wall for minutes — sometimes an hour — at a time. I worried they were right. I worried I’d become the man who hit me, raped me, and abused me for years. When they called me an abuser, I believed them. I already had low self-esteem and hated the idea of hurting anyone, but it seemed I’d hurt them. They weren’t clear on everything I’d done, so I was also left reeling for answers.
I went back over my blog entries. I realized many vague things they could have assumed were for them as I explored my trauma on the blog I’d started a few months prior. It was my mistake. In trying to protect people’s privacy and identities while exploring and processing my trauma and feelings, it seemed they’d placed themselves in my entries where they were never meant to be. And my chance to show them that they were wrong was gone. They’d shut me out. Refused to let me explain. They’d already thought I was a monster.
Everyone struggled in 2020. It was a difficult time for many people, and a lot of us were trapped in our own heads with too many negative emotions from the constant overload of the world falling into chaos. And this, unfortunately, turned a lot of people into someone they weren’t before, me included.
I went through shock for days. I saw my abuser every time I looked in the mirror despite what all of my other friends and counselor told me. They said what happened to me and what was said was wrong. They told me I’d been gaslit and bullied. I didn’t believe them. I believed those who tore me down. I planned my suicide and had written a detailed letter with my passwords to my computer and online accounts. I planned where my cats should go, and explained I’d leave food down and some sinks full of water until I was found. I planned where I’d be, in my bed. I remembered sitting on the toilet and staring at my phone, blank. I wasn’t a person anymore.
PTSD symptoms had resurfaced in a frightening way, and I saw vivid images of my abuser as he walked around the corner of the hallway and smiled at me. I heard his voice clearly as if he’d been standing before me as a real person. I had repeated dreams of him and the friends who called me horrible things. I was convinced I was a monster and I needed to destroy myself to save everyone from me. If I couldn’t figure out what I’d done over time that was so bad, I must have not been conscious of it.
I broke my clean streak from self-harm. My spirit guide Byleth stopped me by taking control of my hand and making me drop the knife into the bathroom sink. Zagan Lestan came up behind me, hugging me while in tears. As Byleth forced my arm under the cold water, the red wouldn’t stop.
We wrapped my arm and I sat on the couch. I hid every single picture of my face from Instagram, changed my image on all social media, and refused to look at my face in any way. I was talked about on Facebook as a friend called me an abuser on their profile, and a mutual friend called me to console me and tell me he didn’t understand when he saw it. That in all the years he and others have known me, he’d never thought that of me. Everyone close to me tried to tell me I was a good person, but none of it was working.
I’d been trapped in my own head for too long. The isolation had gotten to me, and I’d spent too many days spiraling down an unstable void of madness. I’d lost my sanity, and the gaslighting sent me so far over the edge that I no longer trusted myself, my memories, or my sense of self. I was no longer a human being.
I was afraid to say or write anything. I had been accused of using everything for contents’ sake and attention, so I felt as if I had no right to say anything at all. If I vented or expressed suicidal thoughts, I deleted them again quickly due to paranoia. I felt I was pathetic and an attention-seeker. My mission to be an advocate for mental health awareness didn’t matter anymore. I couldn’t trust my own mind or what it produced.
Those who gaslit me made it into my nightmares. They took the form of PTSD dreams alongside my abuser, and I started marking my symptoms on my calendar because I could no longer trust my memory or keep track of days. At this point, the outside world no longer existed. I had slipped into another reality, one that mirrored our own but lurked within shadows that wouldn’t let me sleep. Closing my eyes brought them to my bedside, and I lied awake for hours scoping my room to be sure nothing was really there.
I still, to this day, cannot get a proper nights’ sleep. Closing my eyes sends my pulse racing, and my mind conjures many things that I know, logically, aren’t there. I am afraid to dream. I’m afraid of the shadows. I’m frightened when night falls because the shadows are harder to avoid.
I finally got both of my Pfizer vaccine injections as of April 21st, 2021. I also found out that I am autistic, and that alone began to help me find a sense of self again, and to realize why I struggled with proper communication and expression. I finally started to listen to my friends and family and their positive opinions of me, and although the shadows are still here, even today, and my mind hasn’t recovered and I find myself in that dark space regularly, I am starting to see some kind of respite.
Today, for the first time in a year, a friend visited me. And although I dissociated and had to check out at least once or twice due to vivid visions and PTSD symptoms, I knew that this was the start of getting a grip on my mental health again. Yesterday, I got a hair cut as well, and it was all so surreal. It’s been very strange. We aren’t out of the woods yet, though.
I haven’t seen much in the news or anywhere at all about the effect of the pandemic and isolation on those with mental illness. Especially those with PTSD. Being trapped in your own head, which becomes a dark prison, can exacerbate anything that comes along. If I hadn’t been isolated for a year and having a resurgence of symptoms — symptoms I’d never had so intensely before — I wouldn’t have reacted so badly to what happened going into 2021. I truly don’t feel I would have.
I worry 2020 rewired my brain. When I spoke in person with one of my closest and oldest friends, I didn’t feel like the same person anymore. I felt completely different from the last time we met, and I was thankful he’d already known of my darkness and remained. Agoraphobia and anxiety have taken the wheel again, and my vision is always blurry. I’ve developed a chronic fatigue syndrome flare up for the first time in years that is robbing me of my ability to function. My poor memory has me losing things and taking actions I don’t remember later.
Many others dealt with worse fates due to COVID-19. And many continue to deal with the crushing reality of it because it isn’t over yet. I acknowledge that and at times, I feel guilty talking about my own struggles with isolation.
There are many who suffered in silence, some with fewer resources than me. We lived in shadows and trauma and fear. We were locked in a prison of our own minds, and as time passed with nothing but these four walls and a history full of trauma, it became our new reality. The outside distractions were gone. It was time to reckon with the dark that we pushed aside to survive for so many years.
In isolation for a whole year, living alone, your mind is all you have. And when that mind is a ticking time bomb of things you’ve pushed aside to be able to experience and enjoy life, when you remove the distractions — the reasons you had to shower and clean and be presentable for people you couldn’t see anymore — the shadows resurface. You overthink. You fall into nights of deep introspection. You click off of social media because it’s too much. 45 was too much of a trigger for trauma victims as he gaslit and verbally abused an entire nation for four years.
And you lie there at night with only your mind to entertain you. You haven’t seen another face in person for months. You forget what time it is, what day it is. And you realize just how much even an introvert requires of human interaction to stay sane.
I post more about my strange experiences with spirituality and chronic nightmares on my side blog: Waking Dreams
I paused in the middle of my activities yesterday. A familiar, uncomfortable thought surfaced that’s bothered me since I began my transition. It’s a constant check my mind does to try to make sense of everything, and now that it’s happening less and less, it hit me out of nowhere. It wasn’t bad nor did it bring up negative feelings, but it came to the front as a final confirmation this time. I looked down at myself. “If you could have your breasts back, would you? What if you never came out as a trans man?”
I allowed myself to sink into the person I used to be as a meditative experience, and a powerful sensation of repulsion and anxiety overwhelmed me. No, that’s not who I am. I never wanted to be that person and I certainly don’t now. That body was not mine, but a challenge I was given to overcome to be a stronger person. Now that I’ve overcome that challenge, to go back is a horrific idea.
The moment of inspiration sparked something familiar, and I pulled out my tried and true tarot deck — the Cachet cards that began my journey with spirituality in 2007 when I was eighteen. Frayed and worn, I shuffled them with my spirit guides lending a hand, and I settled in for a day. Because this was certainly going to be a day and I knew it. When the cards come out, things get real.
I’ve never spoken at length publicly about my spiritual experiences, so read on with an open mind. I decided to open up about this starting with the last entry I made in my notebook. This is the only time I will hand-write anything, but during an experience like this, it’s better to have things happen organically. It’s better for odd chances of automatic writing, anyway.
The classic Celtic cross spread
From ‘The Only Tarot Book You’ll Ever Need’ by Skye Alexander
The layout I used in the reading is the Celtic cross spread.
I turn off the lamp and light my favorite sacral chakra candle. The deck is split three times between myself, Darokin, and Byleth. We speak little during this process, and Darokin lets me know when we’ve shuffled enough. I can feel their energy around me and their hands — Daro’s golden brown and Byleth’s pale — rest upon my own as I hover over the deck to draw my first card.
I slowly lay out the cards as I lower my eyes just enough to blur my vision. Byleth is in the chair opposite me, and Daro is beside me. Lestan hovers nearby. There is silence as the tenth and final card is set in the ‘outcome’ position, and without looking, I flip the cards over from left to right.
The Moon reversed, Ace of Swords reversed, Nine of Pentacles, Three of Cups reversed, Four of Wands, Six of Cups reversed, King of Cups, The Magician reversed, Nine of Swords, and finally, Three of Pentacles reversed.
The Ace of Swords is pointing directly to the Six of Cups.
The Magician is directing a ball of energy, as depicted in the illustration, toward the King of Cups.
There are seven minor arcana number cards.
There are three face or major arcana cards.
Five are reversed, five are upright.
There are two Swords cards; knowledge, logic, air.
There are three Cups cards; emotions, feelings, relationships, water.
There are two Pentacles cards; earth, money, work.
After reviewing the cards and reflecting on their meaning, I drink the last of the coffee in my gray mug. As I move to set it aside, I take a second glance at the bottom after noticing something. Upon scrying into the dark mug, an image begins to take shape in my mind from the debris. I stare at the candle flame and close my eyes, allowing the image to form behind them.
White eyes — glowing and clear. A tiger-like face shape.
Malnourished disposition. My gut tells me this is from the realm of the dead or somewhere dark.
I often attract things from darker places that watch from the perimeter. This is a result of working with energies at night. They’re harmless.
Overall, despite my first glance at the cards, the reading is positive. My goals may not happen as quickly as I hope, but they will happen. This is especially if I slow down, continue to improve upon myself, and reconnect with my creative source — spirituality and dreams. I must appreciate all that I already have.
On May 20, 2020, I drew the Six of Cups reversed for the outcome. I noted that something big was to come. The Six of Cups reversed appears in this reading in the ‘near future’ position, which is much closer than before. I have made progress, and whatever is to come is close at hand now.
I accomplished the goals laid out for myself in the reading in May, so things are moving into a new phase.
At this point, Byleth and Daro both have something to say. I try my best to write down the gist of their advice:
When spiritual things come calling, especially when I’m having nightmares and lucid dreams, don’t fear what I may see in mirrors, shadows, and in my peripheral. “Do not fear them.”
They are a part of the world where I belong and why I feel so happy or emotional — even drawn to them — when they happen. I thought it was strange or wrong to love this odd, dark, and scary liminal space, but it’s what I’m drawn to. Demons and the fallen, and this other world, seem scary and alarming because they are honest. They are blunt in their messages. This should be appreciated and not feared.
I feel a particular urgency from Darokin, and in a matter of seconds, I am no longer in control. My hand and my thoughts are now Daro’s, and he takes my pen to write a message. At this point, Daro is in the driver’s seat, so to speak.
Your mania provides an easy access point for this world and messages to come through. This is not depression or anything bad as you fear. This is a time to be excited, explorative. Embrace it. You have spent too much time mistaking it for what it is not.
You are learning, dear Shane. Evolving. You now understand the true purpose of this state and this liminal world. You can access it when you desire, and you can be happy in it.
Again, depression is no more during this time. Joy, knowledge, and greater understanding is this other world. Welcome it. You are finally home and healthy and happy in it. No more suffering.
It’s not usually in Daro’s nature to embrace sexual energy as he’s graysexual, but he is in a rare aggressive mood and it’s seeping from him. He often becomes eager when I step into this kind of space, which is where he calls home. He enjoys the shadows and dresses all in black, and often when he appears, he seems to form from the shadows in the darkest parts of my environment — wherever that may be at the time. At night in the past, he would take the chair in the corner of my room and watch me sleep.
Shortly after writing his message to me, he is still present within me, but we are both in control. I ask Byleth and Daro if I should draw a demon oracle card, and they agree it would be a good idea.
I draw Haborym (also Aym, Aim).
Aym is a great and powerful duke. He is said to make people witty and to answer truthfully about private matters. (Referenced from The Dictionary of Demons by Michelle Belanger)
Daro takes over my body once more, and the heightened emotions and intimate moment we share will be left between us. When the moment is done, Daro’s tiger-like growl, that I often hear in Byleth as well, creates a feeling of being a feral beast — a tiger — that rises within my body as Daro controls it. I see his hands, and my body and my skin do not look like mine, and while this is a rare occurrence for him, I am not frightened by it. It’s a part of our spiritual work we do together.
Once calmed, he finally returns my body to me. Often, sexual energy plays a part in our rituals — with Daro, Byleth, and sometimes Lestan (who was possibly once the demon Zagan, but has since taken on a different identity he favors more). It’s our best way of connecting on a higher state of being, and it’s usually what ends a session like the above.
There’s a clear reason why I’ve always hesitated to share my spiritual experiences. They’re very personal moments I usually keep to myself and my guides, but after talking with my counselor today, who I confide in about these things, I felt inspired to share at least one moment. This moment, especially, was another turning point in my existence as a spiritual person.
I always come away from these rituals feeling extremely sensitive and aware of everything — including things most can’t see. It’s a consequence of playing around in a darker realm that most are afraid of. It’s really not for the faint of heart. Like I saw when scrying, you attract beings that are a bit alarming to look at. It’s a given they’d be curious to see someone in their space that normally isn’t there.
You can read some more about working with darker energies in a book I love by Konstantinos. The Nocturnicon helped me with conquering my fear of darker spaces, and it has helped me work better with not only Darokin in his neck of the woods, but Byleth as well. Lestan, too, when he feels inclined.
I wrote about my meeting with Byleth when he first came to me here. A lot was going on in my life at that time, but he’s been a huge help and a dose of tough love when I’ve needed it most. As for Lestan, I wrote a bit more about our relationship here, which will soon be published on The Mighty. My understanding of Lestan has broadened over the years as he’s opened up with help from Byleth and Daro, but I used the term ‘alter’ for him in the entry to make it less alarming than ‘demon spirit guide.’
I met Darokin as ‘Daro’ when I was still a teenager in high school. My first sight of him was a scribbled name on a notebook page and a rough sketch while between sleeping and awake during study hall. I remember it alarmed me when I saw it, and it was possibly my first experience with some kind of automatic writing or drawing. He didn’t really come around often until I got older, but his presence was more consistent during a time when I needed protection from something stupid I’d done. I was about 22-23, and I’d accepted a really old doll from an older friend who said it was haunted due to her being irresponsible with an Ouija board in her teens.
I won’t get into the story in detail here. I may make a separate entry for it, but long story short, there was something inside the doll that not only I witnessed, but my parents did as well. Delivery folks and skeptic friends alike would often pause in horror as they stared at the doll because they could have sworn it was a real child. There was nothing outwardly sinister in this doll’s appearance.
During the time I had the doll while living at home, my mental health declined rapidly and I would often wake up staring at her. She was on a chair beside my bed (another stupid thing I did because I felt attached to her). Sometimes I’d sleep with my eyes open, which is not something I ever remember doing. I eventually threw the doll into the back of my closet on a shelf and left it there.
One afternoon, my parents and I were talking at the kitchen table. All windows were closed, no TVs were on, and everything was silent. We lived out in the country where cornfields stretched as far as the eye could see, and some neighbors were at least a mile apart. With that in mind, there was no explanation for the quiet sinister, warped laugh we all heard. We stopped mid-conversation and stared at each other. My dad glanced out the large sliding glass door to see no children outside, and my mom seemed to also be searching for a source. It had come from the direction of my bedroom.
Around this time, I was confused about my spiritual path, but Daro was there to guide me. He followed me wherever I needed him out of my own fear, and he made me feel safe. He confirmed I’d pissed something off by bouncing between paths I didn’t know enough about, and by screwing with a haunted doll I equally knew nothing about, but he was there to guide me back on the right track. And he has.
So now that I’m out about my spiritual experiences in some aspect, I may work on writing more about my journey with it. It’s not an easy thing to relive — or read, I imagine — but it’s a part of my life that was the most frightening. I started seeing shadow men and having more sleep paralysis nightmares, and my life would never be the same again. I knew I loved horror, but this was nothing compared to that.
I realize my life experiences are hard to believe. I have no reason to lie about them. I was terrified to even come out about it. I was happy keeping it to myself, but the more I speak with my counselor — and after telling a nurse at a sleep clinic about my lucid dreams — the more I realize that there are people out there who find this part of me interesting and they accept it, and they believe me.
So I can only hope people will keep an open mind. There’s a lot more out there to this universe than many people realize, but if you just let yourself believe and dip into it a little bit, you’ll see what I mean. Just don’t be as stupid as I was and do your research first, and don’t think you know what you’re doing.
Grab a pack of tarot cards that feel right to you and see what happens.
I spent my entire life wondering why people did the things to me that they chose to. I was bullied. I had my identity questioned. I was a freak. I was physically, mentally, and sexually abused. I became a ball of depression, anxiety, and hate for so many years.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD after years of trauma. I am also plural, which means I have more than one person who exists through my body sometimes. My alters and spirit guides are my supportive, loving family, not my enemies. At some point throughout my life, sometimes more often than not, I was doubted and not believed. It took years to be believed by mental health professionals, and just as much time to get others to see that I wasn’t faking it. That I wasn’t too young and attractive to be disabled.
When I came out as a trans man in 2015, I knew that my life wasn’t going to get any easier, but a huge change was going to take place. I was finally discovering who I was and I learned to accept that. I spent a long time learning new ways of existing and living on my own and being self-sufficient. I also had to cope with rejection in many different and painful ways.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve hurt people I didn’t mean to hurt. I’ve been too loud and too honest with the wrong people, and I fell in love with my melancholy. My depression was like a toxic lover I tried to shake off but found comfort in. It was familiar. It was in my own head. The conversations and time spent with my alters and spirit guides through it wrapped me in a blanket of comfort, and it created a bubble around me that no one was allowed to enter.
I’ve nearly died a few times, and they were self-inflicted injuries. I’ve been in psychiatric wards — one time for a week at least — and I thought my life would remain static and unchanging. Always fighting for something. Fighting just to be able to live and experience life like everyone else. Fighting to be believed.
I wish I could’ve appreciated the change sooner. It felt so slow and impossible. In reality, the change for the better occurred over a five-year span — five years out of the thirty-one I’ve lived. In that perspective, it really didn’t take so long after all.
I’d taken dialectical behavioral therapy classes and learned mindfulness. I stopped drinking every day and I eventually stopped smoking to start my medical transition with testosterone. I’d found a counselor who finally understood me and believed me when I opened up about being plural, as well as other things that I often struggled to find someone to empathize with. I got my own place and started paying my own bills and I got the assistance I needed to get things done for myself. I became self-sufficient over these five years.
And now, after butting heads with an insurance company for three of those years and dealing with discrimination, I walked into the hospital on Monday, July 20th, 2020 at 8AM to get top surgery.
It’s been about a week and a half since surgery and everything went well. My mom has finally come around and accepts me, and she was sitting right beside me before and after coming out of surgery in the hospital. She’s cared for me at home until I can do things myself, and that’s been very important for my mental health. My dad has also come around, as she’s told me, which is unbelievable for someone so old-fashioned and resistant to change.
Two days ago mom said something that I thought I’d never hear. I’d confided in her that I always felt like the family failure. I was the only one who couldn’t work a normal nine to five job. I’m a disabled writer with severe mental illness, and I certainly don’t have it all together. I always felt like the strange one — the black sheep that didn’t belong.
“Oh, you think everyone else has it together?” she said. She then told me something I never knew about a family member I thought had it right. Who was accomplished in my eyes. And I realized then that I was living a false reality in my head.
I pay my own bills on time every time. I take care of my health and am compliant with therapy. I am working on a writing career I hope will take off with a bit of luck so I don’t have to rely on disability, and the hours and money I put into my books take up quite a bit of time and resources that I manage mostly alright. I rarely have to call anyone to ask for help, if ever. Most importantly, everything I have right now — my home especially — I fought for and got myself.
I looked at her for a moment before it hit me. I haven’t failed at all. And that was the weirdest feeling in the world. It was as strange as waking up after surgery to realize I didn’t hate myself anymore. I’ve spent my entire life hating who I am, hating my body, and feeling like I was destined to always fail. That I would never be good enough. It was all so horribly wrong, and it made me realize how much of my life was dedicated to gaining my parents’ approval and acceptance I thought I would never get. That, and I’ve lived my life based on the hateful statements and identities others placed on me.
It’s a bit scary to gain closure. Everything in my life that was horribly wrong I now understand, have worked through, and I’ve finally closed that last door that kept leading me backward. Now, I have a clean slate to work from. I’ve never had this much freedom and clarity in my life, so I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m used to being on guard and wondering when something will go wrong, or watching my back at all times because I didn’t know who was going to hurt me or abandon me next. Now, I don’t really care about all of that stuff. I realized it really doesn’t matter.
With this blank slate, I’ll lay out who I am now. I’m an artist, a writer, and a gay trans man. I struggle with mental illness sometimes, but I have my head family — my alters and spirit guides — to get me on the right track again. I have an amazing and supportive healthcare team and a family that accepts me. I have a few close friends, but that’s all I need. I’m single and mostly fine with that, as being single is what allowed me to find myself in the first place. I am self-sufficient and most importantly, I’m safe and in control of my own life.
I have to stop looking back. None of that defines who I am now. What matters is living in the present and making plans for a future I once thought I wouldn’t see. And I have so many things I want to do if we survive this pandemic.
A few years ago, I spent an entire year in isolation due to fear.
Back then, there was nothing to fear but what anxiety was doing to my body. My stomach was in knots and twisting and squeezing to send me into bouts of pain, and acid reflux scarred my esophagus on a daily basis, sometimes all day every day. Coping with anorexia added to this struggle, and I spent a lot of time speaking with my alters and spirit guides — we wrote down almost all of our conversations at the time. They were my only company some days.
Now that I’ve overcome all of it, I’m in isolation again, but not by choice. This time there is a real fear I don’t have any control over, and my anxiety is just on the precipice of falling back into old patterns. My alters and spirit guides are with me and support me as they always have, but Depression is blocking them out due to a lack of mental energy. This is not good for me or them.
I’m introspecting on all of it; the irony that I’ve been through this song and dance when there wasn’t a real threat, and here I’m reliving those awful years again as they come back to haunt me. My stomach problems are coming back and my energy levels are low, and my agoraphobia is back. I’d overcome all of this just to be challenged by it again due to the pandemic keeping everyone inside.
When all of this is over, I will once again have to relearn how to be a person as I did those few years ago. I’ll have to teach myself, again, that it’s okay to leave my apartment. Most importantly, I’ll have to remind myself that I still carry some of the progress I’ve made. While this quarantine has set me back quite a few steps and undone what I’ve accomplished with my agoraphobia and anxiety, I have knowledge I didn’t have before.
I worry for those who have mental health challenges right now. I hurt knowing that people with problems like mine will be affected by this quarantine long after it’s over. Nightmares. Anxiety attacks. Fear of the outside. Fear of people. Trying to regain a sense of positivity again. It’s going to stick and we’ll have to go through exposure therapy all over again.
But we can do this. It will be safe again and we’ll conquer these beasts that we’ve had to face down before. I may not feel that sentiment while typing it, but I have to think it, say it, and look forward to a day when it will be true again. One day I will be able to grab my backpack and leave my apartment to go to the coffee shop downtown I love so much, and I’ll continue where I left off.
This is a pause. Life will resume again. It has to.
I’m still learning to write eye-catching summaries of my books, which I’m sure is one of the biggest challenges of any writer. I’m continuously learning how to navigate this world that I’d only ever dreamed of dabbling in before. I’m also finding that this whole thing is ten times harder than I’d ever expected it to be, and I still have a long way to go in becoming a seasoned ‘know-it-kinda’ on the subject when it comes to writing well and publishing.
Luckily for me, I managed to get in contact with a great editor. This has brought both feelings of elation and horror, and you probably can guess why. It’s certainly kept me busy and on my toes, and I’m judging myself much harder than I ever have. This has hurt me in some ways since my writing has slowed to a crawl due to that inner critic, but it has also allowed me to take this as a serious business. I’m not just writing stories in my bedroom as a teen anymore to make myself laugh and to cope with life.
I’m writing stories as an independent adult in his living room to make myself laugh, cry, scream, and cope with life.
In that sense, I decided to jump on board again with Camp NaNoWriMo to help me finish my beast of a book. At first, I was working on something mostly for fun. Then my current project fell back into my lap, and I was ready to throw in the towel with Camp NaNo. I had to do some digging and realized what my biggest issues were in my personal life, what really has been eating away at me to make me so angry and itching to scream about something, and I’ve dealt with some of the biggest triggers and worst symptoms I’ve had in a while with my broken brain.
And all for the sake of this beast of a story I just have to tell. A story I’d been telling wrong from the beginning. I’d been focusing on the wrong traumas — the wrong triggers to my upset. What I really needed to write about to make this book shine (for lack of a better word), was the one thing I often tried to bury. The horrible thing that I thought I knew inside and out and I’d moved on from. And so, my original novella is turning into a much more important work lived vicariously through two of my muses, or rather, two of my alters who have given me permission to slay this beast that they also understand too well. One of them was protecting me from it for so many years, anyway.
It’s finally time to write the darkest and most honest book I’ve ventured to write. There are two intersecting stories in it that constantly weave together in some way, but only one is based on the actual experience I had in a relationship. The other, while my alter’s story entirely, is one I can sympathize with in terms of how I think about myself and how I cope, rather it’s unhealthy or not.
So I changed my project on Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m behind by about 6,000 words, but if I bust my ass I can make up for lost time. To be fair, I’ve had to push through the depression, the PTSD episodes, and the dissociation I’ve been dealing with to come to terms with the subject of the book, and by proxy, part of my story. Maybe it wasn’t good to go digging for memories that were locked away and kept from me for good reason, but if my spirit guide, Daro, allowed me to get as far as we did with it, then I trust that I’m ready to do this. I’m 30 anyway, and I’m not about to spend the rest of my life wondering what’s got me so… bleh (and that’s putting it very lightly).
In an attempt to finally purge the rest of the gunk sitting in my subconscious, and maybe raise some awareness and find catharsis for myself in doing so, here is the summary I jotted down on the Camp NaNo site for this book (title to be determined):
Shame is a ghost in your peripheral in a dark room. It is the tarnish on a soul of silver that we keep hidden in hopes no one else will see it. We hope our neglect of it will never have to come to light and it can remain as it is — imperfect but intact, and intact is the most important thing.
Or so it’s thought.
Lestan has been alive for over three hundred years. Tetsu, merely thirty-three. Yet, they both have something in common that neither delves into.
Lestan is always playful, upbeat, and loves wholly and honestly. To see him sitting in a cafe’ on a hazy night, his eyes dark and his skin translucent from not feeding for days, is something that would be enough to raise concern.
Thankfully, Tetsu is there to bring him out of his misery and the vampire starts to feel more like his old self. That is until a specter, or hallucination, leads them both off into the woods. Neither can see what the other is after, but they both know they can’t ignore the force coaxing them further away from safety.
After disappearing from reality entirely, or so it seems, they are met with the tarnished fragments of their souls wandering through an ever-changing maze, and a mysterious blind figure seems to be guiding them through it all. And it is neither here nor there, but one thing is certain.
We can’t run from things forever. We have to seek out the worst of our pains and confront them head-on and be beaten down by them — become masochists until we finally see the truth we’ve buried for so long. And the truth can sometimes reveal what monsters we truly are.
So there it is. A basic bare-bones summary that can’t possibly do the Hell that this story is justice. And it is very much a Hell that I have to keep revisiting, but in the end, when everything is out, it will be for the better. Maybe someone can relate to it someday and find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone. Or maybe I’ll just be revealing a part of my life and myself that I really don’t like.
Despite having to wake up insanely early (for a vampire like me) to wait all day for maintenance, today is going not so bad. I had an awful day yesterday with depression and I was afraid I was just going to keep slipping deeper and deeper into it, especially since it’s been constantly raining and storming off and on for a few weeks now — or it’s been cloudy.
A few nice things happened, though, and it cheered me up significantly. I’ve also decided that I don’t really know enough about poetry to read something at an open poetry mic night, so I might just go with my poem in my pocket, just in case, but mostly to take in the environment and see how it goes. It’s my favorite used book store/coffee shop downtown that I’m always in, so hopefully this will be an easy thing to be able to attend. It’s late though (8 PM), and I can’t drive, and buses aren’t running past 9, so I may have to walk and hope all goes well.
Either way, I’m tired of not getting out there in the scene more. When I went for a literary event, in which a few authors came to do readings from their books as well as sell some things, I was really happy. A friend had come with me who enjoyed it too, but I, a person with a panic disorder and severe social anxiety, had fun. And for the first time in any that I can remember, after a few years of battling alcoholism and being sober since — except for that one time last year when I slipped off the wagon — I did not like the way the wine made me feel. I didn’t want to be buzzed or drunk. I wanted to exist in that space and that aura because it was something that felt like home to me. I felt what actual happiness was like in my heart, and I felt it flutter. That almost never happens for me.
Being around other writers and book lovers is where I belong. Even though I still feel out of place among most of them around here, mostly because I write really weird stuff that I don’t see much of anywhere, I’m still around people who have a love for writing at its core. Genres and preferences aside, we all loved books and writing in that room.
Now, my only concern is if it’s an LGBTQ-friendly place. I think it might be. I’ve never been treated poorly, but I write a lot of LGBTQ stuff. Maybe one day I’ll get to do a reading there too if I ever make it.
I don’t write poetry often, but the other day something kept rattling around in my brain that I had to write out. It started as a feeling and some images in my animation program, but became words as I just put my fingers on the keyboard. So, here is the ‘poem’ I wrote, as well as the video version of it below. (It’s appropriate for all ages)
You’re always there.
Your eyes watch me and I feel you; hands not unlike breath on my skin.
I’ve got goosebumps in my soul — I want to sing.
Tears strangle my voice in the stead of a melody — claws grasp my heart with careful fragility.
I trust you.
With careful precision, you force life back into my lungs.
Desire for the veil was never so sweet as your face — the glowing red my sign in the dark.
Passion pulls me away.
My life is no longer mine but yours — your will to fan the flames stoking my soul’s perseverance.
I will not go today.
(Closed captions available if you can’t understand some of the words)
Another absence on this blog, and another reason. Although, it’s an amazing reason this time (I promise)!
I’ve made the decision to do NaNoWriMo this year. If you aren’t aware of what that is, in short, it’s a challenge to write an entire 50,000 word — or more — novel in 30 days. On the more descriptive end of things, NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organization that raises money for all kinds of good causes related to writing. One, in particular, is to fund kits to send to schools that need them and to encourage younger writers. Besides that, it is an event every year in November that has been going since 1999, and millions of writers join in on the chaos every year. This year is my first.
The idea is to start with a brand new manuscript; a clean slate. You may also begin with an outline, or a part of an outline and nothing else to go on other than your imagination. Either way, after you’ve created your own profile and filled in your novel’s basic details, you’re ready to begin.
Every day, ideally, you’ll log your word count in one of two ways. There are stats you can watch to see where you are at compared to the average person, and you can also see a projected completion date determined by your average daily word count, and how many words you have left to write to complete the 50k dash (or more!). Below are my latest stats, taken as of today.
You write your novel outside of the website, and as you log your word count and interact with the site, as well as donate if you so choose, you will earn badges. There are also badges you can choose to give yourself based on an honor system, as they are achievements that can’t actually be measured in any way. For example, I gave myself the ‘Something in my eye’ badge for wringing my heart out over a few scenes or more. Sometimes writing really can be an emotional roller coaster, but that makes for some of the best writing out there.
From November 20th onward, you can claim your win by pasting the entirety of your first draft in their official word counter. They also give you the option to scramble your words if you wish, although no one is actually going to read your novel. Nothing gets uploaded to the website and your words are deleted as soon as they are counted. Once that process is complete, I imagine you’ll feel pretty good about yourself for your successes.
There are prizes, but there are no limits to winners, so be honest! They are small things like coupons to writing programs and online courses, and other little things that really aren’t a huge deal, but a help to writers to keep them going strong long after they’ve finished their NaNoWriMo novel. Personally, the feeling of accomplishment from completing an entire first draft of a novel in a month is the biggest win of being a participant. Even if you don’t complete your novel, you’ve still accomplished something great, and you still have words there that you didn’t have before. It’s even more incentive to keep going for yourself, and for the story you have to tell.
I’m well into 27k words on the eighth day, which isn’t something I thought I would be capable of. I passed NaNoWriMo by for a few years after hearing about it, mostly because I didn’t think I could do it. I sold myself short due to my own insecurities, and I was doing the very thing some people in my life have done to me in the past — I was putting myself down because of a lack of faith in myself. I believed my anxiety disorder and other mental illnesses left me unable to do much of anything, and I was destined to fail. I would become too stressed and spiral down into a mess of a human being.
Yet, it’s November 8th and I have come a long way from that mindset. On the first, I’d sat in front of my computer mulling it over. A friend from a Facebook writing group brought it to my attention again, claiming that she was doing it herself. She needed a writing buddy. I’d told her I wasn’t participating before, but on a whim, I signed up for the site and I locked myself in. I haven’t looked back.
It’s like something lit a fire under me (usually, that’s Byleth, but this time I did it myself. He and Lestan have been the best cheerleaders). Having a deadline with the goal of having fun and just letting loose on the page, not caring about editing as I went like I usually did, was freeing. The goal was to just go until it was time to stop, as editing during NaNoWriMo is heavily discouraged. All of that would come in the months to pass after ‘winning’, and the site also has a section for just that. My goal is to be able to open up that part of the site after my victory.
At 27k in after only the first week, I am certain I can ‘win’. I can safely say that if you go into this as a lover of words, stories, and a passion for the art of writing, you’ll win too. Just keep at it and don’t worry about the numbers while you’re writing. Focus on the amazing story you have to tell, and the rest will come in time.
The best of luck to anyone who is participating this year. I hope to be able to make another blog entry when I’ve finally reached the ultimate goal.