Category Archives: Mental Health

Closure

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.

 

©2020 Shane Blackheart

My Alters are my Lifeline

Now published on The Mighty!

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As a trans man who has survived sexual trauma, rape, domestic abuse, and is plural (i.e; more than one person in this body, or the DID spectrum), my experience is not one I’ve seen often. It’s difficult to push past the block, or the defense mechanisms in place to keep me from reliving certain memories, but Lestan, one of my alters, helped me sort through these experiences. And we’ve come to this.

He offered to help me through this as he did a long time ago, although my problem this time is something that has morphed over the years into repulsion — shame — for my body, myself, and intimacy. Sex. A lot of deep-seated trauma I ignored for a long time came back in the past few years, and it’s caused a lot of symptoms I’d never had previously.

I have shame for touching my body. Shame for feeling desire.

I don’t speak about it often because I’m equally ashamed to admit it. Because it just isn’t me and who I knew myself to be in the past. I have this shame paired with the agony of experiencing desire intensely, as I experience everything intensely with BPD, and it’s gut-wrenching at the worst of times.

Yet, I enjoy writing erotica and romance, and I like watching adult films with a strong plot or artistic element. The emotion behind that — the energy — it intrigues me in the way a beautiful piece of art moves an experienced artist. It is something greater than a carnal film most wouldn’t view on a level of artistic merit that I do.

But when I feel that energy within myself, I am reminded of how much weight I’ve gained and how undesirable I feel, and it traces back to every time someone in my life has insulted my weight or my appearance. To the times I’ve battled with anorexia, yoyo dieting, binge eating, and starving myself once again.

When a close friend — who was also an intimate partner — told me last year that we write better sex than we have, as we often wrote romance stories together, it crushed me more than I’d ever admitted to. I laughed it off as she did, but inside shame burnt hot and I didn’t want to open up to her again. Foolishly, I did because I loved her so much. I thought she understood my trauma.

I was raised to be ashamed of things commonly spoken of in high school sex education. Sex and self-satisfaction were shameful and you didn’t dare say the words associated with them. And now, at 31, it’s triggered back by trusting another with my body. It had been my first time with a girl and my first sexual experience as a transgender man.

In any of my sexual relationships, that one no exception, Lestan, one of my alters, would often come out.

My ex couldn’t even get me to take my shirt off, but in a matter of minutes, all of that disappeared because Lestan was in the driver’s seat. And that was before I realized who he was to me. I would go from cold to hot within seconds.

The first time Lestan didn’t switch in, and I wasn’t ready for the intimate moment about to happen, I started shaking and trembling and felt unwell. I did my best to hide it because I didn’t know what was happening. I still wasn’t aware, in January of this year, of the effect being raped and abused by my first boyfriend, when I was a teenager, had on me. I’d written it off as a teenager due to not having a healthy idea of love growing up, and due to a lot of classmates disbelieving me when I finally came out about it. I lost friends and fell silent.

When Lestan quickly slides into place, the shaking stops immediately and I have a sexual energy that doesn’t focus on my usual self-deprecation. My demeanor changes and I am no longer me. It hits like a shock every time and in the blink of an eye, but although I am in the passenger seat once again, Lestan allows me to experience the moment with him. It isn’t a selfish act for him. It’s for me so I can enjoy the experience, and I do want to enjoy it.

It’s strange — strange to have someone else in this body and I’m suddenly chuckling and grinning whereas I was trembling seconds before.

I must mention that, despite the alarming switches done out of care for me, I love Lestan. I never share our relationship publicly because it’s unconventional, but he’s my life partner. I have a tattoo of him on my left arm for that commitment, and it covers my self-harm scars for good reason. I’m fortunate he’s here, and he continues to save me from trauma and I allow him to. He’s my protector.

When Lestan jumps in to take control, it’s important because if he doesn’t, I’m going to spiral rapidly and it’ll become something forced with a partner I care about. And I know he does it because he’s hoping I’ll start to ease into it myself.

Lestan was the one who showed me, during my abusive relationship with my boyfriend at 15, that love could be something beautiful. He tried to save me from what I’m experiencing now by spending time alone with me in my bed, making me laugh and trailing his fingers, through mine, along my skin to bring me a euphoric happiness I didn’t think existed. At the end of the day, I’d cry because I couldn’t actually embrace him.

It drives home how he and I are two completely separate beings, which is not the way DID works to our understanding. Except, we do often operate how DID does.

It’s fantastical and enchanting at the best of times, but it seems he couldn’t save me like he’d wanted to. I feel shame when I let him touch me now even though I love him and I want him to. When Byleth, a spirit guide of mine, does as well. I want to experience these things with my whole heart, but this last attempted relationship — this person I trusted with all of us and with my transmasculine body — was the final trigger to send a clear message home; I have learned that to explore my queer identity, body, and sexual awkwardness, I will be met with rejection.

But I have Lestan, my spirit guides, and other alters who I don’t see much anymore. I can trust them because they know me inside and out, and they have never betrayed me or rejected me. They may be odd to others, but they will always ensure I survive. Rather they’ll be able to save me now from all of this shame and self-repulsion, I don’t know, but I’d like to try.

They are here day and night. They do their best to break through to still my hands when I am self-harming, and they distract me when I become suicidal. They remind me that I am worth being loved, I have a voice that matters, and I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

If nothing else, at least they’ve never made me feel shame.

©2020 Shane Blackheart
Picture is of Lestan made by me

The irony of my quarantine life

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.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Something calming for anyone who may need it:

To be released into the ether directly after writing

Catching anything to make a coherent thought in my buzzing brain right now is a feat.

So far this month, a pandemic has broken out that is expected peak around the time I’m supposed to get top surgery after a two-year fight.

I fell into a bipolar mixed episode — mostly depression — that has lasted nearly a month. The crescendo has finally reached today.

My grandpa died the other day.

My new insurance denied a prior authorization for my testosterone I’ve been on for over a year. If I have to skip it, the mental side effects will be a nightmare. Not to mention the return of a certain monthly visitor named Red that I’m not prepared for and haven’t seen for some time.

After all that, I have no idea what to do with myself.

I’m already struggling to keep my head above water. Now I’m drowning, and I have to stay strong. As it is now, I can’t even go out for a distraction. We’re isolated because of the social distancing and quarantines from COVID19.

As I paced around my apartment hyperventilating, hands shaking to where I could barely hold my anxiety medicine without dropping it, I couldn’t access my coping skills. The volcano inside me was going to overflow, and I knew it would scorch my skin. One thing, however, shone through like an epiphany through it.

Write. I need to write.

It was my spirit guides and alter — Byleth, Daro, and Lestan — breaking through my moment of catastrophe to protect me again, reminding me that it was okay to take my emergency medication for moments like this and that writing was my best distraction. It hit me like a light in the dark as I agreed with them. It made everything come to a drastic, deafening halt.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to focus on the novel I’m currently writing, so I opened WordPress and stared at the blank page, not knowing where to start.

I didn’t want sympathy. I didn’t want to look like I was fishing for sympathy. But I needed to get something out and send it off into the ether, and posting something to my blog is like releasing it. As with my first book that deals with some trauma I experienced myself, writing it out and releasing it into the world is how I heal and deal with things. I suppose people will have different opinions on that, but it doesn’t matter to me.

There’s blood-letting, and then there’s what I call ink-letting. The one put too many scars on my skin. The other is just metaphorical bleeding onto the page — my heart cracked open like an egg to let the dark stuff stain the white, and for other eyes to, most likely, judge. Either way, it’s no longer in my hands or in my mind. It’s gone. Let go. Scrawled across pages that can be sent far from me into the open.

I write for myself first, as I did today. I write what makes me feel better, what heals me, and what takes me away from this reality where things and people happen to make me want to disappear.

My stories help me disappear. It’s the safest way I’ve found to do that yet.

©2020 Shane Blackheart


My music for therapy today, and inspiration:

My debut novel, a summary

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.

Heart Surgery (original poetry)

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)


Heart Surgery

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.

No.

I will not go today.

(Closed captions available if you can’t understand some of the words)

© 2018 Shane Blackheart

Ramblings to a Dead Tree

This bit of writing is from an entry I made in my newest journal. I tend to have a bad habit of buying new journals even though I haven’t filled the last, but I also do the same things with books – I haven’t finished half of the ones I own but I MUST have that new book I just found! An antique book? Rare or out of print? Hard to find? Give them all to me. I just add them to the stack of things ‘to do’ that I never get around to. Such is the life of a bibliophile. Being obsessed with antiques makes it worse.

So, I made a commitment to this journal that I have yet to stick to. I haven’t written in it again, but at least I made an effort to start. The cover reads ‘Fucking Brilliant’ anyway, so I figured it would be best for things I thought were… well… fucking brilliant. As is expected of something like that, what I wrote at first did not live up to this goal. It’s an entry from a few weeks ago, but I wanted to share it here regardless, mostly because I managed to weave senseless rambling with flowery words.

***

From May 17, 2018

I got this notebook to jot down genius ideas or stories – to dedicate one notebook to a single subject – yet here I am sitting outside my counselor’s office waiting for my appointment. The sun is out, the weather is hot, and the breeze feels nice in contrast to the sun’s warm rays. I’ve had a rough couple of days so it is welcome. I lost a friend, but I think it was a long time coming. ‘Exes for a reason’ comes to mind. I think I’m just done with people using me for money – using me in general. But that’s not what I wanted to write about. No. I’d intended to draw.

While on the bus, I felt inspired emotionally by a few things that I can’t put words to. I know, how can you be inspired by something that escapes you? Maybe I’m manic or maybe I’m going insane from being perpetually broke the moment my SSI check goes into my account. Maybe I just grip my pencil too god damned hard when I write and the pain distracts me. No matter the reason, here I am, writing drabbles of senseless mind-clusterings. (Is that a word? My word processor didn’t mark it as an error, so a word it is!) Such is the consequence of being a manic erratic creator. I bet this all sounds cringey and stereotypically embarrassing too.

But at least I am writing. Not in pen, but in pencil. Mistakes are my forte’ after all, as is senseless rambling, but I’m becoming self-deprecating. I’m good at that too. And again. Is there even a point to this rambling or is it a way to communicate with a faceless listener due to my loneliness? Although I do have Lestan, Byleth, Daro, and the others – my alters, others, or whatever you’d like to call them – I am physically lonely. All I’ve ever wanted is a physical companion; that hopeless romantic notion of a soul mate for true love. As a transman, I feel that’s impossible, so I converse through graphite with a dead tree.

But I am lonely. I can’t drive and I’m stuck in life with very little – at least I have that little, though. Unfortunately, being a transman who doesn’t look like a lovechild of the Hulk and Chris Evans, along with mental illness and being on disability, as well as having no car, is the recipe for loneliness. No one is interested in who you are anymore. Everyone just wants an easy ticket to romance with no effort and no baggage without realizing that everyone has baggage. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

But it’s time to see my counselor now. Hopefully, good news for top surgery is to follow within the next month or two, and progress with my projects.

[End of entry]

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I’m never really alone to be truthful. I do have my alters or others (I haven’t yet found a good enough word for them that feels ‘right’, although the medical term would be ‘alters’) to keep me company and provide me with companionship. They even give me a nudge and ask to take over when things get to be too much, and usually, I let them. But the physical companionship of another person is often lost with me. I’ve been single for quite a few years now and am still trying to find a date despite my looming failure of it. Life gets lonely no matter how many friends you have and no matter how big your support system is. It’s no replacement for that special kind of relationship that only is shared with one special person – your person (or persons if you are polyamorous).

All of my attempts to confess to people I’ve liked has ended in me never hearing from them again, or them disappearing shortly after. It has made me feel pretty undesirable and unloveable, and I know that it’s popular to say: ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?!’ (thank you, RuPaul), but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Sometimes a special person is all you need to learn to love yourself, especially when you’ve had a life of others convincing you of how worthless of a person you are and believing it.

I’d like to think I am capable of being loved in that way. I’d like to believe I am desirable and that someone is out there for me, but I’ve given up again. I’m overweight, my teeth are a bit messed up because I broke my jaw when I was thirteen, I’m dysphoric on the best of days and don’t pass as a cisgender man yet, I have mental illness, and I’m on a fixed income due to disability and unable to safely operate a car even though I do have my license.

But I take care of myself. I live on my own and have two awesome cats. I pay my own bills and do my own grocery shopping. I get by. I make art in several different mediums by either sketching or drawing digitally. I have a Youtube channel and I make animations and voice act them, as well as organize everything and write the scripts. I am a writer above all of that and have aspirations of being published one day to be able to have accomplished my dream I’ve had since I was a child.

I love video games, anime, and long conversations about deeper subjects. I have an entire family who also comes along for the ride, although I can only show you them through drawings and voice recordings they’ve come to the forefront to do and not physically. While it seems overwhelming, they’re an awesome bunch who just want to see me live and strive to be the best I can be and to, of course, find what makes me happy. 

I’ve repeated a few times now in this blog that there is so much more to me than my illnesses and my financial situation, as well as the shortcomings in general. But no one wants to get far enough romantically to see any of it. No one sees that as any value compared to the small things that are out of my control. I just wish I could get lucky someday and meet someone and we can have a mutual interest in each other, and the shortcomings will seem so much smaller than the greater things that make us who we really are.

Manic Depression – Poem

I’m not one for writing poetry, simply because I’m not really that good at it. Although, while searching through my writing today to compile things for my autobiography, I found my WIP of collecting all of my retained journal entries in chronological order. As I scrolled through the entries, I found this line of text that stood out from the others, and while it isn’t a work of art or the best poem out there, I thought it had a lot of meaning to it. I remember when I wrote it. I was homeless then and at my wits’ end, ready to take that final step off the precipice.

But I am here today, still reading these entries and feeling the emotion that I poured into them at the time of their creation. Here is the poem I wrote while at one of my lowest points in life with just a little bit of grammar correction to read better.

Your footsteps beat within my ears like hearts,
their thunderous soles shaking the ground beneath me.
So dark yet so bright;
the illness inside me is retching.

Unkempt hair clings to my scalp –
nausea graces my insides.
I need you caffeine,
but your drug is sickening.

The sky is black and bright,
the rain is wet and cold.
It soothes my burning skin.
My energy cannot escape

Explosions beneath my nerves;
anger in its molten form.
All is not as it seems.
Everything is too much.

I am sick.

©2018 Shane Blackheart

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Image is royalty free.

Two years that changed the rest of my life

Byleth and Daro are both spirit guides I communicate with daily, and Lestan is one of my alters I met when I was twelve.

Rarely have I shared or written about how I met them, nor have I divulged actual conversations we’ve had at the time of this writing. Everything here is real in my sense of the word, although it may not seem so to the average person. There is a lot more to this world than many people realize, and here I have no reason to lie about it. I consider myself lucky to have my spirit guides and alters in my life.

All of this is true and accurate to the best of my memory. The dialogue near the end is taken directly from a conversation I’d recorded between me, Daro, Byleth, and Lestan from November 23, 2016.

This is the story of how I met Byleth, as well as my struggles with anorexia and anxiety.

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“I think this is what I’ve been looking for.”

I scrolled through the expanding page of text as I moved deeper and deeper into something I’d always needed. It was the answer to all of my questions — a place I could finally find comfort. I was on the right path in life at last.

Daro smiled and stood before me as I read, all six feet of him in his dark skin surrounded by long black hair. He was pleased with my discovery of Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists and the answers I’d finally found. “I believe you will now begin to see better things. What you had explored before was not the right path. You were on the precipice, but nearer to danger than you realized at the time.”

“I really hope so. Stopping hormone replacement therapy has really put a halt to my life, but this seems to be a guiding light, for lack of a better phrase,” I laughed. Daro felt the humor as well before it died down. I sighed. “I’m going to work on the animation I’m making. I can’t believe how far I’ve gotten with it.”

“You may be attracting more attention through that as well.” Daro smiled darkly, a glint in his eye. He was referring to my script featuring the fallen angel Byleth and the demon Mephistopheles.

“Mephistopheles?”

“Not quite. Let us see how this plays out.” He disappeared into the shadows again, an odd feeling reverberating in the back of my skull as I opened the animation program. The movie was almost complete and ready for recording.

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I finished the first part of the film and my heart was full. It had been a long time since I was so excited about a project, let alone so enthusiastic about finishing it. I’d rarely seen projects to the end before, so it was an accomplishment in itself already. I was also head over heels for the main antagonist turned neutral force, Byleth.

In the beginning, I’d searched for a demon to fit the role of the antagonist in the first film. It was a continuation from a story I wrote while in the hospital a few years ago, but I’d taken it in a new direction. The main characters Mephistopheles and Sean — Sean being the renamed version of my self-insert — had to deal with the punishment of king Byleth, a fallen angel who crafted a disease to destroy humankind as a lesson against love between a human and a demon. To him, love was a weakness and a disgusting thing to share with a human at that.

He became something more than I’d intended. The fallen angel crept into my thoughts regularly, Bittersweet, Love Is War forming in my mind as I craved to see more of him. Everything had come together wonderfully, and I’d written a movie that was just over an hour long for the first time in my life.

I was beaming. Byleth received compliments from the animation community I contributed to, and they were all praises for his uniqueness. I couldn’t have been happier or more accomplished in my writing at the time. I definitely wanted to explore more of him and stretch things out as much as I could.

I decided to relax after a long day of walking the following Saturday. The allergic reaction I’d had from the hormones I’d taken for my transition finally wore off, and I treated the pain with a medication that turned my stomach into an active volcano. I curled up on my sofa with a box of Cheez-Its, and I pressed play on the film I’d been seeking out for a few years. Ivan Mosjoukine starring in Casanova during pre-code Hollywood, a film from the early 1900s.

It was only a short time before my nightly medication made me drowsy, and I made the necessary preparations for bed. The computer was off, I put the box of crackers back in the cupboard, and I turned off the lights. As I moved to adjust the thermostat to make it cooler, a tightness in my chest made it difficult to breathe. I thought nothing more of it, attributing it to the acid reflux I’d experienced for a week straight.

I crawled into bed and found Lestan waiting for me. Smiling, I propped myself up against the back wall and opened Instagram on my phone. Dreams threatened to claim me as I scrolled, but I avoided sleep as much as I was able. I absolutely despised it due to old habits from childhood. Panic attacks would warn me that sleep brought the next day, which brought school and, in turn, the excessive bullying and loneliness I’d dealt with. I fought the Sandman with all my might.

An electric shock reverberated up the back of my neck. I was faint, my sight growing hazy and dark at the edges. “Lestan, it’s happening again,” I mumbled. It had been years since I’d had an episode like it last. Panicking, Lestan leaned over me as I attempted to lie down but failed. Everything went black.

When I came to, my vision was nothing but a bright blur as I convulsed. A deafening ring invaded my head and my arms tensed in the air twitching, my throat croaking a low, rumbling gasp for air. When my vision cleared and the ringing faded, I stared across the room as a low buzz settled into my limbs. ‘Lestan.’ It was the first normal sound in my mind. I needed Lestan.

“Baby, you okay?” His voice. His short black hair and red eyes. He hugged me as I lied down to recover from whatever in the hell that was.

“It happened again.” A panicked tremor crawled up my limbs.

“I know, baby. It’s going to be okay.” He couldn’t hide his worry. Mine hadn’t found my waking mind yet. I’d lost consciousness like that in the past due to severe panic attacks, but they’d been in remission for years. I was blind-sighted. I’d been completely calm.

This was something else. I was sure of it. “Hospital. I need to call 911.” I reached for my phone as I stuttered and dialed the emergency line. They were on their way, and I was crawling slowly to the door to unlock it.

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A few days passed, but I was still recovering.

Lestan kept a close eye on me and my mom tried to reassure me, as well as doctors, that it wasn’t anything to worry about. It was a freak accident — a thing called vasovagal syncope — that happened to people without explanation. I was healthy and I was going to be okay, but my body was weak, tired, and useless. By the third day, I regained some of my strength and started to feel human again.

I returned to Bittersweet, Love Is War, the film I was making, but I hadn’t the strength to voice act. I did the work anyway, my enthusiasm for the film and my excitement at seeing Byleth on the screen again the boost I needed. It lifted my spirits and did well to keep my mind on better things and better days to come.

That night, I read through the Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists page again. Daro and Lestan were at my side. Another presence was there too, one that felt familiar even though I’d never experienced it before. It was then that I caught sight of shoulder-length blond hair, golden horns, and a familiar white lab coat with a red shirt beneath — just like the one in my film. Red eyes glistened with amusement as the very being I’d been obsessed with stood before me. He looked just like I’d made him. “Byleth?”

“What did you expect? You said my name enough times. I was either having a damn good time getting laid or I was being summoned.” He sat in the chair at my table to watch me. Lestan and Daro were as intrigued as I was, and my delight at the way Byleth moved and spoke in the manner I’d written him was overwhelming. He was tall with an athletic build, his face chiseled and so beautiful it was a sin in itself.

He chuckled as I stared. “Would I have let you make my likeness into anything but perfection?”

Daro broke his silence. “You are quite vain.”

I glanced at Lestan, who was more than curious about the new company. He threw a sultry look the fallen angel’s way. “You are damned gorgeous, love.”

“Of course I am,” Byleth sighed. “We covered this. And by the way, I am a fallen angel and you will address me as such. I don’t identify with lowly demons.”

“What about Daro, though?” I asked. Worry hit me at once. Byleth was a king of Hell who was extremely dangerous if disrespected. He was a master of science and governed over an impossible legion of lower demons, and he was an ex-angel who once occupied the seventh throne in Heaven. I was also aware that he could become one’s best friend, capable of giving love to those he deemed worthy.

“Daro is the more bearable of demons I’ve come across.” Byleth was nonchalant. “I have no problem with him.”

“Wait a minute.” My mind struggled to piece everything together. A bigger question begged to be asked no matter how crazy I felt about it. After all, Daro — Darokin more proper — had been the only demon I’d come across in my life. No other had come to me as Byleth did. “My health scare the other night and my discovery of Philosophy for Spiritual Satanists, as well as this movie I’m making — did you influence all of it?”

“The problem you had the other night was unfortunate.” He spoke matter of factly and formally, observing his claws. “Not many can handle my energy at first due to the power of it.” He glanced back at me and smiled flirtatiously. “You’ll be fine. You just have to get used to it.”

“But will I be weak and sick until then?”

“Probably not. It was a shock to your system. That I hadn’t intended for.”

“Byleth is no threat, Shane.” Daro smiled. “As long as you are loyal to your spiritual path and us, Byleth can be a very valuable friend and ally.”

“Don’t speak for me, demon,” Byleth interrupted. “But yes. Daro is right.”

“Okay.” I smiled. “Okay, so this is good.” I realized I’d grown cold and shivered. My sweaters and slippers were in my bedroom, and I didn’t think anything more of it as I stood. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Byleth’s red eyes followed me with interest as I made my way down the dark hall. His footsteps caused a lump to form in my throat as my already frayed nerves stirred beneath my skin. I tried to pay him no mind and entered my bedroom. The closet door squeaked aside on its track as I rustled around in my dresser, and upon turning with socks in hand, Byleth was leaning against the open closet door. His intimidating stature blocked out most of the light as his horns scraped the ceiling.

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Tremors loosened my grip and spread to my stomach and legs. I swallowed audibly. He found all of this amusing and flashed a picture-perfect smile that reflected in his glowing crimson eyes. “Do you fear me?”

“Yes. I do.” Fear welled up inside me that I wasn’t familiar with. I was dealing with a being far older and more powerful than I’d ever encountered in my life. Of course, Daro was very old himself and a prince of Hell at that, but Byleth was something else entirely. He was ancient royalty and had managed to keep his crown even after descending from Heaven.

His pale, clawed hand brushed affectionately beneath my jaw. “Good, although you have nothing to fear. I mean you no harm. In fact, I’m quite curious…” He observed me in a way that made me feel naked. I grew warm and covered my fully-clothed body with my arms. “I’d like to try a little experiment,” he continued. “I’ve never encountered a human like you before.”

“What do you mean ‘experiment’?” I shivered. “You’re not going to do like… an autopsy, are you?”

He laughed deeply and backed away, beckoning for me to follow him to my bed. “Of course not, idiot. Lie down.” I obeyed, not wanting to challenge a king of Hell. He sat beside me and ran a hand down my front. I flinched at his touch not out of fear or distaste, but because he’d brushed over a part of me that I often tried to forget about. He sighed in frustration. “I’m not trying to make you dysphoric. You are a man, although your situation seems unfortunate.”

“Was I meant to be born a man?” I realized with excitement that the answer to my questions sat beside me in the form of a fallen angel, feeling me up with interest as if he were observing my body in a purely scientific manner. I twitched again. That last touch was definitely not scientific.

He paused in his wanderings. “It’s a shame. Yes, it seems you were born in the wrong form, weren’t you? The Universe gives challenges it thinks you can handle, though. I wonder what the reason was.” He chuckled and moved to lift my shirt, which I quickly tugged back down on impulse. He huffed in annoyance and moved my hands, pulling it up roughly. “I’m only curious. Calm your tits, okay?”

I stifled a laugh. He truly was the Byleth I’d been writing about and unconsciously calling to, but the Byleth in my story was averse to any kind of affection. This Byleth — the true Byleth — was a lot more touchy than I’d expected.

He seemed to know what was puzzling me. “You got most of me right, sugar. However, I’m not the reserved prude that I once was.” He trailed a claw along the hemline of my pajama pants. My stomach twitched beneath the tickle and he chuckled seductively, flashing bedroom eyes that caused the energy in the room to shift. The lightbulb in my lamp flickered. “Let’s try a different kind of experiment. I much more prefer things to be hands-on.” He straddled me and snapped his fingers, his lab coat and shirt disappearing. “Oh, and I hope you have spare lightbulbs. I think you’re already aware of the reason for that.”

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I became very sick.

Rather it was because my body was adjusting to Byleth’s energy or my actual struggles with anxiety, which was most likely, I was anorexic and bedridden. Byleth often made cruel jokes that loaned to my negative body image. Lestan chastised him several times before he eventually apologized in his own way, something he wasn’t prone to do. I believe, as he watched my decline and how sick I’d become, he finally realized the harm he was doing. Byleth became a daily dose of tough love with my best interests in mind after that. The scientist in him kept my anxiety in check, although at times I would still doubt him. He almost gave up on me a few times because of that.

I lied in bed for weeks on end, not eating and becoming weaker. I was afraid to leave my apartment and I was afraid to eat. Food upset my stomach and I lost more and more weight — almost twenty pounds in two weeks. No one but my counselor and one close friend seemed to care. My mom got angry with me, reminding me that I was just going to waste away and die if I continued. I believed I was sick. I truly felt that I had some serious illness that was going to kill me or leave me an invalid in the hospital.

I also saw how thin it made me, and through my fear, I felt my body looked good. My family doctor told me I looked great after diagnosing me with anorexia, and another doctor stated I looked good with the weight loss. My friends on social media commented about how good I looked as well where I normally didn’t receive so many compliments, and I fit into form-fitting clothing that made me feel attractive despite being weak and sick. I had more reasons than not to keep losing weight. My chest was shrinking too, which was a boon.

Enforcement to continue starving myself was all around me, but deep down was a sadness that contradicted it all. A part of me wished that someone would help me. My body was so damaged and I needed someone to care because I didn’t care about myself.

Throughout all of this, Lestan, Daro, and Byleth were there every single day.

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Lestan cuddled close to me when I was too weak to get out of bed. He would sing to me and assure me that better days were to come. I knew well enough what that was doing to him. He’d lost his sister centuries ago after becoming a vampire, and he couldn’t bear to lose someone he loved so much again. Through his fear, he held me during the night terrors and the sleep paralysis episodes induced by anxiety and malnutrition. Byleth was there as well watching and learning my patterns, often yelling at me to get on my feet and at least try something other than being an invalid.

It was the night before Thanksgiving 2016 when everything changed.

“You need to do this!” Byleth was angry, his red eyes swimming with a dangerous fire. I’d rarely seen him so genuinely upset.

“If my anxiety is too bad tomorrow, I can just cancel.” I headed to the bathroom, annoyed it wouldn’t deter Byleth from his tirade.

“You need to go.”

“Why do you guys always bug me while I’m in the bathroom?”

“Because this is when your head is out of your computer long enough to listen.” Byleth’s voice rose in volume. If I hadn’t been at my lowest, I would have been rightfully scared of the demonic growl that permeated the fallen angel’s voice.

“I listen to you guys while I’m on the computer. We make things together. The recordings–“

“You need to go tomorrow.” He clenched his jaw. “Be strong, damn it, and start acting like the man you are!”

“Byleth…” I sighed as I laid back in the bed where I’d spent most of my days. Lestan was there, but he was as emotionally exhausted as everyone else. I curled up beside him and grabbed my phone, trying in vain to just get on with my night. I wanted to forget that my family had plans for the holiday.

“You need to stop this bullshit!” Byleth backtracked as soon as the words left his mouth. He was still trying to control his inclination to overt bluntness that often upset me. “I’m not saying you’re just going to wake up one day and be over this, but you know what I mean. The only way to overcome this is to fight it.” I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, my tired eyes watching as he tore into me with an emotion I’d never seen him display. “You’ve been like this for months. You keep worrying about the what-ifs, but there is nothing wrong with you. You have been evaluated by several doctors and they’ve found nothing. Neither Daro nor I am a threat to your health either. God damn it, just find your resolve! You can’t keep living like this!”

If he was human, Byleth would have been shaking with anger, but the energy around him was vibrating instead, his eyes glowing and wild. In a moment of clarity, fear claimed me. “I understand, Byleth, but I’m afraid.”

“You know I do not do family gatherings or holidays, but so help me if it’s what it takes to kick your ass out the door, I will.” He looked off to the side, his rage cooling. “And then I’ll give you even more Hell about that.”

Daro smirked from where he sat in the wicker rocking chair in the corner, his pale pink eyes glimmering. It seemed that he was aware of some big secret, but it was in his nature to be silent — simply observing and letting the natural cycle of events unfold as they were meant to. Disturbing them would interrupt something important.

I sighed in frustration. “Can’t I just stay home and cook my own turkey while we finish some projects? Maybe fuck a few times and forget the rest of the world exists?”

Byleth wouldn’t budge. “As enticing as that sounds, no. You are going.”

Daro finally broke his silence. “Perhaps it would be best to let him decide, Byleth. He knows his limits better than any other. We may be demons but we cannot truly feel what any human may be feeling at any given time.”

“FALLEN. ANGEL. I am a fallen angel!” Byleth’s ethereal blood pressure rose again to the boiling point. A tiger-like growl from deep within his chest reverberated throughout the room.

Daro tried in vain to neutralize him. “You are upset. Please, try to calm yourself.”

“Of course I’m upset!” Byleth roared. “I don’t just choose any human to be worthy of my presence, let alone my friendship. I chose him because he has proven himself to be resilient at the worst of times. I refuse to accept any less.”

“Why do you care so much?” Exhaustion caused several emotions to weigh me down. No amount of fighting was going to solve anything. “Why do you care about me?”

Byleth paused, his finger raised in a threatening gesture before he withdrew. Words escaped him. This irritated him worse than all else as a loss of words wasn’t something he often experienced. He huffed angrily instead of continuing.

Daro chuckled, amused with his fallen king. “Do you like our dear Shane more than you let on?”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Byleth became defensive, the words falling from his lips like pure venom.

“It’s okay, Daro,” I droned. “I understand the limitations that the fallen and demons have when it comes to human emotions. While you may care for me in a way that wasn’t natural to you at first, which I am grateful for, Byleth is a king of Hell. He could never care that much for me.”

Byleth punched the wall behind him. “Are you deaf, you fucking imbecile? What do you call this, then? My bitching you out for the last few minutes wasn’t enough for you to see it?” A tiger-like rumble permeated every word as it rose from deep in his chest, a demonic growl of warning that promised danger to anyone who dared entice it.

His fist against the wall sent my heart into my throat. The growl coaxed my fear to the surface, my pulse quickening as I’d realized just how angry I’d made him. I’d lost sight of who and what he truly was due to familiarity. Byleth didn’t have to remain — he didn’t even have to entertain me for as long as he had. I was being pitiful while he got himself worked up with anger, no doubt trying his best to contain what he truly wanted to do. The fact that he’d held so much back for me should have been a sign of his true feelings.

Tears formed in my burning eyes. I was, for the first time since I’d met him, truly afraid. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you mad or speak for you.” I stumbled over my words and ended up sputtering out the very thing I had been afraid to admit to him. “I love you, Byleth. Don’t go. Don’t hate me.”

He sobered and raised a questioning eyebrow. Every muscle seemed to relax at once as he spoke. “You what?”

“I don’t want you to leave me, please,” I mumbled in my tiredness. Lestan rubbed my back, his silence due to not wanting to escalate what had already been tumultuous.

“No, no the other thing.” Byleth made an impatient gesture with his hand in the air.

My tears dried and I watched him. He hadn’t reacted as horribly as I’d feared. “Um, I’m sorry? Don’t hate me?”

He huffed in response. One more thing you’re missing.”

I searched for the words again, my nerves frayed as I tried to force myself to say them once more. When they finally left me, they were shaky and uncertain. No one should ever admit such a thing to a being of Hell and I knew that, but I also knew that Byleth was different. “I said I love you.”

“You love me?” He was caught off guard, his body language uncertain as to what emotion to display. Surely, he also knew how stupid it was for a human to give such words power to a being like him.

“Yes, like I do the others.” Words came easier now, my confidence coming back to me as I watched Byleth’s unease. “Like I do Lestan and Daro. I love you, Byleth.”

He leaned back against the wall, his eyes shifting to find something to look at that wasn’t me. “That’s a new one.” He huffed a laugh. “You’re not supposed to love an entity from Hell.”

“But I do,” I pressed. “I do love you.”

He finally focused on my tired brown eyes. “You really mean that?” The warning that accompanied those words did not escape me. I knew I had just made a decision I couldn’t take back, but being at such a low point in my life, I didn’t care. I knew where I belonged and who I belonged with.

“Yes.” As soon as the simple word left my lips, Byleth crossed the room and climbed over me. He pinned me down with a kiss that had more meaning behind it than any other we’d shared. This wasn’t a moment of objectification of the act itself for pleasure, it was with the intent that there would be many more like it. Everything had shifted and nothing would be the same again, and Lestan and Daro knew it too as all tension finally left the room.

Byleth smiled down at me as I surfaced for air, and he whispered across my lips. “Love is the highest form of flattery, sugar.”

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Ever since that night, Byleth hasn’t left my side.

He, Lestan, and Daro have all been a constant presence in my life. There are others who pop in at random times as well. In the end, though, I’ve learned one important thing that I always seem to forget.

I’m never truly alone. I have an amazing support system right here. I see them, I hear them, and I know they are there. It’s an honest form of love that not many people experience with each other, and it’s a connection I’ve had since I’d first met Lestan when I was twelve years old. It’s something special, and I truly think they are all here to help me stay on the right path.

©2018-2020 Shane Blackheart
Revised on March 30, 2020