Category Archives: Mental Health

Suicide Prevention Day 2021

This was originally a thread on Twitter. It’s been edited and posted here for readability purposes.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day, and since this is an issue I’ve dealt with in my life since I was 10, I’ve written a lot about it.

How To Better Handle Mental Health Crises is a recent blog entry I wrote here about handling mental health crises, especially in those who are suicidal.

How To Better Support Loved Ones Struggling With Suicidal Thoughts is an article I wrote for The Mighty to help spread awareness on what not to do, as well as what to do, including personal experiences to help drive the point home, to further raises awareness.

Everything I wrote in those articles, as well as other things on mental health here on this blog and on my side blog, Waking Dreams, is spoken with utmost honesty and transparency. I don’t sugarcoat these things.

My main point in everything, ultimately: The world grossly underestimates the reality and debilitating nature of suicide and mental illnesses, and you can never truly know if someone is going to end their life or not.

Please check on your friends if they go silent. There is a belief in some circles online that if you don’t hear from friends, you should give up on them because it’s assumed they don’t care. That’s very dangerous thinking. There are many reasons people go silent — mental health being one of them.

Likewise, I saw an alarming trend on my personal Facebook for quite some time. At the risk of pissing off some people by being honest here, I would often post when I was suicidal in the past and the most I’d get, a lot of the time, were heart reactions. It’s mostly why I left. The like, or heart, button felt empty.

Sometimes a friend would reach out. My mom did months ago when I last posted there about it. I often didn’t hear anything more going forward, and while it’s no one’s job to look after me, I felt like I didn’t matter. It’s what my suicidal thoughts already told me, true or not.

When I become silent for long periods of time, mostly due to not having the energy to reach out, all I want sometimes is for someone to just message me, comfort me, and confirm that I’m not a burden or a pain in the ass. To be someone’s random thought. To feel like I have value and deserve to live.

In the far past, I disappeared one time for a while and heard from almost no friends at all. This happened around 2009-2010. I had my boyfriend at the time and that was it. No one checked on me. No one messaged me. When I came back around, they said I’d dropped off the face of the planet and they’d noticed, but no one reached out.

Let me reiterate: It’s no one’s job to look after someone else. Sometimes it’s too hard. At the same time, if you call someone a friend, and you see them disappear or struggling, why wouldn’t you reach out? Why would you ignore it and pass it by?

Again, I am not criminalizing anyone. I’m not shit-talking anyone. I’m not angry at anyone. I’m not defaming anyone. I’m not accusing anyone specific of anything. (Did I cover all bases? I’m tired of people getting mad at me for just being honest, even when I feel like shit.)

Which brings me to another issue. When someone is suicidal or depressed and they express their feelings, it’s not the best time to be angry with them. Step outside of yourself and your ego to try to understand why they are hurting and where the hurt may be coming from.

Social media has made people extremely detached from reality. Mostly, it’s because we see so many bad things from day to day, and the people behind the numerous screen names and profile pictures become characters in a reality show. Our brains detach. It’s too much information.

It’s why we need to remember what people mean to us, how long we’ve known someone, and remember that there are real human beings behind the static profiles. Real people whose lives could be lost.

So please, if someone is suicidal or writing about their trauma, don’t lash out at them in judgement. You could be the final push that sends them over the edge. And please, if you have the spoons, please don’t ignore them. Sometimes all they need is for someone to reach out, say they care, and to be told that life is better with them in it.

It’s so simple and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. And please don’t stop there. Check on your loved ones the next day, even if they appear to be doing better. The day after that. The things that go through our heads when we’re suicidal amplify when we have so much silence.

Another disclaimer pause. I don’t talk honestly about this stuff often anymore because every time I do, I piss someone off and I lose more people in my life. So if you’re pissed off by this, let’s talk. Try to understand and don’t make snap judgements or assumptions.

Suicide is often a symptom of many severe mental illnesses. Often, severe mental illness debilitates people and as much as they want to function, they simply can’t on their bad days. This is why abandoning friends who haven’t reached out in a while is damaging.

Not everyone has the bravery, the energy, or even the safety to speak up about their mental health diagnoses or trauma. Don’t assume a friend is fine just because they haven’t spoken about any of these things. Don’t assume these issues don’t exist if the person looks fine.

I desperately want people to regain empathy. I desperately want this coldness that social media has become to change. ‘Not my problem’ causes so much harm. I’ve reached out to complete strangers before to make sure they’re okay after seeing something concerning, and you can too.

It really is just as simple as that. A comment on their art, writing, music, or other creative endeavor. A comment on their post crying out for help, directly or indirectly. A simple… something… rather than silence.

Maybe I feel too intensely. Maybe I care too much. But I’d rather care too much and try to make a difference than remain silent when I could have possibly helped someone. I’d rather speak than be silent because I’m scared someone else will misinterpret or cherry-pick my words without communicating.

So again, if you are upset by anything I’ve said, or you have an assumption about anything, ask me for clarification. Talk to me. It’s that simple.

I feel like I should add one more thing to be responsible: You are never obligated to keep speaking with somoene if they are treating you badly. If they’re calling you names, verbally abusing you, or otherwise treating you like shit in direct conversations, you have to look after yourself. Nothing justifies being verbally abusive and hurting someone else.

Likewise, if someone feels you haven’t been there enough and mentions that, or mentions a short-coming that is causing them grief, it’s not okay for you to be an asshole. There is a huge difference between someone bringing up concerns and worries about you and just straight up verbally abusing you. Be willing to talk. Be willing to see your shortcomings and work on yourself too.

Please take care.

A resource I always like to share is 7 Cups. The website offers the ability to find affordable therapy, as well as online peer support. There is always someone there to listen.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

How to better handle mental health crises

This entry contains mentions of suicidal thoughts, mental health crises situations, self-harm, and traumatic hospital experiences. If you are not in a good place mentally, please seek out help. A great place to start is 7 Cups, where you can find free peer support and low-cost therapy. If you are in crisis, please consider calling your local crisis line, or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255. If it’s possible, reach out to a close friend or family member who will be understanding as an alternative. Your life is important, and the world is better with you in it. I promise.

“Have you recently thought about killing yourself?”

“Have you made plans to kill yourself?”

“Have you had an urge to act upon them?”

“What would your friends and family think if you went through with killing yourself?”

“Have you harmed yourself? How?”

“Name two reasons for living.”

The list of questions becomes longer the more at risk you are, and although I understand a certain level of bluntness is needed to determine the safety of the person in crisis, this could be handled so much better. In my case today, I had difficulty answering several of these questions, felt ashamed, embarrassed, and extremely irritated. It didn’t really help me at all.

I haven’t accomplished much in my life. I have quite a bit of experience with being told I’m too much, overwhelming, or just horrible. I have years of trauma resulting in BPD, PTSD, a panic disorder, OCD, and other issues. I’m autistic. I keep to myself and often worry if people truly like me or are just being polite. I’m always concerned that I’m a burden.

When the above questions were asked to me, among many others as they built off of my answers over the phone, I recoiled. I experienced very real physical sensations of my skin crawling, jolts of anxiety, and burning irritation. I have always found the questions intrusive, although that’s not necessarily the professional’s fault.

When asked what caused my crisis I’m currently in, my head spun. I became annoyed. It would take hours to explain. There has been a ridiculous amount of trauma in my life and when I’m feeling suicidal, that’s the last thing I want to go into detail about with my case manager. Again, that’s my issue, not theirs. They’re not doing anything wrong. I should be able to be open because I truly do want help, and I seek it out when I can as I need it.

I feel there could be better tact in the way required questionnaires are worded, though. Such blunt terminology, and open-ended questions I can’t possibly know the answer to (hello, autism), bring me more stress than comfort. I don’t know what my friends and family would feel if I died. Personally speaking, I often feel as if it’d be a weight off their shoulders. They may be relieved. They may be distraught. I can’t answer that question. Thinking about it just reinforces the negative feelings I had because it brings on guilt, and then I feel selfish for being in crisis. That’s not the intended effect, but this has been a part of the conversation around suicide for a while now.

Centering a suicidal person’s struggles on how others would handle it, or be hurt by it, isn’t helpful.

Likewise, using such blunt language can be a huge trigger. “Are you currently suicidal?” “Have you thought about taking your life?” While still blunt, there’s a huge difference in wording that sounds a lot easier on the ears, and it doesn’t make me feel like I’ve been hit with a battering ram.

“What are two reasons to live for?” is another question I struggle with. I truly don’t have a lot in my life to name. I stick to myself, I don’t have anything going on, and the only reason that pulls me back from the edge every time is that my cats need me. They can’t take care of themselves, and I love them too much to let them go without.

All of the questions are delivered in a formal manner. I feel like I’m at a job interview rather than trying to keep myself safe. Again, I’m not harping on anyone trying to do their job. I just wish there was something more to this whole crisis prevention thing.

Instead of asking me to name things, or asking me to figure out how other people would struggle due to my problems, why not just… give me hope? The most important thing a suicidal person can hear in the moment isn’t anything they tell themselves. It’s what they hear from others.

Often, when suicidal, it’s important for someone else to say, ‘I would miss you’ or ‘be sad if you died.’ ‘You’re not a burden.’ ‘Think of (this thing) and (this thing) you may not have thought of that you’ve accomplished!’ Often, others see things we’ve done in ways we can’t, especially in crisis. Having to answer these things myself just makes me irritated and want to withdraw even more because I can’t think of anything, which furthers the reinforcement of the initial feelings that put me in crisis.

The questions are for clinical purposes, but in the end, the way mental health crises are handled in America still needs a lot of work. It’s a very blunt, and often traumatizing, experience for the already traumatized. Often, we will say we are safe at home when we really aren’t due to the poor quality of treatment in hospitals.

We also may fear emergency help at our door, which could take the form of a crisis prevention police officer or an ambulance, which adds loads of stress to what we’re already experiencing, and then we have to hope they have training and don’t hurt us, put us in handcuffs, or force us to do something we don’t want to, such as being involuntarily committed.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to face a crisis intervention on that level because I’m aware of the possibility. I don’t lie, but I certainly skirt the truth. I’ve been in the psych ward a few times, and while it kept me from dying from a suicide attempt or from even going through with one, it is a cold and sterile place with nurses that may get frustrated with patients. I watched a helpless old man, who had been homeless, have food thrown on the table by a nurse who got frustrated, yelled at him, and left after he kept dropping things.

If I needed my PRN (as-needed) medication for anxiety because I was shaking like a leaf and terrified, I was handed one through a window guard and sent to bed alone. I spent a few nights crying by myself in the dark with no one to check on me, only to be woken up at the crack of dawn and threatened with the reality that if I didn’t get up, eat, and go to group, I couldn’t go home.

When first admitted, I had to strip down into a backless gown so a team of nurses could come in and look at my naked body to make sure I didn’t have injuries anywhere else, and the entire time I felt ashamed and embarrassed because complete strangers were looking at my nakedness. No one bandaged the wounds on my arms. They left me to redress and head out into the community room while I had to ask for my sweater so I didn’t bleed on the table.

The first or second time I’d been admitted (brain fog makes it hard to remember things), it was late at night. I had medications in my bag in a pill box because I had to take my medication to work at night, and I was met with policemen — two of them — who walked into the community room while I tried to eat a snack. They stood over me and questioned me, and I said the medication was mine prescribed by my doctor. I simply took it to work because I worked at the same time I had to take it.

One remained with me with his hands clasped over the table, sitting across from me and staring me down. The other went to the nurse’s station to confirm what I said was true. The entire time I was terrified. I’d never done anything illegal in my life. I’d never been in trouble with the cops and was as straight-laced as they came. I had no record of any kind.

Finally, they left and I remained in the dimly lit community room. I felt less than human. In a matter of minutes, after the nurses scoped my naked body and left my injuries unattended, and police officers coldly interrogated me, I felt institutionalized in every sense of the word. There was no love. No care. It was all quick and cold, and merely to be sure there were no problems.

Don’t get me started on group therapy, in which religion was forced on me that I didn’t want, and the art therapist argued with me about the meaning of my drawing. And the sexism. Women weren’t allowed to shave, but men were. If one floor of the psych ward did something bad, we were all punished. We had our coffee machine taken away because someone on the floor below us threw theirs across the room.

I’m not trying to discourage anyone from going to the hospital if they are a danger to themselves or others. The hospital truly did keep me from going through with the inevitable. Despite how awful my experience was, that was one place. There are far better hospitals I’m sure, but since I’m low-income and on state insurance due to being disabled, my choices are limited.

If you are in crisis, please get help. Do what you can to protect yourself. That’s far more important than the current imperfections in the system. Surviving is key.

But many of these reasons are why people don’t seek out help. The whole process is cold and controlled, and very institutional. It’s a system. And I understand the need for a system, but in reality, what someone in crisis really needs is someone who cares — or at least acts like they care.

In the case of being transgender, the process can be doubly bad. Not only do we have to fear discrimination, but the act of being forced to strip and be looked over, which will out us and possibly open up awkward questioning, is traumatizing in itself.

If it must happen, it would be better handled by well-informing the patient of the intentions and the necessity, asking if there is anyone they preferred to do the inspection, and simply just letting us wear a pair of fucking underwear during it.

Things need to change. In times of crisis people have to respond quickly, but it should also be possible to be humane and compassionate while responding quickly.

If we want people to continue to seek out help, we have to make help a non-threatening thing.

Word questions in a way that are sensitive to the person who may be moments away from taking their life. Give us reasons to continue instead of asking us to figure that out ourselves, since we obviously feel we don’t have reasons or we wouldn’t be in that position. Don’t make our struggles about other people and what they feel or would have to say about it.

Treat us like humans who are in pain. A lot of people with trauma have a serious lack of love — or a sense that they are not loved. Going through the motions and being blunt, distant, and cold may enforce that we feel like a burden, are in some kind of system, and that no one cares.

To the doctors, hospitals, and crisis prevention people who are doing it right and are compassionate, thank you. Ultimately, a person in crisis is someone who needs love and handled with care, even if they may not want it. It’s far better than the alternative, which will lead to less people seeking help, and will end in more lost lives than there needed to be.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Breaking down misconceptions of PTSD

It’s important to remember that PTSD isn’t just an illness experienced by veterans. PTSD can result from years of traumatic abuse, sexual abuse, and other things that can scar a person for life, such as a car accident or the loss of a loved one. I have PTSD from years of several kinds of abuse.

For the longest time, however, I didn’t take my diagnosis seriously because ‘I’ve never been to war or in the service.’ That line of thought caused the utter horror that PTSD is to fester until it finally went full-blown in 2020 due to isolation. So we need to clear up misconceptions.

Not talking about the many ways PTSD can manifest and come about causes victims of it, who only see one experience, to suffer longer and harder than they need to. If you have experienced real trauma, I urge you to get help by at least talking to a counselor.

PTSD is often waved off by people who think it is just an illness from being in the service or being involved in war, which is dangerous considering what it can do to your brain.

Symptoms I experience:

  • Poor short and long-term memory
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts
  • Self-harm
  • Visual disturbances like hallucinations
  • Night terrors and disturbing lucid nightmares
  • Severe depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Isolation
  • Dissociation
  • Flashbacks of traumatic events
  • OCD and cyclic thoughts of self-hate and self-blame

I have never been to war or gone into the service. I experienced trauma from an early childhood age, and continued to experience repeated and prolonged abuse — sexual, physical, and mental — for many years. I received a PTSD diagnosis as a teenager for the first time.

PTSD with any cause, no matter where it came from, is a horrific diagnosis in varying degrees, and we need to raise awareness for the wider scope of it to save people’s lives. Misconceptions cause people to suffer in silence and denial like I did.

I wrote a blog entry about what my experience was like with PTSD while being isolated for the majority of 2020 here: Living alone in 2020.

Here is some information about PTSD. In my case, I unfortunately developed chronic PTSD.

Another kind of PTSD is c-PTSD, or complex PTSD.

I hope we can continue to have conversations about PTSD and it’s roots, which is, ultimately, trauma from any source. If you’ve experienced intense trauma, or trauma of any kind that is disrupting your life, please seek out help. A trusted counselor can help you figure out if you have PTSD, what the source was, and to help you cope and possibly recover from it. You may need a psychiatrist who can prescribe medication if it’s extremely disruptive, and from a personal account, medication can make your symptoms much more bearable so counseling can work.

A good starting place is 7 Cups, where you can search for a therapist or someone experienced who can listen and guide you in the right direction.

©2021 Shane Blackheart
Featured image by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

Borderline Personality Disorder Is Not The Stigma Placed On It

**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.

What is BPD, exactly? The clinical symptoms. — Making the Diagnosis, 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.

© 2021 Shane Blackheart

Bo Burnham: Inside left me speechless

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.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Image source: Netflix

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

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:

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]

cathal-mac-an-bheatha-208192-unsplash.jpg

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.