I crave sharp lines and clear answers.
I have a strong drive to understand things deeply, and will think long and hard about anything I don’t understand, that I can’t fit into a narrative that makes sense. If a boundary exists, I crave knowing where everything fits in relation. I want to know where I stand.
But one theme in my life so far is that I didn’t choose (or get) a life that lends itself well to clear answers, and this theme has come up over and over again.
When my wife got pregnant with our oldest, I was suddenly in a netherworld where I wasn’t sure who I was in my family, who I would be to my kid. I had thought what we were doing was perfectly normal, and in a lot of ways, it was, but it was also far more subversive than I ever anticipated, and building a strong family with two central parents took work (as opposed to a ‘primary’ parent and a sort of back up). I had expected to be a more or less “regular mom” (and eventually was, well, sort of anyway) but found myself connecting deeply with the experiences of dads and adoptive parents. As a parents now, we live in a world somewhere between the completely ordinary, and one where we are building something new.
I’ve walked a fine line for years in relation to my emotions and sensitivity. I feel things deeply. I cry easily. I anger easily. I pick up on the emotions of people around me and they feel like my own. I feel very deep happiness and both spiritual and human connection, sometimes strong enough to take my breath away.
I’ve spent most of my life hating my emotions, especially those easy tears, and wishing them away. Starting at 20, I spent over 8 years adding one medication after another until I could feel almost nothing at all. Then, after I gradually found my way back out, working my way off of the meds and rediscovering the person I was underneath, I still wanted to crush that piece of myself that felt so much more than it seemed I could handle. It turned out I could actually handle it, but developing the skills and confidence to do so, and the freedom to experience emotions without interpreting any sign of weakness as a deep flaw, was a skill that came later.
As part of this, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out if I’m mentally ill or not. For a long time I was certain that I was. A diagnosis made everything hard about my life make perfect sense, it gave me an out, it reconnected me with my family (it was a lot easier for my parents to interact with their queer kid when I was officially sick, and it was a way for me to feel the care and love I lost when I came out). It gave me a clear path forward. It gave me a narrative — a nice dramatic battle. I knew where I stood.
Once I realized the harm I was doing, I gradually worked my way off of medications and out of the mental health system and the pendulum swung far to the other side. I was definitely not sick. It was all a big mistake. My doctors even agreed. How could we justify stopping treatment otherwise? My task then became to prove not just that I was well, but better than well, all by myself. That’s a lot of pressure.
Where I find myself now, several years and a lot of work later, is somewhere in between, walking a line between feelings and thoughts that are ‘normal’ and those that are ‘pathological’ (or could be labeled such). I like to think of these feelings as a super-power now, a way I’m blessed with a rich life. But we all know from X-men that every super-power comes with a big downside, so I try to accept that too.
And now, here I am again, as I start to pick apart what exactly is up with my gender. I can feel it, this strong drive to make everything fit, to push towards a clear explanation, a narrative that will force gender make perfect sense, in the context of who I have been and who I am now. I doubt I’m going to get it. That’s not the kind of life I got.