I am a Survivor

As I do every morning now, I tie a black cloth to my wrist. I repeat my daily mantra,
BlackWristtaking deep breaths between each sentence, “I am a Survivor. It’s over now. My abusers can no longer hurt me.” I close my eyes and try to let it sink in before starting my day. I am coping with PTSD from childhood abuse and bullying, and this routine helps to keep my demons at bay. Throughout the day, as things get too heavy or I realize that I am taking life too seriously, I try to consciously look at my wrist. I walk away and repeat my mantra. I’ve left many conversations open-ended, projects unfinished, and chores incomplete.

I will not go into the details of the abuse in this post, but would rather prefer to share with you some of my experiences with PTSD. Maybe you are suffering or know someone who is. If nothing else, I hope to help remove the stigma around mental illness.

My day begins at around 1 am. I wake up once, sometimes twice a night with feelings of extreme Guilt, as if I have done something horrible. I have been moved to write apology emails, text messages, and many letters at this time of night. I have apologized for not greeting someone at a restaurant. I wake up with intense Fear, believing I would be evicted, the utilities would be turned off, we would run out of food, or that I would be run out of my neighborhood or killed. I also wake up with inexplicable Sadness and Pain. Waking up in tears or screaming and having no idea why, I have been moved to believe that everyone hated me and was going to leave me. For much of my life, this was normalized to such a degree, I had no idea why it was happening. Now when I wake up with these feelings, I journal about them and return to bed. It is still almost every night.

I tie a piece of black fabric to my wrist and remind myself that the bad times are over, that I’m a survivor. I continue on with my day. I am a perfectionist and have dealt with high anxiety. I believed the excuses and blamed myself rather then accept the fact that those who sought to break me were doing just that. As a result, I served impossible standards. It was my fault for being weak, being emotional, being frail, being different, etc. Years later, I’m still chasing the same demons. I’m still hunting myself down for being too weak, not good enough, not going the extra mile. Even when I deliver a perfect product and a customer is thrilled, it is a hollow victory. All I worry about is how could I have done better.

Like Pavlov’s bitch, I still react long after the stimulus has been removed. I flinch when telling people I’m trans or in crowded rooms. My social anxiety is off the charts. I repeatedly ask how I look before leaving the house, because I believe I am unable to dress appropriately. In certain circumstances, I seek approval. In other circumstances, I lash out knowing that if it is not good enough, we will all be found unworthy, be beaten, and/or deserted. I believe that at any moment, my family will walk out the door and leave me. I believe that if we become friends, you will abandon me. I believe I am completely unworthy of the people that surround me. I know how it all sounds.

I meditate. I have meditated for years. I make art, write, listen to music, do yoga, and drink tea. I have days where life is fine, and I go about things as normal as anyone else, I imagine. Then I have a day where I sit on the couch, cry, and journal all day long. The memories come flooding back, so I write them. I am overwhelmed by emotions. I cry, I laugh, I cry some more, and I write. Sometimes, a conversation brings back a memory, a television show, a commercial. I hear song lyrics and am reminded of something a bully once said or father’s words. The emotions are a tidal wave in my brain, and I am there, running for my life, alone, waiting for it to be over.

I now face an uncertain future as I cope with PTSD as a trans woman. I now take everything one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time. I am receiving help in the form of a therapist, family, and friends. My transition has helped immensely. It has allowed me to deal with things, to move forward, and to finally begin the process of discarding my abusers’ truths so I could live as my own authentic self. My truth is that this bitch is a wolf, and that I’m a survivor. And that means learning to accept that it’s over, and it’s time to let go.

WolfbyTeo
Wolf by Teo

Love to you all,
River Sunfeather

If you know someone with depression, PTSD, or mental illness and is having a hard time, talk to them without judgment. Listen to their feelings. Ask them why they feel this way, and hear their story. If it is serious, get them help. Don’t ignore it. People with mental illness don’t need prayers and memes. They need the support of those around them without judgement. As a good friend put it, “Judge others less, love them more.”

Trans Lifeline – 877-565-8860
Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255
Further Reading: Book on Shadow Relationships

Being an Ally For Yourself

Whether you are identify as trans, gay, or one of the other letters in LGBTQ community, or one of our valuable allies, you will at some point find yourself explaining something to someone of another point of view. This is a fact of life. If you have already been in this situation and survived, go you. Give yourself a pat on the back. For some of us, it comes up more than others. There are a plenty of articles on being an ally. Like this one, that one, or the other one. I am not about to write another. This is about being an ally to yourself.

Depending on the situation, you are forced to debate a topics that are personal and close to you. This might be a hypothetical about someone using a bathroom, or it could very well be your friend’s livelihood, or your personal rights. Things get heated quickly. You will screw up from time to time. You will get defensive. You will get drawn into the argument. You will succumb to your passions. You will overshare, and you will allow it to be personal. You will let it get to you.

First, acknowledge that these heated feelings mean you are still human and still care. Pain and anger mean you still give a damn about yourself and others. You are still connected. Go you!

Second, walk away. Allow the other person to sit on those thoughts for a while. And you can take a breather to calm down. You go full tilt all the time, and you forget what you are fighting for. You are bound to forget the goodness in the world.

Third, forgive. Forgive yourself. Don’t worry that you weren’t perfect and didn’t change everyone’s mind. Don’t sweat that you made a misfire or weren’t the perfect ally to “the cause.” And forgive the other person for not seeing your point of view. They may come around eventually. Remember that time you were deadset against doing something and ended up having a good time, anyway? Same thing.

Fourth, go for a walk. Spend some time with family or friends who will give you a break from arguing, debate, researching, and thinking politics. Seriously, take a break from the darn articles. I don’t care what was said at who’s convention. Just go. Your people miss you.

Fifth, do some journaling. If you are still feeling argumentative, write down your feelings and explore them. Ask why you feel so strongly and why it bothers you. Maybe start a blog. You can also call your state and federal representatives and get some things off your chest. It’s their job to hear your concerns and change the system, so you are no longer upset about it.

Sixth(Optional), hold a townhall meeting and invite them. Publicize it if they don’t show up. Be an active participant in changing the way things are. Don’t just vent your frustrations about the system, change the system for you. Become a leader in the community and actively change things. Take back the power in your life. Maybe even run for senate. Note: This path makes you fully accountable.

Wash and repeat.

Blessings,
River

Of Warriors and Faeries

Bravery does not feel like being courageous. It feels like being terrified.

I have reached that awkward stage in my transition. I am doing things that are “traditionally” female, yet I have a body that is still recognizably male. This makes many of those around me, especially those with traditional values, uncomfortable. By being open about my transition and talking about transgender issues, I can alleviate some of their fears and worries. I will not lie. Every time I speak on the issue, I feel a tinge of my own fear rise up.

When I first came out to my closest friends, I was terrified. I expected to lose them. I expected to be judged and ridiculed. When I told my family, I expected the same. Though there was some pushback from family members, my being transgender has not cost me friends or family members. I have been lucky. Though it has put some distance in certain relationships, it has brought others closer. I am aware that many trans individuals are mistreated and many have sacrificed to get us to this point. I am under no illusions I also take a certain amount of risk, and I am grateful for everything I have. But it was not my awareness of other trans folks and their sacrifices that made me afraid but my awareness of gender constructs. It was the social programming from friends, family members, and even complete strangers. All my life, I had been told, “be a man” and been made keenly aware of the consequences of letting people down in that regard.

To me, one of the greatest battles we fight is not the one where we fight for our rights or even the one for normalcy. Though those battles are important and must be fought, it is in my opinion, a far more important battle that is waged in the mind of a trans individual. For us, one of the greatest trials is overcome simply anytime we tell someone. It is the battle we win every time we explain what we do and the details of our transition and our life. If someone comes out to you, they just won a major conflict. Be supportive. Show encouragement. Thank them for sharing this part of themselves with you. And if you know someone who isn’t out yet, do not shame that person. You have no idea what kind of demons that person may face every day of their life.

I believe the ultimate battle that anyone must face is for self-acceptance. That initial knowing and accepting of oneself is crucial. One must face their darkest fears and find self-love deep inside. Either one accepts themselves for who they are, and they are willing to fight, OR they give up, saying something or someone else is in the way. But contrary to what we learned in English, “accountability” begins with the letter “I” and accepts no excuses. This life is about you and no one else. Are you and your dream worth it? Are you willing to fight to make your own wishes come true? It is never too late.

Blessings,
River ♥
May all your wishes come true.

blue-fairy

Coming Out

Just to let you all know, I am a trans woman. I know many of you are family and friends with questions about this journey. So I have put together this FAQ, based upon questions I have been receiving from you, the family and friends. I understand that this is not just a transition for me, but for everyone in my life as well. Please, remember I write this with all the love in my heart. ♥

Q. Are you and Laura staying together?
A. Absolutely! Laura has been supportive as I have gone through this exploration of self. As it turns out, she has done some self-exploration as well, and I have been supportive of her changes. We believe people evolve and change, and that it’s what it means to be human. We are still very much in love and still hope to grow old together.

Q. What about your daughters, Lilly and Aiyana?
A. We have taken steps to ensure they have support as they adjust to the changes. So far, they seem to be doing just fine. In fact, they both seem happier with the new me.

Q. Does that make Laura a lesbian?
A. Yes. Though according to this article, most women have been attracted to the same sex. It’s really nothing new.

Q. What do I call you? What pronouns should I use?
A. Thank you for asking. I prefer to be addressed as “River” and the pronouns “her” and “she.” I am going to work on changing my legal name at some point, but it is a process for many trans folk. Perhaps we can make a deal. How about I practice patience while you adjust to my new name and pronouns, and you practice patience while I go through the process of changing my legal name?
Name change and pronouns can be important for some trans individuals, as it helps them adjust and become comfortable, as they transition into their new lives. Little things like this also help them to see that they are supported by the people around them.

Q. What steps are you taking?
A. Transition is not a straight line, but rather a long check list of gender-affirming activities and actions. Some of these things one individual might deem necessary while another does not. And a few of these things may be easily attainable for some, while out of reach for others. “Transition” is the process of going through one’s personal list and getting all the things they feel necessary for them to fit their target gender. It is a process that usually lasts years, if not a lifetime for some. It can include hormones, voice training, electrolysis, relearning social queues, counseling, name changes, surgeries, and much more.
I began with meditation, counseling, and then electrolysis. I try not to think of what has to be done, but rather what is being accomplished. Otherwise, it can be rather intimidating. For instance, the electrolysis will take 18 months or more. If you wish to stay updated on my transformation, simply subscribe to this blog.

Q. Have you always felt like this?
A. Answering this is not simple. When I was younger, I knew that this was who I was and what I wanted. For years, I longed for it. But because of certain circumstances, I felt that I had to take this part of myself and bury it. I did not feel I could survive and still honor my female self. All I can say is that I grew up in a harsh environment. Many years later, I began meditating and these feelings came bubbling back to the surface. So for about two years, I have explored various gender energies in meditation. At the same time, I have reconnected with those old parts of myself that were buried so deep inside. Meditation is a wonderful way to heal old wounds. Now in order to continue, I must live authentically and be who I was always meant to be, instead of what was wanted for me.

Q. What prompted this?
A. When I peeled back enough layers to see myself for who I really was, my dear friend and teacher, Alfred Willowhawk put a figurative mirror in front of me. It was then that I realized that I had been chasing everyone else’s dream for me. I had never truly pursued what I wanted for myself and had to become what he calls a “spiritual warrior.” We all have a tendency to do this, and this applies to things other than gender. To learn more about this kind of thing, please visit his website, Warrior. He has a radio show, devoted to such topics as becoming a spiritual warrior and your authentic self. It can be heard here, The Cauldron, Fridays at 9 pm eastern.

Q. Does this new life make you happy?
A. It feels like being home after a really really long grueling day. I am unsure of how else to phrase the feeling. It is similar to the feeling of wearing your favorite jacket on a chilly day, or one of those days that makes you realize how grateful you are just to be alive.

Q. I miss the old you and don’t want you to change. How can I express that?
A. By speaking with me. You can tell me exactly what you miss and why.

Q. Are you getting the surgery?
A. That is between my wife and myself. I love you, but I don’t ask you about your plumbing, as I see it as being irrelevant to my life.

Q. Is it true that once you join a pride movement, there’s a musical number?
A. LOL This is my choice. Here is Laura’s. Enjoy!

Q. I have more questions!
A. If you are curious, try googling it and doing some research. If you have personal questions or would like to know more, just ask or message me. If you are interested in seeing my transformation, please just follow the blog. I am also working on a resource page with a list of transgender internet resources. If anyone has more sites to add to the page, please let me know. Thank you!

Thank you and blessings to you all,
River and Laura

Sensory Meditations

Excellent way to introduce someone to meditation or begin again if you are out of practice.

Gern Laverty

For those new to meditation, these simple exercises are a great way to get started. They will teach you to relax and focus. For everyone else, they’re a great way to add a little peace back into your life. They can be done in any order. Try doing them alone, with a partner, or even a class. You can do one or two a day. Experiment, have fun, and make them your own.

Some tips on these meditations: Dress comfortably. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and focus your sole attention on one sense. Block everything else out. Nothing else exists, except you and that sense. Good luck!

Sound Meditation. Find a leather drum, bell, chime, metal pitcher, triangle, or anything will ring when struck. I used a drum. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Strike the instrument. Practice listening for the moment it stops ringing. After doing this repeatedly, you…

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Men who honour the Goddess – PaganSquare – PaganSquare – Join the conversation!

Men who honour the Goddess – PaganSquare – PaganSquare – Join the conversation!.

Yay! Candise published her article on Men who honor the Goddess on her blog on the Witches and Pagans site. Guess who is featured with Hekate’s ritual. Thank you Hekate, and thank you Candise!

Expectation Meditation

We all have the weight of many expectations weighing down on us. We have what society expects of us. Society demands that we are good boys and girls. We fits our roles and fulfill our jobs. We must buy the company’s products and spend money on the economy. Our family expects us to do our job. That could be taking care of the house or making money or both. Our parents had expectations of us, and we still hear their voices, occasionally. It is unfortunate but true. Our children, our pets, our neighbors, and even complete strangers seem to have expectations of how we are supposed to behave and treat them. But that is no longer us, because we are Spiritual beings. We live for ourselves. It’s time for a shower.

The next time you take a shower, I want you to wash away the dirt, the grime, and the thousand expectations of a thousand other people off of you. This is your life. It is meant to be lived how you see fit. You do not need to make apologies for succeeding or doing what you feel is right. You have to be you 100% of the time. You have to live in your skin. Make sure you are comfortable in it. Focus on getting off the negative looks and judgments from everyone else off of you. They have disappointed themselves, for whatever reasons. They are jealous, for whatever reasons. They projected their lessons on to you. Wash it all off and watch it swirl down the shower drain. You don’t need other people telling you how to live or judging you when you don’t measure up to their standards. Clean your entire body and focus on living in the moment with no expectations. When you are finished in the shower, know that you are capable of anything at any time. Surprise yourself. You’ll be happy when you do.

Blessings to you all,
Waterfall Sunfeather