I Have Better Things To Do Than Survive

I cut my nails short.

cut my nails short

A fork ring also, for when I am out of spoons.

It’s a symbolic gesture to myself, one that serves to remind me to take care of myself while preparing for what’s to come. My fingernails have always grown long, strong and have been one of my vanity loves about myself, but I need them short right now.

Right now I am fighting with all of my everything not to fall down a deep depressive hole even though all the usual suspects are present. Loss, grief, stress, anxiety that reaches the moon, feeling and being out of control of my life. Having life move and change far too quickly for me to adapt to. Living with very strong trauma reminders (not triggers exactly, but reminders) and it would be so incredibly easy to just free fall to the bottom of that dark pit and sleep.

I don’t want that to happen though. Life is fucking terrifying, but right now it’s pretty terrifying for everyone I know. Taking a step back from the usual subjects of a depressive episode and pretending for at least a few minutes that there is a different American President, there is so much good in my life and possible in my life right now.

Val and I are back together and happy. I’m finding the ability to write again. The kids are all doing well and turning into lovely little people. Poly life is interesting. The world can change in a way that works better for me than how it has operated for a long time. I am closer to the life that I want than I have been in a very long time.

I “just” have to keep myself from falling down that hole, from self-sabotage (my depressive acting out of choice), from getting too deep into an anxiety hole. (Totally different than a depressive one for me, just as hard if not harder to get out of.) “Just” have to keep myself making steps forward and I can get to a level of okay that has been unfathomable until recently.

What the fuck does this have to do with my nails?

My nails are short and polished so that if I do fall down those holes, or if I start to slide, I don’t tear them off climbing back up. They are short and strong, they can grab hold, they can scratch and dig if needed. Chips in polish are little signs where I was fighting back. Scrubbing a floor, building lego sets, typing hard enough I should fear to break my keyboard.

So if – let’s be honest – when I do fall into a hole, one less part of me will be bloody and broken.

Grief is a Strange Monster

I was working on a series of posts covering the highlights of #sfs17, the Twitter account for my clit @ClitstaAnne, the amazing panel #sfs17bodies, a mock workshop on how to craft a 30 talk by the seat of your pants cause you kinda forgot you were presenting, awesome times with wonderful people.

They are all drafts in different stages of completion, all things I want to write about, but Thursday afternoon my Grandma died. A lot of my summer, almost all of July, I was doing end of life care for her with my mom. She was 94, her body was simply breaking down. Lots of little things that had her fading fast. All of Sunday at the summit was lost to an epic migraine, Monday morning I woke to pack up and discovered that my Mom and Aunt has rushed Gram to the ER. Pneumonia and singles. Part of me know she wasn't coming home, but I wasn't ready for the call.

Cause you're never ready for that call. I'm lucky that I had her for the first 35 years of my life. She knew all of my children. She saw me stop fucking up and making my own weird life. My Dad missed all of that. Mae counted as one of my parents. Lived with her for most of my childhood, she was a powerhouse of a woman who taught me feminism, civil engagement, sex education. She is why I'm me and I do this. It's in my blood from her. She spent years driving across Milwaukee doing home school for "unwed teenage mothers" so they could get a diploma. She hid marriage and pregnancy to finish getting her degree, doing post grad with sick toddlers at home.

She fucking survived polio.

She was endlessly proud of me, forward thinking and tolerant. She introduced me to her friends who are a gay couple as like any other couple, in the midst of the AIDS crisis. She was very active in the Methodist church, but have no fucks when I became a pagan as an adult. She only cared if you were a caring person.

I'm unmoored without her in the world.

If you follow me on Twitter you've seen me talking about what a strange monster grief is. I've lost so many people in my life, recently even, but this leave the hole that my father's death did. I know it was weeks until I was semi okay and functional from his passing, talking years that I didn't constantly think about it. My relationship with Gram Mae was less complicated but more loving. Deeper and more fleshed out. I've been saying I didn't know how is react to the actual news and that's all true. I think I'm still in shock.

Grief is a strange monster. It's unpredictable and crushing. I'm deep in it.

I need to be working, I need to be looking for more stable employment, I need to be writing again.

I need better waterproof mascara.

One of the most annoying things about me, too me, is that when I'm upset enough I should be saying something, I can't make words. PTSD says RUN at emotions that are too strong. When I'm unmoored. So words sick in my throat and I twitch while my brain is burning down. Mental illness is super fun. Grief is a strange monster.

Eventually I'll be okay, nothing has knocked me down for good yet, but okay is far off and I'm not going to hide that. (If you'd rather not see that for whatever reason, I'm keeping those tweets #strangemonster. Mute away.)

For now, I'm respecting my sadness as much as possible while also trying to keep my head above water. I put on makeup that says otherworldly and vaguely threatening, put on galaxy pants and a hoodie dress.take it until you make it doesn't work here for me, it is so what you can to keep moving and let that be a success.

Find me at Woodhull Summit – #SFS17

Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit

Before I start the actual #sfs17 post, some oversharing. Today I could sit down and re-write Breaking the Cycle nearly word for word. My anxiety is sky high; perfection paralyzes me, I could have written this twice with the effort I’ve put into avoiding writing/updating. On the if this hasn’t hit your radar yet – Ravishly has an excellent piece “You Aren’t Lazy — You’re Just Terrified: On Paralysis And Perfectionism” up right now. It speaks to my soul. The uptick in articles covering anxiety disorders seems tied to how badly Trump is fucking us over, in my not-humble-at-all opinion. Okay – to the real post, but felt compelled to admit and own that anxiety is running things more than I am still.

Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit – #SFS17

On an incredibly selfish note, #SFS17 is days away. I am semi counting on the summit refilling my cup and nourishing my soul has it has every other year. The summit (#sfs17) is four days with my nearest and dearest in the sexuality freedom fight, always four of the best days of my year. Because of reasons (and by reasons I mean money), I have not attended as many conferences, summits, and stand alone education workshops as I’d like. Still, I’m not a newbie and can say without hesitation that #sfs17 is the most worthwhile event I’ve attended.

(Yes, I’m staff. Yes, I am very biased.)

Before getting into what I’ll be up to at this year’s summit – Read this post “Guide: What to Expect at #SFS17 (and Other Conferences)” by Mary Q. – It’s jam packed with vital information on making the most out of #SFS17 and any other conference. Don’t worry; I’ll wait.

Welcome back!

Where to find me during #SFS17

Above all else, should you need me for whatever reason, @pinkness on twitter will get you the fastest response. This year I’ve scaled way back in official summit work so I can have a bit more fun, maybe even find time to attend more than one session that I’m not actively involved in! (Cause there are so many I want to attend. Locate the list of workshops and times here! Obviously, you don’t want to miss this one; Bodies Tell Our Stories. Aug 5th, 2:45 pm, Cavalier C.)

I am an openly, honestly queer woman online and I refused to be shamed or threatened into Silence.

Thursday I’ll mostly be running about working on Accessibility. I’m a committee of one for now, so meeting needs are going to be most of my Summit. You’ll find me at Digital Creators’ Meet ‘n’ GreetI’m friendly and love to meet new people – if we haven’t met in person yet don’t stress about saying hello. (…Says the introvert. I’ll do my best to seek out & say hi to as many folx as possible.) As well as all the evening festivities my aching body will allow. Reminder: I don’t drink so if you need a sober person for whatever reason, it’ll be pretty safe to seek me out.

There are too many workshops I want to attend I will not attempt to list them all. Friday through my workshop Bodies Tell Our Stories. (Aug 5th, 2:45 pm, Cavalier C.) Will be filled with my favorite kind of chaos, but looking into the Blogger Lounge is a safe first stop.

As I mentioned above, I’m an Accessibility Committee of one as Val has to miss this year. Over #sfs17 I’ll be pouring my everything into making our spaces as accessible as possible but if I’ve missed something? Please seek another volunteer/staff member or me out.

Unless I’m with someone with a NO PHOTOS lanyard and/or button, pictures of me are fine. I’m well out of the closets and me on the internet. If all else fails, look for the rainbow hair. This is my favorite event of the year, so I want to say hi to you, I want to exchange cards, I want to brainstorm. Ask first, but I’m overall a hug loving person.

Think that covers most everything, as I do a swan dive into “wtf do I pack?!?”, I have to swan dive into redoing my rainbow hair as summer pool time has done a number on it.

Breaking the Cycle

Locked into my own thoughts.

Over the last few months, I have been locked in a cycle of writer’s terror. Not writer’s block, I’ve had so many things I’ve wanted to say and cover, but the act of loading this page and typing caused panic so intense it was physically painful.

That white hot panic that shoots through you, makes the world spin, disorients and causes sweat to break out. The panic rises from so many places/experiences, fighting through one panic trigger still left a dozen others. There is the ever present baseline depression and anxiety, fear that once I started to write I’d open boxes of emotion I am not able to deal with, saying too much or not enough, starting yet another draft I couldn’t finish, or that I’d lost my ability to write in an interesting or compelling way.

Those are each on their own difficult, but they are small compared to the last source of panic.

That somehow the next thing I wrote would cause more damage, and somehow my words would be used to take my kids away from me again. Rationally I know that the other parents of the kids I personally grew would not do that. They both choose to procreate with me knowing full well what I do, both respect me/my work. Rationally I know the worst has happened already, the kids can’t be taken away more. The custody battle is over, the restrictions are no longer in place.

The above is all rational.

Anxiety is not rational.

The two plus years of terror took tolls on so many aspects of life, but this has been the hardest to face. Hardest to even begin to overcome. As I am typing right now I’m also hyperventilating. I’m not afraid of showing my fear, I’m afraid to lose more.

I’m typing anyway because every time I hit save draft and walk away, writing again becomes just that much harder. It becomes that much harder and I feel like I lose a little bit more of myself. I’ve been oversharing on the internet for twenty years. This is how I process and understand myself. How I make sense of the world around me. How I free demons, how I release fury, how I feel I can best help people.

Folks often say people go into psych professions to understand themselves, I’m a professional oversharer to understand myself. Without this outlet, managing my mental health has been a lot harder.

So, I am reclaiming this outlet. After I hit publish I’ll probably lay on the floor telling myself “See, that wasn’t so bad” while hugging my bottle of Klonopin. Hopefully when I am able to get off the floor, working out where I go from here with this site and my work will be less terror provoking. I’ve had enough terror in my life, once I break this cycle of fear I look forward to a lot of posts covering the massive changes that have happened in my world. The really exciting things to come.

Being just that much closer to myself again.

Okay, I just took the deepest breath of deep breaths. I’m going to hit publish. I’m going to reclaim.

I’m going to be okay.


#SFS17 – Response to the Community & A Few Words From Me.

#SFS17 Statement

We Really Do Try To Be Responsive – #SFS17

#SFS17 – Woodhull Respons to Our Communities: Full Statement Addressing Recent Concerns

We at Woodhull strive, always, to be responsive to the needs and concerns of members of our community. Because of that commitment, we responded quickly to a situation that occurred concerning our acceptance of a workshop for the Sexual Freedom Summit from a presenter who had admitted to abusing someone. That situation has been resolved. The presenter canceled their workshop and will not be attending the Summit. Because of what happened, we are now reviewing our policy for future Summits. We will be sure to include community input as part of that process.

We welcome input from the communities we represent. We don’t blacklist, marginalize, or attempt to censor any detractors. We take concerns and criticisms seriously and try to work with individuals and communities to continuously improve our conference. Rather than censoring, our practice is to engage those who have concerns and we are often fortunate that they partner with us to address the concerns they brought to our attention.

That approach has led us to wonderful collaborations. For example, we are proud to work with a dynamic group of writers who feared marginalization because of their experience at other conferences to create the “Blog Squad” and ensure a welcoming, censorship-free space for all. We established an Accessibility Committee, headed by Crista Anne and Val Orenda, to make our spaces are as accessible as possible. We haven’t been able to make the Summit 100% accessible to all, yet, but each year we get closer thanks to the committee’s efforts.

Recognizing that the Summit was not as diverse on many levels as it needs to be, we launched a program where we partner with a different organization every year to create programming that is relevant and important to their constituents and to make the Summit as accessible to their members as possible. Our first year we partnered with Women of Color Sexual Health Network, this year we are partnering with In Our Own Voices and in 2018 our partner will be SisterSong.

In an effort to provide the highest quality workshops and presentations we can, we reach out to people we consider knowledgeable on the various issues covered by the Summit. Those reviewers volunteer their time, in exchange for a free registration, to evaluate workshop proposals and share their opinions with us. It is not unusual for those experts to be selected because they helped us see a gap we’d missed in a previous year.

We are not perfect, but we get better every year because we do respond to input from attendees and we do learn and grow along with every one of you.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to us, to everyone invested enough in the Summit to hold us accountable, and those of you who have offered to work with us to make the Summit even better moving forward. We are very grateful to you all.

Ricci Joy Levy

President, Woodhull Freedom Foundation

I have more to say on this topic and what is going on around it, but I’ll be doing so as Crista and not as WoodhullCrista.

That being said, it’s 2 am and my brain isn’t at a place where I can articulate my thoughts to the high level this situation demands. Again, if you have questions, comments or want to say something you can do so with or without your name via my Contact page or Reminder; You Can Reach Out to Me Anonymously.