Carnival of Aces: April 2018 “My Unexpected Future”

[This is my Carnival of Aces submission for April 2018 under the topic of “How did your (a)sexual and (a)romantic orientations impact your (expected or imagined) future?” Hosted this month by demiandproud. For more information about the Carnival of Aces, to view past topics, or to volunteer to be a future host see the master post on The Asexual Agenda blog.]

As soon as I finished paying off my first go at college I set three goals for myself for the following five years:
1) be financially stable, 2) get started on my career, and 3) be in a “meaningful” (meaning “romantic”) relationship.

As they saying goes, “If you want the gods to laugh, tell them your plans.

Five years later I’m “financially stable” in the sense that I’m flat broke, I’m going back to school to change careers, and surprise! I’m an aromantic asexual.

I’m flat broke. But that’s because I’m paying for classes out of pocket, so it’s okay?
I’m almost 30 and I still live at home. But I pay rent, so it’s okay?
I haven’t started “my career”. But I like my current job for now, so it’s okay?
I’ve never had a “meaningful relationship”. But being queer means I basically have life-time membership to an awesome club of people as weird as I am, sooo it’s…okay? I think I’m okay.

“All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?”

Well, if you know anything about birds, it might have taken a looong way to get there. Several bird species are known to migrate.

One thing about growing up in a small town that I thought was super weird was people who went to the same elementary school, same middle school, and eventually the same high school would hook up and marry young. Like, ew? There’s a major city with a population of 1.5 million just 35 minutes down the road. Seriously, ya’ll could have shopped around a little. My elementary school only had 300 students when I went there.

Both of my parents “migrated”, so to speak. They met in Denver. My mom had always dreamed of living in Denver, so she packed up herself, her few processions, her dog into a car and drove there from Indiana. My dad moved to Denver almost by accident as he and his cousin were passing through with the intention of looking for work in Montana, but he found a job in Denver instead that hired him on the spot. Its always seemed odd to me when people don’t have a “migration” aspect to their love story like “met while away at college” or “Met at comic-con” or something.

I attempted my own migration of sorts. I lived out of state for two years and traveled all up and down the West coast and the Pacific Northwest coast. Noth’n, natta. It wasn’t until a few months after I came back to Texas that I found out asexuality was a thing. You’d think it would have come up sooner in my travels at least.

I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I can’t exactly date other people because whenever somebody asks I get super twitchy and uncomfortable. I don’t want aro-ace to be a deal breaker, but having to explain ace/aro/agender to people before I’m ready definitely is.

The last time somebody asked me out it turned into a mess and I was very uncomfortable. It pissed me off that he just assumed I was straight and I didn’t know him well enough to come out as ace because he didn’t give me enough time to build up any trust. I don’t understand the whole “dating to get to know them” concept. I would need somebody to know before hand that I’m asexual, aromantic, and agender before I would be comfortable enough to even try to be emotionally close to another person. That’s what I’m missing in my life right now; somebody willing to understand and accept all three. Not even my family can do that.

I’ve tried using ace apps and websites to meet more aces, but there somehow always seems to be a snag. “But, you’re biologically female right?” was a memorable one from Acebook. Ugh, *shivers*.

So, I wouldn’t say I’m “waiting” for anything, but rather I’m still in the “migration” phase of my life. I guess some people (like my former kinder classmates) are like blue grouses and their nesting spot is right next door while others, like me perhaps, are more like Arctic terns.

arctic terns in a migration flight

We gotta looooooong way to go yet.

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Rats (Again).

The drama with the guy at my work is continuing to unfold.  I texted him back clarifying that what I meant by “formal” response was I wanted to give a polite answer in person and outside my department. The only time I see him (outside of the total three times I’ve hung out at his place for game nights with other coworkers) is at work. While I’m working. For me it’s strictly a manners thing. I didn’t want to say “No, because I’m not straight like you obviously think I am” over a text message.

So, in response he texts me saying “okay, will tomorrow work?” and uh, no, because “tomorrow” was Easter Sunday and I had family stuff to do. Common sense?

Also, because of this whole thing I’m no longer comfortable being alone with him. It’s not that I think he’ll do anything, I’m just no longer comfortable because I feel cornered. I realized that I can’t “be polite” about it anymore because that’s leading to some very serious miscommunication.

Continue reading “Rats (Again).”

Agender, Dysphoria, Philosophy

[I actually wanted to use this for my CoA posts last month, but in my mind physicality has more to do with my gender experience than my asexual one.]

(TW: Dysphoria)

One reason sleepy hygiene is really important to me is when I’m running on fumes my dysphoria likes to act up. I mostly feel dysphoric when I look in the mirror.

I was trying to explain what dysphoria felt like to a coworker of mine. He was saying some transphobic stuff so I immediately shut that down. When I engage in non-believer, I do my best to channel Socrates and I start asking questions. My main go-to question is pretty much, “Yeah, but how do you know?” and I just keep repeating that question in various forms until eventually the conversation turns on me and they ask, “Well how do you know?” Mwa hahaha, I’m so glad you asked.

When I look in the mirror something isn’t right. It takes me longer than the normal split second to identify that the image reflecting back is “me”. My mental self image (whatever that is) doesn’t match my mirror image. The same is true of photographs of myself. This becomes exacerbated when I’m tired, particularly when I’m stumbling into the bathroom in the predawn hours and there’s that giant mirror that takes up half of the freaking wall. I don’t watch horror movies, but there has to be a horror movie trope somewhere where people look in the mirror and see a ghost or monster or something, cue jump scare, instead of their reflection. Now imagine feeling like that all. the. time. That’s my dysphoria.

There’s a couple tricks I do to avoid feeling like I’m in a horror movie 24/7. The simplest one is I avoid mirrors. When I have to look in the mirror, because all bathrooms have them for some reason, I make faces. It took me a long time to figure out 1) I was subconsciously doing this and 2) it actually worked. It’s like I’m doing a quick reality check. I’ll either smile, squint-glare, stick out my tongue, or just flick the damn thing off. My brain picks up on the cue that it’s my reflection that I’m looking at and I can go about my business without freaking out. If I’m at work I usually focus my gaze on my uniform. It’s a little thing, but it helps.

Part of my problem is that since I don’t really have a mental image of what I’m “supposed” to look like, a physical transition would not be a good fit for me. Trying to look more masculine or androgynous doesn’t help my dysphoria. How do you present when your gender is literally “none of the above”?

Since a physical transition is not a good fit I had to find ways to “mentally transition”. How do I want to appear to others? My favorite archetype and the one I identify most with in stories is the “Mentor”. When people try to treat me like I’m a woman it squicks me out big time (if you could not tell from the on-going drama I keep complaining about).  However, I love when people ask me random questions like “Do you believe in El Dorado” or anything related to schoolwork or knowledge. Ask me anything, just don’t ask me out.

This is where philosophy comes into the picture. Philosophy comes from the Greek word that literally meant “love of wisdom”. Right now I’m particularly interested Hellenistic Philosophy, most of which can be traced back to Socrates or rather Plato’s account of Socrates since nothing Socrates himself wrote (if he ever wrote) survived. The particular branch of philosophy I’m most interested in is Stoicism. Two things I zeroed in on while reading about Stoicism was that “There are things within our power and things beyond our power” and the Stoic approach to emotion.

Two things that are not within out power (meaning we have next to zero control over them) are our bodies and our reputation. Accepting that I had very limited control over my body and what other people thought about me or my body really helped me get to a better mental state about my gender and asexuality. For some reason the “Baby I was born this way” message didn’t sink in and I was holding on to the subconscious belief that it was still somehow my “fault” that I was asexual (which I know makes no logical sense). I finally realized that I couldn’t force my body to feel attraction or make it produce the hormone cocktail that it attributed to attraction. The same thing with romantic attraction and the same thing with gender.

 

 

The Stoics seemed to have intuitively guess what current research is only just beginning to reveal about emotions. In school I learned that there were 7 universal emotions, Joy, Surprise, Fear, Disgust, Anger, Contempt, and Sadness (Inside Out anyone?), but that’s not what the more recent research is pointing to. The only “true” universal emotions are pleasant, unpleasant, arousal, and calm. Everything else is cultural. Different cultures actually experience different emotions based on how we internally interpret the four basic feelings. Don’t get me wrong, you still feel your emotions. You experience joy, anger, sadness, etc… but because emotions are based on cultural context you have a lot more control over your emotions then you think.

To gain some new insight on human emotions check out this podcast.

So, to recap, I have next to zero control over my body or what other people think about my body, but I have a lot of control about how I feel about my body. Right now, I feel pretty good. I’m still just barely getting into philosophy and Stoicism so I’ll continue writing more about that at a later date. I really want my next post to be “Everything wrong with that Pinterest Cheat Sheet”. It’s really terrible.

Rats.

So, I mentioned a while back that somebody at my work asked me out and I thought the matter had resolved itself because I said, “no” and it wasn’t mentioned again for two weeks.

The matter is not resolved.

At the time I asked if he wanted a “formal reply” because he had asked me out over a text message ON THE DAY FROM HELL. Dude has no sense of timing. Serious, don’t ask people out on Daylight Savings day. Common sense, people, go get some. Also, that day I did NOT get enough sleep, I had an anxiety attack for unrelated reasons and was late for work, so if I could just block that day from my memory forever that would be just great. …And I’m off track.

So, I get a text at 1:33 AM saying, “Hey, been thinking about when you said no to a date and asked if I wanted a formal answer. I want to be able to set the record straight for myself so there’s no confusion form my end.” W. T. F. I said “no”. Where is the confusion.

Fortunately, there are places I can turn to and people I can ask when I’m having a miniature freak out. I’m going to go do that now.

Okay, I’m back and I’m much calmer than I was. 1) I found a really good PDF called “10 Steps to Becoming an Effective Ally to the LGBT Community” that I’m going to print out and take with me just in case. I’m not “out” per se, but I don’t consider my asexuality a secret. It’s just not something I like to talk about because it becomes “Asexuality 101” and I hate doing that. 3) I’m not going to respond to the text until I’ve had at least six hours of sleep and a half a pot of coffee. Lastly, 4) I’m going to be polite about it. Just like I can’t force myself to magically feel attraction towards somebody, he can’t just magically switch off his attraction. He’s only responsible for how he responds to those feelings and impulses (but the aro in me is still squicked out just a teeny-tiny bit, just saying).

That’s my game plan. I’m also working with my supervisor tomorrow so I can hide behind him in a corner if I need to.

 

 

Carnival of Aces March 2018: Sleep Hygiene

[This is my Carnival of Aces Submission for March 2018 under the topic of “Physical Health and/or Our Bodies” hosted this month by luvtheheaven. For more information about the Carnival of Aces, to see past topics, or to volunteer to become a future host please see the master post on the Asexuality Agenda blog]

It’s no coincidence that I’m dead tired as I’m writing this. Currently my sleep hygiene is terrible and I should know better!!! It wasn’t always this bad. I never pulled all-nighters to finished projects or study for test. Instead I would go to bed and wake up just a little bit earlier to finish what I needed then. Since I abstained from all-nighters I would do better on tests than the majority of my peers, I would FEEL better than the crammers and I could retain and recall the information better. In fact, I barely studied at all in school crediting a good night’s sleep for the cause of my good grades.

Now that I’m finishing up school and working more hours to prepare for a new career I’m finding that my stress and current lifestyle isn’t very good for sleep.

First things first, for anyone who doesn’t know:

sleep hy·giene noun
  1. habits and practices that are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis.

I participated in a small sleep study a little while back. The study asked participants to change up to three habits to see if their sleep improved. All across the board, no matter what habits people picked up or changed, just being aware of their sleep hygiene and making small changes to their bed-time routine improved their sleep.

Here were the suggested habit changes:

  • Avoid caffeine after noon
  • Exercise for at least ten minutes each day
  • Avoid naps, especially naps longer than 15 minutes
  • Set a consistent bedtime
  • Avoid screen time (phone, computer, or TV) within 30 minutes of going to bed
  • Spend ten minutes engaged in meditation or mindfulness practices within two hours of going to bed

I’m going to be honest, I do none of those things. I did when I was participating in the study, but that was also before I decided to pick up a second major that I need to finish before the fall. I logically know that doing these things will help improve my mental and physical well being, but putting it into practice is hard. I could write six paragraphs of why I’m not doing these things, but I don’t think that would help anybody.

I use a program called f.lux for my computer to block blue light at night and that really helps me fall asleep faster after I use it. I recommend it if you’re tend to use the computer late at night. There are also equivalent apps for phones if you like to spend time on your phone at night and kindle fire has a similar program built in.

I also recommend investing in a comfy chair. I was looking at websites with sleep improvement tips nearly all of them recommend using your bed for sleep only (well, sleep and sex, but…) So, don’t read in bed…like I do…every night… these tips are hard. Another tip that I actually can vouch for is if you’re lying in bed and can’t sleep because your mind is racing; get up and sit in a chair. A really comfy reading/relaxing/thinking chair will give you a place other than your bed to do non-sleeping activities.

I was hoping to do more research for my post with facts and sources and all that good stuff, but I’m going to end it here. If this post at the very least gets you to start thinking about your sleep hygiene then that’s good enough for now.

In the meantime here are some TedTalks to fill in the gaps https://www.ted.com/playlists/223/talks_to_inspire_you_to_go_to

Pretty much all the experts say that a good night’s sleep is key to good mental, physical, and social health. Sweet dreams everyone!

 

My Mom and I Had a Fight so She Offered to Pay for Therapy

[TW: Anxiety]

This past week was Spring Break. It. Sucked.

Normally my family has different schedules so even though we all live in the same house, we actually get a decent amount of time to ourselves and manage our own schedules. This week was the exception because everyone was home we were stomping all over each other’s routines.

Sunday I had an anxiety attack and was late for work because of it and the same thing happened again on Monday and my parents are really not helpful with that kind of thing. Fortunately my training took over (see previous post) and I was able to look up a breathing video on YouTube to calm me down the first time. The second time my mom was fighting with me in the middle of my anxiety attack and all I can remember was the argument wasn’t going anywhere and I just. couldn’t. think. Finally, my mom left and I was able to talk my dad through the process of calming me down. Afterwards I realized because of my anxious state thinking clearly just wasn’t a thing that was going to happen at that point in time and the worst part was my mom took my anxiety attack personally. Seriously.

So, later that day she sends me a link to a therapist and offered to pay for the first session. Thanks mom. -_-

I was considering taking her up on it, but then I remembered, “Oh, fuck. I’m asexual“. Good luck finding an LGBTQ+ friendly shrink in Texas, so how the hell am I supposed to find an ace friendly one? My own freaking family refuses to listen to me when it comes to asexuality and I’m supposed to trust an “objective” outsider.

A good chunk of my stress this week is also attributed to the event that someone at my work asked me out. I could kind-of tell that he was making “gooey” eyes me, but I was really, really hoping I was wrong. I saw him at a board game event three days afterwards. I was wearing my ace ring and the dude freaked out thinking it was a wedding ring. Sigh~ seriously, I don’t even know. First of, it’s on the wrong hand and it’s on the wrong finger. My brother (who was also there) joked saying it was a “promise ring” (“She promises to be my sister forever, and ever,” like that’s supposed to be funny) so the guy freaked out again.

“It’s a cheap ring off of amazon.com dude. Seriously, calm down. You’ve worked at a freaking grocery store for 8 years. Me being aro-ace is only like the fifth reason I’m shooting you down. The first being, I don’t like you. #asexualproblems” (Yeah, there’s no way to say that politely). I didn’t out myself as ace, but I did tell him to stop freaking out about my “just pay for shipping” ring.

Sigh~ I should have done the trial of the riddles. The last time somebody was all “please, please, give me a chance” I had them try to answer three riddles. The last one is a trick question of course “I fly three flags, what are they and what are their colors”. Honestly, me being aro-ace is not a total deal breaker, but I would need/want a QPP. At the very least I would need somebody to realize that I’m wearing freaking pride-flags on my arms.

So, yes, I would totally be willing to take my mom up on her offer for a therapy session. Hell, I ain’t even mad that she offered, but I am absolutely terrified about facing rejection and/or disbelief because of my orientation. I get enough of that on a daily basis, thanks.

I’ll just tell my mom I’m not ready to go shrink shopping just yet, but clearly I need more obvious and showy pride merch. Maybe Etsy.com will have a deal on personalized neon signs.

Carnival of Aces February 2018: Mental Health First Aid

[This is my submission for the Carnival of Aces for February 2018 hosted this month by Sophia on the topic of “Mental Health“. You can find out more about the Carnival of Aces, read previous topics, or sign up to become a host by visiting the Carnival of Aces master post: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/a-carnival-of-aces-masterpost/ ]

I’ve actually been really lucky when it comes to my mental health. I was struggling to come up with a topic that was ace-related, so I’ll just talk about this really cool certification you can get.

Lots of people have taken a first aid class so you probably know what to do if someone has a broken arm or if someone is choking and you might even know CPR, but do you know what to do if someone is having a panic-attack? A PTSD flashback? What if someone you know is showing signs of depression or one of your friends has an eating disorder? Do you know what to do then?

I had to be certified in Mental Health First aid for one of my previous jobs and I felt it was a valuable experience. Just reading this post isn’t a substitute for the certification so if you’re interested please check out their website and find an instructor near you.

ALGEE.png

I’ll be going over the 5-step action plan. The course uses the acronym A.L.G.E.E. to help students remember the steps. Unlike with regular First Aid courses these steps don’t have to happen in order, the ALGEE acronym is used primarily as a memory tool

Step A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
This step is very important. If you think someone is going to hurt themself or someone else, drop everything and dial 911 (or your country’s emergency number). You only proceed to the next steps if you don’t think there is an immediate threat to life or safety and you can always come back to this step if you need to.

Step L: Listen nonjudgmentally.
This is the hardest step so I’m going to go into more depth. Whenever someone has a problem we have this knee-jerk reaction to a) want to help and b) give advice. There is a time and a place for that, but you might actually do the most good just being an attentive listener. Sometimes people just need to vent and they need someone to understand.

Say, for example, your friend just randomly says, “ugh, I feel fat.” Your first instinct is to be like “No! You’re not fat!” and “You’re prefect the way you are!” because they are your friend and they are wonderful, but by doing that you just completely discounted/dismissed their feelings and shut down any hope of a conversation.

A better response would be, “Why do you feel that way?” or “Why do you think that?” Asking open-ended questions continues the conversation and allows you to probe for warning signs. Maybe your friend ate two donuts for breakfast because traffic was hell and they were late to class. Maybe they have deep anxiety about their body image or an eating disorder. The only way you’ll know for sure is if you hold back on the advice for a minute and really actively listen.

I was watching a really good video on YouTube about Mental Health resources. It’s an hour long, but it covers some really good general information. One of the speakers was talking about “Remember to be human”. Ask probing questions like, “How are you doing?” “Are you getting enough sleep?” “Hey, do you need me to stop by with some breakfast tacos before your exam?” This is an easy way to check up on somebody’s mental health. Eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, body aches, headaches, heart palpitations, and feeling out of breath are all physical signs that could point to a mental health problem that people could miss or dismiss if they aren’t actively listening.

Step G- Give reassurance and information.
This is different from giving advice. You’re assuring the person that you care about them, that you support them, and that you’re there if they need it. Don’t give advice, give information like:
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
National Domestic Violence Hotline : 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a really good website to check out for information and links to resources.

Sometimes it takes a long time before people are ready to seek out help. That’s okay. It’s not a race to get better. The important thing is to be there for them and be ready with information when they are ready to seek out professional help. Keep referring back to steps A and L.

Step E: Encourage appropriate professional help.
Step E: Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

Whenever someone thinks “mental health” they automatically think “shrink”. Psychologists and psychiatrists are few and far between, very specialized, and can be very expensive. What a lot of people don’t know is they can go to their primary doctor for antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. There are even some specialized nurses who can write prescriptions for medication.

What ends up happening is people wait weeks or even months to see a specialist when they could have gotten the same service faster from a primary care or family doctor. Social workers are another community resource that have special Mental Health related certifications. These folks will probably be your first point of contact and if you or your loved one needs a specialist they can help you find a good and affordable fit.

You can be proactive and look for resources in your community that might easily be overlooked. https://www.nami.org/Find-Your-Local-NAMI

Maybe now you’ll want convince your work or school to host a Mental Health First Aid course, but for the moment take some time to become better prepared to support someone else or your own mental health by checking out and exploring the NAMI website. Write down or save some of those important numbers for someone who might need them and check out these resource pages:
https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ
https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

I’ve been super lucky when it comes to my mental health, but it’s still a load off my mind to know that there are some places I can go to or numbers I can call if something ever comes up.