I go for my Tara* interview tomorrow at 9am.
(Tara H. Moross Psychiatric Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa)
My psychiatrist says I need to be admitted. It’s been 27 days since my Sandton admission for my nervous breakdown and I’ve tried FUCKING HARD to … I don’t know, live life and be ok, while being a person in huge financial trouble in the midst of an almost 6-month long mental health crisis. Her words: “Germaine, you’ve been in crisis since mid-January, on medications (benzos) meant for a period of up to 8 weeks to stabilise you, and you’re still on them because you need to be on them. And we need to get you stable enough to get off them. The help in the form of Tara is there. Take it.”
It’s so, so difficult, this whole thing. Because it’s difficult to admit to myself and others that I DO need more help. Since my psych admission in March, I’ve been asking for more help, I’ve been finding beauty in negative spaces every day, I’ve had moments of happiness and pure joy every day, because I noticed them, and held onto them in their fleeting-ness. I spent my re-birth-days month doing this, coming back from my social media hiatus to accept the love and beauty that is the HUGE support I have online.
And I came back to celebrate my birthday and heal by sharing the beauty that I find in the negative. Because it’s always there.
(All images made my me, with the exception of Lily in the guitar case, made by 88Kilos of Sunshine, and obviously the memes are not mine).
I’ve been pushing myself to be functional, accepting work with ridiculous deadlines to feel the fear and do it anyway, and prove to myself that I can be and become functional by just doing it, this thing called life.
It’s difficult to experience, feel, know and admit that this has not been enough. It has been enough in prior years. But not now. Curveballs have a hive mind, and they’ve been coming my way at the same time from all angles – fights with medical aid to get the treatment and medication I need; fights with banks; fights with people not treating me as I would them; fights with myself not treating me as I would treat others. Fighting with the knowing that life is never wholly beautiful or wholly terrible, but a combination of both, all the time. Fighting with the knowing that it’s ok to be ok and not ok at the same time. To quote Sense8:
– “Are you ok?”
(And many other Sense8 quotes, especially from Sun, and to misquote her:
Not feeling and not wanting to feel, is to feel death.
Feeling the rage, love, desire and sadness, is to feel life.
I put all those emotions into my fist, and I fight.
So I’ve been fighting. But I’m drowning, not waving.
So I’m letting go (trying to) of the sense that I’ve failed, and being ok with (trying to) asking for and accepting more help. I’m fighting the internalised stigma that human beings don’t need professional help to be human; the internalised stigma that a handful of pills as opposed to two pills is a failure; the internalised stigma that made me forget that I have Borderline Personality Disorder; the internalised transphobia that has me worrying that people think that this is all due to “you made a mistake and regret it”. The internalised stigma that being a complex human being means you’re confused.
All internalised stigmas and phobias that resulted in me self-caring for a version of me that doesn’t exist – a version of me that doesn’t struggle hugely with stress and life and the overwhelmingness of Beauty and Horror; a self-care that was therefore not enough. Because I am beautifully and horrifyingly complex; because I am very sensitive to the Beauty and Horror of life, in and around me. And this self-care for this self includes asking for and accepting help that is hugely frowned upon and stigmatised in this society. A society that doesn’t want to accept that being ok and not ok at the same time is not a failure; it’s being human.
So fuck the external stigma. Fuck the internalised stigma. I need help and I’m asking for it and accepting it. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Logistics: Tara is a medium- to long-term psychiatric hospital. I’ll be admitted for anything between a month and three months – an unknown timeframe that makes accepting this help more difficult. I’ll be admitted at a date to be determined, another unknown. But my psychiatrist says they’ll admit me within the week, latest next week, because of the unrelenting stress that I face and my increasing inability to function in the face of it.
And I’ve been here before. This space and this place.
I was first admitted to Tara exactly 20 years ago. My third admission was exactly 10 years ago. I am reminded of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Symbolism is never lost on me, because I never cease from exploration, an exploration always through the medium of beauty in all its forms. And I am determined to see this as a coming full circle where I’ll re-remember how to self-care for me, how to love me, and not the me that I’ve allowed the stigma to draw, write and photograph myself as.
Not that any of those drawings, writings and photographs were and are not me. They were and are parts of me. But I am more than the sum of my parts. And I’m letting go (trying to) of the need to make visible to others all those parts in order to be seen for all that I am, and not just a trans person, a mentally ill person, a visible trans person documenting my journey publicly to make others’ journeys less painful than mine has been, a person documenting my journey in a fearfully beautiful world to heal myself and the world at the same time, a photographer, a blogger, a … on and on.
So my month of limited return to social media is at an end. I’ve done the celebrating. I’ve done the visible it’s ok to not be ok. It’s now time to be ok to not be ok and re-remember how to help others help me to heal in private.
I do, and have been through my limited social media contact, miss you. I love you all, and not in an empty, end of a phone call to a loved one way. I SEE you all (Namaste, Sawubona). I don’t Hello you, because that means nothing. I just need to focus on SEEing me and loving me in a not empty way.
An apt way to end this off, Cat Stevens: