Guilty Pleasures: Vine Compilations

When I’m depressed (or bored), on of my guilty pleasures is watching Vine Compilations on youtube. Here’s one of the latest if you need a laugh.

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Holiday Blues: 5 Tips for a better Holiday Season

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Lets be honest, while the holidays can be a fun and exciting time, they are also a time of year that provoke depression and anxiety for most people. Whether you are part of the LGBTQ community, struggling with a Mental or Physical Illness, have a totally different religious or political opinion than your entire family, or some other thing that makes Uncle Kevin mumble complaints under his breath at the dinner table, it doesn’t matter. We all share similar struggles.

All too often we let the negativity of others influence how we feel about ourselves. So here’s 5 things you can do to combat those Holiday Blues.

1. Cheer-Lead Yourself

If you’re going to be spending the holidays with your family, or alone, use Cheer Leading statements to help boost your self confidence for the day. Stand in the mirror and compliment how you look. Compliment the successes you’ve had this year. Prepare yourself to possible negative comments and combat them. Why are they not true? And why are you so rad?!

2. Be Reasonable with your Time and Money

Every single friend, family member, neighbour, and coworker are throwing holiday parties. Make a list of your priorities and don’t commit to go to every party. That’s unreasonable and exhausting. Choose the most important ones and go to them. Make sure to leave time for Me time and, if you have little ones, enough time to hang out at home and spend time as just you guys.

If your participating in a Secret Santa, buying gifts for non-immediate family members, friends, and coworkers, set a reasonable price limit. You don’t need to buy friends and family super expensive gifts. A DIY gift or a little token of gratitude is perfectly acceptable. No one’s expecting you to buy a $50 wine basket for everyone.

3. Try not to Over-Indulge

The holidays are a really easy time to over-indulge in both food and alcohol. Indulging is fine. I know I’m guilty of putting a bit too much on my plate at Christmas dinner. However, eating (or drinking) to the point of complete discomfort can only contribute to feelings of low self worth, especially if you are sensitive about your weight.

Don’t let the holidays be a reason to drink, either. Having a few glasses of wine with friends and family is fine. Having a bottle to yourself to fight feelings of depression is a bit on the extreme side. Moderation is key!

4. Take a Break

Like I mentioned in #2, make sure you set aside time in the busy holiday schedule for yourself. Go hiking, take a long hot bath, do yoga, paint, take photographs, play with your kids, watch a movie. Whatever you like to do to relax, make sure you set aside to do these things throughout the holidays.

Trying to fill up all your time with family obligations and party preparation is draining and will surely perpetuate depression. Do things you love!

5. Let the Negativity Roll off your Shoulders

I know with my family, that “those comments” flow more freely than the wine. Political comments. When will I be going back to church? When am I going to start “dressing like a girl”. Parenting criticism. We all know what comments really push our buttons.

We probably spend the rest of the year ignoring our critical friends and family’s negative comments, so what stops us now? Sure, it’s hard to ignore Aunt Suzie when she is going off on a homophobic rant, or Grandma Sally when she’s talking about how back in her day people just pulled themselves up by their boot straps.

There’s tricks to help ignore it. Either become proficient at day dreaming during the drama, or try to gently guide the conversation in another direction. If the criticism continues, make up an excuse and leave the party. There’s no shame in it. If you can feel your anxiety and/or anger building, it’s best to excuse yourself and go to a safe spot to ground yourself.

What tips do you have? What helps you through the holidays? Comment below!

 

Special Needs Children: You will never have all the answers

Today has definitely been a rough day. It’s days like this that really make me sit down and wonder if I’m doing the right things, saying the right things, and getting her the help she needs.

Our 7 year old daughter, Veronica, is currently in a Partial Hospitalization Program at a local psychiatric facility. She was hospitalized about a month ago due to a full psychotic break, which was a first for her. Prior to that we were wondering if she was on the autism spectrum, but after the break all the “professionals” were leaning towards schizophrenia.

Now at her new treatment program, they are finally going to refer us to get her the full autism testing to see if she falls on the spectrum. I think she does as she shows an incredible amount of signs.

Either way, whatever she needs we will provide to the best of our ability. Right now we are in a place where we have a lot more questions than we do answers. We know she needs help and have finally gotten her in to a program that we are praying will help both her and us.

She came to a point where she was completely non-functional both at school and home, so this is where we are now.

For now, though, it doesn’t make things any easier. Thankfully I have a background in psychiatric treatment so I am able to put skills I learned for myself in to calming her anxiety attacks and trying to get her to listen and understand.

I tend to have mixed results, but it’s a lot better than where we were.

Today, though, I’m just glad it’s bed time. She’s been doing fairly well for most of the day. Typical issues of having to remind her a few times to do things and asking her repeatedly to please not lock the toddlers in the dog crate, but over all not a horrible day.

Until there was a loud knock at the door.

Our downstairs neighbour had run up the stairs to alert me that Veronica was standing in the window, in just her panties, leaning on the screen and half-way out the window. I quickly thanked her for telling me and ran to get my daughter.

The thing is, this isn’t the first time she’s stood in the window. And I always tell her to get down. Getting her to put clothes on when the windows are open is another daily fight. In my panic, I yelled. I hate yelling, but I was scared to death. We live on the 3rd floor. That’s quite a fall to the ground.

But all she heard was my yelling, and immediately she thought that I hated her. We both took a breather and I came back to her to explain to her that it wasn’t right that I yelled and asked if she understood why I yelled and was so upset. She thought it was because she hadn’t asked permission to open the window.

I had to explain to her that it’s fine to look out the window, but those screens are not meant to hold her weight and are not meant to be leaned against. I explained that she can fall through that window and get seriously hurt. I had to keep redirecting the conversation because she kept getting distracted by my beauty marks (my freckles, her latest obsession). I kept telling her that this is very serious and she needs to listen. I think I finally got her to understand, because she told me, “I will never lean out the window again. I could fall and get hurt!”

I feel, though, that the hazards are all-too constant in our house. We finally got her to stop messing with the cats, and now are having to get her to not hang out windows.

I’m terrified that one day she is going to get seriously injured by her impulsivity.

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Special Needs Children: When trying to maintain your own sanity

What is GenderQueer?

There is a general misconception about what sex, gender, and sexuality are. What is genderqueer? If you look like a boy but consider yourself a transwoman, aren’t you just confused?

Over at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, the internet has been blessed with a pretty goo edugraphic of “the genderbread person” to help explain it all to us.

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Gender Identity: As with all others, this is a spectrum. It does not refer to the goods you’ve got in between your legs! Gender Identity is in your mind (no, not as an illness or fantasy). Take a transwoman, for instance. She was assigned male at birth (meaning she was born with dangly bits), but her brain does not connect to her assigned sex. Sex and Gender are different. Can you imagine waking up as the opposite sex one day and not being able to understand that the body in the mirror is yours? Imagine this being your life.

However, cisgender (meaning that you identify with your sex) and transgender aren’t the only two options. You can be agender (you don’t identify with any gender), genderqueer (identify with both genders to some degree. Doesn’t mean you identify 50% male and 50% female. It just means that, to some degree, you identify as both). There is also two-spirit which is a term coined by Native Americans.

Gender Expression: Gender Expression and Gender Identity are two completely different things. You can be a transman and dress feminine, be a transwoman and be masculine, be agender and dress aligned to the social stereotypes of your sex, or any other combination you can think of.

I am GenderQueer. I tend to dress masculine most of the time. Every once in a while I do dress more feminine. This does not mean I am “making up my mind” or anything else like that. It honestly probably just means I really like these skinny jeans and felt like wearing a bit of make up.

Other terms and variations on the spectrum include androgynous (for example, you ever seen a person you couldn’t tell was male or female? They may have been androgynous.) Androgynous is NOT the same thing as trans*. A person can consider themselves fully female and look male. This does not mean that they are confused about their gender identity. Gender Expression is how you present yourself to the world, not how you feel about yourself. Butch/Femme are terms common to lesbians. Butch lesbians are generally more masculine in their outfits, Femme’s are often much more feminine in their outfits. There is also Gender Neutral and Gender Fluid, meaning they flow back and forth comfortably in how they present themselves to the world.

Biological Sex: Biological Sex is what is assigned to you at birth and you develop through puberty. As the image above states, it includes genitalia, voice tone, body hair, body shape, etc.

Once again, Sex and Gender are NOT the same thing. 

Within the spectrum of Sex is intersex. People whom are intersex used to be called hermaphrodites, but that term is offensive and should not be used.

And finally,

Sexual/Romantic Attraction: Sexual Attraction and Romantic Attraction are also two separate entities. Sexual Attraction is as it states. People whom you are sexually attracted to. You wanna do the dirty with these folk. They get your juices flowing.

Romantic Attraction is emotional rather than sexual. They can be completely in love with a person and have no desire to have sex with them.

Also, a person can be sexually attracted to a certain gender(s) and romantically attracted to other gender(s). Equally so, you can be neither sexually nor romantically attracted to anyone. This is known as asexual.

There is no A or B, black or white, to the genderbread person. Everything is a spectrum and there can be a thousand combinations.

I can tell you what I am:
Gender Identity: GenderQueer
Gender Expression: Androgynous/Masculine
Biological Sex: Female
Sexual/Romantic Attraction: Female for both.

While I can only say that I am only sexually and romantically attracted to females, I have never been faced with a potential relationship with someone who wasn’t either male or female, so I cannot honestly give an opinion one way or another for any other gender.

What are your thoughts?

Bipolar Disorder: Why I’m not ashamed to have it

I have Bipolar Disorder and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve faced the stigma from people who don’t understand mental health.

I have a pretty dark history in regards of mental illness. I’ve been in my fair share of crisis stabilization units, treatment centers, and hospitals. I went through a really rough time for quite some years before I became stabilized and a contributing member of society.

tumblr_nl1vk5lADk1uon72ro1_540Sometimes I feel bad that I have this illness, especially when my partner is left picking up the pieces when I’m in a depression. I know it’s hard for her to see me that way, and it’s hard to be laying on the floor unable to get up and knowing that there’s so much I need to do.

For the last month or so I’ve been experiencing a pretty dark depression. It took grip of me when I saw my abuelita on a trip to Spain. She is frail and declining in health. I knew it was the last time I would ever see her. It sparked sadness that quickly turned in to depression.

With the help of my partner and an incredible therapist, I have come out of the depression. I am in a bit of an upswing, but it’s not concerning…at least not yet.

However, even with my history, even with the hard times I still face, I’m not ashamed to have this illness. I’ve spent so much time being mad at myself for having it. I’ve spent so much time thinking I was a burden to others. Realistically, though, Bipolar Disorder is a biological illness more than a psychiatric illness. If I had diabetes would I be as ashamed as I have been with this illness?

An illness is an illness, and I think it is left up to those of us who are diagnosed on how to approach it. Do we get sad about having an illness, or do we use it as an advantage? My experiences can help educate people who are just starting to be diagnosed. My knowledge can help educate people who hold a negative bias towards mental health issues. My mind sees the world differently, creatively, and it helps give a different perspective to these “earth people” around me.

And you know what else motivates me? There are so many famous, talented, and wonderful individuals who have Bipolar Disorder. They’re not pariah’s of the earth. They are famous! So having Bipolar Disorder can’t be so bad, right?

Special Needs Children: When trying to maintain your own sanity

Our 7 year old daughter, Veronica, is special needs. It’s something that is both new and terrifying. Apart from ADHD and sensory processing disorder, she doesn’t yet have a complete diagnosis. But there are words that are thrown around that break my heart and scare the poop out of me. Psychosis. Schizophrenia. Autism. Depression. Chronic Anxiety. But she’s just 7!

I have been in this beautiful girl’s life for a bit over a year now. It’s very easy to notice that there is something a little…different…about her. However, the first thing you would ever notice about her is that she is friendly, affectionate, and has a massive heart.

DSC_0084-1We have been wondering if she is on the autism spectrum for a while now, but about a month ago she had her first full psychotic break and was hospitalized in a children’s psychiatric hospital for 5 days until she was stable enough to come home. It was a heart breaking experience. She told us, “I want to die,” and I could feel my heart shatter in to a thousand pieces.

Since being released from the hospital, we have been trying different combinations of medication for her. She admitted to having voices in her head, but does she really understand what we are asking? She has a large problem with understanding social and emotional cues. To an outsider, you would think that she is selfish and destructive. I don’t, however, believe this is true. She lives in “Veronica Land” and has a very difficult time seeing anything outside of this little bubble. She has a difficult time understanding social boundaries and appropriate behaviour. She has put our cats in harms way several times…because she doesn’t understand that she is hurting them.

We have three other children at home, and unfortunately a large portion of our attention is focused on her. Making sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to. Making sure she’s not doing things she’s not supposed to. Watching her when she goes in to the kitchen because she steals things (soda, candy, etc). Making sure she’s not hurting the cats. It’s a never ending and exhausting schedule. But we can’t ever stop. She is our little girl and deserves the best.

But as parents of a special needs child, how do we maintain our own sanity? How do we ensure that we keep our anger in check and don’t lash out? How do we do self care?

Becs and I work as a team. And we work well. With my history in mental health, I have learned how to communicate in a more calming way when Veronica becomes upset and throws a fit. I can help her calm down and at least slightly understand the situation.

Becs does too, but stands back and lets me work my skills (or at least try to) and then swoops in to give kisses and cuddles and tell her how amazing she is.

One of the major things that helps me maintain my sanity is waiting until the children are in bed and being able to vent my frustrations to my partner without judgement.

It is so incredibly important to take care of yourself when caring for a special needs child. Becs and I are both in therapy where we often talk about Veronica. We love her, we think she is amazing and incredibly intelligent, and at the same time it is a massive stress in our home. Not just for us, but for the other children.

Sophia and Veronica share a room. Veronica frequently destroys Sophia’s belongings and is constantly glued to her side. Sophia NEEDS her own personal space, but in a three bedroom apartment there are only so many places to go.

When she knocks the boys over and hurts them because she is playing too rough, we worry that one day she will be a bit too rough and cause serious injury.

Bath time, movies, couple snuggles, sex, and crafting help keep us sane. What else can you do?

What is a blended family?

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I think this is an interesting question. If you google it, the literal definition is “a family consisting of a couple and their children from this and all previous relationships.”

Okay, but does that really encompass it? Blended families aren’t just throwing unrelated children together when two people fall in love. It is so much more complex.

With my girlfriend, we are definitely a unique blended family. She was married to a man for 10 years and struggled with her sexual identity. The curiosity was always there, but nothing more. She and her ex-husband had three children together. She is white, he is Hispanic. They are all from Miami.

Lets bring in me and my birth son. I had one child with my previous partner. The breakup was messy and our sperm donor decided to take me to court for joint custody. So a little boy who was born to two women now has a father. Daddy is white and I an Caucasian Latin@. I am from Spain. I am fluent in Spanish and only speak Spanish with my family.

Our family isn’t just me and my partner and 4 children. It is more than that. It is two daddies as well. One daddy that I never had a sexual or romantic relationship but is still the father of my son. And while many people in the LGBTQ community will be up in arms about a sperm donor being granted custody, it has actually worked out rather well.

He and I were friends from college, and though we were angry at each other and argued throughout the court proceedings, we have once again become friends. We are parenting together. And he is a great father. So, really, I can’t complain.

Is that confusing enough? It goes on, my girlfriend was with a man. When they decided to split, the children had no idea that she was gay. So she starts dating a girl who has a child and we move in. The kids never really asked questions and have accepted our relationship for what it is. A relationship.

In fact, our oldest daughter has demanded we get married January 1st because she doesn’t want to wait anymore. They are overjoyed at having a second mommy and a new brother.

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So a “straight” woman starts a relationship with another woman. A boy born to two gay women now has a daddy. Does it stop there?

No way! It’s important to take in to account our sexual and gender identities. I am genderqueer and lean mostly to the masculine side. My partner is pansexual. We haven’t really discussed pansexual with the children, but they have picked up on my lack of femininity.

Our oldest, Sophia, sometimes gets stuck in the gender roles she understands. We often explain to her that there is no such thing as “girl” toys or “boy” toys. They are just toys. If her brother wants to play with barbies, more power to him! Our youngest girl is not feminine at all. She likes dinosaurs, hot wheels, Uglyys, and more masculine toys. We love her for it. Whether she ends up beings trans*, queer, gay, or just a tomboy, there is nothing wrong with it.

Furthermore, it is important to take in to account the blended culture within our home. While we do have a similar background with Hispanic cultures, we are still very different and have had to learn to blend what we are accustomed to. New foods, new traditions, new everything!

In essence, a blended family isn’t just a combination of individuals. It is a combination of individuals, cultures, identities, and history. It can sometimes get messy, but it definitely makes for an interesting ride.

What are your thoughts?