I’ll probably never recover

And that’s okay. I’ll get better. I’ll learn to manage my symptoms. I’ll find ways to live a good and fulfilling life despite my struggles. In fact, I’ve already done these things. And I will continue to do them so long as I’m breathing. But will I fully recover? Nah. Especially now that bipolar is in the mix (it never goes away!) but even without that, I don’t think C-PTSD is currently curable. How could it be? Why would we expect that of people?

My parents used to ask what it would take for me to get better and live a normal life with a normal job. What I should have said was that it would have taken a childhood that they weren’t involved in. I remember sitting down at an intake for residential treatment, my parents seated next to me. My dad turned to the greying counselor seated across the room and said, “so can you fix her or what?”

Ohhh, you stupid idiot.

I wish at the time I’d had the knowledge or the audacity that I have now – enough to say something back to that. But instead I sat there, head in my hands, probably still hungover from the night before.

For the record, the treatment didn’t fix me. Didn’t even come close. It added more trauma to my life in the form of my friend hanging herself in the room next to me the night I relapsed. I left in far worse shape than when I went in. I got sober again a few months later on my own, without the expensive, infantilizing treatment.

I think so often we forget in our excitement to get better that mental health treatment is an industry. For many people, it’s a business. In some ways, we – the sick – are both the product and the consumer. The business couldn’t exist without us and no one would buy it if we didn’t exist. We are fueling a monster. A cursory Google search just now revealed that the industry is worth AT LEAST an estimated $300 billion. That’s more than the fucking diet industry. The two have a lot in common – false promises of a better life, faulty methods, and a system that people end up depending on for years upon years because… it doesn’t work.

I feel kind of crappy because for months – even years – I have tried to convince my partner to see a therapist even though my own experiences have been shit across the board. It’s no wonder he digs his heels in after seeing the bullshit I’ve gone through trying to find a decent person to talk to. And the help I get is free because I get help from the government. If he sees a shitty therapist, he has to pay partially out of pocket. If they suck or mistreat him, he’s literally paying for his own suffering.

I think I suggest therapy because a part of me still wants to believe that there’s a magic fix out there. That talking to someone can cure these massive traumas, these years upon years of pain and suffering. But most of these people haven’t come close to suffering in the same ways and if they have, they usually aren’t mentally stable enough to be helping others. Can’t really win.

Will I keep looking for the right therapist? Probably. I found someone decent to shoot the shit with but I don’t think she’s going to heal my trauma in a profound way. She’s more like a friend that I can vent to. In some ways, I think that’s the best I’m going to find until there’s a radical awakening within the entire system. It starts with adding C-PTSD to the DSM and ceasing to label deeply traumatized people with BPD. DBT is not the cure. I’m sorry, but it’s just not. It might help people stabilize to a certain extent, but that’s it. It doesn’t get to the core issues. I have yet to find a type of therapy that really attacks the core of complex trauma. And yes, I’ve tried everything that’s been recommended.

The more I strive for something unattainable, the more I suffer. The more I realize that I’ve made it in so many ways – that I’ve survived despite my circumstances – the happier and more satisfied I feel. If this is as good as it gets, I’m okay with that. I’ve come a long fucking way on my own.

You know what helps? Writing about it. Making art. Sharing your feelings with people you trust. Loving people. Making friends. Chilling in nature. Maybe the occasional therapy session but, trust me, it isn’t black magic. If your life isn’t 100% better after a handful of therapy sessions, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re just on the shit end of a terrible money-making machine.

Sorry to be so jaded but that’s what I have for you today.

Wish you well.

xo,

Leif

It’s all bullshit and lies.

a little home for my chronic emptiness

We’re striving for bullshit. We’re feeding on lies. Every moment I spend thinking about what I don’t have is a wasted moment. I have it all. I have a family, a home, clothing, food, pets, safety. And yet.. I want. I want fame and fortune, glory and attention. I want to be seen and heard. I am seen and heard! But I want more. I’ve been taught to want more. I was taught by my parents and then by American society. And even after detaching myself from those original teachers, I’m still left wanting. I sit here teaching myself. I tell myself that what I have isn’t enough. It’s not enough to blog for a small audience – I need a HUGE audience. Why? I don’t know. I just know that that’s what I’m supposed to want. It’s what I should have if I’m going to feel like I have purpose.

I’m supposed to do more. Louder. Bigger. I’m supposed to attract attention – a lot of it. I’m supposed to be universally appealing. I’m supposed to have money that I can spend on things that will allegedly make me happier – things like clothing and VR headsets and expensive vehicles. Survival is no longer coveted. No, we must go beyond that. We must THRIVE. And by whose standards? I can’t say I know anymore. I think it comes from American/European values, which are hollow and meaningless and yet so many of us strive and strive and strive to achieve them.

It makes me feel awful.

I am happiest when I’m not trying to achieve anything for anyone other than myself. I feel best in the woods, surrounded by no one but trees with no need to impress anyone or anything. This pandemic + the changing of the seasons makes living up to that ideal kind of difficult. And as time has gone on, I’ve spent less time in the woods and more time in front of screens. I’ve been trying to find happiness in places like TikTok that do nothing but make me feel small and worthless.

Social media is a comparison machine. The higher the numbers I see next to the people smiling at me from my screen, the more I feel like I need to compete. When I turn it all off and enjoy the silence of my life, I feel better. I had a nice life for a few months when I was completely detached from social media. I took pictures and went on road trips and had a more stable mood throughout. Then I decided I needed more. I needed to share my photos, so I went on Instagram. I started following other photographers for inspiration and then the comparisons began. It got so bad that I completely stopped taking pictures because I realized how many skilled photographers exist and how far behind I am with my own photography. Just browsing Instagram made me give up a hobby that I previously found so much pleasure in – just for me. Slow, beautiful enjoyment. It was gone like that, just because I was following some strangers on a stupid app.

The numbers game started. Once I started posting my own photography, I started obsessing over how many likes my photos got. They didn’t get a lot, so I told myself I was shit. I had restarted the addiction cycle. The attention I was getting there wasn’t enough, so I downloaded TikTok and started posting there, though I knew that was probably the worst place for me to spend time. And sure enough, after a few weeks on TikTok without much “success,” I decided that wasn’t enough and started thinking about going back on OnlyFans, which would undoubtedly trigger a manic episode. Where in the hell would I find the time or energy for that? I would find it in the extremes of my ego, probably.

So here I am, just a few weeks later. I’ve mostly stopped blogging. I’ve entirely stopped taking photos. I spend hours upon hours on TikTok, just staring about people and striving for things I don’t have. I’ve started obsessing about fame again, which is a red flag for my mania. Last night, I was strongly considering restarting my OnlyFans and even posted an “I’ll be back soon” message. The more time I’m on social media, the more I think about my other addictions, especially weed. I’ve thought constantly about smoking again. By spending time on social media, I am feeding the cycle of addiction. It is safer and slower here on WordPress where I can share my thoughts and feelings for you without worrying about numbers. I mean, I will still probably worry a little bit because that’s what these platforms are designed for, but it’s slower and steadier here. I can manage it better.

And I deleted TikTok. Let’s hope that lasts, huh? It’s amazing how fast my life went down the shitter after I downloaded it again. I’ve been chronically dissatisfied since the moment I opened that evil app and I’m tired of it. I’m better than that. Though it doesn’t really matter how much self-control or awareness you have – TikTok, by some sort of black magic, will easily destroy all of it. The only solution is to stay away.

Anyway, that’s all I have. Let me know if you can relate to any of this. I would love to hear from you.

xo,

Leif

Imposter Syndrome

Another post I’m transferring from my new blog because it fits better here.

I enjoyed my blog more when I wasn’t trying to get followers – when it was just a project meant to provide a home for my photography. Now I’m back in that sick cycle of feeling irrelevant unless I have such and such amount of followers. I got back on Instagram and now I’m back to comparing myself and judging the quality of my photos. I see professionals who have probably been at this for 10 years and I think, “well I might as well give up because they’re so much further along than me.” But is that really why we, as humans, have hobbies? To show off? Or is it because we love the craft and the process.Mother Mary

I know this about myself – as soon as I get wrapped up more in gaining attention than in the process of making art, the art becomes miserable. Why do I do this? I don’t know. It could have something to do with my mania. But it’s unnecessary. An artist makes art because they have to, not fundamentally for others. Sure, the eyes of others are a bonus. We want that validation – everyone does. But that’s not why we make the art in the first place. It’s not why we need to write or paint or sing. We need to do those things because there exists a force within us that tells us those things are necessary. Save us all!

Because I have only been taking photos for about a year, I struggle endlessly with feeling like an imposter. It’s a brand new craft and even though I love it, there are many things I don’t yet understand and haven’t been able to grasp. Something that brings me solace is the fact that I’ve seen loads of old people take up photography as a hobby in their old age and, in doing so, they probably rarely if ever think about the eyes of others, but only about the fact that taking photos brings them joy. I hate this obsession I have with validation and needing the eyes of others to create and I think the only way to fight it is to keep creating regardless of who watches. To do it because I have to, because I love it.

I’ve been doing things I don’t really enjoy because I get more followers. Things like making videos for YouTube and considering a podcast and posting videos on TikTok. I did those things because I knew there were people consuming that type of content, even if it wasn’t the type of content I wanted to be making. Part of the reason I stopped blogging was because I knew people weren’t reading blogs as much, even though blogging brought me more joy. It was a slower pace and allowed me to practice the skill I went to school for – writing. I traded that for something hollow for the sake of validation from people I don’t know and will probably never meet. I couldn’t just be satisfied with the modest reader-base I had acquired. I needed more.

And I do think that’s my mania speaking. My manic self wants fame and glory. My depressed self doesn’t give a shit. She’s satisfied with hiding, with the slower paced, more modest life. My manic self is not. She wants the spotlight. And perhaps that’s not only because of mania but also because of my trauma. I seek attention because I don’t have a lot of people in my life. I seek validation from strangers because I don’t have a family. That’s sad. The validation I get from strangers isn’t the same. It’s not like the love of a family. It’s fleeting. And that’s why I always need so much more of it.

I don’t really know what I’m doing with my life. I thought I would have a book published by now but instead I have a child and I can’t afford to edit a potentially traumatizing book while I’m trying to raise her. So it’s gone on the back burner and I have photography in its place. I’m not the best at it but I’m not the worst. I’m just okay. And if I want to progress at all I need to be satisfied with that and stop striving for this American ideal of being the best. I know that’s where half of this comes from is just American dream bullshit. We’re not supposed to be satisfied with having just enough. We’re supposed to want millions, the big mansion, the fancy car, the perfect family, the perfected skill. We’re supposed to strive for greatness. And I think that American ideal got lodged somewhere in my brain even though my heart doesn’t fully agree with it – even though part of me wants a humble, quiet, just-enough life. I suppose that bipolarity fits my diagnosis, doesn’t it? I’m a person of extremes.

The undertone with all of it is a fair amount of self-hatred. I’m just endlessly uncomfortable with who I am, how I feel, the way I exist in the world. Because I haven’t been on social media for a few months, I feel like no one, like all of my friends have forgotten about me. It feels like in order to be loved, you have to be a slave to these systems that you may hate. And boy do I fucking hate them. I hate the feelings I get when I scroll Instagram and see people who seem to be doing better than me in this or that way – a feeling I don’t really have when I’m not on the Internet. I’m much more comfortable with modesty and humility when I’m disconnected. Social media raises the stakes in ways that feel involuntary. Does anyone else feel that?

I prefer the quiet life to the comparisons, judgment, self-hate, and isolation I feel when I’m connected to the Internet. Isn’t it supposed to have the opposite effect? But then how would they rope us in? These negative emotions are crucial for maintaining an audience. The worse you feel, the more you check, the more you compare, the more you judge, the more your scroll. It’s brilliant, really. And since social media has been compared to a casino, we can roll with that metaphor and consider the poor soul who loses ten bucks to a machine, feels shitty, and then is hit with this determination to feel better using the very thing that’s caused them distress. They spend ten more. Lose it. Another ten. Lose it. And on and on. That’s what I feel every time I post.

Blogging is different. It is slower. It’s fairly desolate. I’m doing it for me more than for accolades. And so I will continue to do this so long as I still have words to write. Typing hurts less than handwriting these days because of my pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel. And I enjoy providing a home for my photos. But the more I think about the eyes and trying to find validation, the more I want to curl up and die. So perhaps it’s best to just do this in silence, for myself, because I have to.

One Year Sober! An Extremely Unofficial Guide to My (Anti-)Program

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2012: alcoholism at its worst.

My sober date is September 23rd, which, coincidentally, is also my middle brother’s birthday. Zach has always been my harshest critic.

On Christmas Day, 2012, Zach staged an informal intervention in our Chicago living room after a particularly brutal Christmas Eve, during which I drank a bottle of champagne and told Luke’s Japanese teacher my life story in explicit detail over holiday dinner. The next morning, Zach said that if I didn’t change, he would remove me from his life. He said I was an embarrassment. A disaster. He couldn’t handle it.

My plan was to move back to Minneapolis from Chicago (where I’d gone to treatment and subsequently relapsed) on January 1, 2013. First, though, I would wreck myself on New Year’s Eve in Milwaukee with booze, speed, and hallucinogens. On New Year’s Day, I sat through breakfast with my friends, brainstorming ways to kill myself. I was sober for the next 20 months.

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How 12-Step Programs Perpetuate Rape Culture

As most of you know, I no longer attend 12-step meetings. When I first told people I was backing away, I made a conscious effort to not offend anyone or talk shit on the program. Okay, well, I’m done doing that. Toxic people and systems encourage the kind of fear I’ve been sitting with — the kind that keeps people silent.

Y’all fucked with a big mouth.

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My last day in the USA: Some photos, a journal entry, and a story.

One of, like, five pictures I took in Barcelona. Gonna have to work on that next time.

One of, like, five pictures I took in Barcelona.

I’m shaking in my parent’s computer room, partially because my dad likes to pretend he lives in an arctic tundra in the middle of summer and partially because I am TERRIFIED. It’s happening. In just over 24 hours, I will be playing Tom Petty on repeat in a narrow economy seat on my way back to Barcelona.

I am so fucking glad I came home.

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