Love wins!
For the last few months, my feelings about marriage were conflicting. Wait, let me say that better. My feelings about my sudden newfound ability to get married were conflicting. I had only been in relationships with women for about nine years before Jake came along (and yes, I realize I haven’t updated in almost a year – A LOT HAS CHANGED). I always thought that if I were to get married, it would be to a woman I love. Therefore, marriage wasn’t something we could have without a fight. When Jake asked me to marry him back in April, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I wanted to, but it came with a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I slowly began to recognize as guilt. All of a sudden, I had a right that I hadn’t had for a long time, simply because I was with a man. I hated how easy it had suddenly all become. There was (and still is) a lot of identity struggles over my now seemingly hetero-looking relationship, but this is what brought me the most guilt. But just because I now found myself with the law on my side didn’t mean I would stop trying to change that law. And when Jake and I started planning our wedding, we immediately started incorporating LGBT-support into it – we found equal rights stickers to put on tables, rainbow ribbons for guests to wear, and we were going to put out tip jars to nonprofits working to improve the rights of queer couples. We are still planning on doing as much as we can, but there’s a huge difference now.

Love won. Love won and now every couple can walk through those doors and marry the partner of their choosing, regardless of gender. I woke up to texts and emails and just lay in bed sobbing because I didn’t believe this would happen. I’d grown cynical over the years and didn’t actually think it would happen. But it did. Nothing will change in regard to the support we will show at our wedding, but the knowledge that love has won this day will make our day that much more special. I may not be in a same-sex relationship anymore and maybe some think this should no longer matter to me like it did before, but it does. In a way, it matters to me even more now because in no way was my last relationship of six years with my girlfriend (and domestic partner) less legit than my relationship with my fiancé now. I remember being with my girlfriend and crying over how unfair it was. And when Jake and I started planning out our wedding, it hurt over how easy everything was – how unjust that we could just do this because we LOOKED like a straight couple. I love him with all my heart but it wasn’t fair that suddenly I could have this just because he’s a man. It made me angry – angrier than I had ever been about marriage before. It wasn’t fair. I’m still as queer as I was before I met him and I vowed to never give up on this fight.

And now we won. The battle has been won. The fight is far from over, but today, love won out. And this right to get married and be recognized is shared by all couples. My heart is so full this morning. I don’t think I can adequately explain all the feelings I have inside but today I feel whole. I should not have doubted. I am so glad that the Supreme Court proved me wrong and that there is more good in the world and in our justice system than I gave them credit for. It is a good reminder.

Love Wins!

Today love won. Love is genderless and fluid and beautiful and now it is recognized. I think today I am going to spend some time working on our wedding site in celebration. Rainbows and glitter and unicorns for everyone!!

There is a tag going around and I’ve seen it both here on Facebook and on Twitter in different variations but its ultimate goal is the same. Too many people do not understand depression. Too many people feel that they have not been exposed to depression and therefore it does not affect them. The problem is simple – depression isn’t something we talk about. It is the very nature of this disease to keep silent, to hide, to keep to ourselves, to close the curtains and withdraw into the dark and lose ourselves to the black comfort of sleep. Talking about depression brings on doubt, ridicule, disbelief. A shake of the head, a laugh, as people don’t take you seriously, don’t understand you – they don’t know what it’s like to look into that bleak, welcoming, hole that is depression and to fall into it and stop caring. To stop living. They don’t know. And they don’t care to know. So we keep silent.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. – Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

But the death of Robin Williams – something I have yet been able to get myself to talk about or acknowledge – has sparked a sudden social media storm of people suddenly willing to fight to be seen and heard. In his last act of making us better people, Robin Williams has given us the ability to speak. To raise our voices and to say that he is not alone. That we are not alone. People have taken to Facebook and Twitter with the hashtags #depression, #depressionlies, #thisiswhatdepressionlookslike, #depressionkills, #depressionawareness all with the intent to bring light to this disease. To show those people who believe they are unaffected by depression that at some point in their life – they have been. They have friends, family, lovers, who are quietly suffering – loved ones who have never spoken up. Until now.

Yesterday I said, quietly, “It’s always the happiest ones who hide the darkest feelings.” A friend laughed and jokingly said, “Does that mean we have to worry about you?”

It made me realize that there are a lot of people who have no idea how much I’ve fought against it. How much I still fight, despite my ability to find amusement in anything. Yes, I am quick to laugh. Yes, I love to make people smile and I love being the picture of ridiculous silliness. And while that IS me, there’s also more than what you see. So I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and sharing with you a little story. The picture below was taken of me in 2008. I look pretty happy right? Well I was. At least at that moment.

nikki-depressed

The moment captured in this photo is a hard one for me to talk about. In fact it’s been really hard to write this through tears as I remember this day and the ones surrounding it. It was the first day I was allowed to leave the behavioral unit at the hospital. In fact, it was the first day I had left the hospital entirely after trying to kill myself. I had locked my dorm room and taken an entire bottle of prescription pills and waited to die. I very nearly succeeded and while I don’t remember anything leading up to the ambulance ride to the hospital, I do remember being in the hospital and the pain and sickness that came with recovering. I remember being angry because I had failed. I remember being devastated that now I had to see the faces of the people who knew what I had tried to do. Most of all I remember the regret that I was still alive.

Even after I recovered from the physical pains, they kept me in the rehab unit in a separate building for awhile while I tried to get over the emotional pains. I kept a journal while I was there and it’s really hard for me to even look at it now, though I’ve kept it with me through the years as a reminder. After the hospital and rehab center, came the local behavioral house where I also started therapy before moving back on campus and seeing a counselor, a therapist, and a psychiatrist all at once. I withdrew from that semester at college and holed myself up into my own little world, trying desperately to claw my way out of the pit I had dug for myself.

That picture was the first time I got to go home. I was allowed only an hour off site from the hospital unit I was confined to. The first thing I did was visit my dog. That’s Spunky greeting me in that picture. I AM happy. I am happy because I honestly thought I had said my final good-bye to him and I was surprised by how relieved I felt to see him again. How glad I was to feel his tongue on my face because he was so happy to see me he couldn’t contain himself. And it felt good to be loved so much. This picture shows the first time I felt regret for what I tried to do, and the relief that I was still alive.

It was a really long road to recovery. And to be honest. I’m still not recovered. In fact, a little over two years later, I tried to kill myself again and landed once again in the hospital. Depression isn’t something that can be fixed with a few pills and a bunch of happy memes (though they can help). It’s a constant battle. It’s a fight to live. It’s a fight to wake up in the morning and breathe and it’s a fight to find happiness in the world when so many things seem so bad. When you’re in that mindset, in that downward spiral of feeling worthless, useless, dead – it’s hard to get out and remind yourself that depression does lie. It LIES. It is a battle. But, and this might sound cheesy and cliche, it DOES get better. The more you fight, the more you start really living and stepping outside your routine of just going through the motions, the more you open your eyes, the more good days you will actually have. The more light there will be on the other side of that dark tunnel.

happydoor

Maybe I’m a hypocrite – I still fight every day. I try to do small things to keep me going. I call the door to my bedroom my “Happy Door” – every time I’m sad, I doodle a picture on a post-it note of something that makes me happy and I put it on that door. It’s now covered in small, colorful pieces of paper and it makes me happy every time I look at it. I made a playlist with nothing but happy songs that I make myself listen to when I feel down. When I’m dangerously close to horrible thoughts, I make plans with my friends so I’m not alone. I play the ukulele. I beat up villains in video games. I draw. I go to the dog park even though I no longer have a dog. I try to put myself into happy situations as much as I can because I know that I can’t do this alone. I can’t fight it when I’m by myself, with the covers over my head.

Taking that first step is the hardest part. Taking action is against everything your depression tells you to do. But depression lies. When it says you can’t do something, tell yourself YOU CAN. When it says you aren’t good enough, tell yourself YOU ARE. When it tells you that you will never be happy again, tell yourself YOU WILL BE. I am fighting too. I am with you. You are not alone. I am not alone. WE are not alone. THAT is why it is so important to speak up. To use this time when the world seems to be suddenly sitting up and listening to act and to say that this disease, this horrible horrible disease that kills so many people, needs to be acknowledged and that EVERYONE has in some way or form been touched by it. Don’t ignore it. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t roll your eyes when someone tells you they’re depressed and need help. Reach out your hand and take theirs and tell them you will do everything you can to help them. Even if you don’t understand it. Just tell them you’re there for them. Because sometimes, that’s all we want. To not feel alone.

We are living, breathing beings made of stardust and particles of forgotten galaxies. We are here for a purpose and in this short blink of a lifespan, we are given the opportunity to change the world. We are given the ability to make others smile and laugh and cry and live and we owe it to ourselves to sing and dance and LIVE. I am telling you this as much as I am telling myself. Because I am still fighting this every single day. But it’s worth it. Because you matter. I matter. This life we are living matters, to every single person around us.

“All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star…” – Francis Thompson

Nobody is untouched by depression. We are all connected. So this is my story and I’m sharing it with you all in order to bring awareness to those who think they are untouchable. And to hopefully help those too afraid to share their stories – who are too afraid to believe that they are not alone. You’re not. I’m here. We are here. We are in this together.

Please keep fighting. You can do it. I believe in you.

don’t grow older. grow bolder.

be bold

I woke up at seven this morning and couldn’t get back to bed. I had this weird urge to get out of the house so I took Rose on a walk around the block. I love how quiet my neighborhood is in the morning and also how friendly. There were two older women working in a garden by the sidewalk, chatting as they dug into the ground. They greeted us warmly and went back to the conversation. As we were passing I heard one of them say, “Don’t grow older. Grow bolder.” I stopped in my tracks, turned around, and told her that was the best thing I’d ever heard. I think she could see on my face that it really had made an impact because she stood up, came over to me, and gave me a big hug. “It took me 70 years to learn that. Start now while you’re still young and you’re gonna change the world.” I thanked her and hugged her again (and tried not to lose it). Walking back home, I felt like my whole body was filled with electricity.

Every single thing in this universe happens for a reason. Today is going to be an amazing day.

Meet Sir Gawain – the Scaly Knight

If you follow me on the twitter, then you’ll have already been introduced to this face. But if you haven’t… join me in welcoming the gloriously beautiful Sir Gawain the Scaley Knight into our family menagerie.

gawain02
Photo by Lee Jaszlics.

He is a Hogg Island Boa, roughly 5.5 feet in length, and about 6 years old. He belonged to my best friend Lee, who is moving to Australia, so he was recently rehomed to me. He’s absolutely beautiful and I find myself constantly drawn to his amazing colors – and he always has such a smug smile. Especially after he’s eaten.

gawain01
Photo by me.

Like that. That right there. So smug.

As for an update on the rest of our menagerie, we recently lost the very last of our rats to old age. Artemis outlived her sister by many months and was, what the vet said, a miracle rat. It’s odd not having any more little ones in our house, but Ash and I both work now so it’s hard to give them the time they deserve. Total we have four dogs (2 belong to family members but are staying with us for the time being), seven cats (one is a foster), and one snake. Almost a normal amount.

Right?

Hope y’all are having a wonderful weekend! Happy Saturday!

I don’t really bake cookies with Neil in this post. I’d like to. But I didn’t – I just liked the title. (Neil, if you’d like to bake cookies with me, or would like me to send you some cookies, just tell me your favorite kind and you’ve got it.)

I spent most of this weekend in my pajamas. Yesterday, I finally got up, got dressed, and ran errands with Ash in town, but as soon as we were home, I was back in my PJs. (Honestly, I think if more people spent weekends in their PJs, we’d be a happier humanity.) Despite the happy PJ time, my spirits were low.

In fact, I’ve been moping for the past few hours about Things That Suck when, out of nowhere, while reading Mr. Neil Gaiman’s Magical Tumblr, I felt this brilliant moment of clarity, as if a breeze had blown the clouds across the sky and a bright star (or possibly Venus) had suddenly winked into existence and brought with it a shining, glorious epiphany. An epiphany that lit up my mind and the night like a million fireflies and then. And then. Well. Then it blinked out. Just as quickly. Unfortunately I wasn’t really able to decipher what the epiphany as a whole was about, but I could see, just around the edges, words. And THAT meant something to me.

You see, ever since I was laid off in April, I have been slowly (and quickly), embracing many of my old hobbies. Things that at one point in my life, made me ME. Painting is one of them. I’ve been painting and drawing and sketching again and it’s ALL I ever want to do anymore. Oh I’ve missed it. I’ve also been baking. Cookies, brownies, yummy little chocolate chip bars oozing with caramel, goodies that will clog your pores and leave you guzzling milk from the carton. And I’ve been gardening. We have fourteen happy little okra plants in the front yard and a brand new garden bed in the back ready for planting. I’ve been playing video games, catching up on cooking shows, hanging out with Ash. So many wonderful things to bring me back to ME, but I have yet to do what I spent five years of college doing in order to get my Creative Writing degree.

Write.

I’m constantly jealous of my friend Meg of Bow Ties are Cool because all she does is write. She writes and writes and writes about writing and she’s wonderful at it and I wish I had her dedication and enthusiasm. But why don’t I? Why is that I sit here and wish it but don’t do it? What’s stopping me?

NOTHING.

And it’s that NOTHING that came to me while reading Neil’s many insightful responses to people asking him writing advice all the time. (Was that the epiphany? Maybe…) Neither him nor Meg ask for permission from anyone to write. They just do it. I’ve been sitting here waiting for someone to tell me that it’s okay to just sit and write. My fear is in the sitting part I think. I hate just sitting because I’m scared that it will look like I’m not doing anything. Like I’m just sitting. Staring at paper. Or a blank computer screen. And don’t ask me why I feel that doing design and development work is different – it just is. It’s for other people, at least that work. Even painting is for others – it’s for my shop. But writing? It’s not for anyone but myself. Even blogging is for the most part. It’s writing for myself, my thoughts, my beliefs, my stories. So it gets pushed away. Even as I write this, it has taken two days to write because I feel guilty writing it and keep stopping to do something else.

So how do writers stop feeling guilty for doing something that’s mostly for themselves? How do you get over your fear that people will think you aren’t a proper, productive member of society if you just write?

In school, I had classes that I was SUPPOSED to write in. And it made me happy. I was supposed to do it. Nobody could stop me, so I let myself just sit and write and the world was good and I was happy because I was MAKING THINGS UP and that was my JOB. Now? Not so much. So despite all the activities I’m doing to be ME, I’m still not entirely ME. Does this make sense? See, now I’m just writing to write. Because I like it. Blah blah blah I’m writing and nobody is in the room to stop me. Blah. WRITING.

Alright. So there’s my question. And there are my thoughts. All written down nicely for you. Now, I’m feeling guilty and unproductive so I’m going to go bake. Cookies. For Neil. Or Meg. Or for my girlfriend because she would probably be the one most likely to eat them considering she’s the only one in Texas. Go me.

THE END.