Battle Blogs – Courage

Coming out: A Journey

By Xylianna Paladina (Part 1 of 2)

Courage comes in many forms. It’s easy to think of warriors on the battlefield slinging saidar or wielding swords. But in our world, while courage can include literal wars, for most of us it will be more mundane types.

The type of courage I want to talk about today is the courage to be yourself. It might sound easy to be yourself — for me, it has always been a challenge. What will people think? I find it easier to stand up for others than for myself, and this is a battle I have been addressing in earnest over the last couple years.

I’m lesbian. I spent over 20 years identifying first as bisexual and later pansexual, but never fully came out. I was very careful to stay closeted at work, in my small rural town, and with most of my family members. It was pretty easy to do, since I am a private person, and most of my relationships have been with men.

Sometime in the last year I came across the term “comphet” — compulsive heterosexuality. There are very good resources on the internet if you wish to learn more and I don’t feel like I am educated enough to speak on it at any length. The gist of comphet is that our culture by default is heteronormative, so that is the way we are raised. It’s what we get in most of our books, movies, and TV shows; it’s what people tend to assume of others they don’t know, it’s just… the default.

I’m going to speak specifically of my experiences and I will use language that reflects that. For me, comphet had me always certain I was attracted to men, and struggling with an attraction to women (as well as nonbinary, agender, and other people who aren’t defined by the gender binary). It never occurred to me not to be attracted to men. That was one big reason I never bothered coming out in my day to day life. What if I blew up my life by telling people I wasn’t straight, and then I ended up in a committed long term relationship with a man anyway, where I could be straight passing?

Being straight passing feels nice and safe. It’s a path of least resistance.

But it was also dishonest. Especially since over the last year of researching comphet and realizing how much it resonated for me, I realized… I’m not actually attracted to men at all. 

Last year, I selectively came out to one coworker and more of my family members, because I entered into a serious relationship with an AFAB agender person who is perceived as a woman, and could no longer be “straight passing.” It went better than I had feared over the years — and I had historic reasons to fear, from things people in my life had said to me since I was a teenager. I was met with understanding and acceptance.

This year, I took it a step (or ten) farther and I came out completely. At work, in my town, on my social media, outside of my carefully cultivated safe queer spaces. And I came out as lesbian. 

Heck, this past week I came out to someone in upper management at work who hadn’t gotten the proverbial memo yet. Coming out feels like a continual process since most of the people around me assume I am straight. But it is a joyful process. Each time I tell someone that I am a lesbian, I feel lighter. It feels really good to embrace my identity and to be happy and proud of it. 

It took courage. And it was worth it.

Vulnerability: when courage wins

By Mystica Ari’Yena (Part 3 of 3)

Taking a first step is often a very scary and very difficult thing to do. We almost can’t help ourselves from imagining everything that could go wrong and we tend to convince ourselves that something will go wrong. One of the most difficult things we humans often face is not the confrontation with others but the confrontation with ourselves. We often tend to divert our attention from that by focusing on those others or on specific, suddenly extremely important tasks. Anything to avoid having to undergo that confrontation with the self. 

It takes a great deal of courage to face that self and take that step.

Often, the outcome is much less horrible than we imagine, and we end up wondering what we were so nervous, afraid, worried about afterwards. Yes, sometimes our fear is justified; but almost never to the extent of that which we imagine. 

I’m a very strong believer in the concept that one cannot encounter courage in the absence of fear. For action without fear, to me, equals excitement. Not courage. Courage is the act one does in spite of the self, often to the benefit of others. Excitement is the act one does for the enjoyment of the self. Regardless of the cost or the benefit to others. 

Learning how to show your vulnerability requires an act of courage that will result in the activation of a specific type of strength. A strength that will inevitably benefit the society and community you belong to, for you will transform yourself into a wiser, healthier, more balanced person. This will directly benefit you and everyone in your surroundings. 

The ability to show your vulnerability without fear will empower you, free you, strengthen you, and through all that will improve the lives of yourself and your loved ones. 

It wasn’t until all of my defenses came crashing down and my vulnerability was laid bare that I finally got to witness and experience the real power it holds. 

By allowing others to see your vulnerability you are giving them something no money can buy, no power can force and no thief can steal. You are giving them the gift of validation. You are signaling to them that they can take on a role of significance in your life, if they so choose. Most people want to be useful. Want to feel useful. They want to feel like they matter, that they can make a difference. By showing your vulnerability to them, you give them an opportunity to seek out a way in which they can make a difference in your life. And yes, there is a risk of abuse. Hence the need for courage. 

A courage I lacked for 40 years and so I was forced into it by crashing. 

I would recommend a different approach. 

Everything is Fine

By Tree (Part 1 of 1)

This Battle Blog is not about overcoming anything. This is not a unique experience, a commentary on anyone else’s mental health, treatment, diagnosis, or story. This is my story, of my fight, my loss, and my win.

I am bipolar 1 with psychotic tendencies, anxiety, and depression with a history of substance abuse and self-harm. There it is. With all the stigma that comes with. 

I was diagnosed officially when I was in my freshman year at the University of Washington, a newly minted adult struggling to navigate life at University. I was sent off with a prescription that left me numb and passive. I am a Green – numb and passive are not a part of my being. Over the following two years I tried various medications; many left me passive, indifferent, or under my desk at work hiding from my anxiety. I decided I was better off without them. I did not need medication. I tried therapy but wasn’t getting anything from it.  Clearly I did not need help. 

Everything was fine.

Self-medication, and sheer will, drove me through my twenties and into my thirties. I didn’t want this diagnosis and accepting help was a weakness I would not afford myself. So, I learned to adapt and I managed well enough. I learned to identify symptoms and recognize the shifts in my mood. I practiced mitigation and control. Clearly I didn’t need doctors, therapies, prescriptions, any of it! Therapy and medication didn’t help me, I helped me. 

Everything was fine.

As time went on things got worse. Depression sometimes got bad enough I found myself numbly staring at a wall for multiple days at a time. Manic episodes started costing too much, and taking a heavier toll on relationships and my professional life. Still, I did not need help. 

Everything was fine. 

By my mid-thirties my sheer force of will wasn’t enough anymore. I found myself unable to enjoy anything and unable to get excited about anything. The police kept getting called. I hurt people I love. I began seeing myself in the raving homeless women I passed daily on the street. 

Everything was not fine, I’d lost the battle.

It still took another two years to admit to myself that I needed help. Those two years were hard, and harder still on those around me. I was too stubborn to accept any need for treatment, too stubborn to accept that I lost the battle for control of my own mind.

The next battle was to seek out treatment despite myself and I was terrified. If I went on medication and my life wasn’t magically perfect, I would prove myself a failure. I didn’t want to experiment with prescriptions and jump through the hoops of getting it wrong, again. I didn’t want the side effects. I didn’t want the diagnosis! Taking medication was like giving control of my life over to some pills in a bottle and I just wouldn’t do that.  I could not do that. 

Finally, I stopped fighting myself. What I learned was that the battle I lost may also be a win.

Ultimately, I sought out a psychiatrist. I was very wary to go, so I told a few people who I knew might help hold me accountable. I still did not want this. One of the best things I was told, and that I needed to hear, was from Kitty (Cataia Sylvianya if you must). She told me that I am just allergic to my brain and that taking something was just like taking allergy pills. I swallowed my pride and went to the appointment. 

I was very fortunate with the psychiatrist I saw – I’d seen doctors who were insulting, judgmental, or trying to put me on something I had already tried just to get me out the door. This was the doctor to help me understand who I am in relation to this horrible diagnosis and what it means. If it was not for him I don’t think I would have filled the prescription he sent me home with that first day. I still didn’t want them, I still wanted to fight myself.

He used a couple of perfectly tailored metaphors that still stick out in my mind. The first a dragon, and the second a tennis ball. 

By this point I had identified the dragon but called it a monster, because I am a monster. (I don’t need help- everything is fine.) When something triggered it, that monster-dragon would take over. These were the times I would hurt people, the times where I broke bridges, the times people called the police. I could see it happening, the rage and anger and horrendous things I was doing. I could watch from the inside but was unable to control anything; my grasp on reality was tenuous. 

This was not new and reflecting on it now, this dragon-monster in me started poking its head out as early as elementary school. Before, I had been able to pull myself back from that level of rage, remember everything was fine. Now, unexplainably, I couldn’t manage anymore.

I told my doctor that I felt like I was losing control over what I had maintained for so long and that is where the tennis ball comes in. A tennis ball straight from the can has all its bounce, but it quickly loses bounce and becomes a dog toy. Like a tennis ball, I used to be able to bounce back quickly. Like a tennis ball, as I’ve gotten older I’ve lost the ability to bounce back so easily.

I had lost control. I had lost my ability to manage. I had lost my stubborn refusal to get help. It is where if not for the “dragon and the tennis ball” I never could have won. 

Today, I look at my daily handful of pills and sometimes wonder if I really need them? The battle I have with my ego and pride rages on but I have a Green sister’s voice in my head – I’m just “treating an allergy.” My Warder, Ne’Mireth, reminded me just last month that I can fight myself as much as I want and at the end of the day I’ll still be bipolar. I may not like it and I may still want to fight it; but knowing where I was and where I am now, I can accept this handful of pills as the win I didn’t know I wanted. As the win I needed.  

Green Ajah – The Show

By Faeril Munlear and Aleita Taviah

It is still early, but we know we are going to see some Greens in action this season in The Wheel of Time series. Join us on the forums and share which Book Greens you are looking forward to seeing the most!

Join the show discussions here:

Please note, the following section contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time television show through Season 1, Episode 5.

At the end of A Place of Safety (S1E3) we get our first look at the Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah. We discover that the Green Aes Sedai (including Alanna Mosvani) have joined with their Red Sisters to capture Logain Ablar, the male channeler claiming to be The Dragon Reborn.

The Dragon Reborn (S1E4) is where we really get to see the Green Ajah in action. We meet Kerene Nagashi and her Warder Stepin as well as Alanna Mosvani and her Warders Ihvon and Maksim (a deviation from the series where her Warders are Ihvon and Owein.)

Kerene and Alanna are both represented as strong, fighters both in terms of their strength in the one power (being only two of four in the Aes Sedai camp capable of shielding Logain) but also in character. Kerene displays a strong sense of duty and respect for the responsibilities of the Aes Sedai and adherence to the rules around gentling, lecturing Liandrin about taking premature action against Logain before reaching Tar Valon.

We cannot talk about the Green Ajah in the books or the tv series without talking about their warders. Each of the warders has their own traits and identity, and we get to see the different relationships both between warders and their Aes Sedai but also with each other.

The fight scene near the end of The Dragon Reborn (S1E4) is spectacular, we get to see the Aes Sedai and Warders fighting side by side. Without even explicitly stating that the Green Ajah is the battle Ajah we are shown the strength of Alanna and see an example of “a single Aes Sedai turning the tide of a battle” a reference from S1E1.

We experience the first loss of an Aes Sedai by her Warder when Kerene is killed at the end of The Dragon Reborn (S1E4). Blood Calls Blood (S1E5) follows this story through to the deeply tragic journey of Stepin through his devotion and bond to Kerene in her death returning her Ring to Tar Valon. Through Stepin’s story we see foreshadowing in a scene between Moiraine and Alanna where Moiraine recalls hearing that it is possible to pass a Bond.

We can’t wait to see more of the Green Sisters (and their Warders) come to life on the screen. We stand ready!

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