30.4.19

Special - Review

Diversity in entertainment media is one of the biggest discussions of our time. After several centuries of the dyacis heterosexual white able-bodied male perspective being pre-dominant in out books, movies, tv-shows, voices get louder for more representation for other people. What we do, as humanity, is baby-steps, as usual - we as a society are still struggling to give dyacis heterosexual white able-bodied women some screentime and just let them have a win every once in a while, or any other group with just one of those factors changed from the aforementioned norm. The problem with that is: It's everything but an accurate portrayal of life.
Now while we are slowly (oh so very slowly...) getting better at this on the gender and race side, one of the groups still being let down on a regular basis are disabled people, and that is a shame.
Luckily, another baby-step was walked by Netflix who just released their new show "Special".
"Special" is the story of young Ryan Hayes, a gay man who also has a mild form of cerebral palsy, resulting in him having a limp and trouble coordinating his hands. He is living with his mum who fully lives for taking care of him. After a car accident, he decides to take his life into his own hands and to become independent. He starts an internship at an online magazine (very similar to Buzzfeed). All of his colleagues assume that his limp was a result of the car accident and instead of correcting them, he writes his article about exactly that.
The show is based on "I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" by Ryan O'Connell who also wrote the script for the show, executive produced it and plays Ryan Hayes on it - and he does all of that brilliantly.
Apart from the refreshing portrayal of layered minority identities (we also have Ryans best friend Kim who is fat and Indian - almost as if people can be more than one of those things) and the absolute honesty about gay and disabled realities, "Special" captivates with its unbreakable humour that really doesn't take prisoners and yet manages to walk the fine line between being gallows humour and being disrespectful.
That is also what makes "Special" an absolute fun thing to watch - none of this is a sad, tragic petty story so we can all feel sorry for someone, its a wonderful portrayal of someone's reality with all the downs, yes, but also all the ups, the happy moments, the friendships, the love. Dear media producers, please give me much, much more of that!

26.4.19

"So, how exactly does therapy work?"

TW
mental health, self harm/suicide mention, abuse, sexual violence/child molestation




Photo by Steven Blechvogel


In the past couple of weeks, two friends who have no connection whatsoever have approached me to ask about my experience with therapy. Apparently, I am now an expert on this topic - in reality, I am just a person who is very open about having mental health issues and being in therapy. In fact, I don't even know much about those topics, I'd say my knowledge is the tip of the iceberg at best. However, I get why they're asking - the idea of therapy can be scary, admitting you are not okay mentally is scary, because we live in a society where mental health issues are often dismissed, played down and/or demonized. Because of this I figured it might help if I write about my own issues and my experience with therapy - here we go!
In 2012 I was emotionally abused by my ex boyfriend. It was a really rough break up that left a lot of damage in my brain that I still suffer from that today. Back then, I was basically broken, for the first time in my life I actively hated myself, I was suicidal, ended up self-harming after just cutting my hair had worked as a coping mechanism for years, it was... really bad. Back then, I was 18 and still going to school, which hadn't gone super well before that and now I became even worse because, as I like to put it, I was too busy just staying alive and thus had trouble doing actual school work. Of course, getting bad grades didn't exactly help against my self-hatred. Everything spiraled. That was also when I started smoking - I had a lot of panic attacks and smoking helped regulate my breathing. None of this was healthy, obviously. At some point, my amazing mum, who is a social worker and thus has an eye for people needing help, made me go see a therapist.
The therapist I saw back then was specialized on children and teenagers, so I was just young enough to go see her. I don't exactly remember why I actually saw her instead of a therapist for grown up people, but it worked pretty well.
One thing I remember specifically about the first couple of sessions was that I was asked to fill in a table about big life events, either positive or negative, for different sections of my life - and I had such trouble finding positive things. My mind was literally clouded by my negativity and my self-hatred - your girl was fucking depressed, and easily diagnosed as such, plus a nice little school phobia that I had developed. Back then, I explained it as the school being a magnet, and I had another magnet in my chest, and those were polarized the same way and thus repelled each other - it felt like I was actually physically incapable of going to school. The mechanism was clear: Couldn't make myself do homework or study, went to school, got bad grades, felt worse. If I wasn't going to school I was actively avoiding that, except it was never that easy - if I didn't go, I would obviously have a harder time learning things, and thus have an even harder time getting everything down and still get bad grades. Additionally, I would feel bad for not going, worrying about people thinking I was faking it because I was just lazy, and thus I spiraled a lot.
My first therapist was a very understanding woman - she was very warm and kind, literally handling me with kid gloves (remember: specialized for children and teens). It was what I needed back then because I was very fragile and stuck in blaming myself for everything bad that ever happened to me and thinking I deserved it. I needed her to realize in the first place that my ex had abused me and he had no right to treat me the way he did treat me. I needed her to realize that I didn't have to take the repsonsibility for having been sexually abused as a 7-years-old. I needed her to realize that I deserved none of this and other things I had suffered through, and instead deserved that people took care of me while I processed those things instead of me taking care of everyone else who had to process the second hand experience.
She also taught me how to break out of the spirals in regard to school, how to calm myself down when I had a panic attack, and how to defeat the magnet in my chest. Sadly, too much damage was done for my education and I ended up dropping out and starting an apprenticeship as a bookseller instead in 2014. However, that apprenticeship was cathartic for me in a way: I ended up learning how I personally study best and thus had an overall good and successfull experience learning a thing which finally got me out of my anxiety about education.
Then 2017 came and with it two very big life events that tipped over the mental stability I had going on for me in the past three years.
In April 2016, after 14 years, my case regarding the sexual abuse I had gone through as a child got picked up again, I went back to the police to be questioned once more (as if I was more likely to remember any specifics 14 years later), half a year later they found the guy and in March 2017, eventually, his trial took place and I was invited to testify against him in court.
Before all of that, I was lucky enough to cope pretty well with what had happened to me as a child, it didn't effect me too much, I was able to lead a normal life. The trial retraumatized me, seeing that person, having my memory refreshed by the judge reading my testimony I had given as a child where my brain had done such amazing work repressing the memories and additionally, the terrible way I was treated by the present reporters and the thoughtless way I was treated by the judges. I did feel very unsafe for a while after that, started crying randomly and had panic attacks again. I aslo started getting actually triggered by things for the first time in my life. Instead of the closure I had hoped for, I got new issues to deal with. That was my first reason to seek out therapy again.
Sadly enough, actually finding a therapist with free capacities, is the hardest thing in the world. Originally, I wanted to go back to work with my first therapist since she already knew all the important background info, but since I was definitely not a child anymore she couldn't help me. I was facing endless waiting lists and at some point stopped looking and did what I did most of my life: Dealt with it myself. It got better eventually.
The other big life event was more positive at first: In June 2017 I finished my apprenticeship on an absolute high, and after a long and frustrating jobhunt I found my first fully paid job and moved back to my home town. Unfortunately, the job turned out to be not right for me. It was technically a good job, well-paid, flexible hours, nice colleagues, own office. It was just not what I was trained for, I missed actual bookselling a lot, and it started to weigh on me really badly to the point where I had trouble sleeping and got horrible stomach and back aches as soon as I entered the office. So I started looking around and had to finally face the reality - there are just not enough jobs in bookselling, especially not if you have to make an actual living from it. Again, it was my mum who kicked my ass to actually look for a therapist.
The next nine month were hard. Nine month on the waiting list, calling in every month to tell them I was still interested. The hardest part about this for me was that probably, I would've had a better chance getting a slot if I would've been honest with myself about how bad off I actually was, on the other hand I was not suicidal, not selfharming and functioning pretty well in my day to day life, so I tricked myself into thinking it wasn't really that bad and thus feeling like a fraud for actually asking for therapy.
My coping mechanism, as usual, was joking about it a lot. Gallows humor is my best friend in situations like that, and thus the first thing I said on the phone was "Hello, this is my monthly call to tell you I am still nuts!" and I ended it with "Alright, speak to you next month!".
At my ninth call, I had the bad luck to talk to a person who was very insistent on keeping things seriously and thus robbing me of my coping mechanism. A few days later, I got a call from my therapist - a slot had opened up for me.
That was in the end of 2018. I have been in therapy again for 5 months now, and we have just finished the preparatory sessions by now. Those actually take up ages and are a bit frustrating because as the name indicates it is only preparation - telling your life story, talking about your current life, finding out what is going on and, if you're lucky, why it's going on. No solutions yet.
I am a very impatient person and that is probably the first thing my therapist found out about me - I stumbled in and basically diagnosed myself (was actually off to a good start but not in-depth enough) and demanded solutions straightaway. "Okay, sure, now I know the problem but what do I have to do to fix it?" Sadly, it's not that easy.
My new therapist is a lot more hand-on, a very direct, kicking your ass type of person - no kids gloves here. This man takes no bullshit. And that is probably exactly what I need because by now; I have become very good at bullshitting myself.
Instead of diagnoses, my current therapist likes to talk about what he calls "problem pots". I have three of those: Self-worth issues, a low tolerance for frustration, and the mentioned trauma. Unlike diagnoses, those problem pots help us to talk about the direct issues that are making my life more complicated - the self-worth issues make me set incredibly high standards for myself that I can't possibly fullfill and lead to very heavy reactions to minor difficulties, as does the low tolerance for frustration which also leads to me being likely to avoid things that frustrate me. Those are the two things we are tackling primarily right now.
Even though I don't know yet how we will actually work on those problems, I already learned a lot about myself during those preparatory sessions - not only about my problems but also about my way to live my life on a daily basis. That is very down to my therapist forcing me to question everything. Twice. Lately, we have been focussing on my time and energy levels. First, I was asked to list the things that I was doing in my week: Work, my hobbies, social interactions like seeing my family or friends, my relationship, taking care of my dog etc. Then we assumed I had 100 hours in a week to do those things (sleep and hygiene not taken into account) - how much time was I spending on those things, how much time was I willing to spend on those things, did I have enough time for the things I was doing? I was also asked to estimate how much energy those things were requiring. Needless to say that I definitely was spending more time/energy than I actually had. Then we had a closer look: A thing that was pleasant should take less energy from me than time, a thing that wasn't necessarily pleasant but okay could take as much time as energy (for example, I spent around 50 hours for work including breaks and commute, so it was allowed to take up to 50% of my energy), a thing that took way more energy than time would be a thing that should be questioned mercilessly and probably ditched from my schedule. That also meant seriously questioning why I felt like I should be doing those things, what the consequences were to not doing them anymore, and if I would rather face the consequences and thus not do the things anymore or keep doing them so I didn't have to deal with the consequences. That goes as deeply as "I technically don't have to work but that would mean I don't make any money and would be living off welfare and have less money and social repercussions." It also brought me more in touch with my own aspirations and thus with what I feel are the framework for my own happiness - and with the price those come with.
Based on that, I was asked to imagine my life in 45 years: Where do I want to be, what do I want to do, how did my life have to be in 45 years for me to be happy? How much time and energy was I willing to invest in those things in 45 years? Based on that, I had to lay out the way to that goal - what would I have to be doing in 30 years, 5 years, one year, now to achieve those dreams? And again, we were questioning all of it: Did I actually want that, was I willing to pay the price, how realistic was all of that? We quickly found out that I had completely bailed on stuff like cleaning my flat in my plans. "You don't want to clean your flat at all?" "I mean... technically I don't want to but I guess I have to if I want a clean flat, huh?"
Even though it gets frustrating at times, I like my therapists approach of, I don't even know how to phrase this... let me do all the work. I have to work hard in this therapy. He isn't giving me answers. He is guiding me through the process of finding answers myself. He doesn't give me answers but he asks the right questions.
So when my friends ask me how therapy works I can only say: That highly depends. On your problem, on your therapist, and on you as a person. Even two therapies for the same person can be extremely different. But one thing that I can promise is that it's always worth trying it, and it's always good to reach out for help!

21.2.19

Let's talk about sex - The body part paradox


I realized something, and I wanted to share some thoughts about it.
In the past, I was often criticized by people I had sex with that apparently, I didn't do enough with my hands/arms. To this day, this is mainly down to the awkwardness of not knowing what to do with them.

Bear in mind that so far, my sexual history is exclusively people with a penis. I do know what do to with my hands when I have access to a dick but when I don't (e.g. during penetration), my arms become just two very useless limbs, at best holding my partner, at worst lying next to me. Caressing my partner during sex is a thing I have to focus on, and we all know how hard that can be when you are having good sex. But after receiving that criticism several times, I started thinking: Why don't I know what to do with my hands? Why is that so hard?

I have a theory.
Let's have a good hard look at how we view different bodies in sexual contexts in the media. Bodies that are read as female, according to the portrayal, have a lot of parts to offer that are very sexy - boobs, a nice ass, legs, all of those are viewed as hot and portrayed as hot. The actual genitals are usually less talked about - at most, we see a vulva in media when it is currently penetrated. The visibility of vulvas is a very new concept, and people still have to discuss a lot as soon as they include vulvas in art. Now shift that look towards people read as male. The focus for body parts that are supposed to arouse us is usually on the penis. Then maybe occasionally, you get an ass or some abs.

And here is where the problem starts - the male read bodies that are portrayed as sexy in media are usually very well-trained, there are butts made of steel, overly defined eight packs etc. I don't want to tell anyone they can't be attracted to that, you are all valid, but lets be real: Those bodies are hard to find in real life because they are hard to get, hard to maintain and if you also want to click with someone on a personal basis as well, that reduces the pool of people even more. Thus, when we are sleeping with bodies read as male when they don't have the unlikely set of muscles, we might not really know where to put our hands.

Another thing where this is very visible is the topic of nudes by the way - when a female-presenting person wants to take nudes or have them taken, the focus is mostly on the chest (especially when you are actually modeling for nude art), having photos of a vulva is rare and also viewed as the lewdest option - its more likely that your crotch is hidden in pictures. For male-presenting people who are not as jacked as the image media provides, there are hardly any ways to have photos without a penis considered to be nude art.

Its the complete opposite of how different bodies are viewed in non-sexual contexts by the way, because when it comes to fashion, for example, you can't seem to do it right as a female-presenting person, and it seems to be easier for male presenting folks to find something nice that actually fits their body shape no matter what it is.

So what do we take from this? Glorify other body parts than genitals for male-presenting people. Gush the shit out of them. Gush the shit out of bodies that are not super-muscular, not super slim, that in any way don't fit into the very narrow image of an ideal male-presenting body. Especially for your partners - make the beauty you see in them and the things you think are very sexy about them visible (with their consent only, obviously). Do the same for all the unusual/underrepresented body parts of your female-presenting partners, crushes, friends. We can only win here.

14.2.19

Going Polyam

 I have known for years that I am polyamorous.
Means, I have known for years that I can love several people simultaneously, and I while I have struggled with that for a while (because we always get taught that love has to be exclusive), it has also been years that I was very interested in actually living polyamorously as well - meaning, I liked the idea to have more than one relationship at the same time, my partners having more than one relationship as well and so on.

I can hereby happily inform you that I am now living polyamorously.
Some of you may remember me blogging about my engagement, my upcoming wedding, my fiance and how we started out our relationship - as an agreement for me to try being in a monogamous relationship with him because he was worth it to me. An experiment.
I think it is natural when planning a wedding to have some doubts and starting to question everything. After all, it is a promise to spend the rest of your lives together, even with the possibility to not do that and have a divorce if it doesn't work out, that still means you are at the very least in for the stress that comes with that. Either way, it is a huge commitment, and it should better be with the right person.

I think I started having doubts way earlier than I would want to admit to myself, and being me, I dealt with that by overcompensating. After all, I know myself well enough to know that I am very likely to sabotage pretty much everything I have going well for me. So my initial thought was clear: "This will blow over, you are just nervous". So instead of thinking about my feelings and talking to my partner about them (you know, the thing I keep telling others to do), I started working extra hard on preparing the wedding.

Fast forward to my birthday in November. I spent my birthday weekend in London meeting my discord family in real life for the first time and I had an amazing time. And then, when Sunday came and I was on my way back to Germany, I did not only realize that I did not want to leave (which, to be fair, is pretty normal for me), I noticed myself daydreaming about a life in the UK - and those daydreams did not involve my fiance.

I spent the next days having a particularly hard look at my relationship and on myself. Long story short - I was not happy anymore. And it was worse than expected: I wasn't only happy anymore because of the monogamous nature of our relationship - I just was not happy anymore in general, and I did not want to continue this relationship, even if my fiance had magically agreed to open our relationship up (which was definitely not happening).

Breaking up engagement is a lot harder than breaking up a normal relationship. Not only because you are living together and one of you has to move out, not only because you have to cancel so many things and it will potentially cost you a lot of money, but because the questions are breaking you.
I still think I have made the right decision. I am about to move out, I will start a new job in March to actually be able to survive on my own financially, and it feels like breaking free. My fiance is an amazing person who handled this break up with such strength for the both of us, so much fairness and peace and understanding, and I am very sure he will be the best person for someone else - he just isn't for me. At least not as a fiance, and eventually husband. I think we will do way better as friends (and co-owners of our beautiful dog).

At some point along that way, I fell in love with Nat. Nat is also a member of my discord family, and I knew they existed but then there was the London weekend and I got to fully know them. Technically, it hit me like a brick, and I had a massive crush on them. We started to talk a lot more regularly, got to know each other very well pretty quickly, got super close. And then there was Jay. Jay is also a member of the discord, and we have been friends for quite a while. They developed a crush on them as well and they and their partner opened their relationship. So Jay and I are both Nat's partners. I don't really know how exactly that happened but I am so so glad it did because now I get to experience polyamory, a thing I wanted to try for ages.

Obviously, being polyam is not necessarily easier than monogamous relationships. It is just difficult in a different way. A big part of what we have to figure out is how to communicate what we need with each other, what we are able and willing to give, what we are comfortable with, how we work as people and thus how to read each other - just like in every monogamous relationship. The big difference is that this time, it includes and effects more than two people, which makes it harder. On the other hand we have to unlearn a lot of what we like to call toxic monogamy - the idea that there is any kind of hierarchy between multiple partners or even other relationships like friendships or family, that there is any sort of priority and if there isn't, there's a problem, the idea that you are entitled to have your partners full attention at all times, the idea that there is any competition going on. To be honest, when I started this, I was very scared that I would turn out to be a massive fraud and would be very jealous as soon as my partner sleeping with other people would become an actual reality. I can gladly confirm: Nope, I really do not mind, as long as they are comfortable with me doing the same. I have a way bigger problem personally to unlearn monogamy, all the points mentioned above are a bit hard on me. Another thing that doesn't exactly make it easier is that every pairing in our polycule is a long distance relationship, so most of our communication works via texts and phone calls, which makes it harder to build intimacy. And yet, both Nat and Jay are doing such a great job catching me when I feel insecure or left out or anxious about anything, it's amazing! This might be the hardest relationship I have ever had, its so much effort and it is hard to be honest with myself and them about my feelings but it is so worth it because both of them are putting in just as much work and we are all willing to do the work this takes to make everyone as comfortable as possible.

A big part of why this makes me so happy is also that I feel like I am finally living my best queer life. I have identified as queer for the past 6 years, and yet so far, I have exclusively dated cis men. Now I am the only cis person in my polycule (everyone else is non-binary) and it's such a new experience. This plus the fact that we are polyamorous takes a lot of pressure off me, I feel like for the first time I don't have to walk on eggshells so much being worried to either emasculate my partner or them becoming jealous as soon as I am close with or attracted to anyone, and that is a great feeling. I feel very free.

I also feel very cared about - I have the incredible luck to have a partner and a friend who are both very sensitive for my bullshit and I they manage to reassure me, tell me they love me, appreciate me exactly when I need it, may it be when I have a thing going on in my own life or have an issue that we as a polycule have to discuss. They both manage to make me feel very good about myself, which is hard with all my self worth issues.
What can I say? I am very optimistic about this going well. I think I have found a way to do relationships that works really well for me. And I love my polycule and especially my partner very very much.

17.1.19

Excursion To Poetry #5 - Untitled

And boom, there you are.
All of a sudden,
as if you had always been there,
as if it was no big deal.
Boom, here you are.
And we click,
as if it was the most natural thing in the world,
as if we hadn‘t been doing anything else our entire lives.
All of a sudden,
you are here,
and I can say all the things that have wandered my mind for eternity,
say them out loud and even before you respond,
I know that you understand me.
We share a language all on our own,
even though I have to google every second word because we don‘t,
and yet you still always get what I am trying to say.
You are miles away and yet I feel at home just hearing your voice.
I should feel bad for all of this.
I should not feel that way for another person.
And I feel like all of this should blow over soon,
like I should get it out of my system
and then go back to normal.
I don‘t want this to end.
I want to spend the rest of my life staying up all night on the phone.
Or better, up all night on your side.
But I gave this promise to someone else already.
And I don‘t want this to end either.
So I spend my nights talking
happier than I have been in ages
hiding away my bitterness
about this having to end at some point.
Because I am not that kind of person.
I don‘t want this to end.
So I live in the moment
until it does.

8.11.18

Bohemian Rhapsody - Review


I think in my whole life, I never met anyone who didn't love Queen. Don't get me wrong, I know a shitload of people who only know "Bohemian Rhapsody" and/or "We Are The Champions" and/or "We Will Rock You" - who simply are not massive fans who know everything about the band and to be fair, I'm far from knowing every little bit of trivia or every song by heart. But regardless of that - no matter if I ask my almost 70 years old grandma or my mum who's in her forties or my friends in their twenties or my teenage siblings - everyone loves Queen and their music. Those guys are legends. And as legends deserve, as of late October, we now have a movie about this band to follow them through their career.

The movie starts out in 1970 with young Freddie Bulsara (Rami Malek), who is a college student and baggage handler at Heathrow airport, seeing a band live and meeting them after the show. The band, at this point only guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) after their original lead singer and bassist just dropped out, can quickly be convinced that Freddie should be their new voice. Add bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazello) and Queen is born. In the same night, Freddie also meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and they start dating.

They play local gigs all over the UK, sell Rogers van to get the money necessary to record an album and almost immediately land a contract with EMI records. Freddie legally changes his name to Freddie Mercury. While his mother and sister seem to be pretty supportive, his father is having none of all of this. Freddie proposes to Mary, who he lives with at this point.

On their first very successful U.S. tour, he begins to realize he is also attracted to men.
From then on we follow the band (but mostly Freddie) through the centuries, through their different songwriting processes (for Bohemian Rhapsody as much as for Another One Bites The Dust or We Will Rock You), different hairstyles, Freddies coming-out to and break up with Mary, Freddie becoming more and more extravagant, Freddie going solo, and ultimately, the reconciliation of the band for the legendary Life Aid concert in 1985, shortly after Freddie learned that he has AIDS.
I don't want to give away too many details because this is a movie that you should see yourself. That much in advance.

I want to say: I love this movie a lot. I laughed, I cried, I did both at the same time, as did my friends who went to see it with me. It was big and bold and beautiful. I think, to us poor souls who haven't spend a single second of being alive at the same time as Freddie Mercury, this is the closest thing that we can get to seeing Queen live on stage. 

There are several aspects I liked especially, first of all, the portrayal of not one musical mastermind but four who complement each other - something people who are not die-hard Queen fans might not be too aware of. Seeing the process of songs like the ones mentioned above has its very own magic.
Another thing was the portrayal of Freddie Mercury's sexuality. Opinions diverge on the question whether he was gay or bisexual, and while this was a huge point for criticism in other reviews, I personally like that this question was not answered completely throughout the movie - simply because Freddie never truly answered the question himself. Which one it truly was is a secret he took to his early grave. However, we still get a great portrayal of a queer character who can be read as gay or bi or something without a defining label, but definitely queer. That said - even with his AIDS infection, there is no pity porn in this movie. He is not defined by his queerness alone, he is not struggling because of his queerness alone, it is made just as much a deal of as necessary when you make a movie about Freddie Mercury, not too much, not too little. It felt very healthy that way.
Coming to speak of portrayal, I am a massive fan of the cast. Just look at this: 



They look so incredibly alike! This is one A-plus cast! I am in awe! Even if they didn't make an effort to play their roles properly, this is Queen! Big applause for this cast!

Last but not least, I have read a good portion of criticism regarding the portrayal of the bands (read: not only Freddies) excessive parties including a shitload of drugs and a shitload of sex. To be honest, I think the movie hinted towards that a good bit without showing too much, and I think that makes it more accessible for everyone to watch, so that's a good thing! The way I saw this movie, it wasn't at all swept under the carpet that these guys were no saints, it just wasn't shown too explicitly, and that's ok because not everyone wants to see that kind of things. 
To be honest, I think this movie might be worth some awards, and I really hope that it becomes a legend as well, just as Queen themselves.

3.10.18

Love Letter to the Discord Family or Why everyone should have a solid support group

On March 6th 2018 I joined the Discord server "ThistleFly" and I think this day may have changed my life a bit.
This server is Liam Dryden's server, the internet dad whose content I have enjoyed for ages. You might think, ok, that is a fan group, and in a sense, I guess that's true. But mostly, it is just an amazing community with a lot of very wholesome people taking care of each other.

When I joined this server I was in a not so good place mentally: I had only two weeks left in a job that I had quit because even though it paid me well and apparently I was good at it, it did not make me happy, and despite my efforts I hadn't found a new job yet that would at the same time secure me a living and make me be happier. And I use the word "happier" on purpose because "actually happy" was off the table, given that happiness for me still is to be found in a field where propper jobs are very rare. So I felt a bit shitty about myself and everything.

Now there were all these new people and I didn't really know anyone yet, which usually is a situation I don't do too well in, especially when I am having a rough time. Gladly, I didn't need to - because all of them were incredibly welcoming to begin with, as if we'd known each other for years.
Off to a great start, I quickly became comfortable enough to share my worries, and without second question, people would catch me. I can't really put it much differently, because this is exactly how I felt: Caught when falling. By people who didn't even know me. I felt secure with those people ever since.

Of course a big part of this is down to Liam: The rules he set up are all designed to have a respectful, friendly basis with each other, and the people he made mods are incredibly good at enforcing those rules. However, it is very rarely that they even have to bring the rules up or even kick someone - those people are just respectful and friendly to begin with.

Now I have this great bunch who have my back, who I can talk to about everything, may it be negging about stuff I am angry or sad about, may it be my period, literally everything. I can post my art there or my blogposts or selfies and there's always someone to tell me I am good and encourage me to continue what I do. There's people reminding me to hydrate, telling me that I should be asleep right now, telling me my feelings are valid and that it's ok to feel like I feel even if how I feel may not be good or happy at that point. They are taking care of me. And I am taking care of them. We keep holding each other up and I think this is beautiful.

Honestly, I have never felt so loved and seen ever in my life before. Of course, I have friends and my family and my fiance and I would not want to weigh them up against the people in the Discord. But the big difference is that due to timezones, there's always someone up, and due to the sheer number of people there's always someone who is up for the task in that moment. And that is something I truly wouldn't want to do without again ever.
Dear Discord Family, I love you so so much. Thank you for being there.