This time last year I was celebrating the end of a huge milestone in my life. I’d gotten through the most difficult summer of my life so far. I still felt like crap most of the time because I was dealing with fresh wounds from my ex, an unsupportive bio family, and the emotional aftermath of saying goodbye to my summer camp family. But even with all of that I was able to look back and feel a twinge of pride that I had made it through—despite enormous lows, recurring bouts of self-hatred, chronic self-harm and a suicide attempt. Despite struggling to make connections with my kids and utilize my support system. Despite the huge changes that were coming my way. I’d made it through and could feel myself growing stronger.
Now this year the summer is once again coming to a close and once again I find myself looking back at what I’ve accomplished. I thought nothing could be worse than last summer, but this one was—somehow it found a way. Once again I was getting over a breakup, both easier because I knew I would be okay and harder because I was saying goodbye to a beautiful healthy partnership instead of an abusive one. Once again, I had recurring bouts of self-hatred and self-harm, intense lows, and difficulties connecting with my kids. But this time I had more experience with all of that and was able to work through it in a healthier way. Even so, the tangles were harder to unwind and the emotions harder to unpack. And on top of all of this, I was going through identity crises related to my gender (or lack thereof), my name, my role in life, my ultimate goals, and my relationships with the people in my life.
And this time when I tried to kill myself it was a much more serious attempt, one that would have landed me in the hospital if the bottle had had more pills in it.
This summer I was forced to distance myself from the kids that meant the world to me. I spent as much time with them as I could, but it never seemed like enough, and the pain I felt was physical when I saw my friends acting the role that should have been mine as well.
This summer I was given a new group of kids to work with, and struggled to work with volunteers who didn’t care as much and kids so needy they cried over the slightest things when I knew something much bigger was the cause.
This summer I witnessed internalized racism when working with my students of color, and heard real-life stories from all of my minority students about what it’s like to be in high school as part of a marginalized population.
This summer my heart broke when 49 of my queer siblings died at the hands of hate.
This summer my reality was changed when I saw more and more people of color brutalized by the systems that have oppressed them for centuries.
This summer I felt keenly what it’s like to be a queer person in America, from feeling thrills of pride at my local celebration to being mocked on the Internet to questioning my very existence as a non-binary human.
This summer I connected on a deep level with another animal, my soul mate, my emotional support animal, my love.
This summer I experienced crisis counseling and prevention plans when I felt the keen and terrifying option resurfacing.
This summer I became even closer to the most important person in my life as we began our journey as roommates.
This summer I helped organize programs for my school to raise awareness for the struggles faced by queer students.
This summer I spent days alone in my apartment without even a job to look forward to, cast out in a limb by the summer camp I had depended on not only for employment but as motivation for life itself.
This summer I put myself out there as I searched desperately for a job to be rewarded with a $60 check every two weeks.
This summer I was unable to earn $12 an hour for my internship because my dad messed up my financial aid.
This summer I nailed the best interview I’d ever gotten and received word that I had been hired for an amazing job working once again with underrepresented youth.
This summer I visited my sister’s family and experienced for a week what true familial bonds should feel like.
This summer I avoided contact with my family as much as possible when the only interactions we had were upsetting and toxic.
This summer I said goodbye to my brother as he left the state for the first time on his own.
This summer I panicked when I thought I saw my ex, broke down when I saw her one social media, and finally, miraculously, was able to calmly tell her off when she attempted to contact me one last time.
This summer I celebrated her announcement that she would not be returning to my school.
This summer I showed my blog to people for the first time and made the difficult decision to put myself out there as a writer under the name I wanted.
This summer, I told people what my real name is.
It’s terrifying and it’s not over yet. In many ways I’m just getting started. I have a lot to work on from here. But I’m stronger now and I realize that. I’m going to make it through.