Seelie Saberhagan

by The Bathtub Project

Name: Seelie Saberhagan
Age: 30
Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

How often do you bathe or shower?

On really bad mental health days, I can take up to three or four showers especially in the winter. They’re also a coping mechanism when my mental health is bad. I make a big ordeal out of my baths, so those are a little less frequent. But I definitely bathe daily except for when I was grieving, in which case, I was really glad I had dry shampoo [laughter] and shower wipes. They’re amazing.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

I’ve seen a few people talk about mermaids, and I’m really big into mythology. So I like the Celtic selkies. I feel like I’ve always identified with that because they have their seal skins. And I think about how you’d neither belong with your selkie people anymore or with humans and your children and everything, especially after you find your seal skin that was holding you there in the first place. So it’s like this in-between of sadness [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

Well, shit. Okay. I wasn’t prepared for that question for some reason because I think I have like a lot of things that I’m passionate about, but transparency, I guess, is really it. Being me and letting people know who that is has actually helped a lot of people come to terms with their mental illness and their trauma and their grief and all of that. Also, pretty open about doing sex work which makes some people very uncomfortable, but those people can suck the farts directly out of my ass [laughter]. You could also say that sex is my passion. I got my degree in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies while being a sex worker.

What is something you feel accomplished with?

Damn. Honestly, even though I don’t like me, openly being me is a big thing. I feel like I got to that point because of my studies. I’ve been very passionate about sex and gender. Sex my whole life, gender once I realized, “Oh, shit. That’s me.” I’ve always liked studying, and I even got some research published before I graduated. But along with that comes mental health because I have been mentally ill since childhood, it’s like, “What is the point of keeping my struggles secret?” Because someone else is going through this. Someone else needs a guide. Someone else needs to know they’re not alone. So there are a lot of people that don’t like that. There are a lot of people who don’t like me. And my biggest passion is personal growth. I hope that I can reconcile with those people on my journey towards being a better person.

What is something you’ve been struggling with?

So on August 27th of this year, my boyfriend of almost two years -who struggled with his own mental health shit and was in therapy and all of this, he went to attack our cat – not Egg, but Lily, his cat – and I tried to fight off by hitting him with my combat boots, as you do. He came for me, choked me to unconsciousness, and then hung himself. And I know he’s dead because he thought he killed me.

It was the worst night of my life, and it has been the worst three months of my life. I’ve got all these new triggers, like new trauma who dis?

I remember watching him spiral out that day about Kyle Rittenhouse- how that guy who died trying to stop him was hailed as a hero, but Dan spiraled out because the guy had multiple domestic abuse charges and worried people would see him as a hero if he did the same. All the time, his brain was running the same shit you see on toxic feminist twitter- all men are awful, death to all cis white men, etc. So when I see that, I start to spiral out too. I wish people knew that someone is seeing those things you’re writing and internalizing it and you’re doing damage- it’s not feminist to say men should die, especially if that’s going to lead to someone else’s abuse, which it absolutely did for me.

So, what I’ve been struggling with is grief and the grieving process as somebody who has never had to face it as directly as I live in the apartment he died in. Like I’ve lost people before, but out of sight, out of mind. So with Dan dying, I’ve learned about– he had his own grief. He lost his wife at 19. And then his best friend hung himself the same way at 26. And I’m friends with the widow. But essentially, grief is something I was never prepared for even though I feel like I got a crash course while dating Dan. I had no idea what the process was like. And even though everyone says I’m handling it really, really well, as you can see, I’m not all the time. And there’s just a lot of things that I wish more people knew about what grief is really like.

What does processing grief look like to you? And what do you mean by not handling it well?

So I really love The Good Place. And I’ve been really focused from season three on where Eleanor has to reset Chidi. And at the end of the season finale, which I hope you’ve seen– okay, that whole thing about waves. That is what grief is like. It is waves. It comes in waves. And most of the time, you don’t even see the wave coming, and it just knocks you the fuck out. You would not believe the things that hit me out of nowhere that are nothing. You expect things like the way he smells, but I don’t know. I wanted to be able to go through those receipts that were in my dad’s garage that my sister threw out. I just wanted whatever I can have because I don’t get any of the ashes. I don’t have any contact with his family. They treated me really badly after all of that. And I wish a lot more people knew that about grief is that those first three weeks. I watched that Patton Oswalt stand-up after his wife died. And he talks about this numb slog, not your long journey but the numb slog. And that’s what I was in for three weeks is that I had people here. But I really wasn’t present. And so, when everyone shows up at first– I mean, that first weekend, my phone was blowing up. And I did not stay sober. So I don’t even remember half the conversations I had. But a month, two months, that’s when it really sets in. He’s fucking gone. He’s never coming back. This isn’t just a breakup. I have nowhere I can go to talk to him. He has no headstone. I had to make my own altar out in the woods that we used to walk to. And it’s nice to do things on your own terms. But I feel like I’m making up the grief process as I go. So I guess people think that I’m handling it really well because I’m doing what I think works. But it is not as easy as it seems and not everything works. And there are so many things that I wish I could talk to him about. Specifically, I remember I kind of lost my shit because I saw that Trapt was having a concert specifically for The Proud Boys. And I was like, “I want to talk to Dan about this so much.” When you grieve, and you start doing the “he is”, “he was”, it’s usually about good things. Dan was hilarious. He was so smart. But I can say he was abusive. I can say he was an alcoholic and a porn addict. But it is so hard to– at the beginning, I came face-to-face with the abuse that I had endured for the last two years. And then, after that, you get the pop-ups of good memories, not the bad stuff, the good stuff. And that is the knife in your chest. Yeah. So that’s what I’ve been suffering from. Mostly, it’s the good because the bad is the stuff that you want– it helps you get through it and makes you want to forget it. But when you don’t have anything left to remember someone by other than pictures and stuff and songs that remind you of them, it’s like you want to cling on to everything, even if it’s the last words he said to me were, “You’re going to fucking die tonight.” I still cling on to that because it’s the last thing he said.

What do you wish other people would know about grief?

Those first three weeks. Don’t bring food. Don’t message. The food will go bad. I didn’t really eat for three weeks. I just felt no hunger at any time. If I did actually have a specific craving people would show with that food. So that’s good. Wait for someone to tell you they want something. But when it comes to the bombardment of messaging, it’s like I did not need that then. I need it now. Now, my real friends or also Dan’s friends dealing with their own grief, too. So it’s like we’re all in it right now and we need those strangers sending well wishes to be here now. Because, of course, everybody knows– of course, I know you’re sorry it happened when it happened, but are you still sorry now? Because now is the time that if I’m going to get through this, I need people. I have made so many great friends as a result of this from people just wanting to be there for me and it’s been so bittersweet. It’s been so bittersweet. And the people that came back in my life– my new boyfriend lives less than a mile away and he was my middle school crush. I literally saw him on there while I was checking my old Tinder messages with Dan and we got back in touch. My high school crush conveniently separated from his wife. So we were also talking for a little bit and have been hanging out, he’s become one of my best friends now. He helped me with getting back into music and finding new ways to cope. Things that during the abuse and my depression as a result of it, I just put on my own hobbies on the side. So now, what people need to know is one month, two month in, you need to help that person find who they are again because I feel so lost. I feel like I’m drowning in lots of ways.

What is it like engaging in relationships now?


Oh, fuck. It’s always the worry that is the trauma bond. I definitely can acknowledge that the new person I’m with has his own shit to deal with. And that I’m widowed at 30. So that was on my Tinder bio and all of that and people thought it was a joke. And then people would say things like– I initially got through with some really dark humor. And I have this joke about it that like– some dude on Tinder messaged me like, “Well, why did he do it?” And I was like, “I don’t fucking know. I guess I got the wrong mustard [laughter].” And I find it fucking hilarious, but it made that dude super uncomfortable. So it’s like, “Don’t date a widow if you’re not comfortable with them talking about the person they dated. If you’re not comfortable hearing about it or with dark humor because a lot of people cope with dark humor.” Like my friend, her boyfriend’s on this local podcast. And he had mentioned that when he lost someone to suicide that dark humor is where he turned to. And that was the weekend Dan died and I was like, “Wait. I can make jokes about this?” Oh, great.” And I mean, that’s the shit that helps you get through it, but it’s ugly and it’s not something a lot of people– I was dating someone who was widowed, obviously, but he was about to be 33– it was a way long time ago. And he dealt with it with dark humor. I remember we went to a bar once and he said– because I’d fucked a bunch of people that went to this bar and I was like, “Of all the people you fucked, who’s the person you least want to see walk through those doors?” And he was like, “Well, obviously, my wife [laughter].” And I laughed and I was like, “That’s so fucking funny.” He was hilarious. But that’s the thing is if you’re going to date somebody who’s widowed, you’ve got to be ready to hear and not expect that they’re comparing you or expect that they are. But if they’re with you in the here and now– I’ve talked to Ash, his friend’s widow, about this. And, Dan, when he dated her, thought that he was being compared all the time. And he was, but he always came out on top because Noah (his best friend) also sucked.
Yeah. So here I am dating the guy I’ve been crushing on since middle school and I don’t think he thinks I’m comparing. I am, but he comes out on top because he’s not abusing me. Imagine that. There are definitely differences. Dan was definitely more socially open and knew about non-monogamy and didn’t have any problems with sex work and had this really sharp mind for politics. And my new partner has other things that he does really well that Dan didn’t, and he’s been really trying. I’ve learned more about myself as a romantic partner with him in three months than I had in the last few months in couples therapy with Dan. I’m kind of a crash course in a lot of things- trauma, grief, sexuality, gender, stuff he hasn’t been around and that he’s trying so hard to understand. And while Dan was understanding about a lot of it, many of those things factored into the abuse- he would berate me for my gender identity, tell me parts of my trauma were deserved, things my current partner would never ever say to me. And I hate comparing, but my brain does it anyways. That’s just kind of part of dating but when it comes to being with a widow, like– (cat knocks lighter into the bath tub) thanks, Yoshi. That was really nice of you. Okay. Well, I guess that is that way and it’s– oh, shit. Here we go. You’ve got to expect that and roll with it. And on top of that, you’ve got to kind of roll with the punches. I won’t deny that I had my own suicide attempt after this happened because my mental health was– that night, it was either me or Dan. I wanted to die just as much, I remember thinking “I hope he kills me” way before he attempted. We even had joked about a murder suicide pact many times, and that’s how it played out. So dating someone who has trauma and mental health issues, you’ve got to be on board for what that might mean and know how to handle it. And, yeah, grief is ugly. And a lot of people say that it helps you to write good music or good poetry and I’m like, “No. Not really. All of my shit feels cliché and stupid. I feel like someone else said everything I have to say better. And music, I’m just not there yet. I think I’m good at talking.” So actually talking about it is helpful. But a lot of people just expect me to be over it or not post about it as much or whatever. It’s not like I’m posting about an ex-boyfriend. I’m posting about someone that I wanted to spend my life with regardless of the abuse and all of that. He was healing and healing sometimes, you go through therapy and it drags out stuff you aren’t able to cope with and you become violent, especially men because they’re taught to suppress emotions, that the only emotion they get is anger. And I knew what I signed up for, and I learned so much about how the world is failing men especially men with mental health issues and trauma. I stayed because I knew that he was trying to get better but also he was trying to break up with me because he wanted to kill himself. And I stayed for that because I wasn’t going to let him do that without a fight. And I definitely fucking gave him one and I have no regrets.

How is your mental health now?

It is a hot dumpster fire. Yeah [laughter]. Yeah. I decided to try to quit smoking cigarettes this week and quit drinking, and what a week to try to do that, am I right? So instead, I cut myself, which was a bad idea. And I mean, I’m in therapy. I’ve gotten in touch with grief support groups, which is really difficult with COVID right now. They’re all doing it virtually, but it’s every two weeks or something, which is really difficult. Yeah. I mean, I’m trying, but it is an uphill battle. It is very asphyxiating and it is lots of waves. Grieving in the midst of a pandemic means a lot of time alone, isolated, without the normal resources I would turn to- I probably wouldn’t have relapsed with self harm if I had the option of a psych ward.

What would you tell somebody who is going through this?

Ask for help. I didn’t have a lot of people help me clean up first and three weeks after it happened, on my birthday, I just looked around and saw how gross my apartment had become. Some of my friends helped me clean, some helped me paint, some helped me get back into baking (which is one of my hobbies). People know what they’re good at. Tell people to do for you what they’re good at. Don’t go through it on your own. That’s what Dan did and I still don’t know how he made it past 19. He locked himself in his apartment for months until he couldn’t afford his rent. Because he lost his wife in the 2008 recession in California in LA. It must have been such a nightmare. He was unemployed since he had been her caretaker and everything and he just went through it by himself. And honestly, I would not be at all close to mentally anything if I didn’t have other people. I mean, hell is other people, but also humans are social and we’re not meant to struggle on our own. We’re meant to ask for help and to be a community. One of the blessings that came from this is that so many of my friends networked to make sure I was okay, and now they’ve found each other, and support each other in ways I never saw happening. I just wish I had thought to have that network before Dan died, maybe he’d still be here if I had created it myself and been more open about what both of us were going through instead of hiding the abuse.

Name: Seelie Saberhagan

Age: 30

Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

How often do you bathe or shower?

On really bad mental health days, I can take up to three or four showers especially in the winter. I make a big ordeal out of my baths, so those are a little less frequent. But I definitely bathe daily except for when I was grieving, in which case, I was really glad I had dry shampoo [laughter] and shower wipes. They’re amazing.

If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?

So I’ve seen a lot of people talk about mermaids, and I’m really big into mythology. So I like the Celtic selkies. I feel like I’ve always identified with that because they have their seal skins. And I think about like you neither belong with your selkie people anymore or with humans and your children and everything. So it’s like this in-between of sadness [laughter].

What are you passionate about?

Well, shit. Okay. I wasn’t prepared for that question for some reason because I think I have like a lot of things that I’m passionate about, but transparency, I guess, is really it. Being me and letting people know who that is has actually helped a lot of people come to terms with their mental illness and their trauma and their grief and all of that. Also, pretty open about doing sex work which makes some people very uncomfortable, but those people can suck the farts directly out of my ass [laughter].

What is something you feel accomplished with?

Damn. Honestly, even though I don’t like me, openly being me is a big thing. I feel like I got to that point because I got my degree in gender and sexuality studies. So I’ve been very passionate about sex and gender. Sex my whole life, gender once I realized, “Oh, shit. That’s me.” But along with that, it’s like, “What is the point of keeping my struggles secret?” Because someone else is going through this. Someone else needs a guide. Someone else needs to know they’re not alone. So there are a lot of people that don’t like that. There are a lot of people who don’t like me. And my biggest passion is personal growth.

What is something you’ve been struggling with?

So on August 27th of this year, my boyfriend of almost two years who struggled with his own mental health shit and was in therapy and all of this, he went to attack our cat – not Egg, but Lily, his cat – and I tried to fight off by hitting him with my combat boots as you do. He came for me, choked me to unconsciousness, and then hung himself. And it was the worst night of my life, and it has been the worst three months of my life. So, what I’ve been struggling with is grief and the grieving process as somebody who has never had to face it as directly as I live in the apartment he died in. Like I’ve lost people before, but out of sight, out of mind. So with Dan dying, I’ve learned about– he had his own grief. He lost his wife at 19. And then his best friend hung himself the same way at 26. And I’m friends with the widow. But essentially, grief is something I was never prepared for even though I feel like I got a crash course while dating Dan. I had no idea what the process was like. And even though everyone says I’m handling it really, really well, as you can see, I’m not all the time. And there’s just a lot of things that I wish more people knew about what grief is really like.

What does processing grief look like to you? And what do you mean by not handling it well?

So I really love The Good Place. Actually, they have a good place there, too. They will show you a Cincinnati. It’s the medium place. Yeah, it’s great stuff. And I’ve been really focused from season three on where Eleanor has to reset Chidi. And at the end of the season finale, which I hope you’ve seen– okay, that whole thing about waves. That is what grief is like. It is waves. It comes in waves. And most of the time, you don’t even see the wave coming, and it just knocks you the fuck out. You would not believe the things that hit me out of nowhere that are nothing. You expect things like the way he smells, but I don’t know. I wanted to be able to go through those receipts that were in my dad’s garage that my sister threw out. I just wanted whatever I can have because I don’t get any of the ashes. I don’t have any contact with his family. They treated me really badly after all of that. And I wish a lot more people knew that about grief is that those first three weeks. I watched that Patton Oswalt stand-up after his wife died. And he talks about this numb slog, not your long journey but the numb slog. And that’s what I was in for three weeks is that I had people here. But I really wasn’t present. And so, when everyone shows up at first– I mean, that first weekend, my phone was blowing up. And I did not stay sober. So I don’t even remember half the conversations I had. But a month, two months, that’s when it really sets in. He’s fucking gone. He’s never coming back. This isn’t just a breakup. I have nowhere I can go to talk to him. He has no headstone. I had to make my own altar out in the woods that we used to walk to. And it’s nice to do things on your own terms. But I feel like I’m making up the grief process as I go. So I guess people think that I’m handling it really well because I’m doing what I think works. But it is not as easy as it seems. And there are so many things that I wish I could talk to him about. Specifically, I remember I kind of lost my shit because I saw that Trapt was having a concert specifically for The Proud Boys. And I was like, “I want to talk to Dan about this so much.” When you grieve, and you start doing the “he is”, “he was”, it’s usually about good things. Dan was hilarious. He was so smart. But I can say he was abusive. I can say he was an alcoholic and a porn addict. But it is so hard to– at the beginning, I came face-to-face with the abuse that I had endured for the last two years. And then, after that, you get the pop-ups of good memories, not the bad stuff, the good stuff. And that is the knife in your chest. Yeah. So that’s what I’ve been suffering from. Mostly, it’s the good because the bad is the stuff that you want– it helps you get through it and makes you want to forget it. But when you don’t have anything left to remember someone by other than pictures and stuff and songs that remind you of them, it’s like you want to cling on to everything, even if it’s the last words he said to me were, “You’re going to fucking die tonight.” I still cling on to that because it’s the last thing he said.

What do you wish other people would know about grief?

Those first three weeks. Don’t bring food. Don’t message. The food will go bad. I didn’t really eat for three weeks. I just felt no hunger at any time. If I did actually have a specific craving people would show with that food. So that’s good. Wait for someone to tell you they want something. But when it comes to the bombardment of messaging, it’s like I did not need that then. I need it now. Now, my real friends or also Dan’s friends dealing with their own grief, too. So it’s like we’re all in it right now and we need those strangers sending well wishes to be here now. Because, of course, everybody knows– of course, I know you’re sorry it happened when it happened, but are you still sorry now? Because now is the time that if I’m going to get through this, I need people. I have made so many great friends as a result of this from people just wanting to be there for me and it’s been so bittersweet. It’s been so bittersweet. And the people that came back in my life– my new boyfriend lives less than a mile away and he was my middle school crush. I literally saw him on there while I was checking my old Tinder messages with Dan and we got back in touch. My high school crush conveniently separated from his wife. So we were also talking for a little bit and have been hanging out. And getting back into music and finding new ways to cope. Things that during the abuse and my depression as a result of it, I just put on my own hobbies on the side. So now, what people need to know is one month, two month in, you need to help that person find who they are again because I feel so lost. I feel like I’m drowning in lots of ways.

What is it like engaging in relationships now?

Oh, fuck. It’s always the worry that is the trauma bond. I definitely can acknowledge that the new person I’m with has his own shit to deal with. And that I’m widowed at 30. So that was on my Tinder bio and all of that and people thought it was a joke. And then people would say things like– I initially got through with some really dark humor. And I have this joke about it that like– some dude on Tinder messaged me like, “Well, why did he do it?” And I was like, “I don’t fucking know. I guess I got the wrong mustard [laughter].” And I find it fucking hilarious, but it made that dude super uncomfortable. So it’s like, “Don’t date a widow if you’re not comfortable with them talking about the person they dated. If you’re not comfortable hearing about it or with dark humor because a lot of people cope with dark humor.” Like my friend, her boyfriend’s on the Bastard Sermon podcast. It’s a local thing. And he had mentioned that when he lost someone to suicide that dark humor is where he turned to. And that was the weekend Dan died and I was like, “Wait. I can make jokes about this?” Oh, great.” And I mean, that’s the shit that helps you get through it, but it’s ugly and it’s not something a lot of people– I was dating someone who was widowed, obviously, but he was about to be 33– it was a way long time ago. And he dealt with it with dark humor. I remember we went to a bar once and he said– because I’d fucked a bunch of people that went to this bar and I was like, “Of all the people you fucked, who’s the person you least want to see walk through those doors?” And he was like, “Well, obviously, my wife [laughter].” And I laughed and I was like, “That’s so fucking funny.” He was hilarious. But that’s the thing is if you’re going to date somebody who’s widowed, you’ve got to be ready to hear and not expect that they’re comparing you or expect that they are. But if they’re with you in the here and now– I’ve talked to Ash, his friend’s widow, about this. And, Dan, when he dated her, thought that he was being compared all the time. And he was, but he always came out on top because Noah also sucked.

Yeah. So here I am dating Preston and I don’t think he thinks I’m comparing. I am, but he comes out on top because he’s not abusing me. Imagine that. There are definitely differences. Dan was definitely more socially open and knew about non-monogamy and didn’t have any problems with sex work and had this really sharp mind for politics. And Preston has other things that he does really well that Dan didn’t. That’s just kind of part of dating but when it comes to being with a widow, like– thanks, Yoshi. That was really nice of you. Okay. Well, I guess that is that way and it’s– oh, shit. Here we go. You got to expect that and roll with it. And on top of that, you got to kind of roll with the punches. I won’t deny that I had my own suicide attempt after this happened because my mental health was– that night, it was either me or Dan. I wanted to die just as much. So dating someone who has trauma and mental health issues, you got to be on board for what that might mean and know how to handle it. And, yeah, grief is ugly. And a lot of people say that it helps you to write good music or good poetry and I’m like, “No. Not really. All of my shit feels cliché and stupid. I feel like someone else said everything I have to say better. And music, I think I’m good at talking.” So actually talking about it is helpful. But a lot of people just expect me to be over it or not post about it as much or whatever. It’s not like I’m posting about an ex-boyfriend. I’m posting about someone that I wanted to spend my life with regardless of everything. He was healing and healing sometimes, you go through therapy and it drags out too much shit and you become violent. And I knew what I signed up for. I stayed because I knew that he was trying to– he was trying to break up with me because he wants to kill himself. And I stayed for that because I wasn’t going to let him do that without a fight. And I definitely fucking did and I have no regrets.

How is your mental health now?

It is a hot dumpster fire. Yeah [laughter]. Yeah. I decided to try to quit smoking cigarettes this week and quit drinking, and what a week to try to do that, am I right? So instead, I cut myself, which was a bad idea. And I mean, I’m in therapy. I’ve gotten in touch with great support groups, which is really difficult with COVID right now. They’re all doing it virtually, but it’s every two weeks or something, which is really difficult. Yeah. I mean, I’m trying, but it is an uphill battle. It is very asphyxiating and it is lots of waves.

What would you tell somebody who is going through this? Like is at the start of it.

Ask for help. I didn’t have a lot of people help me clean up first or whatever. People know what they’re good at. Tell people to do for you what they’re good at. Don’t go through it on your own. That’s what Dan did. He locked himself in his apartment for months until he couldn’t afford his rent. Because he lost his wife in the 2008 in California in LA. It was just a nightmare. He was unemployed and everything and he just went through it by himself. And honestly, I would not be at all close to mentally anything if I didn’t have other people. I mean, hell is other people, but also humans are social and we’re not meant to struggle on our own. We’re meant to ask for help and to be a community.