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It Didn’t Kill Me And Now I’m Stronger

First, I want to thank everyone who read my last blog. I got zero troll remarks, despite being my most read blog, and nothing but support and some people brave enough to share their own stories with me. It was such a positive outcome from something that took a lot of guts for me to share, that I could not start a new blog without saying Thank you!

For those wondering what is on the other side of sharing such a story and overcoming the emotional baggage that came with it, I’m figuring that out. I’m not the person I was before the rape and I’m not the person I was for the last 13 years, nor am I so completely different that I am unrecognizable to myself. I’m stronger and more resilient to adversity than I’ve been in the past, but I can still get knocked off my feet and sent into a depression given the right circumstances. However, I can get back on my feet faster and I know I can because I faced my rape and got through that, so what’s a little depression and anxiety going to do to me that I can’t overcome?

Keeping a positivity journal has helped too. When I recognize an accomplishment or a talent or even just positive things that are happening, I write it down in my journal. This journal is kept separately from my journal where I process my thoughts, good or bad, so that when I’m in a depression or anxiety funk, I can focus on the positives that I know I believed about myself when I was in a better place mentally.

I’ve also started taking Krav Maga, which is an intense Israeli form of self defense. I am gaining a lot from that class. Not just knowing how to defend myself, but the fitness benefit and the self-confidence from seeing my improvements as I work at it are amazing self-esteem boosters. I’ve even become a little bit of a work-out-a-holic which is very different from who I’ve been for the last 13 years and different from before the rape because my focus is on strength and fitness, not weight loss (though weight loss is a benefit I’m enjoying) meaning I’m measuring my success in how much more I can do physically, not by the numbers on the scale.

But I still enjoy some of the relaxations I always have. I can still binge-watch my favorite shows for a day (though, admittedly, now, I find myself needing to exercise while I watch for at least part of it), I still love to read (currently reading Paula Poundstone’s The Totally Unscientific Study of The Search for Human Happiness and I highly recommend it), I still love to paint (I just finished my second painting in the Pussies For Peace series- see below), and I still love to sing karaoke (though, I might need to find new songs as I don’t seem to have the intense anger/sadness emotions that used to fuel my singing and I’m happy about that). I still love to cuddle with my cats and work in my garden.FullSizeRender

Some newer things that I find relaxing are fixing my bike and going for bike rides, and organizing. My whole apartment recently got organized to the point where my plastic bags are even color-coordinated and my electronic cords are labeled and organized…. even my purses and clothing have an organizational system. I was never an organized person before. I remember being a child and having my room such a mess that I had a path from the door to the bed and the rest of my room was a wall of clothes and stuff. It was a huge project to clean! Now I’m finding peace in having everything have its place and I’m not holding onto junk.

I will also never change from the person who takes pride in being a little abnormal, as you can tell from my featured image for this blog. The picture was taken about 2 years ago at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Everyone else I saw taking pics with that tiger statue pretended to be friends with the tiger and getting hugged by it, I saw an opportunity to be a realist and show what a tiger would actually do to me if I came across one. But those little things that make people think I’m weird still fill me with a lot more joy than fitting in or acting “normal” ever will.

How a person changes after dealing with a big event like this will be different for everyone, but one thing I seem to see in every rape survivor who has made this big step is the sense of empowerment, of taking back control of their lives. For me, that is the most important change. It’s not becoming the person I was before the rape, because the person I was didn’t know I needed to be empowered, and the person I was after was too afraid to face the event to get to that place of empowerment. The new me embraces the empowerment as though it’s some form of protection. It’s not to say I won’t get hurt, but I’ll be able to come back through any hurt I get stronger than I was before. I used to hate that song/saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” because, when you’re depressed or drowning in anxieties, there are definitely thoughts that make you weaker but don’t necessarily kill you. They bring a lack of hope that you’ll ever get a break from fighting against the waves of emotions. But the empowerment helps create a life-vest so occasionally you don’t have to fight the waves of emotion because you’re just floating above them. And not to discount the role my medication has played in this transformation, the medication has acted as a life boat too. Without it, I might not have gotten to this point, but with it, I dove head-first into dealing with this issue that has been eating me up for 13 years and came out stronger and tougher. I hope if any of you reading this have things you need to deal with, you’ll feel inspired by my example and not be afraid to seek medicinal and therapeutic help and dive head first into it. If done with the proper life-supports (medicine and a good, licensed psychologist), it won’t kill you and you won’t lose yourself, it will only make you stronger.

Rape Doesn’t Require Bruises: Ending the Silence

Thanks to a mix of societal stigmas, shame and the normal responses to Rape Trauma, I did not tell anyone my story for a long time. Finally, I was unable to ignore my story and I had to deal with it. Dealing with it sucks, but thankfully I’ve come to a more positive place and have moved on. Part of moving on, for me, is to share my story. I’m hoping this type of thing never happens to any of you, but if it does, I want to tell you, there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING you could have done to prevent it. You are bound to make a few bad decisions or even just ill-advised decisions, especially in your youth, and most of the time, the consequences of those are minimal; a bad hangover, having to endure a boring date with no escape plan, maybe even some bumps and bruises from an activity that starts with “Hey guys, watch this!”. These consequences fit the crime. Rape is NEVER a deserved consequence for making a poor choice. Rape is always the fault of the rapist that, unfortunately, the victim suffers for.

I had been on many dates since I turned 20, all very casual, some more memorable than others, none were sexual beyond kissing yet. I had hoped to save that moment for someone special. I thought I was being smart about my dates. I found my dates online, so I insisted on going to public places for the first date. Dinner, movies, the arcade were all normal public places where I could get an idea of the guy’s character before trusting them to more. Up until that night, all the guys I had judged to be “safe” were. I had been over to countless dates houses and they had been to mine and we mostly just talked, listened to music, watched TV and, if the date was really going well, we’d kiss. But that was as far as I was ready to go and not a single one of those guys pushed the issue. I’ll never know if I was right in declining further contact with guys I judged as “unsafe” beyond the original public setting. I’m telling you this first because I want you to know, there are good men out there, and I want you to know that if you are one of those good men, and a woman doesn’t trust you, it may not be you, it may be due to the man who should have been good and safe but wasn’t. It’s not as easy to tell the difference as you might think. I’m sure I made a few misjudgments about guys I thought were “unsafe” after only the first meeting, and I would hope they would understand the consequences to me would be greater for making the wrong judgement on “safe” than to misjudge them as “unsafe”.

In February of 2004, a little after Valentine’s Day, I met a nice-sounding guy named Dave on the internet. I don’t even remember which sites were used back in those days, but he was a local college student who was studying pre-law. He was slightly older than I was but was funny, so I set up a date at a local restaurant that my friends frequented, which gave me a safe place to meet him in person and judge his character. He did all the things I expect a nice guy to do. He paid for the dinner (even though I had offered to pay half, because I always expect I might have to), he had good southern-boy manners saying “please” and “thank you” automatically, and he also had quite the sense of humor and told a bunch of stories that got me laughing. We decided to go to the movies next, I don’t remember which movie, or really anything about it, but we watched in silence, sharing a drink and holding hands only. After the movie, I sat with him in his car and we talked. It was getting late and most public places were closed but we were having a good time and I was enjoying his funny stories. I remember being excited about the possibility of a second date with him. We kissed at one point, and then went back to talking. He asked me if I wanted to go back to his place. I was a virgin still and I told him very clearly that I didn’t want to go further than kissing. His response seemed so genuine when he told me that all he was thinking was that his couch would be a more comfortable place to sit and talk and maybe kiss, that I really did believe him. So much so, I got lost in listening to more stories from him and didn’t pay attention to how to get to his house. I trusted that I wouldn’t need anyone else to get me home. His trailer was not near other housing, but this was the rural south so even that didn’t seem alarming enough to me to pay attention.

I feel the need, at this point, to put a trigger warning. If you are triggered by descriptions of sexual assault, please note that this next part describes in detail, my rape. But I think it is important to discuss what happened because this is a type of rape that often goes unreported, unnoticed by the media but it is, unfortunately, very common.

We went inside and sat on his couch and talked some more, just as he promised. I don’t remember how long that went before we started kissing, which still fell within his promise. Then, he went to reach his hand under my shirt. I made a move to push his hand away and said “no” but he brushed my hand away and kept going telling me “it’s okay”. Each progression further, I kept saying “no”, he kept ignoring me and continuing and telling me “it’s okay”. I know what you’re thinking, because I questioned myself for years why I didn’t do more, why didn’t I fight back? But this was in the days before cell phones had GPS to tell people where I was, so if I had fought and gotten away, how would I escape completely? We were too far from other housing for me to get to someone else safely, and I had just been shown that this guy I thought was charming and trustworthy and a nice, southern gentleman, was not, I couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t fight back harder and hurt me. Near the end, I quit saying anything. Most people are aware of fight or flight responses, but in listening to many other rape survivor stories, there is one response your body can make for you in high stress that you can’t control, and that is “freeze”. I was basically frozen as he continued, feeling powerless to do anything, even verbally protest anymore. He had removed all my clothing, had kissed and fondled my body without my permission. So just before he penetrated me, he seemed to realize I had stopped saying “no” and asked me if I was ok with going forward. I knew it was going to happen no matter what I said, because so much had already happened without my permission, so I tried to take control of the situation or at least feel less like a victim by saying “yes”. That one word made me feel at fault for years. I succeeded in not feeling like his victim, but I felt like a victim of myself and my poor choices. I wasn’t, he had already raped me before the penetration, that was just the final act, but that’s the danger of the silence about rapes like this, is that women in my position think they are at fault and can’t really call it “rape”, when, in fact, it clearly was rape. After he finished, he asked me to shower and watched me shower, making sure I washed away his sperm. At the time I thought he was just worried because he hadn’t used a condom and he thought washing would help keep me from getting pregnant rather than the fact that he knew a rape kit could not be performed after I showered. I knew more about sexual health than to think showering could prevent pregnancy, but I also knew anything I could do to lessen the pregnancy risk should be done, and so I complied willingly at this point. I worried for the next month about pregnancy and the next several years before I got tested about STDs, but I never told anyone what happened. I felt it was my fault. He called me a week later to tell me he still hadn’t washed his bed sheets, and I thought it was disgusting and yet, was further proof that he didn’t understand I didn’t want it, but I now know he knew all along, and it was just one more mind-game to tell me he knew he had gotten away with it. It was the last I ever heard from him.

What I want you to take away from this is that this was indeed rape. Despite this guy being a “nice guy” in the eyes of others, despite the fact that he was well-mannered and had a respectable major and not the typical guy you might associate with being a rapist. He was. I also want you to note, I had no bruises, no “proof” of rape. If I had done a rape kit, he had made sure it would come back negative by having me shower. I made some less-than-ideal decisions, I was not perfect. But I said “no” and that was enough to make this a rape. Bruises, making only perfect decisions before, during or after the event, fighting back physically, trying to run, or even the flawed court systems validating that you were indeed raped are not prerequisites for being able to call an experience rape. The only prerequisite is that you did not consent to the act. Consent needs to be clearly given and can be taken away at any point and the opposite party needs to respect when it is not given. No one is owed access to your body besides you. If an act is not consensual, it is rape. It is that plain and simple.

I’d like to talk about what consent is too, because as much as the potential victims need to know their rights, the potential perpetrators need to be informed of which things they might have thought counted as consent but didn’t. Because preventing rape really should start with addressing the parts of our society that normalize rape. Drunk or high people cannot consent, sleeping people can not consent, if consent was given once, it does not give you consent indefinitely. When in doubt, assume you do not have consent and ask for it to be clearly given. Do not get upset if consent is not given. You have no rights over anyone else’s body. I invite you to watch this video where they replace “sex” with “tea” to help show the absurdity of some of what people consider consent or have used in courts to justify rape as a simple “misunderstanding”.

For the potential victims, I know you have heard the message to learn self defense to protect yourself. While I think self defense is a good idea to learn, it’s not a guarantee you will never be a victim. It will, however, give you more confidence and I am behind self-defense instruction for confidence-building all the way. Even if I had known how to fight, and fought off my rapist, I had no safe place to go to when I got away, and fighting back can lead to more injuries from your attacker, or worst case, death. Still, I am for learning how to fight in self-defense because sometimes you will have a safe place to get to and it is worth it, and sometimes it just makes you feel more confident to have another option when some horrible excuse for a human being does not respect your rights over your body. Know that NOTHING you do or don’t do is “asking” for being raped, because rape is not a consequence anyone deserves.

I hope you don’t try to make all the “right” decisions regarding your own body in life. Sometimes you’ll screw up and drink too much, or get high, or injure yourself doing a stupid stunt. Sometimes you’ll forget to study for an exam and get a low grade or you’ll wear a fashion faux-pas or sing loudly in public off key. Life is full of bad decisions. The only bad decisions I want you to avoid are those involving other people’s bodies. It’s not ok to slip drugs into other people’s drinks or force alcohol down their throats. It’s not ok to injure other people (except, maybe, in self-defense) and it is certainly not ok to force anyone to give you access to their body. You only have the right to your body and, likewise, no one else has the right to your body.

If there is one more piece of wisdom I could impart on you, it is not to stay silent. Silence is how my rapist got away with it, because, despite it being a common issue in my college, no one had even mentioned that rape could be something other than fighting back or being unconscious or tied down, so I didn’t know I had the right to call it rape for years. Silence is why I blamed myself for so long. As soon as I opened up, everyone I told was able to tell me how clear it was that it was not my fault. Silence is why rapists may not even see themselves as rapists. In today’s society, they may not understand consent correctly, or they may feel like it was a mere “misunderstanding”, but rape, as I’ve said, only requires that clear consent was not given and one party felt the deed was non-consensual. Do not stay silent. Speak out. Tell your story, if you are unfortunate enough to have one. If you are fortunate to not have a story, don’t stay silent about the meaning of consent and how the lack of it equals rape. The more the message gets out there, the more rapists will be held accountable for their actions, and that is how we can prevent rape.

P.S. For those who have been following my blog, dealing with this is the emotional shit storm I referred to in my last post. I’m happy to say that medication along with therapy and some hard work on my part allowed me to get to this place of empowerment where I can share my story and not feel overwhelmed by emotions. Getting to this place of empowerment does require going through an emotional shit-storm, so if you are a fellow rape survivor, I recommend seeking counseling and possibly having medication prescribed during your journey through the emotions into a place of empowerment. It will help reduce your healing time significantly.

Some resources for helping if you are a fellow rape survivor:

Sexual Assault Resources

Resource For Male Victims

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Hotline
1-800-656-HOPE  |  www.rainn.org

Planned Parenthood
1-800-230-7526  | www.plannedparenthood.org

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 |  www.thehotline.org

I’m On An SNRI and I’m Proud of It

I decided to write this blog because there is still a huge stigma around taking medications for anxiety and depression and even more so if you go to someone who actually knows all the options of those meds (a Psychiatrist) as opposed to a general practice Doctor. People think therapy is enough, and it may be, at first or it may be for you, and if so, you’re one of the lucky ones whose brain chemistry is only slightly off and can fix it through behavioral changes only. Others think the “all-natural” approach is better. I’m all for all-natural when I know it works, like Valerian Root in my sleepy time tea to help me sleep, or when I know it won’t hurt to take it, like arnica for bruising. But I would never take an all-natural treatment in place of something like an antibiotic. If for some reason, the bacteria had not already evolved to resist the effects, the treatments are inconsistently dosed and would eventually cause resistant strains. I am science-minded and I like to know that when I really need a medication it’s going to work and has been backed by science.

For me, I tried to go med-free for a long time. I had troubles finding a medication that worked and the one medication that seemed to make a difference, also caused me to vomit and sweat profusely, which is not too effective at giving anyone a normal life. There were some meds that didn’t work at all and others that caused me to be worse. And I’m sure anyone reading this who is resistant to trying medications for their mental health is thinking “See, meds are bad” but please, keep reading. I stopped trying and tried to just go the therapy route to little avail. I would have a few upswings, but for the most part I was struggling in a daily fight with a brain that wanted to hurt me and I knew I didn’t have the energy to fight it forever. Finally, my current psychologist encouraged me to see a psychiatrist friend of hers and just talk to her about my issues with medications. She listened and knew much more than my primary care doctor about all the medications available and what the main side-effects were and methods of action. She knew that the med that would have worked had it not made me sick was an SNRI as opposed to an SSRI (Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor as opposed to a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) and that there was a newer form of an SNRI that was gentler on the stomach and she thought it might work. Just to be safe, we started me out on the lowest dose and very gradually increased to the highest dose available. The highest dose would have been enough if I hadn’t been hit with, what I can best describe at the moment as a big bag of emotional shit. That will be another blog someday. But for the purposes of this blog, I needed something more than the max dose of the only medication I ever had success with and I was frightened that I’d be back at square one, but my psychiatrist knew of several drugs that can work together with my current medication to boost the effects safely and picked a low dose of an anti-psychotic used to boost the effects of anti-depressants. I’m impressed at how well it worked! I still go to therapy, because the best program is a mix of learning good coping skills while having your brain chemistry better balanced through medication. The work in therapy is so much more effective now that I have medications helping me. I’m finally becoming more confident and I made huge strides in trudging through the emotional shit storm I got hit with and I couldn’t have done any of that without the help of a healthy brain chemistry.

So if you are suffering from mental illness or you know someone who is, please don’t discount the effectiveness of medication and of seeing a specialist just because the word “psychiatrist” scares most people away (a stigma that really needs to go away). Mental illness is just that, an illness, and most cases do require a certain amount of medical intervention to successfully lead a good life. I know some people have tried every medication out there to no avail, but more and more medications become available each year and hopefully one of those will help. Don’t give up.

If you are on a medication that is successfully treating your mental illness, be proud of it. Help end the stigma by telling your story of how it worked for you. I’m on an SNRI and a low-dose anti-psychotic and I’m proud of it! My brain finally isn’t constantly trying to hurt me so I have more energy for living a real life.

 

Happy Birthday Na’niel

In celebration of my brother’s birthday, May 7th has become a day dedicated to doing at least one random act of kindness. Not to say I don’t try to do these year round, but I dedicate any random act of kindness I do today to my brother. He died a little over 12 years ago so material gifts, cards or phone calls, which are the usual way adult siblings celebrate each other’s birthdays, are out. But I enjoy the idea of trying to make the world a better place in his name as a gift that his spirit/the spirit of his memory could enjoy.

Not to take back the sentiments I spoke of in my last blog post, Nathaniel, wasn’t perfect. But, as I enjoy donating to charities in the name of my living loved ones for their birthdays and special events too (being careful to pick something important to them), it seems a fitting gift.

 

Not only that, but I enjoy the idea of having others “pitch-in” on his gift. Even if you didn’t know him, do a random act of kindness in his name. Even if you happen to read this blog after May 7th has passed (I am writing it in the evening after all), you can still do a random act in his name as a belated-birthday gift. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be as small as helping someone load their groceries in their car, or calling someone who might need a friendly ear to listen or reaching out to a friend in need, or even picking up litter or paying for someone’s laundry at the laundromat, or buying a coffee for the person behind you. All of these seemingly small acts can make the world a better and brighter place by spreading a sense of community and love. So even if you didn’t know my brother, please feel free to help me make his birthday gift extra special by doing a random act of kindness in his name.

If you need more ideas about what you can do, I recommend checking out Random Acts Of Kindness’ web page. I especially love it because Misha Collin’s (the founder) weirdness, humor and wit remind me a lot of Nathaniel.

So Happy Birthday Na’niel! Here’s to more people giving you gifts this year!

Nathaniel outside at trailer parkSide Note: If you might be interested in a week of random acts of kindness and weirdness in the beginning of August, you should also check out GISHWHES, which supports Random Acts of Kindness. If you’re looking for a laid back team or one to just get your feet wet, let me know, as I started a team this year just for that purpose! Bonus, you don’t have to be in the same city, state, country or continent as the rest of your teammates (in fact, having teammates across the country and the world is beneficial!). Just comment on here (or email me if you know me) that you’d like to join my team and I can get you the information you need to join my team. There are many teams at various levels of competitiveness that you can join as well, but if you aren’t prepared to have a week of zero sleep and all GISHWHES, you should consider a laid back team like mine. You can also let the Gishbot form your team, which is what I did in all previous years and was happy with my teammates each time, but, inevitably, gishbot teams have several members who are MIA, which makes the team-effort items harder to do.

 

The Deadly Sin of Perfection

Recently I’ve heard a lot about why we should not remember our loved ones as perfect people. My mom had a conversation with me recently about this regarding my brother, Nathaniel, who died 12 years ago. Then, I was listening to a podcast called “Terrible, Thanks For Asking” and the discussion was about 2 mothers who lost their husbands when their children were very young and the dangers of remembering only the good when telling their children about their fathers. Last Sunday I went to my grandparents’ church (and managed not to burst into flames) to celebrate my paternal grandfather turning 95 years old and the sermon was about the people who were not disciples who did the right thing because they were human and the disciples who did the wrong thing because they were human, because being human means you will sometimes do a little wrong and a little right. Even with living people, we judge ourselves based on what others share with us of their lives and often what is being shared is only the good/brag-able moments.

You may be thinking, what’s wrong with only seeing and remembering the good in others. If you are, I’m jealous of you. I can’t speak to the minds of people who have never suffered self-esteem issues or depression or anxiety, but, now that I know I’m not alone in this struggle to try to live up to unrealistic standards set by only seeing the good others do, I feel obligated to speak out.

I’m not saying we should speak ill of people in order to make ourselves better, that’s just as bad. But, remembering that everyone makes mistakes, struggles, and that someone who was really great in one area you struggle in may have been horrible in an area you don’t even have to try to be good at, can help break the stigma of not being perfect or happy or financially successful or whatever other measure of success we feel burdened by in society.

For example, we can talk about my brother, Nathaniel. He was a great environmentalist and volunteered for many great causes. He went to Guatemala when he was 16 to learn Spanish and had planned to join a Habitat for Humanity Project while he was down there. The Habitat for Humanity Project was cancelled so, instead of just taking the time to enjoy hiking and site-seeing, he helped a town update their garbage disposal system by making separate holes to put their garbage in. One was for compost and the other was for everything else. He then taught them how to separate the waste and how to use the compost. He also used to help people register to vote and offer rides to the polls on election days. He helped start a community garden in Vermont, he built his own kayak and he was a very talented and smart environmental engineer. These are the things we are expected to remember about our loved ones, but as time goes on, if this is all I remember, he becomes like a misty, hazy memory of some unreal idol that I have no hope of being as good as. The other things I remember about him that help make him more real to me were his really horrible puns, and how much pleasure he took in telling them (a flaw we both share), and how much he used to tease me and always knew how to upset me most (I’m not exactly innocent in the sibling rivalry department either, but I mostly just annoyed him being the younger one). He was a bit overly-competitive which made him do stupid things like drink an entire bottle of tobasco sauce for a mere dollar or hold hot coal in his hand for longer than his friends could just to win. He drove way too fast and I still remember riding with him in an old Volkswagen Fox whose speedometer maxed out at 120mph and we were on back roads in New Hampshire at night in the rain and I looked over to see the speedometer needle shaking at 120mph as he whipped the car around corners. If you wanted to get somewhere quickly, he was the one to put behind the wheel, if you wanted to get there safely, maybe let someone else drive. He was a bit of a show off, but, of course, having been his little sister who both hated and idolized him growing up, I could tell it was partly because he didn’t really have much self confidence of his own, he had to have other people validate his successes for him to feel confident. I am similar to him in his need for validation, but thanks to my anxiety, I’m less likely to put myself out there to be validated. It’s not like I need to remember that one time when he was 10 and thought he could become a millionaire by mowing lawns to feel better about myself, it’s just nice to remember him as a whole person, screw-ups, imperfections and all. It means if he could do so many wonderful and great things, despite not being perfect, then I can do great things too. And also, I miss his imperfections just as much as his great deeds because that’s what made him who he was.

Again, this does not just apply to those who have passed on. With social media, it’s easy for us to share just our finest moments. “I got promoted”, “look at this beautiful piece of artwork I made”, “Doesn’t my garden look beautiful?”, “look at this great meal I made my family”, “My child is student of the month!” etc. What you are missing is that that promotion took struggling through years of anguish to find the right path and right job before finally being in a company who appreciates your strengths, or the artwork was made in a fit of depression and the picture was taken after moving all the evidence of bad house-keeping out of the way so as not to expose that this artwork was your only achievement through your struggle with mental illness this month, or that the garden was an escape from all the anxieties that have been building up at work or in your personal life and it only looks so beautiful because you were needing that escape so much lately, or the great meal you made was the one fancy meal a week (or month) because you feel bad that you feed your family pretty much the same boring/easy-to-make meals every other day (side-note, benefit to living alone is I make my meals only for myself, so if I get fancy, it’s because I was craving something new, otherwise, I’m perfectly fine with eating pretty much the same thing every day for a month). You don’t see that the child that made student of the month struggles with common sense things like not running across the road or remembering to tie their shoe. The point is, everyone has their imperfections, but we only show what we are proud of. I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to start showing off some of our imperfections. When I hear friends and family tell me their imperfections, I feel closer to them because I already know I’m not perfect and I already know they are amazing (because, unless you’re an ass, you notice the good in your loved ones easily) and knowing we are more alike means that I can be amazing too!

If you are interested in the podcast, Terrible, Thanks For Asking, here is the link (both iTunes and RSS)

You might also like The Hilarious World of Depression

 

And if you want to hear about a wonderful with depression who airs her imperfections and gets lots of love for it, I recommend The Bloggess’s Blog and her Books: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Furiously Happy and her coloring book You Are Here.

 

 

 

It’s Time For A Third Party Revolution

I haven’t been writing for awhile because the number of causes I feel need our urgent support to counteract the current administration is getting so overwhelmingly large that it causes me anxiety to see how much our country is being ruined by our government. It gives me hope that Trump’s current approval ratings are 35%, though the DNC’s ratings are not much better. Because of these dismal approval ratings, this might be the push we need to move our country away from a 2-party system and elect a true-moderate independent with support on common ground issues from both sides.

This is the time for 3rd party candidates to come out, especially in traditionally swing states and districts, for the mid-term elections. I don’t expect a 3rd party to necessarily take over in traditionally democratic states, as the democrats are seen as strongly opposing the current administration and that is enough to keep approval from the democrats and a 3rd party opponent might have troubles breaking through that, but in swing states and Republican states, I can imagine there are people who are angry with the Republican party supporting the rich and leaving the middle class and poor worse off than before but not quite ready to vote for a Democrat. These are the states that would most benefit from a 3rd party take-over and I hope to see candidates who, instead of focusing on hatred of diversity, focus on real issues. Candidates who can see how job creation cannot be at the cost of environmental protection but still needs to be a priority, that the Affordable Healthcare Act isn’t perfect and needs to be changed rather than disposed of (or maybe, embrace Universal HealthCare, but that’s the idealist in me). I want candidates who want to make America a leader in Science and Technology while also supporting agriculture and food-safety. I want candidates who realize that the answers to our problems as a country aren’t as simple as a one-lined campaign slogan, but are able to design and articulate comprehensive solutions to our problems. And one issue both sides agree on, is those making the rules should have to get minimum wage and whatever healthcare options offered to the American people. Imagine how quickly things would change!

There is no doubt in my mind that politics as we have known it, need to change. But the only thing we can do right now, unless you are ambitious enough to run as a 3rd party candidate in a Red or Swing state or district, is to ensure that you are registered to vote, and encourage others to get registered. Do your research now on possible 3rd party candidates for the next election and, if you find one who you can truly believe in, start supporting them and help them get their name out now.  Let’s find middle ground to re-unite our country because the voters, for the most part, at least from what I’ve seen in talking to my traditionally republican-supporting friends and relatives, are not as divided as the rich bastards in DC want us to think we are.

 

 

Enjoy Your Non-Poisoned Water While You Still Can

 

Unless you are from Flint, Michigan, or a third-world country, you are probably unfamiliar with what it is like to have poisonous water flowing through your taps at home.  I’ve been fortunate to only have a temporary water bans where I’ve lived due to minor toxins and pathogens that occasionally leak into our supplies where you can still bathe, but they recommend boiling the water before cooking or washing dishes, and recommend bottled water for drinking. However, thanks to the Republican congress, we may be looking at a relaxation of regulations on our water-safety rules and we can all experience that fear of dying from what we currently take for granted as a healthy drinking choice.

Not only are they looking to relax the rules on drinking water, but on food safety, including pet food safety. You and Fido might get to play Russian Roulette with your food too. I’ve never been much for the survivalist stock-pile goods, but it almost feels like the thing to do now before I have to question their safety. Yes, there will always be good brands that will continue to make sure their food and water is safe, but they are very rarely inexpensive. This type of relaxation of the law affects the poor the most. If you are the type who buys store-brand to save money, you may have to re-think that under the new laws.

But don’t worry, all that money the corporations are saving on safe food and keeping our water clean will somehow trickle-down into new jobs and more money for you, so maybe you’ll be able to afford the non-poisonous food and water in a few years when a penny of the thousands they are saving trickles down to you. Or you could just learn how to filter urine into drinking water and get the real trickle-down water safety (I do not recommend any form of this idea for food).

Right now, we can’t do much except expose these politicians for supporting agendas that even a majority of their Republican constituents disagree with, and hope that in 2 years, enough people are fed up with how our government is behaving and we get a complete overturn of power. I’m actually hoping for a take-over of independents/3rd party leaders rather than Democrats, but that’s just my independent bias being fed up with having to choose between down-right horrible and slightly horrible. Then again, I don’t expect life-long Republicans to vote Democrat just because their party leaders are horrible. If that were the case, we would have never had Trump. But I could see the possibility of convincing Republican and Democrat voters alike to vote a third party that puts aside the BS of the party lines and focuses on real issues, so maybe my hopes of an independent/3rd party take over are not completely unfounded.

However, if you are like me, waiting 2 years for change while they are working hard to ruin our country in only a couple months (Or as Samantha Bee put it, 1 menstrual cycle in), is not acceptable and increases anxiety. So what can we do in the meantime?

If you are fortunate to have enough funds, buy only from companies who pledge to continue to protect our water and live up to the food-safety standards we have today (at least). And, if you have more funds left over, help buy those same brands for food pantries and/or anyone you know who might not be able to afford such items. Do your research and find pet food companies who have had little to no recalls or major food poisoning claims. Check with your vet about which companies they trust and start there.

Also, learn to grow your own food. Container gardening is a life-saver for me as an apartment-dweller. I grow my own tomatoes and cucumbers every year and I’ve successfully grown peas, corn, beans and carrots in containers as well. It’s easier to control food safety when it is your own food. This will also help with the fuel costs of transporting food to your local market so it is a double win.

As for water, consider volunteering and/or donating to the Clean Water Fund.

Let your congress persons know that you are not ok with destroying our water or the safety of our food (and while, we’re at it, the killing of endangered species either). Then keep track of how they vote on the issues and vote them out if they are voting against your wishes!

The True Meaning of Depression and Anxiety (for Me)

Disclaimer- This post has no political views stated. If you really want some political stuff this week, I recommend reading this blog for now or re-read one of my previous posts.

I’ve had difficulties coming up with what I wanted to write for my next blog post, but it wasn’t really writer’s block, I have a lot I want to write about. However, I can’t seem to start to write until I share a recent writing I did in response to a session with my psychologist. It’s a bit on the personal side, and I thought maybe I should generalize it to help people understand depression and anxiety in general. But I found that, through reading so many other accounts of depression and anxiety, there was no way to truly generalize it without losing what I really wanted to say about depression and anxiety and what they mean for me. Everyone’s experience is a little different, but the similarities are in the suffering and stigma.

I’m actually not worried at all about being too personal to the strangers who read this. Most of the people who come across this online and don’t know me personally are members of my beloved Bloggess Tribe, or my SPN family with the Always Keep Fighting Campaign and they get it. Or the random stranger who might find this through a share, but doesn’t know me, their opinions of my mental illnesses don’t matter to me. It’s the people I know well, the people I deal with every day that I worry about. But those are also the people who would benefit from a better understanding of me the most. Most people I know who read this are close friends and family anyway. And I know a lot of fellow sufferers through my work and social circles who might feel relieved that someone put into words that mental illness is so much more than generalized symptoms and that the stigma is so deep that even we sufferers have a hard time letting go of the stigma. Maybe posting this will help to decrease the stigma and provide a better understanding of mental illness.

So here goes:

My Depression/Anxiety

I am willing to let people know I’m a sufferer of depression and anxiety. I have accepted these diagnoses and don’t hide them from anyone. There is no shame in having these disorders. What I hide is what they mean. Even I can’t accept the true meaning of these, and society doesn’t get it.

What they mean to me:

That sometimes all my energy needs to be reserved for fighting against my mental illnesses. It’s an exhausting battle. My mental illnesses tell me things like the only way to shut my brain up is to hurt myself or worse, that I’d be better off dead, or I’m not needed in this world or it would have been better if I were the one who died, not my brother. That the only reason to keep going is that my parents, family, loved ones could not withstand the deaths of 2 of us. Nathaniel should have been the one to survive. He would have done more for the world. And then, because my energy is used to fight against those thoughts, I have no energy left to disprove those thoughts and do something worthy of showing my mental illnesses that, yes, I can do plenty for the world. In my good days I can see that I would be able to do so much more than most people if only I didn’t have to fight my mental illnesses all the time. (Side notes: To worried family/friends reading these thoughts and worrying about my acting on them: These are my mental illness’ thoughts which feel separate from my own- I have no intention on acting on these thoughts and am actually, currently in a good place- To anyone who may have similar thoughts and feel like acting on them: Please contact a crisis support network, there are many, but here is one you can go to if you need to).

Sometimes it is feeling anxious about nothing or depressed about nothing. There is no cause, I’m otherwise happy and in a good place, but my brain makes me feel horrible. And then I feel horrible about feeling horrible when I am doing well everywhere else, so I feel like I need to search for a reason, when really, the reason is just I have a mental illness. I love when I can place the reason as a physical illness because it is so easy to treat a physical illness- rest, fluids, medicine and no guilt for having to take time off to heal. It’s possible, and even probable, that a lot of my physical illnesses come about, or at least are made worse by, my mental illnesses, and I’m still resistant to the fact that my mental illnesses are physical illnesses that can be treated the same ways: Rest, fluids, meds. Granted, the mental illness also requires additional self-care and a retraining of how my brain thinks, but it really isn’t much different than wearing an ankle brace if I’ll be doing a lot of walking because my ankle never really healed from a sprain. I should be able to accept that. But, in part, it is difficult to accept because society doesn’t understand that depression and anxiety sometimes needs a day or 2 off for recovery, just like the flu. If you call out of work saying “I’m too depressed/anxious to work today” people see you as weak. They think you are just sad or nervous and unable to overcome that. They don’t understand that depression and anxiety are so much more than just being sad or nervous. It’s being unable to move, or breathe. It’s all over aches and pains in the body. It’s being exhausted to the point where just living can use up all your energy. Sometimes talking is more energy than you can afford to use. I hear people all the time call their depression or anxiety “the flu”, when needing to explain why they need time off. But, even as a sufferer, I contribute to that bias that keeps them from calling it what it is. I look down on people who call out because of depression/anxiety. Unless it is bad enough to get them in the hospital, I think “they’re just sad/nervous and can’t deal with normal life. They are weak”, even though I know from experience, it is so much more than that.

Sometimes there are perfectly acceptable reasons to have my depression or anxiety increased. Society understands, or at least accepts, that grief over the loss of a loved one can make my mental illnesses worse, especially around anniversary dates. In some ways, I feel a little guilty about how much better I feel around the death of my brother. I don’t really feel better emotionally, but I feel more free to express the depths of those emotions and to put off things that I sometimes need to put off anyway, like making sure my house is clean or my car is up-to-date on all its maintenance or cooking real food rather than eating processed, microwaved foods or even just plain cereal and nuts because using the microwave is too much effort. There’s no guilt or shame because when I tell people my depression and anxiety is worse because I’m grieving, they understand. They know it is temporary and I’ll be back to doing all those adult things I’m always supposed to do once the anniversary date is past. It’s ok if I break down crying seemingly for no reason because that’s just grief. I feel better about my illness because I don’t have to hide anything.

Depression and anxiety are also the reasons I’m able to enjoy parts of my life so much. The part of my mental illness that shows the most to people is the part that keeps them from believing it could really be as bad as it gets other times. Depression and Anxiety aren’t at constant levels and on an upswing, I really take advantage of the happiness. It feels like a breath of air after being held under water. You don’t appreciate air when you have it all the time, but when you spend a long time unable to get oxygen, it feels like the best breath you have ever taken when your lungs fill. I’ve taken it to even further extremes since reading “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess), creating even more amazing stories and fun so that in the depths of my illness I can say to my brain “see what I would have missed out on if I listened to you the last time?”, but I’ve always appreciated and taken full advantage of my upswings and so many people see me as the happy, joyful, joking person I am in those times. I want that to be who I am all the time, which probably contributes to my desire to reject and hide the darker side of my illness.

I’m hoping that now that I have found a medication that really helps and I’m taking steps to help repair my adrenal fatigue (which, by all accounts I can find, seems to be caused by prolonged stress, or in my case, a denial of my depression and anxiety needing medical care), the lows won’t get as low as they used to, but I will have lows. The stigma of depression and anxiety is so strong, that even as I type this, I feel resistant to sharing it. To share such things feels like admitting to laziness or childishness or weakness, but it is not. I am much stronger than I used to be and it took great strength to type this and then share this with, potentially, everyone.

Beyond having people in my life understand my mental illnesses more, I hope that someone else who is struggling with accepting their own battles with mental illness might be empowered by reading this to accept their mental illness and take the steps they need to get the medications and/or therapies they need to get better and overcome the stigma that has been ingrained in our society and ourselves about mental illnesses.

The Problem Isn’t Carbon, It’s Demons

I was reading Jenny Lawson’s (aka The Bloggess) latest blog post today and was inspired to write this piece. If you don’t see the connection, I will give you a little insight to my brain: scary sprinklers led to the scene where Bobby turns the sprinkler water into holy water to repel the demons on Supernatural (I watch this show too much). This led me to the thought, “why doesn’t the church bless all the water on earth to repel all demons?”

Obviously, at this point I needed to turn to Google. And Google delivered! Apparently, technically, the Pope could turn all the water into holy water, but we pollute the ocean, and holy water should be treated with reverence, so, thanks to pollution, we can’t get rid of all the demons in the world.

Most people’s minds would find closure there, but I’m definitely not most people, and my mind decided to take this further, regarding pollution and climate change. So what if Climate Change was not actually a product of carbon emissions, but because of excess demons? I realize some people might have troubles following my brain here, so I will explain: Demons come from Hell, Hell is extremely hot, excess demons, hot from Hell, on earth, therefore, would raise the temperature of the earth and bring about climate change.

The reason it seems to scientist that it is due to carbon emissions is because, when demons are in their non-possessing form, they are made up of Carbon monosulfide (CS) which is stable in its gaseous or spirit form, but when they possess a human, they become a solid form, in which the compound is much less stable. This is why demons are associated with Sulfur,* but they should be associated with carbon as well. Does this mean we don’t have to worry about our carbon emissions anymore? Hell no! (Pun intended)

See, pollution is what is keeping the Pope from being able to eradicate all demons from the planet by turning all water into holy water. In order for him to do this, we must immediately treat all water with reverence and this means putting a stop to the DAPL, fracking, dumping our waste into the rivers, lakes and oceans, and all those other things the GOP thinks are ok to do to our water supplies for some reason. My guess is there are demons on the inside of the GOP, but I can’t really confirm that, I don’t have holy water to spray on all of them and I think the Secret Service might gun me down if I started spraying holy water on demon-possessed government officials and they began to sizzle. They would probably assume I threw acid on them.

Whether I’m right about demons causing climate change or the scientists are right about carbon emissions causing climate change, the answer to ending climate change is the same (minus the end step of the Pope turning all water into holy water if the scientists are right). We need to end our addiction to fossil fuels in favor of wind and solar which don’t damage the water. We need to reduce our waste by recycling and reusing and relying more on renewable and biodegradable materials in our manufacturing. We need to conserve water resources as much as possible. All of these items are under attack by the current administration (again, I cannot confirm my suspicions that demons have infiltrated), and we need to work hard both on a personal level (recycle/reuse/drive less/conserve water/etc), and on a national and global level to reduce the damage the GOP is allowing.

While this post is mostly satire, I do hope the point is not missed: Climate change is real and is made worse by human actions, so we do need to take actions to revere our earth (currently, the only livable planet we can reach with our current technology). Here are some things you can do to make a difference (you don’t have to do all, but every little bit helps, and focusing on your own contributions to Climate Change is most important because, as Ghandi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”):

Do all the items from this list in your personal life

Donate to Natural Resources Defense Council

Take Action/Volunteer with (or Donate to) Surfrider

Donate to the Environmental Defense Fund

Donate to Sierra Club

Donate to Earth Justice

Donate to Conservation International

And/Or Look Here for volunteer opportunities

You can also see about local state parks as they often need volunteers as well and are full of great educational resources for bettering your local environment. When going on vacation, I recommend checking out state parks in the area. Fees are usually low (and used for upkeep more than staff salary) and you will have a lot of local natural beauty to enjoy. Last time I went to Florida, I spent less than $20 on 2 state parks and got to see things you can’t see elsewhere, like an underwater observatory to watch manatees in the river at Homosassa Springs and a beautiful drive through the wetlands in Titusville which also included free beach parking for the day!

But seriously, let’s reduce Demon Emissions and save the Earth!

*Side note: in Googling demons and sulfur to inform those not familiar with Supernatural lore, I came across this wonderful gem that you should read if you are in need of a good laugh!

We are not Hillary, They are not Trump

Super Bowl Sunday was difficult for non-Trump supporting life-long Patriot fans. So much so, that the Boston NPR station WGBH did at least 2 segments about how people were dealing with the support of their beloved team when the owner, coach and quarterback of the team all voted for Trump. I took the dilemma a step further and decided to watch the game with my paternal grandmother who also voted for Trump. It got me thinking how we have gotten to this point of associating all Trump voters with all of Trump’s horrible policies.

While my paternal grandmother voted for Trump, she did so in hopes that he would take the country’s needs, especially the economy, more seriously once taking office, and that his childish, un-American racist, mysogynist, and xenophobic rants would end and would be forgotten. I get it, I voted for Hillary in hopes that some of the financial corruptions she took part in might have been a thing of the past as the hope that Bernie’s ideas she started to embrace at the end of the campaign were more than just a ploy to win over votes and that she might actually have believed them. We will never know for sure because she obviously didn’t win. In my grandmother’s case, she still holds some hope that Trump will do some good for the economy, but she was the first to comment on the Airbnb commercial about diversity in America, saying “See Trump??? All these people make up America!!!”. Those words hit me hard and caused me to open my heart a little more. I realized I was associating my grandma with all of Trump’s horrible views because she still supported him, not realizing that most supporters probably feel similarly- they despise his anti-diversity rants, they are just too republican to have voted for Hillary.

I was proud to learn in January that my life-long Republican-voting paternal grandfather (A Pearl Harbor Survivor), crossed party lines and voted for Hillary to vote against Trump because of how abhorrent he found Trump’s policies to be (reminding him too much of Hitler), but how can I not be just as proud of a Trump voter and supporter who is willing to stand up against Trump’s worst policies now that he is in office? My grandmother is pro-environment, pro-diversity, and, for a conservative Christian woman, very open-minded. Several years ago she found an article about a trans-boy who was 8 years old and whose parents allowed him to live as a boy because it was obvious from as young as 2 that he was not a girl and never felt like one. She showed me the article, had me read it, and knowing my grandma is such a conservative christian, I expected her reaction to the article to be something along the lines of “God doesn’t make mistakes like that”, but instead, she said “It’s so great that these parents are not forcing him to be a girl, God obviously meant for him to be a boy.”

I then got to thinking about my friends who are Trump supporters. I mainly avoid political discussions with them, as I always have, to maintain our friendships, but I would be interested to know how many of them are also appalled by Trump’s anti-diversity directives. How many dislike how he treats women? How many feel he needs to spend less time tweeting and more time doing important work for our country? How many feel he needs to do more to help the environment? How many are against the republicans who voted to hide torture of dogs and other non-human animals from the public for cosmetic and accessories research? I bet, since the qualities I choose in my friends tend to be animal-loving, open-minded people, I’d find that all of my republican friends find issue with many of his directives and the actions of the republicans in office.

If we are truly against the horrific actions of the current administration, we need to stop fighting against Trump voters and demonizing them. Take the fight against the administration and the republicans in office. Allow our friends and family who supported Trump in hopes he would stick to his campaign promise to stand up to Wall Street to get angry with us while realizing they could still be against Hillary. We are not Hillary, they are not Trump. We are the American people who stand for a country that thrives on diversity of race, religion, gender/gender-identity, and country of origin, whose wonder is in our natural resources that need protection, whose love of animals is more than our love of production, especially of cosmetics and accessories, who allow for political differences of opinion in how to improve economy and healthcare but who truly want the government working for us to actually improve those items.  We all want an end to corruption in politics and the only way our government will hear us is if we stop dividing ourselves and we come together.

Sure, there are supporters of the current administration who truly support the racism and think mysogyny is ok and who are so uneducated about the ACA and the real effects of climate change that they have no issues with the current administration and can’t find common ground on those issues. But that’s not all of them, and I can’t even imagine that it is a majority of them. If people like my paternal grandparents, who supported everything GWB did without question could stand up against the current administration’s worst actions, then there must be more like them.

Make sure your actions and words speak against the current administration’s actions and words and not against their voters. While we’re at it, keep your words against policies not looks, and keep your actions peaceful. Peace and thoughtful humor is hard to demonize, while acts of violence easily erase our message and allow the administration to say “see, they can’t even act civilized, so don’t listen to them”.

PS- Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I have a great idea for anyone needing to find a gift that isn’t cliche flowers or candy for a loved one: donate to a cause they support in their name! My brother and my sister-in-law just donated to the NRDC in my name and I loved it! Here’s a list of organizations that can do a lot of good against the current administration:

Natural Resource Defense Council

American Civil Liberties Union

Stand With Standing Rock

Planned Parenthood

Humane Society (End Use of Lab Animal Campaign) *

National Public Radio (for real news)

Southern Poverty Law Center

National Immigration Law Center

Random Acts Of Kindness (supports many of these other issues as well as promoting general kindness)

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Donors Choose: Support a Classroom

and I’m sure you can find many others that will support your loved one’s passions. If you can’t get past the idea of not giving them a gift they can hold, put the donation certificate in a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers or consider buying a gift that gives back from the Hunger Site Greater Good Store

*Please use Humane Society over PETA- Humane Society does much more for animal welfare, PETA often misrepresents issues making money off of things that are not actually issues among other problems I have with PETA.