Becoming an angry feminist

Angry FeministI’ve considered myself a feminist for a long time . . . . . but I was never one of those feminists. You know the ones I’m talking about . . . . the classic trope . . . . butch haircut, perpetual scowl, black tank tops and combat boots. I didn’t hate men. And I needed men to know that. I needed men to know that I wasn’t one of them.

Because I was young and naïve and the world had been subliminally (and sometimes not-so-subliminally) telling me from birth that my primary objective was to make sure boys liked me.

When I was 10 years and a little overweight, my mother assured me that I’d grow up and thin out, and someday the boys would be knocking down my door. I took comfort in that. Until I didn’t “thin out” and the boys never came knocking. I spent my childhood wishing to be a beautiful teenager and my teen years wishing to be a beautiful woman, never appreciating myself for who I was.

And then I had a daughter. This incredible little person grew inside of me for 9 months, and when I looked in her eyes for the first time, I felt a love deeper than anything I could have ever imagined.

The programming began almost immediately. “Wow! Such beautiful eyes! I hope they stay that blue!” “You should look into modeling for her. She’s perfect.” Ya know, as long as she kept those bright blue eyes.

My daughter was and is beautiful. She was beautiful when she smiled at me for the first time and when she began nursing after two months of bottled breastmilk and when she learned to roll across the room just to plop herself in my lap and when she’d walk through the apartment with me, barely grasping my pinky, then fall to the floor the second I slipped it away.

And my daughter was and is so much more than beautiful, so many more important things than pretty.

It wasn’t too long before I became that angry feminist I swore I never was . . . . when I realized it had nothing to do with hating men and everything to do with valuing myself and my daughter as female and not objects of someone else’s stare.

I’m angry because I’ve already had to teach my daughter that she should not excuse a boy’s harassing behavior because “it probably means he likes you.”

I’m angry because I’ve already had to work to undo the damage of other people telling my daughter what she will and will not be able to do with her body when she grows up. Joke or not, just fucking no.

I’m angry because my daughter has already witnessed me being harassed by strange men on the street, and I don’t always know how to talk to her about it . . . . . and it terrifies me and pisses me off that it won’t be much longer before she’s experiencing it herself. From boys at school to men old enough to be her grandfather.

I’m angry because I don’t want to teach my daughter to be afraid, but that’s so difficult to do when I’m so afraid. Do I teach her to stand up for herself? To just tell those strangers to back off and that she’s not interested? Do I do that and run the risk of one of them attacking her? Do I teach her to always wear headphones when walking down the street by herself, like I do? Do I teach her to always make sure to mention a boyfriend early on, whether she has one or not, like I do? Do I teach her to smile when she doesn’t want to . . . . even if her dog just died or her best friend is moving away or she’s on her way to visit a sick relative . . . . because it’s easier to just smile than risk the potential assault when you don’t?

I watch my daughter as she grows up, watch her become this absolutely amazing person – clever and creative, silly and geeky, compassionate and thoughtful . . . . and yes, beautiful. Do I tell her that it doesn’t matter how attractive she is? That whether she’s thin or chubby, has crooked teeth or straight, pimples or a clear face, is dressed in the tightest outfit she owns or in a sweat suit head to toe, wears make-up or puts her hair in a bun and doesn’t bother . . . . . she will still be harassed? Her body will become the focus of commentary wherever she goes. How do I teach her to block them out? How do I teach her that her worth is not determined by the sum of catcalls hurled in her direction? How do I teach her to value herself while reminding her that a “Hey! Nice ass!” from the douchebag driving by is NOT a compliment?

So yeah. I’m an angry feminist. No, I’m fucking livid. Because I would much rather sit back and enjoy an episode of Doctor Who with my daughter or a round of Phase 10 without constantly wondering if it’s a good time to slip in a conversation about bodily autonomy and how to respond to those who don’t think she has any.

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Broadening awareness of self-injury and who it affects

Update 1/13/16 – The lack of response on this post has not deterred me. I’ve had a lot going on the past several months, so I slid this project over to the back burner. I’ll be bringing it back to full boil in the next month or so!

This was initially written 2 ½ years ago. That’s how long this has been an idea in my head. I set it aside and every so often would open it up, read it, tweak it a bit, then close it up and put it aside again. I was scared. I’m still scared. I have a simultaneous fear of failure and fear of success. “What if no one responds? What if everyone thinks this is stupid? What if too many people respond? What if I can’t keep up and I let everyone down?” Those fears have not subsided, but this is too important to me to let it sit any longer. If it fails, I’ll try again. If it becomes overwhelming, I’ll take a deep breath and move one step at a time. . . . . If you want to read a piece of my story and why this project is important to me, go here.

Self InjuryI sat at my computer one afternoon browsing through lists of books online. I’m an avid reader and always looking for something new and interesting to add to my list. I stumbled across a book on self-injury. As I looked more closely, it was, as most of the attention surrounding self-injury is, focused on teenage girls. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. I’m grateful for any attention given to self-injury because it’s still such a widely misunderstood affliction. But I started to think that it would be nice to find something that applied to me – a 33-year-old not-always-successful recovering self-injurer.

I started digging through books on self-injury and everything I found seemed to want to shove self-injury into a tight demographic. Teenage girls. Victims of sexual abuse. Girls with eating disorders. Girls with bipolar disorder. I have no doubts that these books are helpful to many people, but what about the rest of us? Better yet, what about all of us?

Over the past couple of years, mostly through my blog and social media, I have become very vocal about my struggles with self-injury. Because of that, I have interacted with many other self-injurers – men and women, young and old. We all come from different backgrounds. We all have different stories. Some of us fit into the perceived demographics. Some of us don’t. And I think there should be a resource for all of us.

Rather than wait for one to emerge, I decided I should just create one myself.

This is all still just an idea in my head. It has no real form or substance. I’m not sure of the shape it will eventually take, but I know that it will take shape. In order for that to happen, I need to connect with other self-injurers – recovering or not, of any and all ages, genders, and backgrounds – who believe this is a venture worth pursuing.

I have two goals with this endeavor – to reach out and offer support to all individuals who self-injure and to help those around us to understand. I admit the goals are broad, purposefully so. I don’t want to box them in . . . just as I don’t want us to be boxed in.

I have noticed a growing understanding of self-injury over the last decade, but there is still a long way to go – for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for the medical community as well. It’s not an easy subject to talk about. It’s inherently secretive for most of us. But the only way broaden understanding is to give self-injury a voice.

We are not alone.

If you’re interested in discussing this project further, fill out the form below. This will be sent directly to my email. It will not be posted publicly.

If you know someone who might be interested, please share this with them . . . or just share it anyway in case someone you know knows someone.

Thank you!

Remembering to breathe

*Trigger Warning – mental illness, self-injury*

 

 

tattooI was 4 years old when I had my first panic attack. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I continued to have panic attacks throughout my childhood and teen years not knowing what they were. I’d try to explain them to people . . . . how words and even thoughts would start sounding funny, like they were speeding up and slowing down at the same time and how my heart would beat and the world would just feel wrong. They never understood. It wasn’t until I was 21 that I finally had a therapist put a label on what I was feeling.

She put labels on me too – generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It was kind of terrifying to hear those words. It was also incredibly liberating. You mean I’m not just some wacky freak show? There are, like, other people who deal with this too? And I can get better? It won’t always be like this?!

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I was 14 years old the first time I cut myself on purpose. I think that’s a really unfathomable thing for a lot of people. The idea of self-harm doesn’t compute. For those of us who do or have self-injured, it makes sense in a way that can be very difficult to explain. Our reasons vary, our triggers vary . . . . but there’s a thread that connects us . . . . that makes the unfathomable not only fathomable but natural.

When I was 17, I started my first period of recovery. I didn’t self-injure for nearly 5 years. After that relapse, it was another 6 years before I would do it again. Since then I have started calling myself a “(mostly) recovering self-injurer.” I seem to fall every couple of years . . . . . sometimes just once, sometimes several times over a few weeks . . . . and then I pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep on going.

I almost fell a couple of weeks ago. It’s been a rough summer, and for about a week, I forgot to take my medication. It was completely out of my system by the time I started again, which means it needed to build back up. Anxiety and depression overwhelmed me. Since finding the right combo of psychophramaceuticals, I’ve been a completely different person . . . . . I’ve almost felt “normal” (in the functional-can-do-“normal people”-things kind of way, not the no-longer-a-total-geek-and-weirdo kind of way, which would be totally boring). Losing that “normal person” feeling was a crash I haven’t felt in a very long time. And I wanted to burn myself.

Around 12:30am, I went for a walk. After about 30 minutes, I found myself at a Wawa. I contemplated my purchase the entire way. I walked in, sweating, sore, and tired. I knew I’d have to walk home. I live in the suburbs now and the buses actually stop running at a certain time every night. I grabbed a soda and cheese and grapes. I still hadn’t made a decision. I made my way to the register . . . . and bought a pack of cigarettes (with matches) instead of a lighter (I quit a year and a half ago).

I consider that a success.

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I’m 36 years old now. My diagnoses have been changed and tweaked over the years. The specific labels are not incredibly important on their own, but they are a part of my self-identity, and that makes them important. I have depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. I’ve been seeing the same therapist for more than 2 years. I’m on the just right combo of meds (now that I’ve readjusted back on them). Overall, I feel pretty damn good.

But I still have my moments . . . . the ones that make it difficult to get out of bed, not because I’m tired but because the idea of facing the world is just way too much pressure. I have my moments when the idea of speaking to another human being makes me want to crawl into a cave and become a hermit.

It’s in those moments that I need to remember to breathe.

Yesterday, I got a new tattoo to remind me to do just that. Many of you may already be familiar with the Semicolon Tattoo Project. The idea is that semicolon is used when a period would be sufficient, but the author decides to pause and keep the sentence going instead of ending it. That’s my reminder – to pause and breathe. In addition to the semicolon, I got the word “Love,” also a symbol of mental health awareness inspired by To Write Love On Her Arms. It has added special meaning to me because we used an old Christmas card to get “Love” in my mom’s handwriting. (Last week was 20 years since she died.)

I also found out last night that yesterday was National Suicide Prevention Day, which just makes this all the more fitting.

This tattoo is more than a piece of ink on my arm. It’s even more than my reminder to breathe and a tribute to my mom. It’s a catalyst. I have big things coming . . . . and this time, I won’t get distracted, and I won’t make excuses.

Life is too important. *I* am too important.

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Emotional overload and poetic symmetry in numbers

Numbers 2I have a thing for numbers. I like even numbers . . . . and numbers that end in 5 . . . . and palindromic numbers . . . . and prime numbers. I like poetic symmetry in numbers. My mom (who died when I was 16) was born on January 18th (1-18). My daughter was born on November 8th (11-8). I chose my phone number way back when because the last 4 digits rearrange to form the year my mom was born.

My obsession with numbers carries over into an obsession with dates. I calculated the day in which I would have lived more of my life without my mom than I had lived with her (it was September 19, 2011 – about a month after my 32nd birthday). The following August, I turned 33 – the age my mom was when she died. When I turned 34 the next year, I was officially older than my mom. These were all extremely difficult days for me, and I acknowledge that I mostly created them for myself. It’s what I do.

This year will be another particularly difficult year. It’s one of those 0 anniversaries – On September 4th my mom will have been dead for 20 years. I can say “dead” now. I feel like I’m sugar-coating when I say “passed away,” not that it doesn’t still slip out a lot. Dead is real . . . . it’s what it is. She’s dead. She’s not coming back. 20 years is a really long fucking time . . . . and I (hopefully) have a hell of a lot longer to go. It really sucks.

I also just moved this past Sunday . . . . for the 20th time in my life so far. See? Poetic symmetry. Moving is always difficult. I come across pieces of my mom – pictures, trinkets, old greeting cards, stuffed animals, her social security card, her 5th grade report card, you get the idea – and I hurt all over again. I relive all of it. The pain leading up to the hospital visit. The misdiagnosis of a compression fracture. Her holding my hand while the doctor told me it was cancer. The 4 months of treatments and late night vomiting and oxygen machines and hair loss and morphine-induced delusions and, of course, the morning she died. Most days I can think about my mom’s life without thinking about her death. I can’t seem to do that when I’m moving.

Numbers 1

There’s more numerical poetic symmetry to this move. Maybe it’s not exact, but it’s pretty damn close . . . . . The day my mom died is the day I told my dad that I did not want to live with him and was instead moving in with my aunt and uncle. And on Sunday, I moved in with my dad. It’s weird. It’s a mutually beneficial situation. I can save some money; he gets live-in help with my 10-year-old sister. And I think this is a really good opportunity for us to connect to each other. But it’s still weird to be nearly 36 years old and living with my dad . . . . . and to have it be almost exactly 20 years since I told him I didn’t want to live with him makes it even more weird.

The past few days have been overwhelming. Moving is stressful all by itself. To add all of the extra emotional bits . . . . not helping. I was standing in my new room for a grand total of 3 minutes before I had a panic attack. And there has been little to no sleep, which has left me in a consistent haze. I’ve fallen asleep sitting up several times over the past few days. I don’t do that. I need a dark room (or natural light) and my bed or the couch and at least 2 pillows and a blanket even if it’s hot.

I hated my house, but I am finding myself missing *my* shower and my space and my routine and my access to public transit. I thought all of the prep leading up to this would help me cope with the changes. I was wrong.

BoxesOn the bright side, I can hopefully build a better relationship with my dad. We’ve never been very close (potentially the understatement of the year), and there are still resentments that linger. This is a great opportunity to move past them. I also get to spend more time with my sister, which is awesome. My daughter is ecstatic. I’m around the corner from my best friend since 5th grade. And apparently, if a package arrives when I’m not home, nobody will steal it. That’s pretty cool.

I’m trying to focus on all of that. I really am. And then I sit down in my tiny lil’ room, and I look at my life in boxes, and I wonder if I’ll ever find a “forever home.” And then I knock on wood and cross my fingers and hope that my final move doesn’t end up as an odd number.

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Do you even Gish?!

It’s coming. 15 more days and the adventure I’ve been longing for will finally begin!

It was about 2 years ago when I began following Misha Collins on social media . . . . and that is how I discovered gIshWhEs – the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen.

There was a Stormtropper cleaning a pool. There were dresses made from cheese. There was a dinosaur sculpted from sanitary napkins. There were random acts of kindness. And all kinds of silliness. And art. Really wacky art. And awesome people doing awesome things. And there was this moment of clarity: gishwhes meme But it was like a week before the Hunt. And I didn’t know anyone else who was interested. And I have really bad social anxiety. And I think registration was closed anyway. So . . . next year. That’s what I said.

Then the next year came. I made a half-hearted attempt to get a team together, but there were no takers . . . . . and this was pre-depression meds . . . . . and it was pretty bad. So . . . . next year.

And then there was this year. And I said, “I’m definitely doing it this year! I’m self-employed. I have great meds. I can do this!” But I was kinda lazy about it. Then a wonderful friend discovered Supernatural. Which led her to discover Misha Collins. Which led her to discover GisHwheS. And it was meant to be.

So it is official. Team Bees with Knees will be Gishing all the Gishes in just a couple of weeks! I have no idea what kind of wackiness I will be getting myself into. I’m kind of nervous. I’m a little bit scared. And I’m UBER stoked!

Comfort zones be damned! giSHwhEs here I come! Expectation: my life will be forever changed.

*If you want to join in the abnosomeness, there are only 3 days left to register, so GO! DO IT NOW! LIVE!

Sometimes miracles need a little help

InfertilityWhen I was in preschool, my teachers asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a mommy. I wanted to have a little girl with long hair so that I could brush it. The next year, my teachers asked the same thing. This time I said I wanted to be a mom-mom so that I could be my granddaughter pink soap with a little girl on it (my mom-mom had just bought me a pink soap with a little girl on it). This mindset never changed for me. All of my life, the one constant, the one thing I knew was meant to be in my future, was that I would be a mom.

It was never taught to me. I didn’t grow up in a misogynistic “women are meant to have kids” kind of household. My mom and my grandmother were both extremely independent women. Education was heavily emphasized. Family was important, but so were my personal endeavors. I think I was just born wired to be a mom. I think that’s the way with some of us.

Sharon and ChadI have no doubt that is the way with a dear friend of mine. Her name is Sharon, and I met her through the blogging world 4 years ago. (You can find her The Real Sharon.) While we have never met in real life (I’m in Pennsylvania and she’s in Texas), she has become an important part of my life. We’ve shared private parts of ourselves. We’ve become real friends, distance be damned. And more than anything, she wants to grow her family with her husband. More than anything, she wants to be a mom.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy a journey for her as it was for me. My daughter was semi-unplanned (we tried unsuccessfully for 3 months . . . . then decided to wait . . . . then I got pregnant the next month). Sharon and her husband have been trying for over a year, and now it’s clear that they’ll need fertility treatments . . . . which, of course, do not come cheap.

I haven’t interacted much with Sharon’s husband, but from what I know of him, he’s a great guy who will make a wonderful dad. Sharon I know . . . . Sharon will be an amazing mother . . . . I have no doubts! And so I am doing whatever I can to help them make their dreams come true!

Sharon and Chad are raising month through Fill Their Arms. It’s a non-profit, so all donations are tax-deductible, but all of the money also goes DIRECTLY to them for their fertility treatments and related costs! Please consider making a donation on their Featured Family page!

I’m also holding a Jamberry fundraiser. Between 10% AND 30% of sales under the fundraiser will go to Sharon and Chad’s Fill Their Arms campaign. All you have to do is order from my site and select “Sharon & Chad’s Fertility Fundraiser” as your party! All orders will receive a free gift from me 🙂 I also created special Infertility Awareness wraps. $2.00 from the sale of each sheet will go to the Fill Their Arms campaign. These have to be ordered a little differently, so check out the order form for instructions and message me if you have any questions!

Infertility Awareness

Please consider doing what you can. I promise you that you are helping a wonderful couple who fully deserve to hold their own little one in their arms!

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