WBD 2017

Today, is World Bipolar Day. And I keep thinking about September, when we lost our Blahpolar, Ulla. I didn’t know her exceptionally well, but she’s been on my mind all day. For a couple days, actually. It’s something that comes back to me in the quiet times of the day, when my mind stills.

I usually do a story about my journey-or a story about Van Gogh today, in recognition of WBD, but it doesn’t seem fitting.

We’re learning about mental illness in two of my classes: one on Women’s Political Health and the other on Human Trafficking. Which, I think is another thing that’s been weighing on my mind a lot-what with the political stuff going on.

So I wanted to share the PPT from my Human Trafficking course, because it contains information about mental health, which is pertinent to today, and actually is just really nice to look at, as far as organization goes. But formally, here’s the citation:

Meshelemiah, Jacquelyn. “Mental Disorders: Victims of Human Trafficking.” Social Work 5005. The Ohio State University, Columbus. 30 March 2017. Lecture. https://1drv.ms/p/s!AnoC6cSUwVxQiQLbMEn4xJiZJX0g

The link is in the citation.

The thing is, for a long time, I saw today as a way to share my own story, to let people know that they weren’t alone, because I understood. And that is still true. But sharing time is over. Now is the time for action and education. Because if we only see part of the picture, we’ve failed ourselves.

Mental illness doesn’t just hit a specific demographic. It isn’t the dregs of society or the elite. It isn’t the homeless, the well off, the insured, the religious, the secular, the white people or people of color. It’s everyone in every category. But the ones who get left out often, are the ones who have “much bigger” problems-such as those who are trafficked or homeless or abused. But if we don’t pay attention to the whole person, we’re not paying attention at all.

And that’s what’s come back to me each time. We aren’t paying attention. We’re hearing but not listening. We’re looking but not seeing.

Opinions are like…

As you may find, there will be times in your life when you’ve made the decision that’s best for you and suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork to tell you their take on it. They might mean well, but ultimately, you probably didn’t ask for their opinion in the first place.

There are a couple competing factors in my life right now, and that’s where this all stems from. First-law school. Second-the move associated with it. Third-my new artwork. There are a couple more, but this is probably a solid start.

I told my parents about law school, told several people at the university, told my in-laws. And each of them had a thought. Some of them were quite welcome, some not so much. Naturally, as news does, my upcoming decision spread. Through the course of that spread, an acquaintance told my mom that I shouldn’t move to one of the schools because they were moving there and it would be awkward. One person told me that I was mistaken to have applied to one of the schools. Several people didn’t even say congratulations before telling me that I was moving too far away. I had a lot of people tell me I was moving too far actually.

And my artwork, well, that would be my tattoo. The one I got so I could look at it everyday and remind myself that I control my future, and that if I’m unhappy I have the power to change it. That one. Most people have been very supportive. And yet, there have been those who immediately cracked down on the “regret”, “mistake” and “you shouldn’t have”. I expected that when  I got it, I’ll be honest. Did I roll my eyes? Of course I did. But here’s why.

I make the decisions in my life. I account for my husband and our dog. I know better than outsiders about my finances, my life choices and my motives for doing things. If you don’t sit down with me and do my budget, research schools, spend countless hours looking at statistics for our new home-then you have really no business telling me how to run my life. I choose what I do because it fulfills one of two requirements. One: it makes me happy. Two: it’s the best option for my family. And that’s that.

This whole month has been an experience in brushing things off. And although I can’t say that I’ve succeeded in letting nothing get to me, I’m much more capable of it than before. So naturally, I have some things that helped me.

  1. Sort out the message from the words. Maybe that advice giver had a great point about your decision that you want to consider further. But maybe it’s lost in their opinion. Chuck the opinion out and work on the “good stuff”.
  2. Check yourself. Leave your sensitivities at the door. If you let every single thing get under your skin, it’s gonna be a long day. Are there some things you should be frustrated about? Sure! But not everything-or you’ll go mad.
  3. Choose wisely. As I said, I knew there would be naysayers about my tattoo-so I was prepared. I should have been prepared for the people who did that to my law school choices, but I wasn’t. So I spent longer than I should have working through it.
  4. Work through it. Forgiveness, as I learned from a trusted “advisor” isn’t a one-and-done event. It’s constantly choosing to forgive them over being hurt. Holding on to that anger hurts you more than it hurts them. Really.
  5. Self care. Seriously. Making big life decisions is hard enough without adding in unwanted opinions. Make sure that you’re caring for yourself on all levels-including taking time to just do nice things for yourself. It can make all the difference and you’ll be better off.

One last unsolicited piece of advice (hah-get it? Because this post is…nevermind): don’t sink. I know how easy and tempting it is to smear people with little passive aggressive messages. I do. But you made the choices because they were best for you. Don’t jeopardize that by stooping. You do you!

opinion

Reminders from the Universe

I think it’s really easy to get caught up in life, in the way it makes you feel or overwhelms you. And I’ll be honest, I have those pestering thoughts about where I’m taking my life. I worry that I burn so brightly that I’ll burn out and be of no help to anybody. And I thought about what I might do if I walked away from everything-from justice, from law, from my home and just started over some way. I think that you think about that a lot when you have depression or anxiety or whatever. Just starting over. Taking the knowledge you had and using it to make better choices. But to that effect, I offer a quote:

“But then I wondered how I’d feel… Would I feel relieved or would I feel sad? And then I realized how many stupid times a day I use the word “I”. And Probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there’s like seven billion other people out there on the planet…But then I thought, if I cared about the other seven billion out there, instead of just me, that’s probably a much better use of my time.” -Mia Thermopolis, The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot.

And in the grogg of all that, a news story came across my FB feed. Now, before you roll your eyes, let me just say that I don’t take things at face (lol pun!) value-I investigate. So when I saw the article, I left Facebook and began my search. It was like getting punched in the face. 

If you search “16 year old received no jail time”, there comes a list of stories that aren’t for the faint hearted. They range from racial bias to toddlers to every manner of monster available. And that was when I stopped thinking about myself for a minute. I detached as much as I could and just thought. No amount of me feeling sorry for myself or scared of what the future holds makes any difference. I know that what I want is difficult and scary and it means that I need to be able to hold my own at all times-even in the worst of my bad days. Why?

Because if I don’t keep burning brightly, how will these problems be illuminated? If I don’t keep speaking up, who will speak for the children who can’t, for the people who are scared? They deserve their justice, their safety-just as much as I do. And if no one will help them, I will.

I force myself to read each news story that comes across my feeds. I read them and I burn a little brighter, a little stronger. I don’t know if that’s good or bad-but as far as I can tell, it’s how it has to be. Why? Because this cannot be. There are judges across the country who aren’t holding up the law. They’re letting criminals of the worst kind fall between the cracks. I can’t sit by, in my fear and worry while the last stronghold of justice fails.

And that’s why no matter how scared I am, no matter how frustrated and tired I will become, I have to keep fighting. If not for me, for the people who need me and for the future. So stay tuned for a blog in the future where I tell you which law school I will be attending.

Frankly my dear…

I’m a pretty complex creature. I have good days, bad days, days of all kinds of things. I’m an extroverted introvert and I could list a ton of labels that would go on for days. What I wanted to be, for a very long time though, is frank. Just very up-front, not wishy-washy. i want to call things like I see them, and have other people understand it as I meant it.

Which is why I started blogging in the first place. It’s why I tell the hard stories, the ones that are personal, the ones that enrage. Because if no one else will say anything, I have to. And that goes double for the topics I am passionate about: mental health and ending rape culture. This should come as no surprise-I talk about pretty much nothing else.

Something came up recently that crossed my mind and I thought I’d share it here. It’s a mental health blog day, so I want to be upfront with that. I’ll be talking about self-harm (although only about scars-no descriptors or pictures) and I will be talking about moving forward and healing. I’m going to start with the story I just submitted to The Mighty.

“My self image has always been a love-hate relationship. I grew up in a world where a woman who was headstrong, opinionated and loved herself just didn’t exist. That’s not to say that I had no support to be those things, but rather that I listened to everything else. Everything that was telling me how not good enough I was, how unacceptable it was to be me.

“I started self-harming as a freshman in high school. It wasn’t a cry for help, or a plea for death. It was a desperate attempt at a reprieve. I didn’t want to die, I just had no other way of expressing the pain and the level of emotions I felt on the inside. And although my skin has been forgiving, I avoid looking at my arms. I can see each and every scar and I think that hurts more than it did making them. The few people who know say that they can’t really see them, but it doesn’t matter-because I can.

“So I decided I was going to get a really pretty tattoo-something to cover them up. The most of them were on my left arm, so the location choice was easy. I spent weeks designing, critiquing and reworking until I had everything I wanted. It was a beautiful representation, the most lovely piece of artwork I’d ever made. I chose to remind myself that if I am unhappy, I can change. So I made a promise to myself that whenever I was frustrated or I didn’t like the choices I’d made, the situations I was in, I’d move on to something I did love, and that made me happy.

“When I was explaining my choice of design and placement, I picked my words carefully. I wanted to remind myself that life was beautiful. I picked the placement so that I would never self-harm there again. Why? Because I’d worked so hard on that art and destroying it was something I absolutely could never do. The hope and love that it represented were things that simply had to last much longer than the pain of a blade, or the pain on the inside.

“Later that night, as I reflected on what I’d said, I cried. If I could have such reverence for art-why couldn’t I have it for myself? I’ve spend decades becoming the person I am. A piece of art that takes that long is something that should be treasured far more than something that takes a few weeks and yet I’d spend half that time tearing it down, devaluing it and ripping at the very fabric of its creation.

“The thing is, I only let four people know I was getting my tattoo. I told two of them the meaning behind it and I kept the final design a secret from everyone except the artist. I sat down in the chair and when I got up again, the art on the inside was finally reflected on the outside. I keep looking at my arm, not seeing the scars that reminded me of how sad I was, how fragile and full of self-hate I was. Instead, I see hope and the promise I made to myself that unless I can say “I wish for this” to my choices, I have the power to change the situation, the duty to make myself happy, and the courage to be exactly the wonderful artwork of a person that I am.”


With that in mind, I went to work yesterday and my arm was uncovered-so everyone saw. I’m quite frankly very proud of the art, and the meaning and I had no problem telling everyone about it.  I even told them why. And the looks I got back were, well, they were interesting. And that’s what got me thinking.

I wanted to tell them the story of courage and beauty and love–self love. And the reactions were varied-usually some place between a pitying “I understand” or a shocked “I didn’t know that about her”. I’m not upset at either of these, but it made me think about why I was telling people in the first place. I’m not a “sharing” person, but I wanted everyone to know about it. So where was the disconnect?

I was so frank about what I wanted people to know because if no one is going to start the conversation, then I will. And as I said, if that means people give me looks, ask nosy questions or change their opinion of me, then that’s fine. Because maybe it’s the first time they’ve come in contact with these issues-and I want them to know that their preconceived notions might be wrong.

**Disclaimer-my work people are really great. They weren’t judgy or nosy, nor did they look down at me-I’m just saying that those are the reactions I’ve had from others.

 

 

 

 

Religious Tolerance

You sneeze: what do people say to you?

It’s the holiday season: what do people say to you?

It’s your birthday: what do people say to you?

Something terrible has happened to you: what do people say to you?

A loved one has passed on: what do people say to you?

Something great might happen: what do people say to you?

All of these have one really strikingly gorgeous thing in common: well-wishing. Now, the specifics may not be the same, but the idea behind it very much is. And yet, we have some issues accepting it, don’t we?


If someone came up to you and blessed you because you sneezed (and no, it doesn’t matter if it’s in German), you’d say thank you. It wouldn’t matter if you believed that God was going to bless you, or if you were atheist-you’d just say thank you. Or at least you should, becuase that’s just good manners.

If you were going into the hospital, you’d want to come out of it again, right? And you’d want comfort if a loved one or friend died, right?

You’d want to celebrate when good things happen, take solace in community when bad things occur. That’s just human nature-right?

My point here is that if I were Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Atheist or Pagan or Buddhist or what-have-you, the concept of well-wishing is universal. I did a post during Ramadan (last year?!) about how much I learned about the graciousness of the Muslim Americans that I met. I have a Jewish friend who is the happiest, most accepting person I may ever know. I have a Catholic friend with a heart of gold, who accepts me for my differences and loves me just the same. I have very Christian friends who are a delight to be around-and allow me to explore who I am while they do the same, and even some who give me their time and share their food with me (I’m always down with food and coffee dates-you know, when my schedule permits).  I have atheist and agnostic friends who respect my choice to believe in something bigger than myself. I have pagan friends who delight in my successes, lift me up in my sorrows and support me throughout. And I know that’s just my story. I get that.

But the larger picture is what I’m getting at. 

Tolerance is something that doesn’t seem to be big around my country these days. I see a collective out and about, trying to make sure everyone knows they are valid and matter and valued-and I love that. I try to do so as well, because that’s what we all need. In the end, it doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, if someone is wishing you well-becuase it means they care enough to say something nice to you.

Look, I don’t expect everyone to know that next week is Ostara, the celebration of the Spring Equinox, a time of great fertility and happiness. Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious day, but is celebrated by more people than just the ones who honor him as a saint. Lent is happening right now, in preparation for Easter. Purim and Holi are coming up soon as well. Ramadan starts in a couple months. And you thought December was the only packed holiday month!

My point is simple, really, and I feel like it’s almost absurd to have to say it. When someone tells you:

Happy Easter, Happy Ostara, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Friday, Blessed Purim, Blessed Lent, Blessed Holi, and more, they are not saying “you have to subscribe to my religion”. They are wishing you well. 

And in this day and age, isn’t that something we all need?

Three Year Blog-aversary

I’ve been working on changing the world for three years now. How fun is that? And recently it seems like every time I log into WP, something has changed. Call me old fashioned but slow down a second, eh?

Anyway, I’ve been delightfully busy, the school year is well on its way and I’ve managed to stay afloat. I haven’t heard anything from two of my schools, but that’s alright-there’s still time. I have officially applied for graduation and received it-so come the last week of April I’m done with my bachelors! I will have succeeded in that way. I’m working, and I cannot speak highly enough of my lovely coworkers and boss(es). They make the sunshine.

My books are coming along at an incredibly slow pace, but that’s alright. Any progress is some progress. And speaking of books, if you haven’t read Being Emily by Rachel Gold-now is the perfect time. She has another book coming out in May and I’m very excited for it!

I’ve got to run, but I just wanted to make sure I stopped by and said hi!

Educators for education-not regurgitation.

Although by now the political climate of America is very forcibly divided, there remains one spark of hope-one area which has been passed down as sacred from generation to generation: the future. The children, it is said, are that future, and it is with them that humanity rests. But are we giving the future the skills it needs to survive?

In a time of information overload, young people are hard pressed to find a single skill set which enables them to navigate not only the political arena, but those which hit closer-to-home, such as healthcare, finances and the ever important education. As many of you well know, student loans are something I rant about rather frequently, the dangers of which remain quite unknown for many people from my parent’s generation. But I digress. The skill set most vital to each upcoming individual, in every generation is one that is in a recession all its own: critical thinking.

As a human being, in a much broader, globalized culture, critical thinking means the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate information (being able to determine fact from crap, essentially).

But Michelle-that sounds like you just criticized your own age group. What are you doing?

Pointing out a concern of mine in regards to the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. I’ve included a little context, but put the point of focus in bold. In a recent statement at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), Mrs. DeVos said:

“How many of you are college students? The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.”

Link to the video: C-Span of Mrs. DeVos’ Speech

job-education

What is concerning, therefore, is not the fact that Secretary DeVos is of the opinion that the “fight” extends to college students (because she’s right-we’re at the front lines of a fight which extends far beyond education) but that she believes educators are not educating, but force-feeding their opinions to their students. What’s further troubling is her fixation with othering. Her statement is incredibly biased, in the way it undermines anyone who does not support Donald Trump. That in-and-of-itself is refutes her claim of anti-First Amendment work. You do not have to support the person who fills the role of President of the United States in order to be an American, with all of the associated rights. To have someone in an educational leadership position not be entirely educated on the core values of the country is terrifying. And it is for these reasons that colleges (students and educators) MUST be at the front of the fight.

While I am quite capable of passing along my opinion, I thought that perhaps it would be more prudent to provide the thoughtful discourse of a professor. In an email (which I have attained permission to reproduce), Professor Michael Phelan, Linguistics Department at The Ohio State University gave the following statement:

I have been teaching in public schools of various levels [for 14 years]. In all of that time I have never heard comments such as these from someone in a position of educational leadership; I am aghast and astounded.

Education is about two things: Getting you to ask deep, meaningful, interesting questions about yourselves, your neighbors, and the world around you, and training you to answer those questions. Good educators do not let you rest with *any* set of answers. Good educators probe deeper, asking you to consider how you know what you think you know, if there are special cases or more general formulations of your answers, if it is reasonable that other people in other circumstances may find different sets of answers to be more useful. The hallmark of really answering any scientific question is that your answer leads to more good questions, not fewer. Good educators force you to strongly consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and that your teachers might be wrong too. I firmly believe that if you somehow get through four years of university education without having had your deepest beliefs challenged you should ask for your money back.

Good education is not a systematic indoctrination to try to force you to think the way your teachers think. There are systems of thought and custom where that is the case, but education is not one of them. If you believe everything I believe, and your generation believes everything my generation believes, then we as a species have wasted all the years between because we haven’t learned anything new. But if either of us cannot back up our beliefs with rigorous argument and objective evidence, we are only fooling ourselves.

In the coming weeks, we will discuss issues related to language ideology, bilingualism, and the way that attitudes about people affect our attitudes about their language. We will discuss how the way we talk about political issues can strongly influence our beliefs about those issues, and we will use concrete examples including controversial topics like marriage equality, abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I have strong political beliefs, as doubtless many of you do too. We will keep the debate focused around the language used to talk about these issues because language processing is the point of the course, but it is important to know that we can have that debate respectfully, regardless of where we each come from politically.

Secretary DeVos said, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think.” I think she got her question words wrong. The faculty and staff at OSU and at any university worth the name don’t teach you what to do, say, or think. We teach you how to do things, how to say things, and more importantly, how to think clearly, deeply, and critically.

It is with this email that I leave you with the following quote.

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Albert Einstein

As always,

You are valid. You have worth. You are irreplaceable. You are enough.