Unconventional Letter

Dear Michelle,

Thank you.

Thank you for never giving up. And I know there were times you thought you had to, that there was no other choice. I remember all those nights spent alone, crying in the bathroom, hoping to end your pain with a razor blade. I remember the long days spent not eating, drinking only a cup of coffee in the morning because you felt like you might fall asleep in the middle of calculus if not, then rushing home to see if you’d lost more weight. I remember all of this, but most of all I remember how even though there were times you wanted to, you didn’t choose to die and instead, you chose to live.

Thank you for learning to open up again. After you graduated from high school, you tried to close yourself off, masking your feelings with words like “exhausted”, “the flu” and “allergies”. You kept everyone at arm’s length until you couldn’t take it anymore and you decided to make friends. I know that was hard for you, but I promise it’s paid off.  You’re about to find out that you actually love coffee dates with friends and trying new things.

Thank you for going off meds-even at the disapproval of your then boyfriend. He didn’t know you, you didn’t stay with him, and you really had to choose your own life for your own reasons. I know at that point, you didn’t even understand fully your diagnosis. I’m so proud of you for making your own way. I know in the future you’ll contemplate going back on medicine, and it’ll be hard, but if you don’t want to do something, don’t let the fear of consequences force you to make a decision.

Thank you card

Thank you for walking away from the poisonous relationships you tried so hard to save. You thought that if you just tried harder, loved more deeply, that you could fix them. But they weren’t the ones who needed fixing, and abusive relationships aren’t worth your time. Or effort. I’m so sorry you had to learn that the hard way. But you got past it with some ice cream and art. That was the first time you thought that you might be okay with being alone instead of being with someone who told you that you were always to blame, and that everything he did was to show you that you deserved no one better. You may have been brokenhearted, and it felt like your whole world was dying, but you left. You’re so brave.

Speaking of bravery, there will come a time in your life that you’ll wake up and be paralyzed with the fear of driving. We’ll work through it, and it will be hard for a long time, but please don’t give up. Living in the past, living with the memories of what “could have” happened is only going to hurt us in the long run. Yeah, this is one of those corny “hello, younger me” letters that we swore we’d never write, but I have so many things to thank you for.

Thanks for taking a chance and going out with that boy from high school that you thought was “too short”. You’ll drive each other crazy, but you have a strong marriage, and a lot of really hilarious dating stories that will get you through any disagreements you might have. You even got a dog (he acts more like a cat, and you’ll learn to love him). That boy will learn how to understand your moods, and even help you get through them.

Thank you for working so hard during your mood swings. No one requests to have bipolar disorder, but you’ve done remarkable things with it. You laid the foundation for such great things to happen for your future. But don’t think for a minute that it’s shameful to change your major when you get to college. It’s gonna drive you mad and you’ll feel so completely used up, but you’ll see that the greatest thing is going to happen once you walk through all the open doors. You’ll continue to struggle with food, but honestly, you’re going to love yourself more at the heaviest weight than you ever did when you struggled with your eating disorders. Just don’t go too far in the other direction, okay? Eating too much is bad too. Food isn’t a drug, it’s not meant to protect you from life.

I know that you know life is hard. But thanks for going back into counseling. In hindsight, you probably didn’t have to hide it, because you’re about to become exceptionally vocal about mental health and women’s rights. You aren’t stuck, you aren’t defective, and you most definitely aren’t finished. We have so much work ahead of us, and it’s all thanks to you.

You stuck it out when the world grew dark, when our mind waged wars against us and our heart got so heavy it might burst. You fought each and every day for life to be better, waiting for the day it all meant something. You kept going, even when everything screamed at you to just stop. I know my battles, our battles, don’t end with this little note. We have a whole life to live yet! And I know I didn’t say it then, but I’m saying it now. Thank you, baby girl. Thank you with my whole heart.

You got this, Shells. You don’t need anybody else’s approval, just go for it. You’re about to take your first step in an amazing adventure and you’ll be so surprised where it leads you. I know I am.

The sun will rise again, and so will you.

All my love,

M.

May the Fourth…Be With You

Even with the current political climate, I will continue to blog about women’s issues, human rights and mental health. (I may do an expose about political climates, but at a later time.)

I recently commented (on Facebook) on a local news station’s announcement of the discussion of banning non-essential traffic from Ohio to North Carolina, because of the “bathroom bill”. Me being me, I had to comment-I love human rights issues (because they are opportunities to expand my awareness and activism). Here’s what I expected going in, and what I hoped for:

trans equal

Expect: People to disagree, challenge my views.

Hope: I could change someone’s mind.

What I didn’t expect was the vicious content that would ensue. I will retype here what I typed there, and then tell you about the responses.

The thing is, rapists and sexual predators have been coming after women and children for years, decades and no one has bothered to put up this amount of riotous behavior. It isn’t about bathrooms, just as it has never been. It is about the average person not understanding that which they fear. If it was their children, their siblings, who were transgender or transsexual, then perhaps the tides would change towards equality. However, with all this being said, I am incredibly proud to call Ohio my home, and Columbus my city. It is incredibly easy to cry foul play when you feel like your rights are being infringed upon, but the reality of the situation is that the rights of the cis- have always been safe. It is now up to the minorities, those who have not had access to the same rights, to rise up and cry out as loudly as they can. Freedom isn’t free, and equality isn’t universal. Yet. But with a little understanding, a little empathy and some patience, perhaps we, as the American people (and Ohioans!) can usher in a new era of acceptance, love and humility-putting aside the fear mongering, the hatred and the ignorance. Thank you, Columbus City Council. May love prevail!

Now, yes. It does sound like a naive college student with liberal ideas wrote that. You’d be reading that same view point in all of my blogs. However, what I said was (in my mind) respectful, and reflected my true feelings. I didn’t name call, I didn’t stoop to low levels, I tried to remain calm in a conversation topic where tempers run rampant.

Some of the responses included (I copied and pasted-so any misspellings or poor grammar are as they were written by the original posters):

“What love? U certainly show none”

“Jared fogel and friends loves and thanks u”

“Pedophiles or rapist to pretend their transgender to exploit it. If you don’t think they will do that you need to take off your love cures all blinders right now. They are liars, manipulates and they will do anything to fulfill their sexual desires.”

“Where does this end, at what point do pedophiles get granted their rights.”

“Seriously, I think it’s just another card to pull, I have a male friend who is gay, he always says, if they talk to me like that, I’ll pull the gay card, if I get fired I’ll pull the gay card, that’s all I hear… Where the hell is the straight card? It’s all about control and money…”

“Play every last PC Card like a typical liberal. Call common sense “fear mongering” to try’n get your way. Grow a pair while your at it.”

Now, at this point I have to mention that my comment to the last one was (It’s my favorite comment):

And if I did, in fact, “grow a pair”, NAME DELETED, would that allow me to use the rest room in peace? My career is in human rights, so you’ll forgive me if I continue promoting equality instead of pulling America backwards.

I have been called a murderer because of my stance on abortions, I have been called all the usual things that men call women who are strong and opinionated. I have struggled with my identity and ideas in light of these things, and I have to say, I believe I have come out of this ordeal (and others) a stronger, more sure person.

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I was asked if I believed that someone would willingly submit themselves to a future if they weren’t even part of the group. I had, at that point, answered that although I consider myself bisexual, I had played the part of “lesbian girlfriend” for several of my friends who were in a situation that merited my actions. So when I think of that question now, and try to apply it to this topic, I can only be reaffirmed by my ideas before.

I know I’m a very passionate, outspoken, opinionated individual. I know that I do my best to listen to other people’s ideas, and that I try to be respectful at all times. I also know that I have to stand up for what I believe is right. That’s what it means to truly live. And so I will not be hurt by the people calling me names, or making suggestions about the way I live my life. I will continue to fight for justice, as long as I live.

I don’t think that all Americans believe this way. I don’t even think it’s a majority of them. But what I do think, is that there are a large portion of people who have opinions about this and other issues who choose to remain silent. I can’t remain silent while my friends, old acquaintances, family members, find themselves fearing for their basic rights. I have plans, I have hopes and dreams, and because I ally myself this way, because I belong to several minorities (which will be a blog post on its own), I may be forced into some tight spots. But I choose to believe that justice and love with shine through, and I will not remain silent.

Women’s Rights

I’ve been using my time during Spring Break to work on a scholarship opportunity. I was allowed a short video to talk about the power of women. And I wanted to share it all with you. It’s my take on slam poetry and it’s my first video ever, so I’m actually pretty proud!

Accomplishment, Action, Attack

Today. Goodness gracious today. You have some days when you really feel like you’re doing your best and then life craps out on you. That was my day today. And because I am in a sharing mood, would you like to hear a story?

Today started by me waking up, asking my husband if he was going in today. He said no. That means: I drive myself to and from school. If you’ve followed me since the “Here be Dragons” post, you’ll know that driving is a big stressor for me. But I knew I could do it. So I took the dog out and went to work. I made it!

Half way through my shift, I get a text from my husband telling me that he actually had to go in today, and that he had to be on campus before 5 to turn in a form. So I email my professor and tell him that I will not be in class today. He calls down to the office where I work and we have the following conversation:

Professor: Hi Michelle, is there any possible way you could walk with me to class today? I’m having some problems with my kidney stones and I want to make sure someone is there to keep me from falling.

Me: Yea, of course! I’ll be down a few minutes before class starts.

And so I arrive with ten minutes to spare and hear him. The man is obviously in pain. He has his cane, and I’m on the other side of him. We make it about half way down the hall and he goes down. Now, I’m not proud to admit this, but I was really no help. I made sure he didn’t hit his head, but that was about the extent of my capabilities. I called for one of my bosses, who came out and with him came another professor. I was instructed to cancel class and keep things to a minimum. I did my best there. (I knew he would be in capable hands-I would not have been able to pick him up anyway, and my boss knew how to contact his wife.) So I ensure that that happens and I prepare myself to drive home.

timeforaction

I drive, and guess what? I make it! Without incident. And it was my first time ever driving home too:) I switch my husband seats when I get there though (because I hadn’t eaten and he brought me a snack) and we head back to campus. I recount my tale and we arrive. He bolts off to his building, having switched places again and I commence driving around in circles to wait for him. It takes about 6 go rounds, but he returns and we switch one final time, preparing to head home.

On our way to the line of cars, we chat about dinner, and how I don’t want to eat out because we have leftovers. Once we are in the line, it’s very much just stopped traffic. Then out of nowhere BAM! We’ve been rear ended. I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. My husband gets out of the car and looks at the damage. As it would turn out, the guy who hit us (who is LAUGHING at us, btw) has more damage than we do, so we leave to come home. No, we’re not going to report it, because that would just raise our rates and that’s just no good. (i made sure he was okay, and I made sure I was okay, and that’s the important part!) I’m thinking we’re both gonna take it easy for the next few days regardless. So we get to the gas station that we frequent by our apartment and try to fill the tire with air only to find out (after the fact) that the pump is only letting air out of the tires, not putting air in. So we give up, grab some food and head home.

fender-bender

(This is NOT our accident, it’s just the best representation of what happened. They suffered a pretty obnoxious front end issue and we managed to not really have any damage, except a slight crack to the bumper.)

I literally don’t know how today could have been anymore adrenaline packed, but all I can say is that I am glad that today marks the first evening of spring break, because I really have had quite about enough. I will email my professor and see how he’s doing soon. Maybe we all need more chocolate today.

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I guess the deal with today is that sometimes you are the lucky one and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes the money comes, and sometimes the money goes. When you do everything right, something still might go wrong. And it’s okay. Life will throw curve balls at you when you least expect it-because you least expect it. But at the end of the day, you can either tame your dragons or be eaten by them. Because life isn’t going to just take it easy on you because you’re “disadvantaged”, it’s going to force you to rise above. And that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

International Women’s Day

Ah, today. My favorite interest group day during my favorite interest group month, as part of my favorite topic to discuss. I love being able to talk about women and their cultures, ideals and abilities. I’d thought about doing an interest piece about the Jenner/Kardashian news that’s been popping up, but then I thought-isn’t that kind of defeating the purpose of International Women’s Day? And I thought about doing a Hillary Clinton feature, and about women in power, but she’s already “equal” in many ways. So what do I want to talk about today? Mental Health? I could. Unnecessarily gendered goods? Possibly. But I think at the heart of today, there are two concepts which really embody what I want to focus on: respect and equality.

I had to read a book for one my classes (Women and Democracy) called “Companeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories”. A zapatista is a member or supporter of a Mexican revolutionary force working for social and agrarian reforms, which launched a popular uprising in the state of Chiapas in 1994. (Thanks, Google!)

zap

I know that seems kind of “old” news, but the story is actually really inspiring, and some of the quotes from the book are just phenomenal. The main point, from my understanding, is that the indigenous people of Chiapas wanted control over their own land, their own resources, and wanted the government and military powers to remove themselves. The women, although also heavily involved in this movement, went about things a little differently, collecting themselves for the ideas of equality, freedom and opportunity. Some of the quotes from the book are:

where indigenous communities have taken their destiny into their own hands, where villages find solutions to their economic problems by working collectively, where community members walk proudly…

The dignity with which these women carried themselves, set against a backdrop of centuries of racism and exploitation…

I know they seem a little disjointed, but the quotes themselves are part of the larger ideal of what I was explaining before. The next thing, is the outcome of this movement (specifically on the women’s side. This is the Women’s Revolutionary Law of 1994.

  1. Women, regardless of their race, creed, color or political affiliation, have the right to participate in the revolutionary struggle in any way that their desire and capacity determine.
  2. Women have the right to work and receive a fair salary.
  3. Women have the right to decide the number of children they have and care for.
  4. Women have the right to participate in the matters of the community and hold office if they are free and democratically elected.
  5. Women and their children have the right to Primary Attention in their health and nutrition.
  6. Women have the right to an education.
  7. Women have the right to choose their partner and are not obliged to enter into marriage.
  8. Women have the right to be free of violence from both relatives and strangers.
  9. Women will be able to occupy positions of leadership in the organization and hold military ranks in the revolutionary armed forces.
  10. Women will have all the rights and obligations elaborated in the Revolutionary Laws and regulations.

This next quote comes from a book called “Decolonizing Democracy” and I think it has the best potential to be a slogan which I will print on everything. It talks about when the (Indian) government should be doing for its people. I think it’s applicable to ALL governments.

dec

and at the same time provide safeguards for the fundamental rights of individuals and groups living in this country and for safeguarding the fundamental rights of minorities

So I was thinking, about all the women who have fought for their rights, their freedoms and their ability to live their lives as they see fit. I thought about all of the stories I had been told about female naval officers, pirates, warriors, samurais, wordsmiths, protesters, politicians, activists and leaders and realized that there is so much that has been done for women, by women.

But the fact remains that 1 in 3 girls (in developing nations) will be married as children.(girlsnotbrides.org)

One woman every hour in India will die a “dowry death” (death caused by a dispute in her dowry) (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The average life expectancy for a woman in Botswana is 33 years (America is 78). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

68% of women in Bangladesh suffer (or have suffered in domestic abuse situations. The U.S. spends over $1 BILLION in domestic abuse related medical costs EACH YEAR. 28 cases are reported in Thailand each DAY. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

2% of women in Sierra Leone die in childbirth. That number is .01% in Canada (That’s 1% of 1% or 200 times less than Sierra Leone). (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

40 MILLION girls are missing from the world’s population due to son preference (most of these girls have probably been abandoned for dead or murdered). China makes up 30 million of that total. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

Ohio (where I am from) has the following statistics on sex trafficking:

-More than 1,000 children are trafficked around Ohio each year. This number does not include adults. (ohiobar.org)

-Only 289 cases were reported in 2015, most of whom were US citizens. (traffickingresourcecenter.org)

Up to 700,000 rapes occur in the United States each year. In Japan, only 5 of the 104 gang rapes reported had convictions in 2005. In Burma, marital rape is not a crime unless the victim is under 14. (Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, 4th Ed.)

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So, although today is a day for celebrating women globally, we also need to be severely reminded that we have to fight harder, fight faster, to protect those very same women. We are half of the sky and we must hold each other higher. The first step, is education. To be aware is the only way to help.

 

A Letter

Dear Senator Sanders,

         You do not know me, but I am a young Democratic voter from a very small town in Ohio. You’ve probably never heard of it, but it was named after a Polish officer who fought in our revolution. In that tiny little spot, there are no stop lights, and plenty of dirt roads. It is a place where children can play freely, cut off from the rest of the word, or so it can seem. I grew up there, and it will always be home to me, full of the love and support that I am thankful to have had.

         I’ve been privileged to have had some wonderful friends, all of whom helped me grow into the outspoken, passionate woman I am today. And part of that stems from having a deep love of people who are different from myself. I deeply enjoy looking into other cultures, ensuring that I have the best, most thorough information available, so that I can make that small town proud of the ways in which I impact my world. As an anthropology student, research into cultures and attitudes are kind of a requirement. So I took the time to do a little research on you, Mr. Sanders, and here is what I found out.

         You are a man of many skills: carpentry, film and legislation among them. You are devoted to your family, and all that you see morally astute. But do you know what I did not see, or at least, not on your website? I did not see a medical degree. And so it troubles me deeply that you went out of your way to say the following at the debate in Flint, Michigan:

“We are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to address the mental health.”

         You see, the media may have found that sound bite worthy of a chuckle, Secretary Clinton did as well, but for someone who works so hard at promoting equality amongst peoples, you have let down a very large, very important community. You may have made an offhanded comment about the opposing party, but you neglected to consider that the members of the mentally ill community may not have appreciated you including the Republican candidates into that group simply because some of the outrageous things which have come out of their mouths.

         I have been a proud advocate of mental health awareness, of mental illness equality and of breaking down stigmas associated with mental illnesses. But more than that, I am a member of that community that you so brazenly mocked. Some of the phrases you used last night were “lunatic”, “crazy person” and of course, the quote which I have mentioned above. You see, while it may be easy to openly criticize actions such as those of Mr. Trump mocking a physically disabled person, it is not as socially acceptable to openly discuss ways in which mental illnesses need to be treated with the same respect. 

         So here I am, Senator Sanders, a young woman from Ohio, asking you to consider the fact that while the words you speak may be coming from a well-intended place, you are furthering the stigmas and stereotypes which have plagued a branch of health and wellness for far too long. Instead of using the actions of the opposing party to get a few laughs, why don’t you focus on ways in which you will help the mental health community facilitate our own well-being in the face of misunderstanding and under-education. Perhaps then, you would be able to see why making jokes about mental health isn’t funny-it’s just plain rude.

         Thank you for your time.

Best,

Michelle Brewer-Bunnell

A Concerned Citizen

Symmetry

In life, there are ups and downs. People with illnesses (mental and physical) are probably more aware of that, as are the people who care for those with illnesses. But it’s learning how to live (and thrive) with the waves that makes all the difference. Marriage is really no different. I know I haven’t been married all that long (approaching 2 years!) but some things have transpired over the past semester that bring me really to the title of today.

For many years, human beings have been subjected to the beauties of symmetry. It is believed (and has been tested) that we are more likely to subconsciously choose someone with a symmetrical face as our life partners or potential ones. And it is something a little more abstract that I found intriguing.

Bean
Source: Google

 

When I first started college, I thought that my life path was to become a doctor. I wanted to work in pediatric oncology-the children with cancer. I wanted to give futures to people who otherwise had little hope of one. My husband? He wanted to become a doctor, who specialized in stem cells and stem cell therapies. He wanted to extend the human life, so that we could heal more diseases and change life for the better. We were both biology majors.

anth.jpg (Source: Google)

I started to have doubts about what I wanted in life, and how I could not fulfill my wishes with the path that I was on. I changed majors (in my head) a few times) and then finally settled on Anthropology (which I love!). Ben (my husband) remained a biology major, sure of his life ambitions. We began to look into grad/ med schools. We realized that we’d probably have to live in separate places, and go to different schools. Maybe even different states. We began to stress.

mol.jpg (Source: Google)

My husband decides that biology is not his calling, and that perhaps he will find happiness in Molecular Genetics instead. We rapidly approach our senior year of undergrad, and the thoughts of continuing education continue to cause a large amount of concern and distress in our daily lives. We frequently struggle to talk about it without using the phrase: “I’ll figure it out later.”

vot (Source: Google)

We find ourselves in the early stages of this election season, and suddenly all we talk about is politics. Although we are both active in our citizen duties, I have no interest in politics-as far as running for office. I do, however, begin to look at court cases and realize that maybe being a diplomat isn’t the “best fit” for my desires. I begin to look into law schools focusing on criminal law and domestic law.

But it is my husband who ended up in the turn around spot this time. Each report, each debate would find him a little more involved and a little less in love with the idea of medicine. Sure enough, this past week, he decided he would definitely pursue a degree in what? Law. And so, we are both looking into colleges now with law programs, in the same states, and even the same schools. In five year’s time, we managed to come full circle. Although some new information has come into play, we’ve finally hit our stride and figured out what makes the pair of us tick. And I deeply love that we are now strong members of our fields, with a purpose, a drive and hope for our future.

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