Too Many

This blog is one that I wish I did not have to write. Honestly. And it hurts me that there even has to be a discussion about it. I came across this article, which I have linked for you below, only a few hours after it was posted. I spent the moments immedately after reading it pacing and trying to make sure I didn’t vomit all over the carpet. Tears stung my eyes, frustration clawed at my heart and I reached out to a friend. I vented and raved about how I was devoting my entire life to a system so broken that I might as well have been born 80 years ago and asked to go to college.

The Guardian Article
She responded with compassion and understanding, having often mirrored my own horror and concern with the climate of our nation. And then I placed the most startlingly real truth I ever could on a screen.

The statistic for college aged (my aged) women and sexual assault is 1 in 5. Keep that in mind.

I said: If I look at the four women I come in contact with most-who are also college aged, whom I know well enough to know their stories- statistically speaking, there should be one of us who has been assaulted. But of this group of five, three have been assaulted. The cursor blinked angrily at me as I stopped and read over those words again and again. Even after I had already sent the message to my friend, I stared at it.


We believe the statistics because they make us feel confident that we know what’s going on in the world. We choose to believe that if we surround ourselves with enough people, the one in danger won’t be us. And yet, what we believe is a lie. The most terrifying lie I think we could believe. Because we want it to be true. We want to believe that we are safe, that human beings don’t have the capacity to be awful people and that awful people would never come in contact with us-because we make good choices. But that’s not quite true at all. 

I look back at that article and my heart weeps. I’ve located some agencies who train people as volunteers for sexual assault cases and I’m looking at which ones might be the right fit for me. I know that I am one person. But so was that girl in the article. And she went to the system which has sworn to serve and protect her, she did everything that she was supposed to and her lawyer did their job as well. But in the end, the system failed her. And as a future lawyer, who one day will be in the same position as her lawyer, I can only hope that I am met with someone who understands that a beverage is not something which is beyond the realistic interpretation of the law. Because at the end of the day, no one asks to be assaulted. No one.

Three of five is far too many. One of five is far too many. No one deserves that fate.

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What NO ONE Talks About

So I know that I’ve been pretty rant filled and political and those sorts of things, but I firmly believe it is for good reason. My goal each time I post something along the lines of Kesha or Bernie or even Suicide Awareness is that more people will become aware of some of the issues of today and take action. I will not apologize for my “editorials”, nor for the motives behind them. But today, i am both taking a personal and an activist stance for something that I believe needs to be addressed: menstruation.

Thaaaaat’s right, your favorite gift from the great mother, the one that turns your girlfriend, wife, mother or sister into a cranky, bloated, bleeding stressball once a month. But as always, that’s only one way to look at it.I’m here to bring some facts, some interesting thoughts and some ideas to the crimson issue.

moon

Menstruation, or moon time has been revered throughout the ages as a source of power for women. It is with this flushing of the uterus that many women have been accused of sorcery, devil worship and all sorts of magicks. It’s my favorite time to be a woman.

WHAT?

no-entry-during-menstrual-period-3-638

That’s right. It’s my favorite thing about being a woman. No man on earth can do it, that makes it unique to my biological sex. And having a period is a sign of health. If you are malnourished, or have an eating disorder, chances are menstruation is one of the first things that stops.And you know what else? I find it empowering that I can survive bleeding each month and not dying. It makes me feel like a fierce viking warrior woman who’s just come from battle. Seriously. I see absolutely ZERO shame in my “monthly”. But here are some things you may not be aware of.

hygiene

Around the world, being a menstruating female is a bad thing. ” In rural Nepal, a similar practice occurs, where women are not allowed in their homes for fear that the gods will become angry and put a curse on the home and family leading to illness and problems.” (1) Small Mali villages have NO access to feminine hygiene products, and neither do villages in Senegal, Tanzania (it’s increasing here!), Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Guatemala, and a number of other countries with limited access. (2) And here in the United States? The impoverished aren’t afforded the luxury of feminine hygiene products, as “the food stamp programs in most US states do not even consider menstrual hygiene products as “essential items” (1). “Many girls are terrified by their first period. Because they lack  information, many girls believe they are ill or dying when they first menstruate.” (1) A year’s supply of tampons and pads costs upwards of $70 (3)!

I personally think it’s a little higher, depending on where you live and how much stuff you have to go through each month. $6.99 for a 36 count of Tampax Pearls, $4.39 for a 50 count of Kotex liners and $3.19 for a 22 count Always Maxi Pad (4). You’re supposed to change a pad every 3-4 hours, and a tampon every 4-8 hours. Suppose you have a 7 day period. (It’s math time!) And most of the time, if your flow is heavy, you use both a tampon and a pad, if not two tampons. (just keep that in mind, I’m getting there).

1 day of light bleeding

5 days of moderate to heavy bleeding

1 day of light bleeding

(and let’s be honest, add 2 more days of liners JUST IN CASE something happens)

So in total: 4 days of “light” and 5 days of “moderate to heavy”.

4 days * 24 hours = 96 hours / 4 hours = 24 times to change a pad (light days don’t need both pads and tampons)

5 days* 24 hours =120 hours / 4 hours =30 times to change BOTH.

So for ONE month you use: 24 liners, 30 pads and 30 tampons.

With the size boxes that I looked at, you’ll need to buy a grand total of about 11 months’ worth of “stuff” So the last bit of math is:

(11*6.99)+(11*4.39)+(11*3.19)=$160.27 USD (a little more than TWICE the quoted cost.)

That is NOT okay. For being a woman, who by the way has no choice over the matter to have or not have a period, that is a LOT of money to spend. And not to mention, do you know how much waste tampons and pads make? No? Well let me tell you.

“According to the new book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs, and applicators” in her lifetime.” (5)

infographic.jpg

And now we reach the “story part”. So I had heard all of the information, and I knew that I really care for the environment, but I had never really thought about how something as basic as puberty might be destroying the earth. I mean, you literally don’t think about it. You just think, “Oh, well, I must bleed for a week, better not wear anything that might get damaged.” and go about your day. So on a coffee date one day, I walked past a CVS and decided I was going to do my part. Cue the DivaCup (6). I’d heard about these as a pretty recent fad, I figured they were just something that someone had thought up. And then it hit my news feed about the girl who got TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) for leaving a tampon in too long and I decided I needed to know what the craze was all about.

I have to admit, the first time using it was a little…frustrating. I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt kinda silly and I couldn’t get it right. But. A little research goes a long way. I found a fold, I managed to figure it all out, and now I’m saving myself so much money. AND I’m saving the environment.

blood

But that’s not enough. I have to be part of the message. We have to make menstruation something that’s talked about, something that women don’t have to be ashamed of. Did you know that’s the number one reason girls in impoverished countries drop out of school? Here’s a quote from a girl in Uganda:

“I used to use cloths that I would cut from my old T-shirts to keep the blood from staining my dresses, but they were not enough and blood would still stain my clothes,” she told a local NGO that visited her school to teach her how to make reusable pads.

“Boys used to laugh at me and I eventually simply stayed home whenever my periods started.” (7)

voice.png

Seriously. If we are going to end poverty, end gender inequality, we have to start talking about stuff like periods. Women should not feel ashamed that they are healthy. And they shouldn’t miss class because they have no access to hygiene products. Pads and tampons are not a luxury. Water is not a luxury. Education is not a luxury. We have to speak out.

Sources:

(1): Dignity Period

(2): Lipgloss and A Backpack

(3): New York Times

(4): Google Shopping For Hygiene

(5): Slate

(6): DivaCup

(7): Girl Effect

Why Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

I don’t know about you, but I look through Pinterest and there are days when I get so revved up about what I see that I have to stop looking at it for a few hours, or I’ll keep going back to it and get all worked up. Especially when I look at the feminism stuff or mental illness pins. And I am very much for both of those sections. But you know as well as I do that any old fool can post things without having an inkling of knowledge to back up those words. And it is that ignorance that gets to me. So, let’s jump in the time machine and I will tell you all about why.

I’m a proud Pinterst fanatic. I have over 20 thousand pins. It’s taken LARGE amounts of my time to get that far, but I consider it an invaluable resource to my life. For those of you (are there any?) who don’t know what Pinterest is, it’s kind of like a networking site for ideas. You “Pin” ideas to a “board” and save recipes, DIY projects and so many things. But it can also be used for keeping ideas together. I belong to both camps. Today, I’m going to focus on how social media (specifically Pinterest) perpetuates incorrect information about mental illnesses and disorders: namely EDs (Eating Disorders).

I doubt there are in here, but I know how this works, so just in case.

***TRIGGER WARNING*** Some symptoms, stories and elements may cause flare ups of conditions. The author does not condone or suggest any actions which may cause bodily harm.

I know that if you go into Pinterest and type in “Eating Disorders” into the search bar, you will most likely get a different result list than I will. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how: screen shots! I will caption them with WHAT I want you to pay attention to and then WHY it’s important to today’s blog. This is going to be a personal one today, and I hope that means it helps more than I rant.

  
First off, I like this. I mean, I’m not really sure why I couldn’t immediately connect to Pinterest, but I’m ultimately glad I didn’t. And it goes to show, that the moment I try to prove my point, something inevitably happens that changes my mind. Sort of. So thank you, Pinterest for being on the ball. I appreciate that.

  
 
I want you to look at the top left “hand” picture AND the one right beside it. Those two pictures I am calling into question because although you cannot sum ANY disorder up into a single picture, these only scratch the surface. ALL of these pictures do. The focus is on being skinny. But this screen shot shows my point as well. Looks can be deceiving. And the truth is, you really may not ever know who you are until you break away all of the pieces you thought you were made of.

  
 
This time, focus on the gentleman , and the woman at opposite corners. The great thing is that it highlights men having EDs too; a topic we need to focus on more! The problem with the gentleman’s picture is the same as above: it focuses on the skinny issue. And granted you could argue that that is the “basis” of eating disorders, but I would argue it is merely a facet of some of them. The problem I have with the second one actually requires more than a caption so I’ll bump down a paragraph.

Yes you do. You absolutely do decide one day that that is the course of action you are going to take. It may be subtle, like backing off, extreme dieting or eating less and less. It may be abrupt and one day you just stop eating solids, or anything at all. But you DO decide it. And it basically happens in a day. You just can’t take the pressure or the shame or the guilt and you decide you’re going to do something about it.

I was 14 when I first started dabbling with EDs. Almost a decade later, I’m not sure I’m any better.

The first thing I tried was Bulimia. I can make myself purge on demand and I enjoyed the taste of food so I thought: At least I can still taste the things I love. But the thing is, I HATE puking. I really do. And no matter how much I convinced myself that it would help, I dreaded each meal for the sole reason that I would have to throw it up. I maybe lasted in this phase a grand total of 2 weeks. Any extraneous symptoms were not entirely present. (Or had been present BEFORE onset.)

  

So I moved to Anorexia. By the “height” of my time in this disorder, I was only eating an apple a day and that is why I became a caffeine addict. I fought so hard to stay awake every day. And since I have many years worth of experience in this disorder, let me tell you some things.

  

First. While the motivation to be skinny is a big draw into this disorder, it isn’t the thing that keeps you there. You become trapped, like you cannot stop. You feel like it’s your life now and that is all there will ever be. And did I mind that my collar bone stuck out, that my ribs were exceptionally visible? I lived for those signs that I was making progress. But those are the “sexy” side effects. I’m here to tell you about the not-so-sexy ones.

I began to pass out. Sometimes at home, sometimes at school, always without knowing it. It was kind of like narcolepsy-it just happened. And on top of the literal black outs, I began to loose whole chunks of time. There are, even still, very large portions of my memory that are not clear because I didn’t feed my brain enough to make them last. On top of that, I have little hairs all around, which were not there before. You wouldn’t know it, because I take care of it, but even now, they remain. And the hair on my head falls out in great clumps, just as it did before. I missed menstrual cycles-sometimes for 6 months or more. Not because I was pregnant, but because my body couldn’t succeed in normal functions. My fingernails would constantly chip and break, but the worst thing was how weak I felt. I felt slow, my head felt too big, it was like being stuck in extreme gravity for months on end.

And the thing is, no one even noticed. I wore baggy clothes, bundled up, and tried to hide from everyone. This photo was taken of my in my junior year, I believe. I was trying to catch up on some caffeine, clearly. (I said I was a caffeine addict. And I remember this. It was during prom planning, when I had to try hardest to fit in.) The shirt I was in was a medium. 

  

I was 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 meters) tall at that point, as I am still,  and “look healthy”. But what you can’t see are the constant struggles with food, the endless exercises,  the constant state of pain. All you can see is laughter. A facade.  The me that I outwardly projected. Which is exactly what my primary care physician saw when I went in with the complaint of forgetting chunks of time and passing out. She told me that it was all menstruation related and that I needed to “focus harder”. She could have inadvertently killed me with those words, but luckily I saw a psychiatrist soon after.

And now?

That’s what everyone wants, right?  The triumphant “I survived. And now I’m better. ” story. But I don’t think that’s the story I have for you.  Not today.

I currently fall into the “obese” category of the BMI chart. And does that bother me? A lot. I stay so far away from the starvation diet that I jumped right into the other band wagon. 

  
Puts an interesting spin on things, doesn’t it? Like a big fat slap in the face. I didn’t even know there was a name for what I was doing to myself. And the thing is: I’m not so different than I was before. I spend a day eating whatever I want followed by a day of not really eating, or by a week of heavy dieting. And the people who know me know that I diet a LOT. We’re talking everything shy of weight loss pills. And the cycle repeats. And I’m almost afraid to call it what it is, because I still can’t decide if it’s a lack of willpower, self control or if it’s just lazy, “emotional” eating. With Bulimia and Anorexia, I could relate to 90% of the psychiatrist’s symptom list, but only about 80% of the list I supplied. (More with AN than B.) But I can check off every single symptom up there for BED) and if that’s not saying something, I’ll tell you what is.

I’ve had some variety of ED for HALF MY LIFE (almost-we’re short by 2 years). My hair, even though it is thick (as we discussed a couple posts ago) falls out in large clumps. My nails break often (but I try to compensate with the vitamins I take). My body still has little hairs from being anorexic, I feel sluggish and exhausted a LOT, and I cannot say that I enjoy these decisions. By being anorexic, I ruined my body. I broke who I was as a person and watched the pieces slip away. But with B.E.D., I’ve hidden any growth behind a wall of food, shame and pain trying to avoid crushing my soul into oblivion (all while sabotaging it instead). 

So all in all, what I have to say can be boiled down into two parts. First, the Pinterest issue. Not all EDs are about being skinny. I didn’t even touch on orthorexia. Not all EDs are publicized, but ALL of them need to be taken seriously.

And second, I make a public promise to myself, that I will never stop fighting for people who need it, even if they do not look like anything is wrong. Because for years the only thing people were concerned about was the physical harm I was inflicting on myself, and noone even saw the neglect and torture behind it.

So although this isn’t an update for you all, I’ve been working on this post for over three weeks, and I want everyone to know that I am getting help I don’t know the future, but I have to take back control.

The Day I Found Out What it is to be a WOMAN

  

Today I was going to blog about eating disorders, but then I had an experience that changed my entire outlook on life-and all that it means. While I do not have everything figured out, I need to explain a lot of background first.

I’m taking a lot of “human” classes this semester. Human Variation (or the study of genetic differences in humans), Communication Theory (how humans communicate with each other),Women and Democracy (how women come into play in things like government, politics, and social contracts) and Human Sexuality (the theory and practicality of humans and sex). And there is a lot of overlap in these classes, namely in what it means to be a woman in several contexts. Now, having lived my entire life as a woman, I thought I knew most everything. I carry my keys like weapons, I have a self-imposed curfew, I know what it means to vote, how the basics of government is run (thanks to my high school government teacher!) and other bits and bobs I’ve picked up over the years. But I have been incredibly fortunate to never be in a position where my power over self if compromised. And that is where today comes into play.

Now, a note before I continue. ***This is the most easy going, least violent way possible that my power over self was compromised. And I want to explore the thought process behind it more than the actions.I am NOT AT ALL comparing this to situations where bodily autonomy is forcefully taken away in any capacity. I just want to talk about the thought process, as I said.***

I went to the mall with my husband, because we were out today anyway and I wanted to walk around. I enjoy the mall, often find little things to pick up and usually find it a fun place to be. As we were getting ready to leave, a woman at a kiosk stopped me and handed me a free sample. Not wanting to seem rude, I took it and said thank you. She asked if I had a moment, to which I replied we (my husband and I) were already running late and I couldn’t stay. She said it would only take a moment and so I followed her to her station. She asked me to sit down so she could show me her line of hair straighteners. I have hair down to my shoulder blades, and I NEVER use straighteners or curling irons on it. My hair is so thick that it has a mind of it’s own and several stylists have refused to work with it because of that. I’ve dyed my hair so much that it fries my hair too hard to straighten anyway. So she inquired about the colors and told me her straightener didn’t damage hair and was a 2-in-1 product. 

I didn’t want to seem rude, so I silently took down my hair and let her show me.

I could see the steam, I could feel the heat and although I was fidgeting uncomfortably the entire time, I said nothing. My husband watched patiently. She put clips in my hair and I felt trapped. I had planned on just bolting, but I didn’t want to run away with her clips in my hair. So as she kept talking, I sneakily took the clips out and laid them on her station. She kept talking jovially about how my hair was so soft and she took the comb up my hair to frizz it and then tried to calm my cottonballs hair once more. She stopped for a moment, having done about a fourth of my hair and asked what my favorite color was. I barely made eye contact with my husband before I said: 

“I told you I was running late. Thank you.” 

And I ran away as fast as my shaking legs would carry me.

Now, afterwards, I met up with a friend (who works a kiosk) and explained to her what he happened. I also found out that my husband had been listening to my pleas of self-confidence and hadn’t wanted to barge in and make it seem like he was in control of me (which I thanked him for). My friend said she’d also had a similar experience and that she had bought one of the hair straighteners for $250!!!!! She then told me that it really does burn your hair and isn’t worth the price.

As we were leaving the mall, my husband made the astute observation:

They didn’t have a sink, wipes or sanitation instruments. When did they wash the combs and clips? What if I got lice?

So we had a deep, philosophical conversation on our way home about all this and that is when it hit me.

I’d been in an uncomfortable situation because I didn’t want to seem rude. And instead of immediately getting out of it, I stayed put because I thought:

I sat down and this is all my fault. I got myself into this mess and now I have to deal with the consequences. And on top of all that, I didn’t want to be there, but now I might have a parasite.

I feel like I just stumbled onto the key of understanding. While I may not know and understand the full implications of being held against my will, I now understand why women feel like they have to blame themselves for the bad things that happen. This is where our culture is letting down women. We are teaching them that it’s to be expected that being polite at our own expense. We are expected to internalize the blame, even if it really isn’t our fault.

And for the record, my hair IS burnt. And it smells like vanilla got lit on fire and then sprayed onto my hair. My hair is a disaster . If I do end up with lice, I’ll be finding a lawyer. Because I may not have violently said no, but I never asked to have my good health in jeopardy.

Here Be Dragons

Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to remind yourself that it’s okay, that you’re only suffering a minor setback and that life will continue on, as it indeed always does. You may not want life to change, or approve of it, you may desire it more than you desire anything else in the world. But at some point, change comes for us all and the only thing you have to do is be ready.I wrote a piece about driving a while ago, about how I just couldn’t seem to, and about how it was a source of great shame for me. I finished the piece by saying that my New Year Resolution was to drive more, to be free of the bonds that strapped me into the passenger seat. It has been a week since the year started and what have I done to accomplish that goal?

 

 A bit actually.

The second or third I drove to the store. I can’t say that I drove back from said store, but I darn sure drove there. And my husband and I talked about it and I realized that if I just kept to the quick and simple stuff, I would never succeed in my goal at all.

But I’m not going to lie to you. This is not easy for me.

Yesterday, I had work and I usually have my husband take me in, so that I can just focus on work and he can hang out at the school and get stuff done. We’re on break, which makes that sentence completely illogical, but we’re an active sort of people who quite like the academic scene. He hadn’t slept well and asked if I could take myself in. I immediately burst into tears, the panic having surged through me faster than a tornado. I felt woozy, nauseous and above all, I felt ashamed. Why couldn’t I just get over it? What was wrong with me? So on our way home yesterday, after he graciously picked me up, I asked him timidly if he wouldn’t mind coming with me either today or Friday as my passenger. He agreed, saying he wanted to start working out anyway and this would force him to do so. Last night, I went to bed nervous, exhausted and wondering what I’d done.

This morning, he again told me he hadn’t slept well and I let him sleep a little longer. I prepared my stuff, got my coffee and took the dog out. I looked over the parking lot and once again got the panicked sort of emotions and sensations. I knew that I would have a difficult time talking myself into it and an even worse time if I talked myself out of it. So I hauled myself up to our apartment and grabbed a few more things (let’s be real here- I grabbed a bunch of good luck charms), waited for my husband to finish getting ready and then marched myself down to the car. My hands were shaking, I felt sick and I started the car.

Wouldn’t you know it, rush hour was waiting for me.

I can’ tell you the curse words that streamed in my head. How dare other people be on the road when I was trying to get over my fears? I mean, didn’t they know that I was going to be driving?

And I realized that there was no other place, no other time, that could possibly make my journey more ideal. It was rush hour that gave me a headache, made me a nervous passenger. It was the highway that made my heart race. And that sounds like the settings for the battleground to me. 

I made it to the school, having managed to drive on two separate highways and through campus traffic. I didn’t throw up, pass out, or any of the terrible things that I assumed would happen. I didn’t crash, didn’t die and didn’t break down. I didn’t even say that chant from the previous post. I marched myself up to work with a smile on my face, saying hello to everyone I met. I know that I’m not done for the day-my shift has only really just begun and I’m still nervous about the drive home, but when I grabbed one of my good luck pieces from my pocket, I had to smile pretty fiercely. I mean, just look at how fitting it is.

  

One week down, fifty one more to go.