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Wonder Woman is the Super Hero I Need

Like so many others, I saw Wonder Woman last week and I loved it. I was fully expecting to like the movie, but even if I didn’t, I was 100% on board with my money going toward a movie starring a female action hero, that was directed by a woman. Which brings me back to my first statement, I was fully expecting to like this movie. After hearing friends talk about it, I had cautiously raised the bar of anticipation. Even so, this movie far exceeded my expectations. What came completely out of the blue though, was how profoundly it affected me. I’m 35 years old, I figured the days of getting pumped up and inspired by a super-hero movie were behind me. But then I sat and watched for two hours as a strong woman lead men and at no point was she referred to as a bitch, or a ball-buster, or was made fun of or told she was manly because of her strength. And amazingly, she was able to do all of this while still retaining her femininity. What?!?!?!?! How is that possible? That must be some Hollywood magic.

Whenever I’m in a group, I usually wind up leading it whether I want to or not. Trust me, there are times that I just want to kick back and go with the flow, but the next thing I know I’ve been nominated to take charge. People who know me, know that if I’m leading the group, shit will get done and it will get done well. I will lead the charge to the finish line and I prefer if you pull your weight, but we all know there will be at least one person per group who just wants to skate by doing nothing. I will drag that person kicking and screaming with me if that’s the only option left to me. This is why people ask me to lead, I pick up the slack of the weaker links.

dragged

What sucks, is that those very same people who want me in charge, are also the ones calling me a bitch. I have lost track of how many times I have heard someone whisper to their friend how huge of a bitch I am, and then turn around and ask me to lead them. It blows, but it’s something that I have always accepted as being the way of things. It was my price to pay. For what I don’t know? Having my personality? Who knows? I accepted that it was the way it would always be.

I’m sure what added to the “bitch persona,” is the fact that I am not a petite woman. There is nothing about me that is petite. My shoulders are so broad that I’ve hulked out the seams on more shirts and jackets than I care to admit . . . some of them in fitting rooms. But frankly, if the shirt isn’t actually an extra-large, they shouldn’t label it as an extra-large. That being said, I’m wearing an extra-large shirt right now, and the shoulder seams hit about an inch onto my shoulder. So really an extra-large doesn’t fit either.

Shirt-shoulder

My frame does not fit into the criteria of classic femininity. The way that I bulk on muscle, unless I’m excruciatingly careful about how I exercise, makes me look more like a body builder than a curvaceous woman. I can’t wear short sleeve shirts unless the arms are made of a material that can stretch, because my biceps are too big. I easily carried my forty pound dog up and down the stairs several times a day for four months when he tore his ACL. I am tall, I am broad, I am strong, and as if that weren’t enough I have a deep voice. I have been called a dude, butch, manly, one of the guys for so long that it takes me aback when a guy flirts with me. For an emergency, a deadline, hard advice, call Kat. For a good time or a hot date, call someone else.

Entertainment confirms this image. The big and strong girls are the comedic relief, or the ones that help carry the plot so the petite main character can live happily ever after. These are the roles for the non-feminine girls, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean ugly. You can be beautiful, but the second you’re the same size as 50% or more of the men in the room, you are no longer feminine enough to be a heroine or a love interest. The second you move from the girl being lifted in dance choreography to the girl doing the lifting because you don’t have enough guys, is the moment you lose the descriptor, feminine.

So imagine my amazement at watching these kick-ass fight scenes with bulked-out, strong AF women who exuded femininity. The Amazons were strong, fierce and had costumes that accentuated their strength more than their sex-appeal. And better yet, instead of being the ‘manly’ women, or the ones who take care of the other more petite women, they were just women. Even Wonder Woman’s classic uniform still paid tribute to its sexy forbearers, but it again shows her strength more than her curves. Compare the necklines and the waist size of the two women.

Old vs New WW

If I lost every ounce of fat on my body, I still couldn’t look like Lynda Carter. Gal Godot, that’s doable. I would still have to lose every ounce of fat on my body, but I could achieve that body shape. Broad shoulders, tall, discernible waist but not an hourglass. And most importantly, strong AF, and not apologizing for it or hiding it. Not apologizing for stepping out to take the lead, and not apologizing for breaking the classic mold of femininity. For the first time in my life, I left a movie loving the fact that I am strong and that I can put on muscle. I left a movie wanting to work out and get that muscle definition back. I left feeling that I can be just as feminine as my more petite counter-parts.

I was not expecting to get that kind of body-positive affirmations from a comic book super-hero movie. Consider my mind blown. Especially when I logged onto social media and saw this kind of reaction across the board. Petite women felt empowered. Larger women felt empowered. Average size women felt empowered. By treating a female super-hero like they would have treated a male super-hero, women across the country felt empowered. Feminism is not the desire to be treated better than men. It is the desire to be treated on an equal plane with men. The things we can learn from comic books. Go figure.

Decide to Get Over It?

I am a huge proponent of therapy. I truly believe that at one point or another, no matter how perfect and magical your life is, every person can benefit from talking with a therapist. There is just something about knowing that there is someone out there to whom you can confide all of the things in your head that you barely even want to admit to yourself, much less to somebody else. There is someone that you can confide those things to, and your secret is safe, because by law, they can’t tell anybody! Not only can’t they tell anybody, but they’ll talk through the issue with you. It is amazing how much relief can be had from telling a therapist something that makes you a freak or a bad person and then hearing the therapist say, “Oh, yeah. That’s normal.”

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There are so many things that we as a society deem inappropriate to talk about, that we walk around thinking we’re all alone and something is wrong with us, when chances are half the population is having the exact same thoughts. It’s crazy! And a trained professional telling you that you’re normal carries so much more clout than if a friend were to say the exact same thing. Working with a good therapist can truly change your life for the better.

However, you knew that was coming, I always hit a certain point while working through past crap and relearning healthier ways of thinking/behaving, that I just get so sick of rehashing the past. I get it, it’s good work. It’s work that needs to be done at one point or another, and just when you think you’re done something else comes up. My PTSD unleashed several repressed memories. Those are fun.

zero fun

But despite the fact that I know it’s good for me, and I know in the long run I’ll be glad I did it, I am to the point that I don’t want to think about and focus on the crap anymore. I almost feel like telling myself to stop whining. Seriously, get over it already! And then I realize that I sound like every well-intentioned – or completely clueless – person that has ever told me to do the same thing.

“Just think about the good things. Be happy.”

“Forget about it and move on.”

“Maybe some exercise out in the sun will help!”

So I don’t know. Can you simply decide to get over it and be done? Have you ever reached that stage in therapy?

Always Good for a Laugh!

Anybody who knows me, or frequents my Instagram page, knows that my dogs are my babies. I’ve had them for a little over a decade now, and I don’t care how low or crappy I’m feeling, they can always make me feel better. Whether it’s their crazy antics or both of them climbing into my lap for snuggles, they lift my spirits. So a couple of years ago when their nervous energy got out of control – they would scream and cry EVERY TIME I left the house – I talked to their vet and we put them on Prozac. In retrospect, I wish that I had put them on it years earlier, it made everyone happier. What made it even better, was that I was able to fill their prescriptions at my local Target pharmacy. So I registered both of them as pets and all was well.

Puggles

Then CVS took over the Target pharmacies, which was even better for me, since I get my own prescriptions at CVS. Why not Target you ask? Because I spend a hell of a lot less money when I walk into CVS, then when I walk into Target! So I transferred the prescriptions over to my normal CVS and all was well . . . or so I thought. The last time I went in, I asked for my prescriptions, then I asked for the prescriptions of Zoey and Malcolm Michels, both born on 6-26-06. To which the guy helping me said something about twins and I agreed. Technically they’re littermates, not twins. I personally know that they at least had another sister, so they are two from a set of triplets, or quadruplets, or quintuplets . . . much easier to say littermates. However, as I got tired of giving this explanation to people several years ago, I just smiled at the attendant and agreed that Zoey and Malcolm are indeed twins.

He smiled back, and then went to fetch the prescriptions. When he came back, the smile was gone, replaced by a rather troubled look. He set my prescriptions down, and then proceeded to almost say something, then he stopped. It was at this point that I guessed what was going on. I figured he saw that they were labeled as dogs and was afraid of offending me in case my darling twin children had been labeled as animals. I was only half right. Zoey had been labeled as a pet, and Malcolm had been labeled as a little boy. This poor guy was trying to find the most politic way of asking if I indeed had twins composed of a dog and a boy.

Laughing

He finally asked me if Malcolm was a boy, to which I said yes. Then he hesitantly pointed out that Zoey was listed as a K-9 and was that correct? To which I also said yes. I let him hang awkwardly for a couple of moments – because I’m evil – before repeating back to him that yes, Zoey is a dog and Malcolm is a boy . . . dog. At this point he burst out laughing and I could see the tension release from his shoulders, as he assured me that, you know, this is LA, somebody might have dog/boy twins, and he wasn’t judging or anything – he was totally judging – but he was glad that it was much simpler than that. He then fixed Malcolm’s classification in the system, I made a smart ass remark about being really into Twilight back then, and we were both tearing up from laughing so hard by the time I paid and left.

So for a brief moment, in the eyes of CVS, I had a dog and a little boy. Now I just have dogs, and they’re still my babies.

It’s the 1% That Gets You

If you compliment something I’m wearing, or my purse, or a piece of jewelry, I’m likely going to offer up an interesting fact about it. I’m just that person. I’ve come to embrace it. What kind of facts, you ask? Things like, “You can still get it at Target,” or “I got it on sale for $3!” or “My best friend gave it to me for my birthday.” I have no idea why I do this, I guess my brain likes to make associations. 99% of the time, I have no qualms with this little peccadillo. But the 1% drives me insane.

I have this fantastic skirt. It’s classy, hugs my curves in all the right places and flares out with a subdued, yet feminine ruffle at the knee. It’s dark gray with black specks and made of raw silk so you can dress it up or down. Best yet, it is comfortable! Really, the only flaw in its design is that it doesn’t have pockets. However, with all of its other attributes, I’m willing to let that slide. The thing is, I hardly ever wear it. Maybe once or twice a year, tops. I always see it hanging there, admire it for a moment and then move on to something else. Wanna know why? It is the 1% that drives me insane because I wore the damn thing to my mother’s funeral.

Charlie Brown

Any other interesting fact about that skirt gets trumped by the fact that I wore it to my mother’s funeral, so that’s the fact that pops into my head. It doesn’t make me sad or bring up the emotions from that day, it’s simply a factoid. You compliment my glasses, I tell you that I got them for free because Lenscrafters broke my other frames while trying to fix them. You compliment my cute brown loafers, I tell you that I got them for half off on Zulily. You compliment my gray skirt . . . you know how this ends. Now truth be told, nobody has ever complimented me on my cute brown loafers. Mostly because I don’t think anyone else thinks they’re cute. There’s no accounting for taste (you can decide whose in this scenario.)

So if I had worn the brown loafers to my mother’s funeral, I would have zero problems. However, the damn skirt is so cute that I inevitably get 2-3 compliments on it every time I wear it. Then I have to bite my tongue to keep from blurting out, “I wore it to my mom’s funeral.” Because let’s face it, that would be awkward. Nothing puts a damper on a conversation like playing the dead mother card. Especially when it’s a complete stranger in the bathroom! Nobody wants to hear where I wore the skirt, they just want to tell me that it is super cute.

Awkward

So I bite my tongue and move on with my day. Then somebody else says something and I bite my tongue again. This goes on all day until I get home and just to relieve the tension that has built up, I tell my dogs that I wore the stupid skirt to my mom’s funeral and I’m never wearing it again because it’s exhausting! And they wag their tails, give me kisses and don’t care that I said something macabre, because they’re dogs. Which just proves that dogs are easier than people.

Charlie and Snoopy

If you haven’t already guessed, I recently wore that skirt and have thus been traumatized once more by the experience. I would get rid of it instead of ranting here, but it’s just so damn cute! Life is hard.

Stopping a Panic Attack

In my previous post I talk about how we need to give ourselves credit for shutting down, or stopping panic/anxiety attacks. What I failed to talk about is how exactly I do that. Which was pointed out to me in a couple of emails. Oops! My bad! I guess that is good information to share. So here’s how I stop my panic attacks before they become ER worthy. Please note, I have panic attacks, not anxiety attacks which you approach from different angles. If you have anxiety attacks, I’d love to hear what you do differently or the same!

  1. Know my triggers, and how to soothe them. I have two dogs and they are my babies, so them being attacked by another dog is the thing of nightmares for me. I know this, because they have both been attacked by other dogs on multiple occasions. Therefore, my biggest trigger for panic is when I hear two dogs snarling/growling at each other. I hear it, and my heart immediately begins to race. So when this happens, I remind myself that my dogs are safe and I look at their pictures on my phone to reassure myself that they are just fine. If they are around, I hold them tight for that reassurance. Nine times out of ten, I can cut that panic attack off by specifically addressing the trigger. Of course, this only works if you can identify what triggered the attack.
  2. Close my eyes and inhale on a count of 5, then exhale on a count of 10.
  3. Tune into and name the objects in my immediate surroundings – 2 framed paintings, a light switch with 4 switches, 1 window, 1 door, 2 coffee mugs, etc.
  4. I move to a completely different environment. If I’m inside, I go outside. In my office, I run to the restroom. Anything that completely changes what I’m seeing/hearing. Sometimes I panic because I feel trapped but don’t realize that until I’m in a new place.

trapped-1

With the exception of #1, these techniques are not enough on their own. They’ll take off the edge by mentally taking me out of fight-or-flight mode, but the racing heart, tightness in the chest, etc usually remain to some degree. So then I move on to one of these two things.

 

  1. Curl into myself as much as possible while tensing every muscle in my body. We’re talking white knuckles, thighs engaged, abs flexed and butt squeezed. Tense those muscles until it hurts, then release everything all at once. When you strain your muscles then let them go, they release endorphins – I think that’s it, but it might be some other chemical that ends in ‘phin,’ so don’t quote me. This is the cause of the “workout high” that you hear gym-rats talk about. Truth be told, they actually are high, it’s just on their own hormones/chemicals/whatever you want to call them. Clearly I’m not a science major. So by tensing all of your muscles then releasing them, you replicate a fraction of that gym-rat high, which will counter the adrenaline released in a panic attack.
  2. If trying that a couple of times doesn’t cut it, I’ll go run up a couple flights of stairs. I’ll essentially burn off whatever adrenaline is still there. Also, if you’re out of shape like I am, your body becomes more concerned with breathing than panicking. Good times!

Can't Breathe

So basically, I do a combination of those things, generally in no particular order and with some of them repeated. Okay, #6 ALWAYS comes last, but that’s because I’m lazy and don’t like running up stairs . . . or I’ve injured myself and running up stairs is seriously painful. On a good day, this will take care of my panic and I’m okay. On a bad day, I start this all over again every few hours. Those days suck, but not as much as going to the ER. So I’ll see ya on the stairs.

PTSD and Trump

I have made no secret of the fact that I, like many in our country, think that Trump is an abomination and ruinous to the progress that we have been able to eke out toward a goal of equal rights for all in this country. His election literally makes me ill. Since his election, many of the PTSD symptoms that I had worked for over a year to overcome, have come flooding back. The panic attacks are back. The bad dreams are back. The abject feeling of helplessness is back. I am not alone in this. I personally know several people experiencing this same phenomenon, and I would wager that therapists across this country have noted an uptick in patients with a resurgence of PTSD symptoms.

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Trump is a self-confessed sexual predator. His election to the highest office in this country sent a crystal clear message to survivors of sexual assault and abuse that that behavior is totally acceptable. As two of the predominant symptoms of survivors of sexual abuse are shame and a belief that the abuse was their fault, I have a feeling that November 8th undid years of therapy for many people. The inauguration on the 20th probably undid more years. As my abuser was a woman, this was not the cause of my relapse. For me, it was the bullying and the gas-lighting.

I honestly didn’t even realize that I had relapsed as badly as I had, until my therapist pointed out that my despair after the election went far beyond the election itself. I had moments where I was paralyzed by panic, followed by rage, then denial, then I would just give up. Meanwhile, I had a never-ending loop playing in my head of every time I was ever bullied in my entire childhood. There was a lot more there then I remembered. It’s amazing what the brain can repress in order to protect itself. But it was all back, playing in Technicolor 24/7. The mistreatment. The lying about it afterwards. The carte blanche acceptance of the aggressor’s story.

Gas Lighting

What shocked me though, is that the bullies weren’t the stars of this film. Instead, the focus was on those who should have protected me. Those who should have stood up for me. Those who should have listened to me. Except for very rare occasions, ever single memory involved these “protectors” doing one of three things:

  1. Ignoring the maltreatment entirely.
  2. Participating in the maltreatment.
  3. Leading the maltreatment.

The first one I can understand to some extent. A very small extent. The second two caused the psychological damage. The fact that nobody had my back. That nobody felt the need to stop or even acknowledge the maltreatment. The subsequent belief, that I didn’t deserve anything better. That I wasn’t worthy of better. I can tell you right now that I spent many of my adult years letting people treat me like crap and letting them take advantage of me, because I thought I deserved it. And it took many hours of therapy to break those beliefs and patterns. Clearly, it’s work I’m still doing.

So to say that my distress comes from Trump himself is a gross misrepresentation that gives that man way more credit than he deserves. My distress comes from the feeling of betrayal, and the feeling of helplessness that I have been transported back to my childhood, by all of those who voted him into office. We, as an enlightened people, are supposed to look out for our fellow man. Common decency dictates that those who are stronger, more able, look out for those who are weaker. On November 8th, millions of people in this country voted for a man who revels in abusing those he deems weaker. And with those votes, those millions of people said in one unified voice to every survivor of abuse, “You deserved it.”

By voting for him, you condoned his actions, his words and his beliefs, telling everyone in the world that those actions/words/beliefs are perfectly acceptable and further more will help you succeed. I am disheartened by Trump’s policies and horrified at the actions that he is already taking in office. But I am crippled with grief by how many people in this country consider my abuse acceptable behavior. To others who are feeling this too, please know that you are not alone. Now is the time for us to stand together, and have each other’s backs.

Marchers

 

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OCD – Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

Last December my company had its annual holiday dinner, and since the restaurant was near my house a couple of co-workers came over to get ready. For whatever reason, I don’t remember what, I mentioned that I have OCD. Unlike the other mental illnesses that I have, no one ever seems to believe me on this one. I don’t think people think I’m lying or anything, but “I’m OCD” gets bandied about as a joke so commonly by people who aren’t, that it’s hard to imagine that someone actually has it. So when I actually show symptoms people are surprised, as is what happened with my coworker.

That night at dinner we were seated next to each other and she happened to look over and see my plate right as I was finishing organizing my food so that there was a piece of chicken paired up with a proportionately sized piece of potato all neatly lined up. I was so engrossed in this task I didn’t even realize she was looking at me until she said, “Wow, you really do have OCD.” It cracked me up. Hadn’t I just told her that I did? Then came the inevitable question, “So do you have to wash your hands three times, or check the stove multiple times, or anything like that?”

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No, that’s not how my OCD manifests. Okay, that’s a little bit of a lie. I always grab three paper towels to dry my hands in public restrooms. Doesn’t matter if two is enough, I inevitably grab that third one. I can’t stop myself. But other than that my thing isn’t counting; it’s organizing. If it can be alphabetized, it is. If it can be color-coded, it is. If it can be sorted by size or shape, it is. If it can be alphabetized, color-coded and sorted by size or shape I am one happy camper!

As a child, this was how I coped with having no control on the rest of my surroundings. My bedroom was the epitome of the saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” If my sister walked in and moved something even half an inch, I knew it and I had to fix it. One time when I was at camp my mom and her friend thought they would be nice and cleaned up my trolls for me – I had over 200. The problem was that they were organized into a troll village that took up over half of my room. I hadn’t left them out, I had left them in their respective homes. So when I got home and saw that all of this had been “cleaned-up,” I lost my shit – like yelling, crying, furiously working to get it all back in place lost my shit. I wouldn’t eat or sleep until I got it back to normal.

This was the worst that I ever got, which is admittedly pretty bad. But as I got older and got my compulsions under control I started to swing in the opposite direction out of fear that I would get compulsive again. Even if it bothered me, I wouldn’t allow myself to organize everything. My desk had to be cluttered. Or my nightstand. Something had to be out of order to prove to myself that I was better. That I didn’t need everything to be perfect. It wasn’t until last year that I finally realized I was doing this. That was also when I realized that OCD aside, I am more content as a person when things are neat and organized. So I organized my desk, and amazingly the world didn’t end, nor did I fall back into harmful compulsive behaviors. Whoo! Instead, I realized that I can use my OCD to my benefit. I’m going to England for vacation and food might become an issue at times because I have so many food allergies. So much to my little OCD heart’s delight, I made a baggie of snacks for each day that I will be gone, taking into account the activities of the day, my sweet tooth, and penchant for low-blood sugar.

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Nailed it!

A Confession Without Shame

I have a confession to make. I’m not really a Star Wars fan. I know this sounds like no big deal, but when all of your friends are huge fandom geeks, them are fighin’ words. My saving grace is that I don’t dislike the movies, I just don’t seek them out. I bring this up because for the past week my Facebook feed has been filled with tributes and remembrances of Carrie Fisher. In scanning through these, I learned something new about her. She not only suffered from mental illness, but she openly spoke about it and fought to diminish the stigma associated with mental illness. This made me take a second look at this woman, and I gained a whole new respect for her.

For three-quarters of my life I have suffered from multiple forms of mental illness – depression, OCD, panic disorder and PTSD – and for a large part of my struggle my biggest fight was against the stigma. I didn’t want to be mentally ill, because that made me weird/different/crazy/unbalanced etc. So instead of seeking out the help I needed, I specifically denied myself that help because I was “stronger” than my mental illness. Even after I sought out therapy, I refused to take medication because, again, I was “stronger” than my disease. Looking back at that mindset now, I have to laugh if only to keep myself from crying. How much of my life was frittered away fighting a fight that didn’t need to exist?

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I was in my thirties before I finally accepted my mental illnesses and began to actively treat them for what they were, illnesses. Not a defect in my character, but an illness. What finally helped me turn that corner, was talking to a friend who had just been diagnosed with diabetes. This friend had tried to control her diabetes through diet, exercise, and every other bit of advice she could find. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t working and she had a choice to make. She could either be sick every day of her life, or she could go on insulin and only be sick every once in a while. Of course, she went on insulin. It was a no-brainer. Let me repeat that, the choice of being sick every day or going on medication was a no-brainer.

The lightbulb turned on. I had tried every conceivable treatment I could find for my depression – exercise, therapy, supplements, dogs, somato-emotional-release, more therapy, sun lamps, acupuncture, nature, etc – and after decades of trying things, I was still sick every day and quite frankly getting worse. Life was a constant fight. Getting up in the morning was a battle. Focusing on tasks was a battle. Motivating myself to leave the house was a battle. I fought every day all day and I was exhausted. Yet, I refused to medicate myself for my illness because that would mean admitting that something was wrong with me, and what would people say? What the actual fuck?

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I decided then and there that I no longer gave a crap what other people thought. I also decided that nothing was wrong/weird/different/crazy about me, I simply had a disease that could be treated. So I treated it. Now I’m not saying that medication is right for everyone, I only medicate my depression. I use alternate treatments for everything else because it can be a bitch figuring out what medications and what dosages work. Especially when I discovered that medication for the panic disorder made my depression worse, even while on medication for the depression. When this trial and error doesn’t go well, it’s not pretty and I wouldn’t wish that process on my worst enemy. Finding medications for everything wasn’t worth it. However, I learned that if I medicate my depression I can deal with everything else going on. But when the depression isn’t in check, everything else runs rampant.

So I medicate the depression, and most days I can function with only slight battles. Yes, some days the panic disorder wins the battle. Some days the OCD wins the battle. Some days they all gang up on me at once and I spend the day curled up with my dogs. But most days I am a fully-functioning, active member of society and many people are surprised when I tell them of my diagnoses. They’re even more surprised that I talk about it openly and have no qualms answering questions. Because all of my therapies aside, openly speaking about my mental illness has been a better balm than anything else. There is no shame in mental illness, and the more we talk about it the more we kill that stigma. So I’m here to talk.

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Finding My Words

The first thing my therapist said to me after I expressed how upset I was, was that I was clearly upset about something more than the election. She was right. Without realizing it, I had been going around with the belief that people are generally good, that we have evolved to a point that as a whole, as a majority we reject hatred and ostracism. I realize now, how horribly naive was. The election of Donald Trump brought all of those beliefs crashing down and brought back every memory of being bullied from my past. It brought back every memory of my loved ones standing by and watching, or worse yet joining in on the bullying. It has made for super pleasant dreams.

I do not believe that the 62 million plus people who voted for Trump are all misogynistic-racist-xenophobes. I believe that some of them are, probably a higher number than I want to think about, but not all of them. However, I now believe that there are 62 million people in the US who are either okay with those behaviors, and/or willing to join in if someone else starts. There are over 62 million people in this country who put down their vote for all time, to elect a bully to the highest office in this land.

That was enough to break me. I had no words. I did not want to live in that world. I don’t want to live in a world where bullies feel that their behavior is not only acceptable but sanctioned. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to spit in my friend’s face and tell her to enjoy her free trip back to Mexico. A world where someone felt that it was perfectly acceptable to call another friend of mine a ch*nk and tell him that he wasn’t welcome here anymore. These are not anecdotes off the internet, these are things that happened to people that I know and hold dear. I repeat, I don’t want to live in that world.*

But I’m also starting to see something that is renewing some of my faith. People aren’t putting up with it.

I am a member of two different groups on Facebook. At first, these groups were all about action. Numbers to call, petitions to sign, rallies to attend. That still exists, but something more has developed. They have both become a safe place where people can come and express their fears, their humiliations, and their tears from hateful experiences. The love and support that they get in return are a balm for anyone hurting. Better yet, it has become a place to share victories. Stories of people standing up to bullies, some with broken voices and shaking hands, but standing up anyway. People refusing to listen to hate without saying something in return. Stories of people straight up asking the strangers around them for support in confronting this hate, and getting the support. Stories of solidarity that declare in no uncertain terms that xenophobia/racism/hate are not currencies that are accepted here.

And nowhere in any of these stories is there name-calling or yelling at the bully. (I’m sure confrontations like that exist, they just aren’t being shared.) Instead these stories are of people asking for tolerance to be shown to those who are different. They are stories of strangers banding together to cover up racist and anti-Semitic graffiti so no one else has to see it. They are stories of kindness being used to smother hurt. They are stories of people no longer willing to look the other way. Maybe that is our victory. We aren’t seeing anything in this country that didn’t already exist, and quite frankly minorities have been trying to tell the white population about it for years. Maybe our victory is the clarity and unity to stand up against those who derive their power from putting other people down. That gives me hope.

I also applied to volunteer for the ACLU, because you can’t sustain hope without action.

 

 

*Not in a “suicide-put-me-in-a-48-hour-watch” sort of way, but in a “denial-fingers-in-your-ears-say-it-ain’t-so” sort of way.

Look for the Helpers

I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers as a kid. He always kind of gave me the creeps. I had never encountered anybody that was that kind all of the time, and I doubted his sincerity. And now I need to add that to the list of things I should bring up with my therapist. Regardless, as an adult I have come to love and, in times of trial, cling to a quote of his: “Look for the helpers.”

helpers

There will always be helpers. There will always be hope. There will always be a way. I am still at a loss to fully express myself after the election. I sat down to witness history, and I did. Just not the history I had anticipated. I watched as an oft ignored part of our country declared in one loud, red voice that they would not be ignored any longer. That they would not let their way of life go quietly into that good night. They raged, and we all listened in disbelief.

To the rural Americans who feel disenfranchised because their America has been slipping away from them, I am sorry. I am sorry that we didn’t listen, that we didn’t care. I am sorry that we didn’t hear your cries and that even though everyone says you’re privileged you don’t feel that way living at the poverty line. I am sorry that it has come to this, and I hope that in the years to come your situation will improve. I truly do. We are listening now.

However, we need you to listen too. As evidenced by how close this election was, we are a country divided. A deep chasm exists separating one side from the other and because of that chasm neither side can hear the hopes, dreams, fears and wants from the other. And if we can’t hear each other, we have no hope of understanding or empathizing with each other. This is a problem. This country is big enough for all of us to exist together, but only if we can understand each other. The only way for that to happen is to truly listen and appreciate where the opposite side is coming from.

get-ahaed

I hold strongly to the belief that you don’t have to push others down in order to rise yourself, which is in direct conflict to the rhetoric of our new president. I respect the decision of our country to elect him, but I do not respect him or his hateful disparagements and I will not sit quietly by while they are said. I will not sit quietly by and watch rights being taken away from American citizens simply because they are different. There is room for all of us, and we can all rise together if we are willing to listen and try. And while we learn to do that, we need to have each other’s backs.

 

To the LGBTQ+ communities – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

To the people of color in this nation – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

To the women who seek equality and autonomy of their bodies – I am one of you, I am your advocate.

To the non-Christian religious communities – I stand with you, I am your advocate.

 

Now is the time for tolerance and acceptance. Now is the time for love. Now is the time for the helpers.

candle

 

This is a good resource talking about what to do if you witness or experience racism specifically, but the information can be expanded to other scenarios as well.

This is a good strategy to use if you witness Islamaphobic harassment. Again the technique can be used in other scenarios as well.

If you are LGBTQ and need a friendly forum to express your concerns or you need someone to talk to click here for an established community who are there to help.

If you feel that your rights are being infringed upon, please check out the ACLU.

If it all feels like too much and you are considering suicide, please now that you matter, and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help – 1-800-273-8255.