“5 Things to Do Before Killing Yourself”

We’ve all clicked on those lists that attempt to oversimplify more complex problems but this one takes the cake. While scrolling through my weekly Bloglovin’ digest, something caught my eye. Sandwiched in between the articles “5 Ways to Have a Great Monday” and “3 Ways to Get Organized” was an article entitled “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay : Questions to Ask Before Giving Up.”

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This was not a mental health newsletter! I was expecting to read about how to spruce up my living space or fun ways to reuse old toilet paper rolls–NOT A PRE-SUICIDE-ATTEMPT check list!

Maybe this is another sign of where mental health is on our LIST of priorities. It’s a little more important than getting organized but a little less important than having a great Monday.

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If you’re massively depressed and contemplating suicide, PLEASE DON’T RELY ON THE INTERNET FOR HELP! The internet is a great place to get connected with resources but a lot of times it’s also part of the problem!

It’s easy to get addicted to social media, blogging and gaming and a lot of people get stuck in the vast emptiness of the world wide web. Just because technology has advanced doesn’t mean humans have. We still need to be touched, cared for and loved by other humans.

So if you’re contemplating suicide, get off the computer and call somebody! Or use the internet to look up a help line–there’s lots out there. In fact, if you call 211, you can get connected to food, housing, mental health and many more resources. I’m not sure what the number is outside the U.S. so if you know it, post it in the comments.

 

the colonization of EVERYTHING!

When I say, “colonial”–what comes to mind?

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No? Maybe you thought of a bunch of guys dressing up for Civil War reenactments. You want to know what I think of?

Randy from A Christmas Story screaming, “Oh boy, that’s mine! A fire truck! That’s mine!” about everything under the tree on Christmas morning!

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It seems like just about anything is up for grabs these days, especially if you’re from a dominant group. If you’re white, you can be black. If you’re a man, you can be a woman. You truly can be ANYTHING YOU WANT TO BE.

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Good job, fellas.

We all deserve the freedom to live our lives the way we choose. But like our ancestors failed to do, perhaps we can be a little bit more thoughtful when stepping into uncharted territory.

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Is it possible to extend our critique of colonization to the social sphere? Can people from a dominant group intrude upon, colonize and ultimately rob other groups of their private spaces, customs and culture?

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“Iron Eyes Cody,” maybe better known as The Crying Indian, was actually the son of Sicilian immigrants but lived much of his life as a Native American. He was committed to living this way and even raised his children as Native Americans, instilling in them a deep respect and reverence for the culture. Is this disrespectful? What about the white woman from the NAACP who presented herself as African American?

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Or Caitlyn Jenner?

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Is this different from Europeans establishing colonies in other countries? How is it different? When is it not okay for people from a dominant group to become part of another group?

Might we look at these people as examples of white and male privilege?

“No! We have to accept all people!”

That’s what the colonists said too–it was their right to take over the land, the people, their customs, everything. Might it also be possible that men can colonize women or whites can colonize non-whites? If being Native American is nothing more than a look and certain practices, can anybody be Native American? Is being a woman nothing more than having breasts and a vagina? Do you have to dress a certain way to become one? What about women who don’t?

Perhaps there’s more to being Native American, African American, a woman. There is something about being born into that group, being viewed as a member of that group by outsiders, being treated a certain way because you’re a member of that group that is all part of the experience that makes up the identity. So, what gives a member of a dominant group the right to become a member of a non-dominant group?

I don’t know all the answers by the way.

 

 

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The October Country is a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury, and one of my favorite books. It contains strange and fantastic tales of regular and not-so-regular people. The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse is a story about a man who wishes he was extraordinary. He fantasizes about how popular he would be if he traded in some of his body parts for more interesting pieces. He imagines himself with an artfully painted poker chip for an eye, a prosthetic hand that dispenses drinks and a prosthetic leg made from a bird-cage that houses a live bird.

I was inspired to share this story after reading a friend’s blog post about the cultural shift that is taking place around gender identity. It seems George Garvey (the main character of the aforementioned story) would be in good company in today’s society. Currently, it looks as though there are no lengths too great to achieve the perfect body. If you’re not happy with any of your parts, you can trade them in for new ones or have them made from scratch. You can change your name, your sex, your entire identity if you like.

But any movement that seems hugely popular, almost “catching,” gives me pause. Why the rush to change everything? And to what end? Are we teaching our children that if they’re unhappy with any part of themselves they should just change it? It almost seems like our culture of acceptance is turning out to be exactly the opposite. Do we need to physically alter our bodies to become accepted or do we need to work on accepting people the way they are? Are our gender roles so rigid that we must change ourselves to fit into them?

Let’s not forget, WE CREATED THE CONCEPT OF GENDER. Words and ideas like “male” and “female” are symbols that we use to represent ourselves–they are made to fit us, not the other way around. If you find that the concept of “female” or “feminine” doesn’t suit you, then change the meaning of the word, change your mind, change other people’s minds before you start hacking away at your body. Words don’t define us, we define words. 

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Female

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One of the reasons I came to love my name is because it fits me. It encompasses everything I am–it always has and it always will. I’ve been a size 14 and a size 4; I’ve had hair down past my shoulders and buzzed short; I wear dresses, pants, lots of makeup, none at all. I’m female, Mexican and white, I have red hair, birthmarks, freckles, I tan and burn. When I approached 30, my body started doing things I never expected and it’s still changing! Luckily, the meaning of my name expands to encapsulate all those changes and it’s going to keep doing so the rest of my life.

In short, let’s question the need to change our bodies, whatever the reason. And let’s challenge language and how it affects us. Let’s also question what’s popular and why and whether or not it’s benefiting us personally and society at large. That’s it. 🙂

 

 

 

Breast Ironing

I just read an article about breast ironing–the practice of trying to flatten and diminish breast tissue in pubescent girls. I’d never heard of the practice before today and as I was reading the article, I thought to myself,”Why??” When I learned that the girls’ family-members were often the ones committing this act, I began to understand. They’re mothers attempt to stave off the breast development of their daughters in an effort to make them less attractive to potential rapists.

The article detailed efforts to stop the practice itself but failed to detail how government officials are addressing the rape problem. Why do we leave this aspect out of conversations about protecting women and children? Mothers have gone to extraordinary lengths to save their children from horrendous fates for centuries. Slave mothers have killed their own children rather than see them sold into slavery. Breast ironing is termed “abuse,” but I ask you, what would the mothers of these girls say that they’re doing?

While we’re trying to stamp out the practice itself, let’s not forget why it started. Let’s remember the world that we live in: a world in which women and girls are sexualized from birth, a world in which women are advised not to travel alone at night or accept drinks they didn’t mix themselves, a world in which women are still judged by how much they put others’ needs ahead of their own. Maybe if we made our world safer for women and girls…..

Against Idolatry

If you think you’re immune to the lure of idolatry because you don’t belong to an organized religion, think again. With the proliferation of celebrity news (it’s rarely new information ) and scientific studies, we are ripe for idolization and worship of made-up deities.

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It’s not new for people to put something or someone up on a pedestal and worship it without question but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be more vigilant in the practice. Nothing and no one is infallible. I recently read an article in which Beyonce  was described as someone with a “heart of gold” for choosing a woman with a disability to be the face of her fashion line. The author continued to extol Beyonce’s virtues, never once questioning her decision to hire a model with a disability or why we haven’t already seen more models with disabilities represented in popular media.

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Before you rush to Beyonce’s defense, let me say I think it’s about time we saw more people with disabilities represented in the popular media. They’re grossly underrepresented and still massively pigeonholed by much of the population. But I hardly think Beyonce deserves to be worshiped as some sort of goddess who can do no wrong. She’s an artist and a person, no more or less important than me or you.

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The same goes for people who hold degrees or publish their work. We LOVE to quote authors and studies when we’re trying to make a point. Some people won’t even consider a written opinion unless it includes citations. This is bullshit. There have been plenty of highly-educated, reputable (lots of people have heard of them), scholars, doctors and humanitarians who’ve said and done idiotic and hurtful things. The letters “Ph.D” following somebody’s name mean nothing besides they were awarded a degree in something. Education and learning are not synonymous. We all know someone who’s had loads of schooling and doesn’t seem to have learned a thing.

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Dr. Josef Mengele

Some of us LOVE to quote authors and religious leaders as if by doing so, some of their wonder-dust will rub off on us. Well it won’t. You’re still you and they’re still them and that’s good enough.

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How big of a leap is it to respect the opinions of others all on their own? Why do we need evidence to back up our thoughts? Why do we have to stand on the shoulders of the people we idolize. Do we really think so little of our own opinions and the thoughts and feelings of others? Are we not credible all by ourselves? Are we not important? Maybe that’s it; maybe we don’t think very much of ourselves or others. And maybe we think too much of some. I challenge you to state your opinions without quoting anyone and to listen  to others without asking for a citation. It might be uncomfortable for a little while but………. I believe in you. You can do it.

RadFems, Drumpf Supporters and Neo-liberals, Oh My!

Oh, boy! Here come the italics and the quotation marks!!

Identity politics have become hugely popular as has the practice of name-calling. I like using the term “name-calling” because, for me, it encapsulates the schoolyard feel of the practice. Liar, liar, pants on fire! Butt-head! Fatty!  Sound familiar? What about: RadFems, evangelicals, TERFs, Drumpf supporters, neo-liberals??

“Yeah but that’s what they are!” And we probably used the same argument for calling somebody “butt-head” on the playground. I get it. People we don’t agree with get on our nerves.

I must admit, I’ve been lured into name-calling more than once. With all of my pent up frustration about the state of my life and how it’s reflected in the larger culture, I’ve been known to hurl some pretty nasty insults. Honestly though, I’m tired of it. I just read yet another article in which a woman uses the term “hysterical” and my eyes just about rolled right out of their sockets.

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I’m fascinated by word-origins and word usage. The term “hysterical” comes from the word for “womb” and essentially means “wandering womb.” This, and other early psychological terms were coined to describe women who were crazy/acting up/unhappy with their situation. Historically, terms like “hysterical” and “neurotic” are used to dismiss another person’s reaction to events and circumstances the dominant group believes they need to accept, mainly women’s. Currently, the term is used by both sexes to dismiss another’s reaction as not worthy of one’s time and consideration.

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The thing I don’t like about this practice and the reason I won’t use word’s like “hysterical” is because it puts the misunderstood person at fault for the speaker’s misunderstanding. If I don’t understand somebody else’s behavior, I try to own that and express it honestly. Instead of calling somebody “crazy,” I’ll use a term like “desperate.” Sometimes I’ll just say, “I don’t understand this person’s behavior and I don’t want to.”

“Why all the fuss?….You’re too sensitive……too P.C.” I FUCKING HATE THAT TERM! “P.C.” ostensibly means, “I’m upset I can’t be insensitive anymore” or “I’m upset that now I have to be held accountable for my own bigotry.” Yep! It’s the 21st century and we’re FINALLY getting around to calling people on their shit! Upset? Form a support group!

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I think we take for granted the impact language has. We use it and consume it every day, we would have difficulty living without it, and yet we dismiss any responsibility for its impact when it finally lands with someone else. If language and words are so arbitrary, why do we use them? Why has controlling who may and who may not learn how to read and write been one of the primary tools of oppression used to control people for hundreds of years? Why is it so important that we protect our right to free speech?

I think most people already know that the reason we value free speech is the same reason we hurl insults, the same reason we don’t want to admit our words might have an impact on others and ourselves. Because they’re powerful. Words change the speaker and the listener.

I am not immune to any of this. I can be downright hateful when I want to be. I’m a lover of language and keep a fully-stocked artillery of words and phrases, ready to be unleashed on unsuspecting victims. I frequently use the terms “misogynist” and “racist” to express my feelings of contempt for those who discriminate against people based on sex or the color of their skin/name/appearance. I like these terms because their specific. Only a few people are truly offended by them and those people are usually the ones that I want to feel offended.

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While I may hold disdain for other groups, I don’t like using terms like right-wing, evangelical, Bible-thumping. Nor will I use terms that have been hurled at me before like bitch or slut. Yes, I’ve been called a slut and it was used by my boyfriend at the time because I didn’t think my history of sexual partners was any of his damn business. I consider these terms beneath me. I try not to use them and if I do, it’s usually in a moment of desperation and indicative of my inability to articulate my own feelings.

My point is, just consider it–consider how the language you use affects you and others. Does it momentarily pump you up to use certain terms? Why? Do they keep you pumped up? Do they ever let you down? Are you communicating exactly what you want to? A lot of times we use short, degrading terms and phrases because we can’t find the words to express our own feelings of rage, fear and frustration. I know a lot of people won’t want to think about it; they’re too tired, too busy, too whatever to consider the impact of the language they use in their lives. But if you’ve just finished reading this, you just did. Thank you.

All Aboard the Anxiety Train!

Woo! Woo!

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I talk a pretty good game sometimes as far as confidence goes but I’m really a ball of nerves. It’s ironic how much effort goes into appearing relaxed.

This morning I woke up and went to the bathroom. While I was in there I noticed a large bottle of body wash had moved into the shower while nothing had been moved out. All aboard!

“Another bottle? The last one he put in there was for storage because it was leaking. And I haven’t seen the level in his shampoo bottle change in nine months. Then again, his loofah hasn’t changed either. Meanwhile, B has added three more bottles since I’ve gotten here. I keep rotating my stuff in and out of the shower so there’s not too much clutter. (Just ask him to move some stuff.) What if he gets mad at me? When I’ve made requests like that before, he gets defensive. (That’s his problem.) I feel like I’m suffocating here, like I’m being pushed out the way I was when E moved into my mom’s house, or when V moved in after that. Nobody listens to me. It doesn’t matter if I’m uncomfortable. I can’t ask either of them, they won’t listen to me. Let’s think of how to phrase this: ‘Hey, it’s getting a little crowded in the shower, would you be willing to find another spot for your stuff?’ Eh. Too complicated. I can’t do this.”

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Later

“I feel rotten. I’m embarrassed about that other situation from earlier and I’m still anxious about the shower. I want to work out but I don’t want to go back in the bedroom again while B is asleep. I hate having to go in there to get clothes then go to the bathroom to change and then go back into the bedroom to deposit my other clothes. Ugh. I just want to go in and change and come out. But I don’t want him to see me. I really have to get this anxiety out. I hate it here. I want to get hired already so I can movethe fuck out.”

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And we’ve reached the station. Just kidding. That train will probably be running off and on ALL DAY. I don’t care if it seems crazy. I’ve had people tell me my whole life my feelings are nothing, unimportant, blah blah blah. Obviously our experiences are different. Anyway, if you’ve ever had a moment, a day, a year or a life like this–I can relate. I try to laugh as much as possible but it definitely helps to know there are people out there who get it.

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“Am I going crazy?”

No, but you might be in an abusive relationship. I wish I’d known that this sense of self-doubt was one of the surest signs of being psychologically abused; that the very act of questioning oneself over and over again in the face of clear evidence to the contrary is a good indicator that you’re being manipulated by a cunning and sadistic creature.

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Even after physically leaving the relationship, it took me months to break free from the mental, sexual and emotional abuse that continued. After trying so valiantly to assert myself, I found myself uneasy, afraid, frustrated and very VERY confused by my partner. In the end, after sifting through mountains of psychological bullshit, I was able to call him on it, to see him for the snake that he is.

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It’s hard for people to understand why one stays in an abusive relationship. Even harder to understand the true nature of the abuse when there are no visible scars. You still cower even though no physical punch is coming, you still run, cry, scream for help even though he doesn’t touch you. Because, in reality, he’s bypassed your skin, your muscles, your bones and organs and sunk his teeth straight into your psyche, your soul. And these are the things that are bruised, battered and broken when he’s done. You feel as though you’re losing your mind, you feel like a ghost of your former self, a desert island, a barren wasteland, a deep well, an endless night.

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If you recognize any of this, it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you and it’s not/never was your fault. You can still get out. It doesn’t have to be today or tomorrow or even next week but you can. As long as you can hold on. Because he won’t kill you–he’ll wait for you to do it. I survived two suicide attempts before finally leaving.

My best advice is not to make an exit plan so much as to start building another life. You can do it in secret if you have to. If you find yourself jobless and without friends or familial support, like I was, start making connections that have nothing to do with your relationship. If you love to draw–draw, if you love to dance–dance. Beautify your living space–only for you, not for him. What you’re doing is psychological and emotional nesting–you are building a home for yourself inside.

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One of the things neglected when trying to exit an abusive relationship is creating an alternative. With all my heart, I believe you have to have someplace to go if you want to leave. This place isn’t just a friend’s house or a shelter, it’s a place you feel truly at home, comfortable and safe. So even if you have to do it in your mind, create that safe, luxurious, wonderful place for your refuge. Make it come alive in as much detail as possible. Populate it, if you like, with things and/or people who bring you comfort. When it is real to you, when you’re ready to walk through that door, you’ll do it.

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Thanks A Lot, Government

So since my life my life imploded, I’ve gotten free health care from the state of California. This includes access to mental health services. I must say, that when I first entered the building for Central County Adult Mental Health Services in Concord, it looked a bit like the land that time forgot: magazines from the 90’s, carpeting from the 80’s and a distinct smell that is unique to government buildings from the 1970’s.

Did I mention the only road leading to the health center is riddled with potholes? And even though the building is located on one of the main roads in the city, you have to drive behind a Chinese buffet to access the parking lot…and the potholed road is the only way out. But wait, it gets better!

The staff, who are the nicest, most underpaid people in the world, are relegated to a paper system for making appointments. Every day they have to manage hordes of people, some of them in very desperate circumstances, and they still manage to do it with the utmost respect and courtesy.

Today, upon entering the waiting room, I noticed bits of paper littering the floor. Upon closer inspection I realized they were not bits of paper but roach motels. Being one to see the humor (irony?) in everything, I decided the building was like a fine wine that just gets better with age.

This is by no means an indictment of the staff at Adult Mental Health but a scathing indictment of the government branches that control expenditures for county programs! This is a clear indication of the priority or lack-thereof, given to mental health services and people who aren’t able to afford private health insurance. If the staff has to buy roach motels to control a pest problem in the building and has to rely on a paper system of records, they’re obviously not being paid enough for what they do.

What the fuck do we have to do to convince the government that county health services are a worthwhile investment? Maybe I’m asking the wrong question; let me rephrase–“What do we have to do to convince you that WE are a worthwhile investment?” I was listening to Wanda Sykes’ stand-up comedy on the way out and she asked a particularly poignant question–“Why aren’t the police looking for dead prostitutes?” They’ll come out in full force for somebody from a nice neighborhood but won’t waste resources on a prostitute unless a whole bunch of them die.

And that’s the message I get from this–

You’re just not worth it.

Best Regards,

Your Government

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When the road to mental health is littered with potholes and the building itself is neglected and infested with pests, how are the people who receive services there supposed to feel? What statement are you making with this? Maybe the next time the county government officials are deciding on expenditures, they can remember their dirty little secret tucked behind the Chinese buffet on Willow Pass Road. Did I mention, this is also  the street where battered women are supposed to seek refuge? Some refuge.

Feminist Wisdom from Sarah Connor

Watching Terminator 2, I stumbled upon an awesome quote. After the terminator explains to Miles Dyson how he contributes to the end of civilization, Sarah Connor drops some feminist wisdom on his ass–

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Miles DysonI feel like I’m gonna throw up. You’re judging me for things that I haven’t even done yet. How are we supposed to know?
Sarah Connor: Yeah, right. How are you supposed to know? Fucking men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you’re so creative. You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction…

This is the basis for for feminist theories on the roots of misogyny. Confronted with the raw power of women’s ability to give life, misogynists are threatened and must destroy women. Whether through debasement or physical annihilation, women must be  rendered non-threatening. Misogynists still want to control our wombs. I say,

“Over my dead body.”