Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thank You!

Really, THANK YOU!

I've been in a low place. I started to read Woman Hating by Andrea Dworkin, and I couldn't process what was written on the book jacket cover, the friggin book jacket, and I started to cry. I'll take the pain, I'll take the fatigue from hell, and I'll take all the weird symptoms, but I can't handle not being able to read.

I've only been blogging since mid February of this year, so it's just amazing to me that I've already found a community of bloggers I care so much about, and who, when I'm in trouble, show up and give heartfelt support and encouragement. I read your comments and emails and started to cry, in a good way. Just thinking about your response gets me weepy, because I am so touched by your kindness.

Finding the best way to deal with these problems may take some time, so I’m focusing on learning how to be productive in spite of them. I've been reading your blogs and even commenting some. I hope to start posting somewhat regularly, but frankly, I'm a little worried about putting up posts or comments that are literally nonsense. I hope someone will tell me if I do that!

Bah, this post was supposed to be about all of you, and it ended up being me me me. I'm very annoying that way when I don't feel well.

So really, thank you so much for all of your support. It means so much to me, and it helps more than I can say.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Monday Bunny Blogging

How long does a clean apartment last?

a few seconds after cleaning

a few minutes after cleaning

a few hours after cleaning

Why is being extremely messy so much fun?
1) You can make a tiara.
2) It just is.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Brain Malfunction

I took this post down and edited it because the first version bothered me. I don't know if I'm going to be active in blogging or reading blogs for the next little while. I'm having health problems, but what's most upsetting is that I'm so foggy/fuzzy/whatever the opposite of clear-headed is. I can't write worth anything right now (have to re-type sentences repeatedly to be able to say what I want to say), and much, much worse, I'm having trouble reading. That's just unacceptable. I've been to many of your blogs, and I just can't process what you're saying. This situation is making me very cranky.

This fogginess has been cycling-some days are really bad, and then some days I can actually read for at least a little while. So I might not end up taking any break at all, just end up lying low when it's really bad, like today.

I want to end on a good note. Here are some pictures of beings and things that make me happy.


Andrea Dworkin

the Kentia/Sentry palm

Lithobid, a non-nauseating form of lithium
(note: It doesn't induce happiness. Not being suicidal = happiness.)

Yellow, the most wonderful color

IMO, moose are one of the most under-appreciated animals.

Blogging Friends

This picture is a joke. Do you get why it's included?
(Unfortunately, it requires a knowledge of American pop culture.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday Bunny Blogging

Play hard, sleep hard, rest hard

He's just sleeping, he really is alive

Recovering after the power nap

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Reverent Racism Is Still Racism

Brownfemipower wrote about being labeled exotic. Then piny put up a good post on how "exotic" is not a compliment. So far, so good. There are some good comments on the post, but there are also these:

Or it says, “Good for you for not conforming to the standard beauty norm. I, for one, admire that and find it attractive.”
Brownfemipower clearly stated that the reason she was labeled exotic was because of her black hair. The person wasn't admiring her refusal to conform to beauty standards, she was making a point of bfp's other status.

I quite often wish I could be “exotic” instead of “ordinary white girl.”
People of color quite often wish they could be treated as fully human. You can make this statement and take this perspective because you have the privilege of being an "ordinary white girl". It's easy for us white people to think and say things like this because we can afford to think about looks while ignoring lives.

When people say “exotic,” it’s not a label of Otherness insofar as it’s spoken reverently. People don’t call homosexuals “exotic” — the word isn’t used interchangeably with “different” or “odd.” It very obviously has positive connotation. Now, we can vivisect the semiotic, but I’m quite sure that there’s no inherent racism or sexism here.
Bullshit! It is entirely possible to be reverent, or think you're being reverent, while still being racist. You're putting a woman of color on the spot and announcing that she doesn't fit the standard. You think you're admiring her. What you're actually doing is making a big deal out of her difference from you. You may say that her difference is good/neat/wonderful, but you're making that difference central to your interaction. By labeling a woman of color "exotic" you are separating her from the standard, which is whiteness. After all, you can't have an exotic without having a standard.

It's amazing that the third commenter is quite sure there's no racism or sexism in this situation. What does it take to make one think she can make pronouncements about people she's never met and a situation she didn't experience? Bfp, you can just relax, because total strangers have decreed that a) exotic is a compliment, and b) there was no racism in the remark.

I guess there's nothing to worry about.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Liberals Do NOT Have My Back

I used to be a liberal feminist, but I embraced radical feminism as the method that really addressed problems facing women. Liberal feminism let me down. The same thing happend in broader political terms. I used to consider myself as being a liberal, or more likely, a progressive. But liberals let me down. It saddened me when I had to walk away from liberalism.

Why would I do that, you ask? After all, I certainly am no conservative. This story is a perfect example of the reasons why I finally accepted I can't be a liberal. For a great analysis of the story, go here.

What's the story? Briefly, John Aravosis, a liberal, wrote a post criticizing republican senator Pat Roberts' stance on civil liberties by calling him a "big girl"*. People objected to this slam, and Aravosis reacted by attacking people for objecting, and deleting comments that criticized him. Shakes Sis posted one of his comments:

NOTE FROM JOHN: After all, what's really important about what I wrote isn't that we're losing our civil liberties as our democracy disappears, but rather, that you're offended by the use of gay vernacular. Thanks for helping us keep the eye on the ball.

Well, golly, John. It must really suck to lose civil liberties. I bet you'd be really unhappy if YOU DIDN'T HAVE BASIC RIGHTS IN THE FIRST PLACE. John believes his concern about civil liberties entitles him to step on women. How is he not choking on the irony? Why doesn't everyone in the blogosphere see what a perfect example this is for the failings of liberals? Liberals behave as if women's rights are a "side" issue, a "special interest", and take attention from the really important battles. Marginalizing women is the antithesis of liberalism. If you're going to behave this way, then you need to admit you're a conservative.

It's the same old, tired, story: liberal men want women to shut up and not interfere with the political battles they're waging. Women can work on the campaign, but we shouldn't expect any of "our" issues to interfere with the real problems. Femicide, rape, and domestic violence are not worthy of being mainstream issues. All of these reasons are why I am no longer a liberal. I'm sick of trying to change things from the inside-it just doesn't work. And I'm way past fighting alongside people who don't have my back.

*I'm assuming that you understand why "big girl" is offensive. In case you don't: calling any male a "girl", a "pussy", or a "lady" is the worst possible insult. By equating a man or a boy with a female, you are reducing him to her lowly status. This insult is possible because women are less than men in our culture.

My Indoor Garden

As a long-time apartment dweller, I haven't been able to have a garden. I tried to have an indoor garden years ago, but was hampered by the fact that a) my family never gardened so I didn't know what I was doing and b) I got (clinically) depressed right after I started the garden, and stopped caring for my little seedlings. The seedlings slowly withered and died.

Adopting a rabbit was a great motivator to try again. Bunnies will eat as many herbs and greens as you give them. You don't want to let them have an unlimited amount unless you want to end up with a nasty case of poopy butt (the rabbit, not you).

The first plant I tried to grow was cilantro, Bumble's favorite herb. I still have a few problems with it-my seedlings' stems droop sideways onto the soil, then grow straight up. The adult plants have tons of leaves, look and taste great, so I'm just considering the drooping part of their personality. However, I'd appreciate ANY input as to why they do this strange thing. You can't see the drooping in this picture-it's easiest to see in a really young plant.

Just this week, I've taken a big step, and I'm trying to grow lettuce indoors. I planted green leaf, red leaf, buttercrunch, and romaine lettuce. They germinated in only 3 days! But now I'm faced with something I've struggled with since the beginning: thinning the seedlings. Does anyone else have trouble with this? I'm so thrilled to see the little stems and seed leaves after they've pushed through the soil. Then, after they've done this amazing thing, I'm supposed to just chop some of them off. It really hurts my feelings.

In tiny voices: Please don't kill me!

[Edit, I'm really not joking or being sarcastic about having trouble with "thinning" the seedlings. It really hurts my feelings to kill the extra seedlings.]

Friday, May 19, 2006

Teaching Racism, Or Not

When I was very young, my white neighborhood was scandalized because a Black Family moved in. My parents were especially horrified because The Black Family moved in right next door! I was too young to understand what was happening, but as I grew older, I was taught very important things. Our neighborhood was no longer nice because of The Black Family. The Black Family had a pool in their backyard-critical for surviving St. Louis summers. No one in the neighborhood could afford a swimming pool, so everyone concluded The Black Family must have done something Bad in order to have one. The Black Family was different from the rest of us. I was five years old, and all my family talked about was how bad, nasty, and dirty Black people were.

My home life was cruel, judging, and unaffectionate. I was lonely, and starved for kindness and adult attention. I spent quite some time trying to work up the nerve to speak to the woman in The Black Family, Mrs. C. When I finally spoke to her, she didn't yell at me and she listened to what I had to say. In no time at all, I was plaguing Mrs. C. I spent as much time with her as possible, talking nonstop. She talked with me, she gave me cookies and milk, and she let me play near her while she worked. Mrs. C treated me like no other person did, with respect and friendship.

My mother saw me coming home from Mrs. C's house and was furious. She'd had no idea that I was spending time with The Black Family. My mom yelled at me and told me to never go over there again. So I started sneaking over to Mrs. C's house. I've never been a sneaky person, and I was quickly caught. Besides yelling at me for disobeying her, my mother gave me several arguments why I shouldn't go to Mrs. C's house: Black people were different, they were dishonest, they were bad. I've always been stubborn, and I stood my ground, telling my mother how wrong she was. The fight wound up as ugly as it started:

mom: You will not spend time with n******!.

me: Mrs. C is my friend and I will spend time with her!

mom: Slaps me hard across the face.

me: (Crying) Mrs. C never hits anyone for having a friend!

I don't remember exactly what happened after that fight, I just know that I didn't see Mrs.C very often anymore. I'm so grateful to her. She provided the kind, friendly attention that I craved. But just as importantly, she counteracted all the ugly things I heard at home and at school. As a White American, I cannot say that I'm not a racist-my privilege prevents that from being the truth. But due to Mrs. C, I am not the racist my family attempted to raise, and for that most of all, I'm grateful.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Still A Baby Vessel

TNG at Neural Gourmet emailed me about this story today:

New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.
Oh, where to begin? I'll start by stating the obvious: prenatal care is essential. If these experts really cared about healthy pregnancies, and healthy newborns, then all prenatal care would be FREE. But that's another post. For now, let's take a look at the message in these guidelines.

All women are "pre-pregnant"? What's most imporant about any woman is that she could conceive at any moment. Back away from her, she could be conceiving right before your eyes! Could the people who designed these guidelines not grasp the implications of their statement? Women already exist as sex objects. Implementing a standard for medical professionals to treat all women as pre-pregnant literally reduces us to baby vessels.

Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.

As an asthmatic, I believe it's important to keep my symptoms under control even though I will never have a child. Of course it's important for pregnant women to be as healthy as possible. It's also important for women who are not pregnant to be as healthy as possible. Women are valuable as individuals, regardless of their reproductive status.

While most of these recommendations are well known to women who are pregnant or seeking to get pregnant, experts say it's important that women follow this advice throughout their reproductive lives, because about half of pregnancies are unplanned and so much damage can be done to a fetus between conception and the time the pregnancy is confirmed.

Approximately half of all pregnancies are unplanned. The logical conclusion experts draw from this fact is that all women of reproductive age must be treated as pre-pregnant. All women should be on a prenatal regimine for the safety of the fetus. Well, that's one possible conclusion. How about a different perspective? It's disgusting that half of all pregnancies are unplanned. How about the experts redirecting their efforts to developing safe, reliable, and affordable birth control? How about getting to a place where virtually all pregnancies are planned, so that women have the opportunity to deal with any pre-pregnancy health issues in a timely manner? No, it's a lot easier to treat all women of reproductive age as status: pregnancy forthcoming.

Experts acknowledge that women with no plans to get pregnant in the near future may resist preconception care.

"We know that women -- unless you're actively planning [a pregnancy], . . . she doesn't want to talk about it," Biermann said. So clinicians must find a "way to do this and not scare women," by promoting preconception care as part of standard women's health care, she said.

Resistance is futile.

Maybe women don't appreciate structuring their lives around a future pregnancy. Maybe women resent always being treated as nothing more than a uterus. Maybe women have enough other problems to deal with. Don't worry, doctors are used to dealing with noncompliant patients.

Women should also make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date and avoid contact with lead-based paints and cat feces, Biermann said.

The report recommends that women stop smoking and discuss with their doctor the danger alcohol poses to a developing fetus.

I guess women never need to clean a litter box again. Remember, you're pre-pregnant, so it just isn't safe for you, dear.

I don't know how to break the news to the experts, but lifestyle choices and environmental toxins affect men. Most importantly, they affect men's sperm. The narrow focus on women's lifestyle choices, and their environmental exposure to pathogens and toxins is incredibly dated. Scientists have known for some time that mutated sperm cause birth defects, and complications with pregnancy. Are the experts going to suggest we treat all men as pre-ejaculators, and develop a program to treat men accordingly?

I have a radical, yet simple idea. Let's treat all humans as equally valuable individuals. Let's worry about exposure to toxins on the basis that they're damaging to everyone, including nonhuman animals. Let's work to insure that all people are as healthy as they possibly can be, because that's a worthy goal in and of itself. Treat each person as a valued being, work for optimal health and a healthy environment, and finally develop decent birth control. Do these things, and babies will be healthy.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Erase Racism Carnival

The fine folks over at Ally Work are hosting The Erase Racism Carnival. Please consider submitting a post, and spread the word about this new carnival.

Our theme is: What is racism? We are looking for essays/posts that describe racism, from a personal perspective, a group perspective, or at the societal level. All are welcomed to submit.

Submissions are accepted until May 18.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Monday Bunny Blogging

Bumble, it's OK to play on the stairs, but be very careful, especially at the top of the stairs!

Bumble! Resting at the top of the stairs is not safe!

Don't fall asleep there-it isn't safe! I can tell you're still listening!


[Does anyone know how to compress images without making them look choppy? These photos all have rough, choppy lines. Sorry.]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Face the Facts

For some time, I've loved visiting a blog called Cute Overload. I've got a serious need to be around, or at least see, animals of all types. So this blog was a gift. The blog owner posted pictures like these:

The pictures on Cute Overload depict a variety of species. Photos are conveniently assigned to categories. For some reason, the blog owner created a new category that introduced misogyny into an otherwise delightful blog. Cute Overload now sports a Cats 'n' Racks™ category. Here are some images and captions in this category:

"This 'Cats 'n' Racks' is no error, People, it's tewtelly posed for your enjoyment! That cat is soo comfterbuls. Now we know how Katie Holmes stuffed."

"Ow! A third submission for a new "Cats n' Racks" category arrived. It's now an offical category! As 'Tracy B' noted, 'It doesn't get any rackier than this. :)' ha!"

I won't waste my time guessing their motivations for doing this. The facts are simple:
  • women do not enjoy the same rights in society as men
  • women are valued primarily as a sex class; they are not valued as fully human
  • women suffer violence, torture, and death simply because they are women
  • posting pictures of women that promote their status as sex objects causes real harm.
Why is it so difficult to see that photos like these are harmful? Is it difficult to see, or is it that people just don't care? Maybe I can make this a little clearer for people who think that pictures like these don't matter.

In 2004, a killer whale attacked his trainer. The whale attempted to submerge the man, and suceeded at times. (Some killer whales overcome their prey by drowning the animal.) Fortunately, the trainer was not hurt.

So I've decided to rip off Cute Overload and start a new blog called Critters So Precious You'll Upchuck. I've created a category called Whales 'n' Males™. I'm going to post pictures of that trainer being attacked by the killer whale and I'll post cutesy comments with the pictures.

Oh, somebody woke up on the wrong side of the pool!

Swim faster, or you won't be my chum!

Boys will be boys!

Funny? Not at all. Seeing a man attacked is not funny; it's horrifying and sickening. The living conditions of the whale aren't funny either, but that's the subject of a later post. Why are the pictures objectifying women considered funny?

Why am I making such a big deal out of pictures that objectify women? The man in the picture was facing death. Of course that's not funny. The women were just shown so we could enjoy their boobs. What could be funnier than a cat and boobs?

Treating women as the cats 'n' racks photos do causes real damage. They show that's it's ok to view women as sex objects. They perpetuate the belief that women exist for the pleasure of men. All of these beliefs protect the status quo: men are human but women serve as decoration and sexual outlets.

Where do you suppose violence against women comes from? Why are women battered, raped, and murdered by their male partners? People don't behave mindlessly: "Time to beat someone. Hey, the wife is handy." We adapt our behavior according to the situation we're in. When a man gets angry at work, does he punch his boss? No, he needs his job, so he controls himself. Why do some men control themselves with their bosses, but beat their wives into a bloody pulp?

Because they can.

Attitudes and beliefs inform behavior. You don't batter, rape, and kill someone you view as your equal. But when you view women as being less than men, all kinds of terrible behaviors become acceptable. The ubiquitous message that women are worth less than men matters. When violence and hate are everywhere, there's no such thing as acceptable objectification.

We live in an ugly, inequal society. Cats 'n' Racks™ plays right into the hate.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

My First Troll!

[Edit: This will be the only time I feed a troll. I just got excited that my first troll left the perfect trollish comment: full of hate, entitlement, and false information. Trifecta!]

[Edit #2: I much prefer Laurelin's policy for dealing with trolls. Read it here.

It's a big moment for me: I got my first troll! And to make things perfect, the Cowardly Troll signed in as "anonymous". Oh, I'm beaming with pride.

Anonymous said...

This is true. Men are held to a higher standard. If he has two drinks and has sex with someone he wishes he didn't, he just has to take responsibility for it, but if a woman has two drinks, aggresively seduces a boys for sex and she regrets it in the morning, she can cry rape to absolve herself from any responsibility.

Isn't that just precious!

Dear Troll, I am going to believe that you do not have any knowledge concerning rape. I choose to believe this instead of believing that you are a vile person who enjoys torturing women. I will make my explanation as simple as possible so that you can understand.

1) Because of the number of rapes committed, and because the majority of women know their rapists, all women have to live in fear of rape.

2) Men rape women in obscenely (obscene = disgusting) high numbers. Men do not have to live in fear of rape. These facts mean that men enjoy privilege with sex. Privilege means you receive benefits you didn't earn and/or don't deserve. Your privilege in sex means that because women live in fear of rape, you can exert pressure (whining, threats, battery) and get a woman to have sex with you when she doesn't want to.

3) Having sex with someone who doesn't want to have sex = rape.

4) To avoid raping a woman, you must obtain her consent before having sex with her.

5) A drunk person is not capable of giving consent.

6) If you don't want to be a rapist, don't have sex with women who are drunk. Also avoid sex with women who are unconscious.

Stop engaging in trollish behavior. The number of false rape accusations is very low. The number of rapes that go unreported is very high. If the only way you can have "sex" is by getting women drunk, then you are a rapist.

Empathy means being able to imagine how someone else feels. It's "putting yourself in their shoes". Try to imagine yourself being raped by a man. Imagine how you would feel, and the impact it would have on your life. After this exercise, try to apply what you've learned to how women must live.

If you are incapable of generating any empathy, please seek treatment as there is something seriously wrong with you.

You have all the privilege, and yet you choose to blame women, who have none. If you weren't so afraid, you would have left a name. I really hope you get help, because you desperately need it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday Bunny Blogging

I forgot about Monday Bunny Blogging. (Hangs head in shame.) Never fear, Bumble chewed on the furniture until I remembered.

Happy Hay Day!

Hay contains "fines", little pieces, and lots of dust that can cause problems for rabbits. So it's best to shake it out before giving it to your rabbit. Taking the new hay outside, shaking it, and putting it into the storage bins is terribly exciting for Bumble. He doesn't know what to do with himself, so when the first bin is finished, I put it on the floor for him. He can stand up and pull hay out of the top, or pull it through the opening below the bin's handles.

There's just one problem: rabbit rules say that you must eat hay as fast as you can. This method is too slow. What to do?

Watching him jump into the bin is hilarious, but there's the danger he might mistake it for his litterbox and pee all over the new hay. Had to shoo him out. Luckily, he was too excited to give me The Bunny Butt.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Oh, It's Hard To Be a Man

Over at Rachels Tavern there's a discussion on alcohol consumption and date rape. The original scenario:

Here's a situation - A man and woman, both intoxicated, go home together and end up having some sort of sexual intercourse. The next morning they both wake up, except they both really can't remember what happened. All they know is they woke up naked next to one another. Then the girl files a complaint of sexual assault.

Do you believe this was rape?

I think it's a very tough call. There is no way to tell what was said or done once the 2 individuals began hooking up. I agree with admin's advice...guys should not sleep with girls who are intoxicated. It can lead to bad things.

"guys should not sleep with girls who are intoxicated. It can lead to bad things."

Now maybe I'm wrong, but the bad things seems to refer less to RAPE than to pesky, unfortunate allegations of rape lodged against innocent men. I hope I'm wrong.

I can also recall one episode when I was hitting on two beautiful young coeds only to wake up the next morning with their plain looking friend.

Golly, maybe that's the bad thing we were warned of. He thought he was gonna tap two hot asses and instead woke up with equivalent of a blow-up doll.

Social diseases and the real possibility of a false claim are reason enough for young men to be careful in such situations. But we really need to stop this primitive thinking when it comes to women and sex. Men and women should enjoy the same notion of responsibility as well as privilege when it comes to sex.

"The real possibility of a false claim of rape"-it's a dangerous world for men. Why aren't we fighting for equal rights for men? Men will never be free until we end all of the false rape allegations. Everyone knows that rape is a rare crime. Yet countless men are savaged by these false claims leveled by uptight women.

You know what puts me on the verge of vomiting? Seeing this statement:

Men and women should enjoy the same notion of responsibility as well as privilege when it comes to sex.

used as evidence that women's behavior needs to change. Sure, all men live in fear of being raped or being charged with rape. Women can go anywhere, anytime safely, but men are prisoners in their own homes. Women are safe at home, but men are raped by women they know more than by strangers. Men and women should enjoy the same responsibility and privilige, indeed.

I haven't got the strenght to get into the comments, dear readers. I simply don't have a strong enough stomach. The lowlights: 1) It's too hard and not fair for a man to have to obtain consent, so consent should be assumed and 2) let's talk about the rape of men, because that's just as important, dammit!

I'm off to find my Mylanta.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blogging for Radical Fun Day

Brownfemipower created Blogging for Radical Fun Day! It's a great idea: instead of blogging about all the suffering and injustice in the world, take a break and blog about something you love or love to do. Surf on over to her site to see the bloggers participating today.

On Tuesday, we went to Northwest Trek, a wildlife park that has the distinction of having free-roaming herbivores. Very few things make me happier than nonhuman animals, and thinking about them is my idea of a very fun time. I won't talk about how the kids at the park responded to the animals, and I won't talk about the conservation work the park does, because wildlife conservation is a depressing subject. Instead, I'm just going to be grateful these animals exist.

I'm a sucker for for these animals, so I couldn't bear (hee hee) to shrink these photos down. Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.

Only one week old!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I Offer You This Concept

Several years ago, I created an important concept, and I strongly urge you to adopt it. I present:

The Birthday Month

You are special, so you deserve to celebrate yourself, and your birthday, for one entire month! The Birthday Month is a one-month get-out-of-jail free card. It is a "Oh, you're being a royal pain in the ass, but it's your Birthday Month, so I won't call you on it" present. It also includes others doing chores for you, saying extra nice things, and letting you have the best part of their lunch. It's an idea whose time has come. Until you try it, you won't believe how much fun it is to have a Birthday Month.

I was lucky enough to be born the very last day of the month, so I get a nice, symmetrical Birthday Month. But never fear, if you were born on some other day, unfortunate one, simply celebrate for a month before your birthday. I advise against celebrating after your actual birthday. By the end of The Birthday Month, everyone is really sick of "your attitude", and only your actual birthday will compel them to be nice.

I'll say this one more time. Only one of you needs to stand by my head to provide shade. The other one should go get me a root beer and some hay. And make it snappy!

May is my Birthday Month. I've been hell on wheels already, and oh, is it fun. Try it out for yourself.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Blogging Against Disablism

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Some people only consider physical disorders and disabilities to be real problems. I hate the mental/physical dichotomy. I hate the way we deal with "mental" disorders. My problems arise when my brain seriously malfunctions. Isn't the brain physical? Don't brain malfunctions deserve to be taken seriously?

***May be triggering for people with depression.***

I am writing this for all the people who think or say "Well, everybody gets depressed" when they learn you are suffering from depression. Everyone feels down in the dumps sometimes. Clinical depression is a different beast.

When I get sick, it's as bad as it can be. My brain only does severe depression, it doesn't mess around with mild or moderate depression. The cognitive impact is huge. I lose the ability to read. Intelligent and challenging books are taken from me, but so are short essays, and low-level magazines. I can't get through a paragraph. As I read, I forget what I've just read, so by the end of the paragraph, I don't know what's going on. I try to watch TV, but I can't follow what's happening. TV shows are beyond my grasp. It hurts to write that I can't process stupid TV shows.

Therapy, when I need it most, is useless. I try to hang on my therapist's words, but after a few seconds, I've forgotten what she was saying. So she has to repeat it, again. I try to convey what I'm feeling or thinking, but the same thing happens. Mid-sentence, I have no idea what I was saying. This happens every time I try to talk, I think. My husband, my psychologist, and my psychiatrist are used to both my terror and my rage. "I don't know what I just said!" "What did you just say? Maybe it would have helped!" Everything is spoken in desperation.

I tend toward hyperactivity when I'm well. I'm the one who can't sit still, who plays with any object within reach, who fidgets, who has to get up and move. When I get sick, that energy vanishes. I sit still for hours. People who know me can't believe I could hold still that long. I hold still, very still, and stare glassy-eyed at the floor. I have a minor problem with drooling, but I don't care. Everything hurts, and I sleep for 16 hours a day. People comment that they'd give anything to sleep 16 hours a day. No you wouldn't, not when it's out of your control, and happens every day for months. When my psychiatrist came to call me back to her office, she said later that she instantly knew. Each time, she took one look at me and knew I was no better.

I look at stacks of books I'd really wanted to read, and I feel nothing. I watch the seedlings in my indoor herb garden shrivel and die from neglect, and feel nothing. I am dragged, against my will, to places I used to love. I feel nothing. My husband is a wonderful man, and I love him so much it's disgusting. When I get sick, I look at him and feel nothing. People die, and I feel nothing. I was sick on September 11, 2001. All I could feel was rage that all those people-people who were truly alive-were murdered while I, a corpse that everyone perceived as alive, was still "living".

Doing my homework from therapy, I force myself to go places. Anything to get me out in the world and imitating a living person. I was raised to NEVER cry. In Office Depot, I cry in front of the staplers. In the grocery store, I stand in front of the green peppers and I cry. I can't even feel embarrassed. Strangers voice concern, I feel a gentle touch on my shoulder. "No, I'm fine, thank you." Why can't they see that I'm already dead?

I know the location of every gun shop in town, even though I've never touched a gun in my life. I want a gun, I need a gun. This will be no suicide attempt, I will complete the act. Suicide isn't always a cry for help. Sometimes it's a last desperate act to end the unbearable. I am in a persistent vegetative state. I am long gone, but this stupid body continues living. I need a gun to end the charade, but I can't inflict that pain on my husband.

I hate him for that.

My psychiatrist brings up shock treatment, and I resist, but not for the reason she thinks. Shock therapy fails for 20% of the people who experience it. Every damn drug they've given me has failed, so why would shock treatment work? Knowing that shock therapy is a possibility is my "out". It's an extreme option that might save me. If I try it and fail, I don't think anything will keep me from killing myself. So I have to keep it as my safety net. If suicide is imminent, then shock therapy will (likely not) save me.

During all of this, I am in graduate school, pursuing a degree in biological psychology. My academic adviser, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, makes constant remarks at me. "You should be able to get your emotional problems under control." "You should realize how lucky you are that you only have an emotional problem. What if you had a real physical problem!" "Why is it taking so long for you to recover?" (This depressive episode lasted from March, 2001 to May, 2002.) I go to another faculty member in the psychology department for help. Her area of expertise is clinical depression. I tell her I can't function. She tells me to try harder.

Summer, 2001, I take a leave of absence from graduate school because I cannot function. My adviser has never paid 1 cent of my stipend. I am just free labor for him. There are no students who have come in after me, so the lab is not pressed for space. In spite of this, he gives me an ultimatum in January 2002: either recover by June 1st and be prepared to come back and work 100 hours a week, or leave. He also gives me life advice: "Depressives aren't suited for research" and "You could never run a big research lab like I do. You couldn't handle it". The psychology department sends me a threatening letter: I'm not making satisfactory progress in my training. How can one make progress while on a leave of absence?

Finally, in May, I am prescribed lithium. Lithium is toxic, so I start on a baby dose.

Something is different.

The dose is increased, my blood levels are monitored, and suddenly, I am me again. I believe that I'm manic, because the difference between where I was and where I am are so extreme. "No" they tell me, with smiles beaming. "You've always been hyper. This is normal for you!" I leave graduate school with lasting bitterness and a compensatory master's degree.

Please think about this essay the next time you hear people make light of depression. It doesn't happen to everyone. You don't just pull yourself out of it. It is not a character flaw.