Monday, February 27, 2006

Monday Bunny Blogging

I call this picture "Bumble is a piggy". I love Bumble dearly, but he is such a messy rabbit. Rabbit experts who are very polite people have confirmed, that yes, my bunny is a slob.

The gray object behind Bumble is his litter box. You put hay in the litterbox, and bunnies can jump in and eat hay while they take a crap. It's gross when you're new to rabbits, but this system works very well. The problem in our house is that Bumble likes to sit just outside his litter box, grab a bunch of hay, pull it out of the box and onto the floor. He then sits there, munching happily. I don't have the right to complain, because he always pees and poops in the litter box. But once a pile of hay gets outside the box, it goes everywhere. It's so much fun to go out to a movie, out to eat, whatever, and look down and see hay on your pants.

Ah, a small price to pay for life with Bumble.


"Do you have any kids?"

I despise this question. It isn't the question that I mind. I'd be happy to answer "no", and then do my happy dance. But invariably, when I announce that I don't have children, the other person loses all social skills and behaves badly. A horrified look is followed by a comment indicating pity, shock, sadness, or condescension. On fun days, I get multiple attitudes from the same person. For example:

"You don't have kids?", very long pause, slack-jawed expression

"Well, you'd better get working on that soon!" (I'm almost 37.)

"It's unnatural."

"You don't know what you're missing."

"I think it's great when people recognize that they're selfish so they avoid having kids."

I'm sick of dealing with this. My husband has suggested cutting off all discussion by answering in the following manner:

"Thank the fuck christ, no."

I haven't been able to answer this way yet. Unlike many, it seems, I understand it's rude and inappropriate to say certain things to others. But my temper's on its last nerve, and I may forsake manners soon.

You'll notice that I describe myself as childfree, not childless. I chose not to have children. I am not suffering from the lack of children in my life. As this is my chosen state, I am quite happy about things. Pity is neither needed nor desired.

I can't give a definitive list for why I want to be childfree. I'm not a fan of excessively long posts, so I'll have to give you the top five.

1. I do not like children.

2. I do not want to be a mother.

Now, #s 1 & 2 pretty much make the decision for me, no? I'm sure if I woke up in a parallel universe and I had children, that I would love them more than anything. But for now, childhood is not compulsory in the USA. I don't want children, so I don't have to have them.

3. I have a chronic illness that causes my life to be unbearable when it is active (I'm in remission now). If I passed this illness on to my child, then I would truly be the most hateful, cruel, and thoughtless bag of pus ever.

4. In addition to the illness mentioned above, my parental model is awful. We don't always repeat abuse we experienced in childhood, but I am not willing to risk doing this. I have a variety of behavioral traits that do not fit into a decent parenting environment. These things could be modified, but not eradicated. This is all a long way of saying that I will not subject a child to my childhood.

5. The fate of life (think beyond humans, folks) on our planet it questionable at this point. Between overpopulation and overconsumption, we are poisoning and destroying all areas of the earth. Certain problems, such as global warming, have gone beyond the tipping point. One thing to do is reduce population. Check.

I could go on and on, and I often do. But before I wrap this up, I want to address one final thing that really chaps my ass. There's a common perception that childfree people are selfish, while parents are unselfish. Bullshit. Adopting a child is a truly selfless act, and I tip my hat to anyone who adopts. You are doing a wonderful thing, and you are selfless. But parents? Not by a country mile. People have kids because


Caring for children requires unselfishness. But deciding to have kids is a fundamentally selfish thing. If you disagree with me, just ask yourself how much selfish reasons play into the desire to have kids. You know, things like:

- I want a child
- having someone to take care of me when I'm old
- having part of me live on when I'm dead
- getting the respect of friends, family, community
- living my dreams through my child
- I want to be in the record books as the oldest father/mother
- etc. etc.

People will still try to tell me that I won't truly be a woman until I've given birth. I haven't worked out the best way to deal with this. My impulse is to throw an uppercut. I'm so glad I've got the hips for it.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I've just discovered a wonderful blog, Never Say Never To Your Traveling Self. She has an excellent post on the importance of nature in our lives. (Also be sure to check out the 2 posts on bell hooks.) She speaks of being distanced from nature by our lifestyles, but of still feeling the need to connect with living things. She really got to me on the need to touch a tree.

Her post reminded me of an "incident" from my childhood.
I was in first or second grade, and the teacher told us to draw a picture and write a short story about our best friend. Usually, I had trouble making decisions, but for once there was no problem. My best friend was the blue spruce that grew in our front yard. It was a massive, gorgeous tree. Whenever I was upset, I could sit by the tree. If inside, I only had to look out my bedroom window to see it. The tree instantly calmed me and made me happy.

When we finished writing, the teacher made us take turns reading our story to the class. To my horror, I realized that every other child had written about another person. I was the only one to write about a tree. I was already getting used to being a freak relative to the other kids, but what was worse was I'd gotten the assignment wrong! I was a stupid freak!

Sure enough, when I read my story, the other kids laughed and the teacher was not happy. From that moment on, I considered that story to be evidence of how I didn't measure up. I selected a tree as my best friend? It's taken several years into adulthood to see that choice was a defining moment in my life. I loved that tree dearly, and it was my best friend.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Blog Against Sexism Day

March 8 is International Women's Day. Please celebrate day.

All you need to do is write about sexism and post your entry on March 8. There are so many feminist issues that you'll be fighting to select which issue to focus on for your post.

To learn more about blog against sexism day, check out this link.

Hey, I've got an idea: how about blogging about the fact that it's MARCH, 2006 and sexism is still an issue?!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Carnival of Feminists

The Ninth Carnival of Feminists is up at Mind the Gap. A comprehensive analysis of feminist issues is presented. Go have a look!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


The only thing we really own is our bodies. My body is mine. What I choose to do with it is no one's business if I don't inflict harm on other people*. Anti-choice people feel that they can impose their will, their beliefs, and their hatred on women and force them to give birth every time they are pregnant. The basic anti-choice position could be:

I believe life begins at conception.
I believe abortion is murder.
Therefore, I will never choose to have an abortion.

Well, that would be fine. I have no problem with that belief system. But the quote above is not representative of anti-choice people. Instead their basic position is:

I believe abortion is murder.
I believe I have the right to impose my beliefs on everyone else.
Therefore, I will control every pregnant woman.

I do not want children. I am obsessively careful with birth control. But should I become pregnant, I have the right to have an abortion. We're talking about MY BODY, remember? My decisions are none of your business.

You don't have to agree with my opinions. You don't have to like what I say. Feel free to hate me and curse me to hell. (False bravado: I'm an atheist). The one thing you *have* to do is stop trying to control MY BODY. Butt out.

*for the forced-birthers:
1. those who have been born
2. one who does not exist as a parasite inside another's body

Monday, February 20, 2006

Monday Bunny Blogging

I've been reading blogs for much longer than I've been writing one. I've noticed that everyone seems to have either "Friday Cat Blogging" or "Friday Dog Blogging". What could be better than that?

Well, Monday Bunny Blogging! Just what you need to help you through your dreary Monday. Pictures of an adorable large bunny.

Like most rabbits, Bumble sleeps in the afternoon. His spot is under my desk, which I love. Sometimes he ends up with part of his head under my footrest, which I don't love. Notice (if you can, the pix are crappy) his adorable lower lip.

Well, he tries to sleep. Sometimes an incredibly rude person disturbs his sleep with a camera. After I took the shot above, he came over, nudged me. Then he hopped back under my desk, giving me a double foot-flick. (Rabbit speak for either "I'm finished with you" or "You irritate me. Leave me alone".

I didn't feel guilty for long. He was sound asleep again in no time.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Feminism and Me

Growing up, I constantly heard how unappealing I was. The traits I had were deemed unattractive: brown hair, glasses, small breasts, large hips, bubble butt, and a loud laugh. My sister had the opposite traits and so was considered worthy. I desperately wanted to be worthy.

I tried to fit the beauty standard, but it just wouldn't happen. Fortunately, I went to college. I discovered womens studies, and learned to question many basic assumptions. As I learned and grew, I rejected those childhood notions about what was beautiful. I renounced high-heel shoes. At 5'2", heels could be beneficial, but every time I wore them, my back locked up. I'd take a step forward, and be frozen in place. Once the pain eased, I could continue walking. My high heels went into the trash.

I quit wearing makeup. My sister lived by the "never appear in public" without makeup principle. Even at 10 years of age, this idea seemed ridiculous to me. Feeling so ugly that you couldn't be around others without makeup seemed to be such a sad idea that I refused to follow it. So I only wore makeup occasionally. I wish I could say that I quit wearing makeup to make a political statement, but the real reason is that if I don't do something everyday, I forget to do it at all. After dressing up and forgetting to wear makeup a few times, I threw my makeup in the trash.

I also rejected clothes that were uncomfortable, but "looked good". I was on a roll: my decisions were being shaped by comfort and convenience, not by patriarchal standards of beauty. For the first time in my life, I was developing healthy self esteem. But then, I got fat. Then I got thin, and then got fat again, and so on. I am now considered obese, and my body image is terrible. All the feminist theory I've read and thought about over the years is still with me. On an intellectual level, I believe that my body is as good as and as beautiful as anyone else's. On an emotional level, it's a different story. I don't like going out into public anymore. I never sought attention when I was thin, but I dread any attention now. If only I could become invisible.

My 37th birthday is rapidly approaching. Yet my body image matches the way I felt about myself at age 5, 10, 15, and 20. As at age 5, I feel ugly and unacceptable. I've grown so much as woman; I've come so far. I reject societal pressure for women to fit one physical model. But I still feel ugly, and it still matters to me. I'm furious that I feel this way. I'm enraged that it still matters to me.

I hate the patriarchy.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Shakespeare's Sister has an amazing post up dealing with undiagnosed learning disabilities. Specifically, she focuses on undiagnosed math disabilities.

Like the more widely-known dyslexia, which is associated with reading, dyscalculia manifests first in a struggle to work with numbers and understand associated concepts, and, left untreated, can lead to math aversion of phobic proportions. And also like dyslexia, it’s treatable. But it’s got to be diagnosed.

This section hit me right between the eyes. I remember the day in school when my teacher introduced subtraction with two-digit numbers. I remember the exact time, because it was a huge moment for me. As my stomach began to hurt, I realized that I could not understand what was going on. Up until that point, school had been my refuge. Schoolwork was the one area where I could succeed, and the only area where no one could put me down. But when the teacher started discussing "borrowing", my confidence evaporated.

My achievement tests throughout the primary school years were very bizarre. I scored at the top in everything but math. My reading comprehension was many years beyond my grade, but my math achievement scores were almost too low to measure. The huge difference in scores was never addressed, and I developed a life-long hatred of math.

Maybe I have dyscalculia and maybe I don't. But I never got the help I needed. Although shy, I asked teachers for help. I never got it. I finally quit asking for help when my seventh grade math teacher, Mrs. Hirtz, informed me that I just wasn't good at math. She helpfully added that she didn't see how I'd be able to get through high school. Well, so what? So I don't like math. It turns out this dislike (really, fear) of math had pretty profound consequences.

In college, my natural choice for a major would have been biology. I love the entire field! But my life-long love of animals could not progress to a degree in zoology or wildlife biology because those areas require math. A new interest that developed in college was immunology. I couldn't pursue graduate work in immunology because I needed a background in chemistry. To take chemistry, guess what you need? Math!

The things I wanted to study had prerequisites that I was unable to take. I ended up pursuing an interdisciplinary area of research in graduate school, but I never got over feeling that my preparation was incomplete. I *needed* math so I could fully understand other areas. The only way I survived graduate level statistics courses was to divorce the material from the numbers and think about concepts.

Now, really, I'm glad I'm not studying immunology anymore. It's a fascinating field that becomes, for me, incredibly dull past a certain point. However, I feel nothing but regret over not studying zoology. I want very much to work as a naturalist or zookeeper. Basically, I'd give a lot to be working in any field of conservation. Observing animals, teaching about them, or caring for them is my ultimate dream. For some reason, cleaning large piles of poop makes me happy. But the fields I want to break into are very competitive. I have an advanced degree, I have a little experience, and an intense desire to do the job. But I don't have the degree I should have. Why not? Well, I couldn't take the math.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mental illness, stigma, and suffering

Yet one more tragic story has surfaced.

Dena Schlosser, 37, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the November 2004 death of her baby, Margaret. She was not taking her anti-psychotic medication at the time of the slaying.

Well, was there anyone to help this woman before she killed her baby? Someone to see how sick she was, and that she desperately needed help? Was there someone who could have intervened and helped Dena and saved Magaret's life? Yes there were at least two people: Dena's husband and her pastor. However, it seems Dena's pastor holds an ancient view of mental illness.

"I do not believe that any mental illness exists other than demons, and no medication can straighten it out, other than the power of God," said Doyle Davidson, the 73-year-old minister of the Water of Life Church, which the Schlosser family attended several times a week.

Dena Schlosser's attorneys have faulted her husband and the church's beliefs for discouraging medical treatment. Schlosser's husband, John Schlosser, testified Tuesday that he did not seek medical help when his wife told him she wanted to "give the baby to God" the day before their daughter's death.

I don't care what your religious beliefs are. When your wife informs you that she wants to give your daughter to god, YOU INTERVENE. Now one life is over and another is ruined. Thanks so much, guys. You were really a big help. Does Margaret's father weep to god for taking his baby away? Does he weep because he turned his back on his wife when she was desperately ill? Does he weep because he's profoundly stupid?

Oh, one note to Julia Glick, the author of the story. It's bipolar disorder, not manic depression. Take my hand and jump into modern times with me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Comfortable in your own skin

Since childhood, I've heard how weird, ugly, stupid, fat, and worthless I am. That sucks, but what's worse is that I internalized all of that garbage. I'm 36 years old (I know, J, almost 37) and I'm still struggling with all of this. That's unacceptable. I need to put this behind me. I've made progress recognizing all of this is crap on an intellectual level, but emotionally, at bad times, I still believe I have the same worth as dirt.

When I first heard the expression "comfortable in your own skin", I thought it described a wonderful way to live. How perfect, to accept who you are, good and bad, and just live your life. I've aspired to be comfortable in my own skin, but it's been slow going.

So, I'm going to work on accepting myself. There's all the crap specific people have told me, there's the crap I've told myself, and then there are the ways in which I violate societal standards. Obviously, there's a lot of overlap in these categories, but I think addressing how I "fail" as an American citizen will be most interesting. The areas in which I violate accepted standards are, in no particular order:

1. gender roles: I am a feminist.
2. mental illness: I am bipolar and have GAD.
3. weight: I am obese.
4. parenthood: I am happily childfree.
5. religion: I am an atheist.

Accept me for who I am or get out of my way.

The Bipolar View

I've had two mental disorders since childhood: generalized anxiety disorder and unipolar depression (aka major depression, clinical depression). But the problem was that my symptoms didn't fit unipolar depression very well. I showed many of the "atypical" signs of depression, such as excessive sleeping, excessive weight gain, and nonresponsiveness to antidepressant after antidepressant. I was classified as treatment resistant. That's a fancy way of saying that you suffer forever because the medical establishment can't help you. What finally saved me was the classic mood stabilizer, lithium.

Recently, I went to a new psychiatrist and now have a new diagnosis. Yay! Instead of unipolar depression, I'm classified as bipolar (the old "manic depression"). I have bipolar II disorder. I have the same severe depressions, but I also have phases of elevated mood. My up moods aren't as intense as mania, nor are they as destructive. I got lucky, I guess. Ha.

My psychiatrist says that the daily mood swings: up-neutral-down, reflect temperament rather than bipolar disorder. The disorder is only responsible for sustained mood changes. But then he acknowledged that people with mood disorders are much more moody than others, even when they're well. Hmmmm. So the rollercoaster that is me is due to both bipolar II and temperament. I'd like to see some data on that, please. Where does the disorder end, and plain ol' personality begin?

So, I'll get to the point of this meandering introduction. Due to who I am, I'm very good at getting excited about things and seeing the positive in life. I'm possibly even better at seeing the negative in life and getting depressed about things. What's almost impossible for me is to, as my husband says, "stay on an even keel". I see some people working on important issues from a negative stance, while still others insist that we must only consider the positive side of life if we want to effect change in the world. Uh, hello? This is like many other dichotomous issues. Both sides matter. Since I see the extremes naturally, I'm going to try to focus on both positive and negative perspectives of important issues on this blog. Hence the blog name, The Bipolar View.

Join me for this ride!