Strongest People I Know

Content Notice: talk of suicide, ideation, judgmental assholes

I had a bad day yesterday. I thought maybe I should end it all. These weren’t plans to actually kill myself. These are the thoughts I live with on a daily basis. Some days they’re easier to ignore. I wondered what was the point of living. Then I heard the news of Chester Bennington’s death. He killed himself. As my friends were sharing how much Linkin Park’s music had helped them in their teens, I also saw a lot of people with no understanding of mental illness, blathering on about “taking the easy way out”.

And it all brought it back to me. That time when I was 15 and attempted suicide. I was called all sorts of names. How stupid could I be to try to kill myself? Don’t I know it would hurt my mother? I started therapy then and have been in treatment since. I’ve had several ideation events. And the guilters were always there. I need to think about my daughter. How much it would hurt my family; my friends. How could I be so selfish?

There’s this idea that people who commit suicide are weak. They couldn’t handle their life and its circumstances. Korn’s guitarist Brian Head Welch said Chester took the “cowardly way out”. I cannot speak for Chester, but I can speak as someone who has attempted suicide. As someone who will always have ideation. Living with mental illness is fighting a war every fucking day. We’re fighting ourselves and also dealing with an ableist medical system. We have to deal with well-meaning people with their empty platitudes. We have to deal with cruel insensitive people like Brian, who think mental illness is just something we can get over.

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Modified version. I will not post the original.

We deal with people making memes shaming the use of anti-depressants. Supposed friends will tell you they are there for you but then walk away from you because you’re “too depressing”. And these people wonder why we don’t feel comfortable sharing our struggles with them.

You want to prevent suicide? You do that by helping us fight the stigmatization of mental illness. You do that by calling out shaming bullshit advice or memes like the above. You do that by examining your own biases and admitting that you too need to learn a thing or two. You do that by demanding better health care and treatment for mentally ill people. You do that by viewing mental illness like you would any other chronic illness, as something that cannot be “gotten over” but instead as something that the person dealing with can learn to cope with. You do that by demanding that therapists are actually well versed in their field, and that they also learn social justice because a lot of depressed people are also marginalized in a lot of different ways and that all plays a part in it. For fuck’s sake learn how to properly tag triggering content. On Facebook, hide links to potentially triggering content in nested comments. Accept that sometimes you will mess up and will be called out and maybe it won’t be as gentle as you’d like. You fight the stigma by NOT centering your feelings but those of the depressed person.

Telling us how our death would hurt someone is just a way to manipulate us by guilting us. We KNOW it would hurt our loved ones. I know my daughter would NOT be better off without me. And you telling me how horrible I am for having ideation just makes me feel worse. You don’t prevent someone’s suicide by reminding them of how horrible they think they are. You end up reinforcing the intrusive thoughts and negative self image.

Some days I don’t like myself very much. Yesterday was a bad day, but I was reminded of my strength. I was reminded of the strength of my friends who are also dealing with mental illness. Do you know how much strength it takes to get out of bed; out of the house? How much strength it takes to deal with assholes who judge you without knowing anything about mental illness?

*******

RIP Chester Bennington. Your music touched many and I hope you’ve finally found some peace. 

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Victim Double Standards

CN: SA, CSA, domestic violence, corporal punishment

As a child, I was beaten and put down constantly. Anything I did, wore, or liked could be subject to ridicule. Any sign, imagine or real, of disrespect was met with a the buckle of a belt, a shoe or the calloused and hardened hands of my grandma. The people who should have been my protectors were my first abusers. So I grew up with low self-esteem and at 15 attempted suicide. In my late teens, I met my first boyfriend. He’d become my daughter’s father and the reason I deal with PTSD now.

People would ask how I could end up with someone like him. After a lot of therapy and introspection I figured out why. As I child, the messages I received were that I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important and never would be. I deserved the beatings and verbal abuse I got. After years of hearing that and hearing the messages I got from society , I finally understood my worth was very little.

So, this guy comes along and doesn’t call me names. Tells me I matter, well, that was new and I wanted more of it. But the reason he chose me specifically was because I was so starved for love and affirmation. Once I was “his”, he could reveal his true colors. Ok, but why did I stay? Because I had been conditioned since childhood to accept this type of treatment. Who was I to ask why I was beaten? Didn’t I know it was done out of love? I deserved it because I made the abuser angry. I needed to be reminded of the rules and who set them. (Aside: isn’t curious how the reasons people give to justify spanking children are identical to the justifications of spousal abusers?)

I didn’t like it. In fact I fucking hated it. But instead of hating my abusers, I hated myself for being so horrible that people needed to beat me. It was the same message I got as a child. It was just a different person saying it now.

“Oh you can’t blame your childhood! You’re making yourself a victim.” That’s what I was met with when I explained why I stayed.

“He was abused as a child. The abused will abuse.” This was also said simultaneously and no one noticed the double standard.

I was aware of the abuse he endured. He told me in the beginning of the relationship, which I now know was his way of trying to bond with me, to make me easier to manipulate. See, he understood me, I thought. 

So, why is it that I can’t say my childhood made me an easier target for abuse but he can justify his abuse of me with the abuse he endured as a child? Why is one OK and the other not?

Since news broke that Milo Yiannopoulos was uninvited from CPAC and the release of his book was cancelled over his comments regarding pedophilia, I have seen several people try to defend him. I’m not linking to anything by that guy. You can google him yourself. It’s bad enough he’s even being mentioned here but for the purposes of this post, he has to. One defense, I saw over and over was that Milo was a victim of CSA. The reasoning of “the abused will abuse” shows up again.

It’s very unfortunate that he lived through that. No one, I mean no one, no matter how much I hate them and their beliefs, deserves to be abused in that way. But having a fucked up childhood is not a justification for being an abusive adult. And yes, his transmisogyny, racism, sexism is all abuse.

Hearing that “the abused will abuse” made me think I would eventually become a monster. It would be inevitable that I would become like my abuser. While I know it isn’t true it’s still scares me.

The powerful or the privileged (or their supporters) can say , ‘I had a bad childhood” and all is forgiven. The marginalized and weak say, “I also had a bad childhood” and they’re met with derision. Ask yourself why that is.

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

CN: uncensored used of the word r*pe, dv myths

I believe Melania is a victim of domestic violence (DV). Not just from seeing how she acts, but based on her husband’s history. If you don’t want to show her any pity or sympathy, that’s fine. That’s your right. But please remember that when you say she can easily leave, or that she deserves it you’re hurting me and other survivors of DV. That’s called splash damage.

It’s like when those statues of DJT popped up around the country. They were made to ridicule his body. There is plenty to criticize him for. Calling him fat or engaging in toxic masculinity when we ridicule the size of his hands or genitalia causes splash damage. It doesn’t hurt him. It hurts others. Speculating whether or not Barron is autistic, saying Republicans are mentally ill, that’s straight up ableism. Again, it causes splash damage.

Fat phobia, ableism and sexism against privileged people may not necessarily hurt those privileged. But it adds to the stigma that being fat, disabled or perceived as a woman has.

Blast Melania for her racists comments, her birther support, the plagiarism of Michelle’s speech. I understand the argument that if Melania weren’t white that she wouldn’t be so defended. That’s true. People are more sympathetic to her because of the damsel in distress trope. Yes it’s racist bullshit that white people will fall over themselves to defend Melania and Barron while dehumanizing Michelle, Sasha and Malia. But calling her out can be done without perpetuating harmful myths about DV and victim blaming.

If domestic violence and disabilities were an exclusively white issue? Then yeah, fuck it, have at Melania and her son. But these issues do not discriminate and it is possible to criticize someone without throwing other marginalized people under the bus.

For instance, let’s say Melania is a victim and let’s say she does leave. It is true that she’d have more privileges than a poor Black or Brown woman leaving an abusive situation. However, leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. And her husband is currently the most powerful man in the world. I’ve seen people say Secret Service would protect her from him. I’m skeptical of that claim.

I have also seen the claim that there is no evidence, just what other DV victims have read from her expressions and body language. Alright, so there may not be any concrete proof he’s abusing Melania. But he’s been accused of sexual assault before. He’s admitted as much on tape. We all know what he’s said about his daughter Ivanka. It isn’t unreasonable to think Melania is a victim of his. I mean, we’re told we should trust our instincts and learn to spot red flags. We spot them in him and we’re told “there’s no proof she’s being abused”. Honestly, it feels like I’m being gaslit when told I’m imagining things.

I have seen people who do believe DJT is abusing her but that she deserves it becuase she’s racist. That type of thinking is in the same vein as jokes about rapists facing the same fate in prison. It works under the assumption that there is such a thing as a perfect victim. Or that being a shitty person means you deserve to be oppressed.
As a person of color it’s been frustrating because I get accused of defending her and upholding white supremacy. No, what I care about are all these myths. As a victim of DV everything I’ve read about Melania regarding DV is shit that’s been said to me. And I’m fucking tired.

We can call out out her racism without hurting DV victims. That’s all I’m asking. These myths harm all victims, especially POC who predominantly have a harder time accessing resources unlike Melania who would have access to good legal representation and therapy.

Hate the woman if you want. Don’t believe she’s a victim if you so choose. Criticize and condemn her for the racist shit she’s said. Just don’t throw DV victims under the bus. Don’t perpetuate one form of oppression while calling out another.

Fuck no, I don't love you or forgive you

Since Donald Trump winning last night I’ve seen several posts by people urging those of us who are upset, hurt and terrified by this election to be understanding, open-minded and to love Trump and his supporters.  To accept him as president-elect.

People have been sharing that one particular Martin Luther King Jr.,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

And to that I just have one thing to say: fuck you. I don’t have to love Donald Trump, I don’t have to love the GOP, I don’t even have to fucking love the Democratic Party. The only people I have any obligation to are myself, my family, my friends and all of the people who are going to be hurt by the decision to elect Orange Hitler.
Don’t you dare tell me that the only way that oppression and hate will go away is if the oppressed love and are nice to our oppressors. I reject that notion.

I’ve already seen several posts from White liberals who are so surprised that America could elect Donald Trump. Marginalized people have been warning about this from the get-go. You love saying Donald Trump doesn’t represent America; doesn’t represent American values but if you knew anything of your history; of American History you fucking know that Donald Trump is a product of America. This is stolen land; it was founded on the oppression of people of color.

Conversion therapy to “cure the gay” is still a thing which Mike Pence, VP-elect supports and advocates for. Racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia transphobia, hatred of all religions save Christianity, all of these different types of oppression are completely American. Donald Trump is not an anomaly. Donald Trump exists because this country encourages, enables and fosters these types of attitudes.

I do not have to tolerate, accept, or love it. I’m beyond over liberals telling me and mine that all we have to do to make things better is to be nice. I am done being nice. Abusers and oppressors don’t deserve my kindness, let alone my love.
You know what? During the whole campaign I saw so many supposedly progressive people constantly throw mentally ill people under the bus by calling Trump supporters by ableist slurs; questioning their cognitive ability.
Accusing women of only voting Hillary becuase of some “gender bias”.
None of those things are very “nice”, but I guess when it’s white liberals doing it then it’s all OK. Let a marginalize person fight back and suddenly you white liberals get bent out of shape.

I will fight you every step of the way for myself, for my child, for my friends, for my family and all other marginalized and oppressed people. I am angry, I am sad, I am devastated but I’m not surprised. I’m in mourning and I’ll be mourning for a while but you’re not going to be able to get rid of me and mine. You’re going to get hatred, you’re going to get my anger, you’re going to remember me and you’re going to regret ever fucking with us.

By the way since you love all quoting MLK Jr. so fucking much, how about you read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Response to Disillusioned Leftists

Today I read this article and felt I needed to address a few things.

I do agree with the author that some folks do become pretentious about their activism. These “allies” seem to only be in it for brownie points.
But I disagree with their assessment of marginalized people they’ve worked with. The author claims:

one of the first things you learn is that they usually do not frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories you learned in gender studies classes in University. For the most part, they tend to not analyze their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege, concepts such as “the patriarchy”, “white privilege”, or “heteronormativity”.

I’m aware that not all people are cognizant of how these forces affect their lives. However, I’ve been homeless, I’m a victim of abuse and I’m mentally ill. I absolutely think of my oppression in those terms. My social circle, which compromises of people dealing with several forms of oppression, also know their situations are due to patriarchy, power imbalances and such other concepts. We absolutely DO bother with policing our language. Marginalized people are capable of perpetuating bigotry. We absolutely do educate ourselves “on the intricacies of capitalism.” We do “sit around pondering the effects of “problematic behaviours” in radical communities.” We are concerned with checking our privilege. For one example, I have light skin privilege. While I do experience racism, my light skin is seen as non-threatening. I can easily find make up for my skin tone.
Yes, I am extremely busy trying to survive and get my family’s needs met. But I know the reason I have such a battle ahead of me with these things is because of systemic inequality.

Speaking of Fascism, there is also a disturbing trend on the left nowadays that involves rejecting free speech/freedom of expression as a core value, because that speech could possibly be hurtful to someone, somewhere.

Because we’d like oppressors not to have a platform to speak their bigotry is NOT an example of rejecting free speech. One recent example is Richard Dawkins being disinvited to speak at the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism. His right to have bigoted beliefs isn’t being taken away. The government isn’t taking away his Twitter account. So, his free speech isn’t being violated. He has a right to his opinions. I have a right not to listen to them.

Freedom of expression and the like does not mean we have to agree with what another person says…in fact, it means that when we do not, we certainly have the right to challenge it. But what myself and many others are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely, for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of world history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it.

I agree we don’t have to agree with what another person says. However, I do not want to engage with a bigot. And yes, that is entirely for the purpose of safety. My not wanting to speak to a bigot is not censorship. Again, see above for my explanation on free speech.

Now, the ending paragraphs of this article deal with trigger warnings and safe spaces. The author asks that we “stop with the trigger warnings and get serious about changing the world”. I am completely serious about changing the world, and one way to do that is to make it safe and accessible. Asking, for example, that a class syllabus have trigger warnings makes it possible for someone with PTSD to plan around their study time. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. If a college class is then made inaccessible to someone with a mental illness, how is that not violating that person’s right to an education?

We are fully aware the world isn’t always going to be “fun and pleasant”. I mean, we have PTSD so, yeah we are more than aware. I am always scared but I continue with my activism becuase, pardon the cliche, I need to be the change I want to see in the world.

Author, you seem to think marginalized folks aren’t activists. Your article comes off as ableist becuase you’re asking for people not to ask for and use an accessibility tool I.e, trigger warnings.
Your tone comes off as condescending becuase you’re assuming marginalized folks don’t think about their situations as part of systemic oppression. Which is also classist because you talk about “university educated activists” as if marginalized people don’t also attend university. Or that university is the only way to become enlightened of these issues.

I'm not beautiful and that is OK.

I’ve started therapy at a new clinic. My therapist is a WOC who identifies as a feminist so she gets points for that. We’ve talked about growing as girl children in machista families. She understands where I’m coming from with certain things.

However, every time I mention the word ugly she stops to ask if I really think I’m ugly.

No, I don’t. By conventional standards, I am ugly and not very feminine looking. I’m fat, I have stretch marks and cellulite. I have jiggly and flabby skin. I have scars from self injury. I’m tall. I have short hair dyed an unnatural color. I have piercings and I’m hairy.

But I really don’t give a fuck if I’m ugly or not. Not anymore.
When I was little all I heard from my family was how fat and ugly I was. So, as I got older and the other girls were trying on make up and exploring their femininity I decided that those things were vain and frivolous. They were weak and I wouldn’t be.

I had internalized the misogyny hurled at me all my life. I would be one of the guys, not like those other silly girls. I shunned anything that could be called feminine while simultaneously adhered to other rigid gender norms like shaving. And why did I shave? Because hairy women are “ugly”. Men don’t like hairy women. So while I shunned certain aspects of femininity to protect myself I also chose to follow some to also protect myself. I was a mess. A chill girl mess.

As I’ve matured into my feminism, I’ve learned that femininity isn’t weakness. Once I learned to let go of that internalized misogyny, I realized femininity is powerful. I wear make up and dresses now because it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel pretty. Not pretty for other people. Pretty for me. I don’t shave because it’s too much hassle and I was only doing it for other people.

I’m going to have to explain that being ugly isn’t the worst thing. I’ll have to explain what I mean when I use the word ugly. I’ll have to spend part of my therapy session explaining 101 feminism/social justice stuff. And that’s exhausting. My thinking I’m “ugly” isn’t more important than treating my PTSD.

On a typical summer day, you’ll find me wearing a pretty dress, make up on my face all while my pits and legs are hairy. I’m not beautiful by conventional standards and that’s OK. I never will fit into the white ideal and I don’t want to. I’m beautiful for me.

Birthday

Growing up I had my whole life planned out. I saw how miserable the women in my family were as wives so I decided I would be a Career Woman and never marry. Then I decided I would marry and have children after getting a Ph.D. I’d live fabulously ever after in a mansion with two daughters and one son and some movie star husband. I had the children’s names picked out. I had my wedding planned down to the color of the table cloths. All this would happen by the time I was 30. All of this planning and I was only about seven.

Obviously most of that was a child’s fantasy. As I got older I realized I didn’t want children or marriage after all. But I still wanted to go to college. Growing up that’s how I heard adults measure their child’s success; with whether they had a degree or not. I felt neglected and lonely as a kid so I thought this would be the perfect way to finally get some validation.

I’ve dealt with, and in some cases I’m still dealing with, mental illness, extreme poverty, homelessness, single motherhood and domestic violence. All things which prevented me from going to school. I did complete two semesters but the system being what it is, I had to decide between school or work at the time since the shelter I was in preferred I was working. Currently, I’m not in the right place mentally for school.

As I get older, I’m realizing I don’t need a degree to matter. While I would like to go back to school, I’m not as upset with myself as I used to be. I do have days where I think I am huge failure but most days I think considering the circumstances I am alright.

So I don’t have a huge mansion, but I did finally leave the shelter and have my own apartment.

I don’t have a husband. Thank misandry for that!

I have one child and she is just about the greatest kid alive.

I’m not living a fabulous life but most days it isn’t half bad. I have a loving support network of friends. I have this blog, that while it may not be widely known, some people seem to like. I have my mom who’s extremely patient and understanding. We’ve had many ups and owns but I can count on her.

Through all the shit I’ve gone through, I’ve come out more compassionate, caring and stronger. Which isn’t to say that those things were blessings. If I had to choose character over having an easier life, I’d choose easier life every time. But I have to deal with what I got. Life and lemons and what not, right?

No, my life isn’t perfect and these last few sentences aren’t meant to erase the bullshit I deal with daily; a racist, sexist, classist, ableist system, mental illness, poverty. I wish I was financially stable, I wish I wasn’t disabled. I wish my bodily autonomy had been respected. I wish for a complete system overhaul.

In the meantime, all things considered, I am glad I’m the person I am.