Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Finger on the Trigger

Today all around the country, women and hopefully some men will take up mattresses and pillows in solidarity.  Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz was raped on campus by a fellow student, and though other women also accused the same asshole man of assault, the university did not find him responsible.  To this day, the perpetrator remains on campus along with his victims.  This failure of the university to protect its female students has pushed Emma to push back.

She decided to carry a mattress around campus, like the one she was raped on, until the university does the right thing and expels her rapist. Since the beginning of her movement, Emma has rarely had to carry the mattress alone.  When she started the project, she said people would be allowed to help her but that no one could carry it for her, since it is her weight and burden.  But, people have been supportive from the start and helped her carry it almost completely.  Why?  Because people, especially women, are likely to understand this feeling.

Today, at a local university, I'll be carrying a pillow (didn't have a mattress to spare) with a quote from something someone said to me after my assault.  This to me combines Carrying the Weight and Project Unbreakable, two movements meant to empower survivors of sexual assault.

While I am more than happy to do this, I also am keenly aware of the problem.  That while I want to be strong and help others and raise awareness, doing events like this reminds me of what I went through.  Suddenly, I feel back at the beginning.  Back when I couldn't get through the day without crying.  Feeling like I couldn't tell people because they would blame me for what happened.  It's not odd for me or other survivors to experience PTSD.  In fact, it's something I've dealt with from the start.  It's taken me a long time to be comfortable talking about what happened to me.  But that doesn't mean I'm not still affected by triggers.  It is incredibly likely I'll be affected for the rest of my life.  For a year after my assault, if I heard anyone say his name I would flinch.

I've been lucky to be supported by friends, especially the ones I called the day after it happened.  But that doesn't mean it still doesn't hurt.  Or that it hasn't had a serious impact on my life, especially sexually.  But I'm trying to be the strong person I know I can be.  I know today I'll be helping others carry their weight.  But I also know we are unbreakable, no matter what society throws our way.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October Book Club

This month, I took on a banned and challenged book that I originally heard about through nerdfighteria and John Green.  The book is question is the Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson.

The premise of the book is the friendship between three girls.  When one goes off for a summer camp/internship/learning opportunity, the other two girls kiss and realize they have feelings for each other.  What follows is a delving into friendships, relationships, and sexuality.  The funny YA novel is easily relatable and shows what sexuality can mean between friends, especially supporting each other.

The novel was banned in an Oklahoma school district for homosexuality and as someone says, absolutely no moral fiber.  As someone who has moral fiber (I eat grains...), I think they are clinging to the homosexuality and used it as a smoke screen to make up other crap.  Maureen Johnson wrote about the banning on her own blog here.  She responds to it in a funny and lighthearted manner, which is exactly the response I expected given how funny and lighthearted the novel was.

I found the story moving and though sometimes very obviously young adult fiction, it was entertaining and provided depth to youth which can often lack in other novels.  It's an important story especially for youth and anyone struggling with their sexuality.  Not everyone has unsupportive people in their lives, but it happens.

Here are some quotes I liked:

"She wasn't only gay, she was a gay elf." (pg. 47)

"When in doubt, wander the bookstore." (pg. 147)

"Between friends, not speaking was the same thing as lying." (pg. 189)

"'Are you finally going to do something tonight?' [...] 'Yes,' he answered. 'You're going to ask Nina to dance?' 'No. Tonight is the night I cure cancer.'" (pg. 276)

"'Why don't you just ask her, Park?' 'Ask her...for a light? Ask her...a pointed question?'" (pg. 278)

"'I know what happens in girls' bathrooms. They're like black holes. You'll never come back.'" (pg. 278)

"'She is no pretty, the Roach, but she run like deer," Parker said. 'Like sick deer. Sick deer with limp.'" (pg. 285)

Overall, if you like YA, I recommend it. Particularly those with interest in sexuality in high school and the possible affect on friendships.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Psychology of Survival

I love the Walking Dead.  As do millions of other people.  Hence the zombie mania and multiple kick-ass seasons.  I mean, it is based off a graphic novel, first of all.  And second of all...zombies. AMAZING.

I got behind on the show due to unforeseen circumstances (let's not go there).  But I'm catching up on season 4 before the new season drops Oct. 12th.  Now admittedly, I'm not going to be caught up before it starts, since I'm jet-setting to England (currently in the airport writing this).  But that's why God, in his infinite wisdom, creating DVR.

Now if you haven't seen season 4, leave now.  Cause I'm dropping major spoilers.  Okay? Okay.  Let's go.

This season found a cold going through the prison that was taxing people's immune systems so much that they were eventually dying and becoming a very quick fashion.  Two people initially were sick and isolated away from others, though someone then killed them and burned the bodies.  While more people are becoming ill, we find out that it was Carol who did this.  Rick finds out and banishes her from the prison.  Now, I get where Rick is coming from, but I also get where Carol was coming from too.

With this illness, people were infecting others, dying incredibly quickly, and then had the horrible possibility of creating more zombies by the usual methods.  While some people were recovering through Hershel's care, the amount who made it is vastly smaller compared to those who turned.  And eventually we see that ward in the prison overrun by undead.

To me, the possibility of being turned through the illness is like when a person gets bitten.  They are going to turn if they get bitten, and sometimes they are given the option about how they die.  Remember Jim, season 1?  Obviously, I have no experience in this because I'm not a Walking Dead character and zombies don't currently roam the Earth (well, not yet. I'm keeping my eye on you, Ebola).  But if it were me, or someone I cared about, I would rather die than be a zombie, or rather kill them before I had to see them become a zombie.  You would have time to say your goodbyes.  Give them the option of doing it themselves or if they can't, do it for them.  I have already told my best friend if she ever gets bitten, I would kill her if she needed me to do so.  Because I would rather pull the trigger than see my best friend become an undead, flesh-eating beast.

Do I like what Carol did?  No, of course I don't.  But do I get why she did it?  Yes.  She was protecting people.  She was trying to keep the virus from spreading.  It ended up backfiring poorly, but such is the way of scripted tv.

The only difference between the cold or a bite, is that with one you're possibly/probably without medical care (which is lacking in an apocalyptic state) going to be a zombie, versus you will definitely become a zombie.  That's the moral gray area with Rick firmly on the we-don't-kill-people--until-they-turn side, and Carol on the well-they-probably-were-going-to-turn-because-we-don't-have-a-ton-of-meds side.  So like I said, I don't like what she did.  I don't like the idea of living in a world where you might have to do that.  But it's kill or be killed in that world.  So I get it.  Where do you stand?

So I Fell in Love, And Then It Ended

You might be thinking this blog is about a bad break-up.  And in some ways it is.  It was a whirlwind romance.  I'd been emotionally invested for a long time.  It happened.  It was intense and rewarding and life affirming.  Then I had to fly home.

I'm of course talking about my recent trip to London.  Did you think it was something else?  Sorry to disappoint.  My tawdry love story isn't with a cabana boy or a saucy salsa dancer.  I fell in love with London.

Truthfully, my love for London started a long time ago.  For some reason, unbeknownst to myself or my mother, I fixated on London and England at a young age.  Before I understood the birds and the bees (does anyone ever fully understand it? sex is complicated), I used to tell my mother the stork dropped me off in the wrong country.  I know, I was an adorable child.  What happened?

Anyway, I was obsessed with English literature and the accent and anything Union Jack and all things English.  It was an obsession, a passion, an unrelenting and overwhelming love that became a dream to one day go there.  And finally, I got my chance.

Having money saved up, paid vacation through work, and an unfortunate instance yet blessing that no one could afford nor take the time to vacation with me, I set my sights on this long time dream.  I spared no expense in treating myself to the place I'd admired for ages.  I planned and prepped for months.  Carefully chose an itinerary to reflect my desires.  It was perfect.

Then it happened, and then it ended.

My friend Karen, having studied there herself and also being an avid Anglophile, told me I would come back changed.  At the time I didn't believe her, but then sitting at the airport waiting to fly home, I realized she was right.  I saw that I had so deeply fallen in love with this place that leaving felt as through I was leaving part of myself.  And it broke my heart.

I missed my friends.  My mom.  My dog.  And even my bed.  But being in this city, I had found the part of myself I suppose I always knew was there.  I felt entirely safe and comfortable in a city I had never visited.  I didn't clutch my purse tighter or speed up my walk in the dark.  I didn't have to because I felt perfectly at ease.  Because I felt like I was home.

So obviously I sobbed my eyes out leaving.  Felt a malaise all through the flight.  Was cranky and irritated by American customs (though, who isn't?).  I was pleased to see my mom and friend when they picked me up.  But everything still felt like a daze.  I think it will for a while.  Until I plan my next visit.  Until I go home again.

Back on the Wagon, I Guess

I'm sitting at the airport writing this, even though I'm not sure when it will be posted.  And already the info is a bit dated.

I've written about my struggles with depression and the experiment of going off my meds.  I've been so lucky to have support through that period.  That being said, after much consideration and consultation with my doctor, I've decided to go back on my medication.  It wasn't an easy choice.  I had hoped to at least make it longer than the couple of months I did.  But life doesn't really work that way.  Especially not emotions.

I think it became clear to my doctor that I needed to return to my meds when I broke down sobbing after she asked "How are you?"  It's a lesser dose; actually the dosage I initially started at back in college.

Writing these posts isn't just about airing my problems into the ether.  Or  bitching to the world about how damaged I am.  It's me trying to share a little piece of myself to a world where so many people suffer in silence.  Fear of stigma and judgment keeping them from seeking the help they need.  If one person reads my blog and feels less alone in the world, I will consider it a part of me well shared.

You may suffer in silence, but you don't have to be alone.