Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I'm Not Okay

I struggled for a couple days over whether or not to write this, and what to say or how much to say.  Because I've been in a lot of pain.  One of my biggest fears in life came true.  That as a sexual assault survivor, I was more likely to be assaulted again.  And it happened.

I was raped the night before Thanksgiving.  In a set of circumstances that I have been begging for a Delorean or Tardis to go back and change.  To have had the courage to ask him to leave.  To have not frozen in panic and just "deal" with what happened to me.  But all that does is blame myself for what someone did to me.  I said no.  Repeatedly.  At least four times.  But that didn't matter.  And it didn't stop it from happening.

I'm not okay.

I thought for a brief moment that maybe I was fine.  That I had wanted to have sex.  That obviously I was sending the signals for that.  But I'm not fine.  I didn't want to have sex.  I said repeatedly that I didn't want to have sex.  And the biggest part of the whole situation is that I'm fighting my own self blame, and trying to remind myself that he did this to me.  He chose to do this, after I repeatedly said no.

He told me I wanted it.  That I wanted him to fuck me.

He was so polite.  When he first tried putting his hands up my shirt, I pulled away and said that wasn't happening tonight.  He stopped, wrapped his arm around me, and kissed my hair.  The second time he attempted to put his hand down my pants.  I squirmed away and said that wasn't happening.  He brushed my hair out of my face and kissed me.  When I attempted to stand up and walk away, he grabbed at my pants and attempted to pull them down.  I wrenched them back up and said that wasn't happening tonight.  He brought me more beer, and I said I didn't want it.  But he couldn't drink it all himself so I had some.  When I said I was tired, he asked to cuddle.  But I didn't want his finger inside me, and I didn't want sex.  I couldn't move.  I froze.

I kept it together mostly on Thursday.  Same on Friday.  Same on Saturday.  It was Sunday when it all started to unravel.  And has continued into a numb existence of wanting to stay in bed, eat, not eat, sleep, stay awake, feeling like a zombie.

And here I am.

I'm grateful and lucky for the people I have in my life.  That I have friends to reach out to who care enough to check in and make sure I feel safe.  That know how to help me and when to let me have my space.  I'm going to get through this.  I know I am going to be okay.  Eventually.  But right now I'm not okay.  And that's okay.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Poem of Epic Emotional Proportions

I wrote this poem today because this past week has been really emotional for me.  I don't want to explain why but in summary, I feel like a pathetic loser who is unwanted.  Some people reading this will know what I'm talking about, and some won't.  In short, dating sucks.  I feel weak and dumb for caring as much as I do, but I do and now I'm dealing with my own stupidity.  I'm really looking forward to shutting myself into my new house and not coming out.   But here is what I wrote today.  I appreciate good will but I'm really not looking to talk about the situation.  It hurts too much right now.

Topaz eyes contain crystalline waters,
Deep the waters go.
While the surface seems calm,
Below, whirlpools rage and the storm feels uncontrollable.
The soft flesh of the beating heart within,
Holding everything together,
While always feeling like falling apart.
Fighting, fighting for every breath and every moment
To know that it is worth it,
But feeling loneliness creep inside as darkness spreads its fine tendrils.
Waiting and hoping and wondering,
If anyone will love me.
I try to hold myself together and know
That I am beautiful and worth it and strong.
But as the trees shed their leaves in the crisp fall air,
So the layers of protection slip away,
As the fight to remain positive becomes harder.
To wait for someone to think

Maybe I’m someone worth fighting for.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Days 12-24

This post about self care is both extremely late and extremely ahead.  In explaining my absence, I don't have much to say besides I'm sorry.  To myself mainly, for not being as diligent as I should have been.  Taking care of myself is something I easily sacrifice in ways.  And it is not okay.  I usually put more effort into taking care of others than myself.  I'm working on it.  One of the things I'm doing for myself right now is looking into buying a house, which is so exciting but so damn stressful at the same time.

Day 12: Treat Yo Self.

Probably one of my favorite episodes of Parks and Recreation is Treat Yo Self.  In the show, the idea is to be lavish and buy things that maybe you don't even need.  But in terms of self care, this idea doesn't need to be lavish.  It can be something small.  For me, I indulged in a piece of apple pie and didn't judge myself for eating it.  Which is pretty revolutionary for me.  I struggled with an eating disorder and used to spend a lot of time criticizing myself for what I would eat.  Then I sank into a point where I hated myself so much that I didn't care what I ate because I didn't deserve to be happy.  So now, I am working myself into a place where I want to do better but I don't hate myself if I fail.  And it's going okay.

Day 13: How's it going? Has this been fun, helpful, inspiring, frustrating?

I'm good.  From the beginning of the year, things have been rough.  But I am finally in a good place.  I've been able to put the Listening Ear situation behind me, knowing that I did all I could and that now it is not my problem anymore.  I still absolutely love my job and know that I'm in a secure place financially.  I am actually in a place where I'm not surviving day to day.  I'm actively planning for my future and the best move for myself and it means so much.  That is what this challenge has been for me. Using these self care prompts to really think about my life and realize that I am in a beautiful place with amazing friends and family, and that I'm genuinely happy.  It means the world to me.

Day 14: Do something Fall related.

This one was pretty easy because I absolutely adore the crisp fall air.  So I drove with the windows down and let the cool air pour over me.  It was divine.  Also all the apple cider around has been lovely.

Day 15: If you could add one thing to your day, what would it be? If you could change one thing that's no longer serving you, what would it be?

More hours!  I feel like I could accomplish so much more with more time.  I would be able to get a full night of sleep, and get up and work out, and have a full day of work, plus actually accomplish adult things like laundry and cleaning the kitchen.  One thing that never really served me besides stress relief is my smoking habit.  Which I am working on gradually.  I went almost a full week without smoking, and have since weaned myself down to only 2-4 cigarettes a day, instead of 5-7.  The most important part is knowing that it is a work in progress and that if I slip up, I can always try again.  Learning to be less hard on myself has been a huge part of this challenge for me.

Day 16: What's your bullshit and how are you going to use the next two weeks to challenge it?

Procrastination.  Fuck, I am so skilled at it.  I will wait until I have nothing clean to wear for work, and then like rewear a skirt or pair of pants, and then I'll do laundry.  So I've been keeping myself up on taking care of my responsibilities.  Although the laundry and kitchen need attention today...meh...

Day 17: Get that shit out of your face.

As previously mentioned, I'm working on keeping my shit picked up and organized.  To stop waiting until the last minute to do stuff.  It's a work in progress, but at least I'm working on it.

Day 18: Support a friend.

This is one of my favorites because it is something that I try to do daily anyway.  One thing I said to my therapist a couple weeks ago was that when I love someone, not just romantically but as friends too, I will do anything to help them.  Whether it is loaning money or buying dinner or being a listener or making sure they smile that day, I love my friends.  I want them to know how much I love them.  That I would do anything for them.  I want to know that whenever my time is up, that what people will remember most about me is that I loved people and I stood behind that love.

Day 19: Say no. It's ok to say no.

There's nothing in particular this day that I said no to, but it made me think about how much I hate saying no to people.  I have spent most of my life feeling like a disappointment, that I wasn't good enough.  So in my low self esteem, I didn't want to be another disappointment to people.  I often sacrificed my own comfort to make sure not to say no.  But I am trying to remember that in saying no, I'm honoring myself.  Not just being a disappointment.  It's okay to say no.  It's okay to say no.  It's okay to say no.

Days 20-24: Disconnect.

Here's where I get both behind and ahead.  Our fearless leader is taking her own time to disconnect from technology.  So I am going to try and do the same in some ways.  I'm going to focus more on spending time with people I love.  Working on things that bring me joy, especially working with my hands.  So I hope others do the same.  When we get to the end of our lives, it is those moments we will remember.  I'll remember the times I spent with my best friend Mary, painting and watching Harry Potter.  I'll remember the times I spent making art or writing stories.  I'll remember the times I felt loved and whole.  I'm not going to remember that random article I read on Facebook or the weird video I watched once on Youtube.  I'm living my life to the fullest, as I can, every day.  I'm even on the verge of tears just writing this.  I'm happy.  And I'm going to keep fighting for that.

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care after this brief hiatus of disconnection!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Days 10 & 11

Yeah, another double post.  I completely forgot last night.  Mainly because Facebook.  But also House.  I just couldn't turn away from Hugh Laurie.  He's just too wonderful and British.  Even though he isn't in the show.

Day 10: Dealer's Choice.  Plus someone else's.

My dealer's choice was a pretty big one and something I knew I needed for myself.  I am doing my freaking hardest to quit smoking. Yesterday, I didn't have a single cigarette.  Today either.  Everything pretty much reminds me of cigarettes, like Chandler in Friends.  Every time I want to go out and smoke at work, I drink a cup of mint tea.  Whenever I'm in the car, my usual place for smoky treats, I focus on turning up the music and singing along.  It hasn't been easy.  But I know it is for the best.

My use of someone else's self care was to watch my food all day.  I'm working on being healthier.  But not just my food intake.  I'm working on how I talk to myself a lot.  To know that if I eat something not good or break my streak and smoke, that I shouldn't shame myself.  That like so many others, I am trying.  Trying really hard.  Slip-ups happen.  It isn't the end of the word.  It's about falling down and getting back up.

Day 11: Renew a hobby.

This was a tough one at first.  All of the hobbies I am passionate about, I keep fairly active in. Well, I haven't been reading nearly as much as I should.  I have a whole bookcase full of books I have purchased and not read yet.  Meanwhile I spend all my time reading articles online that usually just piss me off and make me hate people.  And I know it isn't good to hate people...I don't really hate them.  I pity them for their lack of understanding on topics.  Just as I am sure there are people in the world who feel the same for me.  Everyone pity everyone else!! No, wait...that is too much pity.  Everyone kindly help educate people around the world in perspectives they don't understand...but always be respectful!! There, much better.

One of the best hobbies that I have ever done was creating a lampshade out of old film strips.  It was  knee jerk reaction one day when I was bored.  I found a box of film strips and some wire and made a kick ass lamp shade for myself.  While cleaning out the basement, my mother was throwing away an old lamp where the ceramic vase around the base (unintentional rhyme) had shattered.  The lamp was still functioning.  Just skinnier than before.  I decided to salvage the lamp and create a new awesome film strip lamp shade to sell.  So tonight, I officially ordered the parts I am missing.  But I still need help.  If you have extra film strips hanging around that you don't want or need, email me at alexthewitfactory@gmail.com!  I would love to take your unused film strips and make cool lamp shades! Check out my first one!

I cannot wait to make more of these and sell them if possible. As always, stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Days 8 & 9

I'm double featuring this one, pals.  I got home very late last night because frankly, I was having a damn good time.  So when I came home late, I wanted to crash.  And that's what I did.  But here's what you missed!

Day 8: Spend time with someone you love.

I did that whole heartedly on Saturday, and Sunday!  I got to spend the weekend with my best friend Mary as we watched tv or Harry Potter and painted.  This is how we became friends in the beginning of our relationship.  We hung out and watched Harry Potter.  And now, it's our routine.  Best routine ever.

Day 9: Write someone a love letter.

I usually say things like this to her a million times a week, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

Dear Mary, 
You are the cheese to my macaroni.  You remind me that loving people is never wasted.  That I am my own harshest critic, and that I need to tell that voice to shut up.  You remind me that time spent watching Harry Potter and doing nothing is not time wasted, but time to be treasured.  That the extent of my artistry is only limited by the extent of my imagination.  You remind me to be kind to myself.  A day spent with you is a day of laughter and silliness and happiness.  Even if we do nothing at all.  I love you to the moon and back.  You've had my back and as you know...I will ALWAYS have yours.  <3

Friday, October 7, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 7

Stretch it out!

That is what today was all about.  Now admittedly, I needed this one pretty badly considering how much my back has put up with lately.  I don't take nearly good enough care of it.  So sometimes, it likes for me to know it doesn't appreciate this.  My right hip gets involved too because that bitch just cannot stay out of other body part's business.  Rude.

But today I took my dog's example and dedicated some time to stretching out and honoring my muscles.  They take a lot of crap from me, especially when I am not moving at all and expect them not to be sore.  It's not really fair to them that I'm lazy.  But just like this blog, it's one day at a time.

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 6

Today's assignment is so perfect, I cannot even express how much I love it.  It's about sleep.

As previously mentioned, sleep and I are an item.  A deeply loving relationship where I wish only to spend more time ensconced in my covers, flirting with sleep.

How are you going to get your best sleep tonight? What's your routine?

Normally, I only get 6-7 hours a night.  I've found that it makes me a mostly functioning human being in the morning.  Though I do best when I get over 8 hours.  The problem is that I do so much during the day, going to be early is just not an option most of the time.  Sometimes, I have to stay up to watch a show or movie I have to review for my writing gig on HBO Watch.  Sometimes, I'm into a good book.  Sometimes, I am focused on getting a blog post done...  And then sometimes, and I will be fully honest here, I'm on fucking Facebook.  Damn you, social media.

My best nights of sleep are usually on the weekend, when I know even if I go to bed slightly later, I can sleep in late.  In college, I would sleep until noon.  It was beautiful.  My mom once called around 9:30 am during my freshman year.  I answered the phone with a decidedly snippy tone.  She didn't appreciate that.  I didn't appreciate the wake-up call.  After our quick conversation, I said, "Mom, don't ever call before noon again. Assume I'm sleeping unless otherwise indicated."  And she respected that.  Probably because she didn't want to get growled at again.  It's a real hazard.

My routine is pretty solid.  One that I've perfected over the years.  I wash my face (sometimes) and brush my teeth.  I make sure to use the bathroom right before I sleep because I can't stand waking up in the middle of the night to pee.  I inevitably bump into something.  Once I'm in bed, I take my meds and vitamins.  Occasionally a Tylenol PM if needed.  The great part of this routine is my dog Tasha.  She hears me brushing my teeth and knows it is bed time.  So she will saunter into my room and get into bed and wait for me.  It's just the cutest.
Just the cutest snuggle buddy <3

After my meds, I finish any work I need to do on my laptop or phone.  Set my alarm for the next day. I turn on my box fan and my ceiling fan.  White noise is an absolute necessity for a good night of sleep.  I have actually downloaded a fan app for when I'm out of town and don't have a fan.  I put my pillows in an upside-down L shape with the vertical pillow by the bedside table.  As I am a roller in bed, I have learned placing a pillow there will stop the inevitable head smacks in the middle of the night.  That has happened more times that I like to admit.  But this system works for me.  I stretch out on my stomach, and usually have to nudge the dog away because she's taking up ALL THE SPACE. She's so cute though so I forgive her.  What I do next is I alternate facing right and left as I fall asleep.  It actually helps me fall asleep faster than staying in one spot.  Don't know why.  But I dig it.

To me the most perfect night of sleep is one I don't get much anymore.  Those sleeps where you let yourself naturally wake up whenever.  No alarm.  No knocking on the door.  Just sleeping until your body decides it is time to get going.  Having a dog prohibits that a bit because I obviously don't want to leave my dog trapped in my room as I sleep until noon.  Not entirely fair to her.  But those are the best sleeps.  Mhmm.... And now that I have finished this, I'm going to get on the sleep train.  Good night!

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 5

I mean, just look at his face? Too cute.
What goes into your mind isn't easily erased.  Today was about treasuring something that has had a positive aspect on your life and revisiting it and why it has lasted in your mind.  Maybe it is something happy.  Maybe it is something sad.  Maybe it is something scary.  Some things that go into your mind leave a lasting impact.  And it is time to revisit it.

I recently reread one of my favorite books, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.  I discovered the book last year and it quickly became one of my favorites.

The reason I fell in love with this book is not just the adorably happy raccoon on the cover. I mean, he's amazing, but not the only thing amazing here.  Lawson lives with mental and physical illnesses, and in this book she describes the ups and downs of such a life.  But the point of Furiously Happy is that even through the dark times, you can choose to try.  To make memories that are funny or ridiculous or "what the fuck was I thinking" moments.  You will have good days.  And you will have bad days.  It's what you choose to do with yourself that matters.  Not the illnesses inside of you.  This book is a collection of moments, stories, and even essays of Jenny's life.  They all have to do with living with mental illness, but they aren't the point.  Having mental illness isn't the only thing that defines a person.  It's easy to write someone off as "Oh, they have ADD" or "Well, she has depression."  Everyone person living with mental illness is more than that.  I am more than my depression and anxiety.  I am more than the back problems that plague me.  I am me.
Jazz hands!

One of Jenny's most amusing anecdotes is her father's taxidermy business and the many little creatures she has come to possess.  Her first book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened, features a Shakespearean dressed mouse holding the skull of a smaller mouse in a delightfully Hamlet way.  In her manner of collecting ethically killed creatures, she came to own two happy little raccoons.  Which she occasionally has attempt to ride her cats.  It is just stomach cramp inducing hilarity.  But it is also poignant.  I know what she feels because I've felt it too.  The days you can't bring yourself to get out of bed.  The days where the only thing you can accomplish is taking a shower.  The days where logically you know someone is just an asshole and it shouldn't matter why they critique you, but it hurts.  Jenny's words are real and having some of the same mental illnesses, her words reach down into my heart and pat it gently saying, "We got this.  You're not alone."  I highly recommend this book to anyone living with mental illness.  Not only is it laugh out loud hilarious, but it helps you know that you're not alone in the struggle.

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 4

All today asked for was two minutes.  Two minutes of silence.  No phones.  No technology.  Just silence.  Holy shit, that was harder than I thought.

I didn't get my two minutes of silence until roughly 15 minutes ago.  When the prompt posted, I was at work.  I worked until 5 pm, drove home, made and ate dinner, and then hung out with my friend Kali and watched the VP debate.  I fully expected this morning that I would easily be able to fit in two minutes of down time.

But as the day went on, I forgot about it.  Or was constantly on my phone checking for text messages.  Or entertaining and spending time with my friend.  Once she left, I finally spent two minutes outside while I let my dog out.  I didn't touch my phone.  I let myself spread out on the porch, closed my eyes, and let myself have two minutes of silence.

It seems so easy.  To let yourself have two minutes.  But today, with technology and people and being a busy adult, it isn't easy.  It isn't easy to let myself have two minutes to enjoy the breeze on my face. To enjoy the sound of my dog walking around through the grass, searching for a creature to pounce on or something to eat.  To let my body take a breath.

I deserve it.  I need it.  I shouldn't have to fight for it.  So why do I?

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Monday, October 3, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 3

Today's post was something I desperately needed.  It was a little motivation.  Having depression and anxiety means dealing with shit that I know is dumb.  I know logically that it isn't that hard to pick up after myself.  I know that logically if I fold and put the clothes away once I'm done with the load that it won't take that long.  I know logically that as soon as I open a bill or a check, I should not just relegate it to a pile that will eventually grow large enough to go through.  I know these things.  But that does not mean I follow them.

A post went viral recently of a woman with depression who cleaned her room. She posted a picture of her room before, and a picture after she cleaned it.  This is my depression to an absolute tee.  I will let things get bad enough until eventually it takes a whole day to clean it.  That is just how I operate.  It has been that way since I was a kid.  My mom tried to get on my butt about keeping my room spotless but eventually I told her to just shut my door.  Because it's almost an impulse or something truly out of my control.  I do the same with my car.  And with the couch in the living room, though that I pick up more regularly because I share the space with my mom.  But today, today I did something.

Today's prompt was to acknowledge and tackle an adult task that you've been putting off.  Cue the laundry!!!  Laundry takes me around two to the three days.  I usually amass enough clothes for two loads, if not three.  Sometimes four if I am especially unmotivated.  I am trying not to use the term lazy anymore.  Because sometimes I am just refusing to do something, but other times I literally couldn't bring myself to do it if I had all the King's horses and all the King's men.

Floor?! You exist!
I wish I had the foresight to take a picture of the mass of dirty laundry that was sitting here. I mean it was epic pile of leaves level.  I did all three loads in the washer yesterday, but forgot the towels needed to be dried so those hit the dryer tonight.  But my adult task for the day?  Sitting and spending what felt like an eternity folding and putting away clothes.  In the end, stuff that needed to be hung up got laid out flat for later but anything that can be folded got put away.  I wanted to get other adult things done like activating my new debit card and filling out my art show application.  But the laundry took that long.  Like 3 hours.  So by the time I was done, I had just enough energy to write this and go to bed.  It's not much.  But it means something.  Not just to me, but to everyone who understands the struggle to be tidy, the lack of motivation to put stuff away when you're done with it.  This one is for you.  The ones who struggle.  The ones who are unmotivated.  Cheers.

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 2

Today's mission was to address the last question from yesterday: How is your body doing?

Yesterday I focused on mainly my perception of my body.  Which hasn't always been great (see yesterday's post for that nonsense, link above).  I have had some back pain recently because I haven't been working out as much.  Interestingly, I spent a couple grand on physical therapy (because it wasn't covered by insurance which is fucking dumb, but anyway) and I figured out that even with all that physical therapy, my back is at its best when I am remaining very active physically.  Except, I don't always like working out.  It works best if I go in the morning before work, but I like sleep.  Way too much.  I have a long term relationship with sleep and frankly, it is quite serious.  I've always needed more sleep to feel more like a functioning person.  Though I've figured out I can operate pretty well on roughly six hours.  But when that alarm goes off in the morning at 5 am, it's like, "Sure, I could get up and work out. Or...I could sleep for another hour." Choosing working out doesn't work. Haha, I'm funny.

So I didn't work out today, but I did plenty of other things to make sure my body was okay.  I drank plenty of water to make sure I wasn't dehydrated.  And I drank some coffee and a Coke, because I didn't want to get a caffeine headache.  I am also in a serious relationship with caffeine.  It just gets me.  I made sure to eat today, even when I didn't want to.  I don't normally eat breakfast on the weekends.  As I mentioned, I am in love with sleep so often when I actually get out of bed and moving, it isn't that far from lunch time.  But today, I ate breakfast.  Leftover cinnamon breadsticks from dinner the night before.  Totally counts.  I had leftover pizza and french fries for lunch.  And for dinner I made pasta.  Not a healthy day obviously.  But more importantly, I didn't judge myself for eating what I wanted.  I know I'll eat plenty of salad and protein this coming week.  Sometimes, indulgence is good for the soul.

I took care of my brain by working on my novel, which I haven't done in some time.  I'm even still typing up the pages I wrote on vacation in August.  But watching the word count go up was so refreshing and satisfying.  I've been working on this novel for almost three years, and there is an end in sight!  I took care of my heart by painting Mario characters for an upcoming arts and crafts show.  I took care of my skin by showering and feeling luxurious with the warm water cascading down my face.  And tonight before getting ready for bed, I took even better care of my face by washing and using a face mask.  My biggest fault in taking care of my skin is I often don't wash it before going to bed.  I can tell when my pillowcases are starting to get oily.  This unfortunately does make me occasionally break out more.  Though most of my acne has gone away since ceasing to regularly wear make-up because fuck the patriarchy.  But I let my face get some love with a Lush mask.

Happy face <3
If you haven't experienced Lush, I highly recommend them for amazing skin care products.  If you have experienced Lush, then you know what I am talking about! It's some good shit.  Now I am winding down the day by watching a new show and snuggling in bed with my amazing dog Tasha.  My heart is full.

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

30 Days of Militant Self Care: Day 1

As it can be read from this blog or from my Facebook, this year has been a rough one.  The end of a relationship followed by unemployment followed by the Listening Ear scandal meant my year started with stress and continued in that fashion.  My self care has not always been the best.  I'm an emotional eater and purchaser, meaning I often disregard my health and balance of my wallet.  And smoking is my go-to stress habit, has been since I was 19.  I began smoking with a vengeance when the Ear scandal broke.  But I'm working on changing.

I've been working on watching my eating habits.  I'm back in therapy, and it is going well.  I am still smoking but hope to soon make it something to work on in therapy.  I've been practicing positive self talk when I can, which isn't easy.  But I have been reaching out and asking for help, and that means a lot.  Asking for help has never been something I was good at, but I'm trying.  Today, I am putting that effort out even more by practicing a month of militant self care and forcing myself to blog about it.  My writing and my emotional health will be better. Score!

Day 1: What's going on with your heart? Where are your thoughts taking you these days? How is your beautiful body feeling?

My heart...whew boy, how much time do we have?  Technically unlimited as I can write however long I wish and you can read until you give up.  But I promise not to be too lengthy.  My heart has felt very weak this year.  Very vulnerable.  Very raw.  I went somewhere, I thought I felt safe, and I worked on healing.  Only to find out that people I trusted had betrayed my safety and the safety of the organization I was with.  Cue dramatic glass shattering sound.  Yep, I can't lie.  I hit rock bottom.  People that I loved and trusted turned their backs on me and treated me like I was evil.  And instead of thinking about taking care of myself, I was like, "Ok, you want me to be an evil bitch. I will be, motha fucka."  And I refused to focus on myself.  So now I'm finally focusing on me, and I'm slowly getting better.  (I have chosen not to focus on the romantic aspect of my heart, cause ain't nobody got time for that shit)

My thoughts...are scattered in some ways.  I like to plan my future.  I'm naturally a very ambitious person, and I always consider where my path is going.  Right now, I don't know.  I don't like not knowing.  It sucks.  I know that I am staying where I work because it makes me really happy and is stable.  I know that I am staying with my current volunteering opportunity because I feel needed and that I make a difference.  Past that...I got nothing.  On one hand, I want to apply to do my PhD with MSU again.  Meet with them and see what I could do differently or better for the application.  On another hand, I want to counsel survivors and get my MSW with MSU.  They have the perfect program for working adults where it is mostly online and weekend work.  On another hand (because I'm secretly an octopus), I consider focusing more on my novel and getting it published.  On another hand (still an octopus), I wonder if now would be the time to buy a house.  Well not this year, but next year.  So right now my thoughts are many paths in the woods and I don't fucking know which path to take.

My body...fluffy?  As previously mentioned, stress eating is my jam.  Spaghetti with sharp cheddar melted into it?  I could eat it every day when I'm upset and stressed.  As such, my tummy is a little more wibbly-wobbly than it used to be.  But I don't care.  I know that I can be healthier and work out more, and I plan to, but I also don't look at myself every day and hate what I see.  And I used to.  A lot.  My self loathing was deeply engrained.  I would either force myself to wear as much make-up as possible, or go the exact opposite and look as much like a train wreck as I could because why bother. I'm finally in a place where I know I can do better but I don't hate what I am anymore.  My back still has it moments.  It has always been in best shape when I am more active, which has not been a lot recently.  In fact today it is barking pretty badly because I've been sitting on the squishy couch painting all day.  But I don't mind sacrificing a little bit of one comfort to engage another.  I also know I have powerful pain killers and muscle relaxers available to help me out later.  Holla!

I'm looking forward to this challenge quite a bit.  First, so that I actively work in different ways to take care of myself.  Second, because it has been a long time since I routinely posted on my blog.  Lastly, I deserve it.  I deserve to be happy and refreshed and comfortable and full and intellectually satisfied.  I deserve it.  I deserve it.  I DESERVE it.

Stay tuned for more adventures in militant self care!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Heartbreak and Healing

To say that the last month has been one of the most stressful of my life, would be accurate.  It was more stressful than waiting to get into college or turning in my thesis.  And damn, that was a long paper... But the recent events of my involvement at the Listening Ear (details available here) and media coverage have showed me a lot about people.

When I knew I had to approach the board, this came after attempts to silence me and belittle the feelings I experienced. This came from the realization I had unknowingly shared a shift with an offender.  To learn to the man sitting next to you violated someone the way you were violated is cataclysmic.  You begin to question every aspect of your safety.  Especially when you find out several people knew this information and chose not to tell the rest of staff.  For me, this meant that not only was my safety violated, but that of every volunteer who is also a survivor and every sexual assault survivor that was ever referred to the organization.  I had an anxiety attack at work, and even slept with a hammer under my pillow because I felt unsafe.  And that is a quite a lot to process.

Calling an immediate board meeting, I knew leaving was my only option.  I was certainly not going to stay to be bullied or berated.  Following in the footsteps of my amazing friend Andy, who discovered the offenders, I am choosing to share the speech I gave to the board on May 11th.

The reason I called this emergency meeting is that it was recently brought to my attention that there are three registered sex offenders volunteering here.  The moment I found out, I was shocked.  Shock quickly turned to disgust as I considered that I unknowingly shared a shift with a person who did to someone else what was done to me.  I felt dirty, abused, and sick to my stomach.  This turned to feeling completely violated as I learned others had known about this information, and that it hadn’t been brought before the board or the staff.  Every person has the right to make choices for their own safety, and withholding information that would allow those decisions to be made is unconscionable.  That is taking the power and control away from each person, similar to a sexual assault.

The first thing that was brought to my attention by those who disagree with me is the idea of confidentiality.  The sex offender registry is public information.  There is no confidentiality.  Any Ear, or citizen with an internet connection can find this information. The information is available to people for safety reasons, and for the Ear to withhold this information from its own staff is terrifying.  When I discussed this with our staff coordinator, he suggested I talk to the schedulers to make sure not to be scheduled with any of them.  This is a fair suggestion, but this option is unavailable for the rest of the staff who are unaware of the information. 

The next issue is liability. The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 protects an organization and its volunteers from many things.  But it does not cover willful conduct or criminal misconduct. Quote “Thus, if a claimant establishes that the volunteer’s act or omission constituted willful or criminal misconduct that was a proximate cause of damage or loss, then volunteers could be held personally liable for the damages caused to the third party.” End quote. Moreover, now that the board is aware, if anything were to happen and the information not disseminated to staff, the entire organization would be civilly liable. 

Being a criminal justice student particularly on this issue, I can now share some statistics. Statistically speaking, 64 to 96% of sexual assaults go unreported. Recidivism on sex offenders is not as high as people believe but when offenders reoffended it was statistically more likely to be an acquaintance than any other category of victim. Once victimized, a survivor is 7 times more likely to be raped or assaulted again.  With this information, having sex offenders on staff while trying to be a place that supports victims creates a breeding ground of risks.  I would never willing put a survivor in a room with the man who assaulted me, unless they were aware he was an offender.

I came to this organization to heal from my assault.  If I had known at any time that sex offenders would be welcome here, I would never have chosen to volunteer here. I find it hypocritical that the Ear claims to be a supporting place for survivors, but allows offenders to be here. Our own center manual says this, “Any form of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault on the part of individuals associated with the Listening Ear (staff and board members, other volunteers, and employees) will not be tolerated. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are contrary to our mission of ending all forms of sexual violence against all people.” I suppose I interpret that differently than others do.  Imagine a scenario in which a walk in comes in looking for help dealing with the trauma of their past sexual assault, only to find their abuser is the one in the building? I never want to see the man who assaulted me ever again, and I know other survivors feel the same. 

Our staff coordinator went so far as to claim I was inciting a witch hunt.  Allow me to be clear, I do not want to ruin anyone’s lives. I am saying that based on their offenses, they should not be allowed to volunteer with this organization that claims to combat sexual violence.  Unless you decide to take that part of the organization out, it is hypocritical.  There are plenty of organizations to volunteer with, ones that do not claim to be a safe place for survivors.  This is not a job. This is not a loss of income.

The Ear is nothing but a trigger to me now.  I have not had a good night of sleep since Andy told me. I have intermittent eye twitches, and even had a panic attack at work.  I cannot bear to drive past the Ear or even enter the building, except to do this. Effective immediately, I resign from my position as board chair and from all other association with the Ear.  I am devastated that it has come to this.  I never would have dreamed in a million years that I wouldn’t be here forever.  But with the feelings of being unsafe and complete betrayal as well as my own moral and ethical obligation, I cannot continue a relationship with the Ear in any capacity. Since Andy was the one to inform me, I will now give the floor to him.

I am posting this on June 4th, and still no decision has been made.  The inaction of the Ear is slap in the face of the volunteers there, survivors everywhere, and the community. I know there are people in the organization that feel silenced from sharing because of the way leadership has handled the situation.  An organization that prides itself on sharing emotions is actually creating such an environment that their own volunteers don't feel comfortable sharing...

While this whole situation has been emotionally exhausting and stress inducing, there was good that came out of it.  First, that the community became aware and have showed amazing support to me and other survivors. After I take time to heal from this, I would gladly volunteer at any of these places. Second, I stood up for myself and didn't back down. This has not always been easy for me.  It took me a long time to feel strong and capable enough to share my story and who I am.  But often, you may not know the line in the sand is there until you cross it.  This was it.  I knew that I could not let this stand. And even as people belittled me or attempted to cover it up, I stood my ground. I never once doubted I made the right decision. Even as people I believed to be my friends turned on me. 

Lastly and most affirming part of this story is what I have learned about people close to me.  In offering their support, so many people in my life have shared their own stories with me.  To thank me for taking a stand and supporting survivors like them. If there was anything in the world that would prove to me that I made the right choice in any aspect, it is this.  

I will always fight for survivors.  After my assault, I made that my life mission.  To be the person that I didn't have.  The person who listens and offers support and help.  The person who tells you it isn't your fault and that you're not alone.  I will always be that person.  

"You don't have to think about doing the right thing. If you're for the right thing, then you do it without thinking." -Maya Angelou

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Past of Loss, A Present of Hope

This week was an incredibly painful week for me.  I lost a friend, an organization I had dedicated two years of my life to, and people I had once believed were my friends.  It has shaken me more than I could have expected.  The loss of my relationship with the Listening Ear, I expected to deeply rock my life.  The loss of my friend Rosemary Myrick, I didn't expect.

Have you ever met someone who was so kind, they would give you the only five dollars they had if they knew you had none?  The kind of person who would do anything to make you smile?  The person who would go out of their way to make someone's life better?  That was Rose.  I worked with her for a while at a previous job.  She came in every day with a smile, a kind word, a loving gesture.  She brought out the best in people.  She brightened the world around her with her generosity and love.  One day, she saw a family of dogs that were left outside.  And as days went on, she would notice them outside, over and over.  The dogs were not well cared for, abused and alone.  She rescued them.  She found them homes.  She gave her love to all.  And this week, fate has ripped her away.  From her family, her fiancĂ©, and her young daughter.

I will never understand the cruelty of the world.  That this power of fate, or whatever you will call it, takes the good ones.  The people who make the world a better place.  The people who change others for the better, and leave the world with the assholes.  The people who would destroy it.  Who spread hate and evil and spread toxic energy.  I know the world is unfair.  I am well aware of that.  But it hurts.  It hurts to know a beautiful soul is gone.  That a child will grow up without her mother.  It angers me.  It makes me fucking mad.  But I'm powerless.  I cannot bring her back.  I cannot change the fate of the world.  So I am left with this.

Also lost to me this week was my relationship with my volunteer organization.  I came to the place in spring of 2014 to heal myself, to process my assault, my depression and anxiety, and my drinking problem.  And I did heal.  I met people who I believed supported me and cared for my well being.  I became a trainer, worked as statistician, was a staff board member, became board chair, and went through sexual assault counselor training.  Since my assault, I have been very invested in learning more about sexual assault and helping others through the same trauma.  I believed with a program like SAC, the organization would be dedicated to combating sexual violence and making a safe space for all survivors.  I was wrong.

One of the people I became close to, who I helped train with, brought to my attention that there were three registered sex offenders volunteering there.  Then I found out that others in the organization had known and chose not to disseminate the information to the rest of staff on the basis of confidentiality. I felt sick.  I called an emergency board meeting to bring this to the board's attention and resign.  I said my piece, my friend said his, and we walked out.  We knew we would be unsupported and talked down to, and in the end, we were right.  An email was sent out the following night throwing us under the bus, completely misrepresenting everything we brought up and shaming us for not staying to talk about it.

I'm in utter shock that information like that would be kept from all of staff, particularly in an organization that attracts sexual assault survivors looking for a safe place to heal.  When I learned the information, I wanted to throw up.  I didn't have a good night of sleep for a week, intermittent eye twitches, and had a panic attack at work.  I even shared a shift with one of the offenders who did to someone else what was done to me.  How do you reconcile that with yourself?  With your own sense of safety?  It's utterly humiliating and violating.  But to others, that didn't matter.

I don't even know what else to say.  I feel so betrayed, by people I considered friends and mentors.  I felt violated by the presence of these individuals and the information being withheld.  I am so lucky to have the support of friends and family through this whole mess.  I have also had support from many present and former volunteers who are outraged at this situation.  It's nice to know that some people still have consciences.  But this loss, compounded with the loss of my friend, have been very difficult.

All I can do now is move forward.  I have hope.  I know the world is cruel.  But it is also beautiful.  Sometimes we put our faith in the wrong people.  Sometimes others will destroy your confidence, your safety, your light.  But it does not mean you should never trust again.  Because there are people worth your time.  People who will support you and be there for you in your darkest times.  Hold onto them.  Spend time with people who make your life feel worthwhile.  Take risks.  Go on adventures.  Trust people, and even if they let you down, know that you were the bigger person.  Spend time with people who make you laugh, smile.  Love people.  Tell them.  Be kind to everyone you meet.  Let your heart be kind.

Rose, you will be so missed.  But I promise to live my life more like you every day.  To be kind to people.  To love with my whole heart and share that with others.  You will live on in those who you leave behind, dearest Rose.

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal." -Richard Puz