Playing the Victim

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I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I was raped. More than once. I’m sorry that the memory of it sticks with me to this day as a kind of awful background noise that colors everything I say and do. I’m sorry that makes you uncomfortable. I’m sorry that in this era of #MeToo, I am starting to feel like I can finally talk about it. I’m sorry that you want me to shut up. I’m sorry it still hurts and makes me stop during my day to wonder what I did wrong.

I’m sorry I was abused. I’m sorry that my mother was so messed up about my sister suffering severe bullying that she thought handing me over to her was a good idea. I’m sorry that my sister took such pleasure in finding new ways to torment me all in the name of “discipline”. I’m sorry talking about it helps me to put it into perspective. I’m sorry I’ve tried to connect with others like me on the internet to share our stories.

I’m sorry I have Nonverbal Learning Disorder. I’m sorry I haven’t said the right thing or done the right thing or made you feel better or praised you enough or stood in the right spot. I’m sorry I got distracted again. I’m sorry I melted down again. I’m sorry I don’t understand when you’re joking. I’m sorry I don’t know how to organize my clutter.

I’m sorry I’m a woman. I’m sorry that I have to struggle harder than you do just to achieve the same things you do. I’m sorry that I have to point out when you’re being a douche. I’m sorry that I have to go to the bathroom in packs because I’m afraid a man will follow me in and attack me. Again. I’m sorry I carry my keys in my fist. I’m sorry I don’t walk outside at night. I’m sorry that these things make me angry and I want to change them. I’m sorry that I want to make things better for the women coming behind me just as others made it better for me.

I’m sorry I’m fat. I know how that offends you. I’m sorry I have an eating disorder. I’m sorry I have diabetes. I’m sorry I don’t exercise four or five hours a day. I’m sorry I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I’m sorry my anxiety makes me seek out certain foods. I’m sorry I’m not strong enough to be thin. I’m sorry I’m not wise enough to be the person you want me to be.

I’m sorry I’m playing the victim just by existing. I’ll try to do better in the future.

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The Best a Woman Can Get

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Recently Gillette came out with an ad. It talked about toxic masculinity. A topic many men (and a few women) want to deny even exists despite evidence to the contrary. This ad, at the time of this writing, got 697,977 dislikes and only 300,822 likes. Apparently men are angry at being portrayed like this.

Let’s look at the “man shaming” going on;

  • Men featured as bullies
  • Men featured as excusers
  • Boys “roughhousing”
  • Boys bullying
  • Men as harassers
  • Black men stepping up to intercede (not white men in the real life clips)

Hmm… well, looks pretty damning, doesn’t it? I mean, there are good and decent men in the world who do manly things with fish and dead animals. Right? Gillette doesn’t have the best history in corporate culture. Right? How dare they moralize to good and decent men.

Let’s look at some of the “woman shaming” that typically goes on in commercials;

  • Women who are too masculine
  • Women featured as gold diggers/shallow
  • Women featured as stupid
  • Women featured as sex toys
  • Women featured as incapable of balancing work and home
  • Women are too fat/thin/tall/short
  • Black women as too black (let’s not talk about Aunt Jemima)
  • Angry men become old women (remember Snickers?)
  • Angry women are hormonal/crazy
  • Women are nags
  • Women are sluts

There are more but I think we get the idea. These ads go back decades to when advertising was in its infancy in the early 1900s when a woman was expected to be the perfect wife, bed partner and mother. The virgin slut, as I like to call it. Now, one ad comes out calling men out on behaviour that women have been complaining about for at least a century and suddenly the world is going to come to a screeching halt.

My twitter feed has been flooded for TWO DAYS with men on the “what about women” train. This train has all the baggage you can imagine;

  • Women rape
  • Women abuse
  • Women bully
  • Women do <fill in the blank>

All this because I dared to say publicly that I supported the Gillette ad. I was even raked over the coals for an hour on another social media because I spelled a word wrong. Apparently bad spelling before you’ve had your coffee throws your entire argument out the window.

After two days of being hounded by the #NotAllMen set, I’ve got to say I’m out of fucks to give about their feelings. Here’s how it’s going to be; I’m going to support Gillette and I’m going to speak out against toxic masculinity. You can either beat your breast over that or go away. I don’t care.

The reality is that toxic masculinity poisons all of us. It prevents men from speaking out about their own experiences. It makes rape culture acceptable. It prevents men from seeking help with mental health issues and it doesn’t have to be this way.

So I’m going to say this one last time loud and clear; I support the Gillette ad and think it’s about damn time. Is there more work to be done? Sure. The next windmill I tilt at will be the Pink Tax. For now, this is a step in the right direction and we need more.

Don’t come at me with your #NotAllMen or but what aboutism. I am seriously out of fucks to give.

A Toast to the Fallen

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Here it is, New Year’s Eve day and my last blog of the year. It’s been a strange year and I thought I’d share some of the highlights, lessons learned and heartaches.

Feminism

In the past I thought that feminism was merely trying to balance the scales. In this past year I’ve learned that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t begin to navigate that iceberg until we start chipping away at the elephant in the room; abuse.

Abuse comes in many forms; domestic, parental, sibling, person in power; but it all boils down to the same thing. One person exercising control over another. Whether that control is physical, emotional, psychological, sexual or a combination thereof doesn’t matter. What matters is the disproportionate amount of women who are at the receiving end. I think 2019 will see me addressing this matter more and more.

Poverty

I’ve been an avid advocate of those who live in poverty. Mainly because I experience it first hand. However, in 2018 I saw how much racism affects poverty and the damage they can do together. There is still a genocidal race going on but it’s been pushed beneath the blankets and has become more insidious.

One note of optimism, though, is the idea of Basic Income. I see this as a brand new hope for those living in poverty and will keep advocating for it wherever I can. I think 2019 will see me continuing to support such efforts as End Poverty Edmonton and Basic Income. I’m a writer and words are cheap. If my words can help then I will spill them freely.

Health

I’m fat and along with that is an awareness of my health that others don’t have. In 2018 I learned that everyone and their god has an opinion about my size, my body, my lifestyle, my health, my eating habits, my exercise routine, my attitude, my ego (or lack), my self respect….. well, you get the idea. Apparently being overweight means that anyone with an internet connection can tell you how to live your life.

So my message in 2019 will be this; not your body, not your rules/business. Okay, that’s been my message all along but I think it’s time to get louder about it. All these well-meaning “health” gurus need to shut up. To sell their crap they bombard us fatties with these shaming messages over and over. They claim concern over our health or our lifestyle. They claim they understand and empathize. The truth is that I’m a dollar sign to them and nothing more and that needs to stop. I don’t care what color bow they put on that package, all that passive-aggressive shit is just a hard sales tactic and that’s it. This year is about loving the body you have and taking care of it which is a conversation between you and your doctor.

Creativity

2018 I began expanding my creative self into the world of art. Okay. So far it looks like it was painted by a drunken 5 year old most of the time. However, I’ll get there. After all, I mastered writing, didn’t I? Okay. Stop giggling.

Lastly, I leave you with this as 2018 comes to a close; it’s been a rough year and we’ve survived. Live, love, laugh, cry and remember to always keep going forward.

Alone at Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve day and, for me, it’s a time to put my thoughts in order. So I’m afraid this post won’t be very Christmassy. Instead I’m going to talk about something that’s a reality for a lot of abuse survivors; being alone.

Christmas is that time of year when you’re with friends and family in a house with a fireplace and a tree and lots of presents and food. Christmas for me involves a pizza and Freddy Krueger. I chose this and, while I don’t regret it, it’s hard.

See, everything on the internet, television, media, songs, every damn place you go screams family and tradition. I would love to be with a family someplace with all those things just not with my family.

Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I survived a lifetime of abuse at the hands of my sister and I managed to get free of that. Many people cheer me on when they find out, like I’m some Wonder Woman who managed the impossible. For me it was simple; get out or die.

There is an aftermath, though, of abuse. Getting free isn’t always enough. Everyone knows that post-abuse involves therapy and rebuilding your life but what people don’t know is what life is like in the free zone.

Christmas is especially hard for those who have survived the narcissist. There is a sense of freedom that is especially intoxicating that you simply don’t want to share with anyone. It’s healing and invigorating. You get to eat pizza on Christmas Day while watching Freddy.

However, as hard as you might try, you can’t ignore those homily messages that talk about family and hearth and home. If you’ve left  your narcissist, you’ve probably left those things as well. This is where the clash happens.

On one hand you’re standing on the rocks of your freedom, shouting defiance to the universe. On the other is the voice of your narcissist alive and well in your head whispering what a loser you are for being alone on the one day when no one is alone.

It’s okay, though. That voice has no real power and you get better at ignoring it. I doubt that Christmas will ever be easy but it will get kinder. For survivors the Christmas miracle is simply being free. Maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. What I do know is pizza and Freddy await.

It Never Happened – A True Story of Sibling Abuse (Part 1)

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I am a survivor and victim.

Yes, I am both those things and what follows is the hardest thing I’ve ever written in my life. Even now there’s a fear that what I’m doing is wrong and that I’ll get punished for it. That never really goes away, you know. The sense that my abuser is watching and disapproves is always there, always in the background. I always feel a sense of impending punishment.

I still have problems speaking about it. I hear the same old justifications in my head; at least you weren’t hit (I was) or at least they weren’t addicts or there were others who had it worse than you. Yet another part of me wants to speak out. The writer in me needs to tell the story.

I was born the youngest of 6 and it’s here that the stage was set for my abuse. My mother lost her oldest two boys to her father’s cruelty and laziness and a system that was stacked against the poor. She met my father and three months later she was pregnant with my sister. A scandal at the time and one of the first secrets I was taught to keep. It was the first of many.

My mother worked as a waitress and got a job while in the early stages of her pregnancy. The job required her to get a test for tuberculosis. An x-ray. Why my mother got the x-ray when she knew she was pregnant is a mystery even to her. It would have been easy to opt out or to ensure precautions were taken but she didn’t.

My sister was born with Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome, a congenital condition that affects mostly the face and skull. In short, my sister looked different and that difference was the cause of some extreme bullying she suffered in her early years. Did this affect what was to come and who she became? Of course. Does it excuse it? Not at all.

In the first 12 years of her life my sister was tormented by her peers as a freak and it affected my mother deeply. She blamed herself for the loss of her two oldest boys, now adopted legally by her very good friend, and she knew that the x-ray was to blame for my sister’s condition. My mother swam in a sea of guilt and I have no doubt that there was an element of depression involved.

It’s here I need to touch on my parent’s relationship. My mother had been married to a man who had a habit of just walking away from the family for weeks or months at a time whenever the whim overcame him. He lived homeless and partied with friends most of the time. When my mother lost her sons, she walked away from the marriage and filed for divorce but was unable to locate him. That’s when she met my father.

My father was a good man who lived a wanderer’s life. He was much like Bilbo Baggins, content to roam the earth with nothing more than a backpack and a smile. Sometimes not even that. As a teen and young adult, he often “rode the rails” or what is now called being a hobo. He would jump on trains and ride them to the next stop. He even once told me it wasn’t uncommon for him to get himself arrested loitering or something small so he’d have a place to sleep and a good meal. Not a glorious life but my father had a good heart and he never caused harm to anyone. He later joined the Army because, as he put it, he wanted a job. After that was finished he joined the Air Force and then the Merchant Marines. He even went to Korea as a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Yes, he was a ground pounder.

My father and mother met when he was in the Merchant Marines. He’d missed his ship and met a waitress whose life had taken a bad turn instead. My mother had just lost her sons and left their father when she met my father. Although he would help her fight for their return, they were never successful. When she became pregnant, my father chose to stay at a time when, if he had chosen to leave, no one would have thought anything about it. After all, in the 50s, a pregnancy was the woman’s problem and her job to find a man to provide for her and the baby but it was a man’s choice to take on that role.

By the time my mother met my father, she was wrung out. Too much had happened and she’d had no help dealing with any of it. She often told me that she didn’t care if my father stayed or left. My father, being the man he was, chose to stay and be the best father he could be with nothing more than a grade 6 education and determination.

This, then, was the back story into which I was born. I didn’t stand a chance.

Holding Health Hostage

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I’m a diabetic. Just like my father, my mother, my sister, my brother and even our family cat before she passed away. Diabetes doesn’t just run in my family, it holds marathons. So I’ve become something of an expert on the subject.

Getting diabetes was inevitable and not something I wanted. It’s a death sentence and a slow one at that. Yes, it’s manageable but not curable. Insulin is not a cure, it’s a means to help my body do what it can no longer do. However, living with diabetes is something that becomes background noise after a while and, after a while, you learn to accept everything that comes with it like the anxiety and depression. The struggle to merely maintain your weight. Losing weight is a dream of wisp-like faeries and morning stars to wish upon.

I’m also on Income Support. What was once called welfare. I’m there because of a variety of factors which include depression, anxiety, Nonverbal Learning Disorder and other crap. Diabetes and depression and anxiety are old bed buddies. When the sugars start sliding up and down, depression and anxiety are there to make sure the ride is memorable. Freddy Kreuger memorable.

But I live with it and I work with my doctor to keep the worst at bay. It’s here where I depend on my government to put in their own effort. As someone who lives on Income Support, I need my diabetic supplies covered. This is not an option. I can’t play guess which meds we’ll take today. Diabetes is a mean bitch if she doesn’t get her fix.

So about six months ago I fought with Alberta Health to cover a drug called Victoza. Originally I thought it would help me with weight loss as it’s been shown to have a great effect on it. That didn’t happen due to a slip and fall I took in January which prevented me from exercising for a while.

However, Victoza did do something.

I need to explain something here. There is a measurement that all diabetics are aware of and that’s their A1c. This is a test that shows what blood sugars have been doing over an average of the last three months. I’m pretty sure there’s a bit of Lothlorien magic going on here as well but that’s another story.

For someone without diabetes, their A1c should be in the range of 4 – 5.6. For someone with diabetes, the goal is to keep it below 6. Back in November, my A1c was 8.3. By the time June rolled around and I’d been on Victoza for only six months, my A1c dropped to 6.3.

That’s a damn near miracle.

However, this is where things get sticky. Apparently there’s a federal agency in negotiations with Novo Nordisk Canada over the price of Victoza. So, rather than cover the drug, there is a ban on any coverage at all. Simply put, they don’t want to cover it because that would weaken their negotiation strength.

When I approached Minister Sarah Hoffman’s office, I was told that they not only would refuse to cover it, they wouldn’t even try to get involved in these price negotiations because it wasn’t their job.

So let’s put this into perspective.

My health is being held hostage by a drug company, a federal agency and a provincial ministry because they all want to have the upper hand in negotiations over fucking pennies.

Meanwhile, over here I’m struggling to lose weight, maintain my health, watch my sanity and keep all these balls in the air while trying to start a business and placate Income Support.

And people wonder why I am fighting so damn hard for the basic income program.

So I’ve come to a point where I just want to curl up in a ball and say, “I give up” but I’m too damn stubborn for that. This isn’t the first windmill I’ve tilted at and it won’t be the last. This is my life and health I’m fighting for.

Just call me Don Quixote

 

Suicide & NLD

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again the issue of suicide has popped up again on the media radar. Both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have managed to bring it to everyone’s plate and now we get to watch as social media spins out its version of “thoughts and prayers” in the form of “reach out.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s good advice. Completely useless to someone who is currently flirting with killing themselves but good advice. What happens, though when you add Nonverbal Learning Disorder to the mix? Are we NLD Superheroes more susceptible to suicide as someone once suggested to me? To be honest, I don’t know. All I can talk about is my own experience with suicide and suicidal ideation.

If I’m going to be completely transparent here, and I must for the sake of this conversation, I have to admit that I’ve attempted suicide. Suicide by fate, I call it. As a teen who survived abuse and found herself unwanted by her family (my sister was my abuser), I felt tired. Tired of fighting to survive. Tired of trying to reach out to my family again and again and being rejected. Tired of trying to figure out how to live in this confusing world. I was tired down to my soul and I just wanted to rest.

I was nothing if not creative so I decided to let fate decide if I should live or die. At this time I was involved in an evangelical Christian group and fate was another word for God. If God wanted me to live, He’d show me. So, I took to jaywalking.

Here’s what would happen. I’d need to get from one side of the road to another. Didn’t matter what road it was, a residential street or busy thoroughfare, I’d jaywalk. However, I never bothered to check for traffic. I don’t know if any gods had their hand in my survival but even though I came close many times, I was never hit by a car.

My life at that time was pure chaos. Evangelicals pretended to care about my soul while  they dictated how I should live while my family showed no interest in where I was or who I was with. At the time my Nonverbal Learning Disorder was undiagnosed and I may have had a celestial being or two looking out for me because I never wound up on the side of a milk carton, either. Despite many opportunities to end up there.

So what does any of this have to do with Nonverbal Learning Disorder?

As I stated earlier, post-celebrity suicide is when everyone on social media advises those with mental illness to “reach out.” If you have NLD, that’s a whole new level of WTF.

Those of us who have to live with NLD are the proverbial odd shaped pegs trying to fit in a square peg world. We pretzel ourselves into being something we’re not just so we can be seen as high functioning. This places an unbelievable amount of pressure on us and only makes the existing anxiety and depression that are NLD’s sidekicks that much harder to control.

Having NLD means functioning in a different vibration from the rest of the world. The resulting clash that comes when our functioning meets the tidal wave of “normal behaviour” ends up in anxiety and depression. Does this automatically put NLD people at risk of suicide? I don’t know. I have no answers.

What I do know is the advice to “just reach out” is useless. As someone with NLD there’s a few questions I have about that. Reach out to who? Tell them what? When do I reach out? Is there a guidebook I can consult? Communication is one of the problems people with NLD have. Are the people we’re reaching out to aware of that? If so, do they know how to understand us?

Suicide is a problem and feeling isolated is a part of it. So instead of saying “reach out,” I’ll give some different advice. Go out and learn what your options are. NLD people are great at gathering information. So go out and use that to your advantage. Learn how to access the medical community. Learn how to build a network of support and coping mechanisms.

I don’t have any answers when it comes to suicide and NLD. All I know is what I’ve experienced. If you’re feeling suicidal, please know you’re not alone.

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