Thursday, August 14, 2014

It's Important to Talk About Depression

If you've been reading my blog from the beginning, or even just found it and are exploring older posts, I started writing this as a way to work through my own depression and diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. People who have talked to me are often surprised that I'm so candid about my mental illness. I feel it's important to talk about mental illness instead of hiding it away like a dirty secret.

Shortly after Robin Williams' death was announced, my nephew's friend committed suicide. I've held off a few days writing about this because it is a triggering subject, and I wanted to give it some space. However, from what my sister told me in our conversations, this teenager was the "funny" kid, a good kid that no one suspected was harboring any sort of suicidal tendencies (kind of like Robin Williams). You will never truly know what's going on inside the mind of someone suffering from depression. Often, you don't even know they're suffering. There is such a  terrible stigma surrounding mental illness, and it needs to stop. It's absolute bullshit.

It's important to create open, honest dialogue, and create safe spaces where people can talk about depression and other issues. Victim blaming, telling someone to "get over it," or otherwise getting angry at the person is counterproductive and harmful. Last night I read an amazing article in response to the "people who commit suicide are selfish" trope that people like to trot out during a tragedy like this.

I am very candid about my struggles, but I also had the wherewithal to get help. For some people, they're too scared. I always hoped that if my blog, my honesty about my disease helped just one person, I was doing good. I've worked hard to be a functioning adult and to not let my diagnosis define me. Not everyone is me. If you think someone close to you is struggling, the best thing you can do is offer your support, and if you suspect someone is suicidal, make sure they have the Suicide Prevention Hotline, or the number to a local crisis center. Sometimes, just talking to a person helps. I know. I've had to talk two people out of suicide in the past, and they are both still alive today.

In closing, though, can we stop sharing this stupid meme? As a person with Bipolar I that has severe depressive episodes and the occasional panic attack, I find it offensive. My disease is due to a chemical imbalance, not some bullshit "trying to remain strong for so long" crap. Don't trivialize a real disease. Plus, it smacks of ineffective slactivism. Support people, don't just post a meme.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Race and Media

As horrible things happen in this world, I try to process them and my feelings about them, lest I get bogged down in the sorrow and hopelessness that I feel often for society. Originally, I was going to write about depression and suicide, but I'm going to save that. I've been stewing on something for a while that's been bugging me, and some articles I read on my lunch break made me think more on it.

If you haven't heard about the recent shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, it's another instance of police violence against a young African-American. While this violence is disturbing, that's not my focus here. It's how things are going down in the media. In this article, we look at how he was portrayed by the media, throwing a peace sign that's depicted by the press as a gang sign. Racial profile much? It's spurred an interesting movement in social media with the hashtag "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown," encouraging young people of color to post two photos to guess which one the media would show in a similar circumstance. It's a fascinating project, and reminds me how quickly the media is to sensationalize things. This bright young man was gunned down just before his first day as a college student, yet he, the victim is being depicted as a thug. What the actual fuck, media?

It made me think about the recent death of a local teen here in Maine. Immediately, the headlines struck a sour note with me: "Winthrop girl with 'everything going for her' dies suddenly." She wasn't gunned down-- it was a result of a pulmonary embolism which is horrible enough-- but as I looked at her blonde hair, light eyes, and white skin, I wondered "why is this a top news story when people--even children--  die every day?" I'm not speaking poorly of the dead; I didn't know this girl or her family and to lose a loved one, regardless of circumstances, is terrible. But it still made me think.

If she had been a black girl under the same circumstances, would it be news?

Maine is a pretty whitewashed state, racially. We have a pocket population of ethnic Somalis in the Lewiston area, but aside from that, where I live in Central Maine, the population is pretty damn white. There were two African American kids in my school growing up, and one died my junior year in a car accident. So if the young lady who met her end to soon was African American (or a darker Hispanic, or Asian, or Middle Eastern, etc.), would there have been as much press? Would there have been immediate movement for fund raisers to help the family? Would traffic have backed up on major roads outside of the funeral? I seriously doubt it.

Issues of race are still prevalent in the United States in 2014, and it's terribly depressing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Slactivism: My New Favorite Word

Lately, whenever someone finds a bandwagon cause to spread like wildfire through social media, I'm the one to shit on it. I've written about feel-good, ineffective activism twice alone in the context of breast cancer awareness, pretty sure I've ranted hardcore about the ineffectiveness of "thoughts and prayers" in the face of national tragedy. Now I'm here to shit on #icebucketchallenge.

For those of you not familiar with the ice bucket challenge, it is quite simply dumping a bucket of ice water over your head and filming it to post on social media or donating to Then you tag people to either do the challenge or donate within 24 hours. Everyone, it seems, has gotten on the bandwagon, including celebrities (like Martha Stewart, seen to the right). Sure, this whole thing was started by someone with ALS (Lou Gherig's Disease, for those of you like myself who had to look it up), but really? It's silly. This is one of the things I stew on in the car on my daily commute, and it wasn't until I was able to check my Facebook feed later this morning that I was able to find an article that really sums up how I feel about nonsense like #icebucketchallenge:

Slacktivism is a relatively new term with only negative connotations being associated with it as of recently. The whole thinking is that instead of actually donating money, you're attributing your time and a social post in place of that donation. Basically, instead of donating $10 to Charity XYZ, slacktivism would have you create a Facebook Post about how much you care about Charity XYZ- generating immediate and heightened awareness but lacking any actual donations and long term impact.
Have I not ranted about this before, specifically in the pinkwashing of everything in October for breast cancer awareness? What about the Boston Marathon bombings? Everyone was "Boston strong," buying up merchandise that contributed zero dollars to the victims while essentially doing nothing effective at all. I'm not saying people aren't donating, because apparently in the last week alone, the ALS has gotten over $168,000 in donations, but honestly, I don't see anyone on my Facebook bragging about having donated. Why not, instead of buying ice and posting videos that no one really cares to watch, we just, you know, donate to the cause?

Social media is a wonderful thing. I'm a social media junkie. But social media activism is a joke. It truly is "slactivism," a way to feel good about yourself for caring but not really doing anything impactful. I'm not saying we shouldn't bring awareness to serious causes, and social media is great for that, but if you're going to do it, make sure you're doing what you can to also enact change/donate/otherwise help the cause. Posting a pretty photoshopped picture to your wall really does nothing, nor does dumping a bucket of ice water over your head.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Disturbing Reflection of Human Nature

John has gotten into the new show on HBO: The Leftovers. I've been watching it, and most of the time it leaves me bothered, because it sometimes shows scenes of horrible human nature that I hate to admit exist in real life.

There's a cult of people who eschew speech, their families, their pasts, and exist as living reminders of the fact that a sizable chunk of the population disappeared suddenly with no explanation why. Reasonably enough in a town that is trying to move on, the Guilty Remnant draws ire from the townsfolk. They peaceably assemble, they watch townsfolk. They're relatively benign and non-violent; however, the largest amount of violence in the show is against members of the Guilty Remnant. Horrible violence.

It makes me sad, because it's a reflection of how society is today: violent against anything objectionable or that's not understood.

Take, for example, transgender violence. There is an alarming rate of violence (and murder) against transgender individuals, a population that people don't understand, that somehow makes people feel threatened because, perhaps, they don't understand (or want to understand) that transgender people are people, just trying to live their lives.

Of course, transgender violence is only a small example, but nonetheless, I am disturbed by our need to respond to things with violence instead of dialogue. It actually makes me feel kind of ill. I've never been a violent person, but as I get older, the more averse to it I get.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why are People so Disrespectful of My Choice not to have Children?

In approximately a week, I get to pick up the conversation I started with my doctor a few years ago: sterilization. Realistically, and having been a member of childfree forums for years, I know that, while my doctor is cool with it, the OBGYN she refers me to will probably put me through a battery of questions including "what if you change your mind?" "what if your partner wants them?" and so on. I expect that from a medical professional (as shamey as they sound) because they're just trying to cover their ass in the event a woman changes her mind post-procedure and tries to sue. While I think the questions can be a little archaic and too gender-biased, they're still appropriate to ask. What's not appropriate are for non-medical people to constantly ask and question my decision.

One of the things I come across a lot and very recently is the "you don't like kids? You'll like my kids!" mentality of people around me. Listen. I don't like kids. I have never liked kids. I don't want them, and I don't want to see yours. You show me a picture on your phone and I will find something else more interesting in the photo to comment on. You insist constantly on showing me pictures after I'm clearly not interested and I'm going to be less polite. But when I say "I don't like kids" and your response is to force images in my face in order to "fix" me, to convince me that your kid is the special snowflake that will change my mind, that's just disrespectful and rude. Your kid is cute to you and not me. Nothing will change that. Ever.

Listen, I'm 34 years old. I've known I don't want kids since I was 10 years old. Nothing is going to change me and it would be a whole lot nicer if, instead of being so completely shocked that I, as a woman, don't want kids and trying to change my mind, you supported me instead. I am grateful that I have the reproductive rights that I do, that I am able to make my own decisions about my body, up to and including abortion if I ever got pregnant, and sterilization so I never have to worry about getting pregnant (never mind that I'm reaching the cut-off date for safely taking hormonal birth control). Any woman who is open about not wanting children shouldn't be made to feel as though they are less a woman, that they won't know true happiness because they won't have the love of a child in their life (don't even get me started on that one), or that they are being selfish in their decision. Instead, they should be supported and encouraged. Knowing you don't want children and dealing with the social stigma and the bullshit comments people make is difficult. Don't be an asshole to people whose life paths are different from yours, even if it involves not reproducing.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Running Away

This weekend was... not good. Anyone that knows me knows that I run away from my problems, and I felt like I had nowhere to run to this weekend. One of the signs that I have an amazing and supportive boyfriend is that he recognizes my need to run away, so we got in the car and he just started to drive. We'd gotten about an hour away when he asked if I wanted to go back. I wasn't ready. So we just kept going, riding in silence while I stewed and processed and vacillated (and at times nodded off) until we found ourselves in northern New Hampshire. We stopped at a shitty Irish pub for dinner and made our way through the White Mountains National Forest on our way home. It was exactly what I needed, to be surrounded by mountains and trees and silence. By the time we reached somewhere around North Conway (and we still had a couple hours ahead of us) I was ready to talk.

We came in on Rt2, went through Gorham, Berlin, Lancaster, then down 302 and got back into Maine via Freyburg. Had we just kept going west for 10 miles, we would have made it to Vermont.

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'm a Miley Cyrus Fan

I know the Miley hubub was ages ago and I'm so late even talking about her, but I've had "We Can't Stop" stuck in my head and during my drive home this evening and it got me thinking (because I couldn't listen to it since I still have crappy T-Mobile service and there simply isn't any HSPA in my area). Remember the VMA performance? You know, the one where her ass kind of looked like a raw roaster chicken? Yeah, that one, the one everyone was so worked up about and it wasn't really that bad. Yes, she's appropriated Rachet culture and is using African-American women as props her in her videos, and the feminist in me says that's Not Okay. But you know what? She's 21. She is desperately trying to break free of the Disney-wholesome mold she lived in for her entire childhood and is trying to discover who she is and she's doing that with self-expression and by exploring her sexuality. Know who else did that? Me. Granted, I was 30 and barely had a fraction of her money, but I lived as large as I could, spread my legs, and settled on who I was.

I think people are so worked up over Miley because she used to have that wholesome image as Hannah Montana and they just can't handle that the little girl is growing into a woman with her own self-expression. I wonder if people even listen to her music, because honestly, she can sing. She's not a lip-synching Britney on stage, she's honestly singing throughout her performances. Seriously, this cover of "Landslide" is amazing.

Before we dismiss a young woman for trying to find who she is and slut-shaming her, let's instead judge by the quality of her talent. Don't like her music? That's cool. Don't like her costumes? It's not okay to call her a slut or a whore. Don't like the influence she has on your kids? You're living under a rock if you think they haven't already absorbed everything she's done, ever. I have a lot of respect for Miley as an artist, and she has no obligation to be a role model to anyone.

Keep on doing wild shit, Miley, I'll be watching.