Yep. I’m spending the next seven weeks as caretaker, stand-in mother/sister/babysitter, disciplinarian, and counselor for a group of nine-year-old girls at an all-girls camp on the East Coast. The girls are frustrating, exhausting, challenging, moody, difficult, and frequently troublesome. They are also wonderful, loving, sweet, kind, opinionated, intelligent, funny, and just generally awesome. I spend essentially every moment of every day with them, so chances are, posts will occur infrequently, if at all. My access to the internet is extremely limited, and connections are poor. Pardon my absence. I hope to be posting regularly again soon.
Heads up, ladies, gents, and everyone in between, because we are about to get reallllll personal here. I’m talking about something I’ve never really talked about before- my mental illness.
Shortly before I turned nineteen, I was diagnosed with a psychological disorder. My official diagnosis is MD-NOS, or Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This is a fancy way of saying nobody really knows what’s wrong with me. Whatever it is I have, I was told I’d probably developed it in middle school, and it’s somewhere between all of those other labels- not quite depression, not quite bipolar. Although, I’m sure if I went in now they’d have new labels to throw at me, considering it’s been almost four years since my initial diagnosis
Generally, I’m pretty high-functioning. This does not mean my disorder is not real, and this does not mean I’m not impacted daily. It just means I manage to pull myself out of bed regularly. Most people wouldn’t know I had a disorder unless I told them. That can be a very good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. Having this kind of “invisible” illness is great when I want to fly under the radar, so to speak, or if I’m having a good day, or if I just don’t feel like talking about it to the few people who know…but it makes things harder, too.
“Flying under the radar” means people sometimes don’t believe me if I mention my disorder. It means even the people closest to me forget that I’m sick. It means I have to hear “cheer up” on days when I’m fighting really, really hard not to crack and scream and freak out because of what’s happening “with my disorder.” It means friends and family don’t understand how or why I feel a certain way. It means that even if I’ve had a fantastic day where nothing really went wrong, I can still feel pulled into this terrifying place that’s dark and soul-sucking and I can’t explain that. It means I feel obligated to continue to pretend I don’t have a disorder even on my worst days. It means I don’t have the option of breaking down, because I am expected to be…well…normal. Healthy. Not sick.
It’s exhausting. I am weary. And I hate the way this disease makes me feel. And I hate that there’s nothing I can do to cure it or make it go away.
I used to be on pills to help. I stopped taking them after the first six months because I didn’t like what they did to me. I’ve thought a few times about going back and trying something else, but I never do. I guess I’d rather feel everything in the extremes than feel nothing at all, although when I’m feeling particularly bad all I can do is curl up into a ball and cry and scream into a pillow that I just want everything to go away, that I just want a little quiet, that CAN’T ANYONE SEE ME OR HEAR ME OR UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT OKAY AND I AM NOT OKAY ANYMORE? Or, more accurately, that I never was?
Someone pretty prevalent in my life right now tells me frequently that he wishes he could “emote” like me, that I’m so “in touch” with how I feel, that I’m good at “empathizing.” I hate it when he does that. Not because it’s offensive, and not because he means it in a bad way. He doesn’t. I know these statements are meant to be complimentary. These are things he admires about me, or so he says. It bothers me because I don’t feel that way. I feel like I am constantly walking on miles of broken glass, precariously picking my way through the psychological wreckage that is my brain in a vain attempt to figure out how I feel or what I think or what my moods are doing and whether or not they are justified or a product of my disease. It’s a little like if someone told me that hazel eyes were a symptom of some eyeball disease, and then every time I looked in the mirror I had to determine whether my eyes were hazel because that’s how they’re supposed to be or if they’re hazel because I suddenly have ocular herpes. (I just did a google search and found out that ocular herpes is a real thing. I’m sorry to anyone who has ocular herpes, it looks extremely painful. Get well soon). The one thing I do agree with is that I am good at empathizing, and I am good at reading other people’s emotions…sometimes. I’ve had to work really hard to figure out my own moods and feelings, which means I can spot mood changes in other people pretty easily…sometimes. Again, we come back to this doubt-uncertainty-insecurity thing where I never know if what I think I perceive is true or not.
And this is a daily thing. This happens constantly. It never goes away. Sure, there are quiet days. There are days where I can even forget I have it. And then there are days where I am slammed with it so hard that I cannot do anything but cry in the corner of my closet because it’s dark and quiet there and if no one can see me and I can’t even see me then maybe it will all go away. And then there are days where I just can’t get out of bed. There are days where I don’t want to say anything. There are days where I just watch episode after episode of whatever’s on Netflix because I feel all empty and apathetic and weird inside.
And anyone who actually knows me who may be reading this, you might be surprised. I’m typically a very high-energy, high-enthusiasm, bouncy, bubbly, blonde bohemian-glitterball making up songs with childish glee and planning to change the world because I grew up with Captain Planet and the Power Rangers and I read too many books. That’s who I am, too. But I am also this sad, conflicted, quiet cry-in-the-closet girl. And it really sucks trying to navigate life like that. I don’t know what else to do, though, except keep trying. And I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. And I don’t really know what else to say, so I’m going to stop typing now. Thanks for listening.
I am more than willing to admit the feminist movement has flaws. Feminism, like all things, has a different definition for everyone, both in and outside of the movement; but for some reason, the most common connotation of a feminist is the stereotypical “Feminazi”- an angry woman bent on not only destroying the patriarchy, but replacing it with a militant matriarchy and restricting men’s rights.
Ummm…nope. No, that is not feminism at all.
Are there some people who want that? Yes. But there are also some people who want to eradicate homosexuality. There are some people who want to bomb the US. There are some people who want to get rid of non-English speakers here in the States. There are some people who want to have sex with young children. There are some people who want to kill other people. There are some people who are neo-Nazis. Do you get what I’m saying here? Just because a small group of people in the world do hate men, that does not make the feminist movement one of hating men.
In fact, I think the vast majority of feminists believe in equality for all genders, in breaking down gender stereotypes for women, men, and everyone in-between, in overcoming oppression for many groups. Yes, it’s true that women’s rights and women’s issues are more prominent and focused on in feminism, because there are greater problems surrounding women’s rights than men’s. The bottom line, though, is that feminism is about promoting equality between the sexes.
I’ve talked before about the inequality that women face in our society (here, here, and here) and I have many, many more things to talk about. The ways in which women are disadvantaged are exorbitant, and that should be unmistakably clear. However, there are groups out there who do not understand this. There are groups that think the feminist movement should be stopped. There are groups that think women should shut up and accept the way things are. These groups call themselves MRAs, or Men’s Rights Activists, and they piss me off more than I can accurately verbalize. Not because there is anything wrong with men’s rights, but because this particular group isn’t actually about promoting men’s rights, or equal rights, but rather about continuing to oppress women’s rights. From what I’ve experienced, their ideas of what men’s rights entail women basically being subservient. They pop up anytime feminism takes a stand against the patriarchy. They are there when women ask society to teach men not to rape rather than teach women not to get raped. They are there when women ask not to be objectified. They are there when women take a stand against hate speech. They are there attacking women over their clothing, their careers, and their desire to be people.
Typically, I try not to pay attention to MRAs, because I think they’re a relatively small percentage of people, and they take a ton of heat already from people calling them on their bullshit. However, recently there was a situation that pissed me off beyond all belief, and I wanted to talk about it.
Some wonderful, strong, empowered women’s rights groups recently challenged Facebook’s position on hate speech. There are a plethora of pages on Facebook that are dedicated to violence against women, rape jokes, abuse, and just general misogyny, and they have been unmediated in the past. You can read more about the fight to end rape culture on Facebook here, where Rosie does a better job explaining it than I ever could (and you should stick around and read more because that blog is incredible). The pages in question on Facebook are all explicit, violent, and sickening; they include(ed?): “rapist community” (page); “slap a bitch day” (group); “Bip’s dead hooker emporium” (page); “don’t wrap it and tap it, tape her and rape her” (image); “women deserve equal rights and lefts” (image); and many, many more violent and bloody images encouraging violence against women, sexual assault and rape. It was horrifying. Facebook finally issued a statement saying they would do more to moderate these kinds of pages, following pressure from groups pointing out the dangers of this kind of hate speech.
And then this happened. MRA Paul Elam claimed that the fight against hate speech against women was an attempt by feminists to take away his freedom of speech. Elam should be able to say things like “Women are begging for rape. Damn near demanding it…” (an actual sentence that he actually wrote) and advocate for violence against women because FREEDOM OF SPEECH THAT’S WHY. (Check out this post over on manboobz for more).
You know what, Paul Elam? Your freedom of speech does not mean you can endanger other people. Your rights do not mean that I deserve less rights. And removing harmful, abusive images and pages from social media sites does not affect your right to walk around the world without fear for your safety. It only helps make it a little more safe for everyone else to as well.
Rosie from makemeasammich had this to say regarding the MRAs, and I think she hit the nail on the head:
This is not about free speech: Free speech, while important, is only one of our civil rights. Much as your right to own a gun doesn’t preclude my right to not get shot, your right to free speech does not trump my right not to be surrounded by images suggesting that beating, raping, and killing people like me is acceptable, expected, and funny. This is hate speech, it encourages (read: incites) violence against women, and it cannot be tolerated in civilized society anymore than we allow racists to harass and threaten people of color in public spaces.
Like I’ve said in previous posts, one person’s rights do not supersede another’s. You, Paul Elam, do not have to fight to be seen as a person. You have lived your entire life as a privileged man not experiencing oppression based on your gender. You are not objectified. You do not have to worry about whether or not you will be raped. Should someone ever assault you, threaten you, or attack you, you will not be blamed for it, asked what you were wearing, or told you are lying. Women experience all of these things and have to live in fear of all of these things every. single. day. That’s why we are fighting against this kind of hate. We are fighting for equality. You are fighting for misogyny, sexism, and violence. You tell me which one is really the problem.