Category Archives: Personal Stories
This is not a typical post for my blog, but it is something that has been affecting my life and the lives of those around me recently. Let’s talk about depression.
Depression (and mental illnesses in general) is a genetic joke. There are studies upon studies relating creativity, intelligence, and mental issues. Pretty much any incredibly talented artist you can think of suffered from some sort of mental illness. There shouldn’t be any shame related to it.
Unfortunately, many people feel shame about their mental illnesses. I know that I often feel ashamed of mine. I find myself thinking, “you have this amazing opportunity to do something that you love, you live in an amazing city, you have awesome friends, and your fiancé is loving and supportive. You have everything that you need and pretty much anything you want, so why do you feel shitty? You know that there are people out there with REAL problems, right?” and on and on and on. All that shame, negative self-talk, and personal berating only serves to make myself feel worse and makes getting back to normal even more difficult. It is ten times worse when someone else says these things that I find myself thinking.
I have suffered from depression, off and on, for pretty much as long as I can remember. In the tumultuous life that I have lead, depression has been one of the few constants in my life.
When I was dealing with the death of my biological mother at the age of eleven, despite being in therapy, I was depressed and suicidal. I was better for a few years, but high school was particularly hard. I honestly thought that everyone around me had their entire lives figured out already, and I was in a constant state of panic that I hadn’t chosen a career path yet. I was fourteen years old, and I was stressed, anxiety ridden, and depressed.
My mental stresses manifested themselves in several physical ways. I barely slept at night. I would sleep for 30 minutes, and then be awake for an hour and a half, sleep ten minutes, be awake for forty-five minutes. The sleep I did manage to snatch from my overloaded brain was not restful, as I was grinding my teeth and having disturbing nightmares. I managed to grind my teeth so hard that the plate of cartilage between my jaw and skull slipped forward, and prevented me from opening my mouth fully. I had to go to a specialist, get a night guard, and take Valium in order to actually get some rest. I am terrified at the fondness I still feel towards an opiate.
This may come as a shock to my friends at the time, but I was also severely bulimic. In general, I would eat the bag of chips in my packed lunch, throw the rest away, and drink as much water as possible so that they would soften in my stomach, and come up easier. I spent a minimum of 45 minutes in the bathroom after dinner, hoping and praying that no one would hear me as I tried to rid my stomach of all the food I had ingested with my family. I was so severely dehydrated that I would faint from time to time, especially after gym class. The scars on my knuckles have mostly faded, but I fear that I may have done irreparable damage to my metabolism.
I also developed some OCD-like behaviors. I would find myself counting people, or specific things in a room, and unable to stop. There were certain things in my life that absolutely had to be a certain way, or I was convinced some unspeakable horror would occur. I plucked my own body hair: legs, armpits, pubic region, eyelashes. I couldn’t stop.
During my adult life, my depression has taken a few different twists and turns. I found my OCD behaviors moving towards a fear of germs, especially when raw meat was concerned. I would almost hyperventilate while walking in the meat section of the grocery store. I had a particularly bad episode when I had to cook a Thanksgiving turkey. I stood in front of the refrigerator, crying, because I couldn’t bring myself to touch the raw turkey. My hair plucking moved to skin picking, and I still have a very difficult time leaving a blemish or a scab to heal naturally.
I have been suicidal. I have considered the probability of dying with minimal pain by walking into traffic, crashing my car into a cement barrier, taking too many painkillers, using a knife on my own wrists, and, of course, simply wasting away by not eating.
I have been through all of these things. I am just now pulling out of a nine month struggle with some pretty severe depression. I still have bad days, days where I just want to sit in bed or on my computer, eat nothing, produce nothing, and feel nothing. I have wonderful days where I am ready to take on the world, and I get a lot of things done. I hope this explains the sporadic nature of my blog updates in the past few months. Thankfully, with the help of my fiance and my dear friends, I was able to catch myself before I reached the suicidal thoughts stage.
I like to compare getting back to “normal” during a depressive episode to attempting to hike up a hill that is covered in gravel. It is mentally and physically exhausting. It can help to have a walking stick (anti-depression drugs), or a guide (therapist), but sometimes you have to make the journey on your own. Sometimes you slip and fall, and you end up sliding back down to the bottom. If you already know the way up, and you have accepted that sometimes you are going to slide back down, you’ll have an easier time of it and you’re less likely to quit out of frustration. I slide around a bit, and sometimes I end up riding on my butt all the way back down the hill, but I always get up, dust myself off, and try again. It is the only way to get back to feeling like myself. The struggle and the bruises are always worth the time and effort.
I am not a trained therapist nor am I a counselor. I have no education or background in helping someone with depression or suicidal thoughts. I do, however, have a sympathetic ear. I can commiserate with how difficult it is to feel like something is wrong, and to not be able to put a finger on the problem, let alone know where to begin to fix it. I can help find a therapist, or tell silly stories for a laugh.
I am heartbroken each time I hear about a friend who is dealing with the suicide of someone they love. And the person who is gone is always loved. Always. Suicide means that those who are left behind are plagued with thoughts of “What could I have done? How could I not know? I don’t understand.” I think that the grieving process is especially hard when someone commits suicide, because it wasn’t a natural death.
Next week (September 8-14th) is National Suicide Prevention Week in the US. If you or someone that you love is suicidal, there is free help available. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected to a counselor in your area, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It sounds trite, but suicide is a permanent solution to what may be a short-term problem, and it leaves waves of devastation in its wake. You are loved. Don’t give up.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “traditional” femininity, and I’ve come to one conclusion: I really suck at a lot of the things girls are “supposed” to do, and that’s kind of awesome.
I have more colors of eyeshadow and nail polish than anyone really should, but I am hopeless with things like makeup or doing my nails. I keep thinking “oh, well, maybe if I have the right things, I will magically be able to look all pretty and feminine and girly!” I subscribe to multiple versions of makeup grab bags, and I have at least 50 different makeup brushes. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with most of them. I can’t do those cool smoky eye looks (or anything that goes beyond wearing one shade of eyeshadow, really, and even then it ends up looking uneven), I end up looking like a clown when I attempt to use powdered blush, and my at-home mani-pedis generally look like a 5 year old went crazy with the nail polish.
I also can’t do anything with my hair that goes beyond a ponytail, half ponytail, braid, or messy bun. I am adept at washing and drying it, and my at-home touch ups on my hair color are passable. I have been known to use Pinterest to find cute hairstyles, and then I spend two hours trying to get my thick, straight-as-a-pin hair into a cascading braid, or some other adorable up-do, before I ragequit in utter frustration. Attempting to curl my hair is just a way for me to completely waste time. Within 15 minutes that perfect curl is flat again, no matter if I use a curling iron, styling products, or hot rollers.
I am, however, a professional at walking in high heels without looking like I’m about to fall over.
As an adolescent, when I imagine most girls were figuring these things out, I was more interested in figuring out a cure for the profuse sweat that would pour out of my armpits whenever I was talking to a cute boy. Thank god I was in middle school and high school when it was still acceptable to wear a flannel over your t-shirt, because I would stand there, horrified, as I felt the growing patch of wetness travel down my torso to my waist. It was like my deodorant would magically evaporate in the presence of a cute boy. It still does, sometimes. Now I just carry a spare stick of deodorant in my purse and reapply as needed.
I hate cleaning and doing the laundry. Right now, there are at least twelve coffee cups in my room, and I can’t be bothered to take them to the kitchen and wash them (sorry, housemates!). I never make my bed. I actually hate doing the laundry SO MUCH that I take it all to a wash-and-fold, and pay at least $40 once a month for someone else to do it for me. Even then, I forget to put it away at least every other month. I love to cook and bake, but I am terrifically lazy about purchasing ingredients for dinner before the local grocery stores close.
I have realized that the time I could spend on learning these things is better spent doing things like writing my blog or working on my book, reading, or spending time with friends (who could probably teach me about the makeup/nail/hair stuff).
I am fortunate that I live in a place and a forward-thinking culture where I am encouraged to better myself, instead of just looking pretty. I am so thankful that Fiance doesn’t think my worth as a woman is directly tied to how clean I keep our living space, or having dinner on the table when he comes home from work. My brain matters more than how I live up to the cultural standards of femininity. And that’s pretty awesome.
Thanks, feminism, for creating that culture!
Her name was Susan Cox Powell.
We went to high school together. Though we didn’t know one another very well, we had a lot of mutual friends. I remember her as someone who was gracious, intelligent, and kind. Susan had a beautiful smile. She disappeared in 2009. Interviews with Susan’s friends have shown that her relationship with her husband was abusive. He shoved her, slapped her, wouldn’t allow her to buy groceries for the family, and locked her out of the house. Her father-in-law had a disturbing obsession with her, and took voyeuristic photographs of her. Susan left a will in a safe deposit box that said if she disappeared it “wouldn’t be an accident”.
Her sons’ names were Charlie and Braden.
They were taken on an impromptu “camping” trip at 12:30am, in the middle of a snowstorm, by their father, the night that Susan disappeared. Three years later, Charlie and Braden had started talking about that night. Braden drew a picture of a car with three occupants, and when he was asked about his drawing, he said “Mommy’s in the trunk”. One year ago today, they were killed by their father, who took a hatchet to their tiny bodies before setting a fire that would ultimately kill all three.
I am convinced that Susan’s husband killed her. I am convinced that we will likely never find her, her friends and family will probably never have closure. I am convinced that we should learn from this, that we should be tireless advocates for those who are abused by their partners.
- Intimate partner homicides account for 30% of all deaths of women.
- Everyday, in the US, three women are murdered by their partner.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- Every year, more than 3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes.
It is easy to think that you are smarter than a woman in an abusive relationship. It is easy, to look at the situation, and think “she should have left him”. In reality, it is incredibly difficult to leave an abusive relationship, especially when you have children. It is common for abusive partners to use children as a way to get their partner to stay in the abusive relationship. According to her will, Susan’s husband told her that he would “destroy” her if she tried to leave him.
It is hard to be the friend or family member of someone who is in an abusive relationship. It is hard not to have those thoughts. It is hard to watch someone’s personality deteriorate in the face of abuse. It is hard to be supportive, to lend an ear, to watch your friend or family member walk back into the home they share with their abusive partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has some very helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship.
Since the National Domestic Violence Hotline was established, domestic violence and intimate partner homicide has taken a drastic downward turn. The Hotline is funded by the Violence Against Women Act. The VAWA is currently being debated by our nation’s elected leaders, and it may not be re-authorized. This would be an unspeakable tragedy. Please, write to your senator, write to your congressional representative. Tell them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Her name was Susan Cox Powell.
Her sons were Charlie and Braden.
I am burning a candle in their memory today.
I am also emailing my representatives, in their memory, to try and make sure that other women in her situation have the resources necessary to leave abusive relationships.
Edit: For those of you who would like a form letter, please see the one I have drafted below.
Dear Senator/Representative/Congresswoman/Congressman ,
I am writing you today in memory of Susan Cox Powell, and her sons, Charlie and Braden, to urge you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
This act provides the funding necessary to assist women who are in domestic violence situations, and since its inception in 1994, the number of domestic violence incidences have decreased dramatically.
Decreasing domestic violence is not a partisan issue.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 69,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
How cool is this? Fun and exciting things are happening behind the scenes here at Nice Girls, and I hope that all of you will stay along for the ride. I’m excited to see how 2013 pans out for me!
There’s been so much in the news in the past few months about abortion, contraception, and a woman’s right to choose that as I said in a previous post, I’ve been overwhelmed. I’d like to take a moment to get a little idealistic.
When I was in high school, I took a class about early human development. We learned about the stages of pregnancy, and the different stages children go through in their first two years of life. At one point in my class, we were given the task of brainstorming the ideal situation to have a child. We already knew that adoptive parents had to fulfill certain criteria in order to be able to have a child, so we were told to imagine a “test” of sorts that a woman (or a set of parents) would have to pass in order to have a child.
If I remember correctly, we came up with the following points:
- Financially stable, with at least six months worth of income in accessible savings.
We came up with this because pregnancy and raising a child are both expensive. There’s also the risk of complications with the pregnancy or child’s health leaving one or both parents unable to work for a period of time. We thought that at least six months of income in the bank would help ease that potential burden.
- Emotionally stable, with a supportive network of friends and family.
Just like the financial cost, pregnancy and raising a child can be unexpectedly difficult, emotionally. We learned about postpartum depression, and how the woman’s emotional state can affect the child’s development in the womb. Having a supportive network of friends and family, especially people who are geographically close, is important to making sure that the parents can have a break occasionally.
- Good health, and good health insurance.
Making sure that the woman is already in good health when she gets pregnant, and maintains her health during the pregnancy were also stressed during my class. Proper nutrition and regular exercise, as well as the ability to see a doctor when necessary, were things that we deemed of highest importance to the development of the child.
- A stable and safe place to live.
Being teenagers in the suburbs, we were imagining owning a house with a large backyard. While I no longer think that is necessary, I do think that living in a relatively safe neighborhood, and taking the proper precautions to baby-proof your house are incredibly important.
- Ease of access to hospitals, schools, and other important services.
I think this one is self-explanatory.
I am close to many women who have had children without checking any of these boxes. Their children are happy and healthy, and they are excellent mothers. I still think that all of these are important things to have in place before I consider having children, and that is why I chose to get an IUD. When I decide to have children, it will be because I am ready. This is not a criticism of any woman or her choices. I fully realize that this is an idealistic list.
I would posit that is also idealistic of the Republican Party to expect to reduce accessibility to contraception and abortion and to somehow still not have any unwanted pregnancies occur, or for parents to not need some sort of assistance to care for their children. Abstinence education just exacerbates these problems. People are going to have sex, and sometimes, despite precautions, pregnancies occur.
If you had to come up with a list like this, what would you put on it? Do you think that the list we came up with in high school was good? Have you formulated a similar list? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
There have been a few recent articles about the “moral case” of either completely abstaining from sex until marriage, or having sex with partners beforehand.
This all started with an incredibly egotistical and almost horrifyingly judgmental article by Steven Crowder on foxnews.com. In his piece, Crowder calls women who have sex before marriage “floozies”, and is openly disdainful of another couple after meeting the bride at breakfast the morning after their wedding. That newly married man’s crime? Deciding to drink at his wedding.
The people next to us that morning? Well, theirs was just one big party. And the morning after? Just another hangover.
Our “weddings” were the same event in name only. They know it, and we know it.
Honestly? That is precisely how I envision my wedding next summer: one big party. I want my family, Fiance’s family, and all of our friends to be there, and to be celebrating our union. I want dancing and toasting and laughter and fun. The fact that I am intimately acquainted with Fiance’s nether regions (and vice versa) does not make our wedding, our engagement, or our relationship any less than yours, Mr. Crowder.
Fiance and I lived together for quite some time, and, unlike you, we have already gone through the awkward stages of living together. We know that we are compatible in practically every way possible, and that includes sexually. Yes, it still annoys me that he forgets to put his dirty laundry in the hamper, and he is largely baffled by my beauty regimen, but we have reached a point of homeostasis in our relationship and we know that we can actually share the same space. You’re going to have to learn all of that, and you’re going to have to learn everything about sex. Don’t worry, Mr. Crowder, I’m here for you and your wife!.
On the other side of the coin, Jill Filipovic (of Feministe fame) wrote a fantastic response article for The Guardian, detailing precisely why it is better to have sex with your partner before a long-term commitment. I honestly couldn’t have constructed a better article. This is my favorite quote,
Sex is good whether you’re married or not, and certainly folks who wait until marriage can have a lot of sex once they tie the knot. But waiting until marriage often means both early marriage and conservative views on marriage and gender – and people who marry early and/or hold traditional views on marriage and gender tend to have higher divorce rates and unhappier marriages. We know that, on the other hand, there are lots of benefits to marrying later and to gender-egalitarian marriages. Couples who both work outside the home and also share housework duties have more sex. Financially independent, college-educated women who marry later in life have extremely low divorce rates.
It turns out that feminist values – not “traditional” ones – lead to the most stable marriages. And feminist views plus later marriage typically equals premarital sex.
I wish you luck with your marriage, Mr. Crowder. I wish you and your wife every happiness. It’s a pity that you, with your nose in the air, can’t find it in your “Christian” heart to do the same for me and others who are like me.
Hey everyone, I apologize for not updating at all in the past few days. I caught some sort of stomach bug from Fiance’s little sister, and have been feverish and nauseated for several days now.
I am so glad that Fiance made me get out of bed early on Saturday morning so that I could attend the SF Slutwalk. You see, I’ve been feeling some pretty serious internet burnout for a few weeks now, and it seemed like every time I found something to write about, it was an issue that made me angry. It is exhausting to be angry for hours every day. I had reached a point where I dreaded sitting down with my laptop, because I knew that by the end of my posts, I would be emotionally exhausted.
SF Slutwalk rejuvenated me. It made me realize that I needed to get back to doing more sex-positive stuff in general, not just finding something to be angry about. Hopefully in the next few days, I will have the energy to go through the 350 pictures I took at Slutwalk (thank you, to those of you who let me take your picture!), and post a write up. For now, I would like to say thank you to the organizers and attendees for giving me some much-needed encouragement.
I’d also like to say thank you to Fiance, for helping me create a schedule and to find topics that still fall under sex-positivity, but won’t leave me feeling disgusted with the world.
I’d also like to thank you, dear readers. I’ll still be posting on feminist issues here, but I’m going to re-focus on sex-positive information, including reviews on toys, books, and yes, even some pornography. Thanks for sticking with me. I hope you’ll enjoy the new content.
If you’re a fan of Nice Girls on Facebook (and if you’re not, then you should definitely go click “like” right now!), then you’ve probably already seen this post I shared yesterday. Trigger warning: there’s an account of a pretty verbally violent situation.
A friend of mine had shared it, and I got pretty angry at the conversation in the comments on her page. I had never been witness to such oblivious “mansplaining” in my life. I’d like my readers’ thoughts on this conversation (names have been intentionally omitted): Read the rest of this entry
Today’s post is super short, and for that I apologize. I am actually pretty sick (complete with fever and headache), so this is really all I have energy to write today.
I received a final phone call from my doctor at Planned Parenthood. The results of my culposcopy have come back, and it looks like there is absolutely nothing for me to worry about. I don’t have any growths, and they actually couldn’t find any abnormal cells. While I do have to go back for another pap smear next year, it certainly seems like my body has shed most of the HPV that I was exposed to. I’m pretty happy about that.
I would like to start this post by saying that I am floored by the amount of attention my post on Monday received. I would like to thank my followers on Twitter, the communities on Reddit (though I have mixed feelings about being so popular on the Men’s Rights subreddit), Nixie’s Revision 3 and YouTube followers, Y-Combinator, Rikki Endsley, Leslie Hawthorn, Laura Czajkowski, GeekFeminism.org, Linux Magazine and especially Felicia Day (I fangirled a little, seeing that) for sharing my post and contributing their thoughts. [Edit: Rikki Endsley has posted a fabulous follow-up blog. You can find it here.] Read the rest of this entry