I am a fighter

Every once in awhile, a song comes along that reminds me that I kick ass. I’m not saying this to sound snobby but seriously, I look back over everything I have gone through and I have made it out. It doesn’t matter what has happened to me, who has happened to me, what I have done to myself. I kept going, always living, always pushing through and knowing deep down that all the bullshit would stop.

Check out the song that reminded me of this today.

“I will fall and rise above
And in your hate I find love
‘Cause I’m a survivor
Yeah, I am a fighter”

Abusers are abusers. That’s it.

Talk of self-harm

Talk of domestic violence and animal abuse.

I’m a cat person. My life would mean very little at the moment if I had not brought cats into it. The first cat the I owned on my own was Omen. She brought such happiness into my life during such a dark time and she was also the reason I did not leave my relationship with my ex sooner. Despite what was happening to me, knowing that if I left Omen would stay broke me. I also did not trust my ex to care for her as he barely cared for his own senior cat appropriately. I cared for both cats in every way. My ex also would threaten to bring Omen back to the shelter because she sometimes peed outside of the litterbox (easily fixed with a clean box, which he never helped with) and because she shed a lot. So I stayed. What allowed me to end the relationship was when my Mom told me that when I left and moved back home, Omen could come live there as well. I was out of my ex’s house within a week.

The Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy, is a cat behaviourist and animal activist who has taught me SO MUCH about cats. Don’t worry, this connects with the above story and more. A member of my cat fostering community posted a video today by Jackson Galaxy that talked about domestic violence and animals. In his video, he says that 65% of American women who are experiencing violence will delay leaving the relationship because they do not know what to do with their animals. Jackson’s campaign to provide a place for these animals so their guardians can leave their relationships without worry.  You can watch the video here and donate to the cause here.

The video post is filled with stories from people who stayed in abusive relationships to keep their pets safe and stories of having to leave them behind. No post on abuse would be complete without blaming it on mental health issues, in this case, personality disorders. Fortunately, there are many smart people out there who told the person who made that comment that they are wrong (including myself).

Will some abusers have mental health or addiction issues? Of course! Will these issues contribute to their abuse? Possibly. Abuse is less about emotional dysfunction and more about power, control, and misogyny. Young boys and girls are taught in a variety of ways that being a boy is “better” than being a girl. Male’s who grow up to abuse their female partners had it enforced upon them that women do not have rights, are not worthy of respect and that women should serve them. There are extremes in this thinking that results in various types of abuse towards women, ranging from  objectification up to physical abuse. The motives are still the same and the motive is not mental health related.

An added link is that some men who grow up to abuse women also abuse animals, even as a young children. There is just a lack of respect for life in some of these people and such a strong need to control life. In some cases, no life is safe around these men, even other men are at risk of violence at the hands of these men (male on male violence is a huge problem!).

When we use poor mental health and different emotional states as a scapegoat for systemic problems such as domestic violence, racism, homophobia etc. we risk never being able to stop these problems. It is rarely about the person’s mental state and more about what we are all taught from a young age. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and thoughts. If we live in a world where women are not seen as equal to men then that is what everyone will believe unless we fight back against this idiotic idea. If anything causes emotional trauma it is the oppression and not the other way around.

Motherhood & Madness: Limited Compassion and Pregnancy

Motherhood&Madness

 

Since the nausea and exhaustion kicked in around week 5 of pregnancy I haven’t had time to care about others. I haven’t had the energy to care about others. It is honestly one of the handful of reasons I haven’t blogged. I can’t do my regular advocacy when I do not care about what is happening to others. On a rational level, I am disturbed by this. It is not normal for me to not feel empathy for others, especially those I am close with. Emotionally though, I simply do not care.

It hasn’t been until recently though that I’ve started thinking about why my compassion is so limited. My first and really only thought is that my body is currently doing the most amazing thing it will ever do, make a living person, and that’s just it for me. I have no room for anything else. My priorities are being physically and emotionally well to continue with my pregnancy, ensuring B and I are prepared for this next phase in our lives and involving our families as much as possible. I feel a little bad and a little selfish and I’m ok with that.

I use a pregnancy app called Ovia Pregnancy and I asked the community if any of them also feel limited in their compassion.

82% can relate, their copassion has gone down.

7% said no, their compassion has not gone down.

11% chose to just leave a comment.

Some of these people work with people closely including hospice care. I am relieved that it’s not just me and that it’s probably not some weird reaction to being pregnant and emotionally sensitive.

The women’s hospital in my city has a pretty awesome program called the Reproductive Life Stages Program (RLS).

“This specialized program in the Department of Psychiatry at Women’s College Hospital provides assessment and short-term treatment for women experiencing new or recurrent mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, mania and psychosis during the reproductive life stages (such as menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum and the menopausal transition).” – Women’s College Hospital, Reproductive Life Stages Program webpage

I have a telephone interview for it this Thursday and I hope I am eligable (don’t see why I wouldn’t). I am hoping this program can help me process my emotions and thoughts. I am very scared about how I will react after birth and this program will be there for me also.

So much goes on with your body when you’re pregnant. I need to accept as much as I can, show myself compassion and keep myself healthy. I don’t want to hurt others. It is never my intention to do so. This isn’t about me. It’s about my child.

Self-harm scars? No alcohol for you!

Have you heard about this?

21-year old, Becci Wain, was at Tesco, buying alcohol for a friend’s birthday party, when the cashier refused to sell her the alcohol because of her self harm scars. According to this cashier it was the company’s policy to not serve people with scars. (WHAT?!) The instance was quickly cleared up since Tesco has no such policy and apologies have been made and accepted.

Check out the Independent article Wain wrote about her experience: “When Tesco refused to serve me because of my self-harm scars, I was devastated – but it’s society’s fault, not theirs”

This is one of my worst fears. Other articles show Wain’s scars and I can admit that in comparison no one would notice my scars unless they were directly looking closely at my arm so the odds of someone blatantly pointing them out are extremely small. Still, the fear is there. I am amazed at Wain’s attitude toward what happened, that she can acknowledge how painful it was and that it will not hold her back!

I do lay blame on the cashier though. We need to be held responsible for what we do and say. I feel, when we say these discriminatory things happen because of “stigma” or “society” we are removing ourselves from the problem. We can’t do that. We are society and we are stigma. In order to change the stigma and society we need to change ourselves. We do that by taking responsbility for our discriminatory thoughts and actions. It is our responsibility to unlearn discrimination.

Healing from Gaslighting

Learning about gaslighting changed my life. Gaslighting is a form of abuse where the abuser makes you doubt your perceptions, reality and memories. I was in a relationship with a gaslighter for 5 years and he did serious damage to our relationship and my mind. For all 5 of those years, I saw myself as an unreliable and flawed person. My desperation to be perfect for him drove me into some very dark places. Gaslighting kept me from healing. This person refused to get help for their issues as they were convinced that I was the problem. The only way I could fix the problem was by leaving the relationship. It’s hard to believe that I left that relationship almost 2 years ago and that I am now with a man who loves me deeply and we are expecting a child. This is the life I have always wanted.

As many of us know, it takes time to heal from abuse and trauma. For me, the effects are less than they were a year ago. I am healing from what happened. I read an article today written by someone who is also healing from gaslighting. I could relate to their experience and I wanted to share it with you. Below is a link to their article and 2 ways they’ve healed that I strongly relate to. I would like to add my shared experience.

6 Unexpected Ways I’ve Healed From Gaslighting Abuse and Learned to Trust Myself Again by Maisha Z. Johnson.

Maisha healed by allowing themselves to make mistakes.

Mistakes are very important to me. Even as a teenager I always viewed mistakes as valuable learning opportunities. My ex took away these opportunities to make mistakes when he turned my mistakes into insults against him and used them as a judge of my character. He would tell me that if I had tried, remembered or been serious then I wouldn’t have made the mistake. Having the freedom again to make mistakes without shame has been very healing. I can validate myself, learn from what happened and just go on with my life. I went back to seeing mistakes as a fact of life, something everyone does and can be a positive experience. I no longer see myself as deeply flawed. I sometimes still get upset when I make mistakes, especially when they are pointed out by others as my ex did but each passing day it gets easier.

Maisha healed by making their own choices.

I can remember the deep, full-body fear I felt when I had to make a decision. I’m not talking about a big decision like if I should go back to school, I’m talking about where to go eat for dinner or if I should a pair of jeans. This one links back to making mistakes. I needed to make the right choice to avoid disappointing my ex because his disapproval was damaging. If I bought an item of clothing he didn’t like, he would tell me, even if I expressed thatI felt sexy in it. If I chose a place to eat the he didn’t like he would mope at the table. It was horrible to have my choices put down. He ended up making a lot of the decisions in our relationship. Being able to make my own choices and have confidence in those choices has been a struggle for me. Each time I do make a choice and stand by it I am one step closer to removing my ex’s influence. I can now decide if I want to eat McDonalds and (for the most part) not feel bad about it, I can choose an outfit knowing how I feel in it is more important and I can overall say no if something isn’t sitting right with me. If someone doesn’t like my choice then that’s their stuff, not mine.

This is a difficult journey. It is one I just had to do. I didn’t have time to let it consume me anymore than it already had. I need to get on with my life and not let anyone from the past control it.

Photo: “Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” – Tori Ames.

Are we unreliable sources?

I am currently reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (I will not spoil the book I swear, I am just mentioning a known character trait that you would learn about quickly. If you don’t even want to know that then stop reading!). One of the main characters, Rachel, has an alcohol addiction and because of this, when a certain event happens, she is viewed as “unreliable” and her potential contributions to solving the problem are dismissed or minimized. Other characters even use the word “unreliable” to her face when they explain why she will not be taken seriously. Rachel also knows it’s because of her drinking.

This reminded me of my grade 12 Writer’s Craft class where we spent one class learning about unreliable narrators. An unreliable narrator is a narrator who’s credibility is compromised. While an unreliable narrator is not necessarily a specific type of person my class came up with stereotypical examples of people who could be unreliable. I remember various classmates saying that someone with a mental illness, an intellectual/cognitive/developmental disability, and an addict would be unreliable narrators and we should not trust their views of events. If my memory recalls correctly my teacher gave the example of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time where it is suspected that the main character, Christopher, has autism and is unreliable due to his issues around social interaction and processing.

I know I have been viewed as unreliable due to my high emotional states and I have even viewed myself as unreliable but only because this is what I have been told I am. Are we really though? Are those of us who struggle with emotional and mental issues actually unreliable? Does our ideas of normality play a role in our reliability? Is anyone really reliable all the time?

I personally believe that reliability has more to with knowing the facts about something rather than our mental state. While I recognize that our mental state can influence our ability to process the facts, it is not just our mental state alone that should determine our reliability. When I have the facts, I am reliabile. If anything I may be more reliable because I pursue the facts, knowing I am highly emotional, and frequently try to reality check. Those whose mental state is not in question may not pursue the facts because they assume they do not have barriers to accessing them.

We also need to all admit that everyone has a different reality. So many factors go into how we interpret events and make meaning of facts. We may be bias, be influenced by our culture, political stance, education background etc. Maybe it’s more about an alternative perspective than it is about reliability?

We can all be reliable and unreliable. We are human. To dismiss someone because of their mental state is wrong. Sometimes we may even see and understand more because we are not taken seriously.