Thursday, 5 February 2015

On Time To Talk

Hi!

I haven't written in a really long time, for a number of reasons.

Apparently it's time to talk day, a day which although I see the good intentions behind is a little problematic.

People often ask why people with mental health problems, disabilities & invisible disabilities don't always talk so openly about it. Well one of the biggest reasons is that some of us don't feel safe doing so. We face so much stigma, could lose our jobs or our families. Not only that, I think most of us are kind of bored of people's "helpful advice". On top of which there are a number of reasons why we may not be able to access the care we need. Factors such as gender, race and sexuality play a huge role in this. As well as finance and our current governments complete dismantling of mental health services. Fuck you Cameron!

But I'm not really here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about my own personal experiences & what works for me. I stress that this is entirely personal and in no way reflects on how others deal with their situation. Everyone has different strategies and they are all valid, they are all good, but they are all different.

Although I am more than happy to talk, and often feel quite comfortable doing so I actually prefer not to. It's not that I feel any shame (I used to though, growing up), it's not that I care if I'm making people feel uncomfortable (that is entirely their issue, not mine).

I would like to stress that one of the reasons I feel as comfortable as I do is the invaluable & unconditional support I receive from my mother, my partner & many of my wonderful friends. This is a privilege that I wish that everyone had, but unfortunately this is not the case. I am also what is referred to as "highly functioning". Which means I can "pass" (a horrible term) for someone who is well. I hold down a 9-5.30 job and I can force myself to do a lot of the things that are hard for me, such as socialising. This is not all the time, and when prolonged means I make my mh worse.

I don't always like to talk about it because it's not something I wish to dwell on. I have so many tricks I do to keep myself going & talking about my health constantly is not one of them. However yes it informs much of who I am, what I do & how I live my life. I have been in and out of mental health care since I was 12. I am officially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder & OCD as well as scoring highly on PTSD tests but with no official diagnosis as such. I have also dealt with eating disorders on and off since childhood. I am currently not on medication and engage in what medical professionals call "self-management". I largely do not take medication as I am what is often referred to as "treatment resistant". This means a number of things but in part that the side effects of the medication make me sicker than my diagnosed mental health issues do un-medicated. Some of the tricks I do to manage my health have been learnt through CBT but the vast majority have been learnt through personal trial and error. All of those things you so helpfully advise, I have tried them all and then some.

Is it hard living with this? Yes of course it fucking is. But I am also a human being, your head tilts & puppy dog eyes when I talk about it are patronising. Your proclamations of how brave I am are infuriating.

I do not exist to teach you about mental health, I do not exist to make you feel comfortable in my presence, I exist solely as me, living my life as fully as I am able to. But for those of you who do need someone to talk to, I am always here.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

On Being Manic Pixie Dream Grrl'd

You are not the first to say I changed your life, to imagine that I exist solely to challenge those around me. As if I don't have my own life to live. Imagine how it must be constantly living that challenge, to know that your push and pull can eventually drive those you love away. They tire of your mental health, they tire of looking after you, they tire of the challenge and want for something quieter.

I self manage in an effort to stay off medication (I'm largely treatment resistant anyway) so that the shorter life I will live will be as meaningful and wonderful to me as possible. This self management means constantly being selfish, constantly having to put myself first so that I can live rather than survive. My very disinterest these days in a normal life (let's face it, anyone who knows me since childhood knows that was never really me) is exactly what drives people to manic pixie dream grrl me.

But that very trope is dehumanising at its core. It makes you into a character in a movie and nothing else. It strips you of being anything deeper than fun, quirky and colourful. But I am more than those things, I am strong & assertive. I am many character traits that were they in a man they would be lauded rather than shamed. I will not be made to apologise for who I am, you do not know what it took for me to get here.

I do not exist as a footnote in men's lives so they can reach their goals at the expense of my humanity.

Monday, 1 September 2014

On determining your worth from your sexual partners

It's 2014 and we're still running the tired old game of women who are promiscuous as sluts and men as studs. What we're really saying is men gain worth when they have sex and non men loose their worth. In no uncertain terms, what society is saying, is that if you have sex outside of marriage or a relationship you are not respecting yourself. That by us exercising our enjoyment in something we're not conditioned to be allowed to enjoy we give them a part of ourselves each time.

This idea paints everyone in a terrible light does it not? There are men that have done awful things to me and though they may have taken something, they did not take my worth. There are also other men & people where we've done nothing but enjoy ourselves, so why is society telling us that that interaction was a give and take of personal worth? Why do we continue to paint men as some kind of sexual beasts and anyone else as victims of their sexual prowess? What of the men who have little interest in no strings attached sex, are they less of a man? What of people who are not men who's sex drive is incredibly high? Will we really buy into some of the ideas of radical feminists that women and non men can't possibly enjoy sex, that it's a lie told to us by the patriarchy? I believe telling anyone, not just women, what they can & cannot do or feel is the ultimate form of kyriarchy.

Whatever your personal attitude to sex is, remember this, how many or few people you have sex with does not determine your personal worth. This idea also only holds up in heteronormative discourse, what on earth happens when two women have sex with each other? Do they both loose worth? Both gain?

Let's stop this flawed logic. Let's stop shaming people for how much or how little sex they want to have & with how many or few people they want to have it with.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A brief on becoming poly.

There have been some changes recently in my life and some people seem to be very confused about what it means to me to be poly.

Being poly or practising ethical non monogamy is different for everyone, there is no one set narrative. I am still finding my way with it myself & so is my primary partner.

So here's my deal, I have a primary partner who is male, yes I am in love with him & I do still fancy him very much. Outside of this I date other people, I primarily (but not exclusively) date people who are not men. And no, my sex life is none of your fucking business. Do not ask me intrusive questions, I will however answer respectful questions that do not seek to dehumanise me.

Some of the following are things I do not do:

I do not fancy everyone.

I do not have sex with everyone.

I will not ask out everyone (in fact I'm quite selective).

No, straight women, I am NOT HITTING ON YOU!

I respect your monogamous relationships so please respect mine not being monogamous.

If you don't want to respect this, you know where the door is.


Friday, 6 June 2014

On The Sword That Is My Tongue (a poem)

This fire that burns inside me to fight for what is rightfully mine

This fire that you attempt to squash

While you are busy debating my humanity

You demands slipping from your tongue like a snake

Hissing in my ear as I beg you to stop asking me why I fear men

This fire that burns in my loins to speak loud enough so that you will finally listen

Because I need to shout louder over your “cold hearted, bitch” & “damn they’re so fucking difficult” remarks

This fire that is all I have left after man after man after man has stripped me of my agency

This passion that lets me yield the sword that is my tongue

The axe that is my fingers as I type

Because I will use whatever I have to fight.


Even though, I know that you are too stubborn to hear me. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

On Accessing Sexual Health Services as a Survivor (TW)

Content note: Will not only be mentioning rape from the point of view of a survivor/victim but also graphic details of a clinical examination.

The horror of horrors has come true, I can't feel the strings of my Mirena Coil. The most likely thing that has happened is that it's moved or is missing. All of this can be solved, when looking at it outwardly, relatively simply. I arrange an appointment. Arranging an appointment is the first step in what proves to be not only an unprofessional experience but one that will leave me with more emotional scarring. It is difficult to get through, when I do it's hard to communicate to them what I need. As instead of listening to my worries about it going missing they tell me I only need a brief consultation. They later call to confirm that I've asked for a removal and fitting of a new coil. This is where I first become confused and state that I thought I was only coming for a consultation. After much back & forth I still don't know what's going on so I hang up confused. I call back the next day where the person on the phone clearly states "This is a consultation only, you will not be examined". I say that if I am to be examined I want to bring my partner & I want to be examined by a woman ONLY. The person on the phone clearly states again that it will only be a consultation & that she will write this information in my notes.

Let me explain why I need so much clarity, why I want to be examined by women only and why I need someone with me. I am a rape survivor & an abuse survivor (although I sometimes refer to myself as a victim). I have no interest in going into detail, years later I can barely even utter the words. That these are experiences that have scarred me & shaped my life are an understatement. Everyone's reactions to their own trauma is different and all are valid. Please don't police how I deal with mine.

The day of the appointment comes and I am still anxious. I arrive early & try to relax. My previous experiences have been good with understanding & kind nurses. Even my first smear test which I was very worried about went well. The nurse was brisk but kind and I felt at ease especially as it was over so quickly and painlessly.

The person who eventually calls my name is a man. They are running late and the male consultants have started taking files out of the "Female Specialist Only" pile. I feel worried but assure myself that they told me they would only be consulting me not examining me. I mean they stated clearly on the phone that I would not be examined this evening. I was wrong.

I sit in the room feeling utterly helpless, with an inner knowledge that I will most likely be reprimanded if I push for a female specialist now. I undress and lie on the table. I start crying before he's even done anything. I don't know if he's not noticed or if he doesn't care. He is forceful and uncaring, the speculum used is metal and slightly too big. I feel a surge of pain as he examines me roughly. When he's done swabbing and looking for the strings of my coil he confirms my fears that my coil has indeed either moved or gone missing. I will be scheduled in for a scan followed by a removal and re-fitting. The examination is not over however, he presses on my belly without much warning causing me great pain. He goes on to examine me internally with his fingers. This includes pressing in various places as well as moving my cervix about harshly. I cry throughout my examination. I leave the room numb, wiping away my tears I rush through the clinic. I burst through the exit doors for cold air to hit me and I finally feel awake. My only saving grace is knowing that my partner is on his way to meet me. The partner who was clear in always being there when I need him, who would have taken time off work had I known to ask him. He would have been there with me, had they told me what was actually going to happen. If I had been prepared I could have taken steps to prepare myself and ensure that I would have felt safe throughout.

I know many people reading this will feel that the onus is on me to have had my partner there regardless. That I should have pushed more for a female specialist. But I rarely have the strength these days to fight and I don't believe that the onus lies with the survivor, victim, patient but with those who will be treating them to treat them with respect and compassion. It states clearly in my notes what I wanted, if I can't get it when I ask for it clearly why even bother asking or pushing. There are countless more people like me, who though they have access to sexual health care are scarred by it. Are frightened to go and have terrible experiences when they do.

The NHS is stretched and constantly facing more cuts. This means clinic's can't employ enough staff, they can't train their staff well enough for these situations. They can't run on time so shortcuts need to be taken. The more the NHS is cut the more pain vulnerable patients such as myself will experience. I will continue to seek the help of Sexual Health Clinics because I have to. But I know that it will become increasingly more rare that I have a safe experience when doing so.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

On how we treat people

With the massive rise of social media I have also seen a shift in people's behaviour. Although I don't think any this is new I think perhaps it has further reach than it used to. Nor do I think it's the fault of the internet, it's definitely the fault of the people on the internet. There are however more tools for bullying & shaming people. More people can also join in & be encouraged to join in. There are pages on Facebook whose sole purpose is to shame embarrass people. People will be nasty online in ways they wouldn't in real life. A friend of mine once compared it to road rage & I can definitely see where he is coming from.

We forget that behind the screens, behind people's tough exterior they are often vulnerable. People have a lot of power to do good but we have just as much if not more power to harm.

Harassment, shaming, bullying are these really traits of your humanity that you want to be proud of?