x148 (college)

By ajagendorf25, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By ajagendorf25, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

Back in 2007, when I was graduating high school, I was excited to go to college. My therapist at the time was supportive but to be honest, one of the biggest reasons I was attending post-secondary school was so I could remain a dependent on my parents’ income taxes and therefore still be eligible for their health insurance. MassHealth existed at the time, but the Affordable Care Act did not. While there was a lingering option in the back of all of our minds that maybe I should apply for disability and focus on therapy (the summer before my senior year of high school kicked off an extremely rough depressive period that I still haven’t recovered from), we didn’t know enough about the process to realize that I was eligible. My parents drilled into my head how important it was that I have health insurance, because without it I wouldn’t have access to the health care and medications I so desperately needed to function. While I wasn’t sure at the time what I wanted to do for a career outside of being a stay-at-home mom when the time came, the first thing I always asked when looking into a certain type of job was “what kind of health insurance does this field typically offer?” So even though there were some major issues that weren’t properly addressed, in the fall of 2007 I headed up to Maine to begin my college career.

Long story short, it failed. Miserably. I did well in one class during my first semester, and sought medical withdrawals from all of my classes in my second and third semesters. It became clear pretty quickly that through a combination of me being lazy and in no mental state whatsoever to cope with the stress of college life that I needed to return to Massachusetts and get some intensive care before proceeding with adult life. Except that didn’t work either. Strapped for cash and not really getting out of the house much, my mother encouraged me to get a job – “Just to give you a social outlet,” she said. Except being the perfectionist that I am, I got promoted before my 90 days was even up and instead of getting the intensive care I needed and focusing on my therapy, I was hyper-focused on my retail job instead. It wasn’t until I finally had a long-overdue breakdown that I quit without two weeks’ notice and finally applied for disability so I could focus on my mental health and well-being.

While my bipolar disorder was the primary reason for dropping out, another deciding factor was that I was undeclared during my entire three semester college career. I considered declaring my major as early childhood special education, but I didn’t actually have any interest in it – I was simply attending a school renowned for its training of teachers and people told me that’s what I should do because I wanted to be a foster parent. Being a foster parent is too hard, so be a teacher instead, they said. I spent a decent chunk of money on those three semesters and I couldn’t justify spending any more when I didn’t actually know what I wanted to go to college for. So whenever I ran into former teachers while working in my hometown, I staved off their disappointed remarks and glances by saying that I would go back when I could justify the hefty price tag because I had solid career goals. But the longer I worked in retail, the more content I became with my position. I started imagining my career being at one of the stores in the chain I worked at, working my way up the ranks and excelling in customer service. Or perhaps I would work in a higher-end retail store that wasn’t reliant on commissions once I was settled down. Maybe I could be happy working at something that didn’t require an expensive college education. I started to, in my own way, become an advocate for other people who eschewed university – you didn’t need to have an Associate’s or a Bachelor’s or a Master’s to be successful or even to be a worthwhile human being.

However, my lack of a college education combined with not being able to work took its toll on my self-esteem. I had nothing in my back pocket to make people proud of me. Could I still consider myself intelligent even if I didn’t have a degree? Was I even cut out for college? Did my disability prevent me from participating in an inherently ableist institution – or was I simply too lazy to put forth the effort for schoolwork? Could I cultivate a lifelong love of learning without formal schooling? If I did decide to bite the bullet and go back, was I giving up on my stance that I didn’t need college to feel whole and was I passing judgment on others who chose not to pursue a higher education?

I still don’t have the answers to these questions. And if I were to go back to school, at this point it would be to give myself something to do or to expand my academic horizons and for those reasons alone I can’t justify the cost. American universities are an ableist and classist institution that favor those who are neurotypical and can afford the exorbitant cost (or alternately, those who can handle the mind-numbing stress of working their way through school while giving little thought to their own self-care). I still don’t think it’s fair to expect everyone to obtain a college education, nor do I think it’s necessary. But societal pressure still gets to me, and I sometimes wonder if I’m wrong and worth less because I don’t have a degree. I have to remind myself that, yes, I am intelligent and I can accomplish things, degree or no.

x147 (duggar, again)

Anya, apa és 17 gyerek

By lwpkommunikacio, used with Creative Commons License

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wasn’t quite sure what to say about the fact that Josh Duggar molested five young women several years ago. Now I know.

A lot of people criticized the Duggar family, particularly Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, for not immediately going to the authorities to report Josh’s actions. Jill Duggar Dillard and Jessa Duggar Seewald have also come under fire for forgiving their brother so easily for what he did.

This is normal.

This is not limited to insular religious communities, like the Quiverfull movement the Duggars are part of.

This does not just happen to Catholics.

This does not just happen to Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

This does not just happen in the Boy Scouts.

1 in 3, or 1 in 4 (depending on the statistic) women are sexually abused. 1 in 5, or 1 in 6 (depending on the statistic) men are sexually abused. Sexual abuse is not limited to any of the aforementioned organizations or communities. It transcends religion, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status – everything. No one community can boast that they have no history of this epidemic. And this is a totally normal way to handle it.

It happened to one of the people I suspect of molesting me (although I can’t know for sure if I was molested, because I appear to have repressed the memory). What I can confirm is that when this man was a teenager, he “got a little too familiar” with some of his cousins and they “kept it close to the chest, like any good Scottish family would.” I’ve had it happen to friends of mine who do remember the abuse. Quite often, when you love someone and have positive memories with them, you don’t want to believe they could do something so terrible. So you ignore it. Or brush it under the rug. Or deal with it in a sub-par way. Instead of focusing solely on the survivor or victim, you are also dealing with your own conflicting emotions about someone you love molesting someone else you love.

And that’s why it was so easy for Jill and Jessa to forgive their brother. That’s why, when I was dealing with the initial issue, before it looked like I had a repressed memory, I posted a note on Facebook around the time of the Penn State scandal wherein I played devil’s advocate and called for forgiveness on the part of offenders. My first reaction when coping with my own history of sexual abuse was to forgive the offender, because I loved them and had happy memories with them. I cared about them. They weren’t all bad, I reasoned. Maybe if I talked to them about it, they would admit it and apologize and we could get on with our lives.

Do I find fault with the way Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar handled the situation? Yes. But they did what most parents in similar situations do. So we need to stop vilifying them and start looking at ways to deal with this in other situations, because it does happen in other situations – not just with the Duggars. Do I thing it’s wrong that Jill and Jessa came out in defense of their brother? No. Whatever was a part of their own individual healing process is their business, and if it worked for them to forgive their brother (provided they weren’t forced into it by their family or Christian counselors with little training) then I think that’s fantastic for them. And I can certainly relate to why they chose to forgive. However, I want to stress that forgiveness may not be a part of everybody’s healing process, and that’s okay too. No one path is always right for every survivor or victim.

This isn’t just the Duggars. This is America. This is all of us. Please, let’s fix this for everybody instead of nitpicking a famous family who did what everyone else does.

x146 (a virtuous woman)

By Paul-W, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Paul-W, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

During the last weekend of May, my older sister hosted a graduation party for my father who just received his Associate’s degree. My father invited a friend and classmate to the party, and before we headed off to my sister’s home, we gathered at a local coffee shop to chat and listen to my fiancée perform on her guitar. Normally I shy away from explaining what I do all day – cleaning the house, caring for our pets, and cooking tend to be pretty mundane and repetitive tasks that nobody really wants to hear about. But this time, when I had a chance to discuss what I do and why it’s important, I jumped at the opportunity. My father’s friend, who runs a ministry, was familiar with the Proverbs 31 (aka, the Virtuous Woman) when I mentioned her. And from there, the floodgates opened. I was able to talk about how homemaking is a noble and important ministry. I was able to talk about how, in an age where the Internet reigns supreme, women are using blogs and Pinterest to reach out and facilitate Titus 2 mentoring. I talked about how, in the modern, eco-friendly period we live in, Christians are starting to view the earth and its resources less as a commodity given to us by G-d to do with as we please and more as a finite and important source that we need to be mindful of and care for. Because of this, they look at tips for frugal living not just for their cost-cutting measures but also for their ease of impact on the environment. I talked about how this segue ways into the modern homesteading movement and feminist reclaiming of the domestic arts; how Millennials are realizing that the two-income workaholic family model of the 90’s may not only be unsustainable in this recession but also maybe not worth the stress and spiritual strain and drain it imparts on them. They are starting to think that maybe the loss of one income can be made up with becoming more self-sufficient and sustainable on the home front. And I didn’t just talk about the homemaking movement on a larger scale – I talked about how I make bread every week (sometimes twice a week) and cook dinner from scratch almost every night. How my fiancée is so grateful that when she comes home from work, she can relax because the most taxing of the chores are already done. How she has someone to do her laundry for her and a neatly made bed to turn into at the end of the day. How she comes home knowing that she doesn’t have to worry about accidents from the pets because she ran a little late, and that the dogs have been walked and are relaxing on their beds, tails wagging to meet her instead of cooped up in a crate. (These are things that my single friends tell me they long for.)

My father’s friend was very receptive to our conversation. My father even brought it up in a later conversation – “Well, I figured since you’re so knowledgeable about homemaking, you might know about other things and could do my homework for me.” (Sorry, dad, no dice.) I was proud that he noticed and acknowledged what I do. I finally felt as though I had overcome something I have struggled with for a few years now – that my embarrassment over not working outside the home was nothing to be ashamed of. That I make a difference as a homemaker. That I, and what I do, matters. And that’s a good feeling.

x145 (goals for the month)

By Daniele Zanni, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Daniele Zanni, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

I’m not sure if I should count my goal of doing yoga once a week for the month of May as completed or not. The first two weeks I did well, even doing yoga twice a week, which is the long-term goal. However, partly due to a busy schedule, and partly due to the Wii remote and balance board running out of batteries, I didn’t manage to practice yoga once a week (although I think I did manage to get in four yoga sessions this past month).

I didn’t really reach my goal of putting money into savings. I ended up having to dip into my savings/cushion fund, so I only managed to have around $10 extra this month – about half of my goal. I’m hoping that since June will have a little more flexibility since it’s a four week month, I’ll be able to put a little bit more in savings than I usually do.

I managed to complete my goal of window shopping and hanging something up on our walls. When I was living with my parents, I decorated a cork board with a lobster and map motif, and that is now hanging up in our office nook above the computer desk. It’s come in quite handy to keep things organized. I’m still trying to decide what items to buy to finish decorating our bedroom, but I did figure out some things I definitely want to get – now it’s just a matter of setting aside the money to purchase these items.

I also managed to complete my goal of purchasing birthday cards for the folx in my life. They were all sent out and enjoyed, and I’m glad I put in the effort to do something little like this.

Once again, one of my monthly goals is to do yoga once a week, or at least four times this month. Since we’re out of batteries for the Wii, I might use a YouTube video or get something from the library. Hopefully I can stick with this.

Also another repeat goal, I’d like to put money into savings. Technically this is already accomplished – I contributed a chunk to our joint savings fund – but I’d like to put more into my own personal savings.

A new goal for the month of June is that I’d like to reach out to a local rabbi and inquire about becoming a part of the community in the Ayer area and converting to Judaism. I’ve been putting this off partly because travel for me is difficult but also because I’m terrified that the answer will be “no, you cannot convert, you are not welcome.”

Another goal is that I’d like to try to stop picking at my skin. This is something my dermatologist always chides me about, and I try really hard, but it’s so tempting.

My final goal is to go out to coffee with a friend, partly to connect and partly because I struggle with socializing.

Fingers crossed I get this stuff done!

x144 (duggar)

By Tengrain, used with Creative Commons License

By Tengrain, used with Creative Commons License

I really wanted to write something about the Duggar scandal. I even looked into a note I published on Facebook in 2011 when the Penn State scandal broke out. I don’t agree with a lot of what I wrote then, but I thought it was worth sharing and comparing to my current opinions. I ended up deleting the Facebook account I had at the time and creating a new one because a lot of that note was based off of comments I left on other people’s statuses and I was so embarrassed about putting myself out there like that. Now, I blog about what happened to me and I link to that blog on Facebook. I have a courage now that I didn’t back then. But overall, I’m just too overwhelmed to address the issue. There are too many strong and confusing emotions. It brings up a lot of tough stuff for me, and makes me question my own validity as a survivor. What if the initial issue isn’t as serious as I think it is? What if there’s no repressed memory, and I’m just crazy? What if I’m not a survivor after all? Should I feel terrible for claiming to have been sexually abused when it turns out I was just being sensitive, overreacting, and it was all in my head? I remember when I was first coping with my trauma, and my first response was to be overly sensitive to the situation of the offenders. I wanted to forgive them and help them to get better. It makes me feel bad for Josh Duggar, while at the same time I empathize with his victims and think what he did was terrible.

I just wish this was easier. For me, and for Josh Duggar’s victims. I wish that the statistics – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men – weren’t so alarming. I wish it never happened to me, to Josh Duggar’s victims, or to any of us. And I wish it was easier to talk about this and heal from it.

x143 (the initial issue)

By Kevin Dooley, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Kevin Dooley, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

This past week in therapy, we addressed something in EMDR that none of my other therapists or doctors have even tried to clarify as legitimate: we started working through the initial issue. The one I remember; the one that most people don’t see as sexual abuse or sexual trauma but that I feel was very much so. Because this is something I remember pretty clearly, it was a lot more difficult than our past EMDR sessions have been. I don’t like thinking about this issue, and in fact even naming it with those I trust to validate my experience of sexual trauma is triggering for me. I generally just refer to it as “the initial issue” because speaking aloud the word itself makes me extremely uncomfortable and upset. I fact, whenever I hear a child cry, my first clouded but frightened thought is, “Is it because someone is doing it to them, too?” Irrational, maybe, but it’s where my mind automatically goes.

I sometimes wonder if the repressed memory is even real anymore, now that it’s been three and a half years since that fateful December. I wonder, if the initial issue had been properly addressed by my doctors, would my anxiety levels have reached as high as they did and would my mind have latched onto the concept of more traditional sexual abuse? While part of the issue is that I had a doctor tell me “While I agree that is an inappropriate way to treat a child, I think something else may have happened,” I have done research into falsified repressed memories to ease my guilt surrounding my very serious thoughts. If nothing happened, I wondered, am I a terrible person for assuming that people who care about me did something so terrible? But it is, in fact, incredibly easy to manipulate memory and it is possible that my psyche manufactured the physical symptoms of my repressed memory to cope with the fact that I was not receiving enough support in dealing with the initial issue. My subconscious could have recognized that I was not getting the help I needed, and responded by manifesting physical symptoms that helped me grieve my loss of innocence and, in turn, could make others take my situation more seriously. It probably sounds far-fetched, but the mind is a powerful thing.

In addition to the (now very uncomfortable) EMDR sessions, I have tried a new practice in addition to yoga and the pelvic exercises suggested in “Healing Sex” by Staci Haines: I have started to try taking my walks without listening to music. Granted, part of this is to help me address the dogs’ behavior issues on walks better, but in “Healing Sex” Haines mentions that using time on a walk to simply be in your body and pay attention to its rhythms and the way it moves and reacts is a great way to become more comfortable in your sexual self. In addition, practices like walking without music and yoga can help center the body more so that I am more prepared and comfortable should a flashback occur. I checked out “Healing Sex” from the library for a third time around the time I started seeing my current therapist, but I had to return it once I reached the chapter on masturbation per suggestion of my therapist because it was simply too triggering. I would read the book, relate to something, wonder if I would ever get better, and break down in tears. I couldn’t do it. Despite having read it and having gone through the exercises twice before, something was different this time. I’m hoping that the more I focus on somatic healing, the easier it will be to return to the book and in time return to a more normal, or healthy, way of being. I’m tired of having this affect me daily and I want to get to a point where I feel better. And slowly, but surely, I’m getting there.

x142 (early to bed, early to rise…)

By Betsssssy, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

By Betsssssy, used with Creative Commons License, edited by Mydnyht Rantings

There are a lot of tips on homemaking blogs about how to get more housework done and how to fix those little scheduling problems that inevitably occur when doing housework. Their number one tip? Go to bed earlier and get up an hour earlier to get more done.

Ha.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

I’ve struggled with insomnia for as long as I can remember. As a child, it would take me hours to fall asleep and I would awake around four in the morning and fall back to sleep around six or seven. This persisted into teenager-hood, when trying to balance a full load of schoolwork with this sleep schedule was simply something I couldn’t do. I tried various sleeping medications before settling on Ambien when I was fifteen. I briefly tried other meds during my brief stint in college because the Ambien’s potency was starting to wear off, and I eventually transitioned back onto a combination of Ambien and Trazadone. Eventually, I built up a tolerance to both of them and had to go off of the duo, and it took about a year of being narcotic sleep-aid free before even melatonin would work again to make me drowsy. My current regime is 5 mg of melatonin at night, and the 10 mg of Zyprexa I take also helps make me sleepy. While I can fall asleep in a reasonable amount of time, I still struggle with waking up in the middle of the night and too early in the morning. Recently my med provider added a blood pressure medication to my docket, hoping that it would make me dream less vividly which would therefore help me get more restful sleep. It seemed to help at first but now I’m noticing that I’m dreaming again.

Suffice to say, I have never been good at getting up early in the morning. Sure, I managed it in middle and high school – somewhat. I did miss a lot of school and go in late quite a bit. I managed it when I worked an 8 – 5 shift at Wal-Mart when I was in college. And if I need to, I can certainly get up whenever is necessary and pull through. But for the most part, I am to be awake at 9 or 10 in the morning and at this stage in my life, I can’t comfortably manage anything earlier. Obviously when my fiancée and I have kids this will change, but for now this is the schedule that works for me.

Now that it’s getting close to summer and the heat is on the rise, I’ve had to do some adjusting to my schedule because when I take the dogs on a walk depends on how hot it is. But even getting up at 9 or 10 in the morning, I do manage to get my housework done. My productivity doesn’t actually seem to have anything to do with when I wake up – it seems to be more affected by when I go on my walk. I find that if I start the day off doing chores then I tend to get them done in a more timely manner, rather than waiting after my various exercise routines. And easing my way into the day – by checking my e-mail first thing in the morning, and maybe watching a little bit of TV while I write in my prayer journal and do my Bible reading, is also very helpful. Since I’m not a morning person, it’s nice to give myself concrete things to look forward to first thing in the morning.

In the end, you have to do what works for you. One homemaker’s daily schedule isn’t going to work for every other homemaker out there. For me, getting up earlier (and believe me, I’ve tried) does not increase productivity, but instead makes me groggy and irritable throughout the day, and nobody likes a grumpy housewife. I find that not having a properly “adult” schedule is a good trade-off for being miserable most of the day because I don’t feel well rested. And who knows? Maybe I’ll find a medication combination that treats my cause of insomnia instead of the symptoms, and getting up at 7 or 8 in the morning will be more feasible. But for now, I’m happy with the schedule I have – late mornings and all.