Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with me.

M.

 

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Didactic

Two evenings ago, I terminated my relationship with a boy I spent the better part of 2016 with.

I see you, behind your computer screen, rolling your eyes in annoyance, expecting a lengthy rant of a post authored by a dramatic and heartbroken twenty-something. Well calm down, Nancy. (As my ex would say). I’m not THAT predictable.

I had my reasons for cutting ties, but just a week before I did this, I was thoroughly convinced that he was “the one.”

It took four days of separation from him for me to finally admit that our relationship was far from healthy. Don’t get me wrong, our good times were good. And I miss when things were good, a lot. But at what cost? Because our bad times, well, they were BAD.

During these four days that I had minimal involvement in our courtship, I came to realize that I was losing myself by trying to make things work with him. He has a very dominant personality, and I am vulnerable, and admittedly a little naive, despite my fiery ambition and feminist mindset. If I continued to be with him, eventually that flame would be extinguished, and I would be stuck. The things that it took to make him happy hurt me, and up until that point, I thought that for some reason, I owed it to him.

He liked to play mind games with me, and get me really riled up “just to see how I’d react.” He’d check out hot chicks in the supermarket parking lot for 2+ minutes, while I exasperatedly waited for him to get in my car. He’d tell me that I was naive and assumed that he always knew better.

These were painful things to experience from someone who had countlessly claimed that he loved me.

The breakup was painful, and despite how hard things were when I was with him, adjusting to being alone again has been nothing short of difficult. But I have purged myself of material representations of our relationship, and am ready for a fresh start.

“Everything happens for a reason” was one of his most frequently employed mantras. Though I was never completely convinced that this is the case, I do believe that breaking things off with him inevitably needed to happen. It took this entire experience for me to re-focus on what I want for myself and my life, and I now feel empowered to dive head-first into exactly the life that I want for myself, with or without a significant other.

I’m one of the lucky ones with a kick-ass support system that has been there for me unconditionally, and has done everything they can to ensure my wellbeing, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I’ve learned from him that I am strong and powerful and in control of myself. I am the only one who knows what’s best for me. And the only people who belong in my life are the ones who make me feel empowered. And that, my friends, is something that I require.

So that’s where I’m at.

M.

 

Recidivism

Having completed 92% of my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology has significantly and falsely inflated my confidence in my ability to control my own mental health. However, it has come to my recent attention that memorizing theories makes me no better at remedying my own cognitive malfunctioning than any other average Joesphina.

I don’t want to say that I’m relapsing, because to say so would indicate that I had, at some point, completely recovered, which would be a false claim.

Diagnosing mental disorders is complex, due to the complex nature of the human mind. In physiological pathology, there is typically physical evidence of that particular disease. If you’ve been diagnosed with a renal cell carcinoma, the doc has detected cancerous tumors on your kidneys. However, mental disorders manifest themselves behaviorally, and behavior is dynamic, idiosyncratic, and highly unpredictable.

I have struggled with an eating disorder since I was fourteen years old. (You can read more about it here) and it has displayed itself behaviorally via various mechanisms over the years. We initially thought that my Anorexia was a co-diagnosis with depression. However, after years of self-reflection, I’m convinced that I’m not depressed at all, really. I am anxious.

Today was Mother’s Day, and the first thought on my mind was “Today is going to be a disaster.” Why did I start a perfectly beautiful Sunday off with such a damning thought? Because I knew that today was going to be a “bad eating” day. And boy, was I right.

I eat according to a premeditated, perfected, measured, perfectly balanced and repetitive menu. Every. Damn. Day. And if it get thrown off, everything goes to Hell. There is simply no in between.

With Mother’s Day being a special occasion, my family hit our favorite authentic Italian pizzeria for dinner. As soon as we were seated at our table, the anxiety set in, and my brain started racing. My eyes danced up and down the menu in vain, because I already knew that I was going to be ordering the salad (After all, I’d already eaten a roll with breakfast, and I NEVER eat bread) but the aroma of fresh-baked crust was making my mouth water.

That’s when I knew I’d already surrendered my control. The waiter took our orders, everyone ordering a pie but myself, and my thoughts began to race. What if I’m still hungry after I eat my salad? Will I be able to decline offers to eat somebody’s crust or eat more than my share of the appetizer? What if I can’t stop? My breathing rate sharply increased.

Our plates arrived, and I eagerly eyed everyone’s plates but my own. I scarfed down my salad as quickly as I could; my brain demanding that we take in as much as we can, because we could go into self-induced starvation mode at any moment.

Mere minutes had passed since receiving our food, and I had already cleared my plate. My attention immediately shifted to what everyone else had on theirs, and I began snatching crusts, half-eaten slices, and toppings off of others’ platters, and shoving them down my throat, breathing minimally.

I had completely ceased control, and something automatic and instinctual had taken over my executive functioning. “More, more, more!” my brain screamed, as if we were preparing for a famine, and I continued to consume other peoples’ calories.

My family were all critically commenting on my vulture-like behavior, and giving me strange looks, but honestly, I was hardly listening. I continued to eat off of everyone else’s plates until they were completely clean.

And then the guilt came pouring down. I wiped my face with a napkin and excused myself to the restroom so I could lift up my shirt, poke and pinch at my stomach, and tear myself apart until my sister was knocking on the bathroom door, yelling at me to hurry up so we could leave.

Situations such as these are a frequent catalyst for anxiety and a complete surrender of self-control for me. I had convinced myself previously that I was capable of managing my impulses and anxiety attacks, but this is simply not the case. In fact, I probably won’t sleep tonight, because I’ll be replaying this episode in my head until morning, at which time I will be exerting myself at an extensive cardio session at my local gym.

So it appears that I require another round of cognitive therapy so I can get a grip on this persistent problem of mine, because frankly, my disordered eating habits are annoying and exhausting, and I have so many more important things to invest my energy in, like becoming a badass master of academia.

I hate to admit it, but I require assistance. People get over these kinds of things, right?

M.

 

 

 

Ontogeny

Please excuse my extended absence from the blogging world as my time, energy, and soul have been completely consumed by collegiate education and self-discovery over the course of the past quarter-year.

I am a Psychology major, and even though I have no intention of working in this field, I feel that my studies have facilitated a complete shift in the framework of my worldview of humankind, in addition to the pace and style in which I conduct my day-to-day life.

I am a new person.

Okay, perhaps not a NEW person. I am still definitely myself, idiosyncrasies and all. But something clicked within me and created a (hopefully) permanent change in my outlook on life, and how I want to live it.

Perhaps the most impactful thing I learned all semester was a concept coined by Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist. He calls it “existential living.”

Existential living can be summarized by living in the “here and now.” This requires being fully present, both mentally and physically, in every moment and every environment you are placed in, which, as you can imagine, can prove exceptionally difficult to do when you have six upper-division level courses constantly competing for your attention, among other things like, I dunno, men? Facebook? Grey’s Anatomy? Philosophical podcasts?

I am guilty as charged for my preoccupation with the future, which I feel has robbed me of having meaningful experiences in the present. My former self never made time for actual experiences, other people, or simply stopping to smell the roses every now and then. Fortunately, a series of interrelated events and individuals have yanked me back from the future, and I am much more open to experience, flexible, and, dare I say it, relaxed.

I’ve learned a thing or two ever since this lightbulb went off in my little head. Let’s list them off, for organizational purposes.

  1. You don’t have to protect yourself from everyone. My previous self was so concerned about my own endeavors that I put relationships with other people on the back-burner. I had such tunnel vision that I had convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone else until I’d maxed out to my fullest potential. In retrospect, I admit that I was making excuses for my self-induced isolation as a defense mechanism. However, my newfound understanding of the human psyche has convinced me that people aren’t meant to go through any part of life alone. Attempting to do so can make you crazy, but, then again, so can people. It’s all about balance.
  2. More often than not, there is no definite answer. This concept terrifies me to this day, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with it. The reason why I do not intend to work in the field of Psychology is due to the fact that there are so few, if any, definite answers as to why people behave the way they do, and, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like that one bit. I’ve decided to focus my energy on the biological sciences, which are arguably significantly more concrete than theories attempting to account for human behavior. Take Freud, for example. The guy was a total nut case, and any theory I can draft up pertaining to psychological phenomena is just as valid as his were.
  3.  I can’t be good at everything. I suffer from chronic perfectionism. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Poor M, what a curse, to HAVE to be perfect at everything. Cry me a river.” Where’s your empathy, folks? Claiming perfectionism is not intended to draw attention to my accomplishments. It’s a symptom of anxiety, and it has claimed more years of my life than I would like to admit. Anyway, the reason I include this in my “Life Lessons Learned Spring 2016 Greatest Hits” is because, for the first time in my life, I faced the possibility of failing a class. As it turns out, I am no statistician, and I don’t play one on TV. In all honesty, I exhausted my mental resources in the fight for a satisfactory grade in my Statistics course, and no matter how hard I tried, I was incapable of earning an A in this class. My previous self would have been devastated, my self-esteem shattered. I got a B. My current self thanks the heavens that I passed the class, and has severed the tie between my grades and my own perception of self-worth and competence.
  4. There is no rush. I plowed through my undergraduate degree. This December, I’ll be receiving my diploma at the ripe age of 21, just three years after graduating high school. While I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, a part of me wishes that I’d allowed myself to enjoy the journey a little bit more, and perhaps I could have achieved a higher level of authenticity and security in what I want to become. Besides, I have the rest of my life to go to graduate school, and then work until I can retire in the next 50 years or so and live happily ever after with an obscene amount of dogs at my side.
  5. Breathe. This one was probably the most beneficial to my physiological health. I am a frequent panic-attack victim, however, despite this semester being my heaviest course load, I experienced minimal panic-attacks, and my heart thanks me, due to my newfound ability to control my own stress levels. Rather than allow myself to activate full freak-out mode, I am now able to withdraw from the stressful stimulus, recompose myself, align my Chakras, and return to the task at hand as a much more composed and serene individual.

I’m sure that I’ve learned numerous other lessons over the past four months, but for some reason, we as a species are comfortable with the number 5. Besides, I’m sure that you all are tired of hearing my enlightened self express how enlightened I am.

Anyway, I exited this semester more sane than I entered it, which is refreshing, because I only have a week to recuperate before I dive into the summer semester.

I don’t know who I am without academia.

Onward, ever onward.

M.

 

Purposive

Now that everybody’s done sharing their tentative New Year’s Resolutions with their online social circles, I think i’ll finally reveal my plans to make myself a less-shitty person than I was in 2015.

 

Though I love the person I’m developing into since my faith crisis, nose-dive into feminism, and increasingly curious mind, I find myself becoming exponentially more cynical, which is something I hate about myself.

I find myself often looking for reasons to be pissed off, which makes it really, REALLY hard to be the happy, energetic ball of sunshine I once aspired to become, but will never be, due to my chronically sarcastic and brazen personality. Indeed, since I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of liberalism, I seem to have the tendency to search for things that people do that strike me as problematic, and will consequently set me off.

There are specific groups of people that are extremely hard for me to get along with (i.e. meninists, anybody who still subscribes to traditional gender roles).  I totally feel justified in avoiding individuals who fall under this category completely, but I also feel that I am much too hard on people.

For example, my dating life is a literal train wreck. Most of my interactions with men are terminated by me giving them a lengthy, wordy lecture about how sexist it is to not be interested in a girl who can’t cook, or won’t send a racy snap-chat after the first date.

I feel like I’m constantly having to defend my feminist views; nothing flips my bitch-switch faster than when a gentleman i’m dating says anything that could be seen as sexist, even if you have to flip it upside down and squint with your left eye.

So i’m going to work on that. Perhaps instead of ripping his head off every time a suitor says something I don’t agree with, I can calmly present my point of view on the matter, and then change the subject as I squeeze the hell out of the stress ball I just bought.

This resolution’s due date might extend into 2063, but it’s all about progress, people.

Additionally, I am going to get out of my own way when it comes to relationships with other people. This is a very poorly-defined goal, but I have very specific quirks that I use in order to build sky-scraping walls around myself, thus protecting my isolation.

First of all, I have got to make peace with my relationship to food and to my body. I’m talking about my obsession/preoccupation about eating in a manner that will cause me dramatic weight loss, and dutiful, religious, nauseating exercise. When one is as engrossed in the aforementioned activities as I have become, there is little time or energy left to spend on stuff that matters significantly more, and after 6 years of eating-disordered behavior and body dysmorphia, I’m tired, damn it. And ready to invest myself in building some meaningful relationships and kicking ass even harder in school.

This problem is never going to resolve itself, so I’ll have to look back into going to therapy.

I always complain about how pathetic it is that I’ve attended my current university for two years, and haven’t made a single friend, but if I’m being honest with myself, I have never once initiated any kind of effort to make friend at college. So this year is going to be different. I am going to focus on becoming more inviting, friendly, and talkative. I am going to take some risks, start some conversations, hell, even ask out a hot guy from my Stats class (after checking his finger for a ring, obviously. We have lots of super young, married folk where I’m from.)

In addition to all of these resolutions, if I have time to spare, perhaps I’ll attempt to kick my caffeine addiction.

Just kidding, I’m taking 19 credit hours. There is no way in hell I’m decreasing my latte consumption.

So there you have it. An outline of how I am going to go from a shitty person in 2015 to a noticeably less-shitty person by the end of 2016.

Happy New Year!

M.

 

 

 

 

Benefits: Denied

 

I have had it up to here with the hook-up culture that we millennials tend to participate in.

Yesterday, I got mighty close to  going out on a date with, what I had initially perceived, was an exceptionally attractive, intelligent, and thoughtful young man. But, as we all know, some things are just too good to be true.

We’d begun texting about a week ago, and it seemed to me that we had a lot in common. He seemed genuinely interested in me and my own interests, asked a lot of insightful questions, and had some very interesting perspectives to share with me, as well. Score, right?

Additionally, he proposed the idea that he and I go to the zoo to speculate at the holiday lights that are on display this season. I excitedly accepted his offer.

Unfortunately, my excitement was in vain, because this dude decided to suck as a person just hours before we were supposed to depart on our journey to see the lights.

It was about 3 PM, and I was just about to begin readying myself for the festive evening I was about to have, when I received a text message from my would-be date.

Him: “Can I be honest? I’m not looking for anything serious. If that’s a problem, I understand.”

Of course it wasn’t a problem! I wasn’t looking for anything serious, either. I was just excited to see me some Christmas lights.

Me: “We’re just  going to see some lights, it’s only a problem if you’re expecting physical stuff from me.” 

Now, i’m not naive. I know that when men ask women out, they do so with the hope of eventually being rewarded physically, whether that be a kiss or the whole SHA-BANG. And hey, if I had a good time with a guy, and felt that he had the desire to get to know me and make sure that I had a good time with him, I’d be more than happy to give him a smooch at the end of the evening. The only thing I take issue with, is when these men go into a date with the expectation of getting some action.

Thanks to the modern technology that is the iPhone, I have screen-shotted the rest of my conversation with this dude for my own convenience:

12374881_10208123846435228_8880961497499028761_o

I will say this: at least this specific guy had the decency to reveal his motives BEFORE putting me in a situation in which I’d have to reject him in a face-to-face manner. Props to him for that.

However, I find this particular instance especially frustrating, because initially, this guy came off as someone who was genuinely interested in getting to know me, the person with thoughts and ambitions and a personality, rather than me, the person with lips, boobs, and a butt.

Also, his last text message about made me throw my phone out the window of a moving car. “Let me know if you change your mind.” Really? REALLY?

I get that the whole “friends with benefits” thing is appealing to a lot of people. And hey, if both of y’all are on the same page, the more power to you.

I personally find it offensive to express genuine interest in a person, leading them to believe that they are about to go out on a splendid date of talking and getting to know one another, only to shoot them in the foot by proposing a “friends with benefits” relationship. What that says to me is, “Despite all of the things i’ve learned about you thus far, your physical appeal is the best thing you could possibly offer me, so let’s do this thing where the only reason we see each other is to hook up” which is dehumanizing, disrespectful, and wrong.

Sadly, this scenario happens all too often in my own anecdotal experience, though not all of the other guys that have had this same motive in mind have had the decency to explicitly express it.

I guess what i’m saying here, is that if you are looking for friends with benefits, please do the other person a favor by expressing your intentions from the get-go, in order to avoid participating in douche-baggery.

Also, everybody i’ve shared this story with has given me the typical “you deserve better” response, which I fully agree with, but I’d just really like to know where these “better” people (and by that, I mean people who don’t just want to date a girl to get in her pants) hang out. Because obviously, I’ve never been there.

The most detrimental consequence of this entire event is that now I have nobody to see the Christmas lights at the zoo with. Any takers?

M.

 

Authenticity

Are you still there?

Good. Cuz M is back, baby.

This past couple of months has been nothing short of crazy. First of all, I took on 18 credit hours of school, which literally killed me. I am dead inside, and my soul has been sucked away in a flurry of final exams, which completely kicked my ass.

Also, I switched my minor to neuroscience, and have made the executive decision to enter the medical field, and specialize in something super cool and prestigious, like brain surgery. (Grey’s Anatomy may or may not have slightly influenced this decision.) I discovered that my one true passion is neuroscience, and that the brain is by far the coolest and most badass organ in the human body.

So, school is going well.

Employment, however, is not going so well. Over the course of the Fall semester, I have held three different jobs. I spent a solid THREE WEEKS as a barista at my local coffee shop. I learned during this time that it takes more than an obsession with coffee to master the art of espresso-making. Additionally, I am really, really good at spilling liquids all over me, my coworkers, and my customers.

Job number two was as a receptionist in a mental health clinic. All I can say about that is that frankly, I don’t want to be a receptionist.

And job number three, which I am proud to report that I have held for 2 MONTHS, is being a sales associate at one of my favorite clothing stores. I love it and want to work there forever because first of all, I get an average of 4 hours to work a week, which makes my paychecks big enough for about a quarter of a Victoria’s Secret bra, and I also get a 40% discount on all clothing items, which I can’t afford because I never work.

Kidding, I have no desire to work retail any longer than I have to.

But what I really wanted to tell you all about is that I got a tattoo!

Tat

Do you LOVE it?

It’s the Hand of Fatima, which is symbolic of the “feminine holy hand.” It’s located on my upper side, which, I’ve been told, is the most painful place to get a tattoo.

I’ll have you know, though, that I didn’t even flinch. My tattoo artist said I took it like a champ, which I obviously am.

I’ve been wanting a tattoo for a long time now, and I feel like getting inked is my way of claiming my body as my own. I feel empowered to live authentically-It’s funny what a little permanent sticker can do to a person. Also, I want like 300 more of them.

So there’s a semi-decent update on what I’m doing with my little life lately. More to come soon.

Cheers!

M.