Frustrated, Helpless, but not Hopeless

Today I have feelings. I am reserving judgment on these feelings for now. I feel frustrated, and helpless, and agitated. I feel as though I am burning with energy to channel into positive things, but paralyzed in my inaction at the same time. I have fear of the unknown. “What if the things that I want to do take too much time? What if I fail? What if I sit in my anxiety so long that the opportunities pass me by, as I sit on my hands and wait for someone to tell me what I should do?” As I sat this morning, scrolling through Twitter and becoming a mixture of defeated and incensed, I decided that the best thing that I could do for myself is to write. Today, I am ever-hopeful for a stranger to tell me, “I’ve been there, and I know how to start. Let me share my experience with you!” Will that happen? Will it be you?

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’ve recently had a few bumps in my road to being healthier. Today, I celebrate day 18 of being migraine free. Yesterday, in a follow up with my Gastroenterologist, I learned that I indeed DO NOT have colitis. I was confused, because he told me I had colitis, then had me do nightly enemas (as you may recall). So confused that, as soon as I got in the car after my appointment, I called Wave and asked him, “He told us that I had colitis, didn’t he?” Wave confirmed my memory, so all that is left is that I fought and argued and wasted so much of my time to try to get an affordable treatment for an ailment I didn’t even have. The doctor did not own this mistake. He acted like this was just normal to tell someone that they definitively have something, then act like you never said that.

Fodmaps diet bowel map including explosive gas

He asked what my symptoms are, if any, and I told him that I have dull abdominal pain every day, peppered in with sharp pains that feel like lightening, and when it’s time to go to the bathroom, I have about 10 seconds to get there or all hell is breaking loose. He sat back, silent for a moment, grabbed a stapled set of papers from a stack, and handed me a packet describing a low-fodmap diet. It was clear from the size of the stack that this is a common handout. He looked again at the pictures from my colonoscopy, commented that I had some internal hemorrhoids that he didn’t think to mark during the procedure, and said that the inflammation I had was simply irritation and not infection. He pointed to the diet and said that obviously I am eating something that’s irritating.

I left the office much like I leave most doctor’s appointments. Irritated, agitated, and a general feeling of loss for the time and money that I’ve wasted. This is my second go round with a Gastroenterologist, and both experiences (twenty years apart from each other) have been similar. No answer but suggestions to reduce stress and cut even more foods out of my diet. That will be $1,500, please.

F*ck you Pay Me Meme

I have spent the last several years learning about food and food sensitivities, and streamlining my diet to try to manage the IBS that I was diagnosed with as a young adult, which has led me to veganism. In addition, there are several fruits, vegetable, and beans that I need to cut to see if these are my current problems via elimination diet. What makes me laugh a little is that a friend of mine showed up at my desk about a year ago with the exact same hand out. She has diverticulitis and colitis, though. I have nothing but IBS. I feel almost exactly the same as when I got the original diagnosis, which is, “I don’t really know what is wrong, here is a diet, do that, go away.”

To clarify, I don’t think that IBS is nothing. I have lived with it for as long as I can remember. It is painful. It is embarrassing. It can take over your life if you let it. It is frustrating. It is lonely. It is something that you have to champion for yourself. The pain can lead you down dangerous paths. What it has made me learn is that no one will fight for me better than me. It has taught me that I have the power to become my own healthcare manager. I have the ability to research, ask, relate, and try methods that a doctor might not ever recommend.

I also want to touch on the ever present ‘maybe you need to eliminate stress’ suggestion. This was the only suggestion that the first Gastroenterologist gave me. This and a prescription for an anti spasmodic as they were sweeping me out the door as quickly as possible. I am a rule follower, and a person in authority gave me a rule to ‘eliminate stress’ without any guidance. I did what any twenty year old would do. I took up drinking my cares away. Soon after, I took up smoking cigarettes, because then I could take breaks at work! After I figured out better ways of managing life, I learned how to eliminate stress through exercise, thoughtfulness, coping skills, and good planning. I am not a stressed person. I sleep well. I eat right. I exercise. I talk out my feelings. I don’t internalize stress. Yet still, physicians and others counsel me to stress less. To me, this is silly and generic advise that needs to just stop! It’s like saying that to lose weight all you have to do is take in less calories than you expend. FALSE! This is generic and misleading, and quite frankly, LAZY! Every single body is different. Every body is delicate and intricate in its inner workings. Everyone has different optimum hormone levels. Some bodies can stretch and bend and do yoga well. Some bodies have shorter muscles and tendons, which make it all but impossible to do yoga. Some people can put away an entire pizza and not gain an ounce. Some of us can look at a pizza and gain a pound. If you issue any of this advice, please stop. Join me and stop. It’s insulting. We are all individuals, and what works for me, may not work for you. Not everyone handles stressors in unhealthy ways. Not everyone is able to just drop 5 pounds in a week. Not everyone can go from couch to marathon with ease. So stop.

Ok, so back to my feelings. My stated goal for this year is to be a voice in affordable healthcare reform. I am feeling lost at the moment. It’s one thing to have a goal. It’s entirely another to figure out where to begin. I am frustrated with bad physicians. I am angry that I have paid so much money for an “I don’t know” diagnosis. I am flabbergasted that not only did I have to lie on a table in the most vulnerable position and listen to a man (who is not an anesthesiologist, but a nurse anesthetist (to correct my earlier post)) talk about pounding breasts and watching me like a stalker, but who is also going to be billing me for more than the facility and the doctor who performed the procedure COMBINED. I am appalled that I have the privilege and access to healthcare, and am able to pay my bills, while women who sit one department over can’t even afford to carry the low cost company health care policy because it’s either daycare or healthcare, but not both.

Where do I start? Tell me! PLEASE! Well, even if you’re not the person who is supposed to share your experience with me today, I know this, dear reader:

You’re probably NOT crazy (though sometimes, if you’re like me, you have your suspicions after meeting with doctors…)

Let’s talk about Sexual Harassment

Statistics show that 1 in 4 women experience sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime.  I think that this statistic is wrong.  I think it is MUCH higher.  I think that many women are too afraid to speak up or admit that it is happening.  In the United States, we are seeing a wave of powerful men being outed for their reprehensible behavior, with two very different outcomes.  It seems like about every ten years, sexual harassment comes back into the forefront of our conversations, and then slowly falls back into the shadows.  I would like to share some experiences of mine with you today.  Though I do not like to talk about it, I know that it is of monumental importance to call the monsters out and not take responsibility for their choices.

Towards the end of the election season in 2016, Donald Trump was accused of harassment by multiple women, and was caught on video talking about how it is ok that he sexually assault women because he is famous. Courageous women came forward and shared their stories, which basically showed a pattern of predatory behavior.  The response?  He threatened to sue them, they were all liars, and it was a conspiracy against him to harm his chances in the general election.  The fact that he was elected demonstrates how people tend to not believe victims, or even blame victims for the predator’s actions.  “But look at how slutty she dresses, though.”  “She’s asking for it with that red lipstick.”  “Well, she should be flattered that he likes her!”  “Boys will be boys, you know…”.   Somehow, even after all of it, this monster was elected as our president.  Some may say, “…but…Bill Clinton!”  And to that, I am not disagreeing.  SAME!  He doesn’t get a pass from me.  I don’t care what your political leanings are.  If you are a predator, you are trash, and you may want to take a look at yourself and make some major life changes.

Flash forward to Fall 2017.  A powerful Hollywood producer is accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.  The reaction somehow was different this time.    He was fired, and he was ousted from the industry.  His wife has announced that she is leaving.  Men in the industry have denounced the behavior.  Perhaps the tides are turning.  Perhaps we are starting to not accept that boys will be boys.  Perhaps men in power are starting to understand that this behavior is unacceptable.  I would love to believe that this is true.  However, the ‘casting couch’ has been part of Hollywood lore as long as I can remember.  These men have been at this for YEARS.  The behavior is well known by the people in their employ, and the circles that they are part of.  So why are we so outraged only when women come forward with their stories, detailing the assault?  Though I find the support of others to the actresses (and some actors (I see your Terry Crews and James VanDerBeek)) who came out against Weinstein to be applauded, why were you silent for so long?

I am just a regular woman.  I am average height, average build, average hair color.  There is nothing aesthetically overwhelming about me.  For much of my life, and at different employers, I have been sexually harassed.  The harassment comes in the form of lewd comments, ogling me, staring at various body parts, unwarranted offers of sex, and inappropriate touching.  I want to remind my readers that I have never stated my places of employment, nor will I comment on my employer’s handling of the situations, other than relaying factual pieces of conversation.  Each story I share with you is my story.  I do not know, nor do I wish to know the intent of the other parties.  I will not name names, not in order to protect these people, but rather, my current employer has a clause in the handbook that ill words may not be shared on social media about the company.  If you violate the policy, expect to be fired.  I want to be clear, I am not posting judgment, nor do I blame my employer for any of these situations.  I do blame the predators, and our culture of acceptance at large.

I have a high pressure job, and there are times that I like to take a break, go outside, get some fresh air and perspective, and unwind.  I used to walk through the employee parking lot, up one row, then down the next, listening to music and blowing off some steam.  As I was walking, a familiar car pulled up next to me, and rolled down the passenger window.  It was a man that I have worked with in another department that I generally say hello to and smile when we pass in the halls.  I took out my ear bud, and said hello.  He leaned over, looked me in the eye, and said, “Hey, I have $20…”, role playing as if I was a hooker and he was a John.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Whenever it happens, I feel like I am knocked back on my heels and in a daze.  Since this incident happened fairly recently, I had at least enough wits to tell him to “F*@k off”. And kept walking.  I took myself straight back into he building, held back my tears, sat at my desk, and went back to work.  I thought about my outfit, and all of the other exchanges I had with him in the past that might have led him to believe that this would be a good idea, or I would think it was funny.  You know, it seems like more often than not, they say, “It was just a joke.  Where is your sense of humor?”

A few weeks after that, a different person from the same department, was out walking at the same time I was.  He stopped me to talk about a shared project and check in on my progress.  I folded my arms across my chest, as I often do, and spoke of the project.  Out of nowhere, he reached up and grabbed my watch.  The watch on my wrist.  On the arm that was folded across my chest.  Directly next to my breast.  “What’s this?”  He asked.   I yanked my hand back, and replied, “It’s a watch.”  “Oh”, he said.  “My wife has one just like this.”  One of this man’s subordinates was also present for this, and said nothing.  NOTHING.  I again, walked back to my desk, reviewed my interactions with this man, and blamed myself.  This time, I decided that I’ve had enough.  From the years of, “You are so hot”, and “If you ever want to cheat on your husband, give me a call!”, and “I will take you out in the parking lot right now and f*@k your brains out!”  I was done laughing it off.  I was done accepting this.  

I had mentioned a few of my experiences to someone I thought I could trust, and unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Though I was resigned to head that way anyway, I was summoned to Human Resources, where the interrogation began.  I don’t mean for that to sound like a prison camp.  It wasn’t. It was humiliating.  It was raw.  It was awful for me to crawl back through every experience I could remember and lay it all out, bare on the desk, asking for help.  I was asked what I would like for the outcome to be of the investigation.  I remember saying, “All I really want is to do my job, and not be afraid to go to my car, or have to deal with this anymore.  I think it is fair to ask for an environment free from intimidation.”  The investigation proceeded.  I knew that executives that I have to work with directly had been briefed (and knew my identity), and I know that women from all over the company were being called to HR to discuss possible harassment.  Women who were not aware that it was me who caused the investigation would come to my desk and talk about the investigation with nothing but disdain for the woman who reported this.  “What an attention seeker!”  “I’m sure it’s one of these ugly fat chicks who no one would even look at in the first place!”  “Ugh!  This is just where we work!  Why can’t women just accept that and stop being such prudes!”  “Whoever this is, I bet she’s a real bitch!”  Most of the time, I just smiled and said, “I don’t know, maybe we should be honest about what our experiences are and not judge someone we don’t know.  It must have been pretty bad if they were brave enough to go to HR about it.”  My heart was broken.  The women I saw as allies and friends were turning their backs on me without even knowing.  

You often hear of people reporting acts of sexual crimes years after the occurance and many people start to question why.  Is this valid?  Is there an axe to grind?  Why did they wait so long.  I can tell you why.  I had everything to lose, and nothing to gain.   The sexual predators are still employed.  Every one of them.  In fact, the fellow in the watch grabbing incident came to my desk a few months later, and was looking down my pants as I sat.  I saw him with my own eyes.  I reported it to HR.  I was asked how I was dressed, if that was a possible provocation for his actions.  When he was confronted, he reported that he did not do that, and he thought I was a ‘genuinely nice person’, and was shocked that I was offended by his actions in any way.  The fellow who offered me $20 in the parking lot?  I was asked if I thought he meant it as a joke, and maybe because I was friendly with him, I should just address it with him directly.  Women do not report predatory behaviors because they are often either not believed, or told that the men were probably just joking.  Experiencing this clear violation of human dignity once is awful.  To recount it again, and be faced with the possibility of having to hash things out with the predator, when often no real actions or consequences are taken seems, at large, not to be worth it.  Every time one of these stories comes on the news, it is like PTSD.  You are put right back into that place of fear and shame.  A fleeting moment of power for the predator results in a lifetime of consequence for the victim.  Even after all of these years and all of these experiences, I still cry, I still try to alienate myself from others, and I still attempt to protect myself from every man I come in contact with, even if I know and trust him.

These are the stories of just one of my employers, and they are by far not representative of all of the incidents I’ve experienced.  It is also not to say that EVERY WOMAN will experience anything like this, or EVERY MAN is a predator.  That is just simply not true.  Predators are highly skilled at choosing victims.  They choose women who are more likely to blame themselves than to report them.  They will choose women who they think a have lower self esteem.  They will choose women who they see as weak. Interestingly enough, women don’t always stand by other women in these incidents, as I found out first hand.  It was the women who were more accusatory towards me than the men that found out about the investigation.  Another piece that I found intriguing in my experiences is that men KNOW other men are being predatory.  Men HEAR other men talking about the women they work with in a crude and inappropriate fashion, but are afraid to stand up and tell them to stop.  They are afraid of being called a p*ssy, or made fun of, or being emasculated by the same predators.  Somehow, these people just keep getting away with it.  They keep bullying those who would stand up, and when called out, deny and act contrite, or profess that it was just a joke.

For myself, as hard as it is to keep reporting it, and as difficult as it is to find the courage to stand up to these predators, I have chosen to keep going.  I will darken the doorways of HR until they are sick of seeing me.  I will continue to tell men that it is not appropriate to call me ‘sweetie’, or ‘honey’, or ‘dear’.  I will call their supervisors and inform them of the behavior and tell them I expect that it cease immediately.  I am not employed to star in their sexual fantasies.  I am not there for entertainment.  I am a human being, and as such, I have a right to dignity.  If I stay silent, they will continue to find those voiceless others who are afraid and internalize and fear them.  My courage will spread to others.  My encouragement can change the perspective.  My voice, though it is alone, will be joined by another.  And then another.  And then another.   Until our voices are too loud to ignore.  

If you are experiencing harassment, please, be brave, share your story, stand up and say no.  It is not your fault.  You did nothing to provoke or ask for this.  I would also like to point out that it doesn’t matter what you wore that day.  Men who are trash will act like trash if you are wearing burlap sack.  Do not let ANYONE victim shame you.  Do not worry about protecting the predators.  Even if you just want to share with a spouse, or a close friend, or a sister, do it.  Cleanse yourself of their bad behavior.  Don’t sit silent as their eyes wander all over your body.  Even if you don’t believe me, I believe you.  I believe your story.  I believe that you have a right to have your dignity restored.  Come, join my single voice when you are ready.  Let us be a force for change.  

“Back down the bully to the back of the bus, ‘cause it’s time for them to be scared of us!” – Third Eye Blind, Wounded

Oh yeah, of course, you are probably NOT crazy!

An open letter to my country

This weekend, a rally was planned in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a statue of a general of the Confederacy when the United States was in civil war.  The Confederacy lost.  The Union prevailed.  The Confederacy did not want to recognize slaves as people, and argued that they would be financially ruined if they were unable to obtain the free labor provided by slavery.  The Confederacy lost.  They argued that these possessions, ripped from their homeland violently, packed into the bottom of boats, shackled, beaten, malnourished…these were savages.  The Confederacy lost.  

The history of my country is shameful.  It is ugly.  It is disgraceful.  My ancestors arrived here, murdered the native inhabitants, allowed the survivors to stay on reservations (at least until vast natural resources were discovered, then nope), shipped in slaves, and basically raped and pillaged like pirates.  They didn’t ask for anything.  They took it.  “Manifest Destiny” they coined it.  The country was built upon slavery and murder, all while praising God for blessing them so richly.

I know there may be some who read this that claim I am suffering from ‘White Shame’.  To them I say that I am indeed ashamed of the cruelty that so easily passed from the hands of generations before me.  I am not afraid to call it out of the shadows and talk about it.  I am not afraid to be honest and open and totally appalled at it.  I am not afraid to recognize that there is absolutely nothing that makes this justifiable or acceptable.  But just as Germany teaches its children of the country’s original sin, and owns its history, SO MUST THE UNITED STATES!!!

Look at these faces.  Some are smug.  Some are angry.  Some are smiling, like they are at a high school bonfire.  They are carrying their torches and chanting “Blood and Soil!”  They are chanting “White is Might!”  They are chanting “TRUMP!  TRUMP!  TRUMP!”

James Alex Fields Jr told his mother he was going to a rally in Charlottesville.  She assumed it was a Trump rally.  She stated, “She didn’t like to get involved in his politics”.  He took his sporty silver car, found a street with a clear view of counter protesters, holding signs that said “Love Trumps Hate” and “Racists go home”.  Then, he sped towards that crowd, ramming another car from behind, murdering a peaceful counter protester and injuring more that 20 others.  Look at him.  Look at all of them.  These are our neighbors.  These are our cousins.  Our sons and our daughters.  Our brothers and our sisters.  These are our coworkers.

When you sat through World History in high school, and you learned about the rise of Hitler, Stalin, and Moussolini.  When you heard the story of the Jews and Blacks and Homosexuals in Germany, how they were murdered or put into concentration camps to die, or to be science experiments.  When you learned about the Japanese Internment Camps in the UNITED STATES.  Did you tell yourself that you would have stood up for your friends, for your neighbors, for your coworkers?  Did you wonder how you would react?  Did you think that you would never let fear grip you so tightly that you would silently watch these atrocities happen?

The time has come, my friends.  How are you reacting?  I live in sunny Arizona, far from what any would perceive as a conflict area.  Yet, the seedy and disgusting racist views come out in the people I least expect.  They aren’t outwardly awful.  They’re not wearing uniforms.  But once in a while, you will hear it.  “Those dirty Mexicans.”  “DEPORT THEM ALL!”  “What are you?  Are you African, or what are you?”  The FORMER Sheriff of my county, you may have heard of him, became famous for his racial profiling orders. For harassing people, just for their skin color, demanding papers, ripping families apart.  Though our county kept him in office for 20 years, we FINALLY were able to get him out.  The fact that he held office for so long tells me that there is a lot of underlying racism in my community.  Some may argue that he was a good sheriff, but let’s be honest.  The only reason that YOU know his is because of his outlandish tactics that were covered in the national news.  America’s Toughest Sheriff?  Nah.

If you are not calling people out on the spot for racism and hatred, you are part of the problem.  You have got to find the courage in yourself to not shrink back in the face of this hate speech, but call it out.  Bring it to the light.  Confront these people and tell them that patriotism is in direct conflict with white supremacy or racism.  I often wonder how some people reconcile this idea that, because they were born in a place that was farther away from the equator make them superior to any other human being, simply because they have less color in their skin.  It is time to stand up.  Find your voice and use it.  Denounce this ridiculous notion that the color of your skin determines your worth.  

  Be brave.  Find your courage.  Do what is right without fear.  These students stood inside of a crowd of angry white supremacists.  When your conscience is nagging you, listen.  Because you’re probably not crazy.