I am Memory

My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s terifies me. I am my memories, the collection of girls and women who led to this current iteration. I am sunny days on a backyard swing set and sobbing confessions at church revivals.I am a squealing child being thrown into a swimming pool and a berserker victim daring her abusive husband to hit her already, and make leaving him easy. 

When I consider the possibility of not having access to those memories, it doesn’t make me feel relieved at the idea of forgetting my traumas. I have the feeling my body will still remember them all in the form of autoimmune disorders. I think I would have the same pain, without understanding of it. Of course, I can’t know if I’m right. 

Maybe it would be easier, not to have every act laden with meaning. Showers are trauma triggers due to a memory, so I must take baths. Nutella tastes like a happy vacation with my grandma to the Florida Everglades and banana sandwiches in the backseat of her Subaru Justy hatchback. Every No Doubt song eventually reminds me of slow dancing in the moonlight with my first boyfriend. 

Many of these memories are good, or made better through the magic of time. I watch Clueless when I want to remember the happy belonging of having close girl friends, or I smoke a clove cigarette to remember wild nights at punk shows in Sarasota. The concurrent misery of being a suicidally depressed teenager isn’t part of the nostalgia experience, and so I remember my past better than it was. 

I am my memories, and my memories are better than my life has been. I want to be the narrator of my own experience, dictator of my life. I think I was maybe five the first time my grandmother told me to let her die; that if the worst should happen no efforts should be made to keep her alive. I think she was afraid of a disabled life, and imagined she would prefer death. Maybe she’s decided her infirmity is livable, or maybe she’s forgotten she wants to die. I don’t know. I can’t. 

Author Update

Today I just want to babble to you, my readers and friends. I’ve had great difficulty writing this month, as I adjust to several new medications to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, and stomach woes. Next month I’ll add in a script for IBS symptoms as well. Overall these meds are improving my life and definitely worth taking. They are making organized thought harder to achieve. 

My thinking flow is better though. My thoughts come faster, with fewer suicidal intrusions. I am more able to carry a thought from its birth to fruition now, though writing down how I got there seems harder. I have a half dozen fractured starts of posts, with bits and pieces but no segues tying them together. It is that cohesive work I struggle with the most. 

I am reading again, history books and novels. I had given up that pastime a year ago as eyestrain was causing migraines. An eye exam is in my future and possibly a pair of eyeglasses. I had forgotten how pleasurable reading can be, or how quiet.  I’d been relying on movies and TV when I couldn’t read, and drowning out the sound of birdsong. 

I decided 2017 was the year I would take control of my failing health, and I am doing so. I have a nurse practitioner, a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a dentist. I’ve never had so many medical providers at once before. I am dragging myself to at least two appointments a week, and I am finally getting help for chronic conditions I’ve had for more than two decades. It is long overdue. 

All these positive steps are coming at a cost of time, energy, and writing opportunity. I am not producing as much content as I was before, as much as I’d like to, or as much as I need to in order to pay my bills. My goal is to address my health first, while featuring guest posts from friends and soliciting extra donations from you my readers (give to angieantitheist@gmail.com via PayPal), and resume a full writing schedule as I am physically and mentally able to do so. 

Thank you for your continued support! 

Happiness?

Content note: this post mentions suicidal thoughts in nondescriptive ways, but no plans or attempts or glorification.

A bit over a month ago I started taking a new (for me) antidepressant, Effexor. I have had depression my entire life, and I can’t remember a time before it. My upbringing was a catalog of Adverse Childhood Experiences and my brain chemistry seems to have come preset with imbalances. So understand what a big deal it is when I say that I am happy. 

According to Veto Violence’s reporting on a recent study of adverse childhood experiences, ACEs are linked to depression, drug abuse, school drop out, job challenges, chronic diseases, and early death. I’m five out of six so far, and only 34 years old so the last one is still possible. I have never had sustained happiness before. 

I’ve always had things that could make me happy in the moment: petting a cat, belting a song, and before I was a mother, quite a few recreational drugs. What I didn’t have, or even understand was possible, was a sense of contentment that persisted from one moment to the next. I thought idly of suicide every time I was bored.  

I haven’t ruminated about suicide in a month. I haven’t had the unwelcome intrusive thought “I wish I was dead” in a month. I used to have it every time I remembered an unaffordable utility bill (still unpaid), with every painful bowel movement, and at least four times every day. During my menstrual period it might happen hourly. The voice in the back of my head wanted to die. 

It’s my period week right now, and it has been 22 years this month since my very first period (April Fools Day 1995). This is the first time in 22 years that I have not spent at least 25% of a month wanting death. I had no idea how calming and peaceful the absence of that refrain could be. I didn’t know I could not want death. And now I am starting to want life. The right medication for your chemistry is world changing. 

Estranged Parents and Adult Children 3/3

I am a daughter and a mother, so I can understand this from both sides. Parents run the gamut from nurturing providers to neglectful abusers, with most somewhere in between. We are all going to fail some of the time. The inherent, imbalanced, dependent relationship children have with their parents means parents will have more to apologize for than our minor children will. 

Children have many material and emotional needs and it is the sacred duty of parents to meet those needs. We will fail sometimes. Sometimes we will feel burdened and overwhelmed by the responsibilities, the constant needs, and the emotional demands of our children. It is important to remember that meeting these needs, emotional or material, is obligatory, and that it does not create a debt. 

 Children do not owe their parents for food and shelter and basic provision. Children do not owe their parents love or contact for gifts or for a lack of neglect. If you’re an estranged parent and want to make things right, ask who this is for, and what you can offer your child, and whether you can accept your adult child making choices you don’t approve of. If you’re looking for absolution, find a priest. Forgiveness is another debt you are not owed for your age. 

Some parents are downright abusive, or neglectful, or absent.  No child of such a home owes their parents contact, forgiveness, or caretaking. If your parents treated you like dirt, or if pretending they’re already dead makes your life easier to bear, you are allowed to offer as little contact, forgiveness, or caretaking as you want, including none at all. If you treated your child like dirt, own it. And recognize you might have to sit with it alone. 

For adult children: You can decide you want no contact, and enforce it with restraining orders if necessary. You can reach out despite your lack of duty, and say what you’d like from your parent to try for a new outcome. You can set firm boundaries about when, where, and for how long any given contact will be, and which behaviors will terminate those boundaries. You are allowed to have minimum standards for how you will be treated. 

Estranged Parents and Adult Children 2/3

The message “mend fences with your parents before they die” is time specific. It does not suggest bridging the gap when you want to and your therapist agrees you’re ready. It’s not based on a milestone in the adult child’s life like college graduation or the birth of their first child. It’s not even urgent for adults with younger, healthier parents. It is focused on end of life, illness and old age. 
Women are socially trained from birth to apologize, to be generous, to forgive, and to be deferential. Men are not. They are taught to blame their woes on outside forces or agents – luck, a crooked ref, or some woman.  A guilt laden appeal to emotion like “make it right before they die is far more likely to stir the heightened conscience of a woman than the dampened one of a man. 

Men do not generally engage in relationship maintenance work, like sending holiday cards, remembering birthdays and food allergies, bringing casseroles around to friends with new babies and new bereavements, and listening to the struggles of their loved ones. Men partnered with women usually delegate that work, and single men end up very lonely in old age whether divorced or widowers. 

Between teaching men that nothing is their fault and allowing them to shirk interpersonal responsibilities, this culture does not prepare men to repair broken relationships. Because of lifelong social messaging and assigned gender roles, women and femmes will be far more likely to respond to these messages as intended: to stop rocking the boat, kiss and makeup, and devote countless thankless unpaid hours to caring for that parent. 

In the United States the majority of unpaid caretaking of relatives of any age falls to women. It’s somehow expected that a woman will care for her aging parents, and also her husband’s. In combination with social norms which punish women for not appearing nurturing and generous, and the expectation women will provide quality intimate home health care, this appeal for reconciliation between estranged children and parents resembles a recruitment ad for unpaid caretaking. 

From this perspective, cultural messages urging adult children to make nice seem very one-sided, and sexist in outcome. Whether confession, forgiveness, or nursing care, I can easily understand what an aging parent might gain from reconciliation. What is not so clear is any benefit to the child, beyond avoiding foretold regret for not repairing a broken relationship. And “repair” often simply means accepting that parent how they are. 

Estranged Parents and Adult Children 1/3

There is a common message in my culture to adult children of estranged parents: Make things right because those parents will die someday, and then it will be too late. This idea rests on several premises. First is the assumption the audience of this message still has living parents. Second is the apparent impossibility of children dying before their parents. The third is the notion any rift is the child’s responsibility to repair. 

You can find examples of this message in books and movies, and in every medical drama ever on television. You can also find it on sites like Caring.com where the “expert answer” to someone’s query over how to handle an estranged father’s request for contact pushes it heavily. The site official is listed as an attorney and journalist on aging issues, not a therapist, yet felt  qualified to give an answer based on presumed feelings. 

“You have a long and strained history to overcome when you make this hard call. But you will never be sorry that you did it – and would surely regret the opportunity you could miss to get what the shrinks sometimes too glibly call ‘closure’. Make the call to your father about him, not about you… Find out what he might have regretted or lamented the most about your relationship, then find it in your heart to be compassionate and forgive wrongs and imagined wrongs from the past. And resist any temptation to rehash them.

The (aging) expert is fortune telling, claiming to surely know what action the petitioner would regret, despite not knowing what caused the rift. It’s hard to understand what closure can be found in making the reconciliation about the parent, and not “rehashing” old injuries. Nowhere does this elder-centric advice take into consideration the regrets and lamentations of the adult child, or their need for forgiveness. This is a death bed confession, designed to ease the conscience of the parent before they meet their maker. 

This is not about the closure needs of the adult child, and in general ii don’t think the message is. While appeals to future regrets are common components, they are one sided. Where is the advice to aging parents to make things right with their estranged children before they die, or before they need caretaking, or before dementia makes the task impossible? Nowhere to be found. 
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Men Sexualize Everything 3/3

This post makes reference to sexual harassment and assault. 

Men sexualize our traumas and our mental illnesses. They say things like “The messed up ones are the best lays” and laugh about all the “crazy” women they’ve been with. They sexualize and blame women for having”daddy issues” and feel entitled to women who aren’t “broken”, no matter how many they have shattered. 

Men sexualize our sexual histories, whether they range from virginity to years of sex work, and whether that history was consensual or not. They sexualize the mythical power of their penis to make a woman unclean by its touch. They sexualize the process of so degrading a maiden. They celebrate a woman’s pain in sex as proof of their manhood, not her lack of pleasure. 

Men sexualize our intellect and knowledge, and pornify librarians instead of giving them the respect such defenders of civil liberties deserve.  They sexualize and sexually harass women in STEM, women in the arts, women athletes, women in customer service. They openly suggest accomplished women slept their way to the top, but don’t recognize how many unethical male supervisors a woman would need to bed to do that, or that men can be unethical. 

Men sexualize what we eat and drink, and how we eat and drink it. Lollipops, chewing gum, popsicles, ice cream cones, bananas, and hot dogs, of course, but also anything with a straw, or red meat, or shellfish. Women’s appetites, whether large or small, are sexualized too. In video game physics, our very breathing is sexualized. 

Men sexualize every facet of our beings, from praying on our knees to reaching the pinnacle of our careers. After forcing their perverted gaze on everything we do, everything we eat, every way we move, and everything we say, they have the gall to conclude that we are too sexual. We are Eve come to tempt them, Bathsheba come to seduce them, and Delilah come to steal their strength: castrating bitches, all.

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