Prone To Overcorrection

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One of the most un-lovely fallouts from being chronically ill is that my life has become very small in many many ways. To my mind, I am currently in a state of extreme stasis. Equilibrium. I am finally mostly off the roller coaster of constant crashes and ER visits and horrible pain spikes and major health crises. But this has come at a price, and lately I am wondering if the price is too high.

Because I see that my family has become collateral damage to me treating myself like a fragile molecule.

Let me break that down a bit so you can understand what goes on.

I feel mostly rotten about 98% of the time. I am physically uncomfortable in varying degrees, dealing with pain that is either hurty or pretty darn severe 100% of the time.  I feel great never. So I have gotten used to avoiding anything that will exacerbate my pain or discomfort.

The problem is that this gets to be a slippery slope. Things like sitting at the table playing a board game with my kids makes me hurt. My back hurts, my neck hurts, and at some point my head will hurt worse. My nausea will escalate and I will spend the night chasing it down with meds, hoping I don’t throw up. Will I die? No. Will I need medical attention? No. Will it injure me? No. So should I suck it up sometimes and just do it? Probably. And it’s like this with a lot of activities that come up in our daily lives. From taking walks, to going out, to running various errands. If it’s at all a stretch for me I will invariably decline to do it.

I have gotten so sick and tired of feeling awful that I have gotten myself into a space where I will avoid feeling worse at almost any price. My default position is to say no to everything because almost everything makes me feel worse all the time. My life being a narrow spectrum is pretty darn fine with me as long as I just don’t feel any worse than my baseline of mediocre-ly bad. If my base pain level is a 6-7 and I am managing it and hanging on and keeping the house running, I feel like I can’t spare those extra few points on the pain scale to be a more fun mom or a more spontaneous wife.

Except I’m not the only person in the equation.

And that’s something I’ve been forgetting.

That when I say no, no, no, I’m not just limiting myself. I’m cutting off the options for everyone around me. I’m limiting fun for my husband and my kids. I’m making my husband’s world smaller and my kids’ disappointment bigger. My illness takes center stage and my failure becomes larger than life. It’s pay now or pay forever.

So my pain is more managed, but ironically my life is more out of control.

Right now I’m kind of struggling with how to fix that.

If I was a hypochondriac, or merely exaggerating, I could give myself a big fat pep talk and, heck, just smile and cheer on up my way out of this mess!! đŸ™‚

But my pain and sick is for real, and I don’t know how to make that fade enough to not scream in my face every time I try to quiet the noise.

I can do more on “good” days, but the reason I even have “good” days is because I treat myself so gently so much of the time.  For someone who was raised with “push through it” and “no pain , no gain” and “pain is weakness leaving the body”, all of this coddling is downright abhorrent. I literally used to hate and despise myself for not being tough enough to just be un-sick through sheer force of will. But I’m here to tell you, whether it’s a failure or not, all these years later, I simply cannot do it. I haven’t been able to overcome it, and it is what it is. I still can’t stand it, but I don’t seem to have a choice.

And my family’s along for the ride.

The question is, how do I make this ride as comfortable as possible for all of the passengers, now that I am reminded that I driving a bus and not a unicycle?

 

 

 

 

The Control Myth

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I just watched yet another documentary on anorexia where they posited that a main motivator for girls and young women becoming anorexic is seeking control. Under this theory, which I literally have been reading and hearing for decades, these women are seeking to control something, something, in their lives. So they control their food. They control their diets. they control their calories, they control their exercise. They control their food habits, and their food quirks, and their food rituals, and often through those food idiosyncracies they control everyone around them. In some cases they binge and they feel out of control so they purge to get back into control.

But what if that paradigm is completely wrong?

And what if that’s why anorexics so seldom get better and stay better?

Sure, lots of girls (and women) who go into treatment (end even those who don’t, but have eating disorders nonetheless) have type-A personalities. They like control. They like to excel and they want to succeed. Maybe they are perfectionists.

But I have never- and I mean never- I mean bar none, no exceptions, not a one, not a single bingle itty bitty one- met/known/or heard of any girl or woman who began an eating disorder because her life needed more control.

Every one- with no exception- started because of a weight issue. Whether real or perceived, whether objectively true or medically completely unnecessary, each and every one felt she needed to do something about the size or shape of her body. And at some point that became (through whatever process was unique to that individual) an eating disorder.

If we could rewind that life back to age 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, and wave the magic wand that would make her feel okay enough, good enough, acceptable enough, beautiful enough, curvy enough (but heaven forbid, not too much), there would never be an eating disorder. If we could create perfect bodies (hear me carefully- I’m not saying “If we could create a society that accepted all body types as equally lovely and wonderful…” That isn’t this post, although there is certainly a place for that, okay?)- but if we could creat perfect bodies, and in each school and each city and each clique that definition would be slightly different- eating disorders would vanish.

Certainly at some point a control aspect does come into play with eating disorders. But to focus on control as the vortex of the storm is like saying control is the central issue in alcoholism because an alcoholic controls what they drink, when they drink, how much they drink, how much they put away for later, who they prefer to drink with, how much ice they prefer, what cup they prefer to drink out of, if they prefer to smoke afer or with a drink, what brand(s) they like, if they have rules about drinking and driving, if they have a favorite bar, etc etc etc.

A thing I have always found ironic about eating disorder treatment is how- especially given the idea that the disease is supposedly about control- that the treatment is about wresting every drop of control away from the patient. From therapists who believe that these women are sick because they need a sense of control, in-patient treatment(granted, lives can be at stake…) on every level every minute of the day seems designed to reinforce the idea that the woman no longer is capable of controlling any aspect of her life at all. She must eat what they say, under a time limit they impose, on a schedule they set, according to a daily routine they decide on, etc etc etc. And gain the amount of weight they determine to be healthy.

Sometimes you can see at the end of a documentary, a “success” story. A woman who is clearly medicated, who seems super blissed out, who is past a normal weight and is now pleasantly plump. You know that she is in heavy therapy, probably working hard to be okay with that, but if her therapist wasn’t on speed dial or she wasn’t heavily medicated it’s likely she is or would be suicidal. Because a woman doesn’t go from so anxious about her body that she gets an eating disorder to overweight without some serious angst. Then there are the woman who appear to be a healthy weight (the majority) but who are interviewed and you hear over and over are still fighting their ED. And always one or two die.

I wonder why it is so hard for the therapeutic community to let go of the idea that eating disorders are about control. What would it mean for them to admit that what they have been doing for so many years just isn’t working (the statistics are there already, so it’s not like it’s a secret), and try something new? I can’t think of any other illness where the medical community takes one glaring symptom and makes that the central focus. Can you imagine a cancer patient only being treated for pain? Or a heart patient only being treated for fluid retention? Or a gambling addict having the main focus of his therapy being getting counseled on how not to overdraft his checking account?

It hasn’t bothered me in the past, but for some reason tonight it just sent me into overload. Maybe it’s because I have yet another child in this age group, or maybe it’s because I am just bothered by continued misunderstanding. Maybe I have just seen one too many girls falling into the abyss, and I truly hope that finally someone will wake up and get this all correct.

Even If I Never Do Anything Else…

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Last night I watched an old episode of Oprah on YouTube. It was a follow-up on a story she had done some time ago about a 6-year-old boy who had been horribly abused (I never saw the original story, but there was enough material from the original that it was absolutely clear). Among other things, the boy had been locked in a bathroom closet, chained and starved, ignored and treated horribly. At some point his 14-year-old step-sister ran away from home and when she was picked up by police she told them about the little boy being abused at home. Police sent a social worker to the home- who found no evidence of abuse (I won’t even touch on this right now)- but the original officer who had picked up the runaway found her story too honest and too compelling to simply ignore. He figured out a way to assess the boy for himself, and saw glaring evidence of abuse. He interviewed the boy and heard such a catalog of horrors that the parents (a biological father and a step-mother) were promptly arrested and tried for their crimes.

The story was publicized, and the officer received many letters commending him as a hero. When asked about his actions that day, he said something along the lines of ‘I may never accomplish another thing in my life. But at the end of my days I will know I accomplished this.’

That pretty much gave me chills.

Not only because he quite literally saved that boy’s life. But because when his pivotal moment came, he stood up and did the right thing.

I don’t know how many people when faced with an ambiguous situation choose to sit down and stay silent. Let someone else take care of it. Cower in the face of making the first move. In this case a trained social worker evaluated the situation and wrote an official report: nothing to worry about. But this officer’s gut told him different. He was worried and a child’s life hung on his decision. Be uncomfortable and possibly embarrassed, or go with the flow and don’t make waves? How many people would choose complacency over action? This man didn’t choose silence. He chose to do the right thing, and that’s what made him a hero. And for the rest of his life, he will know that when his moment came, he showed his true character. HERO.

A few days ago we were involved in a situation involving someone who had committed crimes against children. I won’t disclose details of the particular situation because they aren’t important, but what happened afterward was both perplexing and enlightening. A group of parents “decided” (and I put this word in quotes very deliberately- I will explain why in a second) that it was okay for their children to be around this man as long as another adult was present. First off, you can be darn sure that if I KNEW someone had offended against children he wouldn’t be within the vicinity of any of my kids, or any kids I had the power to protect- not with another adult present, not with me present. All it takes is the blink of an eye for one oops moment (especially in a group setting) and someone has come to irrevocable harm. And to what end? So you can show what an enlightened person you are that you don’t hold someone’s past against them? Uh, no thanks. I will take a pass on that particular lack of judgement. That person has given up the right to not be judged in that specific way. Too bad, so sad. Not on the backs of my kids, though. Shouldn’t be on the backs of any kids…

So why do I say the parents “decided”, in quotes? Because I don’t truly believe that most of those parents made a decision. I believe that in groups, people are often shamed into capitulating to things against their better judgement. If someone in leadership says here’s what we’re gonna do… Or this thing is okay… Many many people are too hesitant to say Oh, No. That most decidedly is Not Okay. So in the above scenario some person (I will hold back from extemporaizing on what I think of such a person’s character…) says publically that the offender is going to get a chance, and everyone can show how welcoming and embracing or whatever whatever they are by “accepting” this person. If someone has reservations, they feel like a big jerk to say anything, so they are shamed in to silence. And then it is presented as a group decision that someone who has harmed children is now to be included, and let’s all hold hands and group hug.

Equally often, people don’t think at all. they see what is, and simply take it for granted that Someone (ah, the great all-knowing, all-wise Someone, who we can trust so we don’t have to bother…) has thought about this and considered all angles and made the decision for us. After all, this thing is happening, so it must be right, yes? So we are content to accept the status quo, and because it seems to make sense, or usually because it just plain easier to go along or to not have to think for ourselves, we let things roll. So they roll.

In the above scenario, I got in touch with the person in charge. I said both (I’m paraphrasing) “What are you thinking?” and “Are you crazy?” The answers I got were unsatisfying, and someone asked me why I bothered. Why was I getting upset over something I couldn’t change? And why was I poking my nose where it didn’t belong?

And my answer was a variation of what that officer said, even though I hadn’t heard it at the time. Because I try to make it my habit to react in every moment in ways where if I have to look back I will know- that even if I never accomplish another thing in my life, at least I can look back on each pivotal moment and know that in that moment, I acted in a way that was right and correct. At the end of the day, you never know what action you take will make you a hero to someone, so be prepared.

And don’t be afraid to stand up.

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places

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I once knew someone who claimed to be a sex addict.

To my ears, this sounded like an excuse for poor behavior and carte blanche to indulge in things that polite society would consider unacceptable. I should probably confess now, though, that I in general suffer from a quickness to judge and a tendency to think I’m right even before I think things through all the way.

But recently this topic came up again and it got me thinking. There seem to be so many people who are searching for something. You hear about sex addictions and spread of diseases in spite of all types of education campaigns and, perhaps most troubling, very young children doing all sorts of sexual activities- often with multiple partners and sometimes right in school…

Between explicit music lyrics and movies with adult content but child-friendly ratings, there is clearly no lack of sexuality around. So it isn’t sex people are missing.

I think it’s love.

I think people are just plain lonely.

And I think in a classic error, people searching to feel Love, will instead settle for feeling love. Rather than holding out for the true emotion, people will grab hold of the fleeting sensation. After all, it’s so much easier.

But what is easily gained is easily lost, so people jump from encounter to encounter, ever in hopes of finding something that will stick, and rather than classifying themselves as Hope Addicts, they go with the much more hip sounding ‘sex addict‘.

It’s so sad that we as a society find ourselves in a place where a whole generation is so full- of materialistic possessions, of activities to fill our time, of comfort unknown to previous generations- yet so empty that we can’t seem to fill our emotional buckets.

I don’t have a solution. I think every generation has something defining that shapes its coming-of-age. I fear that this generation’s struggle may be a profound, soul-wrenching loneliness. It’s important when looking at a problem to at a minimum correctly label it before you can address it.

So maybe this is step 1?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alt What?

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In the comments section of the last post thetinfoilhatsociety pointed out that calling someone a white supremacist instead of a white nationalist is a defamatory thing. So first off, apologies if I unintentionally offended anyone.

That was a really interesting distinction to me, and the more I thought about it the more it snowballed into a larger issue I realized I wanted to discuss. A while back I was researching some things so I was reading a lot of white supremacist/ neo-Nazi websites. I listened to a ton of speeches from well-known leaders in the movement and I was very surprised at many of their positions. And the truth is, although we lay-people will tend to think of them and say “supremacist” it would often (although certainly not always) be more correct to say nationalist. As with any ideological movement, there will be a spectrum of beliefs, from those that are almost indistinguishable from mainstream views to ideas that are so extreme as to sound deliberately exaggerated to provoke horror and outrage.

Some of what I am going to say may sound like I am being an apologist for these groups, but believe me their positions are all out there and public. They make no secrets of their positions, and you may be as surprised as I was to discover how wrong I was about many things. Or, it will confirm what you already knew. Either way, what I am saying is that I am not trying to advocate for any position, only to clarify and educate. If you want to check for yourself anything I say, feel free… I have no dog in this fight.

I guess the biggest thing to do is define terms. A supremacist is someone who believes he/she is better than someone else because of the color of their skin. (For the record, you can have a white supremacist, black supremacist, and I assume any other type of supremacist as well. I’m quite certain that most groups have members who not only think theirs is the best, but can tell you without a doubt exactly which other group is the worst… Sometimes this is conscious and sometimes not. I grew up hearing Polish jokes, despite never having met a Polish person in my entire life. They are pretty much blond jokes, but the fall guy in the joke is always a Polish person. When I met my British husband these jokes made no sense to him, which was weird to me, because *everyone* *knew* about Polish people, right? But then at some point I began hearing Irish jokes from British people. Same jokes, but here the punchline is Irish people. And guess what? I didn’t get it, because what did I know from Irish people? But to British people these jokes were hilarious. And at that point I got it. This stuff was not objective Truth. It was mean-spirited comments passed off as humor. And If you grew up with it as a fact of life you might never question whether it was based in fact. But it’s all part of the message. My group is better than your group. So hahaha. What rubbish. Anyway…)

A nationalist is someone who has a tremendous sense of pride. Again, you can have white nationalists, black nationalists, nationalists of other races, and certainly nationalists of any country. A white nationalist is more concerned with uplifting his/her own race than putting down someone else’s. Because they often prefer to keep to members of their own race- and this is crucial, so please hear it- not out of hatred for other races but out of a desire to associate with those they see as having more in common and being more likely to have interests that will coincide with their own, they are often labeled as hate-mongers and worse. But someone who is a true white nationalist (as opposed to someone who merely hides behind that label as a cover for racist activity) will treat other races with dignity and respect, and want nothing but the best for them- just as they want for their own race. Wanting to be separate doesn’t imply dislike. I have a lot of friends I really like a lot, but I would never ever want them to live in my house with me. And there are plenty of people I don’t mind being around, but I respect them zero. So the two things don’t always go hand in hand. It is not hypocritical for a white nationalist to say here are the values and ideals I want for my family and my community; I don’t expect you to uphold those same standards if you don’t choose to, but please make your choices for your own community. For the record, white nationalists can be found in lots of places helping on the front lines any times they are needed (sometimes openly as white nationalists and sometimes as private citizens) during times of unrest, catastrophes, weather events, etc. Just food for thought.

With all the recent discussion about whose lives matter, it is interesting to note that the only people who are accused of being outright racists are the white lives matter folks. I have heard the argument that only white people can be racist, since only they have the power to truly commit acts of racism, and that isn’t an argument I intend to regurgitate here. I will, however, say for the record that I find it both hypocritical and disingenuous to allow certain groups preferential treatment when it comes to their rights to protest and their coverage in the media. All human life matters. End of statement. Full stop. To shade the point with pithy semantics, in the end actually DEVALUES lives instead of elevating them. Nobody should abuse another human being, nor condone the abuse of another human being, nor advocate the mistreatment of another human being.

What I was quite surprised to find out was just how many supposed “hate mongers” (i.e. white nationalists, white separatists, and so on) actually call for no such things. Yes, there are people who use the “N” word and say hateful disgusting things, no doubt. The internet is rife with speeches filled with the most vile rhetoric you can imagine (by people of all stripes and agendas, to be fair). But if you are willing to open your mind you may find there is more you don’t know than you thought. I certainly realized that was the case.

Then again, the older I get, the more I realize that is the case with most things in life.

And that’s my deep thought for the day đŸ˜‰

Welcome To Leith

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Here is a multiple spoiler alert:
#1 I am going to give away most of the plot of the documentary by this title, and
#2 This post is about a topic that is guaranteed to upset people who are easily offended.

I am not writing it to be deliberately provocative, but if you are the type who gets riled up at the mere mention of sensitive topics, I suggest you skip this post.

I have watched the documentary called Welcome to Leith multiple times. The issues it raises about civil liberties are really profound, and if you can get past your own biases enough to examine them objectively, they are quite interesting to discuss.

In VERY brief (and I may do somewhat of a hack job of explaining this in the interest of brevity, so please forgive me if I don’t get things exactly right and just go with the spirit of what I am saying…)- a well known white supremacist got a very interesting idea. He would buy land and property in a small town- so small in fact that it had about 25 residents. So small, in fact, that if he could move in enough of his friends they could control a majority interest in the local government and thus democratically vote in their own officials and vote in their own policies. So small that he could create his own white supremacist enclave out in the middle of nowhere (actually in Leith, North Dakota), and they could live how they wanted, not bothering anyone.

The problem was, it bothered the residents of Leith.

And the problem was, on a visceral level, white supremacists bother a lot of people.

So perhaps if it had been a group of vegan pacifists who had wanted to go and vote in peace, love, and happiness, nobody would have cared too much. Or had it been a group of people who wanted to form an artist colony where folks could paint and sculpt and make collages, that would have been okay. But the white supremacist thing got people’s hearts racing- and not in a good way.

All of the land purchases were done legally and above board. No attempt was made to hide anything or be secretive. And to their credit, the original plan was to make use of perfectly legal means to control a government.

But then things went kind of haywire. People started protesting the supremacists being in Leith. The citizens demanded the racists leave. But it isn’t so straightforward to demand that a law-abiding homeowner leave somewhere just because you don’t agree with their political views. The original racist brought in other groups to speak on his behalf. protesters came from far and wide to “support” the original citizens of Leith. Threats were exchanged and petty harassment against the racists escalated to outright acts of aggression and vandalism. Police seemed a little lackadaisical about protecting the racists against the harassment, and eventually the racists took things a bit too far.

They grabbed some guns and went on patrol. Had they merely stayed on their own property, this may have been okay. But they did a walkabout around the town. And they seemed to be looking for trouble. They made several provocative comments, almost wishing someone would provoke a confrontation with them so they could escalate into violence.

The two men who did this were arrested and charged with various crimes, among them some sort of terroristic threats. Though a series of legal ball-dropping and either correct or incorrect (depending on your position) application of the laws in question, the charges were dropped and the men went free. There was a cascade of fallout, which it is worth watching the documentary to see (I highly recommend watching it for many reasons).

But the overall question which I find fascinating is: should people with controversial (some would say abhorrent) views, be allowed to democratically control a government? And I guess the corollary to that is, should unpopular views be allowed to be silenced just because they are unpopular?

If you can suspend your dislike of white supremacists for a moment, let’s do a quick swap. What if a town decided that Catholicism was disgusting and completely contrary to American values? Would it be okay to run Catholics out of town? To deny them the right to buy property in a given place? To silence their voices in a democracy? Because we don’t agree with them in one area does that negate their right to have opinions or their ability to be seen as intrinsically valuable in other areas?

Could we envision for one moment a white supremacist who is also a philanthropist? What percentage of a person has to be “bad” before we discount the whole person? Can you have a Nazi humanitarian? A wife-beater who works for doctors without borders? A volunteer at the humane society who is also a sexual sadist?

Eventually the residents of Leith drove out the white supremacists, but it raises interesting questions about what we say we believe (free speech and free expression) versus what we really believe (you are free to say and express what you believe as long as I don’t find it too distasteful).

Personally I find it useful to do a gut check every once in a while to see if I am truly living in concert with my own principles. Do you?

I’m Judging How Much You Judge Me

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My son recently joined a gym where they place a certain amount of emphasis on not judging other people. In theory, I think it’s a nice idea not to be judgy (especially in a gym, where people could be intimidated to work out if they feel like people are watching them and sizing them up).

But as with most things, what starts out as a nice idea can take on the force of religious fundamentalism if one isn’t careful. ‘Hey, don’t comment on someone else’s weight’ too easily slides into things like,

“We’re sorry but we overheard you telling someone that you liked their t-shirt. Unfortunately we have a no judgement policy here, and that was a judging statement…”

In real life we have the power of discernment. When used correctly and judiciously (such a judgy word!) it helps us to navigate the world more successfully. It is quite appropriate to make decisions about things, from what cutlery to use with which course in a restaurant to whether or not to give money to a homeless person based on your judgement. Without judging there would be significantly more traffic accidents (and fatalities!), less if any people hired for new jobs (or at least many less successful candidates), and probably a whole lot of frustrating relationships with the wrong people.

Judging serves so many useful purposes and we do it so many times each day I’m surprised it was ever allowed to get such a bad wrap. It’s as if someone said to everyone in America (or the Western World) “Blinking? That’s just horrid and offensive! People shouldn’t do that! Especially in public and especially around other people!” And everyone en masse jumped on board and said “Yes!! We heartily agree! Blinking Baaaaaad!”

I understand that it is bad form to be a judgemental idiot. But I think that in polite society that sort of goes without saying. Along the lines of yes you can drive but not on the sidewalk and not where there are pedestrians. Yes you may curse in your home if that’s what you do but not in public and not around other people’s children. Yes you may eat stinky food but please brush you teeth and don’t breathe directly into someone else’s face. That sort of thing. Can’t we all just get along?

And for goodness sake, stop judging me!

 

 

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