On Self-Care and Working Smarter by @Durre_Shahwar.

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 25.09.16
About a month ago, I was a blubbering mess. Everything in my life was seemingly going well, but I felt restless and dissatisfied from within and I couldn’t work out why. I even tweeted a few HELP ME statuses that I deleted, yet not before a friend of mine saw them and reached out to me, asking if I was alright. I tried explaining to her how I was swamped. How really, there was nothing wrong, but I was just feeling swamped and somewhat vulnerable to the world. We had an open conversation and I realised I’ve been doing this self care thing all wrong. In fact, I hadn’t been doing it at all.

Self care; those words that get hashtagged at the end of an seemingly indulgent Instagram photo so we feel we are justified in doing whatever pleasurable experience or activity we photographed. And that is important. Pleasure is important. Having a day off and going to the spa is important. But I was making self-care into another task on my to-do list, without setting aside time for it. I was working harder, not smarter, because society applauds women who are able to work 5 days a week, keep house, husband and still look fabulous. (“NO IT DOESN’T”, I hear you scream. Yes, it does. Read this article).

I had been working harder because I thought ‘working smarter’ was just another one of those trends that sound good but make no sense. I had been working harder because that has been my motto ever since I was a teenager, mapping out exactly the amount of degrees I would do and in what and what jobs they’d lead me to, because I believed that’s what I had to do if I was to ‘make something of myself’. I’ve been seeing fun as instant gratification, and working hard as future gratification that I can cash in later. Except the harder I work, the quicker time goes by and I don’t get much closer to what I want. And I carried on doing this because I didn’t know what ‘self care’ or ‘working smarter’ really meant.


Lorna Simpson, 5 Day Forecast, 1991


Read more On Self-Care and Working Smarter by @Durre_Shahwar.

Crazy at The Not Me

Cross-posted from: The Not Me
Originally published: 25.03.15

I have been cross-posting my writing on The Huffington Post Blog for a while, but until1972.181.9_1.tif recently, no one had commented on any of my pieces. That changed last month, when The HP posted my story about rape. All of sudden, dozens of comments piled up at the bottom of this one essay.

Almost all of the responses were supportive and empathetic, and many people shared their own stories. Some commenters, however, used the space to express their belief that girls and women have a duty to protect themselves. They argued that “predators pray [sic] on easy targets,” and that there are certain situations “where even ‘no’ has no meaning.”
Read more Crazy at The Not Me

I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THERAPY. by @thewritinghalf

Cross-posted from: The Writing Half
Originally published: 13.12.16

Your teeth hurt badly, you go to the dentist. Your back’s killing you, maybe the osteopath or perhaps the chiropractor. Some other physical pain: probably the GP. And when your mind is troubling you?

 

carrie-in-therapyNo matter that the Sex and the City girls – and everyone else in Manhattan – were going to therapy way back in 1999, it’s still not a likeable answer for many of us in 2016.

 

Carrie and her friends, just like me, are in the social bracket that generally have a more positive attitude to getting professional help when our minds get ill: caucasian, female, 20s-30s, culturally assimilated, educated.

Just like Carrie and her friends, I’ve done the therapy thing. Four rounds of it to date, in fact. 
Read more I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THERAPY. by @thewritinghalf

A guide to completing additional questions for Personal Independence Payment by @JayneLinney

Cross-posted from: Jayne Linney
Originally published: 01.02.17

Follow this link for a very comprehensive PIP guide  which focuses on examples that you could for the additional information boxes.

Often people with disabilities or long term illness get so use to living with pain and discomfort that they do not realise how much their disability affects they everyday life.

Please share as widely as possible

capture

 

 

Jayne LinneyI’m a disabled woman, a life long feminist and Social Activist- I write from a personal perspective, usually about the current Political climate and its affects on disabled people. Director of DEAEP – Social Enterprise run by and for disabled people. @JayneLinney

5 Do’s and Don’ts For Communicating With The Chronically Ill by @GoddessKerriLyn

Cross-posted from: FOCUS: Feminist Observations Connecting Unified Spirits
Originally published: 23.09.16

When you love someone who’s chronically ill, it’s hard to see them in pain and you (naturally) want to help. But intent is not the same as impact. Sometimes your well-intentioned efforts to assist can result in our feeling frustrated that you just don’t “get it.”  Follow these Do’s and Don’ts to improve communication with the chronically ill person in your life.

Do’s:

1. Actively listen to us. Give us your full attention without rehearsing what you’re going to say. Let there be silences and pauses in between our sentences without making us feel rushed. Try not to insert a story about yourself or how our pain reminds you of someone else.  Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give us.
Read more 5 Do’s and Don’ts For Communicating With The Chronically Ill by @GoddessKerriLyn

The power of words in an age of anxiety by @AliyaMughal1

Cross-posted from: Aliya Mughal
Originally published: 19.02.16

“The magic of escapist fiction is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armour, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better. It’s a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better armed than when you left.”

Neil Gaiman beautifully articulates the essence of why reading is such an indispensable pastime in those moments when reality lets us down.

Gaiman was referring to how his 97-year-old cousin, a Polish Holocaust survivor and teacher, had escaped into the world of books during the Nazi occupation. For her and the pupils she secretly read stories to, books, forbidden at the time, provided a soul-saving gateway into a place that for a few precious moments, freed their minds from the shackles of their daily existence.

Liberating the mind can be both a vital and yet seemingly impossible task in the worst moments of mental anguish. Depression, for instance, has the overwhelming capacity to trap people in a vicious cycle of interminable horror.

The question of whether books can provide relief in the context of mental health is one that’s usefully being explored in Future Learn’s latest course, Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing, a surprisingly rare offering that combines a traditionally academic field with the psychological element of the health sciences.

One of the questions posed in the opening survey for learners is that of why and where they read, “to pass the time” being one of the multiple choice answers.

It’s interesting to explore what is meant by this. The act of reading as means of passing the time sounds at first like a passive one, pursued for the sake of just getting through the day.

But for many people who suffer under the “daily rain” of depression, simply getting through the day can be a major victory.

Pause for thought

The social and psychological value of books isn’t a new idea. It was raised in Aristotle’s Poetics, where the concept of catharsis was explored in terms of the impact of tragedy to purge us of emotions, specifically pity and fear. The definition of catharsis is still debated but the essential idea of using the words of others to reveal something of ourselves to ourselves is one that has prevailed through the ages.

Jack Lankester, an English teacher for whom the sonnets of Philip Sidney provided a sense of fellowship and solace when he experienced heartbreak, describes the restorative power of poetry in a way that reflects this idea of a cathartic experience:

“I believed in my naivety that no one had ever been as heartbroken as I was. No one understood… When I started reading him, the penny dropped in that instant, I felt wildly less alone. And the fact that he had been writing these poems 500 years ago, really did make me realise that being heartbroken or sad or lost is in many ways inevitable. And it’s a part of the human condition.”

Far from being a passive experience then, reading poetry is a means by which we can intimately and consciously engage with the essence of what it means to be human. It’s a precious counterpoint to the modern day fixation on lives that ought to be in continual motion, racing from one day, one achievement, one love, one, one feeling, one thing, one experience to the next.

One of the poems I find myself going back to again and again for this very reason, and for its own wonderfully lyrical sake, is Dew Light, by WS Merwin:

Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age

As Stephen Fry, who also features in the Future Learn course, says: “There is so much nutrition inside the best poems.”

 

Aliya Mughal : I’m a dedicated follower of wordsmithery and wisdom in its many guises. Reader, writer, storyteller – if there’s a thread to follow and people involved, I’m interested. I’ve built my life around words, digging out the stories that matter and need to be told – about science, feminism, art, philosophy, covering everything from human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, to famine and the aid game in Rwanda, to how the intersection of art and science has the power to connect the disparate forces of humanity with the nanoscopic forces of our sacred Earth. Find me @AliyaMughal1

The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Cross-posted from: Murder of Goths
Originally published: 06.06.16

This is a subject that comes up a lot within the body positive plus size community, a hell of a lot. And it’s always controversial.

Weight loss.

There tend to be two camps.

On the one side – weight loss has no place within the body positive community, we are bombarded daily with messages from both society and the media about how we should be losing weight, about how weight loss is Great Goal and how losing weight is an amazing applause worthy achievement. Can we not just have one bloody space where our bodies are loved and cared for without having to dodge diet talk?

On the other – it’s a personal choice to lose weight, and therefore no one else gets a say.
Read more The Big Bad Anti-Diet Brigade by @MurderofGoths

Abortion: My 13 Year Secret

(Cross-posted from Helen Blogs)

Her name would have been Sophie.
His name would been Jack.

She/he would have been 13 now. A teenager.
A teenager who would probably have been grounded a few times by now, if they had taken after me anyway. A teenager who probably had a girlfriend or boyfriend. A teenager who would have started secondary school and hopefully be thinking about what subjects to take for GCSE’S. A teenager who hopefully wouldn’t be making the same mistakes as I did.

I often wonder what Sophie or Jack would have looked like. Would they have looked me? Would they have looked like him? Would they have had blue eyes, brown eyes, blond hair, brown hair, black hair. Would they have been tall, short, slightly built or more well built like me?
Would they have been quiet and calm, or loud and boisterous? Would they have been activists at heart like their mother and father were?

I often wonder what they would have been like.

And I, especially most recently regret massively the fact that Sophie or Jack only lived for a very short amount of weeks, inside my body.

And that I made the decision to not continue their life.

I made the decision to have an early abortion. Distinguishing the life that was starting to grow inside of me.
Why am I writing this blog? Why am I telling you this?
Why after 13 years of total silence am I breaking that silence and speaking out?
Why after years of pro choice believing am I about to probably upset some people off by saying out loud that I cannot think anything other now than that life is precious, life starts at conception, and the life I carried did not deserve to be aborted.
Why after years of silence am I writing about the abortion that I had that will probably upset some of you reading this who have faithfully followed my writing and blogs online over the years and feel like you know me?
Why after years of silence am I sharing this that will probably get the Pro Life tweeters online condemning me and my actions because in their seemingly graceless world that is what they feel they should do (with the exception of a couple of people I’ve recently tweeted with whose brutal grace put tears into my eyes)

Why after years of silence am I telling you this?

The simplest answer is because it feels like I have come full circle.
When I first started blogging years ago it was a space to write about the things I could not vocalise. It was a space to write the things that my head was screaming but that I could not express whilst sitting in front of someone. And as life changed, so did I, and as I battled life, I wrote about it. ‘Fragmentz’ the identity was created, as a blog and as a tweeter. And I talked/wrote about life. And was grateful for the support I gained and received through that season from people I didnt know as I often went to places that were uncomfortable for folks, and where there were ‘no holds barred’ so to speak.

When I became a Christian again in October 2013 life changed. So did the need to write anonymously about absolutely everything in my life that had and was happening. And I started to explore life as a more ‘cohesive’ person, joining together the ‘Fragmentz’ who could only discuss the horrors of the past online with strangers (and a very small handful of people offline who didn’t live locally to me) with ‘Helen’ who had found a community safe enough/close enough offline to start exploring them properly face to face with people.
Blogging took a back seat a bit, and I started to write much less about what was going on and what I was experiencing. I remember some of you (people I’ve connected with solely online over the years) being quite hurt when I chose not to record/blog/publish transcripts of my baptism last year. I got to a place where whilst I love and need my online relationships I also needed privacy and space to explore and ‘do life’ in relationship with people offline. Something that was a different experience for me, and at times VERY challenging. I discovered it is one thing being ‘vulnerable’ online via twitter and a blog and a totally different thing being totally vulnerable face to face with people offline.
To look people, people I was learning to trust and can say I do trust now, in the eyes and be vulnerable with. It was tough.

But its what has happened. And it has been life changing. Life giving.

A few months ago during one of my many hospital stays which seem to be frequent at the moment I remember spending most of the time reading my Bible and praying. And felt a real sense of needing to ‘complete’ what had been started in terms of vocalising my story.
A real need to complete what had been started by God in terms of accepting who I am as a person and my past.
I felt like God was saying to me that if I was going to die then I needed to have made my peace fully with Him. And in that moment realised that IF I was going to die that I didn’t want to die with out having ‘become’ right with Him. Fully.

And that my ‘story’ was largely about what people had done to me. It was about the abuse as a child. The rape as an adult. And other stuff in-between, like the self harming, down ward spirals of depression and the overdose. The consequences of what happened to me.

But what I also realised was that my ‘story’ needed to become about things that I have done too.
I’ve needed to forgive much over the years, but I have also needed to be forgiven of much too.

My ‘story’ needed to include the realisation and acceptance that I have made mistakes. Huge massive big deep profound heart ripping mistakes that have held me condemned for many years.

A mistake that some people who identity as ‘pro life’ would call murder.
A mistake my pro choice friends and people I’ve identified with for years would call a choice I had every right to make.

But as I’ve journeyed life with people, offline, I’ve journeyed what it means. Life. What ‘life’ means. And being part of the lives of people who have become pregnant and carried their babies until they have been born, and seeing that process made me reevaluate my thinking. I remember the day when someone who has become an amazing friend showed me her first scan picture of the baby they longed for for so long. I could have cried. And just kept looking at it going ‘oh my God, theres its nose, feet, toes’ etc. It was so clear.

I realised in that moment, that very moment, in the pub over lunch that day looking at that scan picture, that having always been a pro life thinker (life in every shape or form, including the life of animals which was my big activist heart back then) I had become ‘pro choice’ in order to live with what I had done. Because by having an abortion I had gone against everything I believed in.
I had gone against the fact that I once believed life is life and is so from the moment it is conceived. I had gone against believing that all life, including the life of animals deserved to live.
And to live with myself I made myself believe that the baby I had aborted was not a baby. Just a mass of cells. Just a thing. Just a fetous. With no heart beat. With no feelings. With nothing. I made myself believe it was not life.
And I closed my heart and my head down. In order to survive. Which is what I’ve had to do numerous times over the years.

In order to be the ‘survivor’ that my twitter profile says I am, I had to close my heart and head down many many times to the horrors of life, in order to just keep on going. In order to take that one more step in front of another. In order to just make the day through. In order to live.

My baby has always been called Jack or Sophie though. So perhaps I didn’t close my head and my heart completely. Just enough to survive. Because if I believed what I had done was perhaps not the best thing back then I don’t know how I would/could have carried on.

But I also know, back then I didn’t know how I could/would have carried on when I discovered I was pregnant.
My living situation was volatile and difficult. The situation with my ‘boyfriend’ difficult. He didn’t care. I remember the day I told him, and he told me he didn’t care. I could do what I liked. I could have an abortion. He did not want to know. I could have the baby. He did not care or want to know. A week later he text me and told me to not contact him again, changed his phone number and ‘moved on’. (He lived from house to house with friends). He disappeared from my life. I’ve never seen or heard from him again.
I felt if I had gone to some of the Christians I knew at that time that they would have been more concerned about my ‘sin’ than anything. And shocked that Helen had got herself pregnant. Whether or not that would have happened I don’t know. But I felt it would.

I was alone. Totally alone. I was drinking a lot. Self harming. And still battling with other peoples behaviour towards me.
I had no money. No support. No where to go.
I was alone.
I felt like I simply could not bring a child into the chaotic world I lived in. Into the chaotic world my mind was. Into chaos.
I went alone to the clinic that day.
I went alone into the room to see the Dr’s, with just the nurse whose name I don’t even know alongside to get the medication I needed to take. I went back the day after, alone.
I walked in alone. And I walked out alone. I walked the next few days alone.

And I’ve continued to walk this particular walk alone. I’ve held this secret, alone. For 13 years.
And as I’ve come to value life more and more over the last 12 months the more painful the choice I made that day has become.
The more the condemnation and shame has hit.

The stronger I’ve got especially over the last year, the more I’ve come to realise life can be lived fully, the more Ive journeyed with people offline in community, the more I’ve become part of peoples lives, and the more they’ve become part of my life the more I’ve come to realise I don’t want to carry secrets. Because with those secrets come shame. And the condemnation. And the feeling that what I did could never possibly be forgiven by anyone. And if you read the tweets from pro life tweeters online you would be led to believe that it can’t be forgiven.

But thats not the case.
One of my favourites quotes is by Brene Brown. It is ‘shame cannot survive being spoken and met with empathy’.
And I discovered I needed to speak my shame.
And so I did. At the end of last year.
I spoke my shame.
I spoke my shame to the handful of close friends who have journeyed with my over the the years who I simply could not do life without. I spoke my shame to them fearful that this might be the ‘last straw’ in what they could cope with – having thrown lots at them.
I spoke my shame to my immediate church leaders, who have journeyed the last 18 months with me, whose baby girl changed so much of my thinking, fearful that this might the ‘one’ thing that would make them think ‘that Helen, she is too much’.
I spoke my shame to my church Pastor fearful that this would change his thinking of me, that he would treat me differently, that he would tell me this was the one thing that God could not forgive. That he would not want me in his church any more.
I spoke my shame to God.
I spoke my shame, to them all. Fearful of rejection.

But in that speaking of my shame, I discovered freedom. It wasn’t instant. But I found it.
I discovered I was wrong. Wrong to expect rejection which has been such a big part of my life, from the people I love. And who I have discovered and finally(!) accepted love from. I discovered that in speaking my shame to them, they were able to respond with love. And empathy. And its changed me.
I have discovered that despite there being absolutely nothing left to hide now, no part of my ‘story’ unspoken that these people, these friends that have become my family still love me. Still accept me. And still want to walk with me.

And I discovered I could speak my shame to God, who already knew it anyway, and still come to Him.

The last few months have been a painful journey.

The last few weeks have been a revolutionary journey.

With experiences of God that I simply cannot put into a blog, so personal and profound, that have made me fully realise and accept that I have been forgiven. And if I am gong to die, tomorrow because I’m hit by a bus or if I’m going to die because my respiratory system shuts down during an asthma attack and I can’t breathe any more, or if i’m going to die because my immune system is not working properly and my white blood cells are so high there could be something much more serious going on than we know about then actually that is OK.
It IS OK in as much as I am at peace now. I am at peace with my story. All of it. I am at peace with the people who have hurt me. I am at peace with the decisions and mistakes I have made.
If I am to die, I am at peace with God.

I have forgiven much. I have been forgiven much.

And so as I said above, we have come full circle. Having journeyed this journey over the last fews months, offline, it feels right to journey it with people online now. It feels right to speak out to people who have followed and supported me via twitter and fragmentz/helenblogs and to be fully open and transparent. Honest. About who I am as a person.

If you have shared my blogs/tweets over the year’s I’d be grateful if you were able to share this one. Because I want as many people as possible who have had contact with me to know who I am. What I have done and where I am at.

It feels especially right to be sharing this now because more recently I’ve had an influx of ‘pro choice’ and ‘pro life’ tweets being put into my timeline due to the political status in the States, and some big pro life marches that have recently taken place there.
It feels especially right to publish this blog, a blog I’ve actually written over quite a few times over months now because I am desperate to see more grace, especially within the pro life movement. A movement that seems to forget the life of the mother. A movement that online especially comes across as far more concerned with condemnation than anything else.
I beg you, if you, like I am now, are a pro life thinker that you consider love, and grace and mercy as you tweet what you tweet and say what you say.
Remember as well as the life of a baby you are ‘protecting’ you have the life of a woman to think about too.
And she deserves more than being shamed and condemned.

If you are reading this having had an abortion, there is no condemnation. you are loved.

Thank you for reading.

This is it.
This is me.
This is my story.

Women’s health: the patriarchal paradox at Femme Vision

(Cross-posted from Femme Vision)

‘Health – bounding saucy health – is the fountain from which all true beauty springs.’1

This quote, from The Girl’s Own Book of Health and Beauty, sums up the perception of girls’ and women’s health in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A woman’s health was never just about her physical condition, but was related to her mental health and, most importantly, her appearance.

The commonly held view, propagated by ‘experts’ such as Dr. Henry Maudsley, was that girls had a finite store of energy, which needed to be reserved for the processes of pregnancy and childbirth. Any woman who was too active before marriage would exhaust this supply of energy, making for a weak, frigid and mentally deficient adult.

Some medical professionals and social commentators used this popular belief as an argument to petition against women’s education, for example, Maudsley, who wrote of the ‘excessive mental drain as well as the natural physical drain’ caused by school or college study.2 For women to reach the ideal of motherhood, therefore, and produce many strong and healthy children, the safest and most healthy pre-marriage lifestyle involved remaining in the home, inactive except when engaging in sedentary, non-intellectual pastimes.

The ‘New Girl’

In the post-First World War era, however, the ideal image of female health and beauty underwent a radical revision and the ‘New Girl’ emerged. Sport and outdoor activity were encouraged and beauty was linked with physical strength and the shapeliness that comes from regular exercise. Bodily beauty was linked with sexual attractiveness, and the role of the wife as a sexual partner, rather than as a mother, was emphasised, placing value on youth and women’s responsibility for their own lives and winning a husband.

The link between health and sexual attraction persists in our current popular culture. Newspapers and magazines promote diet and exercise, primarily in order to achieve a desirable body.  Even in supposedly health-focussed publications, physical shape and appearance, not intrinsic health, is the real subject of the advice, as a recent blog piece on the magazine, Women’s Health, points out.

Despite the more than 100 years that have passed since Gordon Stables published The Girl’s Own Book of Health and Beauty, we are still transfixed by the idea that health is linked with appearance. In the media, women promote health products to other women through their appearance; we should be attractive, active, always striving for self-improvement and always, always thin (yet still constantly engaged in an on-going effort to lose weight). Furthermore, we are also responsible for each member of our family’s health. Possibly the only indulgent product women are ever seen to promote is chocolate, which is represented as a guilty, sexualised pleasure to indulge in secretly (see every Galaxy ad ever made).

However, while women are placed as instigators and protectors of their own and their family’s healthy eating habits, advertising aimed at men encourages indulgence in laziness and greed through the consumption of unhealthy drinks, snacks and junk food.  But despite the preoccupation with women’s health in the media, it is the bad eating habits in men promoted by such gender-specific marketing that have been blamed for a far greater cancer risk in men than women. Yet the stereotyped images persist.

Doctor knows best

The late 19th century saw the development of obstetrics and gynaecology as discrete specialisms, opening a new market in the medical landscape. The effect of this was that doctors now had even greater control of women’s bodies, administering questionable and barbaric treatments for disorders such as epilepsy and ‘hysteria’. For example,  genital massage and the development of the vibrator for the treatment of hysteria, or Dr. Isaac Brown Baker, who claimed success in treating epilepsy and other nervous disorders in female patients by excising the clitoris. In the case of the development of the vibrator, as Rachel P. Maines highlights, ‘Doctors were a male elite with control of their working lives and instrumentation, and efficiency gains in the medical production of orgasm for payment could increase income.’

At this time, the female anatomy was shrouded in mystery. As Maines points out, Thomas Laqueur says that physicians writing of anatomy ‘saw no need to develop a precise vocabulary of genital anatomy because if the female body was a less hot, less perfect, and hence less patent version of the canonical body, the distinct organic, much less genital, landmarks mattered far less than the metaphysical hierarchies they illustrated.’ Therefore, treatment for women was much more fluid, experimental and ambiguous; for the female patient it all came down to trust in the physician’s knowledge and methods.

The image of the doctor as profit-focussed businessman, who capitalises on the lack of knowledge of his patients is reflected in the recent case in Bluegrass Women’s Healthcare Centre, where the owner pleaded guilty to misbranding non-FDA approved forms of birth control. In addition to the immorality and illegality of this action, the fact that these were intrauterine devices adds an extra level of violation. Women, against their will had had a potentially dangerous object placed inside them by someone they should be able to trust.

The paradox

Women’s health, therefore, has always been a strong preoccupation for patriarchal society. The womb is seen as public property and the health of its owner crucial to the that of the society as a whole. Though we are now somewhat more scientifically informed, many of the beliefs around women’s health of the late 19th and early 20th centuries persist today. We still equate women’s health with sexuality, and place the responsibility for the wellbeing of the family, and therefore society as a whole, on women’s shoulders.

Yet, ironically, it is often women that suffer the most when it comes to cuts in health services. Take this open letter from a resident of Ravalli county in the US, in which commissioners voted to eliminate funding to women’s healthcare. To these commissioners, the woman writes, ‘somewhere down the road you may meet a woman who has no hair and less hope due to an advanced breast cancer that, if you had voted differently, could have been caught earlier’. And elsewhere in the US, politicians have been accused of backing policies that are anti-women’s health.

In the UK, a discussion on the BBC’s Woman’s Hour on NHS funding for IVF revealed that 50% of those polled believed that, as a non-emergency treatment, the NHS should not fund IVF at all. Of course, access to IVF is not something that solely affects women but this is another area in which women can be attacked and made to feel guilty about their health. By taking away the universal right to fertility treatment (even just by raising the question in discussion), the message is sent that if you cannot conceive naturally your health must be at fault and you must live with the consequences. The technology that has been developed that could help you can only be accessed by the elite.

This shows that, when it comes to women’s health, there has really been very little progress made since Victorian times. Evidence shows that, when and where there are resources and a market in which to make a profit, women are made to feel their health is imperative, and that there is something inherently unstable in being a woman that makes her mind and body vulnerable to disease, which must be remedied with medicine without question. However, when resources are scarce, it is women’s healthcare that is the most dispensable.

References

  1. Gordon Stables, The Girl’s Own Book of Health and Beauty, London: Jarrold and Sons, 1891.
  2. Henry Maudsley, ‘Sex in Mind and in Education’, Fortnightly Review, 15, 1874, 466–83.

Fertility and the media – unravelling the hype at Femme Vision

(Cross-posted from Femme Vision)

Each week in the UK, news and feature pieces on fertility, pregnancy and childbirth proliferate in the mainstream media, in tabloids and broadsheets alike. Stories based on results of clinical studies on topics such as advances in fertility treatment, practices to ensure a healthy pregnancy and so on appear on a regular basis. But how accurately is the science being interpreted, how much is being omitted and how misleading are some of the headlines?

Headlines such as ‘1 in 3 will be infertile in 10 years’ (Daily Mirror, June 2005) and ‘Babies given Calpol and other forms of paracetamol are more likely to develop asthma’ (Mail Online, November 2012) certainly grab readers’ attention, but they also cause fear and anxiety in parents and prospective parents, who may not have the relevant medical knowledge to be able to look objectively at the evidence presented. (For those who are aware of it, the NHS does a valiant job of combating some of the inaccuracy and misinterpretation of clinical evidence in these stories with its Behind the Headlines section of the NHS Choices website.)

The commodification of fertility and childbirth  

It is a sad fact that there is a high level of commercialisation around women’s health, which has undeniably increased in recent years, as health services become privatised. The areas of maternal health and fertility treatment are particularly affected. Vicky Garner wrote recently of seeing sales reps from a commercial ‘parenting club’ lurking on maternity wards handing out child benefit forms. Under the guise of offering support to complete the form, they were taking down the details of new mothers with a view to contacting them to market their services. She argues that the reps exploit women who are at their most vulnerable and anxious to give their newborns the best start in life; an anxiety that is heightened by the scare-mongering headlines we see every day.

When it comes to fertility treatment, it is easier to see where there are opportunities for profit to be made by private companies, given that fertility treatment is not universally available on the NHS (eligibility depends on where you live and other criteria). It therefore falls to private clinics to offer IVF treatment, and they can market and advertise their services as they wish.  However, as Miriam Zoll wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times, ‘marketing and advertisements’ play their part in selling hope to ‘customers who are at their wits’ end, desperate and vulnerable’. Zoll speaks of the ‘debilitating trauma’ associated with failed IVF cycles and treatments, highlighting that, though fertility clinics offer, advertise and market services to paying customers as if they were any other for-profit company, when treatment fails it takes a significant psychological and emotional toll.

Hype and hope

A recent event at City University, London, looked at the intersection between science, the media and public engagement, in reporting advances in fertility treatment. The meeting, entitled ‘Hype, Hope and Headlines: How Should Breakthroughs in Fertility Treatment be Reported?’ questioned where responsibility should lie for accurately reporting advances in fertility treatment. Speakers Prof Simon Fishel, Managing Director of the CARE Fertility Group, who was part of the original team whose work produced the world’s first IVF baby in 1978; Prof Nick Macklon, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton, and Director of the Complete Fertility Centre; and Dr Hannah Devlin, Science Editor at The Times, discussed the issues around this controversial topic.

Ahead of the meeting, Profs Fishel and Macklon and event organiser Connie St Louis spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. St Louis said that PR teams at IVF clinics often put out ‘overblown’ press releases, and she cautioned science journalists to be wary when producing stories based on clinical trials, particularly when a study is being publicised by the organisation that funded it. She also pointed to the lack of balanced argument in healthcare stories, and said that journalists should seek out a range of expert opinions in order to include different voices in stories on IVF.

On the other side of the argument, Fishel, though he agreed with the need for robust reporting of results and for peer review, cautioned that the best must be done to push the science of the field forward via mainstream media.

The City University event following the Woman’s Hour discussion was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET), an independent charity that aims to raise awareness of embryo and stem cell research, genetics and assisted conception and to engage with policymakers and medical professionals to inform debate. Fiona Fox, Founder and Director of the Science Media Centre – a charity that improves public trust in science by persuading scientists to engage more effectively with controversial science stories in the media – chaired the meeting.

Media engagement

Fishel stated his position on the debate topic, saying that information on developments in reproductive technology must be accessible to patients as and when it becomes available. As the pace of reproductive medicine moves so quickly, he said, it takes time for cutting-edge technology to filter through the medical profession, meaning that GPs and even some specialists do not understand or appreciate the breadth of the work done in fertility research. He pointed out that even the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) can be too slow to issue guidance when seen from the perspective of a couple seeking new, improved therapies. When looking for clinical evidence to recommend a fertility treatment procedure, it is problematic to consider randomised, double-blinded, controlled trials to be the ‘gold standard’, he said. Because of their lengthy duration (15 years), by the time the results are available it will be too late for many couples, he argued, suggesting that other types of trials, such as cohort observational studies should be considered.

It is not always easy for journalists or the public to grasp that all scientific knowledge is provisional, he said. In other words, science is progressive, with improvement and advances being made all the time; however, the time in which a couple want and are able to have a baby is limited and they should be able to be access information on all current treatment options. The key lies in responsible communication to the media, he argued, so it is up to trial investigators, clinics and press officers to accurately communicate their evidence to the media and it is up to the media to look at the evidence before reporting.

False hope

Presenting a contrasting view, Macklon argued that when a couple see a headline proclaiming breakthroughs in fertility research, there is a danger of giving false hope that they will not only be able to access this new treatment, and that it will be successful. A relationship with the media is necessary to raise awareness and encourage funding of potential new treatments, he acknowledged, but if the relationship between clinics and the media is ‘too cosy’, this can lead to false hopes being raised. Macklon, in his argument, reminds us that there is a third party, the potential patient, who stands to lose out financially and emotionally, when ‘unproven technology’ is being offered in IVF clinics for profit. The patients are the ones paying the price for uncertainty, he said.

Devlin countered Macklon’s argument by accusing him of being ‘patronising’ to potential patients. She acknowledged that, as a journalist, IVF stories are always welcomed as the science is ‘easy to follow’ and is relevant to everyday life, encapsulating controversy, morality, life-changing events and they can be illustrated with ‘cute baby pictures’. Agreeing with Fishel, she posited that it is the job of journalists to filter out anything that might give false hope to patients, but that all developments, no matter what stage they are at, should be reported. She also highlighted that there is pressure from editors to cover stories reported by the majority of most national papers, to maintain competitiveness.

Considering responsibility

In the discussion following the speakers’ presentations, there was clearly a split in the audience between where it was felt that ultimate responsibility should lie for the accurate communication of clinical results to the public. One commenter suggested that patients seeking fertility treatment would not go to a medical journal to seek out the original research, thereby placing emphasis on the newspaper/journalist to offer balanced and accurate information. Another questioned the role of the PR or press officer in drafting a press release free of language and phrasing that might appear to sensationalise the facts. Concern was also raised over not withholding or omitting information and the need for the wider debate to move forward.

It was also emphasised that other expert opinions should be presented in a story and this would be the journalist’s responsibility to present alternative viewpoints. Macklon pointed out, however, that some doctors may have a vested interest in recommending a particular treatment (or, conversely, in not recommending it).

Does knowledge empower?

Fertility treatment is unlike any other area of medicine in many respects. Being largely provided in private practice, there is the market and, therefore, the finance available to plough into technological development; however, this means that the availability of evidence from (the so-called ‘gold standard’) randomised, controlled trials cannot keep up with the pace of development or the demands of the consumer/patient.

From the speakers’ presentations at the City University event and the discussion that followed, it seems clear that a collaborative approach is needed in order to responsibly and accurately communicate developments in the field of fertility treatment. Perhaps, as one commenter highlighted, this all points to the need for better-quality are more accessible patient information in the UK. But in lieu of this it would seem that it is the responsibility of all involved – press officers, journalists, and clinicians to communicate accurately and put in context any available information. Mutual trust, it would seem, is crucial when communicating science to the public.

Conclusions

The argument that knowledge is empowering for the patient certainly has merit, but it is important to bear in mind that both the media and the clinic stand to make commercial gain from the publishing of fertility stories. And as long as treatment remains in the private sector, there will remain a ‘cosy’ relationship between the media and the provider, however well hidden; the danger is that the patient, who should be at the centre of the discussion, will be open to exploitation.

World Mental Health Day by Agoraphobic Feminist

(Cross-posted from Agoraphobic Feminist)

Originally posted October 2013

Since today is World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write something, since it’s been ages since I’ve actually blogged!

Also, on this day in 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union to fight for women’s rights in Britain – so today is doubly important!

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, considering someone who doesn’t relate to feminism/doesn’t have any interest in understanding mental health issues probably won’t be reading this blog, but I felt I had to write SOMETHING, at least.

I want to raise awareness of the crippling illnesses of depression, anxiety and agoraphobia.

Some may argue that as these illnesses aren’t ‘physical’, they aren’t debilitating – I argue that although these illnesses originate in the brain, and in the case of depression are mood disorders – they definitely DO have physical side-effects.

My agoraphobia prevents me from going outside, so I don’t get the benefits of exercise or the Vit D from sunlight that I badly need. This, coupled with the lack of motivation due to depression means that I’m also overweight because the majority of the time I can’t motivate myself to cook a healthy meal.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Being overweight adds to my depression because I look at myself in the mirror and consider myself too ugly to be seen in society.

Being overweight also makes me worry constantly about the pressures I’m putting my body under. Every minor symptom (e.g. palpitations, leg pain, headache) will be blown out of all proportion by my anxiety. I’ve had countless scans, tests etc. to check there’s nothing physically wrong with me. The doctors say I’m perfectly healthy. I don’t believe them.

Being unable to go out means that I can’t work unless it’s from home. This severely limits what I can do, and it contributes to my depression as there are so many things I NEED and WANT to do.

The majority of the time I get my family, my boyfriend, or my friends to do favours for me, with strains my relationships with people.

Recently my anxiety has decided to make me worry about the medication I’m taking, so I stopped taking it. I’m supposed to be taking 40mg fluoxetine and 20mg mirtazapine, with 5mg of diazepam when I need it.

I’m well-versed in the side-effects of fluoxetine, as I’ve been taking them on-and-off for years. The mirtazapine is another matter, though. I’m not even going to Google it, as I know I’ll end up reading the side-effects, or some anecdote from someone they didn’t work for, and be even less inclined to trust them.

I will be starting the medication again soon, as my family have said that I’m better off with it than without it. We’ll see.

Another thing I wanted to mention is the fact that there are no set targets for mental health treatment within the NHS, which is something that’s always confused me but I’ve never thought to bring up until I saw it mentioned on the news a couple of days ago.

The story was about a young woman with bulimia and anorexia who had been made to wait 18 months for treatment. Instead of waiting, she has taken her care into her own hands, which I completely admire, but it definitely shouldn’t be this way.

If you’re diagnosed with anything physical – from a broken ankle, to epilepsy, to cancer – you’re put on a set pathway that dictates what treatment you need, and there are set timeframes for when you need that treatment.

With mental health issues, this is, unfortunately, not the case most of the time.

Now, I understand that mental health issues vary greatly from person to person, but in my opinion it seems like a lot of healthcare professionals take a shot in the dark when it comes to diagnosing and treating mental health patients.

I’m still researching this, so I honestly don’t have all my facts yet. In my experience, though, every healthcare professional will bring their own opinions to the table when they decide how they want to treat you, which is very, very wrong as it has confused me and made me less inclined to trust healthcare professionals.

The item I saw on the news did state that there will be better guidelines come 2015 – but I worry about the people who will suffer badly between now and then, and those who have already suffered.

It’s not only the patients who will benefit from better guidelines, but healthcare professionals too, as they will be less inclined to include their own opinions, morals or beliefs when it comes to diagnosing and treating someone.

My intention is to join (or set up) some sort of pressure group, the main aim of which will be to see guidelines put in place a lot sooner than 2015, and to change the way things work right now.

Some may call me naïve, and I myself know I’m not the most educated person on the subject, but when I see people suffering, all I want to do is help.

If anyone has any ideas or opinions for me, please comment below or message me. I’d be really grateful.

Spread the word – it’s so important to keep the conversation about mental health going!

AF x

Agoraphobic Feminist: I’m a versatile freelance writer that suffers from depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia. My writing covers a wide range of issues including feminism, equality, social issues and mental health.” If possible, I would also like to include the following links: (@AtHomeActivist)

Fertility and the Media: Unravelling the Hype by @lisaaglass

(cross-posted from Femme Vision)

Originally published 30.09.13

Each week in the UK, news and feature pieces on fertility, pregnancy and childbirth proliferate in the mainstream media, in tabloids and broadsheets alike. Stories based on results of clinical studies on topics such as advances in fertility treatment, practices to ensure a healthy pregnancy and so on appear on a regular basis. But how accurately is the science being interpreted, how much is being omitted and how misleading are some of the headlines?

Headlines such as ‘1 in 3 will be infertile in 10 years’ (Daily Mirror, June 2005) and ‘Babies given Calpol and other forms of paracetamol are more likely to develop asthma’ (Mail Online, November 2012) certainly grab readers’ attention, but they also cause fear and anxiety in parents and prospective parents, who may not have the relevant medical knowledge to be able to look objectively at the evidence presented. (For those who are aware of it, the NHS does a valiant job of combating some of the inaccuracy and misinterpretation of clinical evidence in these stories with its Behind the Headlines section of the NHS Choices website.)

The commodification of fertility and childbirth  

It is a sad fact that there is a high level of commercialisation around women’s health, which has undeniably increased in recent years, as health services become privatised. The areas of maternal health and fertility treatment are particularly affected. Vicky Garner wrote recently of seeing sales reps from a commercial ‘parenting club’ lurking on maternity wards handing out child benefit forms. Under the guise of offering support to complete the form, they were taking down the details of new mothers with a view to contacting them to market their services. She argues that the reps exploit women who are at their most vulnerable and anxious to give their newborns the best start in life; an anxiety that is heightened by the scare-mongering headlines we see every day.

When it comes to fertility treatment, it is easier to see where there are opportunities for profit to be made by private companies, given that fertility treatment is not universally available on the NHS (eligibility depends on where you live and other criteria). It therefore falls to private clinics to offer IVF treatment, and they can market and advertise their services as they wish.  However, as Miriam Zoll wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times, ‘marketing and advertisements’ play their part in selling hope to ‘customers who are at their wits’ end, desperate and vulnerable’. Zoll speaks of the ‘debilitating trauma’ associated with failed IVF cycles and treatments, highlighting that, though fertility clinics offer, advertise and market services to paying customers as if they were any other for-profit company, when treatment fails it takes a significant psychological and emotional toll.

Hype and hope

A recent event at City University, London, looked at the intersection between science, the media and public engagement, in reporting advances in fertility treatment. The meeting, entitled ‘Hype, Hope and Headlines: How Should Breakthroughs in Fertility Treatment be Reported?’ questioned where responsibility should lie for accurately reporting advances in fertility treatment. Speakers Prof Simon Fishel, Managing Director of the CARE Fertility Group, who was part of the original team whose work produced the world’s first IVF baby in 1978; Prof Nick Macklon, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Southampton, and Director of the Complete Fertility Centre; and Dr Hannah Devlin, Science Editor at The Times, discussed the issues around this controversial topic.

Ahead of the meeting, Profs Fishel and Macklon and event organiser Connie St Louis spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. St Louis said that PR teams at IVF clinics often put out ‘overblown’ press releases, and she cautioned science journalists to be wary when producing stories based on clinical trials, particularly when a study is being publicised by the organisation that funded it. She also pointed to the lack of balanced argument in healthcare stories, and said that journalists should seek out a range of expert opinions in order to include different voices in stories on IVF.

On the other side of the argument, Fishel, though he agreed with the need for robust reporting of results and for peer review, cautioned that the best must be done to push the science of the field forward via mainstream media.

The City University event following the Woman’s Hour discussion was organised by the Progress Educational Trust (PET), an independent charity that aims to raise awareness of embryo and stem cell research, genetics and assisted conception and to engage with policymakers and medical professionals to inform debate. Fiona Fox, Founder and Director of the Science Media Centre – a charity that improves public trust in science by persuading scientists to engage more effectively with controversial science stories in the media – chaired the meeting.

Media engagement

Fishel stated his position on the debate topic, saying that information on developments in reproductive technology must be accessible to patients as and when it becomes available. As the pace of reproductive medicine moves so quickly, he said, it takes time for cutting-edge technology to filter through the medical profession, meaning that GPs and even some specialists do not understand or appreciate the breadth of the work done in fertility research. He pointed out that even the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) can be too slow to issue guidance when seen from the perspective of a couple seeking new, improved therapies. When looking for clinical evidence to recommend a fertility treatment procedure, it is problematic to consider randomised, double-blinded, controlled trials to be the ‘gold standard’, he said. Because of their lengthy duration (15 years), by the time the results are available it will be too late for many couples, he argued, suggesting that other types of trials, such as cohort observational studies should be considered.

It is not always easy for journalists or the public to grasp that all scientific knowledge is provisional, he said. In other words, science is progressive, with improvement and advances being made all the time; however, the time in which a couple want and are able to have a baby is limited and they should be able to be access information on all current treatment options. The key lies in responsible communication to the media, he argued, so it is up to trial investigators, clinics and press officers to accurately communicate their evidence to the media and it is up to the media to look at the evidence before reporting.

False hope

Presenting a contrasting view, Macklon argued that when a couple see a headline proclaiming breakthroughs in fertility research, there is a danger of giving false hope that they will not only be able to access this new treatment, and that it will be successful. A relationship with the media is necessary to raise awareness and encourage funding of potential new treatments, he acknowledged, but if the relationship between clinics and the media is ‘too cosy’, this can lead to false hopes being raised. Macklon, in his argument, reminds us that there is a third party, the potential patient, who stands to lose out financially and emotionally, when ‘unproven technology’ is being offered in IVF clinics for profit. The patients are the ones paying the price for uncertainty, he said.

Devlin countered Macklon’s argument by accusing him of being ‘patronising’ to potential patients. She acknowledged that, as a journalist, IVF stories are always welcomed as the science is ‘easy to follow’ and is relevant to everyday life, encapsulating controversy, morality, life-changing events and they can be illustrated with ‘cute baby pictures’. Agreeing with Fishel, she posited that it is the job of journalists to filter out anything that might give false hope to patients, but that all developments, no matter what stage they are at, should be reported. She also highlighted that there is pressure from editors to cover stories reported by the majority of most national papers, to maintain competitiveness.

Considering responsibility

In the discussion following the speakers’ presentations, there was clearly a split in the audience between where it was felt that ultimate responsibility should lie for the accurate communication of clinical results to the public. One commenter suggested that patients seeking fertility treatment would not go to a medical journal to seek out the original research, thereby placing emphasis on the newspaper/journalist to offer balanced and accurate information. Another questioned the role of the PR or press officer in drafting a press release free of language and phrasing that might appear to sensationalise the facts. Concern was also raised over not withholding or omitting information and the need for the wider debate to move forward.

It was also emphasised that other expert opinions should be presented in a story and this would be the journalist’s responsibility to present alternative viewpoints. Macklon pointed out, however, that some doctors may have a vested interest in recommending a particular treatment (or, conversely, in not recommending it).

Does knowledge empower?

Fertility treatment is unlike any other area of medicine in many respects. Being largely provided in private practice, there is the market and, therefore, the finance available to plough into technological development; however, this means that the availability of evidence from (the so-called ‘gold standard’) randomised, controlled trials cannot keep up with the pace of development or the demands of the consumer/patient.

From the speakers’ presentations at the City University event and the discussion that followed, it seems clear that a collaborative approach is needed in order to responsibly and accurately communicate developments in the field of fertility treatment. Perhaps, as one commenter highlighted, this all points to the need for better-quality are more accessible patient information in the UK. But in lieu of this it would seem that it is the responsibility of all involved – press officers, journalists, and clinicians to communicate accurately and put in context any available information. Mutual trust, it would seem, is crucial when communicating science to the public.

Conclusions

The argument that knowledge is empowering for the patient certainly has merit, but it is important to bear in mind that both the media and the clinic stand to make commercial gain from the publishing of fertility stories. And as long as treatment remains in the private sector, there will remain a ‘cosy’ relationship between the media and the provider, however well hidden; the danger is that the patient, who should be at the centre of the discussion, will be open to exploitation.

Feminism, Mental Health and Inclusion by @LUBottom

This post was written for A Room of our Own: A Feminist/ Womanist Network by @LUBottom.

 

I took part in a discussion with a few Twitter users (including @Roomofourown) the other day in which we spoke about the appropriation of the term “depressing” in a webchat about the effects of fourth wave feminism. This conversation took many meandering paths and we were pretty unanimous in our opprobrium of medicalised terms to discuss everyday experiences. We spoke, at length, about the myriad ways in which we, as women with disabilities, are erased from the discourse of mainstream feminism. On the one hand my instinct is to ignore the word “depressing” as something which has become deeply assimilated into our everyday conversations, but on the other I am aware of the hypocrisy of ignoring such terms whilst feeling offend by the use of other medical terms such as “schizophrenic” or “retarded” as adjectives for negative terminology.

My life has been full of a variety of tragic strands which, if sewn together, would make a large shroud. I have written about them on several occasions: my experiences as a person with disabilities, my fight against anorexia, my life as a survivor of rape, my battle against post-natal depression & my general feeling of being ostracised by the world, either because of my disability. Those who read my blog will be familiar with my life. But what I wanted to write about is my particular experience with depression and why I take issue with it being co-opted as a term to describe non-medical annoyance or frustration and why non-disabled feminists need to make more careful choices regarding the words they use.

I entered psychiatric inpatient care on a Sunday, much like any other, in July. There was nothing particularly special about that weekend, neither for the rest of the world nor for myself. It was by random chance that I had decided that that weekend would be my last. On the Friday I took a large dose of Valium, nothing happened, other than a long sleep and lost memories, and so on Sunday I decided I would give it a harder push and took an overdose of Baclofen, my muscle relaxant. I didn’t even get very far into this second overdose, due to the restrictions on my liberty (due to being a wheelchair user largely confined to bed), before the ambulance and police were called and so, before I could cause myself significant harm I was carted off to hospital. I don’t remember much of what happened next. But somewhere along the lines my indignation about my right to die led to me receiving a ticket to a psychiatric hospital.

When you first arrive for check in one of the first things they do is give you a physical medical, it was at that moment that a hidden truth was discovered: I hadn’t eaten in quite some time. I had fallen from a size 16 to a size 6 and the jutting ribs and sagging skin made alarm bells ring in the on call doctor’s head. It was from that moment on that the ins and outs of my body became public property. Scale reading after painful scale reading was meticulously recorded by the medical staff and weekly review meetings centred on whether they had convinced me to eat yet.

Every day a menu card was brought to me in my room and every day I would have to explain to another member of my medical team that “I don’t eat”. There is a painting by Max Ernst called Europe After the Rain, in it sits dozens of references to eyeballs watching the painter, signifying the paranoia during WWII. This painting perfectly exemplified the sensation of being watched which I experienced. In reality, my medical team were solely invested in keeping me alive but in the mind set I inhabited for that time they were the enemy who sought my destruction. All food was poison to me, a rotten carcass with detrivores spilling out of its remains.

Nurses, doctors were only seen on a weekly basis, tried to talk me out of my depression and desire to end my life. I was presented with classes in clay making, presented with dogs to pat, given sedating medications on my request, and een sent on long-spiralling guilt trips about my responsibilities to my children. Alas nothing would shift my desire to end my life. I was placed upon a course of drugs which I flouted by refusing some medications and, at other times, sneaking large amounts of laxative into my bedroom. My thirst for self-extinction was unquenchable.

I had no desire to do anything, and death occupied most of my thoughts. Indeed, the feeling of disconnection caused by starvation gave me cause for hope. No one could connect with me, because I inhabited a different plane: they were in the land of the living whilst I was somewhere nearer to death. Eventually the only thing which, ironically, sent me from my self-destructive course was the death of one of the most important people of my life. Though her death didn’t make me eat, it did stop me from being in a place of continual overdose. A desire to protect those I loved somehow caused a paradigm shift that I doubt I will ever truly understand.

When I think back to this time and compare it with my feelings about feminism the latter seems entirely ridiculous. How can something so desperate and soul destroying be used as a synonym for what equates to upsetting? That said, feminism does, quite literally depress me, specifically because of the way in which it makes women with mental illness and disabilities feel alienated and erased. The repeated instances of feminists using lazy and bungled ableist language need to end. Having a disability is already isolating, and presents women with more complex oppressions, feminists need to make a conscious effort to be more aware of these issues and seek to support their sisters. Perhaps the question of whether feminism is depressing wasn’t so silly after all.

 

bottomfacedotcom: proud owner of lady parts: Writes, makes vulvas, swears. Past caring. Home ed. Parent of child w/ ASD ADHD. Has ME & FMS. Lucy tweets at @LUBBottom. She also has an etsy page: Little Shop of Vulvas