2013, so far

TRIGGER WARNING: depression, suicide, self-harm, university and student loan bullshit, anxiety

This has not been a good year.

I’m not wallowing in drama; I’m stating a fact. This year started out with a week of depression, anxiety attacks, and severe suicidal thoughts. It’s gotten a bit better, but I’ve still be battling the mother of all depressive episodes for the past 3 weeks.

I’ve wanted to cut again. I’ve thought about taking up smoking. I’ve pictured hanging myself or blowing my brains out. I’ve even considered od’ing on my antidepressants, which I haven’t been able to take since December because my body suddenly decided to add them to the food allergies list that is mercurial and ever growing larger.

I have no idea what od’ing on zoloft might do, but I considered it, because honestly the results seemed better than dealing with the shit that’s been going down this month.

And all this, mind you, is after my brush with death that made me realize I wanted, truly, very desperately wanted, to live.

January 1st I went 500 dollars into the red, because Student Loans took money out of my account. No warning. Two days later, I get a note from VIU: I’m not graduating at the end of January, because I’m missing 6 credits.

Did they tell me this six fucking months ago when I applied to graduate? No. They wait until 2 days into the new year. A few weeks before convocation.

This, of course, means that I can no longer go to SFU this semester, after I’ve already worked so hard to get accepted. They were accepting me based on me receiving my degree from VIU this month. Without that, I am no longer enrolled; if I want to enroll not as a second bachelors’ student, but as a transfer student, I can do that — for Fall 2013. After going through the registration process again.

And this — this suddenly blowing in the wind, not being a student when I was supposed to be — this of course now means that I cannot have my loans or interest-free status this semester. So what my immediate course of action was going to be — finishing my application for Student Loans for this semester — to resolve the money issue can no longer happen.

I called Student Loans this morning about my issue. Basically, it is sort of fixable — I have to fill out a bunch of forms in triplicate proving I’m as poor as I say I am, and then I’ll probably qualify for reduced payments, perhaps even to zero. I’ll know within 4 days of sending back the form, which should arrive by the end of this week? Possibly?

I also discovered that the reason Student Loans was under the impression that I owed them money as of November was because VIU told them I withdrew from courses as of April. Which I didn’t. I withdrew from courses in June, when I was informed that I didn’t need the other two courses I was enrolled in that summer.

At any rate, I was supposed to be starting classes again this month — so really, there should only have been 2 weeks in the period of ok, you’ve been out of class long enough, pay up.

The too long; didn’t read version of all this? My life is fucking shambles and right now I am very seriously questioning whether I want my degree from VIU at all. VIU is a school that has repeatedly proven it cares little to nothing about its students. They have completely screwed me in the past year — TWICE now — and their lack of communication skills is LEGENDARY.

I have been tearing my hair out for weeks; studiously trying to solve my problems via avoidance and escapism because my brain cannot deal with the level of suckage going on without going into complete shut-down, depressive/suicidal episode mode; sleeping far too much or far too little as my body goes into emergency coping mode. I am wandering, an errant leaf on the wind, wondering what the fuck am I going to do with my life now?

I’ve now been working at my first degree, my first, four-year, Bachelor’s Degree, for 10 years. A decade of my life that I’m not getting back. And furthermore, most of the credits for my degree at VIU are non-transferable.

So now I face the question: do I suck it up, move back to Nanaimo in summer time (which means, inevitably, living out of my car and being basically homeless for four months, and this is what I was facing at the beginning of this month, for this semester) and do these last two courses (when I’m not even 100% sure that they’ll be offered this summer, or that I can get any funding)? Or do I say fuck it, transfer what can be transferred to SFU, and start from scratch?

Alternatively, I suddenly sell millions of copies of my book/win the lotto and quit school forever.

Wherein Katje rattles about in uncertainty and possibly some despair, though mostly just numbness at this point, for the rest of zir life.

I suppose, however, I can count my blessings — at least this huge fucking fiasco, this shambles that is my life, has given me plot bunnies for new stories. “Hooray,” zie said exactly as Archer would.

“Beauty Regimen”

I hate that term.

Beauty regimen.

I know where it [ostensibly] comes from: the use of ‘beauty’ products in a routine; on a daily basis. (This, of course, isn’t a precise use of the word regimen, which specifically refers to (among other things) a routine that contributes to one’s health. Health, as you know, is not the same thing as appearance.)

It starts from an assumption that we need those products in order to be beautiful. That our daily routine of moisturizer, eye cream, toner, eye shadow, lip gloss, whatever, makes us beautiful. That the end goal of using these products is beauty.

Furthermore, it assumes that we need to be beautiful in order to be worthy of esteem. That make-up or other products labeled “beauty” products are a necessary part of our day, and thus constitute a standard regimen. That using make-up or shaving our legs contributes to our health.

Fact 1: You’re beautiful without make up, without shaving your legs, without any of these products. You do not need to pay companies oodles of money to be beautiful, because beauty is determined by what’s inside.
(I’m talkin’ metaphorical insides here, not your intestines or lungs or whatever. Internal organs are actually pretty gross.)

It’s cheesy, but it’s true. Deal with it.

Fact 2: There is nothing wrong with using make-up or any of these other products, but make sure you’re using them for the right reasons.

It took me a long time to realize that the reason I was using make-up was fucked up. I was using it so I’d be more attractive to the opposite sex. I was using it so boys would like me.

I wasn’t alone. A lot of my friends, when I was growing up, would put make-up on before going to sleep so they’d wake up looking “fresh and beautiful”. This was especially true at any sort of slumber-party-type-event (yes, I went to those well into high school, shut up).

At some point, I clued in: if a dude didn’t like me without my make-up, he didn’t deserve to be with me, around me, near me, or in contact with me.

But I didn’t stop wearing it. I stopped wearing it every day, but I’ve never stopped wearing make up, or shaving my legs, or painting my nails.

Not for beauty. These things do not constitute a beauty regimen for me — my only beauty regimen is being my own fabulous self, because I’m fucking gorgeous already.

No, I have my own reasons for doing these things. I shave my legs because when they’re hairy, they’re boar’s hair hairy, and the feeling of clothing on that is shudder-inducing. I also prefer being able to rub clean-shaven legs together. (I have Things about textures.)

I wear nail polish because I think having painted nails makes my hands look more defined, and also OOOOHHH PRETTY COLORS SO SHINY MUST HAVE ALL OF THEM YES PRECIOUS.

I wear make-up because, again, shiny glittery hoard hoard hoard, but also because I view it as armor. (Same goes for nail polish, too, to a certain extent.)

I have depression and anxiety. These things can get really bad for me. Sometimes they prevent me from leaving the house. Often, they prevent me from leaving the house. Or getting anything done.

But on really bad days where I have to go out, be adult, be responsible, because no one else will do it or can do it for me? Make-up is a life-saver. Being able to put on some eyeliner and powder and shadow along with my dark, baggy sweater and my dark, baggy jeans, and my dark, baggy hoodie gives me armor against the world. It’s a signal to my lizard brain that Katje isn’t leaving the house unprotected. My soft underbelly isn’t open to weapons; I am shielded from what the world might bring against me because the world cannot see my real face.

Make-up isn’t a beauty regimen for me. It’s a warrior regimen. It’s my equivalent to putting on plate (my equivalent to a sword is my metal cane, currently) and a helm. It protects me from a world that’s hurt me too many times. So in that respect, it truly is a regimen: putting on make-up does wonders for my mental health.

I feel powerful when I slap on some lipstick. I feel strong when I wear eyeshadow. I feel like nothing can touch me when I have rose-scented powder on my face. (Rose-scented cosmetics from Anna Sui = suddenly everything was perfect, and nothing hurt.)

That is a much better reason to wear make up than to make sure boys will like me. And it has abso-fucking-lutely nothing to do with beauty.

So if you wear make-up, shave your legs, whatever, ask yourself why. I respect your choice to do so no matter what, but I really hope that your beauty regimen, or whatever you want to call it, is all for you and no one else. If other folks give you shit for wearing sweatpants and having your hair back in a ponytail, that’s their baggage and their projection issues — not an accurate assessment you doing things wrong. You ain’t. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

You’re the only person you’re going to have a lifelong relationship with. Stop shortchanging yourself. Do things for you. You’re fucking gorgeous and amazing. Act like it.

This is Rape Culture — addendum to my Amanda Todd post

Trigger warning: description of rape, rape culture, misogyny, bullying, suicide

Something I didn’t really get into in my last post about Amanda Todd’s suicide is the misogyny, sexism, and clear and present rape culture apparent in the details of the case. I did originally write about it in my post, but decided I wanted to focus on suicide and not misogyny in that post, and that I could write a follow-up post later.

This is that follow-up post.

Most of the posts about Amanda attribute her suicide to bullying and tend to ignore the fact that it was more than bullying. It was sexual harassment. It was assault based on slut-shaming.

She was convinced to flash a guy on webcam. We don’t know if she was coerced or not, but it’s likely. Regardless, she regretted doing it.

Then she was stalked and harassed by a guy who had gotten a hold of a screenshot of that flash, who told her to “give him a show” or he’d distribute the picture to all her friends.

That’s rape culture.

The idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies, and that if they don’t get what they want they can force the issue — that’s rape culture. The idea that stalking and harassing a girl because she flashed someone once online is acceptable — that’s rape culture. The idea that she got what she deserved because she slept with someone who was involved with another person — that’s rape culture. The framing of the story by certain news agencies to moralize about how girls shouldn’t show their breasts on webcam because, oh, look what happens — that’s rape culture. The fact that no one is really talking about the misogyny, sexism, and slut-shaming present in her case — that’s rape culture. The comments on various sites by “trolls” — rape culture.

And social media has made rape culture more pervasive and more dangerous.
Continue reading This is Rape Culture — addendum to my Amanda Todd post

Bullying and Suicide — Justice for Amanda Todd

Trigger warning.

A teenager local to me committed suicide this week.

She’d been bullied and stalked and harassed for a few years, and it got to be too much to take. All over one innocuous action, what some may deem a screw-up, that just happened to happen on the internet.

You know, kids screw up. They do. When I was 13 I was not being safe on the internet. I wasn’t. I was cyber-sexing with random strangers and telling them…well, not super-personal details, but probably too much. I was also looking at porn and getting malware downloaded to our home computer. I was a kid and I was dumb. You’re supposed to be at that age. It’s supposed to be allowed. It’s supposed to be safe.

You’re not supposed to be stalked and harassed because you flashed someone online on a whim.

You’re not supposed to be stalked and harassed because you flashed someone online on a whim regardless your age. (Flashing people in the street? Whole other kettle of fish.)

And you know, people always start in with the “Well that’s what she gets for being on the internet,” as if being on the internet suddenly signs away your right to a private, happy, healthy life free from harassment. News flash: it fucking doesn’t.

A light has gone out in the world, and it’s because people are cruel. No one deserves to be stalked and harassed, and especially not to the point of suicide.

 

My heart goes out to Amanda’s family, and my thoughts and prayers are with them. No one should lose a child like this.

My heart swells up with love for Amanda, and it is that love that pushes me to action. Love is always what pushes me to action, because “justice is what love looks like in public” (Cornel West).

And maybe right now my only way of trying to find justice is to write a blog post. To let other kids out there like Amanda Todd know they are not alone.

Please — if you are being stalked and harassed to the point of wanting to end it, reach out for help. I’ve blogged about depression and suicide before, and how my ask box on tumblr is always open. It is. Don’t hesitate to shoot me a message if you feel you need someone to talk to, because I have been there.

I’m not going to tell you that things magically get better, but things can get better if we put in the effort to make them better. But we have to be around to do that.

Nil illegitimi carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Because you are amazing, and worthy of love, and they are not worth that. They are not worth you leaving like this.

Call someone. Please.

Hotlines to Call

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433

LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255

Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

Sexuality Support: 1-800-246-7743

Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438

Rape and Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673

Grief Support: 1-650-321-5272

Runaway: 1-800-843-5200, 1-800-843-5678, 1-800-621-4000

Exhale: After Abortion Hotline/Pro-Voice: 1-866-439-4253

The master list of suicide hotlines is here: Suicide.org.

Writer Wednesday: 2011 Banned Books Week and full disclosure about my adolescence

Cover of
Cover via Amazon

September 24th through October 1st is Banned Books Week. Over the years, many books and writers have been banned or challenged — for political reasons or just some vague feeling of “needing to protect the children”.

Until this year, I’d never sought to read a banned book. Then I decided I’d try and find one, and saw on the list of top ten challenged books for 2010 were two books I’d already read this week — The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I’d picked these up because I’m on a bit of a YA bent right now, and because I’m a First Nations major who had the privilege of seeing Alexie speak at a conference several years ago.

What’s amazing is the amount of YA novels that get banned or challenged. We feel that we must protect children and teenagers from darkness, danger, naughty words. The fact is most kids these days already live in hell, and as Sherman Alexie says, those dark, dark books give them weapons with which to fight for their lives.

When I was 11 I was sneaking booze from my dad’s liquor cabinet. By the time I was 15 I had already tried to kill myself numerous times. When I was 18 and my mom sent me to get tested for diabetes (it runs in my family and I was showing symptoms), the doctor asked me what I would have done had I tested positive.

“I’d probably just let it kill me,” I said, completely serious.

He said he was going to recommend me to a therapist, and I said that was probably a good idea.

Continue reading Writer Wednesday: 2011 Banned Books Week and full disclosure about my adolescence