Reflections

It’s been about six years since I recognized myself in the mirror.

Today I did.

I don’t think I can accurately convey how much it matters. I’m a little teary just writing about this.

The last time I seeing myself without distortions–Kate, and not some parody of her–I was about fourteen. Somewhere, and–chicken and egg style–I’m not sure when, I stopped being able to see an accurate reflection. You can take a picture of me, put it in my hands and stand me in front of a mirror, and I can squint and focus and tilt my head and know that it’s the same Kate in the photo and reflection. But I just can’t see it.  I can’t stop seeing an endless collection of Too Big and Horrid and Undesirable.

It’s a special kind of hell that refuses to let you know your own body.

Six years.

I’ve had braces since then. Cut off nearly all my hair–twice. I’ve worn a prom dress and makeup and high heels for the first time. And during all of that, I’ve hated my reflection so much that I’ve tried to avoid it. I’ve missed some awful fashion choices and probably some great ones too.

But today, just for a second, I glanced in a full-length mirror and just saw…me. Not me, slowly expanding before my eyes, and not some hideous creature. Just me.

I didn’t stare too long–I was a little afraid it would change. But it was wonderful. I’ve grown! I’m taller! And now I can stop and notice it…and just notice that.

I don’t want to be falsely optimistic here. I’ve also had my worst breakdown in years this December. Sometimes it’s still easier to curl in a ball in bed than face a closet of clothes. And I’m lucky. I get therapy and friends and a support system that calls and a partner who holds me when I can’t do anything but obsess.

But it means that maybe there can be an end. That “doesn’t behave like an anorexic”  isn’t necessarily the top of the mountain. That maybe at some point I’ll stop negotiating food around timers and schedules and journaling and daily menus. I don’t know if I will, but I’d like to think so.

People don’t always mend, no matter how much you want to knit them back together.

I’m not saying you’ll stop being broken. But I am saying those pieces might not always be so jagged.

Monday Miscellany

Hi! Remember me? I’m Kate, and I used to write regularly.

[Everybody: Hi, Kate!]

I disappeared last week when stress piled onto writer’s block piled onto school and my brain decided that food was THE MOST STRESSFUL THING EVARRR. But I’m back! And more importantly, this guy just started living with me:

This is Boo. He is the most rascally of rascals.

This is Boo. He is the most rascally of ratty rascals.

His name is Boo, and he loves sitting on my shoulder and nuzzling my face while I’m internetting and blogging. I cannot possibly overstate how cute it is.

Together, we found links!

Ozy Frantz puts words to my feelings about “sex-positive”.  Relatedly, here’s an old post about another phrase that just doesn’t quite fit: enthusiastic consent.

Successful and schizophrenic, thirty years after diagnosis.

This post captures how much an eating disorder disorts your thoughts–something I’m going to be writing about shortly.

You could make an argument that I don’t want anything more than I want to be skinny. You would probably be right.

Actual research about drug research! For ages, I’ve been very uncomfortable talking about the problems of the pharmaceutical industry, because the conversation sounds a lot like the one I see driving the alt-med community. (You Drew Big Pharma! Go Directly to Woo and Collect $200 of Herbs.) This article, plus this one by s.e. smith, have reminded me to bring skepticism to the table.

Musings on veganism:

I have access to produce, to grains and nuts, to soy and specialty “health” products; a family and community that value or at least tolerate that decision. Because I am able to eat vegan, I do. In my experience, being a vegan (if it is economically and nutritionally feasible) is easier than being a feminist. In my diet I can draw very clear lines for myself, which requires only that I obey a habit at each meal. In contrast, responsible feminism requires the mental exercise of regularly throwing off thepatriarchy’s kyriarchy’s hold.

Responsible eating, like responsible feminism, requires learning to question previously held beliefs. It requires tuning one’s ear to try to hear more voices. Who have you not listened to before? Who has society not listened to yet? I find that the many new voices I have been exposed to via feminist, environmentalist, and queer theory feed into my conscience, affecting my understanding of how I affect others, and the physical world, with my decisions. Pardon me for the synesthetic metaphor, but very few things taste better.

Paul Fidalgo wants you to shut up. Or something.
No, really. Go read it.

I’m starting to pick up some ASL, and here’s a fabulous gloss of Still Alive. For everyone who desperately needs to know how to sign ‘cake’.

Promote yourself in the comments! Alternatively, I’m trying to make one new recipe a week as I learn to de-escalate the experience of eating. Share your favorite [vegetarian] stuff in the comments!

Those Trendy Hipster Nuns

Pete Heck has an article about how atheism is making ‘Merica decline. There’s a lot of the classic tropes: atheists are just angry at god, disbelief is proof a deity, confusing the “Nones” with atheists (more than 40% percent of Nones report praying at least weekly.)

And then there’s this.

Granted, the number of “nones,” as these trendy hipsters like to call themselves, is not overwhelming, but it’s certainly higher than it should be if we were still a humble and rational people.

I don’t know about you atheists, but when I’m trying to be the trendy hipster type and drinking my PBR at underground parties, I usually avoid labeling myself something that is phonetically indistinguishable from “celibate women who wear floor-length habits”. I would posit, for Mr. Heck, that the “Nones” label was developed by statisticians who don’t have to spend their time having this conversation:

“There’s been a huge increase in the number of Nones!”
“Wait, why are there more nuns?
“Not nuns, Nones!”
“Nuns?”

Seriously.

 

 

What if Abortion is Murder?

Let us, for the sake of an intellectual argument, say that we accept that life begins at conception.  I personally don’t believe that, but, for the sake of argument, let’s work with that.  Forced pregnancy still makes no sense and abortion is, at worst, justifiable homicide.

Self-defense and bodily autonomy

  • If someone comes into my house, I can shoot them in self-defense, even if I left my door open.
  • If someone tries to attack me, I can kill them in self-defense, even if I was wearing a short skirt.
  • If I hurt an innocent someone accidentally, I am not required to help them survive by giving them my blood.
  • I am not required to give blood every 8 weeks, I am not required to donate my organs when I die, I am not required to be on the bone marrow registry.

And it’s not about causing physical injury, it’s about defense of one’s person.  One can be raped without sustaining any physical injuries, and yet we recognize it as a heinous crime of bodily invasion.

But what if it was about injury?  It is still covered by self-defense because you’ve got reasonable cause to believe that you are going to be hurt and lose property (or money).  Here is a list of risks that threaten not only a pregnant woman’s health but can be prohibitively expensive.  This is overall — risks change based on age, number of previous pregnancies, financial situation, race, and any other health conditions.

Risks of pregnancy:

  • Uterine Prolapse 50%
  • Hypertension 40%
  • Inadequate access to prenatal care 25%
  • Premature rupture of membranes 18%
  • Preterm birth 12%
  • Postpartum depression 11%
  • Low birth weight 8%
  • Diabetes 7%
  • Preeclampsia 5%
  • Birth Defects 4%
  • Preterm premature rupture of membranes 3%
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum 2%
  • Abruption .5%
  • Placenta Previa .5%
  • Gestational trophoblastic disease .1%
  • Before Roe v Wade 20% of maternal deaths were botched illegal abortions
  • Twice the risk of domestic violence than not pregnant women

And many of these risks are permanent: chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes, death from complications, bankruption by the high medical costs (it can cost $7000 for a birth without complications, premies can cost upwards of $100,000), and domestic violence that continues after the birth.

We’re 50th in the world in maternal deaths — there are 49 countries where a woman is less likely to die from being pregnant.  You are 14.5 times less likely to die of pregnancy in Greece than you are in the US — and that’s just overall, it’s a lot worse if you live in certain states.

And this ignores the massive social cost one pays from having unwanted children, the time required to raise a child, the expense of raising children, the massive loss of income, the loss of career opportunities in the future.

So, how at risk does a pregnancy have to be to justify a self-defense for the mother’s health claim?  At what point can you force a woman to take on these risks against her will?

And if your argument is that she was agreeing to take on the risk when she had sex, are you going to remove my right of self-defense if I leave my door open or wear a short skirt in a dark alley?  Will I be compelled to donate my blood and organs to anyone I injure?

References:

http://www.nursingceu.com/courses/345/index_nceu.html

http://www.americanpregnancy.org/main/statistics.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/pelvic_prolapse.shtml#causes_and_risk_factors

http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/contraception-journal/march-2011

Psychopathology Sum-Up: Specific Phobias

It’s Friday, which means a mental health summary. This post is about so called ‘specific’ phobias, which excludes social phobia. Another Sum-Up will deal with that. 

The Overview:

Specific phobias are a category of anxiety disorders. (Anxiety disorders also include OCD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, among others.) Specific phobias are can be seen as the Mad Libs of anxiety: “fear of [insert a noun here]“. The fear is paralyzing, and often interferes with normal functioning, but most are easily cured. In fact, this makes them unusual–one of the only disorders where upon discovery, we know what to do, and we know you’ll most likely be cured.

Specific phobias are also fairly common, and occur most often in adolescence. When the phobia interferes with functioning, people are quite good about seeking treatment. Otherwise, most people avoid the trigger (sometimes going to great lengths), and live their lives. Common phobias include flying, enclosed places, heights, dogs, escalators, spiders, and snakes. (NIMH)

Phobia Treatment:

Blood/Injury/Injection Treatment: Fear of needles, blood, wounds, injuries, or some combination thereof is known as BII. In severe cases, just reading about injuries, even in fiction, can cause wooziness. Treatment is actually different from other phobias, because it’s hard to unlearn fainting. Clients are taught to tense all of their muscles at once when triggered, which raises blood pressure.

Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy can work in a single day, which is kinda cool. Of course, it takes all day, but no other therapy is quite so simple. Client and therapist both decide on a series of experiences from mild to very scary, and work through each. For instance, looking at a picture of a snake, then talking about snakes, imagining a snake, being in the same room as a snake, being near a snake, and finally, holding a snake. Update: Cuttlefish expands on this very very well–there’s a few types of ET, and they’re very different from each other.

Cognitive therapy: Talking through excessively fearful thought processes and challenging them. This is often combined with exposure therapy.

Medication: Never been shown to be effective.

Important Note: Just because phobias are irrational fears and easily treated does not mean you should badger, mock, or otherwise force someone to face their phobia. It’s rude and callous. Don’t do it.

Things Specific Phobias are Not:

Disliking things: hating dogs is not the same as being scared of them.

Rational fear: I think we can all agree that it’s rational to fear the idea of a plane crash, or developing a terminal illness. However, it’s slightly less rational to refuse to look at planes because of a fear of plane crashes. Phobias are irrational fears.

If any information is incorrect, please note it in the comments! However, I am going to ask for citations. I have access to journals as a student, so no worries if it appears behind a paywall. Also, please chime in with your own experiences, misconceptions, myths you’ve heard, and any book suggestions!

Previous Psychopathology Sum-Ups:
Bipolar Disorder

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, Stephen Colbert’s Sister, Runs for Congress

Colbert-Busch, Stephen, and their mother

Colbert-Busch, Stephen, and their mother

When Tim Scott was chosen by our illustrious governor, Nikki Haley, to become our newest Senator, replacing Jim DeMint who retired to head the Heritage Foundation, he left the 1st District of South Carolina without a congressman.  The 1st District is on the coast of South Carolina, and includes Charleston, the hometown of Stephen Colbert and his sister, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch.  It’s also the District from which our bright and shining homestate hero, Mark Sanford, comes.

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch has announced that she is going to file Tuesday to run as a Democrat for the special election for Tim Scott’s old seat.

2010 profile in the Charleston Post and Courier:

Her father and two of her brothers were killed in a plane crash when she was 19. She was married to a man who ended up on “America’s Most Wanted.” And in 2001, while at a business conference in New York City, she was sitting in a building directly across the street from the World Trade Center when two jetliners slammed into its twin towers, forever changing the landscape of America.

But looking into her sparkling brown eyes, you’d never know this woman has seen enough tragedy for two lifetimes. Her infectious laugh fills the room as she talks about her children. Her face lights up every time she mentions Claus, her second husband and the man she calls the love of her life. And when she talks about her job, she speaks with a passion so great, you’d swear her boss was sitting next to her.

As director of business development for Clemson University’s Restoration Institute, Colbert-Busch is, for lack of a better term, the school’s corporate matchmaker. She finds companies that could benefit from the kind of advanced environmentally conscious research the university is doing — wind turbine testing, water studies, different kinds of renewable energy — and partners with them. More to the point, she asks them for money. In return, the corporations get the kind of cutting-edge information to help them stay one step ahead of the competition.

United_States_House_of_Representatives,_South_Carolina_District_1_mapWhen Tim Scott initially ran for the district, he was an impressive fundraiser — outspending his opponents 35:1.  The results?  In 2010 he won the district 65%-29% against a Democratic challenger — becoming the first African-American Republican elected to Congress from SC in 114 years.  This was a huge improvement (for Republicans) over the 2008 results, which was a fluke 52%-48% thanks to Barack Obama’s presence on the ballot.  Tim Scott won the race in 2012 62%-36%, outspending his opponent 20:1.

So, can a Colbert bump make the difference in the 1st District of South Carolina?

Here’s a biography: http://www.cwitsc.org/documents/Bio06_Colbert-Busch.pdf

 

Antidepressants and Suicide: The Rant

[Content Note: This is 618 words about suicide. If that's triggering, there's nothing you could enjoy in this post. Take care of yourself.]

Antidepressants do not cause suicide.
Antidepressants do not cause suicide.
Antidepressants do not cause suicide.

There’s plenty of reasons that people with depression don’t take anti-depressants (AD’s have uses for other psychiatric illnesses, but we’ll focus on depression here). For one thing, they’re only effective for about two-thirds of those who try them. The side-effects aren’t always fun either.

So what I’m saying is, not everyone takes or is helped by antidepressants. But, there’s also a dangerous trope that continues to circulate–that taking psychiatric drugs can cause you to commit suicide. Mercola (of course) is perpetuating it. Psychiatrist–sputter–Dr. Peter Breggin is saying it. And saying it again–this time to Congress.

Except…it’s not true.

So why this type of warning?

Prozac-black-box1

Here’s what we know. During the first few weeks of anti-depressant use, teens and children experience a slightly higher risk of attempting suicide. As of this time, no study has ever found antidepressants responsible for suicide, nor has any participant in studies of antidepressants ‘successfully’ completed an attempt. (FDA)

Why? Why just a brief risk period?

First, The Background. Suicidality comes in a few levels of risk:

-Ideation: This comes in a spectrum from not wanting to be alive to wanting yourself dead. It can vary from the occasional passing thought to invasive, pressing, and overwhelming.
-Planning: The thoughts have are specific. Varies from having a preferred method to  saving medications or buying a weapon. (Women tend to pick less successful methods, such as pills, men, more lethal. Women are far more likely to attempt, men are more likely to succeed.)
-Attempting: Some suicidal action is intentionally taken. This can range from making an intentionally unsuccessful attempts–such as taking too few pills to be lethal–to making every effort to die. Attempts do no occur in a vacuum;  one attempt makes a second all the more likely.

Okay. Back to depression. (This is not a cheerful post.)
People suffering from depression often find themselves without motivation–unable to muster the energy for friends, work, etc. Ally of Hyperbole and a Half has a long description and illustrations that cover it perfectly.

This gets really interesting when you look at the ways antidepressants begin to work in children and adolescents. Often, they experience heightened levels of activity and drive…while still feelings the emotions of depression. Then, more slowly, antidepressants decrease depression.

Which leads to a little bit of a common theory about why suicide risk go up in the first few weeks of teen AD use. Take Theoretical Jane:

TJ has been depressed for a few months. She can’t always bear to get out of bed in the morning, and feels like she’s sleepwalking through class. She’s had some thoughts about suicide, and considers it at least once a day. TJ starts taking Prozac. For the first couple of weeks, it’s just starting to get working. She still has suicidal ideation–but she also doesn’t have trouble with exhaustion or lack of motivation. So we have someone who doesn’t want to be alive, but suddenly has all the energy and drive to be able to do something about it. I think we can see where this would be a problem, yes? Luckily, Prozac starts to help with the depression fairly quickly, and our Theoretical Jane starts to feel better.

——-

So. There’s what we know, what we think causes it, and then blanket misinformation about a link between antidepressants and suicide. Antidepressants do not cause suicide. Yes, sometimes people who take antidepressants commit suicide. That might have to do more with why they’re taking them in the first place. Let’s stop making it harder for people to take them in the first place.