I am in emotional pain. Certainly not as much as so many others, but I am hurting. I bargained my way out of being admitted to the psych hospital by agreeing to attend an Intensive Outpatient Program online. I ended up going for 8 days and then left because it was causing more distress than healing.
This is my Farewell Letter with minor distinguishing factors left out:
There was a time when I loved Group Therapy. I was in several at a time sometimes. Knowing myself now, it was 1) because I loved to talk about me and my issues 2) because it was voyeuristic hearing others talk about their issues 3) because, eventually (after 30 years or so), I knew enough to help others.
I cannot do any more group therapy.
I am meticulous with what goes into my brain. My tipping point for my Bipolar and Depression (and now PTSD) issues are low. I cannot watch the news, scary movies, hear scary stories… you get the gist. The world is filled with terrible things and I can only help in fractions of fractions of fractions of .000001%. The feeling of helplessness is a constant low hum in my existence.
In Group, I did not have control over the input into my brain and psyche. The PTSD trigger, we already talked about. But yesterday, the group was talking about someone who had been “Baker Acted”… as if she was some ‘thing’ to be acted upon instead of “helping her get treatment.” And when I asked that we not talk about someone who was not in the room, I was chastised that 1) it was not HIPAA non-compliant (which was not why I requested they stop) 2) that I “need to get used to these kinds of discussions because that’s life.” When that second statement was used was when the group had informally begun to discuss suicide and ways it can be done. I had to log out. That comment was also said to me when I had the PTSD trigger last week. No, I do not have to get used to people talking about exploding body parts or the terrors of war or looking at meat in the freezer and seeing their friend’s thigh.
I do not need to get used to these kinds of discussions because they do not happen in regular life. When someone talks about killing themselves, action occurs. If someone is put in the hospital for their safety, they are not “A Baker Act,” they are a human being in pain who needs help. The issue was not HIPAA, but kindness and understanding for a person unable to defend themselves in the room at the moment. When someone talks about the horror of war, I can find them some help to be in a safe place to unpack those memories. These topics are not in my every day world.
I talked to my therapist last night as well as my adult girls about what I should do and they all agreed with my self-assessment, that I would do better alone.
Therefore, I am withdrawing from the Program and will work on my own to heal. I will do SMART Recovery (which I love… that program helped me detox from opiates 5 years ago) and read… in the rotation right now is The Mindful Way Through Anxiety. Mindfulness and meditation have also been crucial in my substance abuse issues as well as pain relief, mental stability and finding joy in sad situations. I say this paragraph so you know I have a plan. I am not just going to drink or fall into a hole of incapacity. I am strong and power-full and intelligent. I can do this.
Thank you all for trying. I am just not a good fit for Group Therapies anymore and will be aware of that in the future.
Lastly, thank you for being there for those that need your knowledge and support. It is hard, hard work… being a therapist. Thank you.
Please be safe, stay healthy, wear your masks… and know you are all amazing.
As I write this, I am waiting to explain to my psychiatrist why I left and why I no longer feel I need to be hospitalized. It seems standing up for myself had a positive impact.
How can this be happening? Just when you think nothing can get any worse with that horrible, evil man who is our president, he descends deeper into a hell the world has to cope with.
Of course, those fleeing torture and death… they definitely have it worse than many of us… directly affected by the sweeping executive order that slams the door of salvation in their faces.
Does This Make You Sick? Cry? Want to DO Something?
Tonight at JFK Airport
How can these horrible “christian” people and lawmakers turn their backs on human suffering? I cannot wrap my head around any kind of logic they could conjure. Pro-life? Fucking pigs. What about the children who are dying waiting to enter our country? The women being raped and tortured in refugee camps? Men, hopeless, feeling useless and powerless.
I wish I had answers. I suppose letting our representatives know how we feel? They don’t give one shit. No one has the cajones to stand up against that fascist dictator we now have “leading” our country.
Thank you Canada, Germany and France for stepping up and saying they will accept those trapped in American red tape. Strangling red tape.
My heart feels like it is going to fall out on the floor, I am in so much distress over what is going on. All I can do is write my feelings, trying to see through the tears, knowing I am not alone dealing with this disgusting, horrid man.
I cannot remember the last time I slept 7 hours in a row. Well, I am on Lasix for the swelling from the Risperdal, so had to pee twice (and almost didn’t make it to the toilet I was so deep in sleep!), but fell right to sleep again, which is also weird for me.
I’ve been up since 4am and no hallucinations so far. Very odd. Nice, but odd.
As I have said several times, I have not researched the Mania stuff because I want to experience it instead of anticipating what might come next. But the bizarre nature of the two hallucinations where I was kicked & grabbed scared me so much I had to ask the Psych where the heck those came from. (I still have not researched, not sure I want to yet.)
He explained that the mind in Mania is like a record on 78 (fast, for you youngsters). Skipping grooves randomly. The grooves being fears & memories. Usually scary memories.
How the brain knows to tap only into the shit thoughts is beyond me, but it seems to do that.
My Hallucinations’ Origins
My Fears: Rats & roaches. HATE them both. Intensely. I sat on a rat and killed it once. (Through a couch cushion, but still.) And roaches are fucking everywhere in Florida. It was delightful to not have them in San Diego, but gads, trying to avoid them here is amazingly difficult. (I am meticulous in my room, so if there is even one crawling under the door… it is DEAD.)
Memories: I am open about having been raped (at 18) and molested as a child. When I told the doc about the aggressive hallucinations, he asked me what I had been discussing in therapy lately. I had no idea why he was asking, but told him we were working on trans issues with my former partner Zack… and we’d talked about when I had a pretty long discussion about rape one night with someone else recently. He said, “That would be it.” I was confused and he said the mind grabs those scary thoughts and memories and “acts them out.” I was pretty floored and have thought about it a lot since yesterday.
Where to Go From Here
I am tempted to look the mechanism up, but am still wanting to just stay in the moment until the whole episode is past.
Hurricane Matthew is on its way, so I am out to Costco this morning, then back to work (been on since 4am; no calls yet) afterwards. Hope I get lots of calls today.
I just took the 4mg Risperdal (it’s supposed to be 3 but I haven’t been comfortable leaving the house to get the 1mg ones yet and they are teeny with no scores so I made the executive decision to take 4mg). I am struggling to type correctly, so pardon typos, I will fix them later. I wanted to write, though, to get the feelings down as they were happening. They started… then increase exponentially as the minutes pass.
I had a good day, handled several calls (am a Phone Sex Operator), did the two Tumblrs, was able to write the other blog posts… and now, though.
I am sweating profusely. I have been seeing increasingly ominous hallucinations (shadows, rats and fucking cockroaches) and feeling things crawling on me… and the fucking whispers. (Sorry, the word “fuck” is just appropriate sometimes.)
It is terrifying.
My hands are getting jittery and I am missing the right keys on the keyboard (I am an amazingly fast and accurate typist). Things look weird… Dali-esque. And there is a ghost trail effect going on. Like this kind of (can’t find an exact gif, but this’ll do… losing patience):
I am glad I took the meds, they should kick in soon (it is now 7:16pm) so I can sleep and they can get back in my system. I am going to call Monday and ask about taking them twice a day so I am not in bed at 7:30pm and up at 3am for the day. Not good for business.
Does This Phenomenon Have a Name?
I call it an aura because it is similar to an aura with migraines (I do not get migraines but everyone in my family does)… the premonition of doom so to speak. All I could find was this one article on an aura of doom with hypomania… doesn’t really fit, though. Anyone have a name for it?
Weltschmerz is the depressing feeling you get when comparing the actual state of the world to the picture you have in your head of how the world should be, and knowing that the picture in your head can never exist.
What does Weltschmerz literally translate to?
Weltschmerz is a compound noun made from the words Welt (world) and Schmerz (pain). It therefore translates to ‘world pain’.
What is the nearest English equivalent to Weltschmerz?
World-weariness. It is also sometimes compared to a state of depression.
I’ve personalized the iconic photo below of the stunned-shocked Omran Daqneesh from a few days ago as a representation of the feeling that’s been growing in my heart for many months now, often threatening to drown out the real-life world I live in. The past few days have been increasingly difficult to plow through as I feel more and more helpless to do… or change… one thing going on around me.
As I write around the Web, I keep being asked, “What can I do to help?” I’ve gathered some well-known (and hopefully properly-run) organizations we might find a way to assist. Obviously, this list will not be complete or exhaustive, but it’s a beginning. I wish I could have helping agency connection links to all the conflicts/wars/evil around the world, but this post would run on forevermore.
While I crouch filled with rocks, I will try to do even a grain of sand’s worth of love for those in excruciating pain and circumstances.
Ways to Help in Syria
WARNING: I need to preface this with, as I searched, I came up with sites extremely negative and even violently angry about every one of the following organizations. I have been warned that ISIS is pervasive online and I saw that clearly during my research. When researching individual organizations, be aware of the hate out there in the Netiverse.
SAMS Foundation – SAMS Foundation is a nonprofit humanitarian organization established in 2007. Its volunteer physicians deliver direct medical care in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. Charitable gifts are tax-deductible.
The White Helmets – “When the bombs rain down, the Syrian Civil Defence rushes in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need – regardless of their religion or politics.”
As you can imagine, the list is exhaustive, so I encourage you to Search: “How Can I Help Refugees” or “How Can I Help <fill in the Conflict here>” You can even Search: “How Can I Help Refugees Without Money”
Lastly, SPEAK UP! I know it is heart-wrenching to look at the images, to imagine the horror these people are going through, but we cannot look the other way any longer.
I wrote this in the midst of the Stanford Rape Case’s travesty.
(Note: I am purposefully capitalizing the sexual assault Survivor’s pronouns and any words relating to Her to offer Her some of my respect for Her ordeal and perhaps, give Her a smidge of Power back.)
I’ve been following the story of the Stanford former champion swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, and the Woman he sexually assaulted as his sentence (if you can call it that) was handed down byJudge Aaron Persky. You simply must read the entire story to get the picture of the horrific injustice that was inflicted on an innocent Woman as She was unconscious from drinking too much at a college party.
Much has been said about the Survivor’s drunken state… that She deserved it, that it really is so common as to be irrelevant. She was unconscious when She was assaulted. Even if She was conscious (which she was not) still, She was in no shape to consent.
The incredible Survivor’s letter that was read aloud in court can be seen here: Here IsThe Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker. She recounts how Her life has been ruined by this attack and trial. Yet the judge, in his comment during sentencing said about Brock Allen Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Fuck the impact on the Survivor.
As can be imagined, the backlash from women around the United States has been swift and intense. A brilliant piece by Katie J.M. Baker of Buzzfeed, entitled We With Pitchforks, aims to shame Brock Allen Turner, imprisoning him for life, all over the Internet, with shame because he never expressed remorse, apologies or was given an appropriate sentence.
What Happened With Me
I feel a kinship with this amazing Survivor because I, too, was young (I was 18-years old), very, very drunk and was raped with very little memory of the experience.
The legal drinking age in Florida at the time was 18 and I took advantage of that, spending inordinate amounts of money I made at a fast food restaurant on alcohol. I had loads of cash because I was still living at home. I felt free for the first time in my life.
I went to a local restaurant/bar (a famous chain) almost every night after work, drinking a few drinks, eating appetizers and socializing with the boys and men at the bar. The bartender and servers got to know me well because I was (and am) an awesome tipper. I would get delightfully tipsy, sometimes drunk, but could always get my bicycle-riding ass home at the end of the night.
However, this one evening, I met three men and they asked me to join them at a table. I jumped at the chance… they were adorable! I had just been paid and bought round after round of drinks for all of us. I shot tequila for the first time, several shots on top of the amaretto and creams I regularly drank.
One minute I was at the restaurant and the next memory was being on a bed, a gun to my head and being raped by each of the men, one by one. Then memories disappeared again and the next time I woke up I was at one of the guy’s houses, in his arms and hurting so bad it took me a great deal of energy to unwind myself, get up, call a friend (no cell phones) and get myself home.
Where I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a face I did not recognize. My lips were bruised and bloodied, cuts exposed the trauma I’d endured on my face. My eyes swollen, not quite black eyes, but I expect I was slapped or punched in the face more than once.
I turned from the mirror and stepped into the scalding shower. And scrubbed my body, including the cuts, scrapes and many, many bruises I had all over my stomach, neck, arms, thighs and, most especially, my breasts. It looked like they had used razor blades? Sharp knives? Definitely fingernails. The bruises looked like they had grabbed my flesh as if it was bread dough, squeezed and twisted it. I could see finger mark bruises in several places. When I washed my bottom, the washcloth turned red; I was bleeding out of my anus.
And then, while showering, the image of the gun flashed into my head. Had I tried to fight and they felt they needed to threaten my life to make me lay still?
I especially scrubbed my vulva and vagina. My sore, swollen and bruised vulva. I used a washcloth and tried to shove it inside myself so I could get their filth out of my body. I soaped my fingers and used them to swipe the semen out of me. I know I was in the shower a very long time.
I didn’t cry at all. Of course I know now I was in shock. It took several days before I could think about it enough to feel.
And then cry. (Which I continued doing for years.)
But that day, I did not cry. I was due to go to work at the fast food restaurant so got myself dressed and had my dad drive me to work. (He kept asking, “Where is your bike?” I didn’t know.)
When I got to work, my manager took me aside and asked where I had been the night before. I was confused. Did he know something happened? My friend who came to get me that morning also worked with me, told our manager I had been raped. As if that part of my privacy being exposed wasn’t enough, the manager of the restaurant I had been at the night before called and told my manager that I stiffed the waitress and bartender over $300. Suddenly I remembered I gave one of the guys cash to pay the server when I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he pocketed it. And the server saw me leave a hefty tip… and one of guys grabbing it as he left the restaurant. I was so embarrassed and promised to pay them back immediately.
Talking to my manager, he asked if I knew anything about the guys. I actually (somehow) remembered they were servers at a local Mexican restaurant. My manager and the manager at the restaurant paid their management a personal visit and got the three of them fired that day.
That was the extent of my vindication.
Nowhere along the way did anyone suggest telling the police. It never even crossed my mind. If it happened today and I saw what happened to this assault Survivor, I would never dream of reporting my rapist. Why? It doesn’t change a thing. And, if anything, it smears, smashes and humiliates the Survivor even more… again and again.
It took years of therapy and rape survivor support groups to forgive myself for being drunk that night, to finally believe it wasn’t my fault, that I had not asked for it. The cuts and bruises healed over the first week or so. The inner torment lasted over a decade.
I no longer cry about the experience, have integrated it into a part of my life story and share it when I see a woman beating herself up for putting herself in that position. I beg her to see the reality that we never ask to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if we were out-of-our-minds drunk or drugged. It might take her years and years to grasp even a seed of what I say, but at least I offered her a counter to the screaming voices in her head… and the fucking crap “friends” and family might be saying.
So I share here for the Woman who was terrorized by Brock Allen Turner and Judge Aaron Perksy so She might know She is not alone. I am another woman who knows and understands the shame and humiliation they try to push into our Souls via our vaginas. I also want Her to know there can be joy in Her life again one day. I want to tell Her how proud of Her I am She faced this animal in court even if the judge buried Her in shit with his sentence.
She is not alone. I will think of Her and send Her healing light every single day.
The last 2 weeks have sucked even worse than when I wrote on July 13, 2017. Tears. Tears. Never-ending tears. The suicidal ideation is coming more often and is more vivid than when I started the Paxil. And the damn hallucinations are back.
Almost all of my time is in bed, either curled in pain (another post), staring at the ceiling or sleeping. I leave I Love Lucy on in the background. Sometimes Friends. I’m listening to Mists of Avalon (a book I love), but when I listen in bed, I fall right to sleep. I’ve replayed Chapter 6 four times already.
An Odd Sorta Depression
When looking for images about depression lying, I came across several pieces like this one below:
Not sure if I’m just more familiar with my depression than when I was younger or if it has really shifted, but I do not hear the lies the girl in the image does… nothing negative about my body, how alone I am in the world, how fat/ugly/sick I am. I did when I was younger, but not anymore.
I just feel sad. An overwhelming sadness. A pall of melancholia that separates me from the rest of you. I cannot even touch what I am sad about except for the endless distress I have about our country because of 45. But this joylessness is deeper than the fear-for-our-lives kind. I feel like I’m under the thick glass of my Nana’s cake pedestal, so close to others, but unable to penetrate the barrier of dreariness to make a connection.
The psych doc upped the Paxil to 30mg after 2 weeks on 20mg. He said he still might have to increase it when I see him in 2 weeks. For fuck’s sake, can’t this stuff take effect already? I hate this waiting part.
I have weaned off the Cymbalta. Is that the reason for this huge dip? Who knows anymore. He wanted to increase my Risperdal, but I refused; the eating is out of control with more Risperdal… can’t abide by that.
An aside: I despise the new packaging that seems to be taking over the medication world. I am not stupid, can follow directions, but they are incredibly difficult for me to get into. I’ve asked the Pharmacy to open them for me and then I rip the inner blister pack out, throwing the outer box away. If you haven’t see them, let me introduce you.
I’ve had lots of suicidal thoughts. A friend stayed with me one night when they were especially bad, reminding me every few minutes that Depression is a Liar. Hearing that, knowing it for certain, is what kept (keeps) me going. Hearing that so-and-so loves me doesn’t do much for my mindset because I rationalize that away easily. Depression Lies, however, works wonders.
The thoughts of suicide are so enticing. They call to me seductively as if they were sirens on the ocean’s rocks.
“A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting.”
When I had my first serious clinical depression in my late teens, I didn’t understand the “wanting the pain to stop” aspect and teetered really close to the edge of death.
As I got older and had some decent therapy, I was able to verbalize the inner turmoil and excruciating emotional pain that was drawing me towards dying. Understanding that I didn’t really want to die, but just to stop hurting… a pain that went so deep as to injure my soul… I was able to cling to those brief seconds of “medication will help remove the pain… hang on a little bit longer.”
Medication and therapy have not failed me yet.
Work has been nearly impossible the way I feel. I can do one call, then need 2 hours off to regroup. The calls are easy, mostly with regulars, but the energy expenditure exhausts me. Even writing this post has taken 4 days so far. Ugh. I need to be able to work!
Okay, I need to get this out to you all. It is not a cry for help, I promise. I will not hurt myself, have no plans to. It’s just those random thoughts that flow through my mind… sometimes like heavy cinder blocks and others like wafting vapors. As long as they continue moving on the conveyor belt, I think I’m okay and headed towards healing.
After my Bipolar Diary: Depression Deepenspost, I had several people tell me to call my psychiatrist immediately. I thought I could white knuckle it for another week, but others saw what I couldn’t. I trust those closest to me and picked up the phone, getting pushed into a non-existent spot in his schedule the next day. Wednesday, August 2, 2017.
The crying had been keeping me from functioning and did not abate while in his office.
I told him about the suicidal ideation increasing… then added the obligatory, “But I have no plans to hurt myself, am not stockpiling meds and promise to call 911 if I do find myself getting too close.” He replied, “I understand how frightening they (the thoughts) can be, even when you aren’t consciously creating them.” I breathed a sigh of relief that he seemed to understand.
I’ve had at least 8 different psychiatrists in 30 years and this one is one of the top 2. He listens to me, takes my preferences seriously like refusing the Risperdal increase and is infinitely patient with my continued distress.
I really am so blessed to have such a kind (and gifted) doctor. I know that is rare and how privileged I am to be able to receive quality medical and psychiatric care.
I OWE MY AWESOME CARE TO THE ACA/OBAMACARE INSURANCE I HAVE.
I would not be alive without it.
Medication Change… Again
I continued crying while he pondered, looking at his computer, typing some, then thinking again.
He found a medication I had not tried before… Latuda… which I’ve since read is used specifically for bipolar depression. Yes, yes… it does come with a laundry list of side effects, but I’m ignoring them, listening to my body instead.
I know it takes at least 2 weeks (in my body) to 6 weeks to feel the full effect of psych meds, but when I got home from the appointment, I took my first pill. Then the next morning, I took the second. (It is taken once a day.)
Whether placebo or really working that fast, I did not cry until late evening the next day. I didn’t cry the next night, either. And the ideation has slowed, the thoughts feeling more “transparent,” fewer hard imaginings. The images had been like mosquito bites, begging to be scratched. (Not sure I explained that clearly… I’m having a terrible time writing this, pardon spelling and grammar errors, please.)
August 6, 2017
I’m feeling better still. The doc told me that if I was feeling too sedated, to drop the Risperdal, which I did on day 3 after starting the Latuda. I’ve been on Risperdal since 1995, so it is a major thought process to not take it before bed. I do feel less sedated (I described it like someone spiked my drink), but there’s a lot more room for not dropping into a slumber at any given moment.
Let me get this out so those who are following along know how I am doing. Thanks for you care and attention, my dear friends. Thank you for your love.
People seem baffled at how the GOP can still support pedophile Roy Moore in Alabama. I am not.
I talk to guys who, I am sure, have child porn on their computers. I mean… I know they do. The pedophile community is tight knit and it takes a lot of vetting before you are finally admitted to the grossest club on earth.
That we elected a sexual assailant for president emboldened already brazen men everywhere. Women being mistreated, in public as well as private, over and over as the guys held up the president’s example of (im)proper behavior towards women.
One set of pigs let loose on the farm.
And now we have even more vile animals, cesspool dwellers, silently cheering that, see? their “vice” isn’t that bad. Even the GOP is backing pedophile Moore! Even the president (which isn’t saying much at all). Pedophiles might not come out publicly that they masturbate to (the stolen life of a) child pornography, but I am sure pedophile Moore is getting a slew of anonymous thank you’s.
The Blind Eye is Theirs
Pedophile Moore continues denying what he did because he simply does not see his predatory behavior as anything bad and worthy of admitting to. He honestly feels he did nothing wrong. Being banned from the mall, having to be watched at football games so he stayed away from the cheerleaders, even his thinking he was asking permission to “date” a woman’s daughter… he believes these are all normal behaviors. And they are! FOR HIM!
If a pedophile and child molester had to admit their behavior, their entire world view that includes the realities of justifications and permissions and, “Well, I’m not that bad,” (yes, even pedophilia has gradations) would come toppling down and I believe, in many instances, might even kill them with their own shame. (I hope they choke on it a long time before dying.)
The Moral Bar Falls Into Hell…
… and the GOP has lowered it. That they care more about their “agenda” than tending to a vile, sick, perverted child molester speaks volumes about their morals.
They have none.
All of us poor children who have been sexually abused… all of the children being sexually abused by pedophile Roy Moore’s everywhere, even as I write this… we are all watching.
We are all watching.
And to you boys and girls being hurt, abused and are heartbroken, know there are so many of us out here who believe you and are here for you when you need us.
The horrific events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017, where the beautiful Heather Heyer was killed, were despicable acts of domestic terrorism. An outspoken beacon for ending racial and xenophobic behaviors, she will be honored always for her sacrifice to the cause of equality and peace.
My Sordid Family Legacy
These clashes between the “right/alt-right/white supremacists/white nationalists/Nazis/etc. brings out, once again, the shame I hold in my heart because of my family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan.
I remember when my family moved from northern California to Orlando, Florida in 1966; I was 5 years old. As we drove deeper and deeper into the south, I saw more and more segregation. I had no concept or context, of course, but absolutely remember the different water fountains and different bathrooms. Today, I am horrified at those memories.
USA. North Carolina. 1950.
In 5th grade, Mrs. Moore made it clear where she stood on the race issue. We still had no blacks in the school… the first and only black person came the next year… but as she taught American History, she lingered on the south’s views in the Civil War segment.
A friend of mine, Angel, brought in something that she wouldn’t even show me, but went to Mrs. Moore to ask if she could share with the class. I was near the desk so could hear it all, still not putting it into context for several more years. Angel had brought in some Civil War memorabilia, all southern in origin. I can still hear Mrs. Moore saying, “I believe the same as you do, but we aren’t allowed to talk about those things.” I went to sharpen my pencil and saw a photo of the white hoods and a burning cross. It was the first time I had ever seen the KKK.
My Nana, whom I was named after, was married to my Johnston great-grandfather. I distinctly remember her seeing black children, pinching their cheeks and telling them what cute “pickaninnies” they were. How I wish I could remember the faces of those children’s mothers; they had to have been disgusted.
When we spent weekends with my great-grandparents, watching television became an adventure in racism. The Flip Wilson Show, one of the first TV shows that starred a black person, was popular, but my great-grandfather would holler epithets at the blacks on his show and kvetched the entire hour it was on.
When we played the game it was “catch a n-word by the toe.” I had zero clue what I was saying. When I had kids, they would play the game and sing “catch a tiger by the toe,” but there was not one time I didn’t flinch when they began singing the song, fearing they would say that horrible word. They’d never even heard that version of the rhyming game; I still braced myself.
Peppered around the south are Brazil nut trees. We called them “n-word toes.”
Add the KKK to My History
I was about 10-years old when my racist great-grandfather lay dying in a hospital from emphysema. The stories began being told about his life, one of which was his history with the KKK. Apparently, he had been an active member in the 1930s and 1940s when my family lived outside New York City and then again when my great-grandparents retired to Florida in the early 1960s. Hints that he might have been a grand wizard wafted about as well. I have no idea either how to find out if that is true nor do I have any desire to learn more about his/my shameful history.
How I Was Raised
My father, a Cuban, was called the n-word in high school (in Miami) and my mom’s family became apoplectic when they became engaged. Not sure if my mom had some inherent understanding of racial issues, but she was a supporter of civil rights issues in the 60’s. Not that she could march or anything having 3 kids one right after the other, but she said she did speak up as much as possible with friends and family.
For whatever reason, we just didn’t say the n-word at home. Except for what I mentioned above, I cannot recall ever using that word to describe anyone or use as an epithet.
It took until junior high, which bused in blacks, before I heard the word used regularly. I didn’t connect the word with racism until long after I graduated from high school. I remember, in high school, hanging out with band members who “joked” about being in the KKK, how they were looking for local meetings and even talked about burning crosses. I sat mute, confused and lost. How much more oblivious could I have been? I’m baffled at my inability to see the graphic evil stewing around me.
Somewhere along the line, my mom gave me the book, Black Like Me… a not so subtle teaching of stepping into another’s shoes… black shoes. I remember reading it as if it was yesterday.
After my parent’s divorce, my dad married a deep south-thinking bitch. When she met my Dominican husband, her face pinched tight and she asked, “Are you black?!” the word “black” spit out like a bitter pill. Somewhere in me, I sat up straighter and mentally stuck my tongue out at her.
In fact, his grandmother was black, 2 of my children being brown, the last white like me.
Confronting My Own Racism
It took (too) many years coalescing all that I’d seen and heard into some semblance of understanding.
I’m sitting looking at the blinking cursor, not even sure where to go from here.
pausing some more
I need to amend a sentence I wrote above.
“I cannot recall ever using that word (the n-word) to describe anyone or use as an epithet.”
Amendment: Out loud.
After not using that word in my life, how did it jump into my mind when I was frustrated or angry with a Black person (usually in the car)? Where did that (disgusting) habit come from?
The 1980s were a really introspective time for me. I tackled issues like boycotting, feminism, inner-homophobia, non-violent communication & childrearing… and began exploring my beliefs (and lies) about racism and xenophobia.
(This is much harder to write than I expected.)
I am the embodiment of white privilege. I might have Cuban blood and a Latinx surname, but I have been indoctrinated in the ways of the white culture.
Despite working with Latinx migrant and immigrant women for a couple of decades, learning Spanish, and being able to make platanos maduros, I remain steeped in whiteness.
I acknowledge there is very little I can say to alleviate the damage done by me and my family, but I have to apologize, nevertheless. I am deeply sorry to everyone affected by those in my family… and perpetrated by myself, even inside my mind. I do not want forgiveness, would never ask for it because I do not think forgiveness is in order. I want blacks to know, in my heart, I do apologize every day. I try to use the privilege I have to rectify, support and lift up the blacks I see and interact with. I am so, so sorry. There are not enough words to express myself.
Some Things I’ve Learned
“For a black American, a black inhabitant in this country, the Statue is simply a very bitter joke… Meaning nothing to us.”
Black Lives Matter is an amazing group that holds black people in the esteem they deserve. I love their goals of ending the country’s systematic incarceration, ending police violence with regards to black folks and being “unapologetically black,” fighting for reform of the justice system that is overwhelmingly against blacks and standing tall in their shared problems and successes. I’m listening.
It makes my heart ache seeing what’s happening with this country because of 45. Each of us has a role to take in ending the pain and growing chasms tearing our country apart. I cannot march, but I can write. I need to write more.
I’ve done dozens of diets, been prescribed Black Beauties & other speed (starting at age 8), belonged to many gyms, taken Phen-Fen (with success, but with heart valve damage), tried Topamax (fail), used Wellbutrin (fail), had a Roux en Y Gastric Bypass(with fabulous success, then epic failure), done hypnosis & acupuncture (fail & fail), become a daily Mindfulness Meditation fanatic (fail for weight loss/huge win for pain relief), have tried to have anorexia, then bulimia, hand-written hundreds of thousands of journal pages, letting them “hold” my pain, shame, revulsion, self-hate, wishes, fears, hopes &, eventually, resolution with my size.
I remain in resolution.
I will never diet or take diet drugs again. Ever.
Time & Money
Thinking about the masses of time and money I’ve spent trying to lose weight makes my head spin.
Going to the gym
Writing out menus
Researching rules and techniques for success
Real life or online support group meetings, including social networks talking about losing/gaining weight
Shopping slower to read labels and make sure food is “appropriate”
Learning new cooking methods
Fighting with family about the change in foods in the fridge and cupboards
Probably eventually buying more “bad” food for my family because they whined so much about foisting my diet on them
$28,000 cash for RNY gastric bypass (GB)
Can I include the time and money (including the taxpayer’s) for the years of therapy discussing and crying about all of this?
I was a Fat Activist in the mid-late 80’s, mostly in the lesbian community. I’ve written about being fat-positive for almost 3 decades.
In the beginning, when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I was healthy… labs were fine, no diabetes, my joints or feet didn’t hurt. I crowed (bragged, was arrogant) about how it was the fat-hating that made fat people sick and die, not the fat itself.
Now, at 56-years old, I see how delusional I was. I am well on the road to dying before most people in my family did, and they all had diabetes, too. My future resides in my memories of my Cuban relatives & the diabetes complications they endured before dying. Heart attacks, going blind, having toes, then feet cut off, eventually dying in a coma because the body just gave up.
I see it coming as if it was a roaring train heading right for me.
Litany of Pain
Here are my fat-related illnesses and issues:
Type 2 Diabetes (diagnosed at 34 years old), now on 2 insulins and metformin
I heal terribly because of the diabetes, often needing antibiotics for residual infections
Stage 3 Kidney Disease from the diabetes
Pain with every step I take
Osteoporosis and arthritis in my feet, which have broken 3 times just from walking for exercise, and one foot breaking while swimming
Broke one foot falling off the Wii Fit Board trying to exercise… needed 3 surgeries to repair
Arthritis in my lower back, was on opioids for 8+ years for the back pain, becoming incredibly addicted, finally getting clean 3 years ago (yay me!) Now I use Mindfulness Meditation for pain relief, though many times I wish for some Norco.
It took me years to find surgeons I felt safe with to get my 4 hernias repaired (one surgery) and then my gallbladder out (a separate surgery, with 3 hospital visits afterwards because of infection)… several turning me away because of my enormous belly size (blessedly, I found the docs and those issues are resolved)
Bone loss from possibly 2 main sources: lack of exercise & the Gastric Bypass
Walking with a walker, but should be in an electric wheelchair, my feet hurting so badly
Using an electric wheelchair when I shop
My world has gradually become smaller and smaller. After 32 years in birth work (where I hurt daily as well), I am now a sedentary Phone Sex Operator. I live in a small space and leave the house only for doctor appointments, physical therapy, shopping and seeing my doggies at mom’s house.
If I died right this moment and someone had to go through my room, either throwing things away or giving them to my kids, they would find, in several different locations, stashes of candy.
right next to the insulin
behind the medications
candy canes from 2 years ago
Quite the mind-fuck seeing the candy juxtaposed with the insulin and metformin, isn’t it.
rolling my eyes
I come by the behavior honestly.
Growing up, mom was periodically on diets. When she was, so was the entire household. I called the feast or famine cycle, “Celery or Eclairs.” Either mom created delicious baked goods or we had celery and carrots filling the refrigerator. It didn’t take long to learn to bulk up for the famine that was surely to come in a couple of weeks. As a ravenous fat child, I scavenged for calories when we were supposed to be eating far fewer of them.
You see, my mom hid candy, usually plain M&Ms, in her drawers, under her marabou-lined lingerie. Being a nosy brat, I scoured the room, looking for the candy, then eating it when it was finally in my greedy hands. I didn’t process the information that mom would know I had eaten it when she couldn’t find it. That was irrelevant. Eating it was the goal and eat it I did.
When I was in a relationship (pick one), invariably my partner would have issues with my food intake. Reading my Facebook Memories makes me wince as, nearly every 2-3 days, I was starting yet another new diet or forcing myself to go to the Y.
When I went to the Y, I would ride the exercise bike until I sweat, go as long as I could, then get off and get in the car to go home.
And then began the fight, the tug-of-war to eat before I went home. Carl’s Jr. was open; I could go through their drive-through. I could go to the grocery store and get something quick to consume. Whatever I chose, I wouldn’t be able to eat it all, so would need to either throw the rest away or bring it home with me. (Another wrestling match in my head.)
I hated throwing the food away, especially when I could eat it later. So I’d tuck the leftover burger or sourdough baguette and cheese in my gym bag and hope Zack wasn’t awake so I could hide it in the closet.
My shoe holder (a long canvas bag that hold 12 pairs of shoes) was my favorite hiding place. Fuck, that is gross looking at that now. Then, it seemed like a brilliant idea.
I had to move slowly so the wrapping didn’t crinkle too loud, betraying my plan.
I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to explain how much I hate discussing food with anyone, partners most of all. My body tenses as if I was about to be assaulted, every hackle raised trying to protect my Self from the (invariably) negative and judgmental bullshit about to come out of their mouths. Yeah, yeah… I know… “they mean well.” Well, it doesn’t feel well. It feels horrid, defending myself, my size, my food choices, intake and why am I still fat even after dieting/exercising/having a gastric bypass/using medications/etc.
Don’t I know what eating so much/exercising so little is going to do to me? Don’t I see my Cuban relatives as the Cautionary Tale for my own future with diabetes?
I haven’t had but the briefest mentions of my weight with anyone besides medical people in over 2 years… and it has been heaven. Sitting and writing, even this far out, I can still feel the intense tightening of my muscles as I remember the inevitable tap dance discussion of my weight and food the moment someone began with, “Honey, I am worried about you.”
I’m not stupid. I was a health care provider. I’ve read the articles and papers about being sedentary and fat. I know my life span is infinitely shorter because I don’t “exercise and eat right.”
But the freedom from the stress of discussing it cannot be described. Doesn’t that account for something?
Fat, Weight Loss Surgery, Weight Loss Medications, Weight Gain all discussed.
I wrote and published this in my old Navelgazing Midwife blogon May 3, 2007. Pictures have been added, but nothing else has been changed. I’m sitting here smirking about how arrogant I was throughout my life thinking I would find *A CURE* for my obesity. I was delusional, even in this post.
Pacer. I was called Pacer throughout Junior High because I had a “wide rear end” like the GMC car of the 70’s.
I’ve had eggs thrown at me while walking around the block trying to lose weight.
Another year, I had a kid throw oranges at me while doing the same thing.
I’ve been moo’d at hundreds of times.
I’ve been laughed at, stared at, and ignored.
I’ve had to sit at a table and chair because I couldn’t fit in a desk at school (for years).
I’ve had to shop from a catalog (pre-Internet) because no store had clothes large enough for me.
I went without bra and underwear for 15 years because I couldn’t find a decent-sized fit that didn’t cut the hell out of me.
I lived with yeast under my pannus and breasts for decades because I thought it was “chafing” – trying to cure it with powder, corn starch, Gold Bond, zinc oxide, keeping hankies or bandanas tucked under my pannus, struggling to keep it dry. I blew dry it half a dozen times a day and still it remained seeping moist. Once I learned it was yeast, in my thirties, and used Monistat on it, my life transformed!
My thighs’ friction burned each other to the point of losing skin, especially when wearing panty hose (de rigeur in the 70’s) and I used bandanas to keep my thighs protected from each other. I remember learning about bloomers and thought they were the miracle of the world. I never owned a pair, but quickly thereafter, bike shorts came into my reality and I have never been without them again.
I hobbled so badly a woman took me aside at a dance and told me about Birkenstocks. She said she hobbled from her fat, too, until Birkenstocks and they saved her feet. Poor, I asked her how much they cost and when she told me they were almost $100 I choked! She told me they were worth the ability to walk and somehow I manifested the money and have only worn Birkenstocks since. I now own 20+ pairs.
I’ve sat on airplanes and spilled onto two seats, using two seatbelts, almost needing three. I either flew on near-empty flights or flew with my partner so I could seat-share with her
I lived with the food voices speaking, whispering, and screaming inside my head my entire life except for three distinct times: when I was on Phen-Fen, during the first year after the gastric bypass and now, on Topamax. When the food voices are “on,” they are incessant and never-ending. They don’t take a breath, rest, relax, and stop even for a second to consider my feelings or sanity – they merely run and Run and RUN through my mind until I want to scream – or eat to make it shut up. And even if I eat and the voices recede to the background for a moment, it isn’t but a moment before they are loud and screaming yet again. Is it any wonder I wanted to make them shut up?
From Whence I Came
I was dying of being 350 pounds. I am not dying of being 220 pounds. I can live easily and delightfully at 220 pounds. Would I like to eliminate the pannus I have from having three kids? Sure! Will I? Maybe, maybe not. Do I wear sleeveless dresses and shirts even though I have swinging arm skin? You betcha.
I remember what it was like being fat(ter). I remember the sadness, the anger, the feeling of being a victim I felt. I remember how I didn’t fit in – literally. I remember how I didn’t fit in chairs, through turnstiles, on rides, in booths. I remember how it felt every single time I would go out of the house, heave myself into my car, heave myself out of the car, walk into and out of a store, feel myself looked at by children and teenagers… and many adults. I remember ripping clothes because they were too tight, too old, I squeezed in the car and they got caught between me and the steering wheel. I remember being watched while shopping for food. I remember hating eating out because people watched me. I remember eating in secret. I remember hiding food because I didn’t want people to see how much food I ate. I remember hating how little control I had over myself. I tried, every day, to do better. To stop the voices. To stop eating. To stop eating so much. I hated being so observed.
I remember using my writing skills to move Fat Acceptance forward by outlining each ride at Disney World (I went by “gardenia” back then) and how fat people would do on them… writing about health care and fat acceptance… writing just using the word “fat” (which made some people [usually not fat] very uncomfortable) itself!
I’ve been to rallies and stood next to Fat Acceptance chicks and spoken on behalf of Fat Moms and Fat Dykes – asking (demanding) that we get decent chairs at the Gay Pride Festival, that we be remembered when tee-shirts are ordered at all events, and that everyone remember fat is just another way of Be-ing.
When I got really angry, though, was when I started seeing my lab work going downhill. For years I’d bragged about how great my lab work was even though I was fat. Until I was 34, everything was great. Then, my Hemoglobin A1C, my glucoses, my cholesterol… everything went to shit. I didn’t pay that much attention until I was hospitalized for a kidney infection that was complicated by extremely high glucoses. With a family history of diabetes (I am Cuban); I couldn’t just sit and watch the glucose/kidney correlation with abandon.
I’d always despised when people said they’d had Weight Loss Surgery (WLS). I disgustedly spat out the words, “Mutilating Surgery” as I watched a fat person choose WLS. I didn’t even want to hear their story. I didn’t care. There wasn’t reason enough to me for someone to cut apart their body that way. It was repulsive to me.
Weight Loss Medications
Drugs were no different. I’d been given Black Beauties at 10 years old and a variety of other weight-loss drugs over the years and none of them worked and all of them made me even fatter.
Diets were stupid and I’d long ago given up on any diets. (At least publicly.) Privately, I tried a couple for a week or so, but couldn’t ever do anything for longer than that.
But, when I was getting sick, I had to do something and chose the method of the moment and that was Phen-Fen. It seemed ideal and, at that time, it was.
Phen-Fen was a dream! Within 3 days, my mind shut up and the voices were gone. I couldn’t believe something could actually make the voices stop! I loved it. I was on Phen-Fen for 19 months and lost 111 pounds. I was still 230 pounds, so wasn’t any thin thing, but I loved where I was – in a silent world of normalcy.
When they took Phen-Fen off the market, the voices returned and came back in a furor I’d never heard before. It was as if they were so angry at being silenced for so long, they were going to tell me 19 months’ worth of what they wanted me to hear. I was forced to listen. And I ate. And ate. And ate. I gained 130 pounds in 9 months.
Immediately, my diabetes, cholesterol, triglycerides, sleep apnea, stress incontinence, PCOS, IBS became issues I would contend with for another 10 years. Sure, I’d end up with a heart defect from the medications, but even all these years later, I waver about whether I would take Phen-Fen or not if it were legal again. The drug’s quieting effect was that restful to my mind.
Weight Loss Surgery
When the illnesses overtook my body and I was so limited in mobility and I was really looking at the last days of a very unhappy and sickly life, I had to make a choice about what I was going to do and I chose the Roux en Y Gastric Bypass. It was almost cruelly ironic. I couldn’t help but laugh. My fat friends, long gone from my now world, would have been disgusted and would have been… long gone… just at the news of my choice.
My choosing to have Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) reminded me of lesbian friends who went back to men or Christian folks who chose abortion or other such dichotic, head-twisting ideas that make one’s circle of friends wonder what got into us. If I hadn’t been in my own body and head, I’d have thought I’d lost my mind.
What was I about to do? What did I expect out of surgery? Did I think I was going to be a svelte size 6 at the end of the gig? What was I going to do with all my loppy skin? Could I love me smaller than the fat chick I had known and loved for 40 years? Would I even know me smaller? What would I fight about/for now? If I didn’t fight for Fat Chick Rights anymore, who would I be? If I fit in the chairs, who would I be mad at? I was so worried about being lost. So lost.
I had surgery April 5, 2001 and was meticulous with my post-op care and therapy. I lost 100 pounds in 10 weeks simply by being compliant. I wasn’t racing to lose weight, but was racing to save my health and within days, I was off most of my medications and within weeks, all of them. I ended up losing 190 pounds in a year, but wigged out when I put on a pair of size 8 jeans. I absolutely loved being able to shop anywhere, adored walking, crossing my legs for the first time in my life, sitting on my partner’s lap, fitting anywhere I tried (and it took years to figure out my own size in relation to things) and doing cartwheels (I have pictures). My kids didn’t know what to make of me!
By year three, I’d regained almost 100 pounds. I was still fairly healthy, but mobility was becoming an issue once again. The sleep apnea was returning as well. The voices had returned with a vengeance. It was the worst of all the returning difficulties.
(I wasn’t like some of my co-WLS friends who were suicidal because of weight gain. I took it in stride, knowing that most WLS post-ops regain 50% of their weight back. It didn’t make me do more than shrug and sigh about my recurring health concerns. I had thought I’d had enough incentive to keep enough weight off to keep those at bay, but, alas, I was as human as the rest of the gang.)
I never had any illusions of being small forever, but I didn’t really think I’d have to diet again. And yet, I found myself considering diets – the most disgusting shit fat people are told they have to live on in order to be treated humanely in this society.
Blessedly, I still couldn’t eat the massive amounts of food I’d eaten pre-op. While many say they are fat without eating thousands of calories a day, I ate 8000-10,000 calories a day and was unable to see that – or admit that – until I’d had the gastric bypass. I was still able to eat plenty to weigh 250, though! Even with a stomach the size of a shot glass. How’s that for a food addiction?
Anyway, this isn’t really meant to be a play by play of my diet history, but know that through the last few years, I tried a few diets, drank that crap Slim Fast (recently), considered Opti-Fast, Nutri-System, and anything else I could think of that I couldn’t do before WLS and have failed just as miserably now as I did then. How could I think it would be different?
What I really was searching for, however, wasn’t the loss of weight; it was the silencing of the voices inside. The screaming inside my head was becoming so loud; I could hardly hear myself think. Some days, I thought I would go crazy from the cacophony. I begged my psychiatrist for help, over and over again. Please, please, don’t you have something for these voices? You have something for the auditory hallucinations of my Bipolar Disorder, where are the medications for this? For a year, she worked with me to get my BPD and my extremely precarious depression into a place of balance before she would even begin talking about food voices. Once I was stable enough on the meds, she whispered a possible solution.
Topamax has become my/the new Phen-Fen and I am blessed to have it in my life/head/mind.
Since starting Topamax, the voices have left completely. I am able to eat when hungry, stop when full (to my pouch’s full, not my old stomach’s full), and not be hungry again until a real mealtime is supposed to be. Before Topamax, I grazed nearly continuously and ate meals inbetween the grazing. Since starting the medication, I have lost 30 pounds, sleep apnea, the feet pain, the knee aches, the glucose spikes and my periods are regular again. Just those 30 pounds made a difference.
I am not on medication to lose weight. I am on medication so I don’t try and crush my hands through my skull and make my head shut up its crazy never-ending screaming for food, Food, FOOD. I don’t know what it is in my bio-chemical make-up that creates those voices, but if I hadn’t ever had Phen-Fen before the Topamax, I’d never have known the voices could be quieted; I’d never have even known the voices had a name.
But, I know them now and they are what made me the fat, angry woman. The voices.
So, this still fat woman isn’t so angry right now because the voices are quieted… drugged, if you want to say that. I don’t really care what you want to call it; they have shut their damn mouths! I can think, function, meditate, talk and even make love without hearing the continuous imploring to find food. I only hope the medication doesn’t have the same sad ending Phen-Fen had, of course, but I’m living in this moment… staying in the joy today.
Circumstances surrounding my life have made me sad and even mad at times… the way people have treated me, not treated me, the way I have had to settle for less (so to speak) most of my life because of being so fat, being called names, kids thinking I was pregnant years after having had my babies, looking in the mirror and seeing someone I could barely tolerate looking at. I wonder now, not so fat, if I am still mad at those things. I am certainly unhappy that my fat sisters and brothers have to suffer those indignities I used to suffer – but I also see that people are far fatter today than they were when I had surgery 6 years ago.
(I have made the interesting observation that I spent my childhood as the fat freak and got WLS as an adult and soon enough, more kids will be fat than not and those who have WLS will be the thinner freaks!)
As a fat chick, I also had such a great life as a very sexually active dyke… danced and played and support grouped myself silly! I might not have been able to walk all over the world, but I sure could ECV all over The World (Disney World, that is!)! My sedentary lifestyle left me plenty of time to write and develop Internet relationships, many of which are now a decade old. I am in a glorious relationship with my Sarah who loves fat chicks of all sizes and I am mom to 4 great and wonderful now-grown kids who loved their mom fat and who are extremely de-sensitized to fat people look-wise, yet highly sensitive to their needs when out and about. I am very proud of them and their love for people; I know that my fatness had a giant (har) place in their gentleness and amount of kindness for different people.
Making Space for Fat Folks
Fat acceptance certainly still has a place in my life. I still work hard to keep fat information in the forefront in my life. My holistic healthcare office accommodates fat folks as easily as non-fat men and women. We have gowns that fit people up to 600 pounds. We have chairs that hold 550 pounds. I made sure the massage tables held 500 pounds. We have a chiropractic table called a Hi-Lo Chiropractic Table that allows those with mobility issues to stand and be lowered gently instead of having to climb on the table. Our pregnant women use the Hi-Lo, too, of course – they can lay on it, belly down, because the middle drops out… sometimes the only time they ever get to be on their stomachs during their pregnancies.
I have a speculum that is appropriate for the women who might need that. I made sure the exam tables were situated in a way that the legs would be comfortable during an exam (I typically don’t use stirrups, but can if a woman wants to). I own a blood pressure cuff that not only has a large cuff, but also has a thigh cuff for a super-size person’s arm. I also learned how to take blood pressures in areas when the cuff is too small for the upper arm – and teach that to student midwives, nurses and doctors everywhere!
When interviewing practitioners, I make sure they are comfortable with fat clients. I use the word “fat,” so they quit startling when they hear the word.
A Fat Midwife
I am the rare homebirth midwife who takes “obese” clients and doesn’t automatically see them as high risk, sick, Gestationally Diabetic, or an automatic transfer to have a cesarean. I see women as they are and will work with them where they are. We have to address food and food issues – just like I do with every single pregnant woman – it just feels deeper with a fat woman because of how harsh it is in our society. But, being a fat woman myself, I have to believe I can make it somewhat softer, somewhat gentler than it could be with someone who has permi-glazed skinny eyes.
Today, I am a fat, joy-filled, life-filled, spiritually speed-growing woman. I am not perfect. My writing doesn’t adequately say what I want to say all the time. If you want to get to know all of me, come spend time with me… a lifetime with me… and even then, I suspect you won’t know a fraction of who I am. I am still learning who I am. Every day, I see new facets of my Self, places where I think, “Ha! I didn’t know you were there!”
These conversations have allowed me to get thoughts out that have wanted to be written for years. I thank you women for the prodding to move forward. You still might disagree with me and my choices, but your disagreements can’t change them. They are made. I will still have had WLS. I will still have taken Phen-Fen. I will still take Topamax. However, I am listening to you all to be more careful to speak more personally and watch my language when I speak of “some women,” – and I ask that you also have a moment of patience with my prose.
I might still make you a fat angry woman, but I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading. I promise to keep listening.
Written 10/12/16 about 10/10/16 Gastro-Intestinal (GI) doctor visit.
So, while I have been fat my whole life and have had my share of medical fat-shaming from fat-hating doctors, it has been a very long time since that’s happened… whether from their shifts in attitude via Continuing Education about inclusivity (or at least learning to keep their mouths closed about their attitudes) or because I learned to open my mouth to shut it down.
The GI Doc
I had signed AMA out of the hospital 12 hours earlier when the doctor, small, a person of color (no clue the origin, but shouldn’t matter),very pretty walked into the Exam Room.
“Oh, my! You look awful,” she said. I’d seen her 3 times before, but I am memorable by what I wear (tie-dye) and being bald. And I am very, very nice to care providers.
“You look like you haven’t slept in weeks!”
“Uhhh, I am at the tail end of a 2-3 month Manic Episode, so no, not sleeping much.”
She went over the paperwork, labs & prescriptions from the night before. She looked at me pretty harshly and said, “You really need to be in the hospital. You are extremely dehydrated.”
I told her no one said anything like that the night before, but I would probably still not have stayed.
She said, “Stubborn.”
The reasons she said I am dehydrated:
chronic diarrhea despite 20 Immodiums and 3 Pancreatic Enzymes a day
vomiting a couple of times a day
taking Lasix to pee! (because of the ankle swelling from the Risperdal)
I would have never recognized the signs of dehydration because they were in the labs! I guess the NP the night before didn’t think I was that dehydrated because she never even said the word to me. My pee is crystal clear; strange. She said that was why my HR was 124 upon discharge. I am sure I shrugged.
She said I needed to get the ER prescriptions filled (the Cipro and Bentyl) and she added Prilosec, Lomotil and Zofran.
This is what my New-Taking-Now meds look like (as they lay against my ballot which went in the mail yesterday!).
“Good-Luck with That.”
“You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected.”
Okay, true. Emergency surgeries on fat people have an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.
But there was more to her sentence above.
She ran two of them together, “You need to have your gallbladder taken out as soon as possible, before it gets infected… but I am sure you won’t find a doctor to touch you because of your size.”
blinking as I watched the contempt drip from her lips
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think you will find a doctor in our area to do the surgery because of (again with the disdain) – the risks.”
I told her I knew that Bariatric Surgeons (who do Weight Loss Surgeries) are ALL GI Docs and I would find one to take my gallbladder out.
“Good luck with that.”
She gave me my paperwork, prescriptions and her bulldozer-sized hatred of fat people… and walked out.
I sat there and cried.
raw Raw RAW
I am strong. Most of the time.
Right now in this (decreasingly) manic place, I feel flayed, nerves on the outer surface of my body. No ability to control what or who hits them. I merely react to the sensations.
This one was an animal claw dragging down my chest… slipping in and gashing my heart as it went by.
I had not felt such shame in eons. And I see doctors all the time! I mean, really, probably not for at least a decade have I been medically fat-shamed. (Many medical & personal fat-shaming experiences to come in future posts.) I felt hideous in those moments after she smashed shit down my throat, squishing it with her heel as she left the room.
I stumbled out of the building, crying still, and drove home.
I began to find my Power, many minutes too late and useless at that point, but I thought, “For fuck’s sake, I cannot possibly be the fattest person on the face of the earth who needs abdominal surgery.”
And then I got mad, but it was a gradual dilution of the mad into the shame where, for a time, if they were able to be separated, you could see they were half and half. Now, 2 days later, I am more mad, but in retelling it to my Insurance’s Case Manager, I cried from shame so hard she kept having to say, “Breathe. Breathe.”
I have been given 3 Bariatric doctors’ names… one in Orlando, one in Tampa and one in Miami. I told my Case Manager I would go anywhere in Florida to get it done. Even if I had to go to Shands Teaching Hospital in Gainesville. I called the doc here in Orlando, explained the situation to the Office Manager and she said she would talk to him and get back to me tomorrow. I told her I knew it was not his usual surgery, that I had had Weight Loss Surgery (WLS) in 2001, but was fat again and needed help, please.
I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and 13, 2016.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.
– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.
– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.
– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
– To you amazingAnesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
– ToORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
– To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especiallyJoshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
– To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
– To theChaplains of the Orlando Police Departmentand the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
– To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
– To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
– To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.
– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
– Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are: