Guest Post: March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

The month of March is often associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the first tendrils of spring, Daylight Savings Time, and March Madness for collegiate basketball. March is also Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month and I’m here to talk about this invisible illness which affects 2.3 million people worldwide. My name is Kacee Cole and I was diagnosed with MS on Christmas Day 2013, just a hair over a month after my 27th birthday. I will begin with general information about the illness, some myths and facts, and finally wrap up with my personal story with this complicated, difficult disease.

Continue reading “Guest Post: March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month”

Guest Post: March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month
{advertisement}

Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post request from a mother who wants to play Pokemon Go with her child, but can’t because of some of the many ways it is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Her identity will be kept anonymous for reasons of safety and consideration. The following is an open letter to Nintendo. 

Hey Nintendo, some people have disabled children who would like to play Pokemon Go.

Even though the premise of your game is awesome, it could be improved upon with more accessibility.

As the parent of an autistic child (who is intentionally keeping things vague for the sake of this post because I’d rather my son disclose information about himself publicly whenever he personally feels it is appropriate to do so and can consent to it) who enjoys playing Pokemon with his mother, and as a mother who grew up playing Pokemon games of her own, the Pokemon franchise has always been one that has allowed us to bond and spend quality time together. I man the controls, and when my son indicates a preference in one or more Pokemon, I try to incorporate those into our team. (Once we attempted to bring the three legendary birds to the Elite Four in LeafGreen because he liked them a lot. That might have been when type disadvantage was best illustrated, bringing three Flying when the first Trainer specializes in Ice. Moving along…) Based on what I’d read about Go, I thought it would be one of the most awesome games ever to play with him when it came out.

And then it came out.

Continue reading “Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)”

Dear Nintendo: Let My Son Play Pokemon (Guest Post)

Guest Post: "Women's Work"

This is a guest post from Sunflower Punk of Social Justice, posted with permission.

People would always tell my mom she was lucky she had at least one daughter. They would tell her I would help her when her parents were elderly and needed taking care of. No one ever mentioned my brothers. It was always like that; the girls in my family were expected to take care of their parents even after marrying and making lives of their own. The men were never expected to though. In fact when a man was taking care of a parent, I’d hear how selfless and wonderful that man was. My grandma ended up taking care of her mother-in-law, brother-in-law and two sisters-in-law. My grandma is the best example of a woman dropping everything to take care of someone else, often at the expense of her own health.

Now, it’s on me and my daughter to take care of my mother and grandma. I’ve heard it plenty of times. “It’s so great you had a girl. If you’d had a boy you’d be alone”. They don’t expect TJ to have a life of her own when she’s grown. If I had a boy, they would expect him to leave me as soon as he was able.

I’m the one in charge of mami’s affairs when she dies. I’m the one who has to make the medical decisions should she ever end up in the hospital. Grandma is sick and may need surgery. Who does the responsibility fall on? Mami. But since she isn’t well, it’s my job. My 6-year-old daughter is expected to help out too. I have two brothers. One of them lives with grandma. But I’m the “girl” so it’s my job to take care of everybody.

My brothers are able bodied. I am not. But I had the bad luck of being assigned female at birth. I can’t leave grandma and mami to fend for themselves without someone accusing me of being selfish. Even if I protested and mentioned my brothers, I’d be told that it isn’t proper for sons to take care of their mothers. This was made clear to me when I was nine years old and my mother had a hysterectomy. It was my job to help her wash up and get dressed. One day I couldn’t help her because I was sick. So my younger brother volunteered. My grandmother started yelling at me. She told me I was lazy and that it was wrong for a son to see his mother naked. I questioned what mami was supposed to do if she hadn’t had a daughter. I was slapped and told to stop talking back.

I wouldn’t leave mami and grandma to fend for themselves. I’m not that cruel. I wasn’t conditioned to be selfish. I was conditioned to never think of myself. It’s taken me a while to get out of that thinking. It’s taken me a while to learn to say no and to take care of my needs.

When the time comes to take care of either mami or grandma, I’ll do it. I’ll know it’s because it’s expected of me but also because no matter how hard I try I will never be callous like my brothers. I know I’ll hear all about how selfless I am and what a good daughter I am, and don’t I hope TJ will take care of me in my old age.

And I will know that if I ever need TJ to take care of me, it’s because I earned her love and respect, not because it her “womanly” duty or because she owes me.

 

Guest Post: "Women's Work"

What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?

Guest post by America Yamaguchi

[CN: sexual assault]

 

“Female-bodied” is a term that is endlessly harmful.

It reduces cisgender women to their uterus. While childbearing is a massively important component of patriarchal harm, it goes far beyond that. It is also harmful to insist that childbearing or a uterus is what makes a woman a woman, both to trans people of all genders, and to cisgender women who are infertile for any reason. It compounds a major source of psychological distress to cis women who cannot have children. By the standards of “female-bodied” to mean the uterine body plan, a cisgender woman who is missing any aspect or has a dysfunction by any part, is bound to feel like less of a woman. Thus, this term directly attacks the womanhood of a variety of cis women as well as trans women.

Continue reading “What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?”

What’s the Harm in “Female-Bodied”?

Guest Post: The Stigma of Mental Illness and Religiosity: A Dual Insult

Guest post by Katrina Halfaker

 

My life is defined, to some extent, by my mental disorders. To be chemically different is to be a lesser. It is to be stigmatized. We’re cast as violent, deranged, and irrational even though we are ten times more likely to be victims of abuse, often by those in positions of power, whether they be police officers, academic administrators, loved ones, or strangers on the street.

 

I’m an atheist with OCD, which is comorbid with other anxiety-based disorders, and I noticed clues of their onset as early as when I was ten, as did my family, though they never took me to a doctor. In the last year, I’ve dealt with mild pubic trichotillomania. Years before, I developed a binge-eating disorder (which led to childhood obesity). It went quiet for a while, but still, it occasionally asserts itself in relapses. Every single person in my immediate family has been or is currently affected by at least one major disorder (diagnosed and undiagnosed: SAD, borderline personality disorder, and depression). I was raised in a religious household and educated until teenage-hood in a low-key Creationist school. We never had a licensed school therapist or nurse, or any provisions outside of an occasional hearing and vision test – but we did have chapel every week.

 

So, yes: I know the difference between reinforced frameworks and chemical diversity.

 

Many of you, my fellow secularists, need to understand one very crucial aspect of this dilemma: you have made it personal when you call religion a mental illness. And you have transgressed in ways you believe you have not. And you are unwilling to acknowledge it.

Continue reading “Guest Post: The Stigma of Mental Illness and Religiosity: A Dual Insult”

Guest Post: The Stigma of Mental Illness and Religiosity: A Dual Insult

Guest Post: Anxiety and Social Justice

The following is a guest post from Caleb Harper

                Nobody would make the claim that talking about social justice issues is easy.  It takes a lot out of you, it is stressful, and it can even cause rifts between friends.  But when you already have problems with anxiety it can be even more challenging.  Conversations about social issues can easily trigger anxiety, and then you’re caught between needing to take a step back and not wanting to.  It can be hard to accept that you need to walk away.  But there are steps you can take to care for your mental health while continuing to learn and talk about social issues.  I won’t pretend to know the best strategies for each individual, but as someone who experiences anxiety when discussing these issues I have developed some personal habits that might be useful to others.

Witnessing people get angry in itself can be a cause of anxiety for me, especially if I feel like I’m at fault.  Needless to say, marginalized people are often (rightfully) angry about their oppression.  While it’s important to remember that this reaction is never at fault, it’s also important to remember that you aren’t a bad person for getting anxiety from it.  It’s been helpful for me to look at it from a different angle.  I don’t think about those posts as someone being angry at me. I see it as someone telling me not to do whatever it is they are angry about.  It’s advice.  Even if they are in fact angry at me, it’s easy enough to walk away from it anxiety-free while still learning about how to improve myself.  It might seem counter-intuitive to detach yourself from the situation like this, but if it makes anxiety problems more manageable and keeps you listening I believe it is worth it.

I’ve tried a lot harder to stay out of conversations that I’m not impacted by.  It’s a good idea not to do this for multiple reasons; oppressed people have one less privileged person barging into their conversations, and I’m less likely get anxiety from being called out for it.  The fact is I don’t know what it is like to live as a trans woman, or a person of color, or as a physically disabled person.  There are a host of marginalized experiences of which I have little to no understanding of.  My time is best spent listening to people instead of pretending to know that their lives are like.  This has worked out pretty well for me.  Not only have I learned a lot, but I have been called out a lot less for screwing up.  It’s not a matter of disengaging from these conversations; it’s about stepping back and letting others talk for themselves.

I take breaks.  This is something that has been hard for me because for some reason my brain likes to hyper-focus on stressful things, but it truly does help.  If I can sense something is going down, or someone has gotten angry with me because I fucked up, I often reach out to talk to my friends, or do something else that calms me down or makes me happy. I still take the time to address what is going on, even if it’s just reading and thinking about what happened, but I pace myself and make sure I’m doing self-care at the same time.  I try to remember that it’s ok to fuck up, what matters more is how I respond to being called out.  Responding in a respectful and productive manner is much easier when I’m in an ok mental state, so taking breaks never hurts.  And sometimes it might be better to just walk away from a situation entirely, or at least until it blows over.  I still learn from my mistake and try to grow from it, but not all situations warrant a verbal response. 

Speaking of walking away, it’s ok to step away from specific people who induce your anxiety, even if they’re talking about their oppression.   This is another counter-intuitive piece of advice, because privileged people shouldn’t ignore oppressed people.  But your mental health is important.  When it comes to social media, there are other people you can listen to who won’t trigger your anxiety, or at least not as frequently.  People express their viewpoints and anger in various ways and in different intensities. That’s completely ok, but it can be draining to witness every day. I’m saying this as someone who has been on both sides of this situation.  I’ve had people unfollow me on Tumblr because what I post causes them anxiety, and in a lot of those cases I completely understood where the person was coming from.  I’ve also had to unfollow people for similar reasons.  It can be a fine line between trying to ignore your privilege and doing something you need to do for your mental health. But that’s honestly your decision to make, as long as it’s a genuine and honest concern.  It’s ok to step away from something to take care of yourself.

Of course most of this advice isn’t particularly applicable for people who are talking about their own oppression.  In that case walking away isn’t always an option,  and questions of managing anxiety when it comes to expressing anger and sadness poses a whole new set of complications.  Healthy ways of coping with anxiety differ based on each person’s experiences and set of privileges and oppressions.  These are only a few suggestions based on my own experience, but they can be useful for people in developing their own methods of dealing with their anxiety.  Establishing a few rules of self-care to live by can make talking about social justice issues a much more healthy and constructive experience. 
Guest Post: Anxiety and Social Justice

Guest Post: The Right Way To Be Poor

In discussions of poverty, we sometimes neglect to differentiate between types of poor. I don’t mean the contents of one’s wallet, but rather the poverty narratives that we consider excusable (or, sometimes, even laudable) and those that we don’t.
In the beginning, I was one right kind of poor, the kind that even the most solidly middle class people go through when they first leave home. I was a student. Things are different when you’re a student. Having a ‘hungry day’ is a life experience, something that teaches you a valuable life lesson, something that will become a funny story to tell your kids later. Ramen noodles are an inside joke. Student poverty is cute and funny because it’s expected and because it’s temporary.
With some exceptions, students can expect their poverty to end with the completion of their degree. Their poverty, as with their education, is an investment. Once they graduate, they will be able to work full time and their earning potential will be much higher than that of those who did not go through such a hazing.
That’s what many politicians and voters think of when they think of poverty – a hazing ritual that marks the transition of the individual from childhood into stable financial adulthood. We don’t need minimum wage increases, they argue, because the people asking for them are just entitled teens who don’t want to go through the same hardships as everyone else. They resist social change in the same terms that frat boys resist anti-hazing laws.

Continue reading “Guest Post: The Right Way To Be Poor”

Guest Post: The Right Way To Be Poor

GUEST POST: A Long, Hard Road

It’s really hard to know where to begin. Do I begin with how I wanted to save the world by going into IT and working hard to the point where I was an IT leader. A network admin for some company with clout. A thought leader and engineer.

Maybe I should start where the problems started – trying to be the foundation for my friends to build on, to anchor them in a good house so that they could get their lives together while working in low-paying positions with my help. When my friends ended up leaving me high and dry and starting the stress that would one day culminate in the first flare up of my condition.
Maybe I should start in with my last year employed, where I was overworked and underpaid – a condition that many people still go through. However, it created the perfect storm of stress with trying to take care of my family at the same time that it started what I go through every day now.
So I guess I’ll start with that. About three years ago, I started developing chronic pain, fatigue, and memory issues. When I was really stressed, I would shake violently in bursts. The worst part, though, was the growing frequency of spacing out without control. This was especially problematic, as I was working in a high-pressure call center and these episodes caused me to forget details, answer the phone incorrectly, or any number of other serious problems with getting my job done.
In December of 2010, I lost that job. I also started having serious seizures that caused me to throw myself at the ground or into walls without control. I would throw things I was holding without warning. I would wake up shivering and shaking violently for twenty minutes, nearly every day. My joints had always been bad for one reason or another but as my body started to shake every day, they just got worse. Every day was a pain war between my upper back, my lower back, and my legs. My muscles would tighten and loosen constantly and without any kind of rhyme or reason, and I started to be able to crack my knuckles on command. Constantly, if I wanted. At first, I thought I could live with it, though. I’ve never had medical insurance (as I come from a family that struggled to stay in the lower middle class) so I’ve always dealt with my health problems the old fashioned way – live with it, work through the pain, look for simple cures on the internet and make sure they work.
That all changed on the tenth of December, though, when I lost consciousness while driving and went through a freeway sign and the side of someone’s car before I could pull the wheel back and gain control of myself again. I had started making a left turn onto the freeway and my body locked up, my mind wend blank, and I just kept making the left turn. That’s when the reality of what had started happening to me hit me full force – I wasn’t able to be normal anymore. I wasn’t able to drive, I wasn’t able to work, I wasn’t able to live like everyone else anymore.
After losing my job, it took me three months to get unemployment benefits. In that time, I lost the last house I lived in – a small apartment in Orange where I helped take care of my mom and my youngest brother. For the next year, we would live between motel rooms and my mom’s van while she did what work she could and I helped keep everyone fed and the car running on my unemployment. After several months of sleeping in a van, though, some of my old friends started lending me a place to stay when I could and I started couch surfing. That’s where I’ve been ever since – floating between couches, occasionally renting a room here and there when I could for privacy and much needed rest. This worked fine until I lost my unemployment benefits and started the application for disability. An application still in process, I might add, since I don’t have medical records of my problems (even though they’re plain to see).
However, the real important thing here is I’ve been spending the last year without any income, couch surfing, and dealing with all of those problems I listed before. I’ve learned how to manage them and, since stress management is my only real job now, I’ve gotten a lot better at controlling the sudden outbursts of shaking, pain,and dementia. It is all much harder without a home, though. Without a place to call my own, a bed to sleep in, and the space to store the few belongings I have left. I thought it’d be a long time before I’d see a home again, at least until I finally got my Social Security decision ironed out and worked through the HUD application.
That changed recently. My partner, the amazing woman that she is, offered to pay my rent when some very close friends of mine offered me a room in their house. It’s a modest room, but a good room. It’s a place where I feel safe and where people are looking out for me. The rent isn’t really that high and everything was going to work out. So we pulled together the first month when it was needed, I dropped my stuff off, and I lived in my own room for the first time in two and a half years. For three days, I was the happiest man alive.
Until the landlord talked to me, grew nervous at my situation and wanted financial records. Wanted me to have provable income, despite my girlfriend being the one paying the bills as it were. He didn’t want her, though. He said he couldn’t take her as a guarantor no matter how good her job is. My tenant score is too low because of my eviction from my job loss and disability, He wanted a deposit.
An outrageous deposit.
He wants the rent on the whole house. From just me. We didn’t have that kind of money laying around – if we did, I wouldn’t have been homeless this whole time. I am, however, too stubborn to take a challenge lying down. Too stubborn to be given a chance at stability and a home again without fighting for it every way I could. At the suggestion of a friend, I started a campaign to raise the deposit, to keep me from being homeless, and to get what I need together for the deposit. It’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s meant a lot to me so far. Since I started the campaign last Friday, we’ve already raised nearly $800.
Now I’m wondering if you, dear readers, can help me get a little closer to the end. Get a little closer to having a home again, being able to put my life back together, and being able to finally deal with how much I’ve changed thanks to my disability. To figure out who and what I am now that I can’t be who I was when this started. And all it takes is a little bit of help – a few dollars in the pot, a shared link on twitter, a post on your blog. If there’s one thing this weekend has taught me, it’s that sharing and reaching out to people is what makes a difference. It’s reminding people that it doesn’t need to be a lot of help to be a big help, and that there is a real life here, a life that appreciates everything that’s done for them. A life that, without your help now, could be a hell of a lot harder.
So please, consider donating if you can, whether it be your time or your digital space if you have no money to spare. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Danny
GUEST POST: A Long, Hard Road