The Absent Feminist Part 3

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Something I have been thinking about today ….. Just need to get it off my chest …..

I don’t know where I am with feminism right now. I feel pretty sad about the whole thing. It’s such a minefield out there and I often worry about getting stuff wrong and alienating people. That’s probably more a part of me than of feminism. Unfortunately, I’m quite a sensitive soul.

When it comes to feminism , I’m a bit of a fence sitter. I recognise that. There are feminists out there that I agree with and there are feminists out there that I don’t agree with. I do try to listen to all sides and there are occasions when I have had my mind changed by something someone has said/tweeted.

I do have my feet firmly in the ‘being there for all my sisters’ camp, that’s my one strong belief. A lot of my other beliefs are built around my experiences of abuse at the hands of men. Being abused has changed me, it has opened a door to a world of injustice. Not just injustices that I have faced but that many women face, every day. I actually count myself to be very lucky.

The way my life is right now, I am very limited with what I can do to make a change for others. I would like to be more proactive and it does upset me that I can’t do more. I’m still finding my place in feminism, I don’t understand it all. I know I have said this before and I do remember someone telling me to read up on stuff …… Reading is actually a skill I have lost since my CFS relapse. I can write and I can cope with snippets of info but I can no longer digest vast quantities of literature.

So anyway, dear sisters, please bear with me. I will do my absolute best to support you and defend you. If you need to call me out on something, then do (just be mindful that I am quite a fragile soul right now!).

Love, tea and hugs
Exxx

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What a panic attack feels like….

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I’m not a medical professional so the following post is purely based on my experience of panic attacks. If you recognise any of the symptoms, please see your GP ASAP and tell them you think you are having panic attacks and need help.

The main reason why I am writing about is that I sufferered horrendous, life changing panic attacks without knowing what they were. Countless visits to my GP and the hospital were entirely fruitless. I didn’t know what was going on with me and all my blood tests etc were normal. All I was told was to go home and rest. I’m not going to go into the triggers as they are different for everyone.

This is a definitive list – I have CFS so I forget a lot! Listed below are the symptoms that particularly affect me.

Physical feelings:

Changes in breathing so that you feel like you can’t catch your breath. Sometimes it can feel like you are suffocating and that is very scary.

Awareness of heartbeat. May seem like it is racing or going to push it’s way out of your chest.

Sweating, shaking and/or shivering. The three Ss!

Dizziness – this is the most distressing one for me. Makes you feel like you need to lie down on the floor but even when you do, it doesn’t help. It was this symptom that caused my panic attacks to spiral out of control and contributed to me trying to commit suicide.

Odd feelings in your limbs, tingling hands and feet. I understand that this is due to changes in oxygen levels due to hyperventilation.

Pains in your chest (obviously this can be the sign of a heart attack so always get it checked out).

Feeling sick, being sick and diarrhoea. I lost an awful lot of weight because of this.

Mental/emotional feelings:

Like you are going to ‘freak out’ at any moment.

Inability to do anything or struggle to do stuff that you can normally do like cooking dinner or having a shower.

The dizziness caused me to react by curling up in a ball on the floor. At my worst, it caused so much mental distress that I spent several hours in bed screaming (and I mean screaming) for someone to help me. This was actually a couple of weeks after my suicide attempt as my panic attacks still hadn’t been addressed.

Feelings of utter despair and I’ll say it again – distress. This is a word that I used over and over again to my GP. The emotions made me want to claw off my skin and I felt like running into traffic. I wanted to die.

A racing mind full of negative and unhelpful thoughts that you can’t control.

From what I have learnt, panic attacks stem from our primitive ‘flight or fight’ response. Our bodies release adrenaline and cause the symptoms above. I suggest you look this up on (reputable) anxiety websites as they will do a much better job at explaining the whys and the wherefores 🙂

There are lots of natural methods out there that people use to control and eliminate their panic attack. I have to be honest and say if it wasn’t for lorazepam, I’m not sure I would be here now. I did have a mild UTI that had gone untreated and antibiotics did relieve some of the dizziness (but it came back). I’m also on anti depressants although I’m not sure how much they are helping.

Health professionals do not like prescribing lorazepam for long periods of time as it is habit forming. I have been on it for almost a year ……. I will need to be weaned off and that terrifies me!

Breathing techniques seem to be the most popular of treatments you will be offered. The trick is to breathe out more than you breathe in eg breathe in for a count of two and breathe out for a count of three. Mindfulness, meditation and visualisations can also help. It is about distracting your mind and body from the feelings of panic. Panic attacks can be prevented from escalating by using the above techniques however ….. They didn’t work for me as my panic attacks could last all day. It’s unbelievably exhausting and takes over your life.

This isn’t me telling you that meds are the only way! Just how it had been for me. Breathing techniques do help me now as does moving about – vacuuming is something that helps, no idea why! Sitting down or lying down is one of the worst things that you can do…..says me who does this quite often….

So please, please, please don’t suffer in silence. By all means chat to me about it but go and pester you GP. Unfortunately, you will probably have to make a nuisance of yourself before anyone listens…. Don’t be fobbed off. Ask for blood tests, get your B12 and iron levels checked and have a urine test done. There may be underlying health issues causing your symptoms so it’s good to rule these out first.

I’m still living a day to day existence but it used to be an hour by hour existence so I see that as progress. In many respects, I have come a long way since these attacks started.

Love, tea and massive hugs.
You’re not alone
Exxx

Giving birth in a dictatorship

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I was inspired to write this after reading a tweet about couples having sex shortly before or after giving birth (see screenshot). Sex was the last thing on my mind when I gave birth!!

I’m writing this for all the women out there who did not have the nice rose tinted birth that we all wished for. To put things into context, I have three children and two different dads. My son was born when I was 20 and I had been on my own since I was 8 weeks pregnant.

I won’t bore you with the gruesome details of that birth but let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant and resulted in me needing a blood transfusion and my son needing UV (jaundice). Whilst my son’s dad was a waste of space, he was never abusive. Having said that, I didn’t want him at the birth as I had been through the pregnancy alone.

Before, during and after the birth he managed to gain access to me by saying that he was my partner! This caused me great distress and I asked the staff to not allow him in. The note on the phone got thrown away and so he walked back onto the ward using the ‘I’m her partner’ line (staff member responsible for this gave me a very teary apology). I can’t remember exactly what I said to him but I do know that I screamed at him to leave.

When I met my ex husband I was so excited to find out that I was pregnant, we’d been together only 7 months. I always wanted to have more than one child and it pained me to see all my friends having their second or third child. When it came to giving birth, it was so much better than my first. I can honestly say that I thought I had won the lottery ….

Things went downhill when it came to kicking out time. My ex didn’t want to go and I was already quite reliant on him so was terrified at the thought of coping alone. He had a massive argument with one of the midwives as he refused to go home. This resulted in me crying, I couldn’t stand to see him being so horrible to these women. The midwife decided that he could stay but it left me feeling distraught and isolated.

When I found out I was pregnant with my third child, I immediately worried about the birth. The whole pregnancy was spent with my ex going on and on about me coming straight home and me fretting about his behaviour. The domestic abuse had really taken a hold by then although I was very much in denial.

My third child was born and the midwife said I could go home after a couple of hours of recovery. My ex was over the moon, I was relived even though I wanted to stay the night….. Then I had a massive bleed….. Nothing serious or life threatening but enough for them to tell me they wanted to admit me and the baby. This sent my ex over the edge.

Once in a room on the ward, he seemed agitated and stressed. This made me feel very unsettled. I was in such a mess that it took me quite a while to phone my family about the birth. It was almost like the birth never happened, my priority was to keep my ex happy and calm. On a trip to the toilet I lost more blood and became tachycardic (spelling ?!?!). I was put straight onto IV fluids and told to rest. Well…..

My ex descended into a rage as now I needed to stay the night. He punched and head butted the walls and then he left me stranded. Little did I know that he went to the pub… I can’t describe how upset I was, how much emotional pain I felt. The midwife came to do my obs and I begged her to be allowed home .
I told her how upset he was and I cried so much I thought I might never stop. The doctor came and said I should stay in so I had to discharge myself. Lo and behold, this made my ex very happy.

I wonder how many other women have silently suffered like I did? Who can’t tell the truth about the birth because they want everyone to think it was wonderful and amazing. How they feel robbed of beautiful memories. How this most precious of moments becomes another story of him???

The birth of my third child should have been about me and the baby. We both got utterly forgotten, it still upsets me now. I feel such sorrow when I think of my parents and my children turning up at the hospital, all excited to see the new baby, only to find we had gone home (ex didn’t think to let them so I had to apologise to them). Sorrow isn’t a strong enough word, heartbroken is.

So stupid articles about how women are giving their partners blow jobs, as a thank you for being at the birth, irritate the hell out of me. Giving birth should be a sacred experience. Putting aside the man in the equation, for me it felt like I had connected to all my ancestors who had been through labour before me.
It was almost primitive. Those are the feelings that I should carry with me, not those of my vain efforts to placate an abusive man.

What I’m trying to say, in a not very succinct way (!), is that giving birth should be about the woman and her baby, the man is a footnote (awaits backlash for that comment). Stop trying to accommodate the man and his needs in the delivery room – refocus on the woman.

Love, tea and hugs
Exxx IMG_3505.PNG

The Absent Feminist Pt 2

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I have to confess that the title of this blog is a little misleading ….

Today, I weighed myself. This doesn’t happen very often as I don’t have bathroom scales in my house. I had an idea of my weight as I have been in and out of hospital recently and they like to weigh you ALL of the time.

I didn’t like what the scales said. Since September I have put on almost 3kg. I am now back at the weight that I was before I had my nervous breakdown (for want of a better term). In reality this is a good thing…..that’s not how I felt. All the weight gain has gone to my stomach, I’m an apple shape, and I hate it. There we go, I said it, I hate the way my body looks.

This is why I’m writing this under the heading of ‘absent feminist’. If I were a strong woman who didn’t give a damn about what people thought of me, I would be a feminist. Instead, I’m letting the side down by worrying about having a bloated stomach. It’s really quite pathetic of me and I am truly sorry that it bothers me.

I’ve had issues with food since I was 9. Whilst the label ‘anorexic’ has been thrown at me a few times, I’ve not let it stick. At the age of 17, I weighed 5st and the doctor told me that if I were to lose any more weight then I would be sectioned (I didn’t and I never was). This whole episode occurred because I developed a huge fear of stomach bugs after being sick when I was 9. This is so hard for me to write! It looks so ridiculous on screen. So much suffering in the world and I couldn’t eat because I was afraid of being sick.

When I didn’t eat, I would feel sick and so the fear of being sick would get worse. My psychologist told me that is was a positive feedback loop – don’t eat,not sick so not eating is helping me to not be sick. I figured this out on my own, so my psychologist told me that I knew exactly what I was doing and couldn’t help me anymore. Anyway, that’s just to put today into context for you.

I’ve always wanted to have a wonderful body, free of stretch marks and moles and hair and all the stuff us women are told are ugly. They certainly sold it to me and that’s one of the many reasons why I can’t call myself a feminist (there’s a lot more :/ ). I still see my beauty as a physical thing, I don’t apply this to other people, just myself. I strongly believe that a lot of the problems I have had over the last 20 years can be put down to my body shaming.

I don’t have the mental energy to write anymore today but when I do I will come back to this subject. Horrible feeling I might regret this post …

‘Don’t be a victim’

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I’m not sure I’ve captured everything I want to say on this subject. My CFS, foggy mind has a habit of taking sentences and words away from me!

A lot of very well meaning people keep telling me that I don’t need to be a victim. I know what they are trying to say, they are trying to say ‘don’t let the abuse you suffered ruin your life’. The thing is, I am a victim.

If you’re reading this and you’ve never suffered the trauma of abuse then you might find it difficult to comprehend why someone like me, is struggling with life. Why don’t I just get my act together? I appreciate that you can’t walk in my shoes and have complete empathy BUT you can do your bit to educate yourself so that you have some understanding of what my life is like (and what other victims lives are like too).

You need to understand that I don’t enjoy feeling this way. It’s not an act, I don’t play on it for sympathy. I can’t imagine why anyone would deliberately make themselves feel this way. That’s not to say that I’m all doom and gloom, I get quite a few moments of happiness now. On the other hand, just because I can still smile and laugh, it doesn’t take away the pain. You see….not easy is it? I’m allowed to feel how ever I want to feel but there are many occasions where I’m not in control of my emotions.

That’s the thing about trauma, it’s fluid. There’s no set recovery time or medication that will make you feel better. I completed an 8 week (or 6 weeks – can’t remember!) CBT course and it really didn’t address anything that I have been through. I felt like the lone weirdo who’s first comment to the group was that I was worried about how many men would be attending….. I understand the CBT theory, it just wasn’t for me.

That’s all the NHS have been able to offer me for support. It’s not like I haven’t tried to get better so don’t go judging. It’s not nice when you can’t leave the house without a packet of lorazepam and an attack alarm in your pocket. It’s not nice when you catch a glimpse of a figure in your house and you feel terror, only to find it’s the vacuum cleaner or a shadow or absolutely nothing.

No doubt I will breathe easier one day. Time doesn’t heal but it does allow a distance to grow from the days of abuse to the days you are living now. My trauma will be with me forever in the same way that the seasons come and go. Right now I’m in a stormy autumn, one day there may be a springtime.

Love, tea and hugs
Exxx

Don’t send me your dodgy photos

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I’m not sure what I’ve done to encourage this but men have a habit of sending me photos of themselves. For some reason these men think that I need to see their erections or other parts of their body, minus clothing.

I love chatting to people on Twitter, I don’t have the energy or emotional strength for my twitter account to always be about serious issues i.e. Women’s rights, social injustice ….. Maybe men see this as flirting? It isn’t. I have no interest in looking for a date or a bit of casual sexting.

I accept that I have an air of vulnerability about me, I’ve been through a lot and have been quite open about it. That’s probably my biggest mistake, to trust people with such intimate details of my life. I tend to work on the premiss that everyone is ok unless they prove otherwise.

I can’t take that risk anymore, it’s sad but I need to be more cynical and less trusting. My healing and recovery is too fragile and so I need to protect myself better.

It saddens me that this is necessary,
It really shouldn’t need to be said. So here we go …..

Talk to me because you want to not because you have an ulterior motive.

Expect nothing more from me than some friendly banter.

Please don’t send me photos of your erections or other body parts. I have no desire to see them and they upset me.

This blog may put a few noses out joint, I’m sorry about that. I have just had enough of creepy men.

Some Autumn Poetry ….. Sort of …

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Time To

Well the Autumn leaves will fall
Shall I run crying into a wall
Scratch my fingernails in the mud
But this won’t come to any good

You’re ashes to ashes, dust to dust
The coffin nails have turned to rust
Body gone to show your bones
Your soul has lifted to another home

I run wildly through the trees
Trip and stumble on the leaves
I look to the sky and breathe the air
Let the breeze lift through my auburn hair

But now it’s time to move things on
The life you had has been and gone
For a short time I stood in your light
But I have to turn my darkness back to bright

Patience

How many more Autumns do I need to face?
How many more tracks does the Moon need to trace?
I’ll focus my gaze on the coming winter
Plaster the walls and pull down the shutters
Sew up my mouth and bandage my eyes
The winter is coming, I can hear its siren cries
The cold will not touch me, the snow will fall short
I shall remain steady
I will remain taut
Brace myself ready for the long haul
Warm and protected against the enemy’s call.

My life, a constant crashing wave
Like some endless nightmare
Yet I’m awake
There are teasers of joy
Hints of amazement and
I’m smiling again
It’s so nice to smile
Then I hear the loud boom
Of water on rock
That was the sound
Of my happiness shattered
Crushed again wand again
Like some hopeless crew
Of a doomed fishing vessel
Getting forever slammed
Into cliffs built for protection
What use are they against
The storm that my mind brews
I will be broken down
Smaller and smaller
Until only atoms are left
And emotions are useless
But the process is slow
And it causes me pain
So what shall I do
Too exhausted to swim
Too bruised to hold on
All I can do is give in
And give up my soul