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So, some of the ladies from my advanced creative non-fiction writing class here at Ball State have started a blog focusing on female writers called ChickLitz.  We’ll talk about writing, and being ladies and being lady writers.  We’ll post some of our creative stuff.  THERE ARE NO RULES.  I’ll be posting every Wednesday (because it’s Humpday, natch), but you should check it out EVERY DAY because we’re all amazing

[NOTE:  I can’t promise that the writing I present there will be as “clean” as I try to keep it here.  It’s not my personal blog, and my creative writing can be a bit saltier than the posts here.]

Anywho, here’s my FIRST POST.  It’s about my junior high career as a golfer, and how it relates to the plight of female writers nowadays.

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There’s been a recent outburst of fat shaming lately.  Fat shaming is basically the act of making someone feel like crap because of their size.  It’s always, always been a problem, but what’s brought the added attention to it as of late is an opinion piece in Marie Claire magazine called “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?)”, by Maura Kelly.  Kelly was basically responding to the TV show “Mike and Molly,” about an overweight couple who meet via Overeaters Anonymous.  As Kelly says, “So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair.”

Okay, so we’re comparing overweight people to drunks and heroin addicts?  Classy.  But it’s not like she’s the only one.  If I had a gallon of gas for every time I saw a Facebook status this Halloween weekend that decried the “fat girls” who dressed in “slutty” costumes, I’d have enough gas to drive my car to a McDonald’s in Buenos Aires.  Did these people ever stop and think, for two seconds, that there’s a lack of store-bought costumes for women that AREN’T “sexy” versions of something?  Or maybe, just maybe, these “fat” women wearing these costumes aren’t ashamed of their bodies, no matter that society tells them they should be?!  We always feel bad for people who are anorexic or bulimic, as we should, but we regard people who are overweight as disgusting.  So people are expected to be somewhere in between, which is difficult.  It requires constant monitoring, which some people just can’t do.  Also, overeating (or binge eating) is a genuine eating disorder.  Sure, there are people out there who simply don’t care about how they look, about their health, and about what they eat.  Some of these people are thin and some are fat.  But there are also people who just feel the need to compulsively eat, just like there are people who feel the need to compulsively NOT eat, or people who feel the need to purge.  We never acknowledge that, though, because we’re too quick to shame them for “making a choice” to be fat.

For easy use, here’s a list of things to remember before you make a fat joke, or write that Facebook status about the fat girl in your sociology class.

1.  It ain’t cheap to be healthy.

Why else would notoriously broke college kids gain that “freshman fifteen?”  They can’t afford to eat healthy.  I personally am broke, and while I like to cook and eat vegetables and try new things that are generally healthy, I’ve recently had to cut back a bit on my grocery spending, and so it’s mac and cheese, soup, Rice-a-Roni, spaghetti, grilled cheese, and pancakes for me.  Would I rather be buying portabella mushrooms to make a light pasta dish, or Asian vegetables for veggie lo mein, or fresh broccoli to make broccoli in brown sauce?  Yes.  But making recipe-based foods is expensive in general, and even more expensive if they require fresh produce.  I eat Lean Cuisines, but I get burnt out on them.  Also, it costs money to work out.  Not everyone can afford a gym membership.  Sure, there are other ways to work out, but gyms are convenient and easy.  Too bad not everyone has the privilege to be a member of one.  Being healthy and eating healthy is a definite class issue.  If people really cared about “fat people” assaulting their eyes, then maybe they should work to provide produce to poor people in some way (grow it and sell it cheap at a farmer’s market, or work at a soup kitchen and help promote healthy eating there), or maybe they should organize free exercise classes, or maybe they could have a few less-privileged friends over for a veggie-filled meal once a week.  I realize that this would be asking a lot, but aren’t we asking just as much of some people to be eating healthy or exercising all the time when it’s just not an option, due to their finances?  If the weight issue in this country bothers you, then perhaps you should turn your attention to the poverty issue as well, and that includes the healthcare issue.

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I really can’t do this school thing anymore.  It’s beyond senioritis and into some serious ADD/don’t give a crap territory.  I feel paralyzed and I can’t make any progress on anything.  I’m going to have to turn in a major paper very late because I practically had a nervous breakdown while writing it.  I don’t know what’s wrong.  I’ve always been a procrastinator, but at least I got things done.  Now I can’t even do that.  So I put the paper off and moved on to something else – doing critiques for a workshop in my creative nonfiction writing class – something I usually like and can do fairly well.  But I can’t do it.  I can’t think of anything to say.  There’s nothing that can motivate me.  This is the unsung hell of anxiety disorders.  You let the anxiety keep you from doing things, because they’re too scary to deal with, and that only causes the pile of things you need to do to grow larger and larger.  Eventually, it’s an insurmountable obstacle.  Usually, I could use my hope for the future to motivate me, but I realized that this is in short supply lately.  I don’t think my academic record in college is good enough to get me a job, and I’m just deluding myself if I think I’ll ever be able to move away (because I can’t do that without a job).  I’m going to end up working at the mall or a coffee shop, because that’s what an undergraduate English degree gets you.  So go to grad school, I always thought.  But again, my academic record isn’t good enough to get into a good grad school, probably.  I could rely on the strength of my writing to perhaps get me into an MFA program, but I’m probably not that good.  It seems as if everyone else in the creative writing program here is doing readings and getting published, and when they read their writing, it’s so much better than mine.  Besides, I don’t want to think about grad school when it’s clearly going to take a miracle for me to graduate with my B.A. in May.  The idea of more school after that makes me want to munch on the business end of a gun right now.

There’s also the added bonus that even if I do move away, I probably won’t last.  I’ll probably be back home, checked into some mental institution after three whole months.  College is supposed to be the easiest time to make friends.  If I counted all the friends I’ve made at college (friends, not friendly classroom acquaintances), I wouldn’t even use up all the fingers on one of my hands.  So if I can’t make friends now, how am I ever going to do it when I don’t have the built-in social infrastructure that college provides?  Answer:  I’m not, because dogs don’t count as friends.  Not legit friends, anyway.  Can’t take my dog to the movies or shopping.  Can’t talk to him and have him talk back.

I want to just quit school, but if my future’s that bleak WITH my degree, how bad is it going to be without?  I wish that I could make a job out of surfing the Internet and watching TV, because that’s all my lazy fat butt enjoys doing nowadays.  They’re the only two things that keep up with my mind going 80 miles per hour, the only things that are just the perfect balance of boring and stimulating.  That and sleep.  I love getting some sleep.  Lately it’s been a big issue, though, because I can’t stay awake long enough to get assignments done, and I keep sleeping through important meetings and classes.  I enjoy it at the time, but hate myself entirely when I wake up.  I simply cannot stay awake.  The past two nights, I’ve fallen asleep while doing homework, with my lights on, makeup on, haven’t brushed my teeth or taken my medicine, haven’t set my alarm clock.  Then I wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. completely unrested and have to either try and squeeze in a few good hours of sleep or stay awake and finish the homework I was working on when I dozed off.  I just don’t know how to control it.  And I know that I’ve basically just described something that sounds like “laziness syndrome.”  Oh, I can’t do my homework.  Oh, I sleep too much.  I watch too much TV.  But really, I cannot help it.  Being confronted with anything besides sleep and television sends me into panic mode.  Panic mode wears me out, so I just want to sleep more.  Nothing gets done.  Nothing, that is, except the further destruction of my academic career.  That one I’m accomplishing with ease.

I realize that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for about six weeks now, but I have a good reason, and I’m ready to talk about it.  Or maybe not ready, but I’m feeling emotional enough to talk about it right now.  It’s not something that I’ve never talked about.  I may have mentioned it on here before, and lately I’ve been writing a bit about it for a creative nonfiction writing class I’m taking.

But I’m addressing it here and now for a few reasons.  One, I just realized how long it’s been since my last post, and maybe I have a few readers who would like to know what the deal is.  Two, the recent spate of bullying and suicides has made me think about the importance of stories, just stories, that people can relate to.  I don’t have a “I was bullied as a gay kid in high school” story; that’s not my past and that’s not my story.  But I do know what it’s like to be a kid and to be bullied, to be depressed, and to be suicidal.  Three, I have something of an impulse to write my story, or to tell it, because I am good with words and because I feel that my experience is unique to me, but also universal in its themes, and I don’t feel like it gets told enough.

So here it is, if I haven’t given it away already.  I suffer from mental illness.  Depression and anxiety, for sure, although bipolar disorder has not been ruled out.  I have been in therapy since the age of 10 or 11.  I wasn’t diagnosed with depression at that age.  I was just a sad, lonely, guilt-ridden kid whose parents had split up.  It wasn’t until middle school, when I couldn’t get on the bus in the morning because I’d start crying, fit to puke, every time it rolled around the corner, that I was diagnosed.  School sucked then, and it took an emotional toll on me.  I slept all the time, cried at school, had no friends in my classes, never talked, and was teased a lot.  Freshman and sophomore years of high school were better, but not much.  Slowly, though, with the help of counseling and anti-depressants, I came out of my fog.  School got better; I found things I was good at:  singing, acting, writing, making people laugh.  Then my home life started to get tough.  I won’t go through the details, because I get sick of talking about it, but my parents (who separated when I was 10 but then got back together) got a divorce, and lots of things changed.  I quickly had a new stepdad, we were going to sell my childhood home, and I even had to get rid of my dog for a while.  Things were odd, and to top it all off, I was having that mini-existential crisis that every senior in high school has.  My depression was back.  My family problems didn’t get much better, and neither did my emotions.  Going away to college helped a lot, but I could almost always count on another depressive funk every winter.

Last year, my junior year in college, I started to struggle with sleep.  I wouldn’t sleep until 3 or 4, sometimes 5 o’clock in the morning, and I’d still have to wake up around 9 or 10.  So I was living on about five or six hours of sleep a night.  It caught up to me after a while, I guess, but I couldn’t fix it.  To top it all off, I was irritable, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t quiet my mind, had racing thoughts and just a general sense of anxiety.  I didn’t go to class as much as I should have, and I couldn’t keep up with the reading I had to do.  So, this summer, I set out to find a fix for this.  However, the first medication the doctors put me on made me insane.  It made all of my symptoms 100 times worse, amplified my restlessness and made me snippy.  I won’t mention the name of it because I know it works for a lot of people, but I personally couldn’t get past my fourth day on the medication.  This was about two weeks before I had to move back to school.  There wasn’t enough time to see a psychiatrist, so my family physician gave me some new meds to try.

It’s not gotten much better here at school, although I have evened out some.  I still feel restless, anxious, angry, depressed, listless, irritable, and a whole litany of emotions.  I can’t concentrate.  I’m suffering in all of my classes because it takes a miracle for me to accomplish my reading assignments.  Also, I’ve had a handful of panic attacks in class, and so on my bad days, I can’t bring myself to even attend, for fear that I’ll break down and make a fool of myself during the lesson.  I don’t have many friends and I don’t get out much.  I’ve honestly considered dropping out more than once, and I probably would have if I were not on my last year of school.  I can’t fathom that I might have wasted the last three years, and the money it cost me to be here, and that’s one of the few things that keeps me trying at school (although not trying as much as I should, sad to say).

Advice columnist Dan Savage and his partner recently started an Internet campaign to let gay youth know that “It Gets Better.”  More power to them, because the suicide rate for gay teens is insanely high, and the amount of bullying and pressure directed at them is absurd.  I could barely manage to be a teen, period, so I can scarcely imagine.  However, I’m not solely addressing gay youth here.  It’s hard to be a teenager nowadays, no matter your sexual orientation.  It’s hard (perhaps harder) to be a college student.  The stigma surrounding mental illnesses and those who suffer from them is huge, and thriving.  I feel a bit anxious just writing this, having heard horror stories of people losing jobs over their depression/anxiety/bipolar disorder/etc.  I know the Internet never forgets.  But this is an important part of who I am, and if it helps just one person, it’s worth it.

To any kid suffering from a mental illness, I’d like to say that I’m not sure if it gets better.  I’m still trying to figure that out myself, every day.  There are days when you think that it is so much better.  There are days when you think that it couldn’t get worse.  I feel like I’m not yet at that point where I can say that it got better.  But I hope it’s in my future.  You should know that there are people out there who care, people who don’t want to see you die, who want to see you live until the day where you figure out whether or not it got better.  Even if you have to pay someone to listen to your problems, I can promise you that there is someone out there who genuinely cares that you have them.  I’ll listen to you if you want to talk.  Never let anyone tell you your problems don’t matter enough.  Never let anyone make you feel like less of a person because you have to take Prozac or Cymbalta or Lexapro or Wellbutrin or Abilify or Zoloft every morning.  You should feel proud that you had the will to get help.

My best advice is to take little moments of happiness and make them your everything.  If someone smiled at you in the hall and that’s the best thing that happened to you all day, then tell yourself you had a good day because someone cared enough to notice you.  I’m not one to say, “Just stop being depressed; think positive.”  I know all too well that it’s nearly impossible to do that when you’re truly depressed.  But that shouldn’t stop you from recognizing the good moments that do come your way, and I firmly believe that, if you can learn to appreciate the tiniest of moments, then you will learn to get at least a bit of goodness out of every day.  I have my days where it’s hard just to walk to class.  But then I have days where I hang out with a friend or my sister, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

So I won’t tell you it gets better.  I hope it does, but I don’t know.  But until I do know, I’m going to make it my reason for living to find out whether or not life does get better.  It’s not necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel, but a big question mark at the end of the tunnel.  Still, it’s better than darkness.  Sometimes a question mark just has to be enough.

ETA: I don’t want to make it seem like I’m one of those people saying, “There are all kinds of depressed kids out there who are bullied, not just gay kids.  Why not pay attention to them and not give gay kids special treatment?”  I’ve heard that a lot lately, but I do not agree.  I’m not sure of the exact statistic, but I’m pretty certain that homosexual teens are way more likely to be bullied and to suffer from depression and to commit suicide than heterosexual teens.  I think it’s a specific issue that deserves a lot of specific attention.  Would I like for there to be more positive awareness of depression and suicide in general?  That’s a big resounding “YES.”  But even I, a person who has been out there on the ledge as well, think that in this instance, gay teens (particularly those recent bullied suicide victims) deserve the attention.  In fact, I wish we could give them more attention than a day of purple shirts.

Also, I found this quote from “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace (who was, sadly, also a victim of suicide), and I had to share it because it’s so on-the-nose.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
I agree.  I think only those who have truly been in the same place can understand the pure agony that sparks suicidal thoughts.  Everyone should be there to help, and everyone should be understanding, but there comes a point when you just don’t get it unless you’ve been there as well.  But if you haven’t, that quote sums it up pretty well – you don’t necessarily want to die, but you’re in a place where it seems the lesser of two evils.  Die by fire or jump from the window.
This is why I want to speak out for depression and suicide.  I know all too well what it’s like, and I feel like being in that situation as a teen, and now, and I’m sure in the future, has made me equipped to help, and I want to help, badly.
*******
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide:
The Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

The Veteran’s Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

The Trevor Project (Suicide Hotline for LGBT Youth): 1-866-4-U-TREVOR

*******

Picture credit goes to my sister.

All of my childhood idols were anthropomorphic characters.  Rarely did a day pass when I wouldn’t quote Fozzie Bear, giving a “wakka-wakka” or two at the dinner table like the golden bear Muppet.  I even fancied myself a real stand-up comedian, although I was just about as successful as Fozzie.  There’s an old videotape at my mom’s house in which a five-year old me hams it up for the camera with an abysmal comic routine.  It was clear, from my hat and loosely knotted tie swiped from my dad’s closet, just who I was trying to emulate, and it most certainly was not Richard Pryor or Steve Martin.  “What, you wanna throw a tomato at me?”  I asked my imaginary, disgruntled audience (for not even in my fantasies was I talented).  “Go ahead!”  After a few more leaden jokes, I beamed into the camera and proudly stated, in the pint-size Robert deNiro-esque voice I possessed as a child, “Now, I am, a comedian.”  Couldn’t be further from the truth.

As an adult – well, somewhat of an adult – I realize that perhaps my identifying with Fozzie was some serious foreshadowing for my life.  I’m unlucky, I seem to be hit-or-miss with people, and I can often get down on myself.  However, I’m resilient, or at least I think I have been once or twice.  Pelt me with tomatoes!  I might cry about it, sure.  But I might get back up and deliver some more terrible jokes.  Fozzie and I both have perfected the “sad clown” persona.

The Bear wasn’t the only Muppet I worshiped, though.  Miss Piggy was top hog in my mind.   I considered it the highest of compliments to tell someone they reminded me of Miss Piggy, but naturally, no one was very flattered.  What I admired most about her was her take-charge attitude, and her haughty nature.  I wanted nothing more than to be her, instead of the shy, quiet girl who let other kids treat her like a doormat.  Sadly, I was incapable of pulling off anything more than her characteristic, “Humph!” when someone made my little temper flare.

I still want to be Miss Piggy.  She would never let a golf coach treat her like a second-class citizen because she’s a girl (er, a female pig).  She’d tell people when they were annoying her.  She would fight tooth and nail to make and keep friends instead of wallowing in lonely misery.  I suppose there are a few tactics I picked up from the prissy hog.  I learned how to lose my temper, but in a ladylike manner.  I learned that girls can be tough, protective, stubborn, and pushy, and if they do it carefully, they perhaps won’t alienate everyone around them.  In fact, I think that deep down, Miss Piggy is similar to the woman every woman wants to be.  She was probably the root of all my “girl power” thinking back then.  Forget the Spice Girls, I owe that all to Madame Pig.

In the end, though, I think I very much ended up as a Fozzie Bear, and not as a Miss Piggy, and it’s not nearly as funny as I always thought it would be.

Just created it.

http://leeraloo.tumblr.com/

Follow me or whatever.  I plan on posting smaller, stupider crap on there, like a random song or picture or video here and there.  WordPress, for those of you that use it, is better for long-form blogging, and I feel kind of stupid making an entire new entry just so I can post some stupid YouTube video of an old song I have stuck in my head when I feel the need to purge.  Thus, the Tumblr was born.

Jezebel.com recently posted a new essay about clothing and memories, “When a Coat is More Than Just a Coat:  How Certain Articles of Clothing Take on a Special Meaning.”  The piece is inspired by Nora and Delia Ephron’s off-Broadway show, “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.”  The show has a rotating cast of five women who relate vignettes gathered from interviews with real-life women – stories about those moments in their lives that are so intertwined with their wardrobes.

The essay on Jezebel, by staff blogger Hortense, focuses on a pair of shoes that walked the author through her first kiss, her first relationship, her first break-up. More importantly, the shoes gave her confidence, and made her feel like she at last had a piece of clothing that made others jealous; everyone had something to say about them.

It made me wonder if I had any specific clothes that I could point to as a summary of a certain period in my life.  Of course I do, and I would be surprised if there were a person who couldn’t distinguish one piece from their wardrobe, either past or present, that was significant in their life. Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, this is the same old blog, but with a new header.  The photograph was taken by my sister.  It’s a picture of the little dinosaur that sits on the dashboard in my car.  Her name is Clementine.  My sister’s camera is awesome, and I’m jealous of it.

New year, new picture.  I’m pumped.

The Baby Website, which I would have never visited were it not for a link on Jezebel, has written a list of the Top 20 Mom Sayings.  The list is behind the cut (and the commentary is mine).

Read the rest of this entry »

There’s been a lot of talk about Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video lately, and even her “Videophone” video with Beyonce.  Yeah, those are both crazy, fun videos.  But this video, for Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck’s “Heaven Can Wait,” puts both of those videos to shame.  This is legitimately one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a while.  I love it.

I’m glad people are still visiting the blog even though I haven’t updated in a while.  I haven’t forgotten about you!  My Thanksgiving break is coming up, and then my winter break.  Once my massive amounts of homework are out of the way, I have a few epic blog entries in the pipeline, including some end of the year and end of the decade lists, a few Hottie McDotties, and maybe even some more brainy entries about politics and societal issues.  So be on the lookout.

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