Me too.

Nothing can describe the recurring sinking in my stomach, or the invasion of shivers. My complete inability to understand whether I should like, send love, be sad or show anger; wow could never be a solution. Also difficult to express is the deep gratitude in feeling that this time, we’re on a roll. Not all of us are marchers, or politicians, journalists, rappers, or have access to a platform from which to express ourselves. But what a lot of us do have in common is social media. And through this system we insist on calling perverse (which it is, but that can’t overshadow the ways in which it is effective..!), we have managed to create a true wave. And what with? Two words. Two words to lend our voices to a cry which should never be quietened, let alone silenced.

In only a few days, we have shone a light on a monster we love to ignore.  And you know what, I’d love to see how you go around ignoring us this time. The numbers are undeniable; you cannot argue provocation, drunkenness, naïveté, or any of the other “excuses” you cower behind. May you be damned if you don’t prick up your ears, ready to finally listen, or if you choose to deny the truth, again.

More than the sinking feeling and the skin crawling, I’ve been crying. Crying at a pain that’s so normal, we never even bother mentioning it anymore. An injustice we should fight against together, but that we are all too tired to address, faced as we are with other unrelenting assaults to our integrity. When I see how many of us are involved, somehow, I feel even more helpless. If so many of us have been through this, how come it’s still going on? But this, this feels like a new opening for this conversation.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a feminist wave, a current event, that makes the involvement of men obvious. Without the oppressing group gaining consciousness, it all stays the same. So when each of us says “Me too“, we are lending you our voices – so that you can join our ranks, stronger from our avowals – and be a part of this fight against a patriarchy that makes sexual harassment and assault part of the normal fabric of society. This is not normal. It’s time we overthrew this system, all of us together.

 

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Never again: Selfish.

There are words that hurt. Selfish is a destroyer for me. And it’s taken me a long time to understand why. While I am a generous, sometimes (borderline) sacrificial person, I think this makes me strong, and so it’s not what shapes my pain at the root. It actually runs deeper and earlier.

As a child, I was denied individuality. Motions to do things for myself were swept aside, seen as signs of weakness. If I expressed a desire to sit out of a group activity, it was made clear to me that then leaving me alone was punishment, exclusion. It was proof of my selfishness that I would rather have time alone than join in. Lila, the selfish one. That is how, through instances of punishment for individual thinking, the mechanism was installed.

Since then, I have been acutely aware that my duty is to others, to the family unit. Wanting something, anything, for myself is only a weakness, punishable, to be silenced and hidden at all costs. I have therefore developed a disregard for myself, my needs and desires; as a result turning me into an efficient family/team/couple member, always putting others first. But that game ends up with me in pain, feeling repressed and unworthy. 

So now that I understand, why don’t I just move on and be an individual ? Guilt. Guilt is the answer. Guilt and fear that I’m letting others down, that I’m being selfish. For standing up for myself, for being honest, for having emotions, for expressing them. Because now, in my head, there’s always a voice, a cycle of thoughts that’s ashamed of my individuality, at the imagined cost of others’ comfort and joy.

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I’ve started a process of recovery. I’m in the early steps. Of removing that voice, acknowledging it’s not mine but a childhood fear, that I can leave it behind. I’ve started to feel how rich a person I am. How the woman I am becoming deserves her own space, her free time, to have her voice heard, to not be scared.

So when you call me selfish, or self-involved, I cringe, I hurt, and scramble to self-efface, to have my presence forgotten because the voice inside says I’ve failed at my duties again.

That’s why I sing. That’s why I ask – where’s the room for my self love? Wouldn’t I do well to put myself first? Shouldn’t you, who are by my side, celebrate that?

Selfish is a word that hurts, and I hope now you understand. You wouldn’t tell me I have too much self love, would you? 

Extract from a love letter – on self affirmation 

But I am a whole, made of good and bad, confident and anxious, calm and angered, sober and excited. I deserve to be loved as a whole, to have all aspects of me honoured, kept safe and taken care of. Dealing with me requires patience, which I will not apologise
for. I will not put myself in boxes to please others, especially those I choose to let into my intimate circle. This is necessary for my mental health, and more and more for my physical integrity too. I am not an embarrassement to be hidden, I am not my illness.
I am a whole. More than the sum of my (partially defective) parts. And isn’t that who you love? I expect to be loved, not changed. This is not to say I will not change and improve, but that it is a process, aided by love and not a question of clicking fingers
and becoming the perfect woman. Every day I am the best version of me in the context I am given. If you love me, you can believe that. 

Unapologetically Woman

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Kimothy Joy

Today I write. Pick up my pen, later I’ll type, and get to show you a piece of my mind. I write; this is my power, my craft. I am empowered – by words, but also by my mind, my body – as by my choices, my struggles and my skills. All this I have had to learn – tread my own path, pause, return to understand, and inch forward, on and on, slowly, yet, now I know, surely.

I am a woman, and yes, it matters. While I used to think it was more important to find/be my unembodied self, my essence, my soul…now I see how valid, and valuable, my body is. Not something to be brushed aside while I try to make my mind shine. No, I have a body, a physicality, which I choose to use to enhance my performance of myself as Lila.

With this realisation, another is truly vital: my body is mine. And oh how I regret not owning it sooner. It started with pulling my hair into clean, tidy rows, to hide its “kinks”, “unruly” curls, and “unkemptness”. No. My hair will not answer your expectations and beauty “standards” anymore. Let these curls bounce around my face and reflect the complexity of my soul. I am unashamed.

Next comes the pain my body goes through and the blind eye I turned on its needs. No longer will I force my cramp-wracked self to get on trains, to write out tests, to function as if I were a result-oriented machine. When I bleed, I will take my time, and let the world go on while I observe my own essential cycles. We are allowed times of rest, times of reflection and of self-developement. 

In my relationships with others, I will no longer hide or aim to melt into the background. I will use my voice, whether on stage, at your dinner table, in class or in the doctor’s office. You will no longer forget me; my presence will be heard. My thoughts are to be shared or kept to myself if I so choose. My opinions are worthy of acknowledgement. Whether silent or loud, noisy, even “too out there”, I have arrived.

Finally, there are questions of the flesh. I aimed to please, realise others’ desires. I let myself be taken and I gave up ownership of myself. I even ignored rape, telling myself it was my duty, a normal, common compromise to make. The tides have turned. I nearly drowned, but held on, to tell the tale. The hurt is real, the scars visible – these I will not hide either. Used to catering to a partner’s needs, my own are now screaming back. In no hoarse voice, my desires speak their hunger, unafraid to lie back, spread out, grab by the horns or refuse to let in. They are recognised and legitimised. I will continue to explore, choose my bedfellows and revel in the freedom of consent.

I said “finally”, but I’m not done. The state of affairs in my mind is far from settled. You have seen me burst into tears – that was loss, death. You heard about the hospital – that was wanting to die, envisioning suicide. Perhaps you’ve seen me swallow pills – that’s for anxiety, keeping vertigo at bay, to stop being scared. You know my sisters, see my parents – maybe guess at the weight of responsibility I feel, the pain I felt at keeping silent. My mental health is far from trivial, it calls to be shared.

I am a woman, and I’m still learning. This here is in no way an explanation of my flaws, difficulties and bumpy journey. It is a proclamation. To you, reader, I declare my existence, take pride in its complexity and in my resulting self. I ask for help in keeping up, for challenges to my reasoning, I ask to hear your stories, to share your plight. As I look up to Yoncé, take interest in Gaga, read Adichie, write about Butler, follow Laverne Cox and dream of still-silent sheroes, I know I exist at a magical, rich, awesome time. I need not keep back or be afraid. I am a woman, and it matters.

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Women’s March – Liza Donovan

Winds, be still.

sdc12698Everything is chaos.

Battering winds, flying debris,

Blood, bruises, lightning

Deafening crashes – …….

 

Respite. A few seconds

In the eye of the storm, I stand

And brace my soul for the next

Wave – immerged, submerged, drowning.

 

And so the cycles waltz along

As I stagger looking for shelter

In any shape or form,

Pure, distilled, strange or familiar (mixted or dry).

 

Until I’m caught – softly softly

Brought to see the calm & charm

Of these here shores, our own.

 

There’s a half-moon stain

Deep dry red on the table.

In another room a glass

And the unmade bed staring, empty.

 

Echos. All that’s left

Of wine, and chills, and new ways

To fix my wavering will,

Gather the screaming winds

 

And be still.

 

 

Never again – hospital

What a strange, warped world, where knowing better is just not the way. Being stupid and slow will save you, being sharp and aware just damn you. Whatever protocols keep these walls standing are built from absurdities and flimsy “certitudes”. Where is the wholsesome place we need? We bruised souls unfit for combat. They herd us in, lock the gate and think we’ll heal. Now why do they believe that cut off from life is how to deal? These brutish beds, yellow walls, airless windows…is that the answer? Rather than my cocoon, painstakingly built, feather by feather, plush by plush. That’s where I need to be.

The whole world

Is on its head

Pupils taking care

Of teachers’ kids

The sick taking care

Of the young and free

 

To keep me from the lake

Is cruel torture.

To see it glisten from afar

Watch its waves beckon,

Waver in the weak winter sun

Is it necessary?

 

Leaving me to sing songs

Behind fast glass

Is making my soul weary.

Paroxetine

It’s been six weeks. Seven now. From skin-burning, “I’m dying” sleepless nights to this – better? Chemicals running through me, but still I’m not sure.

I’m on antidepressants.

Is this right? Or could I do this on my own? No. It’s not the gig on Friday, it’s not exams. Not money, not housekeeping, not my love life. So… what? So…I’ve had help, for years, and now it’s come to this. Pills to keep me going, to stay out of the darkest depths and keep the fear in my stomach at bay. For six weeks, now seven, it’s worked. I’ve taken it all in my stride, risen to the challenge and gone back to class. Started discussions, mulled it over and loved my job(s). And things are better, more under control, I feel fine. And happy.

But I’m also tied to them. These pills, if I stop, could give me withdrawals. I depend on them, they keep me going. Or do they? I’d like to think I am whole, on my own. But still…the fear. Like tonight, through all the music, the lights, the fun – that sinking feeling was back. I had to halve the dose and so I’m unsettled again. Shakes, tears, falling, waves of fear. The anxiety is back.

So thank you for bearing with me. For sticking by, for reading me, for hugs and smiles. Thank you for the music, the trust and the love. And let’s talk about it! Our struggles, our pains and fears. Let’s talk about medication and antidepressants and how they work, or don’t. There’s nothing to hide or be ashamed of, it happens – this is the world we’re in. Together I’m stronger. We all are.