Saturday, November 21, 2015

Books Every Teenage Girl Should Read

Here is the list of books that impacted my teenage life in some forceful way:

Julie of the Wolves- Jean Craighead George

A novel about a young Inuit girl ripped from her family's culture and forced into marriage. Rather than face potential rape from her fiance, she flees across the tundra using the traditional survival knowledge her father taught her to survive. Along the way she meets a pack of wolves that, through intelligence and wit, she becomes a memeber of as they travel together across the tundra to find Julie's lost father.

This book had a huge impact on me at a 12 year old girl. It gave me a window into a traditional culture that was slowly being colonized and a heroine that relied on herself and her knowledge of her culture to survive. Throw in some truly harrowing moments and some very sad moments and you have a life changing novel.

The Last Unicorn- Peter S. Beagle

This novel features a heroine that not only resists the handsome prince's constanst tries at wooing her through heroic deeds but saves her own kind in a fight against the terrifying Red Bull. A beautiful, lush fantasy story with many strong female characters and some amazing myth creation. Even if you don't normally read fantasy you may enjoy this book as the storytelling is truly compelling and intense.

The Outsiders- SE Hinton

A story about the wrong side of the tracks and the poor kids, known as greasers, who survive there as a surragote family. The novel centres around the conflict between the poor kids and the affluent kids (the socs) and an eventual murder in the midst of rising violence. Set in the late 50s, it gives the reader a very different view of the era than the glossy TV images one gets from Happy Days. The bonds of friendship and family are examined in the face of the harshness of a working class reality.

Although this book's characters are mostly male, I think it is still an important read as the woman who wrote it, Susan Hinton, was told noone would read a book about young male hoods written by a woman and she was forced to publish under the name SE to finally get it to print. Susan's books tend to be about working class boys (my other 2 favorites being Tex and Rumble Fish) that give you a real insight into the world of the working poor. Even though most of Susan's characters were male, I always felt a connection to them as they were living a reality I was familiar with. After reading her books, I realized I wanted to be a writer and finding out she was a woman from my teacher galvanized my drive to write.

Francis Ford Coppola directed amazing versions of The Outsiders and Rumble Fish in the early 1980s to which SE Hinton wrote the screen plays. If you watch closely, you will also see that Susan makes a cameo in each movie.

How to Be a Woman- Caitlin Moran

Although I read this book as an adult (it only came out in the last few years), I definitely suggest it to my students. It's a great exploration of Caitlin coming to womanhood and all the bumps and bruises along the way. From teenage angst to motherhood, we follow Caitlin's trials and tribulations of being a woman and all the baggage and joy that comes with it. Written with genuin wit and at times great sadness, I think this memoir can really give teenage girls someone to guide them through the insanity of becoming a woman. Moran's first novel, How to Build a Girl, is also a great read about the disfunction and nuttiness of being a teenage girl and trying to find your place in the world. Agian, I find it easy to identify with Moran and her characters as they hail from the working class world I am very familar with. Both books are definely worth the read.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Touch Me and Gain a Stump

I do not like being touched, especially by strangers. I don't like strangers trying to hug me. I'm not even keen on handshakes. I even hate it when you are on the bus and the thigh of the person next to you rubs against yours. It makes my skin crawl and can trigger panic attacks.

My family was never all that touchy feely. Both of my parents came from violent situations in their childhood home life and I suspect that made them slightly hands-off parents. But even so, even my extended family is not all that touchy. My home life as a child at home was fairly stable and definitely non-violent but we interacted verbally and intellectually rather than tactically.

I can trace my own more severe aversion to touch to several events in my childhood outside of my family life. As I have written before I was relentlessly teased and that sometimes turned physical. In grade three, my tormentors invented a game called 'Sarah fleas', if some one touched me they would yell 'Sarah fleas! Pass it on!' and they would pass it around the room. I began to shy away from touch.

I also developed breasts very early and had large breasts by the time I was 12. This led to unwanted attention from predatory grown men and boys in my school that terrified me.  I was grabbed when I didn't want to be. Or 'accidently' brushed up against. I began to fear touch and the potential for it to turn violent.

I am now 33 and I still avoid being touched. It took me a long time to get used to friends wanting to hug me when they saw me. My family is still not huggy touchy. It takes me awhile to warm up to friends or lovers wanting to cuddle me. Cuddling does not come naturally to me. It takes a while to get there when I start a relationship. I do at times find my self craving that intimacy but I really need to trust someone to let them touch me freely.

I really despise strangers touching me. As a women, I have of course been the victim of frotteurism and sexual assault which has just increased my aversion. My mom not being a huggy person and having a huggy business partner was hard for her. He, however, learned quickly to ask before he tried to hug. She warned him never to try to hug me because I am even more adverse and he has made an effort not to slip up and try and hug me. I appreciate that because some people do not understand the fact that I don't like being touched and try anyways. Or attempt to touch or hug me without asking.

You often see semi-scientific articles on the internet about how important touch is to humans. What this does not take into account is consent to touch. Some of us have suffered trauma surrounding touch and do not feel comfortable unless it takes place in a safe and familiar environment with trusted people. People who have managed to stay my friends have learned this about me and don't force touch on me. I have definitely told people I was being introduced to who tried to hug me to back off. Sometimes they get a look disgust and entitlement on their face. Sort of a visual "what the fuck is wrong with you?" look.

I think people need to become more cognizant of the fact that touch does not always equal reassuring to some of us. Consent goes beyond just sexual consent but to all forms of touching, even when it's not meant to be sexual. But please don't assume I am unfriendly or a bitch, this is not going to help the situation. Don't make assumptions about people who don't want to be touched, you have no idea what they have been through and why they might need the distance to feel comfortable.

And when we do decided that you can touch us, realize that you have entered a very special place in our lives.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On Winters In Poverty

I think a lot of people fantasize about what it would be like to be suddenly rich. Like really rich. Like if you won the lottery or something. Most people would buy a house or several fancy cars or take a trip around the world.

When I fantasize about suddenly being rich I think about buying my mom and grandma each a house and setting them up for life so they never have to worry where the money is coming from to pay the electricity bill or heat bill; giving my brothers' all the money they need to live well, helping my brother get the treatment he needs for his bi-polar condition and his wife the treatment she needs for her rare disease, giving the rest of my not-particularly-well-off family money to do what they want to.

I fantasize about paying off my $100 000 student loan debt and getting all the diplomas and degrees I want because I would have the time and money. And yes I would travel to all the strange places I've always wanted to go; New Orleans, the catacombs in Paris, the ossuaries in Eastern Europe, the monasteries in Rome, the castles of Ireland and Scotland where my ancestors came from, the strange and offbeat museums of London, etc. I would buy a house but not some mansion. I would buy the Victoria house I've always wanted. I simply want a home big enough for a library and study, a nice big bed, a beautiful garden, a wrap around porch and sun room. I would buy a nice cabin on one of the Gulf Islands of the coast of British Columbia to get away to and write.

I would donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities that I believe do amazing work:

Big Cat Rescue
Bat World Sanctuary
Hope for Paws
Animal Rescue Corps
Native Women's Association of Canada
RainCity Housing
Canadian AIDS Society
Street Nurses of Vancouver
Battered Women's Support Services
Women Agianst Violence Against Women

And just so many more. I would set up scholarships for women and girls. I would give money to the Women's Studies programs I graduated from. I would donate to education programs for the under privileged. I would donate to organizations fighting for human rights, the environment, queer and transgender rights, that help the homeless, that search for justice for abused women, that address the rape crisis in our culture... and the list goes on and on. I would need millions just to do all the good I want to do in the world.

Most of all, I wouldn't have to worry about how I was going to pay my rent or the electricity bill. I could buy any food I wanted and not have to put things back every time I go to the grocery store because I can't afford all I want to buy. I could get my cats the vet care they need and not worry about the growing dept I have to have to pay for it. I could finally not live under a mountain of stress and maybe actually get the treatment I need to get better.


And it makes me endlessly sad that it would take money to accomplish all these things I'd like to do. That it frequently takes money to make an actual change in the world. It makes me sad that the people who do have this money would rather horde it away and make more money on the backs of the workers, the poor and not so well offs. I see a world suffering and I wonder why no one does anything.

It's Christmas time; I watch consumerism run rampant in the streets as holiday shoppers step past the huddled masses of homeless people on the street. All scrambling for the perfect piece of plastic crap that will just end up on another landfill. They turn their eyes from the newspaper headlines. Ignore the suffering that is not in some foreign place, but right outside their doorstep. We measure success in green instead of the lives we've made better. I don't want to be a part of this kind of world.

I want what I do to matter. I want to not care about money. I wish it wasn't a reality. I wish I didn't need it to just get by.  I've lived in poverty my whole life and it's not going to change anytime soon as my body gets more and more disabled. But I don't want to be famous. I don't want to be greedy. I just want change. I just want to help. I want to leave this world better than I found it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Just Keep Swimming

This blog is unfortunately becoming a bit of a diary of my dealing with my health and mental issues but I guess blogs are meant to be a place where you can do some cathartic writing. For years I have struggled with an unnamed illness that just didn't seem to have a cause. My test results would come back clear. There was no diabetes, Lupus, STDs or arthritis. I'd been diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, IBS, gastro-reflux, severe sleep apnea, depression, and anxiety. Even with treatment for all these other conditions, I still felt constantly sick, achy and fatigued to the extreme. Finally, after a barrage of not so great doctors, I found an amazing clinic with doctor's who would actually listen to me. I've been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia has not definitive test that can give a doctor a diagnosis. Instead it is a cluster of symptoms that researchers don't have a clear idea of what causes it. It seems to be related to brain structure and nerve pathways. Your brain misinterprets information and constantly reads pain from your nerve pathways which would like a trickle of water in dirt. As the water trickles it wears down a deeper and deeper path. This is also what happens with chronic pain. The pathways get deeper and more sensitive. Some doctors refuse to believe that fibromylgia exists because it does not have a clear diagnostic test. If you have a cluster of symptoms and respond with pain in several pressure spots, it points to a possible diagnosis of fibromyligia. Unfortunately, because the condition is not well understood there is not much in the way of treatment.

Here's a definitions straight from the mouth of Wikipedia: "Fibromyalgia (FM or FMS) is characterised by chronic widespread pain and allodynia (a heightened and painful response to pressure). Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term fibromyalgia syndrome for the condition. Other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Some people also report difficulty with swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling, and cognitive dysfunction.Fibromyalgia is frequently associated with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder. Not all people with fibromyalgia experience all associated symptoms."

I unfortunately experience all of these symptoms with migraines and nausea thrown in just for fun. 

Also from Wikipedia: "Some members of the medical community do not consider fibromyalgia a disease because of a lack of abnormalities on physical examination and the absence of objective diagnostic tests. Yunus has referred to some physicians' belief that FM is psychological in nature as disturbed physician syndrome (DPS): "It is the physicians who are psychologically disturbed because they ignore the data, and whatever data there is, they manipulate it to say what they want it to say."[153]

For me, fibromyalgia is very real. I am in constant pain. My nerves feel like they are on fire, my muscles ache with the slightest provocation, I never feel well. I haven't in years. A diagnosis doesn't really do anything for me but it at least makes me feel that I know what it is I am trying to treat and maybe I will eventually get it manageable. Living with a mystery in your own body as it seems to turn on you is scary. Doctor's treating you like you are a liar or idiot who does not understand their own body does not help your feelings of hopelessness and depression. 

Another difficulty is I am losing my ability to work and struggling with getting help from the government. Every time I try to deal with them, I get the feeling that the people in power would prefer that all the poor people, disabled people, sick people, and the downtrodden would just go somewhere and die quietly out of the way so they don't have to look at it. I want to work but I physically can not. I can't stand for any amount of time, I can't lift anything, I'm always in pain, I am always fatigued, I even sometimes have cognitive issues where I can't focus or I feel faint. I don't want to be sick; I don't want to use the system. I won't if I wasn't in direstraits and needed the help. 

Every day becomes a dull grey cloud of sickness and pain and all I can do is trust that I will make it somehow. I feel blessed that I live in a country with socialized medical care so I can get free treatments and medication. I could not deal with this without it. I've gotten used to my life being a struggle; I was born into it. I mostly wrote this to let other people know they are not alone out there when they are going through illness and disease. There are a lot of us out there and we are here to support you in anyway we can. We need to help each other. 

Sometimes, you just gotta keep swimming...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Living with Depression and Anxiety

I've been told that I am a fantasy women. As in a sexual fantasy. To some people I am; big breasts, big hips, full lips, long hair, and a swaggering attitude to match. I might not be the fantasy that popular culture tells women they have to be but to a section of the male and female population, I am.

But with that fantasy, comes a reality. A reality that not everyone wants to see and a reality that I've gotten good at hiding.

That reality is that I suffer from several mental health conditions: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, trauma, disordered eating and neurotic issues. Over the last several years, I fell into a black hole of depression that I thought I would never get out of and am only now clawing my way up the side of.

I've suffered from depression my whole life and I have made a few stabs at treating it over the years but nothing really took. I remember being depressed as a child coming home from school after a day of bullying and feeling like a fat little unwanted outsider. I was depressed as a teenager, suffering from an eating disorder, being told that I was too fat, weird and smart all the fucking time. Developing the beginnings of a life long battle with body image and self mutilation. All through my twenties when a relationship would end badly, I would feel sad for ages afterwards, possibly for over a year. That was not normal.

But I deluded myself to think I would just come out of the depression on my own. That I would just automatically get better. This last bout of depression proved just how wrong I was thinking that. I've spent the last several years going very far down the depression rabbit hole. As I think back it started as my health problems got rather bad (not death causing bad but lots of awful pain kind of bad) and it took a toll on me that I'm only just beginning to realize. I started to lose interesting in everything. It went beyond sadness to a type of numbness that flattened the whole world. I didn't want to be around people, I isolated myself, I didn't call friends, the whole world felt bland and uninviting. I couldn't find any motivation to do anything. I just wanted to run away and hide.

If you have ever read the novel Perfume, the main character at one point decides he's had enough of humanity and the world and crawls into a crevice in the mountains. He stays there for years, living off of roots and water dripping down the walls and lives completely inside his head building kingdoms. I felt like I wanted to find a crevice and just stay there forever. I became increasingly non-functional. Unable to work or do even the simplest of tasks like brush my hair or go to the store. Larger tasks became massive cliffs that my brain just could not deal with. I felt sick all the time. Everything hurt. Living hurt. I could barely make it out of bed most days. Most days I didn't make it out of bed.

Luckily I avoided being suicidal only by the fact that I'm so neurotic that I have a pretty serious fear of death. I mostly just wanted to remove myself from the human world and hide. The closest I ever came to a vague suicidal thought was having a bottle of pills and a bottle of whiskey in front of me and actually thinking of mixing the two. It was not to commit suicide however, I thought about it because I wanted to feel sick. I wanted so bad to not feel the crushing depression I was in that feeling really sick and ending up in the hospital almost seemed like a better idea. Luckily my fear of death kicked in and I didn't do it. But that's not to say I didn't engage in other self destructive behaviours like self mutilation, self medicating with alcohol, removing myself from human contact, and seriously thinking about just leaving and never coming back.

I knew something was very wrong but I didn't know how to get out of it. It's extremely hard to make those decisions when you are so far down in the mud that you feel absolutely stuck. I tried anti-depressants for the first time last summer and had a severe allergic reaction that put me in the hospital. That gave me a fear of the meds and I avoided them for the next year even though I knew I wasn't getting better. I finally came to the realization that I really needed help when I had a massive nervous breakdown in December of this last year and realized I had finally been pushed to the absolute edge of sanity.

My disorders had finally pushed me far enough to make me try anti-depressants again even though I was terrified of getting another allergic reaction. I tried a different anti-depressant and didn't have a scary reaction. I suffered through the side effects and waited for the benefits. I really thought nothing was ever going to work because my depression had convinced my brain that it wouldn't. Having severe depression is like having a little demon sitting on your shoulder whispering in your ear that nothing will ever be better and that you are not worthwhile in any sort of way. I had to add a second medication to counter-act the sedation effects of the first. As is always true of psychiatric meds I had to try many to find the right mix over the course of several months under the supervision of a psych med specialist. This is where a lot of people give up because it can take months or even years to find the right combination to effect what is going wrong in your brain chemistry as depression hits everyone differently. But I stuck with it and luckily hit upon a good combination fairly quickly.

I am actually feeling like a human now. My mood has improved immensely and I realized for the first time in forever I was actually starting to feel happy and interested in the world again. I always resisted drugs but I have to admit that there was something very wrong in my brain chemistry that needed to be treated and just waiting for it to fix itself was not going to work. Depression (as well as anxiety, body issues, bi-polar disorder, alcoholism, drug addiction, and bad temper) runs in my family. I now recognize a life time of symptoms that I was always waiting for "to just go away on their own". That is not the reality of depression.

I still have bad issues with anxiety that need to be treated and I will always be neurotic. My disordered eating needs to be addressed as does living with chronic health issues but I'm on the road to recovery. I do however also recognize that I can back slide at any moment and I need to learn to recognize the signs and how to deal with them (which is a long process as most treatment programs take months or years to get into due to budget cutbacks and high demand). Every little step forward is a good one.

I have always been good at putting up my walls and fronts. I build a castle of defenses to protect what is actually a very delicate heart. I come off as brash, bitchy and very confident. When I walk in a room people notice me or feel a little afraid of me. I look very sure of myself and in a lot of ways I am. But the truth behind that facade is a scared little tortured fat girl inside me who is pretty sure she is worthless, unlovable, not worthy of love, unwanted and hated. That little girl lurks behind everything I do and sometimes she is who is controlling my interactions with the world. I build those walls to protect her as she is fragile and can not take too many hits before she falls apart. Everyday her and I navigate this alienating world and struggle to move forward to something better.
Photo by Black Opal Images

Friday, May 2, 2014

Stretch Baby! Stretch Over My Majestic Ass!

You know what I love? Stretchy fabric!

Oh lordy, stretchy fabric is a fat babe's best friend. It stretches miles to fit any size, any curve, any lump, or any bump. It hugs any form. I fucking love spandex, nylon, fishnet bodystockings, leggings, stretch jeans, body con dresses and wet look fabric. Wet look fabric looks like you are wearing rubber without the hassle of actually wearing rubber. And the best thing about stretch fabrics is that they are comfortable and you can move/dance/gallop/run/do yoga/fuck in them.

Of course, any time I wear a super tight body con dress or a wet look tight stretch outfit, I get disapproving stares from members of the general fat hating public. I give them a disapproving stare right back, keep my head up and wiggle my fat ass onwards and upwards. I feel sexy and powerful in a stretch dress; I feel awesome in my leggings, I like that you can see my ass and my tummy. Of course, there are some who worship a sexy fat babe in a tight outfit and would follow my jiggling rump to Hell and back just to watch it bounce and I thank them for that.

Fashion sites are always harping on girls who wear leggings as pants and I say fuck 'em. Wear leggings as pants! All the time! Wear them on your head if you want to! I love walking down the street and seeing a proud rear-end displayed in a pair of funky leggings. If some guy talks shit and complains that he doesn't like girls in leggings, tell him to go fuck a knot hole in a fence because he ain't getting his dick into what's under your leggings.
I spent many years wearing restrictive outfits. Corsets, hobble skirts, sky high heels, girdles, etc and I loved them (still do).  However, as I've gotten older I'm finding myself wanting to have more movement in my clothing but still look sexy. It used to be stretch fabrics only came in sweat pants and pant with stirrups but now with new fabrics, crazy prints and studs and zippers everywhere, stretch fabric is showing up is some super fashionable outfits. I like stretch fabric because I can go to an all night rave and dance like the world is on fire and still feel comfortable and sexy shmexy.

So proudly wear your stretch fabric girls! Bust out those stretch jeans! Say goodbye to clothing lines! Rock a body con! And wear whatever the hell you want to!

Retailers That Sell Stretchy Stuff for Fat Chicks:

Forever21+ (this is the Canadian site but the American one has a plus size section too)
City Chic
Forever Yours Lingerie
Hips and Curves
Domino Dollhouse

And do yourself a favour and watch this awesome music video by Leslie Hall about tight spandex pants:

Firebrand Progressives

I am now writing for the Liberal Progressive news/columnist site: Firebrand Progressives
They have even forgiven the fact that I'm a Canadian.

Check out my first article:

 First Look at Oklahoma Capitol Satanic Statue‘Baphomet’

Please click on it. This broke ass bitch needs to get paid!

Image Credit: