awareness

All posts in the awareness category

Taking Care of Emotional Health

Published April 24, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yah I know, I’ve been quiet this week.  Between buying a new computer (I got a big mo-fo of an iMac!) and working my arse off, I’ve not had a real lot of time to myself this week, and sadly that means this poor blog has to take a back seat for a bit.

Mostly at the moment I am dealing with a high stress time at work, what with trying to juggle multiple projects to be finished by the end of the financial year (June 30th in Australia) and a colleague turned food-stalker who will not leave me alone about what I am having for lunch and how delicious it looks compared to her diet shakes and Chinese herbal weight loss “remedies.”

Of course, with rising stress levels, comes higher anxiety levels, but lower self esteem.  I am lucky these days that after years of working on my self esteem, depression and anxiety issues that I can recognise them for what they almost always are – symptoms of overwork, not enough sleep and un-resolved problems.  I am far more resilient to these down times than I have ever been.

But they are still there and take some work to sort out and get back on track with my emotional health.  Where normally I have confidence in myself, during the down times I tend to second guess things, or be very harsh on myself again.

I have learned that those times are not the time to cast judgement on myself, or the world around me.  That I need to just settle back and let myself get out of that frame of mind before I make any decisions on how I feel about people and situations and myself.  There are a few things I can do that are immensely healing and are part of taking care of myself in those times.

Music really means a lot to me.  I have a folder in iTunes of music that I know makes me feel good.  I have a list of videos on YouTube that do the same thing, most of them Craig Ferguson dancing around like an idiot to some cheery tune.  It’s what Craig does best.

I know being around water helps me.  I am lucky, I live in a river city, and within 10 minutes walk of the river itself.  Or I can travel for about 45 minutes and be by the bayside.

Sleep is important too.  If I can catch up on decent sleep (more than the 4 or 5 hours per night I have been getting on average), I know it works a lot towards undoing all the negativity, anxiety and stress.

Self esteem and a positive outlook are not things that you just get and never have to worry about struggling with again for the rest of your life.  It takes a lot of work to build them up, to work through depression, bad self image and anxiety, and then you constantly have to be topping up that work, honing it, working on keeping it alive.  But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you do slip up from time to time.  You WILL slip up from time to time.  You WILL have times that the black dog of depression gets you in his teeth, and that circumstances lead you down the path of feeling bad about yourself.  But with work and support, you become far more resilient and conscious, and able to pull yourself up or find help to do so, back into positive, confident, happy you again.

Do you struggle with stress, anxiety, depression, poor self esteem?  How do you work through it to get yourself in a better place?  Do you recognise it when it sneaks up on you?

Let’s talk about it in the comments – knowing you’re not alone is one of the best tools you can have in your good emotional health toolkit!

Men Who Make a Difference

Published April 18, 2010 by sleepydumpling

It’s not secret that I love Craig Ferguson.  Not only is he cute and funny, I love how intelligent, opinionated, passionate and articulate he is.  I bookmark a stack of videos, pics, quotes and things about him each week and usually Sunday is my internet catch up day, where I go back and take a look at all the bits and bobs I’ve saved for later.

I found this video via Tumblr.  Take a look, especially for the bit at the end, from around the 7:11 mark:

I knew what the subject matter was in that bit, in fact I’d seen a transcript of his comments on the Rhianna/Chris Brown thing, but what I didn’t expect was my reaction.

I fully expected to cheer a bit, say “YES!” and basically be impressed that Craig has had the guts to say something about it.

What I didn’t expect, was to quietly start crying.

Even though I have been safely removed from my abuser for over 15 years, there is still pain.  Even though I know now that the abuse wasn’t my fault, it still hits somewhere deeply when I think of what I and other women have suffered and are suffering.

A lot of good men say it doesn’t matter if they say anything against domestic violence.  They think that their voice against such abuse is pointless and doesn’t change anything.  I know it feels that way, in the face of “smack the bitch around” jokes and comments about how women just get to men so much that there is nothing they can do in retaliation but become abusive.  I know that it feels like it makes a man powerless to speak up, or that it’s pointless.

I am here to say that it is not pointless.  It does matter.  You are not powerless in speaking up against men who are abusive towards women and children.

It matters most to those of us who have suffered and are still suffering.  To hear a man say that hitting women is not acceptable means more than I can put into words.  It gives us heart that there are men out there who would never dream of hurting the people that they love.  Especially when being hurt by the person who is supposed to love you the most is all some women and children know.  It gives us hope that someone is speaking up with those of us who are victims and survivors.

Most importantly, it gives power to women and children who are being abused by the men in their lives to make a change and get out of that situation.

So the next time you hear of a case of domestic abuse dear good men, and I now know you are out there, in the past 15+ years I’ve been fortunate to have many of you come into my life as friends, colleagues, and even romantic interests, do speak up.  Say something.  Say something publicly.

Because you DO make a difference, it does matter.  I thank those of you who do.

The Easter Bunny Brings More Than Just Chocolate

Published April 4, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Happy Easter everyone, regardless of your spiritual beliefs.  Welcome to Spring in the Northern Hemsiphere, Autumn in the Southern.

This Easter has been a bit rough on me.  Oh don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good time and had some lovely celebrations with friends over the past few days.  But at a time when chocolate is so central to many celebrations, among other foods, I’m feeling a bit worn down by all the food is morality and disordered thinking/behaving that is swirling around me at the moment.

You see the Easter Bunny brings more than just chocolate.  He brings the all the strings that are attached to food.

It is no secret that I am recovering from eating disorders.  It’s taken me years to retrain my brain to think of food in a different way to how I have done over the first 30 something years of my life, and it’s hard work to keep thinking that way.  I have to keep very conscious of the thoughts around food I have and pull up those that are disordered very quickly, to prevent relapses into disordered behaviour.

So it’s very difficult for me to be around others who have disordered attitudes towards food and eating.

From the woman who sits near me almost every day at lunch time with her diet shake or “meal” (I hesitate to call those things food really), staring longingly at my lunch and going on and on about how good she is being to stick to her diet products.  Yet she is miserable and asks me things like “Is there chicken on that sandwich?” and when I say yes, sighs longingly “Oh I miss eating chicken, but I’m being good.”

Then there were those starving themselves and repeatedly justifying how they could go to an Easter chocolate buffet that was to be the celebration of a 50th birthday.  I sat amongst this for about two weeks, listening to how they wouldn’t eat anything in the lead up, or “I’ve been so good for weeks, I can go along.”

I went, though on looking at the menu beforehand noticed that there was NOTHING savoury, so I had my lunch beforehand and went to it as a dessert, as I can’t bear the thought of all that sweet stuff for a meal, my tummy protests just at the thought of it.

I probably shouldn’t have gone, not because of the food, but because of all of the disordered behaviour around me.  The hardest to deal with of those being the ones that starved themselves beforehand then binged when they got there.

I felt terrible all afternoon, despite  having a lovely lunch and then some nice dessert afterwards.  It wasn’t the food, it was having to deal with and process all the feelings that other people brought to the fore in my mind.  I had a whole mix of guilt, shame, anger, depression, anxiety and simple exhaustion swirling around in my mind all afternoon, that I am sure I would not have had if I hadn’t been in the company of some people who have really messed up attitudes about food.

It doesn’t help that these people are far less fat than I am either.  I can’t speak up because if I do, I know the thinking is “That’s why she’s so fat, she must be a pig, I don’t want to get like that.”  Some of them have even said so, in less harsh terms.

I was lucky however with Good Friday, I spent the day with friends by the bay, talking over a barbecue lunch and the day spent in good company.  Nobody had screwed up attitudes towards food, or none that were apparent anyway, and I could feel my soul floating back to where it should be, and my mind at ease and comfortable.  Being around people who do not beat themselves up about food was very healing.

However I will confess there was a hangover from the disordered talk of the day before.  The friends who I visited on Friday happened to have a set of scales in their bathroom… which, despite my promise to myself that I would never do so again unless it was medically vital, I weighed myself on.

And I survived.  I surprised myself by not hating myself for the number I saw on the scale.  I saw it, thought about it for a bit, and let go of it.  So I am getting better, I am recovering.

Of course Easter is still here, still happening.  On Twitter and Facebook I am seeing status update and tweet over and over again of messed up attitudes towards food.  People are “pigging out” and hating themselves for eating chocolate.  There are all kinds of crazy bargains being dealt, where one can have chocolate now if one does something later, or has “been good” up until now.  Then there is the remorse after eating the chocolate, or the hot cross buns, or whatever else they have deemed as “sinful”.  Talk about how they’ve been bad, how the chocolate was evil for tempting them.

I just want to scream “It’s just chocolate people!  It’s not the anti-Christ!!”

I have got a ton of chocolate in the house.  People have been so kind giving me Easter gifts.  I am being very conscious of reminding myself that it is not Kryptonite or nuclear waste, it’s just chocolate.  It won’t hurt me, and I am not a bad person if I eat some.  I can have some any time I want some.  Strangely enough I don’t want it much, I prefer cheese to chocolate any day.

How do you cope when the people around you are displaying disordered behaviours and attitudes?  Do you struggle with it?  What are your coping mechanisms?

Practice What We Preach

Published March 9, 2010 by sleepydumpling

Yesterday was International Women’s Day in case you didn’t know.  If you follow me on Twitter at all, you know, I’m sure.  Because I didn’t shut up about it all day.  But this is because it’s really important to me.

Not just for the big, obvious reasons, like the fact that gendercide is still happening all around the world, and because women suffer 70% of the world’s extreme poverty.  But also for smaller, more personal reasons, reasons of body image.

I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a far higher expectation of women than men, as far as physical appearance is concerned.  Men are not under the massive level of body pressure that we women are.  Men do not have to alter their bodies to a shape that is almost totally unattainable by adults.  Men are not expected to starve, surgically alter and work their bodies to look like pre-teens with breasts.  Men do not have to remove every trace of body hair.   Men are valued for their brains, their ability, their personalities rather than how pleasing they are to the eye.

This isn’t just perpetrated BY men either.  As well as being International Women’s Day yesterday, the Oscars were on.  Everyone loves a good frock up, myself included.  But I couldn’t believe my eyes on Twitter, Facebook etc to see women who consider themselves feminists bitching and snarking about the actresses at the Oscars.

Critique of the clothes is of course what we’re watching for.  What a hideous dress.  What the hell is that suit *actor* is wearing?  For me it was the rosettes on Charlize Theron’s bustline that had me scratching my head this year.  Clothes at a big event like that are out there to be seen and talked about.

But the bitchiness I saw was about how skinny actresses are, how ugly their hair is, what shape their eyebrows are, how their boobs looked in a dress.

From women that were demanding that Mo’nique and Gabourey Sidibe be treated with respect and celebrated for the talented actresses they are, came the most venomous body criticism of them all, only for women that represent the opposite of Mo’nique and Gabby.  It was like these women that represent what the rest of us cannot be must not be “real” women.  It seems because the criticism was about THIN actresses, that it’s ok for women to join in to.

But I don’t believe that.  If we’re going to demand that the world treat fat women with respect, dignity and fairness, then we have to practice what we preach.  We can’t criticise other people’s physical appearance if we’re demanding that nobody criticises ours.

We need to live the message we’re putting across.  Feminism isn’t about  forgoing makeup and pretty clothes and sexy shoes and getting your nails and hair done.  It’s about treating women with respect, valuing them and not expecting them to live up to some impossible ideal, especially not with the goal of being pleasing to the eye.  Be that the male eye or those of our fellow females.

If we want our not-fat sisters to a) join us in the positive body image fight for all women and b) support us in our quest to be allowed to live happily as the fat women that nature has made us, then we have to live what we’re asking of others.

I know it’s not easy when we’ve been on the receiving end of a ton of hate and snark ourselves, but I very strongly believe that two wrongs do not make a right.

It just makes for hypocrisy.

White Ribbon Day

Published November 25, 2009 by sleepydumpling

Today is White Ribbon Day.  It is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  In Australia, the focus is on domestic violence, as this is the single most common violence that Australian women (and children for that matter) will suffer.  In fact, world wide, violence at the hands of men that women know and usually love is the most prevalent form of violence that women will suffer.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.  My father was a man who violently beat his family (in particular my mother and I) until we left him when I was 14.  It was the second time that we had attempted to leave him.  My clear memory of the first time was begging my  mother to carry through her decision to leave because I knew if we didn’t, he would probably kill either one or both of us.  I was 13 at the time.  However he continued to violently abuse me until I was 20 years old whenever I saw him.  I was terrified of him and consequently all men.

I also suffered domestic violence at the hands of my stepfather and other male relatives, whom I shall not name because I know that they have made changes to their lives and have never revisited this behaviour.

Domestic violence is particularly nasty because it is at the hands of the men who are supposed to love you.  Wives/partners and children are the victims.  The men who are supposed to love you most (fathers, grandfathers, husbands etc) are the ones doing you the most harm.  Not only does that physically hurt you, but it emotionally and mentally hurts you for the rest of your life, even after you move from victim to survivor.  These are scars that will never fully heal, despite the fact that they may fade.

Every year, on White Ribbon Day, there is a rash of “But men suffer violence too!” statements.  Not only from men too – I see it from women all the time.  This falls into two categories.  The first is the good old fashioned “What about the mens?!” where men simply fail to get the importance of the issue being discussed and think women are “making a fuss”.  More on that in a minute.

The second is when there is a legitimate case of a man being a victim/survivor and he feels voiceless.  This second category is valid and men need to be able to speak about the things they have suffered.  But what it means is that men need to create this space themselves, and not negate when women speak up about their suffering and demand change to cultural attitudes around this.

Back to the “What about the mens!?” (WATM) issue.  From the WATM article linked above from Finally Feminism 101:

No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. The thing is, a feminist space — unless the topic is specifically men’s issues — is not the place to have that discussion and neither are spaces (feminist or otherwise) in which the topic is specifically focused on women’s issues.

What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues. There are a lot of feminist allies who do this, in fact, and there also a lot of non-feminist (or anti-feminist, if you really want to go there) spaces that are welcoming to this kind of discussion. Thus, the appropriate response to a thread about women is not to post a comment on it about men, but rather to find (or make) a discussion about men.

Women are conditioned from a very young age that we should be nice.  Don’t make a fuss.  Don’t whinge.  Be polite.  So it’s intimidating and annoying to some men when a day of action and awareness about violence against women gets attention.  They’re not used to having the attention diverted from them.  They don’t like being told what to do when it comes to how they treat women.   So they call it out with “But it happens to men too!”  Suddenly the focus is about them again, and they are happy.

When women pull the WATM card, it is for the same reasons.  Either they are uncomfortable with women having the focus of an issue and action being taken about it, or they’re speaking on behalf of a male who is suffering or has suffered.  Again, the latter is valid and  has it’s place, but when introduced during action for the benefit of women such as White Ribbon Day, it negates the voice that women have on that day.

From the White Ribbon Day fact sheet (pdf):

What about violence against men?

While this campaign focuses on violence against women, it is important to acknowledge that men too are often the victims of violence. Many of the victims of murder, manslaughter, and serious physical assaults are male.

Men are much less likely than women to be subject to violent incidents in the home and are more likely to be assaulted in public places. Violence against men is far more likely to be by strangers and far less likely to involve partners or ex-partners. Of all the violence men experience, far less is represented by domestic violence (less than 1 percent, versus one-third of violent incidents against women).   Boys and men are most at risk of physical harm, injury and death from other boys and men, but small numbers are subject to violence by women.

It’s pretty straight forward.  White Ribbon Day is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is one day per year.  Deal with it.  Get over the fact that the focus is not going to be on men for a day, that it is on women for this  one day, and that this issue is real, huge and needs to see cultural change before it will go away.

Want to never hear about White Ribbon Day again?  Take the oath.  Be proactive about changing the culture that it is acceptable for men to be violent towards women and eliminate the problem, and you’ll never be pressured to buy a white ribbon again.

Support article: Domestic Violence – Myths and Misconceptions

This post is dedicated to my friend Ian, who was the first man I ever trusted not to hurt me, and to Dave Earley, whose speaking up on Twitter this morning inspired me to write this post.  And all other men with the testicles big enough to stand up and say that violence against women is wrong.

Australian Fatties – Here is Your Opportunity

Published October 25, 2009 by sleepydumpling

With thanks to Fat-o-matic I have been introduced to the new initiative by the Australian Government yourHealth.  It is an initiative on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing to give Australians a voice on their health care.  I’m not sure how much they’re actually planning to listen to it, but needless to say, it’s a very good idea to get on board and actually have a say.

I believe that we need as many Australians from the fatosphere to get on board and speak up about our health.  We are entitled to a voice as much as any other Australian, and it’s important that we speak up right now that we have this opportunity.

In particular, there is a blog post over there called How should governments, industry and community groups work together to help us combat obesity? Personally, I don’t believe obesity needs to be combatted.  Fat does not need to be fought, like it is some kind of enemy.  But it’s very important that we take the time to go to this blog and in a clear, open, and rational manner, have our say with regards to our  health.  Because this whole subject of “combatting obesity” is talking about our health, not everyone else in Australia.  We’ve been asking for our voices to be heard, we’ve been looking to change people’s perceptions of weight and health, so let’s not waste this opportunity to do so.

If you are Australian and you are reading this, please click on the link to yourHealth and go and register.  It does require an email verification, but it’s pretty straight forward.  Then click on the link above to the post about combatting obesity, and go and leave your comment there.  You can leave up to 5000 words, which is plenty to articulate why it is important for the concept of health to be independent of weight and body shape/size.

It’s a good chance to share the concept of Health at Any Size and combat that whole OOGA-BOOGA obesity crisis mentality.

Let’s not let this opportunity slide by.

Don’t Cry for Me, Interwebz!

Published July 13, 2009 by sleepydumpling

Just a quick clarification for those who are not used to seeing fat acceptance in the world.

This is not a blog to make people feel sorry for me. It is not a “poor me, feel sorry for me because I’m fat and people are mean to me” blog.

I will be sharing lots of horror stories. But that is not for sympathy, it’s for the following purposes.

  1. To share my stories so that other fatties don’t feel so alone.
  2. To raise awareness of just how deeply ingrained fat phobia is in our culture.
  3. To draw attention to just how hurtful, nasty and insensitive some people can be, in the hope that it will make others think again before making comments about people’s weight.

I just wanted to clarify that I don’t feel sorry for myself, and the stories that I’m sharing here on this blog are not for sympathy or pity, they’re for spreading a very firm message.

Stay fabulous!

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