Category Archives: bullying

the end of an era

In fifteen minutes it will be January 20th. In approximately eleven hours Trump will take the oath of office and Obama will say goodbye to the post he’s held for the last 8 years.
 
The last 8 years have been revolutionary for our country. Even if you aren’t a fan of Obama’s you can’t argue that this man made history. As history was made and the future shaped so was my life. And in many ways Obama’s presidency represents my recovery journey.
 
You see 8 years ago the weekend before inauguration day I broke up with my abusive boyfriend with the help of some amazing friends. As Obama was sworn into office I stood in the office of the hall of my college hiding from the man who terrified me. I had no idea what was to come and I’m sure neither did the man who I was watching with his hand on the Lincoln Bible taking an oath that would change his life, his families and many others including my own.
 
In the next 8 years that Obama watched over our country I experienced more change than I thought possible. As Obama began forming his legacy I sat in treatment centers with women who would become life long friends and others who I would mourn their deaths just a few short months or years later. I learned how to eat again. I was taught that I was enough as I was. I experienced flashback after flashback but worked my way through them to see the light that was waiting for me. I received my first service dog and then just four short years later held him as he died in my arm. I trained my second and returned to the show ring for the first time in 10 years.
 
I got the word hope tattooed on my arm. A word that Obama embraced and the thing that saved me when I was in the depths of anorexia.I celebrated five years of recovery. I gained weight instead of loosing it. I ate ice cream whenever I wanted and enjoyed every flavor of Cadbury eggs. I watched Michelle kiss the queen and ate snacks everyday.
 
As Obama negotiated international and domestic conflicts I negotiated my own conflicts of who I was as a person and how I could live this life limited by the confines of my own brain. I began to talk about my trauma in college thanks in a large part to Biden’s work on campus assault. I learned to set boundaries and became a proud feminist who admired Michelle and watched with tears in my eyes when she spoke about Trump’s actions. I watched Obama treat his daughter’s and wife with respect and the belief that they were equal. And I unknowingly absorbed the message for the first time – that perhaps being a woman didn’t make me “less than”.
 
And today as I prepare to go to bed on the last day that Obama is president I realized that this last eight years was the first time that I have lived without abuse. No bulling. No harassment. No rape. No partner abuse. In the entire time Obama has been president I have known that I have not belonged to a man who would abuse and use me.
 
And so as the Obama’s leave and this chapter of history is closed so does a chapter of my own life. Both America’s last 8 years and mine can be explained as chapters of pain, conflict, confusion, unexplainable joy, hope, despair and most importantly freedom and safety.
I’m saying goodbye to the man who has traveled a road at the same time as me. A road that was unknown and unpredictable for both of us. I also say goodbye to two men and one incredible woman that fostered an environment that gave me the courage to begin to heal.
 
Life doesn’t end here for either Obama or I (or for America). It’s just beginning. It’s time to spread our wings and experience a new adventure; one of freedom but informed by experiences of the past 8 years. And so as Obama says goodbye to the White House and the presidency I say goodbye to the 8 years of healing and recovery. It’s time to truly live.
 
 
 
 

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dear facebook friends and family

 

Dear Friends and Family who Voted for Trump,

I’ve posted political articles on and off since the political season began (whenever that was…seems like it went on forever). I supported Bernie and then happily and with no reluctance moved my support to Hillary. I was open about that.

 
I got some comments on things I shared and some discussion but for the most part it was respectful. For the most part people left things I posted alone or agreed with them or maybe liked them.
 
I deleted someone because they kept posting the “haha” reaction to articles I shared about how Trump reminds me and other victims of their abusers but that was it.
 
Since Trump won it’s been different. I’ve posted articles, memes and graphics. None of it is in anyway more polarizing than things I posted before the election. However, some of you (some who I wasn’t aware were Trump supporters – the Bradley Effect is real) are now commenting, arguing and dismissing my opinions.
 
Why? Is it because your candidate won so now you have some sort of bravery you didn’t before? Is it because the things I post hit too close to home? Why do you feel so defensive and entitled to argue with me when you ignored my posts before the election? This puzzles me. It’s Facebook. I know there will be disagreements. I just wonder why after the election people suddenly feel the urge to comment and argue when before my posts were left alone before. That’s the part that confuses me. 
 
 I’m a survivor. I make no secret of that fact. Trump reminds me of my abusers just as he reminds thousands of other people in this country of their abusers. Trump makes me feel unsafe just as he makes thousands of other people in this country feel unsafe.  As a survivor I’ve learned that I can’t keep everyone in my life. Sometimes I have to let people go entirely – other times, I have to limit how much my life intersects with theirs.

The majority of my posts post-election day have not been about politics as normal. They have been about how this man makes people (me) feel. When you dismiss what I post or what I write with a “sorry you feel that way but it’s not true” or long explanations as to why what I just posted is plainly just wrong when it was an opinion piece that expresses hurt and sorrow, you aren’t saying my political views are wrong, you are saying that the way I feel and am choosing to heal is wrong. And that is far more damaging and hurtful than anything you could argue with me about.

I’m not going to stop posting articles to Facebook. I’m not going to stop talking about what I am doing to heal from my trauma – on a global scale and on a personal scale – but I am going to be limiting who can see what I post. It may be a relief to you too. You probably don’t enjoy seeing what I’m posting because you disagree with it so strongly anyways. Perhaps it offends you. I’m not going to apologize for that but I am going to make it easy on both of us and limit our contact. Because you must understand, when you argue with me over articles or memes or whether something is true or not; whether I have the right to feel this hurt.; whether I have the right to feel this way about Trump; I hear that you are telling me you don’t support me. You don’t support survivors. If you met my abuser’s and they told you their version of the story you would believe them over me. Or you just wouldn’t care. That is what I am hearing. More than likely I’m wrong. But I’m not claiming to be rational. I’m simply claiming to be doing what I have to do to survive.

And so you’ll still see me post on Facebook. I would’t want to keep everyone from seeing my dog pictures now would I (maybe those annoy you lol I don’t know)? I do wish you luck. But, I can’t wish for everyone to “just get along right now” because as the movie quote says “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”.  But I do wish you health and hope.

– Still very proud to be “With Her”, 

Kate

gus-and-i-for-hillary

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winning the war with PTSD, facing the battle to come

I did something big today. And one reason it’s an even bigger deal is because it didn’t really occur to me just how big a deal it was until hours later. I visited the high school I attended for all four years. I went because it has been remodeled but enough of the old school remained that I defiantly saw identifying markers. Why is this a big deal? Because I bullied so badly that I developed PTSD (it began at around age 10 but continued on into high school). You name the type of abuse/bulling and I experienced it. So I went today and walked through the buildings without much thought. None of the bullying I experienced. A few random “I’m so glad I’m not in high school thoughts” and a definite “my life would have been so much better in high school if I had Gus” but PTSD thoughts? Nope. Absent.

It’s been a looonnnggg time coming to this place. Most of my trauma work in treatment was centered around the bulling. We approached what I consider the more major work but really hit this aspect of it hard. And this is the first time that I’m really seeing it pay off. I didn’t know if I believed someone could be “cured” from PTSD but it seemed at least today that my PTSD was long gone as I walked through a place that at one point would have sent me into flashback after flashback. I know there will  still be times when the memories hit me but they pain has receded some I think and that feels amazing. I never thought that would happen.

Now I have to move that hope onto the other aspect of my trauma we are just beginning to approach. This one feels insurmountable, terrifying and altogether impossible to handle. But I felt these things about the bulling at one time too. This time I have the benefit of experience on my side. The knowledge that I lived through the therapeutic process once and I give live through it once again. And this is invaluable because when you are in the thick of PTSD symptoms you think the very last thing that is going to happen is that you are going to live. But I need to remember that  I did once and I will again.

So tonight I go to bed with the knowledge that I have survived that part of my past. The rawness feels gone and I am now ready I think to close the therapeutic door. The relief is incredible. I also go to bed realizing how far I have yet to go. How many PTSD symptoms I still experience and the work ahead of me.

And finally I go to bed with a friend heavy on my heart as she fights with her own demons of PTSD tonight. I love you friend. I understand. And I am always here for you. You will survive. I did (and will continue to as I approach the next phase of my journey) and you will too.

 

 

 

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Filed under abuse, abuser, bullying, Hope, Life Story, PTSD, Recovery, school, survivor, the past, trauma

Because when I was harassed I was told I chose it because I was a girl drummer in a boys world. #YesAllWomen

If you have been following the news or are active on twitter you have probably heard of the hashtag #yesallwomen. This hashtag is a response to the killings by Elliot Rodger who in a long ‘manifesto’ expressed his rage towards women. Many have now  adopted the hashtag to condemn sexist objectification and intimidation, and to express views on feminism and women’s rights – as well as sexual harassment, abuse and rape culture. The tweets are short but powerful. Here are some examples:

 

 

Seeing the posts around have made me feel a little raw. I am a woman of this culture. I’ve experienced violence at the hands of a man, harassment, fear and sexual abuse so many of the tweets resonate with me. It’s also caused me to question what would I write if I was going to share? What piece of my history would I pick out to illustrate how society’s view of women and gender inequality has influenced my life? And this is what I’ve decided:

I was a female percussionist. Each year I was one of two maybe three girls in a group of twenty or so high school boys. I saw boys bring in Playboy magazines, heard them talk about sex and objectify their girlfriends, mothers, sisters and teachers. And I didn’t know this wasn’t okay. Boys will be boys I thought. I truly was a product of my society.

I also experienced verbal and sexual harrassment from these boys, year after year after year. I kept quiet. It was better for me to remain quiet than to experience the consequences of being a ‘tattle tale’. I remained quiet until one day the abuse turned physical (not serious but enough  that it scared me) and I told. The response I got? You chose this. Didn’t you know this was going to happen? You’re a female percussionist surrounded by boys. OF COURSE your going to be the brunt of some sex jokes, don’t be so sensitive. This response was from my band members, the females in my section and yes from some of my teachers.

That was an example of what the hashtag #YesAllWomen is trying to get across. And so if I were to tweet what would it read. It would read this:

Because when I was harassed I was told I chose it because I was a girl drummer in a boys world. #YesAll Women

 

 

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in the interest of full disclosure…

I like social media and I like social networking. I have a profile on most every social network site available and sometimes more than one. I’m active in several groups or lists and I talk to people who I know both in person and through through networking. I blog (obviously) and do not mind showing the word a peek into my life in various mediums.

This blog is set up to reflect my passions, to provide humor, sometimes to educate and to always, always tell my story. Because when it comes right down to it this blog is for me. Someday I want to look back and see my recovery laid out in the form of entries on this blog. The good and the bad times, the struggles and the triumphs. I censor some things for my privacy, for other’s privacy and simply for the sake of not having my ENTIRE life spread before me in pixels, JPEGs, HTML and whatever else the internet commits to it’s eternal archives.

I do think before I post. I have never once regretted posting anything. This may be hard to believe as I always have spelling and grammer errors but I am not really worried about those things. I think I get my point across. Also, hard to believe may be that I can write without those errors if I have to do so however in this blog I simply let my thoughts pour out.

It seems lately however that some things I have been posting have been monitored and so in the interest of full disclosure I am now going to reveal my entire presence on the web. Feel free to click or research them. They are largely boring and hold no significance at all except for me. They are redundant as most everything is published here. I don’t expect you to follow them (or even click on them) in fact you would be receiving the exact same information so in some ways it would be pointless too. If you stick with me here – you’ll be fine. But if you are worried about what I’m posting by all means go ahead and check out my various social network sites. I have nothing to hide. Here they are: (Warning: I told you I was addicted.)

Fightingmywayback – main blog, found on Wordpress, has been in existence since April of 2011

Kate’s Canine Crew – new blog I made to chronicle my adventures in training my dogs, found on Wordpress, has been in existence since April 2013

They Save Me Everyday – Life with Ben and Shona – tumblr, has been in existence since January 2013

Living Life with Ben and Shona – facebook page that gives a peek into life with Ben (my service dog) and Shona (who is in training), updated with short updates about training and life with them, monthly photo albums and info about service dogs as well as fun pictures and quotes about dogs

Instagram – find me under kate_givan, almost daily pictures of the dogs and other aspects of my life

Vine – fyi – Vine is an app where you can make very, very short videos, – stop motion or continuous motion, just found it but I love it. Find me under Kate Givan (no link because I think it is just a phone app however you can see some videos through my Twitter….)

Twitter – I’m just getting back into using twitter. Find me under @KatherineGivan

Youtube – I rarely upload videos but in the interest of full disclosure….

I also have a private facebook page but I only add people on here who I know so if I don’t know you – I won’t add you. My privacy settings are pretty high so I dont’ consider this a public page thus why I’m not sharing it. Although, I’m not naive enough to expect you not to find it if you really, really wanted to.

Like I said this is all in the interest of full disclosure in case you worry about what I post. Find me if you want especially if you are on Vine (I’m really excited about this new app!) but in no way do I expect you to worry about all of these various places around the internet. I participate in them for my own entertainment and interest. I like knowing what’s new, what’s happening and what’s going on. Plus I think the information could be useful to me one day as I hope to own a business.

One last thing…

Censorship is saying: ‘I’m the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.’ But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word – even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper.- Ai Weiwei

 

 

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Filed under Ben, bullying, coping skills, dogs, Identity, Life Story, quotes, service dog, Tumblr

“fitch please” Ellen’s genius take on Abercrombie and Fitch

If you’ve been watching the news you may have heard of the Abercrombie and Fitch scandal  Basically, they will no longer carry women’s clothing above a size 10 because the CEO claims they only want attractive people in their clothes. RIDICULOUS. The best argument I have heard so far has been from Ellen Degeneres.

Here are a few tidbits from her video.

Since when is something over size 10 a plus size?

There is a size 0. 0 is nothing.

Now they have a double 0. What are we aspiring to? Does these jeans make my butt look invisible?

Beauty isn’t between a 0 and a size 8. Beauty isn’t a number at all. It’s not physical.

What you look like on the outside is not what makes you cool at all. What is important is that you are healthy, that is the most important thing. That you are healthy and happy.

And the video – it’s worth a watch. Not only because she’s funny but because she genuinely has some important things to say.

P.S. My list of people I wish to meet now goes like this.

1) President Obama

2) Ellen

3) Darren Criss

Ellen has now surpassed Darren Criss aka Blaine from Glee.

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Filed under body image, bullying, eating disorder, eating disorders, Funny, quotes, Recovery

ugly

Ugly

Who first called me that?

Was it me or was it them?

And when did it sink down into my bones and begin to strip away my flesh

Was it the first time it was uttered on the playground

Or a passing insult at age thirteen

Or none of those at all?

Was it something my mind simply whispered to torture myself in the wee hours of the night

And then drilled into my brain, then my heart, my liver, my kidneys

Trying to kill me and almost succeeding

One word.

So much power.

So much destruction.

So much…

ugliness.

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beginning to dig through the yucky, yucky past

I’ve been thinking lately about where I am at in recovery in regards to my trauma work. For those of you who don’t know I have a pretty significant trauma history. Go here to understand psychological trauma. And because of that I have a variety of diagnoses relating to my trauma. My trauma also occurred over a number of years so it spans a vast majority of my life. One of the main reasons Ben, my service dog is in my life is to help counteract the symtoms of my trauma.

Past trauma affects many of my recovery sisters (including myself) on a day to day basis. It’s hard to describe to someone without a trauma history how hard it is to function when you live part of your life in fear of the past or spend the days avoiding triggers that could take you back to a memory that feels as though it is happening again. The worst symtoms of my trauma appeared while I was at Laureate and capitalized at CFC. I will go into details about those at some point because I think it is important to realize just how much the brain can affect the body and the past can affect the present but for now all I will say is I relived nightmare after nightmare for months

And so now I’ve been asking myself exactly where I am at in my trauma recovery. Some significant things in my life have settled down, I have been stable from self-harming behaviors for six months now (the longest since 2009), I am learning how to cope with one of my newest diagnoses, Ben and I are beginning to work out just how we can help each other the best, my support system is growing, I have goals and dreams and therefore a purpose for life, I’ve had some huge triggers thrown my way but worked through them with lots of tears and grief but no harm to myself. In short, it looks like it might be time to begin to work on things.

When I left CFC all of my trauma work got put on hold. I couldn’t be stable and do the work. I wasn’t stable at CFC when we did it but my therapist and I did it anyways. They had the means to keep me safe (albiet uncomfortable ones – hellloooo caution and blue scrubs) and we got a heck of a lot done. Yesterday in therapy for the first time since leaving CFC I pulled out my HUGE binder and started reading through the work we did. The recounting of my trauma, the shame, the guilt, the grief, the anger, the details – the nasty, gory, horrible, disgusting, gut wrenching, details. I wasn’t okay when I left. Benny and I sat in the waiting room for a long time cuddling (he managed to fit his entire body onto my lap – how is that possible?) with his head on my shoulder while I breathed slowly and willed the world to come back but then I got up, called a friend and drove home. I had nightmares last night. And the intrusive memories are there but the difference is that I’m determined. I’m determined to work on this yucky, yucky stuff. I have a purpose and a plan, one which I can’t share yet. But there is a reason to dig through this horrible reality of my past. And now I think just maybe I can do it. With the help of Benny and my support system, I’m going to be able to look back into my past and dig through it and finally come through to the other side and be able to say “I Made It”. That is what I want.

 

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Filed under Ben, bullying, depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, Hope, life events, New Life, PTSD, Recovery, survivor, the past, trauma

“I would rather die than be fat” – NEDA Week day 2 my own story (Part 1)

Today is the second day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA Week) 2013. The Theme for this year is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. Eating disorders are widespread illnesses and can affect anyone regardless of age, race or gender. This week I am going to focus my blog on eating disorder awareness, what it is like to have an eating disorder and share some bits of my own journey. To learn more about eating disorder please visit the NEDA’s website

Scientists can’t say for certain what causes eating disorders whoever a common phrase used by clinicians is “genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger”. It’s true some people are more genetically predisposed to having an eating disorder. According to The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness if a woman has a mother or sister with an eating disorder they are twelve times more likely to have one. Their are also certain personality traits that seem to indiciate that people could be more at risk. Again, The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness indendifies these traits as “depression, anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and personality disorders.” Then add society and it’s preoccupation with a standard of beauty that revolves around perfection and thinness and many women and men fall victim to eating disorders.

My own history with an eating disorder follows many of these identified causes. Here is how my eating  disorder began:

There was a pouch on my stomach. I grabbed at it while I sat on the couch and frowned. Why was it there? I was starting 7th grade in a few weeks and I was terrified to be going to a new school and moving on from elementary school and into the world of homework, multiple teaches, bells, passing periods and lockers not to mention cheerleaders and dance teams. I hardly expected myself to be popular. I only wanted to escape unnoticed into the halls and not repeat the bulling that had followed me since first grade.

That lump. Why was it there? Why could it possibly be there? Why was it on my stomach. Could I have a tumor? It wasn’t unheard of. Teens, preteens died all the time. I had read about it in those Lurlene Mcdaniel books. A lot of people got cancer. A lot of people had tumors. That was it. I had a tumor on my stomach.

The next few days passed in a blur of worry and anxiety. I was constantly grabbing at the pouch at my stomach and I had begun to panic in earnest telling my family that I was going to die. I had a tumor. Look at it. Look at my stomach. My stomach had always been flat. As flat as a pancake. I had little shape. I was skinny. It was always the first thing people identified about me. So to have a pouch? Well, it had to be cancer after all stomach’s were flat. They didn’t have pouches on them.

My 7th grade physical arrived much too soon. I hated physicals. They required taking off your clothes and standing there in those paper thin gowns while the doctor made you do all sorts of silly tests. I usually saw a male pediatrician but for my physical I always saw the female in the office.

I hate these things. I was sitting on the hard bed waiting for the doctor to leave so I could put my clothes back on. I was cold and embarrassed and wanted to escape into the 100* weather and go back to riding bikes with my brother and cousin. My mother sat in the chair beside me and we were waiting for the doctor to finishing marking off the requisite checks on the form the school required.

“She thinks she has a tumor”

“What?” The doctor turned around and eyed me. I wanted to shrink even further back into the wall.

“She has a pouch on her stomach and she thinks it’s a tumor. Will you please tell her it’s not”. My mother’s voice was tinged with annoyance.

The doctor sighed obviously irritated to deal with a twelve year old hyperchoicardic. I was embarrassed but also relieved I didn’t want to die and I had been to embarrassed to ask her about the pouch.

So I lied down. Her hands were cold even through my gown as she probed my stomach. Suddenly she started laughing.

“It’s fat. You’re developing fat. You don’t have a tumor you’re simply developing fat. When did you start your period?”

“A few months ago”

“Well your body is catching up. That’s not a tumor. That’s fat. You had beter get used to it”.

We left after that. But I wasn’t relieved in fact I was more upset than if it had been a tumor. I would have preferred hearing I would die that hearing I had fat and it would only continue. And so in my own way I set about doing exactly that.

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“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

“Just say no!” That was the chant we learned in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). In high school a bored health teacher told a group of us equally bored sophomores that in a relationship no means no. In reality, no means different things. No, means keep convincing your parents until they say yes. It means nagging your friend until they are peer pressured into doing the dumb thing you want them to do with them. We are a society where no means – “convince me” or “it’s not over yet”.

However, there should be no more powerful word than the word no. It should be the end all be all. It should stop a child pleas for a toy, a friends pressure, a bullies taunts and a man’s hands. The reality? It doesn’t. I know from experience. For many years I have lived with the assumption and the belief that my voice has no value. That it is not heard. That because my “no’s” went unheeded time and time again the world remains an unsafe place that will continue to hurt me. The world will never change. It will always be a place of abuse, neglect and terror. A place where no matter what I say – I cannot stop the things that happen to me.

In therapy, we have recently begun to discuss how unless I begin to let myself believe that perhaps the world is safe and I can exist in it without being hurt I can never truly heal. I’m not sure I agree and I’m really not sure I can do this. To let go of my many, many layers of protection, to work through the fear in therapy would require a vulnerability that terrifies me to no end.

While browsing tumblr the other day I came across the quote:

“No” is a complete sentence. – Oprah

I stopped. Scrolled past it and then scrolled up again. And something inside me shifted it. Never in my young adult and adult life had my no’s been treated as complete sentences. They were invitations for manipulation, convincing, cunning, threats and force. Yet here was a woman who is known all over American for being wise saying that the word “no” is a complete sentence. This had never occured to me. Perhaps, I had done what I was supposed to have done. Perhaps my no should have been enough and it was the other people who were wrong. Not me. But them because they listen to my no. They didn’t hear it as a complete sentence even though it was.

So then maybe my work not only lies in not only in seeing this world differently but seeing myself and my past differently. That a no is a no and a no is a complete sentence. It wasn’t me that had it wrong but the other people in my life. And perhaps that should terrify me more. Knowing that I had no control over how someone reacted to something I said even though it was the right thing but for some reason it doesn’t. It makes me sit back and look at my past and think how messed up the people were who hurt me were. How messed up they were that they didn’t know that no was a complete sentence. And how if they haven’t learned that by now they are going to get in trouble in someway in the future.

So, I’m still terrified of giving up the belief that the world is an unsafe place. I’m not ready to do that yet but this does reframe things for me a little bit. It allows me to see that I did try to use my voice. It wasn’t heard but I did try to use it. And I did the right thing. And knowing I did the right thing  is a step towards lifting s a large amount of guilt and shame off of my shoulders

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