Category Archives: culture
Well I’m blogging again. I planned to start blogging for NEDA (National Eating Disorder Awareness) Week next week but I’ve decided to start early and wade into the discussion on Fifty Shades of Grey (probably regrettably) but here it goes…
Many women celebrate Fifty Shades of Grey because it breaks barriers and says that sex is not bad and women can enjoy it. I’d be all for the book/movie IF this is the only thing they are saying. As a survivor of a relationship that was controlling, manipulating and abusive I see many red flags in Anastasia’s relationship with Christian Grey. So many things that were in my relationship with my abuser. The power, the control. The things that are perceived as sweet and protective but are really about ownership and controlling every detail in a woman’s life. Yes, you man argue that Christian did it out of love. But love doesn’t excuse this type of behavior. If a woman arrived at a shelter describing a husband who controlled her finances, showed up at her place or work or recreation unannounced, utilized tracking devices on her phone, when she was unconscious undressed her and put her to bed (regardless of whether or not he had sex with her), and continued to have sex with her even when she said no many times it would be described as abuse. In fact it might be enough to get a restraining order.
It doesn’t bother me one bit if a couple chooses to engage in BDSM and it wouldn’t bother me one bit if a book chose to describe this as long as the relationship between the two people was healthy. But the reality is that Anastasia’s and Christian’s relationship is not. The type of relationship that is described in Fifty Shades of Grey is not healthy nor should it be perceived as normal and it bothers me very much that millions of women are buying into the idea that it is.
I worry that young people who see this movie (and we all know they will) will think that this type of a relationship is normal and wind up in abusive relationships themselves but excuse all of the behavior because they believe they are living their own fairy tale and can “tame the beast”. It doesn’t work that way. Relationships like this end with heartbreak and hurt sexually, emotionally and physically. It can take years of therapy to move past them. Fifty Shades of Grey normalizes abuse and this, not the sex, is what is so concerning. I wonder that if I had read the book or seen the movie six years ago would I have found the strength to break up with my abuser or would I have seen his behavior as even more normal and I even more as the one with the problem. I certainly think it’s more than likely. I wonder how many women will stay with their abusers in part because of this film. I don’t think I exaggerate when I say this. Films and books especially popular ones influence culture in many ways. And I think Fifty Shades of Grey contribution to society is to normalize abuse and that is extremely frightening.
*I know not everyone will agree with me. Many of you won’t in fact. Share your opinion if you would like. I’d love to hear it. I have a hard time comprehending that this relationship can be seen as anything as abusive but if you don’t think it is I’d love to hear why.
There is a movement going around mainly on twitter with the hashtag #whyistayed. This is referring to women who stayed in abusive relationships. The movement started after Ray Rice, a NFL football player was caught on tape beating his wife. The media began criticizing and shaming the woman for not leaving him. And so they hashtag #whyistayed was born and thousands of women joined in by sharing the reasons why they stayed in an abusive relationship. And so here is Why I Stayed…
#whyistayed: because he threatened to commit suicide if I left him.
#whyistayed: because he told me and I believed him that no one else would ever love me like he did.
#whyistayed: because I felt like the only way to atone for my “sins” (they were his but he made them mine) was to marry him one day.
#whyistayed: because I was alone on a college campus where I knew no one and had no support for the first part of our relationship and then it was too late.
#whyistayed: because I had been taught my by male peers in high school that this was what I was to expect out of men.
#whyistayed: because I didn’t know if I could handle how I would feel leaving him.
#whyistayed: because my world was about his world. I had no true identity.
#whyistayed: I was scared.
And this is why I left…
#whyileft: I had wonderful roommates who encouraged me to do so.
#whyileft: He took things one step too far and I was finally able to see something wasn’t right.
#whyileft: I found some courage I didn’t know I had.
#whyileft: I was exhausted.
#whyileft: I didn’t want his version of the future anymore
#whyileft: I finally was able to see past the deception, the lies and tight control he had threaded around me for just long enough to make the decision to break up with him and then have friends hold me accountable.
People tell me I’m a smart person. Yet, I fell prey to an abuser. One who charmed most people he met and had no idea what went on in our relationship. And couldn’t believe it even when they heard bits and pieces of it. And I couldn’t leave. It’s not so simple as breaking up with a person or packing your bags and moving out. There is so much more to an abusive relationship than that. Remember it is a relationship. A malfunctioning one but one. And there are good moments as well as bad. And sometimes it’s easy to tell yourself the good outweighs the bad. It also takes time and sometimes outside support to find the courage to leave.
So don’t judge. Unless you have been in a toxic relationship you cannot understand. You can try, you can listen, you can emphasize but do not judge those women and men who did not leave after the first blow was thrown or the first signs of abuse. It is not that simple.
I’ve gotten some questions/suggestions lately that perhaps I should pursue therapy. I’m not offended in the slightest. I think most of the comments came from a fairly good place and therapy ceased to embarrass me a long time ago. Because the truth is that I do see a therapist. Twice a week right now but this is actually the least amount of treatment I’ve had in four years.
In January 2009, after ending an abusive relationship I began seeing a therapist (a really crappy one but that’s another story). I was humiliated and embarrassed that my anxiety had become such that I couldn’t function in everyday life and that I had to seek professional help. The whole idea that I was seeing a “shrink” embarrassed me beyond belief to the point I went at great lengths to hide the fact from my college classmates that I was driving an hour once a week to seek help. I truly believed that it was “just anxiety” that was causing my obvious decline in my mental health but instead of getting better from treatment I felt downhill. Fast.
In September of 2009 I entered treatment for anorexia at Laureate’s eating disorder program. I stayed for ten months going through inpatient, residential, transitional living and back to inpatient for another short stint. I left OK (where Laureate is located). This was in July 2010. By September 2010 I was hospitalized again this time at The Center for Change in Orem Utah. This treatment stay was focused on my eating disorder and my PTSD. I left in February 2011 (after five and a half months) in a much better place, stable mentally for the first time in many years and armed with coping skills.
The next two years were rough. I was in and out of the psychiatric hospital. For a stretch of time I was in every month. In December of 2011 I went to Washington DC to The Psychiatric Institute of Washington’s Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I learned a lot here but it also opened a lot of wounds and closed memories and so my cycle in and out of the hospital continued until July of 2012. This is when my service dog Ben entered my life.
Since Ben arrived I have been stable. I have not had to be hospitalized for my eating disorder, self-harm, depression, anxiety or PTSD. I receive the least treatment I have in four years, simply seeing my wonderful therapist twice a week.
I tell you all of this because like I mentioned at one time I was so filled with shame that I was in therapy. I saw it as a weakness, an embarrassment, a sign of failure and something that made me somehow “less than” everyone else in my life. I went so far as to tell professors when leaving college to go to treatment that it was due to heart problems (not a lie at that point my heart was severely compromised due to my eating disorder) instead of due to my anorexia (however they probably guessed anyways).
Therapy is so stigmatized. Especially by young people. I believe that this is due to a number of factors but a primarily one being the lack of information regarding mental health. This not only harms those who struggle with diagnosed mental illnesses but also those who need help but refuse to seek it out of shame. The media does not help. Crimes (such as the recent Naval Yard shooting) are blamed on mental illness. Yes, this may be the cause however the media fails to mention that the majority of people who suffer from mental illness are in no ways violent or dangerous. How can someone feel unashamed of their mental struggles when they unintentionally compare themselves to a deranged man who killed many people?
The reality is that seeking help is a sign of strength. I never would have believed this four years ago but working through treatment and recovery has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Much harder than making straight A’s in high-school, much harder than transitioning to college and much much harder than staying stuck in my illnesses.
So yes, I see a therapist and no I am not ashamed. Not anymore and I can say this:
I am Kate. I have PTSD, depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. I see a therapist. I have been hospitalized for my mental illness. I have a psychiatric service dog who without I would not be able to function. But I am no less a person because of these things.