Category Archives: society

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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becoming bad-asses as the country fell apart (2008-2016)

I talked to a friend who does not live in America today. We talked about her country’s politics where there have been peaceful protests and then about America and how scary the rise of Trump has been. The peaceful protests in her country signals progress and hope. I couldn’t help but look at our protests which lately have turned violent and led to bloodshed and wondered what they mean for America.
We also reminisced about watching Obama win the election in 2008 while we sat together in our dorm room. It was such a special moment to share. I remember we both cried a bit as we watched the first African American in history step up to the podium to officially claim victory in the election. I think we both knew we were watching history in the making. And we both felt proud to witness it.
Now eight years later so much has changed. Verna is back in her home country. I’m back in my home town. We’ve both become bad-asses as Verna says. Our lives have handed us challenges and we’ve fought them and won. And our world is a different place than it was when we sat in Reed 308 and watched a young Obama and family celebrate in Chicago in November. I don’t mourn for loosing who young Kate and Verna were in 2008. We had a lot of growing up to do. But I do mourn for who America has become. It hasn’t done the same growing we have.
While Verna and I have matured and grown and become strong women (#badasses), the US has become a place of conflict, racial tensions and hate. For the first time I’m scared of my country’s future. As my life came back together the country fell apart. And now I’m living in a place that I don’t recognize.
What a strange thing to realize that a place as strong as America can fall to pieces while I glued myself back together again.
Reed 308

Reed 308 – Sophomore year of College 2008

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refugees

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

  • Martin Niemoller

 

I seldom get into politics on my blog (I can’t say never because I do sometimes) and I realize I’m breaking a long silence with a controversial post but I’m tired of being silent.

I first read this poem at The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. And it struck me then as important and in these recent days it has been apparent to me just how important the lesson in this poem is. And how it still applies today.

The refugee debate on Facebook has been strong this last week and it has saddened me how hateful and coldhearted some people can be. At some points it has just plain scared me. Have we learned nothing from history? Condemning a whole group of people as terrorists, dangerous, unclean and unwelcome seems dangerously similarly to how Jews were treated during WWII.

We once turned away a ship full of Jewish people and that act is regarded as shameful as many of those people returned to Europe to be murdered. Yet, here governors, presidential candidates and my Facebook friends call for us to turn away another generation of refugees. We shall someday regret this and look with shame on our actions I believe.

People have given many arguments for why they don’t want refugees coming to the United States and one I have heard is “we don’t have the resources to take care of our own homeless”. At the end of the day that problem will still be there whether we take in more refugees or not. And I ask you – how much did you care about the homeless before this debate started?

I don’t even want to touch on the terrorist argument. It just seems absurd to me that we should deny a whole group of people entry because one or two may put us at risk. And that isn’t guaranteed. It is stereotyping of Muslims that drives me crazy. I’d rather debate about how many people white males kill with guns.

Returning to the poem at the beginning of my post: while people sit at home typing on their computers I hope they remember that we as human beings have a responsibility to be there for one another. One day we might be the person that needs taken care of and if we don’t help now there may be no one there to help us when the time comes.

 

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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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my experience with mental health coverage

If you’re living in the United States you had to have been living under a rock not to have heard at least a little of the health care debate over these past few weeks and the ensuing shut down of the government. I’ve stayed out of the facebook comments, the name-calling, the blaming etc. I really dislike those posts. I hate the hate that they breed. I don’t understand it. But what I do understand is how insurance has effected my life. And this is what I want to share with you.

Currently I am on my parent’s insurance, which I will remain on until 26 years of age. This extended age period is due to Obama-Care and is one of the few points both political parties agree on. Without this extended age I would be off my parents insurance which would be terrifying and leave me with little to no coverage (at least before the Insurance marketplace opened up this month). Even with my parents insurance I have experienced first hand the problems with our health system.

Mental health is misunderstood. I think that is clear to anyone who has been in the mental health system.  In 2008, The Health Parity and  Addiction Equality Act added onto the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. The 2008 act:

 mandates that insurers define and make available specific criteria for medical necessity when it comes to mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits. In addition, MHPAEA also requires that insurers provide specific information and reasons in the event that reimbursement or payment for treatment is denied.

Okay, so this gave some required coverage to mental health. For me it came none too soon. I was hospitalized in September 2009. Less than a year from when this act was passed. Without it I never would have been able to have received treatment including outpatient therapy visits. However, even with this coverage what I needed was still not given to me. The insurance is still in control and even when my doctors advocated for me till they were blue in the face my insurance always cut out before I was ready or stable. Yes, they provided their specific reasons they denied but quite honestly they were bullshit. How can an insurance company claim to know more than my doctors? How can they who have never met me rule that I was in no danger of suicide, self-harm or relapse? How can an insurance claim to know my ideal weight or know what vitals are stable for me? And how can they know what exactly how my PTSD effects on a daily basis? They can’t. Yet every time I have been in some sort of treatment the insurance company does claim to know these things. And according to the law that’s quite alright as long as they provide proper documentation of why they are denying me further coverage.

In addition, my insurance doesn’t over me complete benefits. I have inpatient benefits meaning I can be hospitalized till I am medically stable but have no residential benefits. Residential is a level of care that provides a transition from inpatient to daily life. It is imperative in eating disorder treatment. It allows time for more therapy instead of just nutrition and weight gain. Residential allows the real “meat of therapy” to begin which can’t until nutrition is stabilized. By just leaving me hospitalized until I have gained some arbitrary number of pounds does nothing to aid in my recovery.

I am so blessed that my parents were able to pay out of pocket for residential treatment at CFC. But it came at a high cost to my family. Without this extra time I would not be able to be in recovery today. However, the insurance did not see it that way. They gave me two weeks. The center said I needed five and a half months. And over those five and half months I was placed on suicide watch multiple times. What would have happened to me if insurance had had to control my care? I truly do not know.

It doesn’t stop there. But to go further would get more into the politics than I want to and I’ve probably already delved far enough into that. Simply put – my experience with insurance has been one that teaches me that they care little for my health and more for their own profit. They skirt the laws and do the bare minimum. I’ve managed to survive in the system because I have a family that can help me with and that has some resources.   And honestly, I have one of the good policies. My mother has become a pro at navigating the insurance system and I’m lucky my first treatment center  did everything in their power to get me covered for as long as possible.

I don’t know what the answer to the problem of insurance is but to say there is no problem is not correct and is closing your eyes to the experiences of others. Without adequate (actually more than average, I need good mental health coverage) I will have no quality of life. I survive now because of a somewhat decent policies that I can benefit from until I’m 26 but after that? I face a future that before October 1st of this year was very scary. Now it seems somewhat less so.

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i am kate. i go to therapy. i am not ashamed.

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.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 7.23.51 PM

2009 – 2013 – happier and healthier thanks to therapy and treatment

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feminism helps not harms men

Warning: This blog is going to discuss rape and sexual assault. If this could trigger you please do not read further. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to address something that has come up in the comment section of my last blog. There has been a discussion about how rape is defined. Yes rape is defined as penetration. However these discussions have left out sexual assault which can be just as serious, just as scaring and just as illegal and wrong as rape. Sexual assault according to The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network “is unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling. I don’t care if you are a man or a woman – anyone can be raped or sexually assaulted. And it is very,very, very wrong regardless of your gender, your sexual orientation, your religion, your beliefs, your anything. Nothing justifies it.

I’ve also discovered in my comments a new world that I did not know existed. This is the belief that the statistics about harm against women are grossly exaggerated or are simply untrue and that women are simply “out to get men”. The sad reality is that  1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). I don’t understand how you can argue with these statistics. The claim is also that men are more often victimized than women. I think it is a sad reality that men are often more stigmatized if they are raped or sexually assaulted. However, statistics don’t lie. Only 3% of rape victims are men. These men need resources, they need help and they need recognition however the argument that feminism and the work to change our culture to protect women is unneeded is not true. 

I suppose however if you have not seen what I have seen. Have not heard what I have heard. It is a lot easier for you to argue that there is no change needed, that women are simply “out to get you” and that men are the victims of a feminist agenda. After all, I don’t imagine you’ve sat in a room with other trauma survivors and listened to their stories of how men gained their trust and then used it to assault and rape them. I don’t think you’ve heard first hand how their family members have abused them or how strangers on the street held them down while they took turns raping them. You haven’t seen women experience terrifying flashbacks, girls no more than thirteen hide in the couches at night because the night reminded them of the abuse they had finally escaped. You haven’t heard the guilt they felt that they escaped assault but that the perpetrator also escaped capture so he can assault someone else later. And you sure as hell haven’t experienced any of this at the hands of a teenage boy who thought all of it was okay because “his friends were doing it”.

Yes, men who were raped and assaulted need help. They need hope. They need advocacy. But advocating to change our culture, to eliminate songs and movies that encourage rape and to teach young boys to respect women as people instead of viewing them as object does not attack men. On the contrary I believe it helps them. It encourages men to be more than the macho image society has constructed. It encourages teens and boys to reach down into themselves and connect emotionally. It creates males who are compassionate individuals who respect themselves and others.

So, if you truly believe that by supporting advocacy I am degrading men I encourage you to rethink your position. I also encourage you to listen and read about female rape and sexual assault victims and how these attacks were influenced by our society. And if you continue to disagree with me I encourage you to take your views elsewhere. Yes, this is a public blog but I won’t stand for degrading women on my page. I listened to men in my life degrade myself and all women for years and I don’t stand for that anymore.

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it’s not ok to be afraid to walk down the street

I live alone in an apartment in my relatively small city (by national standards, quite large for Kansas). I unusually spend my early evening at my parents house and then return to my apartment around 10:00. I always have either Benny or Shona with me and when I return I usually spend a few minutes letting them go potty.

However, I hate doing this. It scares me. Why? Quite frankly because I am a woman. I know instinctually that it’s not quite safe. I flinch at the shadows and scan the streets for men who could be lurking in the corners waiting to do rape or harm me.

Of course part of this could be due to my PTSD but my rationality tells me that this is the sad reality of being a woman in our society. Being a woman in America means watching your back and learning as a teen that if you walk in parking lots to hold your keys inbetween your knuckles. It means avoiding dark areas and knowing that there is a real possibility of attack by strangers and an even bigger chance of assault by men you know. Being a woman means I can’t take my dogs out to go potty without being extremely vigilant and very thankful that Benny is a very intimidating dog and hoping that his size would keep strange men away. Being a woman means it’s dangerous to go to bars or parties alone or even to walk down a street at night. Being a woman in out society is frankly dangerous.

Something is wrong. Very wrong. We are a society who claims to be a developed society yet we also have caused this culture that promotes violence against women. Turn on the radio or the television and you won’t be able to go five minutes without hearing something that degrades women. Listen to conversations between teens or young adults and something that supports rape culture might come up. And no surprise we teach from a young age today this is totally acceptable.

Society must change. Our culture must change. I don’t claim to know how but all I know is I do not want my nieces to grow up being afraid to walk down the street.

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