Word Vomit Wednesday - Stop Kavanaugh

 Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts where I attempt to process thoughts and feelings, usually about a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.


CW: Sexual Assault

As with pretty much all the news about our current state of affairs, the Kavanaugh nomination and hearings for SCOTUS have been extremely triggering and stressful. Even before Professor Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her story of being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh, this nomination indicated an even darker America to come, as if the one we’re in now isn’t dire enough for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and BIPOC. And, as with so much of the news we’ve been contending with since 2016, I’ve felt a need to pull back from watching it, reading tweets and articles almost ritualistically just so I can take care of myself physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Staying on top of everything going on takes a tremendous toll and I constantly find myself thinking about how the well-beings of marginalized people are constantly looked over and dismissed.

This came up for me again the other night when, after having a pretty relaxed evening watching The Emmy’s with my parents, my dad turned the news back on and that sense of simmering rage and hypervigilance that I’ve learned to just deal with existing as a woman in the world, came bubbling right to the surface. I had to leave almost immediately because that was not the way I wanted to end my day feeling. If I’m going to be active and helpful in any way, even in small ways like writing this blog, I need to be able to sleep at night. But one thing that came up in the few minutes of watching the Kavanaugh coverage that I have not been able to stop thinking about was a quote from someone in the nominee’s camp saying something along the lines of not even knowing the story or who the woman could possibly have been until Ford revealed herself. This narrative is offered over and over again as a way to dismiss women when they come forward in these situations. A narrative that continues to portray women and our experiences as insignificant.

That killed me. The fact that this woman not only went through a trauma where her personhood was never considered from the get-go, has been affected by it for decades, is risking her life for this country (she and her family have since had to leave their home due to death threats) to share her story and make her identity known, to again, be told by men she is not worthy of consideration is devastating. And that seems to be a major key in all of this. Women are not considered. At all. Kavanaugh probably didn’t recall the assault because he got what he wanted out of it. He never considered Ford or her feelings, needs, or wants. He couldn't have cared less. He still couldn’t care less. The GOP, who should care about putting an alleged rapist on the bench of the highest court in the land, but instead made a publicity stunt of having 65 women sign a document (all but two seemingly had no idea what they had signed) that stated they would vouch for Kavanaugh, definitely don’t see a problem if they’re willing to manipulate women to get their man through the confirmation process.

I saw a tweet the other day from @laurenthehough, who shared this sentiment: “You know what would be fucking weird to hear? ‘I did that. It was fucking terrible. I’m sorry. I did years of therapy and soul searching and work and I changed my behavior. I can’t change what I did. But I made damn sure I never did it again.’ Why is that never the statement?”

Why is that never the statement? I cannot tell you how healing it would be if those were the statements that we started hearing. Real accountability. Real apologies. Real work put into an individual’s growth and education. Would those statements start solving all of these problems? No, of course not. But they would at least indicate that these people recognize that the women they’ve hurt are people. And that they understand that they have caused harm, sometimes a lifetime’s worth, to another person. That would create a powerful shift. Because one of the reasons we don’t hear these statements is because these people don’t consider what they do to women to be of any significance. That unless you’re related to a woman by blood or marriage or if you find them attractive, they don’t matter. It’s probably inconceivable to Kavanaugh and his ilk that a situation that was so forgettable for him because “boys will be boys,” had been burned into Ford’s mind. She never mattered to him, he felt entitled to her and her body, and our culture allowed that.

As I’m writing this, I realize that I will be posting it on arguably the most important Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur. Which couldn’t be more fitting for this topic. Yom Kippur translates to Day of Atonement. It comes ten days after Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, wherein those ten days are meant to give us time to reflect on the past year. All the great and terrible experiences and the things we wish we did better or hadn’t done at all. What we are sorry about and who we need to apologize to and when Yom Kippur finally arrives we are supposed to take full accountability for ourselves. Now, one day to hold ourselves accountable for our actions (as well as inactions) and how they’ve caused harm and suffering to others and actively make amends is not enough. Especially if the damage we have caused has had a prolonged traumatizing effect on person’s life and livelihood. Going to shul once a year and reciting prayers are not going to fix things or provide the healing that’s actually necessary. But at least the holiday is there to jumpstart the conversation. To hopefully get us thinking outside of ourselves and give the apologies that we wished we’d been given when we’ve been wronged and make necessary and lasting changes.

I’m pretty sure Brett Kavanaugh is not Jewish, probably has no idea what Yom Kippur is, and, like most cis-het white males, doesn’t think he's done anything wrong and that he's entitled to whatever the fuck he wants. But for those men who do genuinely want to make amends and be better people and because we very rarely have a framework for how to get started with that, I’m going to offer a few suggestions (mostly for men to combat rape culture and inequality, though some of these skills definitely apply in many other areas and for most people) on some things to start focusing on that would be incredibly helpful. This is by no means a complete and comprehensive list, and there is no significance to the order, but a few things to get people started.

  1. Listen to women and believe them. We know our own experiences, so please do not come at us with “what if she’s lying” bullshit. There’s a reason men are conditioned to believe that women are liars and that reason is to keep women oppressed. Learning how to listen, really listen, is one of the most valuable lessons anyone can learn. When you check your egos at the door, unlearn your social conditioning, and learn to center and hold space for someone else and their feelings, especially when they’re in need, it validates their humanity. We all need support and knowing someone is in our corner who’s not going to question our motives, interrupt us as we process whatever we’re going through in the moment, or lash out at us is basic common decency that we are rarely shown, but (as women) are expected to provide for others. It’s also invaluable for the listener because you will get to understand someone else’s world a little better and hopefully gain more perspective on the one you inhabit.

  2. Start asking “What do you need” and “How can I help you.” Practice those questions so much until they become second nature. No one is asking you to bend over backwards for other people, only you know what your limits are and it’s your responsibility to be honest about what you can or cannot do, but this is another small gesture, just like listening, that goes a long way. On the flip side of that, asking for help when you’re struggling is an important skill as well. People will typically show up for you if you give them a chance, especially if you’ve shown up for them.

  3. Hold other men exhibiting toxic behavior accountable. Show by example how a good man acts and let those who are extremely problematic know that you see them and what they're doing and are not here for it. Men listen to other men (bc toxic masculinity, but that’s a post for another day), so you pointing out that some behavior or thought-pattern is problematic or shameful is effective.

  4. Vote for and support women. Not just the ones you’re related to or find attractive. If you can only make room for the former, you're only performing ally ship and you don’t actually support women.

  5. Men built the glass ceiling, therefore it’s your job to dismantle it. Do not put the extra weight of men’s work on marginalized folx who are already carrying and navigating too much.

  6. Go inward and start tackling your own internalized patriarchal proclivities. Do your due diligence to understand toxic masculinity, sexist/racist double standards, and your privilege and the ways in which you help perpetuate a system that gives you benefits at the expense and suffering of others. Ways to start doing that: go to therapy, get a group of your boys together and actually start talking about and identifying your feelings and asking each other questions, read books or watch films/tv by people who come from very different backgrounds than you. You’ll hopefully learn a lot about yourself and the world. And you’ll learn how to take responsibility for your own feelings in a healthier way, rather than putting and projecting that emotional labor on the women and other marginalized folx in your lives.

  7. If you have realized that you have done something wrong or hurtful or it was brought to your attention that you have, you may want to get defensive. Acknowledge the feelings you're having to yourself, but to the appropriate parties try saying something like this: “I did that. It was fucking terrible. I’m sorry. I did years of therapy and soul searching and work and I changed my behavior. I can’t change what I did. But I made damn sure I never did it again.” If you haven’t done the work yet, don’t say you have unless you do actually plan on following through. And then follow through. These are also great growth opportunities for utilizing those new listening and offering assistance tools from #s 1 and 2.

  8. *BONUS*: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt ANY of the above with ulterior motives. You do not get a gold star for being a “good guy.” This is just how people should be treated. Decently, respectfully, and without any expectation of owing you anything in return.

Obviously, this is a very simplified list but when you start opening the door to one of these items, more and more doors begin to appear. As hard as it may be at times, it is worthwhile work that benefits everyone. Also, if you’ve made it this far, please call your senators and tell them to not confirm Kavanaugh to SCOTUS. We, the people, deserve someone on the bench who considers all of us.

Katie Louchheim seriously doesn’t know how she functions on a daily basis with all this bullshit. CALL YOUR SENATORS TO #StopKavanaugh: 202-224-3121.

Word Vomit Wednesday - 1 is Not the Loneliest Number

 Welcome to Word Vomit Wednesday! A series of blog posts about random thoughts or a specific topic from current events that I, and sometimes the rest of the Internet, ruminate obsessively about. All thoughts/opinions/experiences are my own (unless otherwise indicated); I don’t claim anything that I write to represent anyone other than myself.






About three weeks ago my brother got married (woo!). This event also marked the 8th time I’ve been a bridesmaid. I am always honored when I’m asked to be a part of someone’s bridal party. It really means a lot to me to know how much our relationship matters to the soon-to-be-wed person that they would want me in that kind of a supportive and active role in a ceremony that has great significance for them. What it doesn’t mean though, is that I’m the 30-year-old spinster who can’t get my life together (ie: find a husband and “settle down”) who settles for being in a perpetual “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” scenario. This apparently confuses and concerns many people. Especially when I exhibit emotions at aforementioned weddings. I often become emotional at weddings and that’s usually because of two things: 1. Empathy and 2. Being present.

I am an extremely empathic person, sometimes disablingly so. I pick up other people’s vibes and feelings so often and often so unconsciously it can feel like I’m a human Dyson that hasn’t been turned off and has all this shit swirling around inside. Being an empath has made me a more compassionate person and critical thinker. It has also given me a lot of problems with really knowing myself when I so seamlessly internalize other’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs as they typically become so entangled with my own. Additionally, setting boundaries has been a major struggle for me. If I can’t figure out if my feelings are mine or not, how and where do I need to draw the line with myself and others? Fortunately, I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of work on that and that’s where being present comes in. Learning how to be present has been imperative to my emotional and psychological survival because it allows me the time and space to not only know that I have the ability to turn the empathy vacuum on or off, but to determine when, how much and with whom. When it comes to my experience as a bridesmaid I’ve been able to tap into those to things and allow the timbre of the occasion, the joy, and the heartfelt moments to affect me in a moving way. Also, if I see someone cry you can bet I will start tearing up.

Does all this make sense or are you still waiting for me to start sobbing about the sad state of ruin that is my love life? Hate to disappoint, but I’m really happy with where I’m at. Which is single. What really gets me, though, is people not hearing me when I say that and not believing me when I say that. Whether my expression of emotions is even registered for some people or not, they don’t believe me when I say I’m not interested in marriage. Frankly, it’s offensive. I understand that that may not be the other person’s intention, but impact matters more than intention. In fact, the only time intention is really worth consideration is when it is in alignment with impact. Otherwise, I highly suggest learning how to be accountable for your shit instead of putting it on the person you’re having a negative impact on. When people have pressed me about this topic and not taken themselves accountable, I’m left with so much emotional labor. I usually have to steer the conversation to some bullshit like, “maybe I just haven’t found the right person yet” just to get them off my fucking back because, for whatever reason, they can’t grasp the idea that marriage is not the end-all-be-all for some people.

When I was in second grade, I remember overhearing some of my classmates talking about their weddings and who they wanted to marry. All I remember thinking is, “What am I going to do with my life? How will I make an impact on the world?” There is nothing wrong with wanting to get married and have a family. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find your life’s purpose through work and career. There’s nothing wrong with being single and starting a family. There’s nothing wrong with being in a committed monogamous relationship and never getting married. The list goes on and on. There are so many valid and varied ways to live a fulfilling life… and yet. That first path I mentioned still seems to be deemed the only meaningful one. And that sucks. It sucks for someone like me who has really tried with this dating and romantic relationship thing and it all just feels wrong and like a nuisance. I have never not been miserable in a romantic relationship. It’s taken me a long time to realize that it’s not because there’s something wrong with me, though.

We’re conditioned to this very limiting hetero-normative narrative about what dating and romantic love and marriage is all supposed to be and mean to us. And none of it is particularly realistic and it hasn’t jived with me. So, why am I going to keep engaging in something that I know for a fact doesn’t make me feel good? Why would I spend so much time and energy on that when I can invest in myself and the things that make me feel joy? When I can put love and energy into relationships that already add so much to my life, like my friends, family, and mentors. Those relationships are just as valuable as romantic partnerships. We have to let go of the stereotypes and we have to stop jumping to conclusions about people when they’ve made deliberate life choices. We also really need to stop trying to be “right” about other people’s lives. Seriously, get a fucking hobby and let people be. And if you’re curious because you genuinely don’t understand, ASK THEM. If they agree to talk to you about it, something no one is required to do, LISTEN TO THEM. Don’t try to force your perspective on their experiences. You’re not gonna change their minds and it’s just rude. And if no one wants to talk to you about it, whether you’re rude or not nobody owes you anything, GOOGLE IT. People word vomit their life experiences on the internet all the time (hello and welcome to this very meta episode of WVW) and you’re likely to come across many stories of why people live the lives that they do. Newsflash: it’s not always an indication of being sad and lonely. People’s lives are interesting if you keep an open mind to them!

I could continue on and on about societal expectations on women (they’re fucked up and completely unrealistic so stop it) and talk about all the statistics of heterosexual-identifying people that state that single women are the happiest demographic just behind married men while single men and married women were reported as being most unhappy with married women being the unhappier demo. While this doesn’t represent every single person’s individual marriage, it does make it clear that marriage is an institution that generally only favors men. Because patriarchy. But, I’m not going to go into more of that because I’m not being paid to educate people and it's a great example of a topic you can practice your Google skills on. Try it out!

Anyway, I’m happy where I’m at in my life right now and I’m going to keep living my life based on my values and my intuition whether anybody else likes it or not.

Katie Louchheim hates vacuuming.

Diary of Katie Louchheim

Below are thoughts and feelings of mine that have been brought forth by current events. My expressions below are solely my own, I do not claim these experiences to be anyone else’s or claim to speak for everyone with similar backgrounds or feelings.

Pretty much since the election I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts together. I feel like I’m being torn in a million directions. I wake up every day praying that this is an episode of The Twilight Zone, or a really fucked up dream I’m having and not reality. But I know it’s real. I’ve always known it was real. Growing up Jewish in Arizona was a constant reminder of my otherness while being within the Jewish community was a constant reminder of how much we’re hated solely based on that otherness. The weird thing about never knowing what it’s like to go to your place of worship or day school without security and metal detectors, or that when school gets cut because there was a bomb threat at the JCC or a swastika tagged on one of the synagogues in town, is that these things are not normal. And yet, by the time I was a young child they were completely normalized.

Maybe it didn’t seem so bad because I’ve had a complicated relationship with my Jewish identity so siding with people who were suspect felt easier. Or because that insecurity balanced out with my white privilege.  When people didn’t know my heritage, I definitely benefitted, and still mostly benefit, from that. That’s the lie of assimilation, though. There’s something off-white about living in America while having a Jewish background. (Obviously, for Jews of color it’s a whole other ballgame). Once that part of my identity was known I became “nice for a Jew” and “pretty for a Jew” but I most certainly was not nice or pretty enough to make me human enough to open up the minds of those bestowing compliments to me with their backhand. It would be me; alone, trying to toe the line between making a good and diplomatic impression while also denying a part of myself and any emotional reactions to people and instead, making sure to accommodate their feelings. I didn’t realize how small I was making myself in these situations. And how much responsibility I was shouldering that wasn’t my business to shoulder at all.

One time in high school, a bunch of us choir buddies were asked to sing at one of our friend’s churches. We went, sang a song about Jesus, nailed it (sry, too soon?) and then were forced to listen to this preacher sermonize about how non-Christian people are going to hell. At which point I turned and looked at my friend (an Iranian Zoroastrian) and we both just rolled our eyes because we were so used to this treatment by people toward us. Fucking jaded as fuck from this shit by 17 years old. I think the girl who asked us to go apologized after. I really don’t remember. At this point, and honestly since the dawn of time, apologies are not enough.

Being nice is not enough. There are no “both sides” to this equation. It’s not ok to tell people being brutalized that they need to identify or compromise with their abusers. It is not my job to hold your people accountable. Or hold your hand through your discomfort. White Christian folk, it’s yours. If I had been at that service today, I would have just gotten up and walked out. I don’t have the tolerance my younger self had for bullshit and no one’s fuckery is entitled to my time and space.  It is not my job to constantly try to prove my worth to people who already believe I’m worthless and taking up space that belong to them. All I know, without a doubt, is that my life is more important than White Christian Feelings™. The lives of my friends and family and all the various communities we are members of: POC communities, LGBTQ+, immigrant, Indigenous, Muslim, etc. are more important than White Christian Feelings™. If YOU have feelings it is YOUR job to go to a therapist and work on them and not culturally appropriate the use of tiki torches by using them to throw a tantrum while waving Confederate and Nazi flags, ramming your cars through crowds of people, and beating the shit out of peaceful protestors.

I try to be a good person. I know that majorities of people in this country are also trying to be good people. But, I’m going to level with you white Christian folks. I don’t trust you. I also have a lot of resentment toward you.  If you’re hurt by me saying that, I don’t care. It’s taken me a very long time to admit this. It’s taken an incredible amount of work to unpack and uncondition myself to the idea that I’m a bad person for feeling this way and for not seeing the “many sides.” But, you don’t deserve my trust. You’re not entitled to anything from anybody. Once again, YOUR problem. Tough titties, bro.

When I started seeing images of the gathering of angry white men with torches on Friday night, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be able to participate in the onslaught of coverage of what was happening in Charlottesville, VA. I was right. The moment I opened Facebook and saw image after image and article after article of the Pasty Wasps Boys parade screaming anti-Semitic slurs, racist drivel, and throwing their arms up in Sieg Heil to Fuhrer Trump I found my breath catch in my throat. Those images turned into the countless hours of footage of the Nazis and their methodical tactics to exterminate our families shown to us every year to make sure we never forgot. The shots of piles of dead bodies found and photographed by the liberators morphed in my head from unknown members of the tribe to my parents and my siblings. Lifeless forms hanging from trees became my friends who dare to be themselves; worship who they wish to worship, love who they love, celebrating being black as fuck (Talia, I am living for you and your InstaStories right now and forever and always). It took me almost a full twenty-four hours and a hiatus from social media to get the panic attacks to stop.

Never again. Our communities make a point to pass down the atrocities we faced so we can make sure these things never happen again to anyone. Why don’t you learn what has happened to us? How is it that our heritage, which is intertwined with yours, weighs so heavily on only our hearts?

 

Do you not have hearts?

 

What exactly is wrong with you.

 

Here’s a collection of other things that have been swirling around in my brainhole:

- Have we past the point of no return for democracy in this country? I’m afraid of staying in this country until it’s too late. I’m afraid of leaving this country that I love and have so much hope for and not knowing if I’ll have more confidence in my survival instincts at the end of it or live with feeling like a coward for the rest of my life. Then again, some of my family made it here in time. Others were murdered and dumped in a grave they were forced to dig themselves.

-I was in Israel with my family in June and I remember I had a moment while sitting on the roof of the hotel we were staying at in Jerusalem with my dad. I remember feeling very quiet and comfortable. I thought of a conversation I had had with my aunt a few weeks prior when she had said that when she went to Israel for the first time 30 some years ago it amazed her that she was in a place where everyone was Jewish. Then, it clicked. I realized that despite the fact that Jerusalem and much of Israel is religiously diverse and that there is still a hugely unsettling political environment present there, that I was in a place where Judaism was accepted. It was a norm. I was in a place where I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone no matter what my actual beliefs, practices or lack thereof are. That’s when I thought, “Wow. This is what it must feel like to be a White Christian back home.”

- I love this country. Maybe, more accurately, I love the concept of this country. I’m a 6th generation American. Which means that my lineage has been here almost as long as this country has been the United States of America. Which also means my lineage has been oppressed while actively engaging in and benefitting from the oppression of others. Immigrants were able to come and build a life for themselves as a result of the genocide of hundreds of millions of First Nations people. My five-times great grandfather fought in the Civil War against the Union. He was not allowed to fight with his fellow southerners and instead was in a separate infantry specifically for Jews. Everything about this sucks. I can only guess that this relative was doing what he felt was right, as way to assimilate, get closer to the American Dream, I’ll never know. Here’s what I do know: The Confederacy lost, as they should have. State’s rights my ass. And failure is a good thing. Failure means things have the potential to be better. It gives us a chance to sit back, deal with our filth, and clean it out. Something this country still hasn’t done.

#BlackLivesMatter

#StopDAPL

#NoBanNoWall

#LoveisLoveisLove

#TransisBeautiful

#WomensRightsAreHumanRights

#ImmigrantsWeGetThe Job Done

#DisabledandCute

#Resist

CREATIVE CONTRIBUTION: Sound Designer Katie Louchheim

Hi all!

I am very excited to be a part of an amazing project called Descendants of the Chalice doing sound design. I recently wrote a blog post for the project which I will be reposting here (and I'll share the links to our Indiegogo campaign and the Descendants' website so you can read all of the other great contributions and hopefully help us bring this project to life!)

I hope everyone has a very happy holiday season and amazing new year! I see you 2016. :)

For much of my life, my body has been enemy number one. I have been trapped in this cage of flesh my whole life and no one will let me out. I dressed it up like a temple. I treated it like a battleground. I have done everything that I could think of to flee from it.

 

Now I am feeling my anger. Infuriated and I’m ready to be honest about it.

 

I got my first period at age 11. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis at age 14, thankfully, much earlier than most people when they are finally properly diagnosed. My parents were definitely on it when it came to diagnosing the physical symptoms, however, there was very little information ever given. I was trapped in this body that was being dragged from doctor to doctor, appendages pricked to rule out anemia, countless birth control pills prescribed and consumed in hopes of lessening my pain and flow from super plus to regular, laparoscopic surgery, more invasive colonoscopy and upper endoscopy (both of which I had to remain awake for), injections of Depo Provera in my hip every three months, missing sixty days of school a year due to the insurmountable amount of pain and nausea my body put me through every month. Once diagnosed, I was given a vague description of the disease. Mostly just what can happen if you have it and what happened in my particular case. Pictures from my laparoscopic surgery showed tissue in my body that the endometrial lining from my uterus attached itself to and then continued acting like endometrial tissue creating a reservoir of blood around my internal organs. And that was it.

 

Is there a cure?

“No. “

 

What causes the uterine lining to start acting that way?

“No clue.”

 

So, is it an autoimmune-type disease?

“Maybeeeee??”

 

Not much has changed in the almost fifteen years since I was diagnosed. (For a brief and comprehensive rundown of what is known about Endometriosis see Cristen Conger of “Stuff Mom Never Told You” talk about it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gKU2tzv1zg ). The only difference now is that women are beginning to talk about their experiences with the disease. The physical, emotional and psychological tolls and all of the work and life experiences missed out on or moved numbly through. Lena Dunham and Padma Lakshmi spoke about their experiences in a recent issue of Lenny. Many doctors have misdiagnosed women with the disease because they are not taking the women’s concerns and pain seriously enough. As a result, doctors confuse endometriosis with other physical ailments like appendicitis or brush it off as whining or a mental imbalance. All the while women have to suffer the consequences. We lose time at school or work, experience relationship-related stress, miss out on important time discovering self-careand personal exploration. We suffer from intense pain that creates a personal culture of shame for not being able to work through it, fear of appearing weak or drawing attention to oneself, and on, and on, and on.

 

As I read their anecdotes it felt as if I had written them myself. Their feelings, fears, and experiences felt almost identical to my own. One of the most difficult things about having Endometriosis was how alone and unrelateable I felt. Lena Dunham and I are very close in age and if I had known that I wasn’t the only adolescent person to have been diagnosed with this disease, it would have made all the difference. Maybe I wouldn’t have beaten myself up so hard about feeling like a failure of a human being. Maybe I would have given myself a chance to be a teenager during the times I was feeling well. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten in the habit of living my life totally disassociated from my own body. Maybe I would have felt that I could leave my room and be more open and engaged with my family. The fact that this is all coming out now, as opposed to then, points to some much larger culprits that had some very conditioned and deeply ingrained messages. I’ve begun to realize that it’s much bigger than just the disease.

 

I’ve begun to realize that every flicker of rage that moves through me has been greatly displaced. Instead of directing my anger to where it should be going, and should have been going my entire life, I harnessed and focused it all on my body. My anger is more appropriately aimed at both societal conditioning and from certain messages I received in my particular family culture. Our lives are so gendered and, as women or women-presenting people, so much of “taking care” of ourselves is wrapped up in superficiality that makes us products for consumption and use of the male gaze. And my reaction to that is typically, “fuck that shit” and then refuse to make any decisions at all.

 

Instead of taking care of my body, I grew resentful of it and ignored it.

 

There is something about getting my needs met that feels destructive. A feeling that if I am happy and taken care of, that it’s at the cost of other people’s happiness and well-being. I don’t know whether it’s competitiveness with other women that has been fed to us through the patriarchal spoon or the fact that we’re also taught to be sorry for everything including our own existence. Most accurately, it’s probably both and was definitely a major reason as to why I’ve had a lot of trouble asking for help and really feeling the pain that I was going through. The message that women are the weaker and fairer sex coupled with the idea that there can only ever be one queen bee in any situation contributed heavily to my feelings of inadequacy and that I needed to be tougher and stronger if I wanted to be the best and to live life on my own terms. Every time someone made a comment about my naturally thin frame and every time I got sick were instant reminders that my body was useless and only holding me back.

 

My body has been the enemy for so long and my uterus, in particular, has been such a burden on me that I even refused to engage in any potential romantic relationships because I felt that I would only be a burden to the other person. Who wants a diseased girlfriend who’s scared to have sex? In this hyper-sexulized culture we live in, I figured no one would be willing to be patient with me, especially as a teenager. My feelings and pain would never matter that much to anyone.

 

And I was right. My pain didn’t matter when I got my first period and was made to feel like I was being a jerk because I was hurting. My family had gone over to our best family friend’s house for dinner, as we often did, and I spent the entire time sitting on the couch in front of the TV with my arms crossed over my stomach. It didn’t feel like a normal stomach ache and I really just didn’t feel like I could do anything but sit. On top of that, I remember it being insinuated to me that I wasn’t being a good sport or was being high-maintenance or something, which, of course, hurt my feelings and made me feel even worse. It wasn’t until we went home that night and I went to the bathroom and saw the blood in my underwear that I realized what happened. I showed my mom, she confirmed, and that was that. My pain didn’t matter when I would close myself off in my room because I had no other coping skills and felt like I was a monster or just nonexistant to my family. My pain didn’t matter when my grandmothers would continually bring up and imply the importance of having children. My pain and my being didn’t matter when I was raped by a coworker and earlier in the evening when he told me that my idea of consent between two people was “a fairytale.” And in that case, I disconnected from my body a second time.

 

Getting basic needs met has typically felt like a struggle. While I’ve been getting better with this aspect, paying attention to my body and the signals it’s sending me, I sometimes relapse and fall back into not responding to those signals. I’ll wait a ridiculous amount of time to go to the bathroom, I won’t eat for very long periods of time. I only go to the doctor if I’m out of contact lenses or my birth control prescription needs to be refilled.

 

Self-care is a tricky thing. It’s difficult to know what it actually means. We’re constantly telling each other to take care of ourselves, but what does that really entail? Is it annual doctor visits and regular yoga and kickboxing classes? Maybe its  nights out with the girls and a planned vacation here and there. Maybe. While all are important, they also just feel like another thing I need to put on my to do list in order to fulfill the idea that I have a healthy, fulfilling, and successful existence. Even if I’m having a really good day, or week, or few months I never feel like I’m fully taking care of myself. I feel like I’m constantly sacrificing something. I wish I could just go through life feeling nourished, accomplished, and driven. I wish I could feel comfortable in my own body without having to constantly be reminded of or defined by my reproductive system.

 

In my family, and as I am realizing more and more in broader society, if you didn’t like something that was going on or if someone was doing something that made you uncomfortable it was emphasized that the only thing to do in those situations was ignore it. This way of thinking is inherently fucked for many reasons. I’m sure the reasoning behind it is that it is assumed that the offender will eventually tire of doing the offensive thing.  This may be true, but these are the other things that are taught in those situations: entitlement, disregard of other people’s feelings and boundaries, lack of compassion, lack of compromising skills, lack of personal accountability and responsibility, and lack of empathy. What it teaches the one who is taking offense: your feelings don’t matter, you’re boundaries don’t matter, and neither actually exists. The one being offended is made to deal with and be responsible for the offender and the offences against them. In my life, receiving these messages lead me to down-play any feelings or gut instincts I’ve had in both benign and dangerous situations as well all experiences wonderful and terrible.

 

If a family member or roommate does/says something that bothers me. Avoid. A cat-caller harasses me on the street and then gets angry and demeans me, chases me down the street, etc. Ignore. I accomplish… anything. It’s not a big deal. And in the case of the more terrible ones I always had this sense that they were somehow my fault. That in some way I chose these experiences and feelings rather than more reasonably they were actually someone else’s fault, or an experience of a normal range of human emotion, pain from having a disease, or pain from just going through puberty. It was as if the Endometriosis was my fault, which snowballed into it being my fault when I was rear-ended by a plumbing truck at age 18, it was my fault when men treated me poorly and made me feel uncomfortable, it was my fault I was raped. But none of that was my fault. I didn’t choose any of those things. Who in their right mind would? Just the thought in itself, is completely ludicrous. Those thoughts happen, when feelings and experiences are ignored. The emotional and psychological effects last much longer and can create much deeper cycles of dysfunction and stagnation if they are not worked through and validated from the get go. Telling women that suffering just comes with the territory and to just deal with it, is a problem.

 

The feelings of being a burden and a monster were some of the other baggage I have carried moving forward. And it has taken me a lot of practice of getting in the habit of sharing my experiences and authentic feelings and realizing that I’m not going to destroy the person I’m sharing them with. I’ve often been told I’m cool. I never intended to be “the cool girl,” letting situations roll off my back and giving everyone I meet the benefit of the doubt even if they crossed some of my own boundaries and continued to do so. As laid back a person as I feel that I am, I do think it partly became a habit because I never wanted to seem like a crazy bitch and I figured if I let people be who they were, they would return that favor. I didn’t understand for a long time that I could accept people the way that they were and still have boundaries, standards, and needs. And that if anyone felt I was a crazy bitch for having those things and expressing them, then those were probably people I could and should leave behind.

   

I also began to realize that keeping all of my experiences and stories to myself was what was creating a huge burden on me and when I started to practice sharing I found that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t a monster. So many of our stories are shared and we don’t always know that because society has shamed our completely human experiences into silence. I volunteered to escort patients at an abortion clinic this recently. There were only three protesters there (since the terrorist attack on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, the swarms of regular protestors that typically line the block have laid low) and a reporter. The reporter asked me a couple of questions one of which was “Do you feel safe as a volunteer?” I replied that I did, although, I know the great risks in being an escort. The reality is I could be killed volunteering at an abortion clinic, but that the risk is worth it if it begins to change the perception of women being shamed for being born female and for making decisions for themselves. All decisions, let alone ones concerning our bodies. Because the reality is also that because I exist in this world as a woman I am a target no matter where I am. Until the ideas and the language we use and are systematic in all of our institutions to keep that true are discussed, challenged, and dismantled myself and all other women are in danger of being assaulted and killed no matter what.

 

Why don’t we know more about Endometriosis even in the 15 years since I was diagnosed? Why did studies on the clitoris only start being funded in the 1990s? Why is female pain still not taken seriously within the medical community? Why is it that it’s accepted that boys just play with their penises right out of the womb, but the fact that I and other girls were exploring their bodies and masturbating at 4 or 5 years old and there’s no conversation of it? Why is our sex education only in relation to birthing children while boys get to learn how their bodies actually function? As women, we don’t learn about how our bodies work sexually and we are completely divorced from our anatomy in a way men rarely ever are. We are so objectified and so many women only talk about their bodies with their sexual partners and maybe their doctors that it’s hard to not think of our physical beings of separate entities to ourselves.  I find myself guilty of this constantly, literally thinking of my body as a vehicle to get me from point A to point B and nothing more. It’s taboo for women to talk about our sexuality, even with doctors, except out of the context of being desirable and exciting enough for a man. (For another excellent point of all of these topics, see our project’s wonderful creator Arden Winant’s contribution from a few weeks ago). This heteronormative lens and our lack of knowledge of ourselves only gives us a sense of shame about ourselves.

Furthermore, why are sex education classes not coed? Seriously, if boys (let alone girls) had to learn how the vagina and clitoris function maybe we wouldn’t have to deal with such terrible and disappointing sex.

 

Women are not a mystery. Saying shit like that is a cop out to not see us and treat us as fully-realized human beings and just leave us behind.

 

 

I am not a mystery. I and everything I do is not an extension of male fantasy. I am in the audio production and engineering field and when I go to an Audio Engineering Society Convention, I am not the wife or daughter of whatever male I’m standing next to, I’m your fucking colleague. I am allowed to say fuck and I am allowed to experience and express the completely normal human emotion known as anger. There is generally a lot of talk about “empowerment.” I honestly don’t know what that is. “Female empowerment,” “sexual empowerment,” I don’t really know what these things are supposed to mean and I don’t think I really care that much. All I feel like I can do is help myself live. What did emerge from thinking about these moments was just the idea of care. How do I care for myself in the most trying moments? How do I allow people to care for me in moments where I need it? How do I celebrate myself when things are going well? These and many more questions have been swirling in my subconscious and in the past year have been the main focus of my life. I go to therapy, I share my stories with friends, family, and whoever else I’m ready to share them with. I work my ass off 1) because I love it and 2) because I have to prove I’m on the same level as men by being better than them (hint: because vagina). I go out with friends, I go out in general. All in hopes that it will make my life better and will make the lives of women in general better. I’m still fuming as I write this because the end of being treated like second-class citizens is nowhere in sight and it’s hard going out everyday knowing that I am at risk just because I happened to have been born in this body and I choose to actively exist in it. I still hate that I am made to be aware of my vagina and uterus every single minute of every single fucking day. However, I am no longer in the pain that I once was in and I am continuing to heal. I will no longer accept that suffering is my cross to bear.  I will not be silenced.

 

To support women and teens with Endometriosis and research of the disease please visit the Endometriosis Foundation of America (https://www.endofound.org).

To support women’s health, in general, please support Planned Parenthood and other similar institutions and organizations (https://www.plannedparenthood.org).

Descendants of the Chalice (https://www.descendantsofthechalice.wordpress.com)

Our Indiegogo campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/descendants-of-the-chalice#/

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Her misadventures at Katie Louchheim on YouTube

And her specifically musical adventures at www.katielouchheim.com