CRASH INTO ME

While trying to decide on which book to choose for today’s post, this one practically jumped off the bookshelf and into my hands.  CRASH INTO ME, by Liz Seccuro, was published in 2011, and that’s when I read it.  How I was even able to at that point, I’ll never know.  The only thing I can think is I was still in shock and my brain simply shielded me from the horror of what I was reading.  (It continues to amaze me how my body and brain protect me when I don’t even realize that’s what’s happening until much later.)

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From the inside dust jacket:  “Dear Elizabeth:  In October 1984 I harmed you.  I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behavior has affected you in its wake.

In September 2005, Liz Seccuro  received an apology letter from William Beebe, the man who had raped her twenty-one years earlier.  Liz was only seventeen when she was assaulted at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia.  Although she reacted as best she knew how–going straight to the hospital and taking her story to the college administration–the school’s deans discouraged her from going to the city police, and effectively denied her the kind of justice she sought.

For years, Liz struggled to put the trauma behind her and lead a normal, happy life.  The letter brought it all raging back.  Terrified that her rapist had tracked her down, Liz began an email correspondence with Beebe, and became determined to pursue the criminal investigation that should have happened years earlier.  She wanted justice, and the case seemed clear-cut: she had a confession from the man whose face had long haunted her.  But as the highly publicized investigation progressed, a narrative unspooled that was darker than she had believed: a gang rape with at least two other assailants and numerous onlookers, and a wall of silence among the fraternity brothers that persisted two decades later.

Liz Seccuro’s experience of campus assault and justice deferred is an all-too-common one, but it is a story we too rarely hear.  In CRASH INTO ME, Liz tells her story with candor, courage and hard-won hope.”

 

Truly, I do not know how I read this book, as I was right at the beginning of my ordeal.  It is easy now, though, for me to see and understand that as difficult as it was and as hard as I had to fight the justice system to make sure my attacker was convicted and sentenced to prison, I actually had it better than a lot of women who suffer similarly.  I had the support of family and friends.  I also had the maturity to not let anyone keep me from what I knew was right and necessary to do.  The ignorant comments from the police (Are you sure it wasn’t a robbery? I HAD NOTHING TO STEAL! and Are you sure you didn’t just trip? YEAH, I TRIPPED AND MY CLOTHES FELL OFF!) not withstanding, there was no way, NO FLIPPING WAY, I was letting this drop.  It was too late for me to be safe from him, but getting him off the streets and keeping other girls and/or women safe was my responsibility.

Although Liz Seccuro’s book is a difficult read, I do recommend it, especially if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted in any way.  It is also another example of how it is possible to go on and live a normal, happy life after surviving a horrendous event. In the end, getting the justice you deserve is its own reward.  It may not be easy, but is it ever worth it!

A QUESTION OF TRUST

I was recently asked, given what I went through because of my sexual assault, if I trust again.  I was pretty sure what I was being asked, but I replied, ‘You mean people in general?’  Hesitantly, he said, ‘Yes.’  I suspect he was asking if I trust men again.  What I told him was, ‘Yes.’  He thought maybe I look for ‘the lie’ when dealing with people.  No, no, I don’t think I do.  I’ve thought about it a lot in the last 10 days or so since the question was posed to me, and the longer I think about it, the more I know this is true.

I have definitely been accused in the past of being naive.  Seems hard to believe that someone  would think that of me just because I tended to expect the best from people, and tended to give people the benefit of the doubt.  As Anne Frank said, “Despite everything, I believe that people are good at heart.”  I do my best, though I am not always successful, to live my life this way.  The truth is, even immediately following my assault, when I was still in shock, afraid of most everyone, men, women and children, I still knew, deep inside, that in spite of what had happened to me, most people were not bad.  And just as I really hated living on Coronado for a long time after 24 September 2011, I also knew that it wasn’t the island that had done something to me.  It was one person; well, and the entire process did not help, but it was never Coronado that hurt me.  Didn’t make it any easier to live there though, until I got through it.  I can’t even tell you exactly when it changed back for me, but one day I was walking home from uptown and it suddenly hit me that I no longer wanted to move away anymore.

I believe what I am told…is this the same as trusting someone?  I don’t think people are going to lie to me.  If you tell me something, I trust that you are telling me the truth.  Somerset Maugham said, “It’s a funny thing about life: if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”  I prefer to live my version of his quote:  It’s a funny thing about people: if you expect the best from them, you very often get it.  Or as Claude M. Bristol said, “We usually get what we anticipate.”  I think Anne Frank, Somerset Maugham and Claude M. Bristol sum up the way I used to be pre-attack, and the way I have, finally, gotten back to after a whole lot of work.  Part of what made my healing process so difficult was getting my head around the fact that it happened to me at all.  The only thing I did ‘wrong’ that morning was be tall, thin and blonde, and was be in a place that a predator was looking for just that type of woman.  I never expected it to happen to me.  Never.  And in spite of doing everything I was ever told or ever heard about how to behave in a situation like I found myself in, nothing worked, starting with no warning bells going off in my head when I first encountered DCD.  I attribute that to the fact that I didn’t expect to be attacked.  I trusted that I was safe.  Turned out I wasn’t, and my world turned upside down as a result.

What I do know with absolute certainty is I cannot, I will not, live my life being afraid.  Part of the reason I worked as hard as I did to heal from this was because no way was I letting one person, one awful event, determine the rest of my life.  I was very lucky that at the time of my attack, I was in a healthy, happy, loving relationship.  I know that my healing process would have been very different, and much more difficult, had that not been the case.  The fact that my boyfriend was very supportive and encouraging made all the difference, and even though, ultimately, the relationship did not survive, he was there for me through the worst of it.  For that, I will be eternally grateful to him.

Back in 2013, I chose TRUST as my word for the year.  This is what I wrote then:

“I TRUST that everything is working out. I TRUST that I am right where I am supposed to be. I TRUST that I am doing just what I am meant to do. I TRUST that everything happens for a reason. I TRUST that even if it may not seem like it at the time, everything truly is happening for my highest good and to make me a better person. I TRUST that the right people, the people who can be helped by my story, will read my story. I TRUST that the right people show up in my life at the right time.  I TRUST that even in the darkest hour, there is light. I TRUST that I am safe. I TRUST that even behind the clouds the sun is shining. I TRUST that I am making a difference. I TRUST that all my dreams are coming true. I TRUST that everything happens in perfect and Divine timing.”

Yeah, what I said more than two years ago!  And since I am two years further along my healing path, I can honestly say that, yes, I do trust people again, though I’m not positive I really ever stopped.  And last, but not least, my new favorite quote from Pinterest:

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And while the patience part is challenging, I do TRUST my journey.

 

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

I loved this book by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.  I just finished listening to it yesterday, though during the middle of it, I ordered the actual book, too.  I knew it was one I’d want to have and be able to reference.  It was a tough listen as times, but it explained a lot of what I’ve been through and continue to go through.

 

 

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What makes this book even more relevant to me is the fact that it was just published in 2014, which means it has the latest information about trauma that is available.

The inside dust jacket has this to say about Dr. Van Der Kolk and the book:

“This profoundly humane book offers a sweeping new understanding of the causes and consequences of trauma, offering hope and clarity to everyone touched by its devastation.  Trauma has emerged as one of the great public health challenges of our time, not only because of its well-documented effects on combat veterans and on victims of accidents and crimes, but because of the hidden toll of sexual and family violence and of communities and schools devastated by abuse, neglect and addiction.

Drawing on more than thirty years at the forefront of research and clinical practice, Bessel Van Der Kolk shows that the terror and isolation at the core of trauma literally reshape both brain and body.  New insights into our survival instincts explain why traumatized people experience incomprehensible anxiety and numbing and intolerable rage, and how trauma affects their capacity to concentrate, to remember, to form trusting relationships, and even to feel at home in their own bodies.  Having lost the sense of control of themselves and frustrated by failed therapies, they often fear that they are damages beyond repair.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE is the inspiring story of how a group of therapists and scientists–together with their courageous and memorable patients–has struggled to integrate recent advances in brain science, attachment research and body awareness into treatments that can free trauma survivors from the tyranny of the past.  These new paths to recovery activate the brain’s natural neuroplasticity to rewire disturbed functioning and rebuild step-by-step the ability to ‘know what you know and feel what you feel.’  They also offer experiences that directly counteract the helplessness and invisibility associated with trauma, enabling both adults and children to reclaim ownership of their bodies and their lives.

Readers will come away from this book with awe at human resilience and at the power of our relationships–whether in the intimacy of home or in our wider communities–to both hurt and heal.”

What this book also showed me is the things I did, EMDR, yoga, to name just two, were the ‘right’ ones to undertake and have contributed mightily in my healing process.  I also realize I still have more healing to do –dang it– but that it is possible to rewire the neuro pathways in my brain even more than I’m sure they have already been rewired.  It is a process and as much as I want it to be finished, the simple truth is it’s not.  I think, too, that for people who are on a healing path, it is lifelong endeavor, whether you suffered a traumatic childhood event, a devastating car accident, the death of a child or spouse, or just the day-to-day living of life that can sometimes be unbelievably difficult.  I’m realizing more and more that we are never really finished.  As I always told my therapist, I do not have a choice in this.  I have to keep moving forward.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has suffered a traumatic event personally or knows of someone who has.  The knowledge and insights you will gain will be invaluable to understanding the why of how trauma affects the body and mind.

 

DYING TO BE ME

From the back cover of the book:  “In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four years, her body began shutting down—overwhelmed by the malignant cells spreading throughout her system. As her organs failed, she entered into an extraordinary near-death experience where she realized her inherent worth . . . and the actual cause of her disease. Upon regaining consciousness, Anita found that her condition had improved so rapidly that she was released from the hospital within weeks—without a trace of cancer in her body! Within these pages, Anita recounts stories of her childhood in Hong Kong, her challenge to establish her career and find true love, as well as how she eventually ended up in that hospital bed where she defied all medical knowledge. As part of a traditional Hindu family residing in a largely Chinese and British society, Anita had been pushed and pulled by cultural and religious customs since she was a little girl. After years of struggling to forge her own path while trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, she had the realization, as a result of her epiphany on the other side, that she had the power to heal herself . . . and that there are miracles in the Universe that she’d never even imagined. In DYING TO BE ME, Anita freely shares all she has learned about illness, healing, fear, “being love,” and the true magnificence of each and every human being! This is a book that definitely makes the case that we are spiritual beings having a human experience . . . and that we are all One!”

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I listened to this book while in the middle of my healing process (not that is it actually over at this point) from my sexual assault, and I realized that I, too, had had a NDE, a near death experience, though not in the way that they normally occur.  Because my assault was interrupted, which prevented my attacker from following through with his intention to rape me, I was also saved from the punches that were coming my way.  The last thing I remember before hearing my guardian angel’s voice was DCD’s fists getting ready to beat the shit out of me because I wouldn’t stop screaming and fighting him.  The only way he was going to be able to get control of me was to knock me out.  As I’ve said in the past, I was literally fighting for my life.  And in doing that, I dissociated from myself from the situation I was in.  It wasn’t so much that I left my body and was watching what was happening to me as it was the feeling that I simply was not there.   Dictionary.com defines a near death experience as “an unusual experience taking place on the brink of death and recounted by a person after recovery…”  Given that definition, that’s exactly what happened to me.  I am sure I’ll have plenty more to say on this, but for now this post is about Anita Moorjani’s book and her experience.

I loved the book.  Her story is simply amazing.  She was, literally, hours away from certain death when her near death experience occurred.  What she ‘saw’ and ‘heard’ changed her life forever.

 

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A DEVASTATING LOSS

The following comes from my journal on 3 October 1987:

“Jan and I were waiting around the apartment to call into the agency at 1p.  The phone rang about 12:15.  It was the agency.  Doris said, “you are going to Munich tomorrow until Wednesday afternoon.”  She said I had to come to the agency to pick up my ticket and that I had an appointment to get my hair cut t 4p.  Needless to say, I was astonished.

Anyway, we went to the agency and my book was back but Jan’s wasn’t.  I got all the info for my trip.  We wet to the travel agent to pick up the ticket.  (I’m flying first class there and business class back.)  We then went to get our bus passes for the next week and to do other errands.  I got my hair cut and we decided to go back to the apartment and decide what to do about dinner.  Jan thought she should call the agency in case her book was back and we could stop on our way home.  The book wasn’t back but she has the booking for the topless ad on Sunday.  That cheered her up considerably.  After she hung up with the agency, we were walking through the terminal when all of a sudden I said, “My book!”  I had left it in the phone booth.  We ran all the way back (we hadn’t been gone even 5 minutes) to the phone and it was gone.  We looked and looked.  We went to the police and everywhere else we were told to go.  No one had turned it in and I doubt they will.  I left it where I shouldn’t have but someone stole it.  The thing that pisses me off so much is it’s no good to anyone but me.  And every last picture, slide and transparency I had was in it.  There were also 2 new prints of Jan’s that we had picked up earlier.  The slides of those pictures were also in there.  I’m royally screwed.  All I can hope is that someone turns it in.  I’m not holding my breath, though.  We finally gave up looking and went home.  I tried calling D but he was at lunch.  Jan and I had pizza for dinner, then I called agin.  He was there and I briefly told him what had happened and to call me back.  He did, and I gave the names of the photographers and exactly which prints I need replaced.  I told him to call Mary and have her get a hold of them ASAP>  I sure hope Mary comes through.  She is so cheap, though.  She told D to have me call her in 45 minutes or call her at home after 9p Chicago time.  No way was I calling her,  Anyway, if everyone (photographers) gets their butts in gear and does whatever it takes to replace my lost shots, then Jan thinks I’ll only lose a week or so.  At least I’ll be out-of-town working for most of next week.  When all the stuff is collected, it’s going to have to be Federal Expressed or whatever to get it here pronto.  I am so mad that it happened.  That dumb book was always connected to my arm and I can’t believe I didn’t realize I did not have it immediately.  Oh well, as Lance would say, I was being a fucking blonde.  I tried calling him to tell him about my good news (Munich) and ask advice for my bad, but his phone is messed up.  I also figured he’d laugh, though it’s not funny at all.

I am sitting in the Frankfort airport right now, waiting to board for Munich.  First Class is all right!  We were served breakfast on actual dishes.  It was even good.  I could learn to like this.

I’m a little nervous about this booking.  I guess I’ll know in a little while what to expect.  I sure hope I do well.  I know I will.

9:15p  I should be going to sleep now instead of writing, but I don’t want to get behind.  I got into Munich about 11:45a.  I got my luggage and found a taxi.  He took me to the Hilton.  I went to room 702 and they had never heard of Frau Hagen.  I had to lug everything back down to the lobby.  Doris made a mistake.  It was room 709, not 702.  I finally got there and was put immediately to work.  I’m not doing runway at all.  I’m basically doing showroom modeling.  When I first saw the line, I though — oh no, how ugly.  But the more I see of it, the more I like it.  In fact, there are several pieces I’m dying to have.  It’s too expensive though.   It’s all couture, so even at cost, I can’t afford it.It gives me ideas though.  I sure wish Jan were here.  I’m sure she would really like the line.  I found out the only reason I am here is the regular girl is sick and in the hospital.  Another job by default.  Who cares as long as they keep coming?  Anyway there were no clients to show anything to today.  Tomorrow should be a different story.  The designer’s name is Inke Von Hagen.  It should be kind of fun, but I know that by the time Wednesday afternoon comes around I’m going to be exhausted.  I’ll be working from 9-6 or sometimes later.  I sure hope they plan on feeding me.  I also hope I get to pick what I want to eat, not just nibble on what they get.

I’m staying at a friend of Katharina’s.  She has a little dog just like Charlotte except she is light brown.  Her name is Chipsey.  She’s so cute.  There is also a big boy dog whose name I forget.  And she has a baby boy named Adrian.  He’s 12 weeks old.  Tomorrow Katharina’s picking me up at 8:30a.  I guess I’ll take a cab each night back to the house.

I need to sleep, so I’ll stop here.  I’m afraid I’m getting sick and I sure don’t need that.  Staying up practically all night on Thursday was not so smart.  I’m paying for it now.  Oh well.  It was fun!”

 

Okay, clearly I used to write tons and even though this saga is not complete, I am choosing to save it for next week.

 

YES!!!

It’s that time again. Time to figure out what my word for the coming (tomorrow, for goodness sake) New Year should be.  I’ve had some difficulty deciding.  And really, it’s more of a phrase than just a word, though it can be either, I suppose.  The point is it’s an action more than simply a feeling; a reminder to: Just Do It, to Go For The Gusto, to Grab Life By The Horns, to stop waiting for whatever it is I’ve been waiting for, to say YES to everything. I said back in September on the 3rd anniversary of my attack that I had survived and was ready to thrive. It’s time to take it a bit further and stop being so guarded.  Do I have a good reason for continuing to hold myself back?  For my heart and mind still being the slightest bit closed?  Perhaps, but where does that get me?  Alone…not necessarily lonely…but definitely by myself a lot of the time.

So my word for 2015 is YES!  And my phrase is Say Yes To Everything!  Well, most everything.  I am all for dancing like no one is watching, loving like I’ve never been hurt (or, for that matter, sexually assaulted) but I draw the line at singing like no one is listening, because the truth is I simply cannot hold a tune.  Okay, not only cannot I not hold a tune, I can’t even get into tune.  So, no singing; any and everything else, though, I intend to say YES to.

I also intend to continue my twice a week posting.  Last week I was in Atlanta for Christmas and decided to skip it since it’s more challenging to do it on the phone.  Overall, though, I did pretty well throughout the year with my intention for 2014 and consistently posting.  I find I really do need a set schedule to make it happen.  Some weeks I didn’t post on Wednesday, but I discovered that Thursday is just as good in case I can’t get my act together for Wednesday.  As for my Sunday posts about books that I read that have made a difference in my life and in my healing process, I’ll continue with those for the foreseeable future.  I love books and love to read, so I don’t think I’ll run out of recommendations for a while.

Thank you to all who continue to read my story.  There is so much yet to be told.

And as the sun sets on 2014…HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone.

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May 2015 be full of love, happiness, prosperity, peace and joy for us all!

WARRIOR POSE

I just finished reading, (yes, I actually had to read it as it is not available on audio), this book, and it is amazing.  AMAZING!  It is Brad Willis AKA Brava Ram’s autobiography, the story of his life as a war correspondent, how a devastating injury changed his life and the unbelievable power of the mind to heal.

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Warrior Pose is Indiana Jones merged with Gautama Buddha…a miraculous affirmation of the power of self-healing, a war story, a love story and a spiritual journey of epic proportion.  It is your story, my story, the human story.”  ~Dr. Emmett Miller, Pioneer of Mind-Body Medicine

Also from the book jacket:

“From covering the front lines of the Gulf War to investigating Colombian drug lords to living with freedom fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan, war correspondent Brad Willis was accustomed to risk.  But when mortal danger came, it was from an unexpected. direction.

At the pinnacle of his career, a broken back and failed surgery left Willis permanently disabled and condemned to a life in a body brace.  Then came a diagnosis of terminal, stage IV throat cancer.

At his 50th birthday party, friends gathered around Willis, who was crippled, almost mute, depressed, strung out on narcotic medications, and dying.  Halfway through the celebration Willis realized the party’s true purpose–his friends were there to say goodbye.

Everyone knew Willis was on his way out…everyone except his 2-year-old son, who urged, “Get up, Daddy!”

His son’s words ringing in his ears, Willis chose to abandon Western medicine and embrace the most esoteric practices of Yoga to heal his body, mind and soul–ridding himself of cancer and fully restoring his back.  As a symbol of his journey, he took the spiritual name Bhava Ram, which stands for “Living From The Heart.”

Warrior Pose is an adventure chronicling some of the most momentous events of our time through a journalist’s eyes, an unforgettable story about the power of love between a father and son, and a transformational journey of self-healing, inner peace and wholeness.”

Candace Pert, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, RAPID Laboratories, Inc; author of Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d and Molecules of Emotion: The Scientific Basis Behind Mind-Body Medicine had this to say about the book:

“Remarkable recoveries and miraculous healing of incurable cancers and other terminal disease have been the topic of many recent books.  Bhava, born Brad Willis, has written the most exciting, original and vividly relevant book yet on this topic.  Its concise, hard-hitting prose makes a page turner about the shockingly grim world behind the nightly news as revealed to a top television reporter.  Ram ignores his progressive physical collapse, stuffing his feelings and internal life to focus entirely on his macho career.  Using his fierce will to survive and strong intellect to question medical authority, Bhava draws inspiration from the miracle of his son Morgan, halts his self-sabotaging habits, chooses ‘right living,’ and heals himself via a selfless emotional life dedicated to teaching and healing others.”

I have said before that yoga was instrumental in my healing process, that it definitely contributed to saving my life during my healing process from my sexual assault, and it was and it did.  I am in awe of just how dedicated and determined Brad Willis was to save his own life and transform himself into Bhava Ram.  I highly recommend this book.

 

NO WORDS FOR JUST HOW DISTRESSING THIS IS TO ME

I am forgoing my usual book recommendation today to briefly address the latest news story…

“What the Cosby uproar says about how far we’ve come
Simply put, the facts haven’t changed — or at least not by much. But we have.
 By Lisa Belkin

This originally appeared on Friday, 21 November 2014 in Yahoo News:

Why did it take 30 years? That’s the question Barbara Bowman, one of the 15 women to level sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, asked in her essay in the Washington Post this week.  And it is a pivotal question, because the answers speak loudly to what has changed in our culture — and what has not — when a powerful man is accused of rape.
Cosby’s history of allegedly drugging young women and then forcing them to have sex has been an open secret in Hollywood for decades. The alleged rapes themselves are said to date back to the 1960s. Cosby has included jokes about drugging young women to make them amorous since 1969 — something called Spanish Fly played a surprisingly big role in the public imagination back then — jokes he repeated live to Larry King in 1991. The attempts by victims to make themselves heard began more than a decade ago.
Former model Janice Dickinson now says she tried to write about being assaulted by Cosby in her 2002 memoir but was convinced by her publisher, under pressure from the Cosby camp, to leave her most devastating accusations out. Tamara Green, a California lawyer, told her story on the “Today Show” in 2005 when she was only the “second Cosby accuser.” But there were no consequences for Cosby, and Matt Lauer all but apologized to viewers for doing the interview in the first place. The following year, 13 women were scheduled to testify to their separate tales of drugs and sex in a civil suit brought by Andrea Constand, but she settled with Cosby in 2006 for an undisclosed sum. Over the past two weeks the charges have snowballed, and Cosby has found himself on his heels as Netflix, NBC and TV Land all dropped planned projects featuring him or decided to stop airing some of his existing work.
The question is: Why now? What is it about this particular moment that has given this old news not only attention, but explosive, insistent, unrelenting traction?
The obvious but incomplete explanation is the Internet. Comedian Hannibal Burris was not the first to strike out at Cosby this fall, when in October he delivered a scathing standup routine calling the 77-year-old comedian a rapist. That honor went to the many reviewers of a biography of Cosby by former Newsweek editor Mark Whittaker, whose glaring omission of even a mention of the rape allegations in his 500-page book came in for withering criticism a month earlier. But the Internet was key, and the Cosby camp’s online response to viral video of Burris’ routine inadvertently fanned the flames, offering up a meme generator that, while meant as a way for viewers to show support (and to laugh off the charges as Cosby had successfully done in the past), quickly itself became a source of rape jokes.

But why did Burris’ comments go viral? Why did the Cosby rape meme take hold? What led so many to Share and Like and Comment in outrage when the very same charges had failed to resonate before?  Simply put, the facts haven’t changed — or at least not by much. But we have.

For decades, those who accused Cosby did so in the context of a world inclined not to believe them. Against a backdrop that saw “he said/she said” and deemed it just too complicated to sort out, and therefore looked away. At a time when good people, if pressed, would admit that they just couldn’t believe that a woman wasn’t somehow encouraging a man, particularly a powerful “catch” of a one.  Cosby, after all, wasn’t the only famous man we knew about but didn’t want to know.  Look at the allegations against singer R. Kelly, meticulously documented 15 years ago by the Chicago Sun-Times but essentially ignored by every other news outlet. And Lauer was not the only journalist who found it uncomfortable to air the Cosby charges. Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, known for saying it as he sees it, profiled Cosby in 2008 and did not mention the allegations even though, he says now, “I believed Bill Cosby was a rapist.”  That Coates is publicly apologizing for his lapse now (“I don’t have many writing regrets. But this is one of them”); that the Village Voice is taking up the cause of R. Kelly’s alleged teenage victims anew; that Dominique Strauss-Kahn looks like he will actually stand trial, for “aggravated pimping,” after being repeated accused by women but not the legal system; that Canadian radio star Jian Ghomeshi was fired after several women said publicly that he’d sexually attacked them — all these are signs that something is different.

Now we accept that the football player who says “she fell and hit her head” can be proved wrong by the videotape. Now we have heard — really heard — the voices of too many college women telling us they don’t feel safe from their classmates on campus. Now we see the same facts differently. As Hanna Rosin wrote in Slate, “now that we know what we know, or, perhaps now that we know it at a time of heightened awareness about sexual assault….”
It is the way of history. Good people used to think one thing and then come to think something else. Often dismissed as political correctness, it is actually simple progress. And it is slow.  In the “we have come a long way but not far enough department,” there are still plenty of examples. Take the president of Lincoln University, Robert R. Jennings, who recently told a gathering of female students that rape allegations were too often lies by “young women who after having done whatever they did with young men, and after it didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to turn out, guess what they did? They then went to Public Safety and said, ‘He raped me.’” Jennings warned the women to remember that a rape charge could ruin a poor young man’s life because he might actually go to jail. That a man might actually have committed a crime and that the actual conviction rate for rapes on campuses is shockingly low seemed of little concern to Jennings.
That was in September — so stupidity and victim blaming are not completely relics of the past. But because of the Internet, students and parents easily shared the video (now there’s always a video) of Jennings’ speech. And because of the evolving public understanding of rape, there was outrage at that video, along with demands that Jennings resign. Add to that the new federal regulations that Jennings refers to, which give teeth to the requirement that schools report campus sexual assault charges to the authorities instead of continuing to handle them internally, and quietly.
There are growing expectations that Cosby should face consequences as well. Not legal ones, because the statute of limitations has expired, but perhaps other punishments, and pulling his body of work, past and future, from the airwaves is the first of those. TV Land’s decision means that 30 years after “The Cosby Show” debuted, nearly half a century after the first alleged incident, and more than a decade after the first public allegations were made, it became time for Cosby to pay a price.  He is still scheduled to appear in Florida tonight, but it’s a safe bet he won’t be making any Spanish Fly jokes. Times have changed. And so has the way his audience will hear him.”

I do have a lot to say about this, but, for the time being, I am still coming to grips with how to express what I really think about it.  For now, all I’ll say is my heart goes out to those women who have had to live with this for so long.

Something has got to change.

 

 

HERE, TAKE A PILL

Why is it, generally speaking, that Western medicine tends to throw pills at the symptom and not get to the underlying condition that may be causing the problem to begin with?  Is it because we are lazy and want a quick fix?  Is it decades of training doctors in a certain way?  Is it an inability to change with the times?  Is it fear of some kind?

Don’t get me wrong, I myself took an antidepressant because I needed it to get my chemical imbalance, well, balanced.  I suffered for years from depression and/or clinical depression, and it had gotten to the point that even though I so did not want to take it, I knew I had to.  I fought it for a long time, but when I was in Key West in the bright February sunshine, out of the frigid Chicago winter, and I was still feeling awful, I knew the time had come.  At the time, I was seeing a therapist and he recommended a psychiatrist to me.  I reluctantly went.  The deal was I would continue with my therapist and I would see the psychiatrist once a month.  I made sure my doctor knew from the very beginning that I had no intention of staying on the medication indefinitely.  I asked how long I would have to take it.  My doctor told me, and keep in mind this was in 1997, usually people took it for about a year, maybe a little longer.  I said, okay, but I’m not taking it any longer than that.

At the time I was trying to get pregnant and, again keep in mind it was 1997, at the time the only antidepressant that was approved for and that had been tested on pregnant women was prozac.  So that’s what I was given.  Pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it nearly killed me.  Every bad side-effect it was possible to get, I got.   I know now I should never have been given it at all, since I am in the bi-polar spectrum, and prozac is a huge no-no.  Not sure if this wasn’t known back then or that my doctor just dropped the ball, in a way.  It doesn’t really matter.  What matters is I was closely monitored and switched to wellbutrin as soon as it became clear that I was on the wrong medication.

What I find astounding is the number of people, mostly women, who have been on antidepressants for years.  YEARS!  And they have no intention of ever getting off of them.  I understand that there are legitimate reasons for being on a drug long-term, maybe even forever; but, mostly, I don’t believe this to be the case.  (Bi-polar disorder is a different story and those with it should take medication, though many don’t/won’t.)  I could not wait to stop taking it, even after finding the correct one for me.  It was a hateful drug, and though it accomplished what I needed, the re-balancing my chemicals, I was not sorry when I no longer had to take it.

And these days the hottest new ‘disorders’ to be diagnosed with are ADD and ADHD.  In the November issue of Oprah, an article written by Anna Maltby addresses this phenomenon, and it is alarming.  “A groundbreaking report released earlier this year by the prescription management company Express Scripts stated that the number of adults in the United States taking ADHD medications (which include Ritalin and Concerta, in addition to Adderall) rose 53 percent from 2008 to 2012.  It also found that women are using ADHD medication at notably higher rates than girls, with those in the 26 to 34 age range posting a staggering 85 percent jump in the use of such drugs in just five years.” According to ADHD researcher Keith Connors, PhD, professor emeritus at Duke University and the creator of a highly regarded rating scale commonly used to help diagnose the disorder, “It’s clear that one reason for the recent rise is over diagnosis.”   He goes on to say that, “There is a swarm of primary care doctors and psychiatrists who really don’t know that much about ADHD but are willing to give out a prescription.”

According to webmd.com:

“Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most well-recognized childhood developmental problems. This condition is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It is now known that these symptoms continue into adulthood for about 60% of children with ADHD. That translates into 4% of the U.S. adult population, or 8 million adults. However, few adults are identified or treated for adult ADHD.

ADHD in Adults
Adults with ADHD may have difficulty following directions, remembering information, concentrating, organizing tasks, or completing work within time limits. If these difficulties are not managed appropriately, they can cause associated behavioral, emotional, social, vocational, and academic problems.

Common Behaviors and Problems of Adult ADHD
The following behaviors and problems may stem directly from ADHD or may be the result of related adjustment difficulties:

Anxiety
Chronic boredom
Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
Depression
Difficulty concentrating when reading
Difficulty controlling anger
Employment problems
Impulsiveness
Low frustration tolerance
Low self-esteem
Mood swings
Poor organization skills
Procrastination
Relationship problems
Substance abuse or addiction”

(After reading the list above, I doubt there is anyone on the planet that doesn’t suffer from several, if not most, of them.  Doesn’t mean you need to be medicated, though.)

Okay, the truth is I probably had/have ADHD, but even if this is the case, I have learned how to manage in spite of it.  I have a friend who kind of makes fun of me because I have, in her words, a very rigid routine.  What I now understand is, in order for me to function at the level I need to, to be able to be self-employed, it is imperative that I have a fixed routine.  I don’t consider it to be rigid, but I do my best to stick with it on a daily basis, otherwise nothing gets done.  Or at least not a lot gets accomplished.  Would a drug like Adderall help me?  Maybe, but I prefer to have my ‘rigid’ routine.  And let me say again, I do believe there are people who legitimately need to be on one of these drugs.  At the same time, I believe that many are misdiagnosed/overdiagnosed by physicians who simply do not know enough about it.

I feel like there are so many other available choices, such as diet, exercise, therapy, that may help, if not alleviate the problem all together.  Ultimately, though, we each need to do what we decide is best.

 

ALLIGATOR SKIN

You know how babies have really soft, smooth skin?  Well, that wasn’t me.  My mother said my skin was like an alligator:  rough, dry and scaly.  Lovely.  Then it was discovered I was allergic to water.  Yes, water!  Turned out it wasn’t so much water as it was the high mineral content of our water.  In any case, I had to be given a bath in a special solution, not like normal babies who got bathed in, well, water.  Clearly, I was never normal, right from the beginning.  My skin condition was never diagnosed.  It was kind of like psoriasis, but that wasn’t it.  No name was ever given to what I had.

Truthfully, I don’t remember how it affected me until I was a teenager., when it got really bad.  The red, horribly itchy rash was on the underside of my forearms and my hands.  Nothing helped, but a lot made it worse.  I was not allowed to do the dishes or clean the bathroom, and as wonderful as that might sound, it was a real pain.  Even gloves did not help, and actually made it worse because of the heat.  I made little splints with tongue depressors (having a mother who was a physician came in quite handy at times) and band-aids that I would fill with either Crisco (hey, it worked and have no ingredients that irritated my skin further) or vaseline and slip over my fingers.  If I didn’t do this, my hands would bleed.  My skin was so dry that no amount of lotion worked, but my ‘invention’ with the vaseline helped.

Not much could be done to help my forearms, though.  To help relieve the itchiness of them, I would use scalding hot water, which was really bad for it, but it was the only thing that made them stop itching, if only for a little while.  I also had the rash in my elbow pits and my knee pits.  Since I was told not to scratch myself with my fingernails, I used my hairbrush, and at night, since I would do it unconsciously in my sleep, I had to wear cotton gloves.  I guess I was kind of a mess!

At one point, when I was about 12 years old, it was so bad that I got taken to the doctor.  As this was not my mother’s specialty, and there was only so much she could do anyway, I went to a dermatologist.  I showed him all the places I had it on my body, and he said that he needed to look at my entire body to make sure it wasn’t any place else.  I knew it wasn’t anywhere else, but he insisted.  This was incredibly upsetting to me, and I went out into the waiting room to tell Mark, my brand new step-father, that the doctor wanted me to take all of my clothes off and I didn’t want to because I knew it was only where I had already shown the doctor.  Mark told me to listen to the doctor.  I was 12 and had developed early (most guys thought I was 20 years old because of my body) and because I was 12 and had the body of someone much older, I sure did not want this doctor seeing me naked.  I cried the whole time he was looking at my naked body, and when he finished, he said, “You don’t have the rash anywhere else.”  No shit, Sherlock!  Even now, thinking about it pisses me off.  It was, and probably still is, so typical of adults not to listen to a kid, and I can’t help but think it was a thrill for him to look at me naked.  Anyway, I was traumatized by this trip to the doctor and it just made me less likely to go again.

As I got older, I still had issues with it, but, eventually, I started growing out of most of it.  I did have an incident in my mid-20s while living in the suburbs of Chicago.  This was before they had Lake Michigan water.  It was well-water, and as it turned out, it had a very high mineral content.  This time I had it on my face and in my eyes.  What made this especially bad is I was modeling at the time and I looked a little like I had poison ivy all over my face–not a good look.  That time I went to the doctor and was given actifed, something I had taken as a child, though I had forgotten about it until then.  It is an antihistamine, basically. He also gave me cetaphil, which was not available at that point, except from a dermatologist.  He told me it was for people who are allergic to animal, mineral and vegetable fats.  Well, dang!  It worked though, and that was the important thing.  I still use cetaphil to this day.

I still have really dry skin and hair, but I’ve recently discovered a cure for it.  Olive oil!  I eat a tablespoon of it almost every day.  It has worked so well that I even gave myself oily hair, which I wasn’t happy about because it means I need to wash my hair more often.  I used to wash it once a week.  Now, I have to wash it every few days, though I probably should do it more often than I do.   But, luckily, even when my hair is dirty, it doesn’t look it.  And my skin is sooooo soft.  I mean, the baby soft I never, ever had.  And for the most part, I don’t have rashes anymore.  The only exception is when it’s really hot, I can still get it in my knee pits.  After all this time, though, when someone tells me I have beautiful skin, I probably look at them like they are crazy.  I do say, thank you, but inside, all I can think is, if they only knew!  Fortunately, the internal ‘scars’ don’t’ show and, for the most part, other than having an intense dislike of doctors, I am happy in my skin!