Dear Bitter Butch: How Do I Cope After the Election?

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Dear Bitter Butch,

The fallout from this election is causing personal emotions similar to those I felt when the family rallied to support a sexual predator and to turn me out. Any advice?

– Triggered

Dear Bitter Butch,

I have neighbors in my very rural, agricultural little neck of the woods, who work on farms and who are Hispanic. I’m not totally sure where they’re from. . . . So I’m trying to figure out the best thing to do for/say to them. I want to see if they’re ok and let them know they have my support...

– Wants to help

Dear Bitter Butch,

How do I explain these election results to my kids? I feel like the schoolyard bully has just been made principal.

– Worried Mom

Dear Bitter Butch,

How do I fix the world?

– Wondering

Dear Fellow Citizens,

For the majority of us who are not white supremacists eager to keep this country safe for the white man but absolutely no one else, this election has brought up a lot of old trauma . . .  Read the full letters and my answer at bitterempire.com.

I am speechless over this beautiful review of “Belly!”

From Piecemeal Reviews:

goya-witches“The short story, Belly, by Haddayr Copley-Woods, featured in the July/August issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction fascinates, disgusts, and digs into the brain of itself, conjuring magic within its own spinning yarn.   With a hive of witches and an unsuspecting girl, Copley-Woods clearly uses fairytales as inspiration for Belly, but that’s simply a model for her larger themes: abuse and personal destiny.  After I read Belly, I forced it into my writer friends’ hands, excited, hopeful, distracted and envious of what they would experience for the first time.  Rarely does it feel like a crime to have something so remarkable not freely available for everyone to read.” Read the whole thing.

Robin Williams

robin-williams7878You guys, I am so, so down about Robin Williams. Giving such joy. Living in such agony. It brings me down as an artist, as a fellow depressive and as someone with multiple mental health disorders myself. It brings me down as a human being.

Lots of people have posted about removing the stigma and how that might help, about understanding depression, not blaming him, etc. All of those are good things.

The thing is, he was GETTING help. He was REACHING out. He’d just been to Hazelden, FFS.

I have been in that horrible place. Sometimes, no matter how you try and how you fight and how much people care about you, the bastard gets you. It makes me so sad. It makes me so angry. It makes me feel so helpless.

I hope his family and friends don’t blame themselves. I hope he is finally peaceful and happy. Well, there. I’m ending with hope. How about that.

On assuming you know things and being happy and biking

I posted this wonderful article on Facebook last night by The DIY Couturier: 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You’re Depressed.

It was a direct response to one of those interminable articles by happy people on how to be happy just like them (quick sum-up: it’s not luck, stunningly easy access to the upper middle class, or the blessing of well-balanced brain chemistry! Happy people are happy because they are doing things right, and if you just followed their blithely oblivious rules you’d be happy, too) titled The 21 Habits of Happy People, which I will not link to because after reading a few of them my blood began to boil AND I began to die from boredom, which is a uniquely unpleasant sensation I do not wish upon my readers. Also the stock photography was aggressively banal.

Besides the fact that these 21 alternate rules are extremely helpful and well-written and make me feel less alone in this world, I share this article because I want to talk about biking. Yes.

When people hear that I am a year-round bicyclist, I get, mainly, one of three reactions:

  1. You’re crazy! (Often followed by stammered reasons for the person’s failure to bicycle. I am not a bike nut AT you, my dear fellow on this planet; I couldn’t care less if you bike. I do not exist solely to make you feel bad about yourself.)
  2. You’re so brave! (Often followed by even more panicked reasons for the person’s failure to bicycle. If a cripple can do it, she must judge me for not doing it!)
  3. You must have something to prove. (This being Minnesota, this judgment is nearly always couched in alternate but crystal clear language.)

Oh! People are saying. I know you. I know you are crazy. I know you are brave. I know you have something to prove.

And none of these things are true.

I bike year-round because it is fun. I also bike year-round because I am depressed, anxious, and I have an autoimmune disorder. If I do not bike nearly every day, I get sick, I have a flareup, or I become a heinous bitch. I have real and rather personal reasons for bicycling every day, and if I don’t share them with every random person who asks me about the bicycle helmet in my office that’s my prerogative. Speaking out in a chosen time and place (such as this blog) to de-stigmatize mental illness is one thing, but telling someone deeply personal health information who just stopped by to borrow a stapler and wants to get defensive about my reflective vest hanging on the doorknob is another.

When I got my concussion on glare ice this winter (after writing a commentary on the joys of winter biking, ironically), someone actually said to me: “Well, I hope you learned your lesson.”

I’m sure many, many more people thought it.

The only way in which this comment makes any sense is if you are assuming, incorrectly, that you know why I bike.

Well, if you’re reading this, you now know why I ride. I ride for the OPPOSITE reasons of crazy. If I were to ‘learn a lesson’ from this concussion, it would be: do not do things that make you happy and healthy; you might get hurt! Do not fly gloriously over the frozen tundra. Do not take dance classes that make you look silly. Do not try for that job that might be a stretch. Do not write a book that digs into your deepness. Do not ever, ever fall in love.

So, no — I have not learned my lesson, and I hope I never will. Yesterday, even with a very bad head cold, I biked to work for the first time. It was glorious. Even just 25 minutes of bicycling made me start to feel myself for the first time since I fell in early February. Today, I biked again, in the rain. It is now snowing out. If the puddles have not iced over, I’m riding home again.

I bike because it makes me feel solid, sane, and whole. I am working my own 21 Tips in my own way.

Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle, as the famous quote misattributed to Plato goes. Be kind.

You work your own tips, and I’ll work mine.

On the supposed “death with dignity” movement, and the value of a disabled life

Whenever assisted suicide comes up amongst my friends and family, they are very pro-assisted suicide. I get angry and quiet and don’t have the energy to explain explain explain, which is unusual for me, but this topic is so vast and exhausting and sometimes I think that no one with a disability is in any position to see the medical industrial complex from my point of view because they have never been treated the way I have in a doctor’s office.

This essay by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg about Amanda Baggs and the pressure the medical establishment is putting on her to turn down life-saving procedures and just die already gets at the heart of why I object to this. Please read it:

“I think that many people feel that they would rather die than to be treated as though they are worthless. And so they put forward legislation that will give them a way out. But they don’t realize that we can fight the idea that it’s better to be dead than ill or disabled — that we can react to it with outrage, and that we can create communities of support so that none of us ends up with our worst fears realized.”

http://www.disabilityandrepresentation.com/2013/04/06/amanda-baggs-the-pressure-to-die/

Sing each verse as if it were the whole song.

I do not believe that God has a plan for me. I do not believe in fate. I do not believe that I am some kind of special creature the universe is trying to teach a lesson. I think if there is a god she cares about and nurtures my potential as much as she cares about and nurtures a gnat’s potential.

But I can choose to take lessons from the patterns around me.

I am currently in EMDR therapy for PTSD. I have been very frustrated after my concussion with the fact that I could not continue the EMDR until I recovered some. “The whole schedule is off,” I’ve scolded. “I was supposed to be fixed by June.”

So, now that I’m healed and can do some EMDR, we worked, instead of on a particular memory, on the idea that I don’t have to see delaying of therapy as a failure of some sort, or even as a setback. I don’t have to be so damn goal oriented, constantly frustrated that I am not all fixed. I can take some pleasure in getting to know myself better, in experiencing self-care, in investigating what makes me tick as much as I would take pleasure in revising an essay, short story, or novel.

I LOVE revising. There’s no reason why I can’t enjoy revising the story of my life and the story of who I am, just for the sake of revising.

Right after the session, I and my boys went to a seder at a friend’s house, and this passage from the haggadah struck me like a gong — I actually felt myself vibrate with it; felt my eyes fill with tears of recognition:

What does this mean, “Dayenu — it would have been enough”? Surely if God had brought us out of Egypt but not divided the Red Sea for us or sustained us in the desert, it would not have been enough. Dayenu means to celebrate each step toward freedom as if it were enough, then to start out on the next step. Dayenu means that if we reject each
step because it is not the whole liberation, we will never be able to achieve the whole liberation. Dayenu means to sing each verse as if it were the whole song — and then sing the next verse!

While I got my own personal message about my experience in therapy, my friend who read it also was in tears. For her, it was the struggle for gay civil rights.

I don’t think God was trying to send either of us a message; I just think some ideas are so universal that we can all find the messages we need to hear inside of them.