Ain’t You A Woman?: Stand Up For All Your Sisters

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Maybe we have not all been that woman. But we have all had a scent of it; maybe even just a glimmer. We have all; each and every one of us women, no matter where we hail from or what we believe, have felt fear under a patriarchal force. We have felt violated, used, torn, exploited, wasted, bruised, beaten, forgotten about, lost at least once in our lives because of the society we live in. And each and everyone one of us has picked ourselves up (often with the help of others) on more than one occasion and said we would not let it happen again. And maybe it will not happen to us again, or our friends and our sisters again; but it will happen to many other girls, women and transwomen around the world. We cannot leave anyone behind any longer.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a young woman who immigrated to Ireland was denied an abortion, despite being traumatised, scared and suicidal. Not only that, but she was led to believe that should would receive an abortion on the grounds of The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act (2013); which states that abortion is justifiable when the pregnancy in question endangers a woman’s life, including the risk of suicide.This law came into effect on the 1st of January this year, and still the State is acting as if it does not exist.

Irish Times correspondent Kitty Holland interviewed the young girl, who had been raped in her home country before arriving to Ireland. She was unaware that she was pregnant. She was lost in a new place. She was turned away and betrayed by the IFPA, who delayed her in seeking an abortion. She attempted to take her own life. The young woman told Ms. Holland what she told the nurse:

“I could die because of this pregnancy. I am prepared to kill myself.”

The interview only becomes more harrowing as the young woman depicts the moment she was refused an abortion after fighting so long for her right to one:

“You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.”

This becomes more than just a pregnancy issue. This is destroying someone’s mental health, their psyche, their life. Abandoned by the State, the young girl also said that she feels like she has been “left by everybody” and she is enshrouded with shame. But none of this is her fault; and yet still this place we call home can make one vulnerable young woman look like a monster because she wanted justice for herself.

I, along with many others, have been criticised and condemned for adopting a pro-choice stance. I have been called a murderer, disgusting, immoral; and on more than one occasion, a Nazi. All because I believe that pregnancy is a choice (which it is) and I believe that a woman should have the right to her own body (which each and every woman does). And still, these people do not put themselves in the situation of any woman who has been betrayed their rights over the years in this country and worldwide. Just because something does not affect you directly and/or your circumstances allow you to have a different outcome to another person does not mean their rights are non-existent. We can no longer pretend that these injustices are the moral thing to do because Ireland has “always been that way”. The UN are right: the Irish state treats women like vessels. All of us. And it does not matter if you wanted to have a baby or not, or you want to ever have one for that matter. We are still expected to be incubators; every last one of us.

And this denial of health care and reproductive rights is not the only thing Irish society has done to reduce women to dust. Think of the young woman at Slane in 2013 who was hospitalised after she was a victim of extreme abuse and harassment online. Think of the transmisogyny of Irish society which led to mass online bullying of a transwoman in Limerick city. Think of the women at the Magdalene Laundries, one of which is not far from my front door. Think of all the Mother & Baby homes. Think of the unrepresented and disrespected sex workers that have no one to protect them. Feminist writer Bell Hooks once said: “Being oppressed means the absence of choices”. That is exactly what we all are in this society: oppressed. And you may not want to acknowledge it; you may not even realise it. But you have less choices than any man does if you are a woman or identify as a woman in this State.

You know what? We are all that woman. We are the women staring at themselves in the mirror — crying — wishing it was all different. We are the girls that sit on the curb outside the nightclubs waiting for friends because some creepy guy molested them on the dancefloor. We are the girls filled with shame because that is what we are told how to feel. We are the women who are catcalled and beeped at; and we are told: “It is a compliment”. We are the girls who wake up every morning feeling successful and happy and somewhere along the way we are shut down by a “higher” male power. We are the lonely girls. We are the girls who don’t want to be boys. We are the sad girls. We are the women making ourselves sick with worry, scrambling on cold bathroom floors. We are the the broken girls. We are the “Want You To Make Me Feel Like I’m The Only Girl In The World” girls; but they will never give us that. We are the college dropout girls. We are the single mothers. We are the girls who lay victim to revenge porn.  We are the X Case. We are Migrant X.

But most of all, we are the girls that should not; that will not back down. Support your sisters; and not just your cis-ters. We cannot lose the battle.

 

“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism”, to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.”

– Bell Hooks

“I am Sick and I am Dull and I am Plain”: Learning To Cope With My Mental Illness

As my main man Morrissey would say: November Spawned A Monster. I’ve hated the month of November for as long as I can remember. It’s not the cold weather, the dark nights or the impending doom of Christmas exams. There is just something about this month that really gets me down. With the heightened social tension of the past few weeks in our city and beyond, I know I’m not the only one feeling this pressure. Mental health issues are at an all time high in this country and little to nothing is being done about it. I was inspired to write this post because of the brave words of Conor Cusack, who showed Ireland this past week that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety disorder this past summer. It was a very long time coming. I do not think that I wanted to admit to myself that there was something wrong. I believed that the constant sadness I felt was just a repercussion of listening to too much of Morrissey’s music, and my friends also reiterated that theory. I blamed my outbursts on Buckfast and tried to ignore the impulses that coursed through every neuron in my brain. It was a rough time for me; it still is. But I am so thankful that I did not give up completely, because suicide is never the answer to your problems.

It is extremely difficult for those who do not suffer from depression to understand it. There is little to no education in schools on this illness, or any other illness for that matter. This is shocking and disturbing seeing as 10% of the population suffer from depression: one in every two women and one in every four males. The way depression and anxiety is treated by Irish society is absolutely disgusting. So many people ignore it and act like it is not there. Even my parents do not acknowledge my mental state and for a long time it made me feel very ashamed of myself. It is very difficult to explain the feeling you get when you are depressed. It is everything and nothing all at once. All life is sapped out of you, you’re forced to smile. All of your energy seems to be devoted to struggling to do even the most menial of tasks.

I remember forcing myself to go to my GP to try and remedy my mental ailment. The look on her face when I told her my symptoms was so removed and cold. She hastily suggested that I go on medication and scolded me that I had left attending a doctor’s appointment so long. At this point, I felt completely hopeless that I would ever get better. Everywhere I looked to seek solace seemed like a dreary dead-end. I was urged to be more social, but was told to avoid alcohol. My life had become the ultimate Catch 22 situation. I spent the remainder of the warm summer days indoors, growing more and more apathetic with each night of tumultuous sleep. I felt ridiculously debilitated and constantly tired.

The best thing that happened to me was going to therapy. At first, I was terrified. No one I had met could understand how I felt waking up everyday and loathing the thought of getting out of bed. No one could understand why I was so miserable and angry. I decided to give the entire process the benefit of the doubt. My first session entailed me scoring my feelings and behaviour on a scale of one to ten which, no doubt, increased my skepticism of the therapy. But then we began to discuss my feelings in depth, combined with relaxation techniques. After several sessions, I felt more stable than I ever had in three years.  My anxiety attacks had ceased and I felt a calmness rush over me. I was overwhelmed, to say the least.

The most important thing to have when you suffer from any mental illness is someone to talk to. It can be anyone at all, just as long as you know that you can rely on them. Because feeling so low that you become self-destructive is absolutely terrifying. You feel completely lost and alone and consumed by an inexplicable darkness. Finding comfort is key. I cannot say that I am “cured” in any way, but I can say that I have improved and I would not be where I am today without the support of my friends. I owe them absolutely everything for being so patient with me. There is still days where I wake up and I feel terrible, but I am glad the pain has eased.

I strongly urge everyone to look out for each other. You never truly know how someone is feeling and you never know how quickly you can improve someone’s mood. We must not shun others or ourselves for suffering. We should acknowledge that life is short and precious, and embrace the ethos of carpe diem. I know that it is all easier said than done, but a little hope goes a very long way.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
 – Friedrich Nietzsche

Why The Little Things Still Matter

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If you know me personally, you will know how bleak and pessimistic and miserable I am all the time. I’ve had a very tough few years for various reasons: deaths, family arguments, breakups, falling out with people, being bullied. I could go on forever. And there has been many times where I literally felt like it was the end. There have been so many times that I have given up. There have been so many moments where I’ve wanted to run away and never come back. But I’m still here and it’s because of the little things.

I have to thank my friends for making everything so special for me. Liz has been there for me for fifteen years. We’ve been through hell together but we always have each other’s backs. I always have the most wonderful time with Ashleigh. Even though we act like fools for much of the time, she is always there to be the voice of reason when I completely screw up. And the three of us have such a strong connection that I could never imagine breaking. And it’s these two girls that have kept me so level-headed for so long. You must always appreciate those close to you, who will stick up for you no matter what.

Because love is when you’re beyond willing to put up with someone’s bullshit and feeling that is extraordinary. And people often take feeling loved for granted. I know that I do a lot of the time. But life is too short and we shouldn’t waste our lives without love. No matter how terrible you are, someone is always going to care about you. If they are 3000 miles away or right next door, there is always going to be one person who will be there.

Loved ones are the source of the little things. Whether it’s a text that says “You’re so cool” or   surprising me with a visit; these things make my day. People often ignore these small gestures and regard them as nothing. But remembering a time when someone reached out to you in a subtle way could be the light to bring you back from darkness.

I’ve been in very disturbing places over the course of the past year. It’s been distressing and turbulent. And it was hard to have one of my closest friends so far away at the times when I needed her the most. But I pulled through it all because of the gestures of the many friends that I have made. I am not a people person but those who I am friends with have changed my life for the better. Their strength, their talent, their willpower and their wisdom inspire me every day. So thank you for keeping me here.

Over the past two months, I have found myself benefiting more and more from these little things. I’ve finished a screenplay and my friends were so enthusiastic about taking part that it will actually be filmed. And although filming SISU is not their main priority, they have made a dream come true for me. And I will never forget that.

The support that I have received from everyone as a result of this blog has been phenomenal. I never could have pictured in my wildest dreams that people would commend me for my writing outside of academia. And it may just be someone saying “well done” or liking a post, but to someone like me, that means the whole world.

I’ve been trying really hard to stop faking smiles and enjoy life a little bit more. The little things have made it possible for me to get here. After much reflection on my emotional state over the past three years, I’ve realised that I am becoming stronger. Despite my usual ice queen facade, I’m actually a really emotional person and people don’t usually see the other side of me.

But with the constant support of people over time, I’ve learned to be able to open up more. I’ve learned to trust. I’ve learned to accept all my faults. If you said to me two years ago that I would be able to look in the mirror and not cry, I would have laughed in your face. Two years ago, I didn’t want to be here. But I’m still here now. I’m the weakest person I know but I’ve still found a reason to smile.

Take some time to appreciate the little things. Do something you love. Share it with the world. Don’t give a fuck about what other people think. I’ve wasted too much of my time being upset and wallowing in my own self pity. Time is fleeting so fast that you never know who or what could pass you by. Get inspired. Carpe diem.