Gushing & Giving


It’s Guest Week! While I’m off visiting the Ladyfriend, I’ve handed over the Tea Cosy to a bunch of the best guest posters a blogger could wish for. Today’s post comes courtesy of Tori from Anytime Yoga. A secondary teacher in the US, Tori enjoys many things in life: making education and critical thought fun for her students, making yoga accessible to her blog readers, and writing about sexual and reproductive health with frankness. As for other things in life — namely, running, writing catchy author bios, and remembering to do the dishes — well, those she is working on. ;)

 

Note: This post discusses menstrual bleeding and blood donation. It also contains a brief mention of miscarriage.

 

I saved three lives today. At least, that’s what the sticker from the American Red Cross blood drive tells me.

My donation experience today was surprisingly easy. I mean less in terms of wait time or needle sticks and more in terms of how my body reacts. For example, my blood pressure was normal, even as I anticipated them checking my iron. More than that, my hemoglobin was well into the healthy range — something I’ve not seen in a good long while. The donation itself — from needle in to needle out — took under five minutes. When it was over, I could promptly sit up, stand up, and walk myself over to the canteen — all without feeling flushed, lightheaded, or like I was on the verge of passing out. At the canteen, I did stay the required minimum of ten minutes, but I felt physically well enough to go long before I finished my water and Cheez Its.

All of this is a far cry from the last several times I gave blood. I used to do it in my late teens and early twenties. While my iron was technically high enough to qualify, blood donation left me feeling fatigued, dizzy, and nauseated for the next day or two. For a number of years in between then and now, I was altogether too anemic to donate, to the extent of being far more likely to need blood than to be able to safely give it.

See, among other idiosyncrasies, I have a menstrual history of chronic pain and gushing [explicit menstruation/bleeding talk at that link too]. It had always happened — and my iron had always been borderline — but after a miscarriage in my mid twenties, my hemoglobin levels plummeted and never really recovered. I mean, to the extent that being only “moderately” instead of “severely” anemic is not really recovering. Because it involved constant — not just period-long — symptoms, it was easy to feel like a lot of my physical life limits stemmed from my menstrual flooding. Limits which, now that I am healthy enough to give blood easily, are vastly reduced in scope and severity.

It’s difficult to explain why this is important to me. While giving blood is a nice and helpful thing to do for other people, it’s not like choosing to do it renders one morally or socially superior. And yet, when I couldn’t give blood**, I often felt inferior — like there was something wrong with me that made me not good enough to donate blood. Regardless of what, if anything, can be done about it, it’s uncomfortable and disheartening to repeatedly bump up against feelings of not good enough.

Ironically, the thing that made me healthy enough to donate comfortably is something others think may not be good for me in the long run. I started a new birth control pill over the summer. Though my periods have not become what I would term “light,” they have lost their, “Dear God, how is there any blood left on the inside?” feeling. With the iron rich eating habits I’ve adopted over the years (kale + me = BFF), my hemoglobin has soared to record levels. There’s still the pain issue to deal with, but not being so draggy all the time makes even that easier to manage.

Generally, I just feel better.

Until such a time that someone hears that I’m on birth control pills — let alone my particular brand of pill*** — and starts getting all concerned, as one “someone” also did today.

“The estrogen in birth control pills can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.”

“Which pill? Isn’t that the one with all the lawsuits?”

“That’s the one where one of the ingredients carries, like, double the risk of blood clots.”

“And your doctor is okay with you taking that? At your age and weight?”

You know what? All these things? Technically supported by evidence. I do not dispute that this medication increases my risk for some adverse health outcomes. That said, it improves my quality of life. And also? All these things? Asked and answered, multiple prior times in my life.

I’m never going to please every person who’d like to weigh in on my health. But I’m also getting to the point where I’m comfortable articulating the believe that I never have been under any social or moral obligation to do so (though I would suggest that social pressure is another matter entirely). As long as I’m not harming others with my decisions — and I think it would be pretty difficult to harm others with my personal health choices — then I get to prioritize my health as I see fit. I get to be the boss of my body.

I get this one shot at being alive and having a body. It’s hard enough to learn how to cope when my body doesn’t behave as I’d like it to. Other people’s hangups about my body and my health are going to have to remain just that — the concerns of other people.

________________________________________________________________________

** I’m a faculty advisor to a student organization that organizes multiple blood drives each year, so there’s ample opportunity for me to come across “Give Blood Today!” messages.

*** I participate in some online discussion spaces devoted to my same health issues, so this isn’t necessarily a matter of random folk on the street asking about what I’m doing to secure the state of my uterus.

Reblogged: My body is not heartbreaking: more fun with microaggressions


My body is not heartbreaking: more fun with microaggressions.

There are people–seemingly reasonable, decent people–who think the existence of bodies like mine is heartbreaking. Who think that my life must be a tragedy because I wear above a size 14.  Who refuse to believe that health comes in more than one size. And who refuse to understand that not everyone prioritizes health in the same ways, or at all.

My body is not heartbreaking.

Oh so much yes. Bodies are not tragedies. Bodies are where we live. They don’t need redemption. They’re not a moral lesson or a warning to Be Good Or Else You’ll Be Like That. We don’t have a social or ethical responsibility to look a certain way, be a certain shape, be at a certain level of health, have certain priorities. Aside from, y’know, basic hygiene and decency, our bodies are absolutely and utterly ours. 

March for Choice roundup!


Here’s where I’m posting any links to blog posts, articles, video and pictures of the March for Choice last Saturday.

Articles and Posts

Rebecca, who I met in real life the day of the march, has a post up on her blog.

TheJournal.ie had a great article with a wee bit of context on the Irish situation, as well as tons of pics.

Broadsheet.ie have a photoset live from the march, as well as an article questioning varying reports of the numbers of people who showed up.

Forty Days for Choice’s writeup:

Yesterday in Dublin was a beautiful day: a 24-hour, sunshine-filled break from the rains which had been pouring down on us all the rest of the week. More importantly, it was a truly historic occasion; it was the first time people in their thousands had gathered together in our capital city to celebrate being pro-choice together, and to call for the provision of safe, legal and accessible abortion to be made available to people living on the island of Ireland in their own countries.

Here’s a photoset by Michael Stamp, and one from Paula Geraghty.

CorkFeminista have a press release on the march itself, as well as an interesting post on the history of abortion (lack of) rights in Ireland. Would be interesting for all you non-Irish people if you’d like to find out more about the background here.

Metro Herald’s  article.

Sophie from Lesbilicious was at work in O’Connell Street when she saw the march going past.

Campus.ie talk about the march, the impending report, and Ireland’s many abortion-related referenda.

And, of course, can’t leave out my own review over at Feminist Ire with my experiences and pics.

Videos 

Choice Ireland spokesperson Sinead Ahern speaks for Generation X and gives a background on how Irish women have been successively failed by our state:

TD Clare Daly speaking after the march:

The march passing by Stephen’s Green.

My AMAZING BFF and bromiga extraordinaire Ariel speaking about the LGBTQ and pro-choice movements, how queer women need to speak up about abortion, and recognition of the fact that it ain’t just women who need abortions:

Mara Clarke, the “American who lives in London and helps women in Ireland and Northern Ireland get abortions”, talking about the Abortion Support Network.

Trade Union TV’s excellent report:

Anyone have anything I’ve missed? I’m updating this post as I find more, so do check back.

But before you go, and if you click on nothing else, go to the Abortion Support Network and do what you can to donate or let others know about them! What they do is so important and makes lifelong differences to Irish women.

Marching for Choice in Dublin


Marching for Choice in Dublin, my latest post on Feminist Ire, is a writeup of yesterday’s pro-choice march.

We were genuinely and collectively in awe at our numbers, here on O’Connell street. For the first time in my life, I felt that we might get somewhere with this. That we might really have some power to change things. Living in Ireland, it’s hard to truly explain what a truly big deal this is. How much of a revelation.

The Irish state needs to face up to its responsibility for the many thousands of women who have travelled overseas for abortions. It has a long-standing habit of brushing inconvenient women under the carpet- years ago to be incarcerated in Magdalene laundries, now on Ryanair flights to Britain. At yesterday’s march we came together to say that we are no longer going to accept this. We’re sick of being silenced and of our choices villified and shamed. We’re not going to accept being caricatured as heartless murderers anymore. We care deeply for the rights and well-being of all of us, for everyone in this country’s right to self-determination. And we’re not going to be quiet anymore.

For more, and for tons of pics from the march, head over to Feminist Ire!

The consistency of pro-choice, anti death-penalty perspectives.


Reading an article in the Guardian on Rick Santorum’s frankly disgusting views on abortion, I came across the following comment:

A problem with pointing out the inconsistency of opposing right-to-abortion and supporting the death penalty is that the same accusation in reverse can be made to liberals.

Really? I don’t think so. While it may seem that if one is inconsistent the other must also be so, I would argue that the consistency of the pro-choice, anti-death penalty position (and the inconsistency of anti-choice pro-death penalty viewpoints) comes from the values generally emphasised in each.

The anti-choice argument generally runs something like this: The primary right is to life, and all human life is sacred. Embryos and fetuses constitute seperate human life, and are therefore entitled to the same protections as other humans. Because of this, terminating fetal and embryonic human life is equivalent to murdering a person and should not be permitted. I gather that being in favour of the death penalty has something to do with punishing people who do bad things to the fullest extent possible, although to be honest it’s a perspective I’ve never been able to wrap my head around.

As a person who’s as pro-choice as I’m against the death penalty, the main difference is in the principles I emphasise. I see the right to bodily integrity as the most basic there is, more important even than the right to life- which is why I’m also very much in favour of the right to a peaceful death at the time of one’s choosing. Basically, I see our bodies as the one thing over which we should have near-absolute sovereignty, with the only exception being where this threatens the sovereignty of others. Given this overarching principle, there is no contradiction in being pro-choice and anti-death penalty. My body is mine, yours is yours. We are the only people with the right to decide to begin lives in our bodies. And we are the only people with the right to end lives in our bodies- whether that be a fetus or ourselves.

Foodie Manifesto


I believe in abundance. I believe in joy. I believe in sensuality, pleasure, and delight. I believe in boisterous meals with friends, I believe in curling up on the sofa with something (and someone!) warming and delicious. I believe in treating yourself every day to good food just because you can. I believe in elaborate meals and simple suppers. I believe in breakfast in bed, in sizzling aromas, in decadent sauces and never, ever being afraid of crumbs.

I believe that food should nourish more than our stomachs- but it should definitely do that. I believe food should be both comforting and tantalising, and that it shouldn’t take forever or cost the earth.

I believe that abundant enjoyment of food which is as good for our hearts and our tastebuds as it is for our stomachs should be available to all. I believe in a world where nobody is denied this most basic, universal and life-affirming pleasure. Not for lack of money. Not for lack of time. Not for lack of knowledge or resources. Not for the sake of dietary restrictions and health. And definitely not because of shame.

I believe in loving our bodies and taking joy in the things we do to sustain them. I believe our lives are immeasurably richer when they are sweeter, more crunchy, smoother, and spicier. I believe in taking time to create, to share with others, and to treat ourselves.

I believe in food.

(Yum!)

Letting Yourself Go


“You always let yourself go when you’re stressed, you know. You should make more of an effort.”

That was my ex, back when I was in the middle of writing a thesis and, frankly, had neither the time nor the energy for such things as straightening my hair or shaving my legs. That was also, by the way, the same guy who didn’t shave at all for two months before his exams, seeing himself a kind of Samson before the ravening hordes of assignments.

But enough about him- for one thing, he’s lovely, and for another, he’s probably reading this. (Hello!)

That year was the year I finally got my degree. It was also the year I started to work my ass off, discovered that I really did love sociology after all, and brought my grades up from ‘doing okay’ to ‘hell yeah’. It was also the year that I put on about 1/5 of my current weight.

The other year that I piled on the pounds was, unsurprisingly, the year I did my MA. The other time, that is, that I was busy working my (expanding) butt off to better myself until ridiculous hours of the night.

I’ve gotten skinnier in the past few months. Part of that is my current obscenely-healthy lifestyle- I’m too broke for snacks or buses if I want to have a social life, so it’s lentils and cycling for me- but most of it happened before that. The couple of months when I was unemployed and homeless (staying with friends, thankfully), when my relationship of the past few years had ended a little less than a fortnight before my very, very beloved nan died. That was when the pounds just flew off.

I don’t know about your situations. But if my own life is anything to go by, then this idea that losing weight is ‘taking care of yourself’, while gaining it is ‘letting yourself go’, is absolute tosh.

What do you think?

Placebo me up!


So my life this past few months has been a bit of a rollercoaster. And when I say ‘rollercoaster’, I’m speaking as a person whose (rare!) rollercoasting experiences have normally involved terrified screams of “GET ME OFF THIS THING I AM GOING TO DIE NOW I DO NOT WANT TO DIE”, combined with a truly special level of nausea as I hang on for dear life and try not to open my eyes. In short, I’m more of a dodgems girl myself.

This is also, by the way, why posts here have been few and far-between. Bloggistry has had to take a back seat to sorting my life out, I’m afraid. I haven’t forgotten you, though, and by now I have notebooks positively bulging with notes on posts.

One of the side-effects of all of this rollercoastering has been absolutely terrible sleep, with all that goes with it. Not wanting to do anything with potential major side-effects about this, I’ve spent the past week popping herbal, alt-meddy sleeping pills. They’ve worked a treat! I’m less irritable, more optimistic, and the bags under my eyes no longer look like I’ve been moonlighting as a punching bag. Result!

I’m pretty sure that this is mostly the placebo effect. I say ‘pretty sure’ and ‘mostly’ because I’ve been incredibly careful to not research these particular herbal, alt-meddy sleeping pills at all. I know that they’re not homeopathic, and that’s about it. While I’m well aware that the placebo effect works even if you know it’s a placebo, I’m not willing to part my money with stuff I know to be bullshit. You’ll note, by the way, that I’m not letting on to You Lot what they are either. I know you too well to think that one of you wouldn’t have a link to something empirical in the comments before I’d finished my cuppa.

So here’s my question to you: What do you think about knowingly placebo-ing yourself? How would you feel about treating yourself with things you know to be placebos? Do you think there’s anything dodgy about it? Do you think it’s ridiculously cool that it works? I’m unsure myself. But for now, I ain’t complaining.

Learning to stop worrying and love my bum. Also, privilege. Damnit.


Don’t you hate it when everything you do seems mired in some kind of foggy maze of constantly messing up somehow? I know I do. You know where it really gets me? Body image.

Yes, body image. That one. What I would call an Achilles’ heel, if it weren’t that Achilles seemed to have a pretty darn good image of himself and didn’t spend much time worrying over whether anyone was noticing the dry skin on his heel, and whether his heel was too knobbly or not knobbly enough.

Working out a way to feel happy in your (okay, my) own skin is notoriously difficult. We’re all supposed to want to lose 10 (or 100) pounds, to be darker or lighter, to detest every stray hair or uneven skin tone or boniness or squishiness or muscliness or… I could go on. But I won’t be the first, and you’ve all heard it too many times before.

I’ve tried a lot of different strategies to be okay in my skin, with varying success. Once, I even tried dieting and exercise. At once. That was not a good, er, fortnight*.

So instead, I work on accepting myself as I am and working on showing myself the same kindness that I would others. I look at my body not as something to be perfected, but a canvas on which my experiences are written- from the squishiness of my thesisbum, to the stories that come with scars. To the way that my eyes wrinkle when I smile in exactly the same way as my relatives do. These things are who I am. They are where I come from.

But the thing that’s done the most for me in terms of feeling good about my body? Was a complete paradigm shift. I started to Exercise More (and also eat more. Because nothing makes a girl hungry like actually working up an appetite). Gradually, my body stopped being a thing which was there to (fail to) look a certain way. It became a thing that did things. A thing that would run this far- just a little further than before. A thing that could pick up a thing just a little bit heavier than the thing it could pick up before. Get a little further up a wall. A few weeks ago I walked a couple of hundred kilometers, and my body became a thing that hurt like hell and kept going.

And I stopped caring too much what it looked like. And then I started really appreciating what it- what I- looked like. I used to hate showing my legs- all knobbly knees and too-pale skin. But I’m not going to be ashamed of legs that walked me for miles and miles and miles. Legs that held up me, my backpack, and litres upon litres of water. Legs that dragged us uphill and hurt like hell and kept on walking. Those aren’t just plain good legs. Those are bloody brilliant legs. Hell yeah, I’ll wear skirts and shorts. Who cares about pale skin, knobbly knees and more bruises than you can shake a stick at? These legs rock.

And feeling that- feeling that sense of power and purpose in my body- I get angry. As women, we’re told too often that our bodies are there to be pretty. To look a certain way. There’s barely any mention of how wonderful it is to have a body that does things. In fact, there’s a whole lot of shame even there. How many people do you know with not-socially-considered-ideal bodies who don’t feel even a little self-conscious at a gym? Or going for a run, or a swim? How many people don’t do those things, and therefore lose out on the joy of having bodies that slowly but surely can do more and more things, because of the censure- internal and external- for simply being open about the shapes of our bodies? For being seen to be ourselves in public? For daring to not be ashamed?

Of course, here’s where you get to privilege. Not just the kind where it’s safe- physically, at least- to be embodied in public. Or the kind where you’ve managed to scrape together the gutsiness to brush off whatever’s going to come your way. The more basic kind. If the only way I’ve been able to be happy with my body is by making it stronger, isn’t that a wee bit ableist? Isn’t the very idea that bodies need to be somehow redeemed- either through excessive prettiness or physical ability- ableist as all hell?

Having a body that’ll run, climb, swim, row and pick up heavy things is one hell of a (temporary!) privilege. Having a body that’s gender/size-normative enough to pass without comment in a swimsuit (god I love swimming) is one hell of a privilege. Then again, existing as a (queerish, femme-but-not-the-right-kind-of-femme) woman trying to navigate my way into being happy with the body I walk around in sure as hell ain’t a privilege.

And this is the thing. Here’s the thing where we inevitably fuck up, because there’s too many cards stacked against us from too many damn directions.

Bodies shouldn’t need to be redeemed. Bodies don’t need to be redeemed. They’re fine just the way they are. But all of us walking and rolling our way around in them are living in a society that demands we redeem our bodies. That we make up for taking up space by being pretty, by being capable, or by being decently ashamed of our very shape and our very skin. Ideally, all of the above.

And we deal with that any way we can.

 

*The large quantities of cake and cheese afterward, on the other hand, made a very good evening.