Learn or Be Left Behind: Violence Against Women

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I’ve recently been more active in my social media: blogging, tweeting, googleplusing, etc. As an author, I like to try to keep fans up to date, and blog about things that are important to me and important to those who enjoy my fiction and non-fiction. Lately, however, I’ve been getting more trolls than positive feedback and it’s not great for my mental health. As a woman with a mood disorder and anxiety, I’ve found that I have to know when it’s time for a break. And I often take them, but I don’t stay away, as some do. And this is why:

The last month has been a troll haven. I have received a barrage of sexist, even violent comments and messages. These things come mainly through Twitter and Google+, for some reason. I think I’ve had to delete about 12 messages in the last week from strange men who’ve written various harassing things either under my innocuous posts or via google messenger. These things range from gross “YourehotttakeoffyourclothesIwanttoseeyounaked” to violent “Iwanttorapeyourpussy.” And they are usually written like the above examples, in a stream of ignorance. I delete them and try not to get upset. But the terrifying messages about violence against me or even just perverted things that men would do to me are hard to ignore. Because it triggers me, a survivor of sexual assault. And because it shows me just how far we have to go in this society to become peaceable, accepting, caring.

And it’s funny (not ha-ha funny, mind you; more ironic funny) because my posts on feminism and sexism and gender inequality are often met with a roll of the eyes or outright disagreement. How can it not be clear that these things exist? When I get 12 disgusting to violent messages a day, how can you doubt this? When the statistics for Violence Against Women are staggering, how can you ignore that these things happen daily? Happen often?

I’d like to take a moment to ask the male authors or male social networkers our there, how many times a day does someone threaten to rape you? Send you dick picks? Even pester you with unwanted advances? Not often? Not ever? Once in a blue moon? Because I get at least 12 a week. And I think it’s safe to say that I’m not famous, so I imagine it’s worse for those women with a much bigger following.

And that’s why, despite the headache and triggering brought about by social networking, I continue to write about things I know will be met with, in the least, dismissal, in the worst rage or violence.

Because I’m not afraid. I’m done with fear. And it’s clear that this dialogue still needs to happen.

My main character in Monochrome, Abigail, is surrounded by the violent intent of men. Even the one man she trusts in Monochrome doesn’t understand what women are up against, how it’s different:

“She didn’t want to have to explain to [Ishmael] that it was different for women. When women were desperate they were expected to debase themselves, and so many of them did. Men weren’t expected to give their bodies to strangers in order to feed, clothe and house themselves. They weren’t seen as walking sexual prey. He’d never understand, so she held her tongue […] If he’d ever been attacked–his body treated as a steak needing tenderizing–or lived his life on the tips of his toes, poised to flee from a smile that could turn to a sneer, he’d think before joking so casually about the women of Red Street Brothel.  (Monochrome, H.M. Jones)”

I write about violence against women, even in my fiction, because it’s clear to me that even some of my best male friends don’t understand. So let me make it clear: violence and the threat of violence is my every day anxiety. Don’t, for a second, believe that women don’t have more to shit to slog through. We have a history that places us as not very valuable property, as punching bags, as weak.

But we live in an age where women are fighting back, are brave despite the fear and will not accept ignorance. So learn or be left behind, but don’t pretend that inequality doesn’t exist.

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Hunger Pains

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I have been in a constant state of hunger for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I feel absolutely starving, actually, panicked and shaky. I’ve also been overweight and obese most of my life, which seems backwards. Why are you hungry if you eat a lot, Hannah? I always thought that I was always hungry because my stomach was bigger than other people’s stomachs, and there might be some truth to that. It takes more calories to fill me up, my stomach is more expanded than that of a person who sits in the “normal” weight zone. But I’ve been really trying to be healthy lately, and have become so frustrated.

Trips to the gym leave me light-headed and shaking. I am not just hungry when I’m done. I’m famished. A fog covers my thoughts, my hands tremble violently on my steering wheel. I get out my nut and fruit bar and it takes all my will power not to demolish it without chewing. I know that chewing better aids digestion, and, thus, weight loss, so I’m working on it. But I’m so hungry that the small bar feels like water running through me.

To top it off, two weeks before my period, I’m always ravenous for sugar. I daydream about it so much that it becomes an obsession. If I don’t sate the urge, I will obsess about it. If I do sate the urge, I’ll feel badly for ruining my good habits. Most women get cravings, but these are not two days before my cycle. It is for two weeks before it hits and it’s consistent. I did some research on why that might be, and it seems that my premenstrual cycle combined with my bi-polar mood disorder is a terrible combination. A combination that creates animal-like eating habits.

Thehealthsite.com lists bipolar disorder and the premenstrual cycle as factors in extreme hunger:

“Mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder and manic depression associated with an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, hormonal deficiencies, and genetic factors can increase your desire for food enormously.”

Unfortunately, I’ve also been diagnosed with anxiety, and, yes, stress and anxiety leads to increased hunger. The same site says this about anxiety and over-eating:

“Persistent stress and anxiety is a definite trigger for excessive hunger. Whenever we are stressed the brain is triggered to produce corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenaline, which suppress appetite. But if stress persists, the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite.”

So what do I do? You might ask. Do you just eat until you’re full? Let me make it clear: I’m very rarely full, so that would be a bad idea. The answer is, I do eat more than I should a lot of the time. But even when I’m eating pretty well, I don’t lose weight quickly. That, my doctor says, is probably because I have a family history of obesity and obesity is genetic. He said my body doesn’t metabolize as well as others because of my genetic make-up. Thanks, chubby genes!

Currently, I’m considered obese, at 5′ 11″ and 215 lbs. Take into consideration that my frame is pretty large. There is such a thing as difference in mass, and I have a sizable bone structure. But even taking that into consideration, my doctor honestly told me that a healthy weight for my frame puts me at 175-180 lbs. That’s 35-40 lbs lighter than my current weight, which, I’ll give myself credit for, is 5 lbs lighter than last month.

Me at 220 lbs (last month):

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And I’m never full. I’m so hungry right now, and I just had yogurt and granola, which are supposed to be filling. I’m at such a loss because I now that overeating will lead to more overeating, and it’s worse now that I’m back to working out everyday. I am not just hungry, folks, I’m starving, shaking and tired.

David Ludwig, in a NY Times article, explains the starvation feeling in obese people (and there’s no need to reassure me that I’m not obese. I am medically obese, so it is what it is):

“We think of obesity as a state of excess, but it’s really more akin to a state of starvation. If the fat cells are storing too many calories, the brain doesn’t have access to enough to make sure that metabolism runs properly. So the brain makes us hungry in an attempt to solve that problem, and we overeat and feel better temporarily. But if the fat cells continue to take in too many calories, then we get stuck in this never-ending cycle of overeating and weight gain.”

So, I’m at a point where I am very slowly and painstakingly working not for my figure but for my mental and physical health. My knees aren’t great and I start getting nerve pains in my feet when my weight spikes. I hurt when I get over 220. It’s all so defeating because, unlike people with good mental health and genetics, I am fighting an uphill battle.

And the other day I heard a fit and shorter person at the gym say, “She’s tall, but you can tell she weighs a lot. I’d be rail thin if I was that height.” I usually try not to care what people think about me, but that made me so mad because I doubt she’s ever had to fight with what I fight with. It isn’t about how I look. I actually think I’m pretty damn gorgeous. But is it right to shame someone who is at the gym for her mental and physical health? No, it sucks. That person is fighting a battle you can’t understand. And she often loses it. If you’ve never had the obsession to eat two bags of Oreos and still crave more, than you don’t know what I’m going through.

I’m not doing this to win a beauty contest. I have a husband who loves me and kids to think about. I’m fighting my genetics and my mental health, and I’m doing what I’m doing to stay a little more sane, to fight off depression and rage, to keep my weight from going out of control, yet again. To stave off diabetes. And I’m trying to make it work along with working a job as a college instructor part-time, being a full-time mother and writing two books a year. That’s a lot of shit. And it makes me so angry that people are callous, that people fat shame and call names like we’re in middle school, that women say mean things about other women to make themselves feel more worthy. It makes me sad, but not for me as much as for the chubby and fat girls who don’t have the confidence I do to keep going. I understand why people give up. I really do. I feel like giving up all the time.

I ate too much pizza today after a “starvation” spout. I feel sick now. And so I’m writing to keep myself in check. It was a mistake to overeat. It made me feel worse mentally and physically. But I can do better tonight and tomorrow and I can keep trying to be a healthy version of me. And I’m not doing it to be skinny or for the validation of shallow people. I’m doing it for me and my little family. If I keep reminding myself that my life is at stake, keep looking at my children fighting the same battle, I’ll keep trying to do better everyday.

For all of you going through the same fight, I hope you get some peace, I hope you manage to be healthy and happy and this is all. The above poem is a featured poem on Brazen Bitch about what it is to be a female in our world. I think this battle has a lot to do with that, as well.

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H. M. Jones is the author of Monochrome, which delves mental illness, motherhood and depression into a fantastical setting. She has also authored several short stories and is included in a handful of poetry books. Check out what she’s up to at http://www.hmjones.net.

She is currently working on the prequel to Monochrome so that her fans will get to read another book with their book boyfriend Ishmael.