Mental Health Monday, Delayed

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First, a note about Press Freedom Day, which is today. Election Connection – Press Freedom Day will appear tomorrow. Mental Health Monday seemed to be more essential to post this morning.

Mental Health Awareness Month began on Sunday, a day that for most of us gives us some breathing room from the rest of the week. I am aware, however, of the many people who don’t get Sunday off and work in jobs that are so haphazard that they need second supplemental jobs and barely have time off from work. It’s important to recognize them and acknowledge and assist their mental health struggles.

I had intended to write something for publication yesterday, but after the shocking news of the Supreme Court leaked document, an Alito written draft overturning Roe v. Wade, I couldn’t sit down and write about mental health solutions when my mental health was on the verge of cracking.

All over my social media, I’ve seen women angry, upset, frightened. I won’t be getting pregnant again, and I feel the same way. I described it on Facebook as FURIOUS. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe the feelings and these feelings have been growing exponentially since November 8, 2016. It may sound melodramatic to say but that was a day of mourning in our house. We walked around with shadows across our faces, our eyes unfocused, muddling through the subsequent days; going through the motions. It felt very familiar, much like we acted during 9/11. We had also been mourning the sudden death of my mother in law, so that may have played a role in how deep our depression went.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade is a several faceted quandary. As I saw described on Twitter, the Republicans are the dog who caught the car. Now what will they run on? They’ve won the one thing they claimed they wanted. For Democrats, will this be demoralizing or will this energize us? Will we continue to be held hostage by apathy and the Manchin/Sinema power plays and/or the Collins/Murkowski concern Olympics complete with pearl-clutching and ‘oh mys’ with or without fainting spells?

And I know that some of you are wondering what this has to do with mental health?

A lot, in fact.

For women, this is a dark day. Some remember the days of back alley abortions. Are we merely chattel in a man’s world? Don’t we have the ability, the intelligence, the know-how to be able to know the best for our own bodies and mental health? The men passing the laws (and voting to overturn our constitutional rights) don’t even understand the biology of when a fetus is viable, when it is a new life, what a heart that holds a heartbeat is, or the difference between ectopic pregnancies, viable pregnancies, and high/low risk pregnancies.

They trust us to raise these children born, often alone and with no resources, but somehow we can’t be trusted to decide that the pregnancy should go forward as if our bodies are merely incubators.

No one suggests sterilizing men, who can create fetuses several by the day where as a woman can only bring one pregnancy to term a year.

I think we should have a general woman’s strike where all women stay home, and women who work at home or are homemakers or stay-at-home moms take the day off. Show the men that without women, things stop. I’d hazard to guess that everything stops.

Where does mental health fit in?

First, take care of yourself. If social media is too much with too many angry, dystopian posts, get off for a bit. Hours, or even days. You don’t have to be a part of that circus while it’s so raw for you.

Second, be aware of the amount of posting and news that will revolve around abortions, reproductive rights, the undermining of women’s rights and equality. Give yourself a trigger warning before you engage with social media and even some family members and friends.

Third, give yourself time to mourn. Spend quiet time. Have a cup of tea, knowing that the cup of tea will not cure this crisis, but it will give you some time to sit, relax, reflect, and simply do nothing for a little while.

Fourth, when you’re ready, plan how to combat this assault on our persons. We are the ones with heartbeats, and they will listen to us. We will make them listen.

Fifth, as part of doing something productive: if you have the money, some good places to donate are:

Admit It: This Country is Anti-Women

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Overturning Roe v Wade isn’t pro-life; it’s anti-women.

In addition to being an issue of the 14th Amendment, it is also a First Amendment issue as it violates religious freedom and unconstitutionally imposes what amounts to a “state sanctioned religion” on the rest of us. It violates the establishment clause and it attempts to control women’s choices and their economic independence as well as their basic human rights.

Election Connection Special Edition:

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The Texas Abortion Ban

The Conservative Justices’ Reasoning in the Texas Abortion Case is Legal Mansplaining

This brilliant piece by Slate writer, Dahlia Lithwick is a must read by everyone who calls themselves pro-choice and those who don’t. The idea that the people crying ‘our body, our choice’ over masks are the same ones brutally stomping on the bodies of pregnant people. Stomping is not an exaggeration.

This law is unconstitutional, but somewhat more importantly it is unconscionable. We should be protecting women, transmen, and CHILDREN who find themselves pregnant and unready, for whatever reason, and not forcing them to give birth.

We must remember these draconian laws and constant attempts at controlling our reproduction and our bodies at every election moving forward. GET OUT THE VOTE. Each and every election.

Read the entire article, but this quote from Lithwick really brought it home for me.

The inevitable answer is chilling: This isn’t about guns or speech or money or war. It’s about women, their lives and their bodies and their autonomy. That’s what allows you to do shoddy work, with careless disregard, because who’s going to stop you? You only do the thing in the dead of night, without care or effort, because you believe women are so used to being gaslit that you expect them to just tolerate it. You only do the thing in the dead of night without care or effort because you genuinely believe that they’re only women, and they deserve what they get.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

On Demand, Without Apology

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I listened to an amazing podcast last week from the women of Hysteria, who drop a pod every week with their perspectives on what’s going on in the news and the world. They are part of the Crooked Media family. I know, I post so much of Crooked Media’s media that I seem to be a stan, and to be honest, I am. I listen to most of their stuff, don’t agree with absolutely everything, but I always learn something.

This episode of Hysteria was called Abortion On Demand, No Apologies, and it is where I got the title for this post from. Erin Ryan and Alyssa Mastromanoco begun wuth a conversion about last week’s news and outrage and then Erin is joined by Grace Parra, Megan Gailey, and Dana Schwartz who all share very personal, and very poignant stories of their experiences with abortion and reproductive health. It is something that affects all of us every day. It’s very emotional for the podcasters as well as for me the listener. I was transported alongside them and I was touched deeply by their words.

I’m pro-choice, but that is all I will offer by way of my own opinions. The women of Hysteria really lay their experiences on the line. I’ll leave it to them to share their stories. 

One thing that was said however that I do want to share, and it stems from the Me, too movement, Times Up, Male politicians who know nothing of women’s bodies regulating them and passing laws that are not only Draconian, but also physically impossible to enforce (reimplanting an ectopic pregnancy in the uterus is one example). Whenever a man, and it is almost always a man, decides that an embryo is more valueable than a real live women, women all across this country need to rise up, protest, and in doing so are forced into a retraumatization of their original hell, whether that is rape, incest, abortion, or any other trauma faced. They are expected to bare their souls, and then they are often ridiculed and the men are often astounded that what happened to them is real, and they are sorry, but not sorry enough to let women control their own bodies.

I really don’t know which is worse – the original trauma or the reliving each and every time a politician decides that women need their help in making medical decisions. They relive the trauma, and there is no apology for them in their living nightmare.

Please hear these women.

On Demand, Without Apology Link to Podcast, originally airing May 23, 2019..

We Bend; We Do Not Break

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Original Artwork. Inspired by Captain America in Avengers: End Game (in his last big fight scene) and the brave protesters in AL, GA, MO, UT, and all around the country who are fighting for our reproductive rights and our freedom of choice of what to do with our own bodies. I had wanted to write an opinion piece about that subject, and I couldn’t find the words, but this little shield came to me. I wanted to share it today, the 100th anniversary of the House’s passage of the 19th Amendment! (c)2019

Domestic Violence Should Not Be Politics as Usual

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​Sunday will be the sixth anniversary of my friend’s death. She was murdered by her ex while simply living her own life, washing a tea kettle out when he came up behind her and ended her life. For all of us who are touched by domestic violence and abuse, we ask if there was something we could have done, something we should have been aware of. I participated in my own share of victim blaming until I saw the larger picture of having your finances and only home tied up with someone who is threatening. 

I think we all like to believe the best of people, and if we’re wrong, we just pick up and walk away. Everyone has friends they can rely on, but how true is that really? Can a mom, the mom who seems to have all the problems, is never on time, offering flimsy excuses with the two kids, both in diapers – can she crash on your sofa or spare room indefinitely? Are you friends with her domestic partner? Who will you believe?

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, and it takes on a variety of forms. Some, though not many, don’t realize they’re abusive; it’s the way they were raised, and they think it’s “normal” to slap your wife and kids or grab her or slam doors and drink a little too much. Others seem like the perfect couple, family, etc, and no one knows what’s going on inside someone else’s home?

For B, my friend, when she had nowhere to live, she arranged to live in her house. Her house, that she paid for, contributed to the down payment of, was responsible on the deed for, but also on the property where her ex lived. I thought that was crazy. However, what else could she do?

He threatened her, but people say things they don’t mean all the time.

Why didn’t she call the police? Well, she did, several times. In fact, the police paid a visit to their house the night before she was murdered. They didn’t believe there was a problem; not a real one. Don’t set him off, though.

I didn’t understand.

Now, in Congress, in the House of Representatives yesterday, a bill was passed that will now go on to the Senate to be voted on. If it passes the Senate, I have no doubt that President Trump will sign it. He signs whatever he’s told to.

This new bill, that might become a law, which by the way also exempts members of Congress from its new rules and changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as affecting private insurance and employer insurance along with Medicaid and Medicare, defines pre-existing conditions in horrific ways and will affect someone you know.

They say that pre-exisiting conditions will be covered, but that depends on the state you’re in, and legal access to health care doesn’t mean that everyone will have it or be able to afford it.

For example, four of the pre-existing conditions mentioned specifically are: domestic violence, sexual assault, c-section, and post-partum depression. What do these four things have in common? In addition to being completely and arbitrarily unpredictable and randomly occuring, they also only happen to women. The first two – domestic violence and sexual assault – are perpetuated by men onto women, but as is the case in many instances, women pay the brunt of the violence against them.

This is one of the most blatant and disgusting and obvious moments of victim-blaming.

They’re looking at getting rid of well visits and preventative care, maternity leave, and pre-natal care as well.

I’m appalled.

In today’s Congress, had my friend survived her gunshot to the head she would be blamed for it as a victim of domestic violence. It would be considered a pre-existing condition and not covered under the Republican’s repeal and regress health care plan.

They’ve had eight years to come up with something, and they’ve failed. However, they continue to punish women for their failure.

Do not let this Republican controlled Congress and White House continue to abuse women and their families.

If you or someone you know are in danger or in a domestic abuse relationship or situation, contact the The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. They can help you and find resources for you wherever you are.

If you or someone you know are an LGBT+ youth and in an abusive situation, contact The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. They can put you in touch with someone who can help you.

You are not alone.

A Surprise from the Pulpit

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I wrote this soon after the mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, and shared it on my Facebook page. I wanted to also share it here.

Whenever the topic of abortion comes up in a church setting or with church people, I tend to hold my breath. I don’t know how many people are aware of my pro-choice stance. If asked, I try to be clear that I am for women’s reproductive rights in all the forms that women choose to use them. My most vocal place is probably on my Facebook and Tumblr, and no one from church, save one, is on Facebook or knows about Tumblr at the moment. That’s not to say I’m hiding my beliefs, I don”t think I do, but that’s how it’s been.

I had been looking forward to our Bishop as presider of the Divine Mercy Mass a few weekends ago. When I entered, I was handed a song-sheet and offered a relic to venerate, which I did.

I was early so that I could participate in the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, before the start of Mass. I find those group chaplet recitations and rosary prayers very moving.

The Mass went as it usually does except that it was the Bishop and there were four other priests in attendance plus the deacon. It gives the feeling of something special; not that each liturgy isn’t special in its own way, but the larger group of religious gives it a certain presentation. We have a really good music ministry and they are always outstanding and were on this day as well.

When the Bishop began his Homily with a reference to an unnamed political candidate who proposes punishing women for abortions, I cringed. I could feel my body tense up. I didn’t expect him to endorse this candidate. It also wasn’t because I expect my clergy to come out and talk about pro-choice or reproduction in any way that is not Catholic doctrine. This is something I accept within the church. In the particular case of my priest, he’s never brought abortion up in a political way; only as part of the prayer of the faithful for life, from conception until natural death, etc. with the exception of promoting 40 Days for Life. I usually add my own two cents of prayer silently to include all those who I feel should be included, and who are most often excluded – the women in their most difficult moments.

So when the Bishop brought up Donald Trump, not by name of course, I held my breath.

He talked about how that isn’t the way we should be thinking about the women who have abortions. He never once mentioned preventing abortions, banning abortions, birth control, adoption, none of it.

What he talked about was how we focus on the baby and we should be focusing on the women. He also used the word women, not mother. He talked about how women have their reasons for abortions and when they have them, we need to support them. Whether it’s their choice or their only choice, we need to show them this compassion we talk about. Real pro-life people don’t tell these women that they’re going to hell or that they’ll be punished. Real pro-life people are there for the women after their abortions and without judgment.

I’ve never heard such a pro-choice sentiment from a clergy person let alone a Bishop.

Of course, I know he’s not pro-choice, but this is the first time I’ve heard someone of his stature talk about women using another choice other than carrying the fetus to full term and having the baby.

I was pleasantly surprised on his focus towards the women.

Compassion and mercy are not talking points from Pope Francis; they are a way of living and I for one am happy to see it outside of the media and inside my own parish and diocese.

Roe v. Wade (1973)

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Today is the 43rd anniversary  of the Roe v. Wade decision. That’s the decision that maintains a woman’s right to choose; to do with her body as she feels; It gives her privacy. It gives her autonomy. Many people herald it as a pro-abortion decision, but any of us who have contemplated abortion know that it is not. We know that no one, NO ONE, is pro-abortion.

Read about abortions before this landmark decision for some perspective.

As a country, we’re okay with the death penalty, even in cases where the convicted party is mentally disturbed – not the Charles Manson crazy, but developmental disabilities like Down’s Syndrome and mental ages that are well below their chronological age.

As a country, we’re okay with war; perpetual war since 2011.

As a country, we’re okay with torture.

We’re okay with domestic violence and victim-blaming where women are involved. Where men are involved, we reduce them to women.

We can’t even pass a VAWA that includes ALL women.

What is going on here?

I read something recently from someone who I respect, who is pro-life, who is a good-hearted, loving, peaceful person describing abortion (in some instances) as a convenience. Women don’t want to be inconvenienced. I strongly take issue with that way of thinking; that stereotype. Women who have abortions because of economic reasons are not doing it as a convenience. These women, for the most part are living in poverty. They have children and are often single parents. There is no universal child care option for them to get steady work or they work several jobs for part time hours. They are living in abusive situations that they can’t escape because they have no control over their own money and/or bodies.

Women would choose to avoid pregnancy rather than terminate it, but increasingly this option (birth control) is being taken away because corporations are people, too, my friend. The owner of Hobby Lobby is against contraception for religious reasons and chooses to force his employees to follow his religious beliefs instead of allowing them the freedom to follow their own religion.

The sooner the people in this country realize and accept that this country was founded on the principle of not only freedom of religion, the freedom to practice individual religions by individual people as well as, and in addition to the freedom to be free of religion entirely, the sooner these arguments will be null and void. We need to stop inflicting our beliefs on others. This country was founded on our differences; we should embrace them.

When my church does their prayer of the faithful, they almost always include a prayer for life, from conception to natural death. Very rarely, but sometimes, they reference abortion directly, and my mind invariably wanders and prays for the women; that they continue to have the freedom of choice; that they have the support, the autonomy, the health care and the reproductive rights that they should have in a free society.

We should be supporting women who choose abortions instead of terrorizing them.

The most recent act of terrorism in Colorado Springs that targeted the Planned Parenthood there killed a woman, not having an abortion, but supporting her friend, a man on his cell phone on the street, and a policeman/security personnel. This is horrible, and the fact that many of us hand-wave it away as collateral damage is more than a little disturbing.

The sooner we get back to our basics of bodily autonomy and religious freedom, the sooner we can move on as a country to more important things – stopping our military involvement, the quagmire, eliminating the gender gap in pay and rights, giving Americans the right to have access to health care that is actually healthy and affordable.

Women, when left to their own devices will make the right choices and the right choice is whatever they feel is right for them, not what you feel is right for them.

In all matters.

A Note About Comments

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Yesterday I wrote about abortion. I’m sure that I will be doing that again. I write about many controversial issues and I’m not naive enough to think that my opinion is the only opinion. I don’t mind discussing facts and I have enough of an open mind that I listen to other viewpoints even if I continue to disagree with them.

I like comments. I like feedback. I don’t mind dissension. I will approve comments if they disagree, but where I do mind and won’t approve is if I’m talking about abortion and/or reproductive rights, you shouldn’t be commenting on illegal immigration and Obama’s policies on such. If you’re going to state “facts”, make them facts. Tell me where your information came from.

How many kids are in foster care?

How many kids are abused?

How many kids are murdered? In my area we’ve had two in the last three months.

The thing I will answer from this unapproved comment is two-fold:

1. It’s subjective to say that I sound superior but I’d agree. I am superior to a fetus that can’t live outside its mother. I’m alive, breathing on my own and capable of higher reasoning and cognitive thought.

2. It’s true that I’m here because my mother did not have an abortion. She, however did not have any choices in 1966. I don’t know what her options would have been if abortions had been legally available. I know that I and my siblings were clearly wanted and cared for and loved. I also know that if I wasn’t here to talk about a woman’s right to do with her body what she deems, someone else would be speaking out in my place and for that I’d be grateful.

Life and Living

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(It says: “Until life within the womb of a mother is safe, life outside the womb will never be safe.”)

(*Note: I saw this earlier today and I had an opinion on it to share. Not all of my reflections this Lent will be on my positive journeying through the forty days. I have many things that cross my mind in a day, and this was today’s.
Trigger warnings for abortion and choice.*)

I could not disagree with this more. In fact, I find it offensive that this is part of a so-called pro-life campaign.

In fact, I think the opposite is true: it is our obligation to care for those already born and through education and appropriate birth control, abortions will, and have been going steadier, lower.

The false equivalency of a fetus and a grown person having the same safety concerns tells me that the person who wrote this sign doesn’t understand the real issues that women in this country, pregnant or not, face on a daily basis.

Is abortion really less safe than being born without a spinal cord or a brain stem?

Is abortion really less safe than starving and dying in poverty?

Is abortion really less safe than living in a chronically abusive household?

Do we really care more for our unborn than our already born? Our persons of color? Our single parents? Our foster kids? Our child victims of rape who are forced to carry babies to term when their emotional states and their physical bodies are not ready for it?

Shouldn’t we begin with taking care of those outside the womb first? If we can’t get that right, how can we presume to know what’s the best options for inside someone else’s body?

We also know that a fetus could not survive on its own without its physical attachment to the mother, the host, unlike people who are already living, breathing, thinking human beings. It is not a symbiotic relationship; it is strictly one-sided. If you remove the baby from the situation, the mother will still be alive. The opposite is not true.

I would prefer less bumper sticker sanctimony and more real world options without the attack on pregnant women at every turn.