Personal Experience

Every Woman In America Has PTSD Right Now

Morgan Walbridge

On Friday, I almost got into a car accident when a woman turned left in front of me without even looking. I momentarily glimpsed her face and it was completely blank. I thought about honking my horn and yelling, but the absence of emotion or recognition in her expression gave me pause. I’d been reminding myself to stay in the moment and in my body all day Thursday as I listened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recount her sexual assault in front of the entire country. As a stay-at-home mom, I can do okay on autopilot for awhile: make breakfast, pack lunches, take the big kids to school, walk the dog, serve lunch to the toddlers, throw in a load of laundry, pick up the kids, walk the dog again, make dinner, bedtime routines. By Friday morning I knew I had washed and dried the remote to the living room television, indicating a glitch in my usual programming. And by the time I was shuttling my children home that afternoon, having my near miss collision, I’d decided that every woman in America was suffering a bout of PTSD and needed to be cut a break.

Every woman I know has been the victim of sexual misconduct or violence of some kind, ranging from verbal harassment to rape to domestic abuse. This is the crux of the #MeToo movement and the reason women aren’t okay right now.

See, Brett Kavanaugh isn’t just Brett Kavanaugh at this point. He’s your violent ex-boyfriend who left fingerprint bruises on your wrist. He’s that man that once followed you for three blocks and you were sure it was murder. He’s your alcoholic dad with the rage in his eyes and beer on his breath. He’s the teenage boy whose hands you kept pushing away from the zipper on your jeans. He’s a man many of us still live with or around. And Dr. Ford? She’s me. She’s you. She’s your sister, mother, daughter, neighbor. When her voice trembled as she spoke, women could feel it in our throats. We knew that shaky feeling and we felt it with her all over again. Of all the burdens we bear, women added this Senate Hearing to our mental and emotional plates last week. We were all yelling at Jeff Flake in that elevator. And if you don’t know what it feels like to be simultaneously terrified and unspeakably powerful - a woman- yield the floor to us and take my advice:

Don’t grab us, not even playfully. For the love of god, don’t “Not All Men” us. Don’t ask us what’s wrong or wonder why we forgot something important. Give us space and consideration and help us feel our power. Buy us flowers, a rape whistle, chocolate, pepper spray, takeout, or a solid ash baseball bat. Or all of those things and maybe throw in a new remote.


I Could Never Do What You Do. Your Kids are So Lucky.

by Morgan W.

I am an adoptive parent and all of my children were adopted through foster care.

In 2008, we took the training classes, installed the best car seat in our practical SUV, and waited for someone else’s baby to be taken from them so we could bring it home and, hopefully, adopt him or her. We were young, optimistic, and totally prepared. Love can heal anything, right? Once our baby was home with us, we would just love it so much, anything she or he had been through would be erased. We would be perfect parents.

Today, we have a handful of children. They’re weird and imperfect. They have various delays and disorders. I go to a lot of IEP meetings and specialists. Whenever people find out how we built our family, they say one of two things: “I could never do what you do.” or “Your kids are so lucky.” In the early days, when I had one baby, I would think “anyone could do this! My baby isn’t lucky! I’m lucky to be her mom!” Fast forward nearly a decade and my reaction has evolved. You know what? You probably couldn’t do what I do. Bouncing a drug-addicted and screaming baby all night for weeks could break a person. Being afraid that your child will go back to their biological family because they’re just barely good enough on paper will keep you up all night even if your tremoring, wailing baby settles. I’m strong as hell. And my kids are lucky. They’re lucky because, if they had been reunified, the combination of nature and nurture probably would not have been kind. They’re lucky because I advocate for them. I don’t care who thinks I’m pushy and I’ve always had a serious problem with authority. My kids are lucky because I constantly read and research. I question service providers. I rely on my instincts and my niche knowledge of children with extra needs. I don’t believe in predestination, but I’m good at this.

The part of adoption and foster care that’s the hardest to swallow is the realization that love isn’t enough. There’s a spectrum of brokenness for the children who come into care, and you could end up with a child anywhere on that scale. You could get a well-adjusted baby who grows up relatively typical; a delay here and there. You could get a child with RAD who ends up in residential care because they try to kill a pet or even a family member. Love is a powerful tool, but trauma can last forever, and no one knows how genetics play a role. Not everything is fixable because you hugged your child and wished away the pain. This realization hurts, and it’s a particularly hard fall from the tree of idealism like one I planted in 2008. I can personally verify that you can have two sets of organic unbleached crib sheets and wear your baby daily and your child can still have FAS.

I’m not going to say I wouldn’t trade this life for anything or that my greatest reward is parenting my children. Maybe those things are true, but neither this blog nor foster care can be tied up with a neat, feel-good bow. This life is nothing like what I imagined it would be, but it’s mine, and I’m doing my best.

 

Election Isolation

by Anonymous

I am one of the very few people in my gigantic family that voted for Hillary Clinton. It leaves me feeling very isolated, but also very angry. I live thousands of miles away from almost all of my family and my only contact was through social media and texts and all of that has stopped, thanks to the election of the Hostess Orange Cupcake. I have also unfriended or unfollowed many former friends and family over the election. I understand that I am isolating myself in my little “snowflake” liberal bubble, but I have to. If I don’t, I will spend all of my waking hours fighting online, and I have too much work to do.

I don’t know how to reconcile how angry I am with everyone who voted for Trump, or said that Trump and Hillary were the same, and I am sure that includes many family members. It feels like the world is absolutely crumbling around us and I don’t blame just Donald Trump, I blame them. How could they have been so naive? Were they even naive or did they just not care, or, even worse, were they racist and sexist and I never knew, and they wanted these things to happen? How do you find out? Do you ask your family “so hey, about those Muslim bans, are you cool with them?” How do you even know if people support the things Trump is currently doing when everyone I know who is not actively fighting against Trump has gone completely silent. I see your silence and it scares me.

This election has been very isolating, but it has also been very freeing. It has has given me more courage to say the things I want to say on my own Facebook wall, without the fear of repercussions that previously stopped me from posting political stuff because I know my family and friends just won't say anything about it.

To all my high school friends, living in the same small town, posting about how they don’t care about politics: I see you. I’ll care about politics so that you don’t have to. To all of my female family members and old church friends who say the March wasn’t for them: I see you. I marched because you didn’t know you should. To everyone else who isn’t absolutely terrified of Donald Trump: I see you. I am scared enough for all of us and I will fight because you don't know you should.

I see you.


 

Who Cares About Art When Everything is Terrible?

by Mandy J.

 

“The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.”  

-Toni Cade Bambara

 

When I was standing at the top of a hill on Boston Common, looking down over the throngs gathered peacefully for the Women’s March, my first thought (after wondering, “does this pussy hat make my outrage look big?”) was about art. Everywhere I turned, everyday Americans had poured their rage, fear, sadness - and often, senses of humor - into artful signs, posters, costumes, and even puppets. Often these were made by people who never even considered themselves artists to begin with. It was seriously thrilling.  If you were at the march on Washington or any of the sister marches, you know what I mean, but if not (or just for fun), check out this small selection of the creative stuff marchers posted on social media.

The organizers of the Women’s March knew about this intersection of activism and art, and in the lead-up to the march itself they, in collaboration with the Amplifier Foundation, invited artists to submit poster designs. The results are poignant, defiant, thought-provoking, and gorgeous.

Art inspired by, and in service of, the resistance has come from all over. From those protesters who wouldn’t even call themselves artists, from creatives whose art has long been deeply political (see political cartoonists), and from artists who used to keep their politics out of their studio, but felt they could no longer do so. KQED Arts’ series “First 100 Days: Art in the Age of Trump” is a terrific cross-section of the range of art being made in response to the new, orange-hued world order.

As for me, at the time that Donald Trump was elected to the most powerful seat in the world, I was knee-deep in classes for painting and illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design (Continuing Ed). My media of choice were charcoal, graphite, watercolor, and oils. That all changed, nearly on a dime, on November 18th, 2016, when my close group of friends conceived of Daily Grab Back. I’m still in school, but now I illustrate the revolution, one bite-sized piece of activism at time, with my nascent graphic design skills. Life is funny that way.

 

 

But who cares, you say?  I mean… REALLY? Our environment trembles on the brink of disaster, our public schools are imperiled, our democracy is under attack, hate crime is on the rise, and autocracy occupies the White House… who gives two Sharpies about ART at a time like this? For one thing, art can be a central component of social change. Writing about a similar explosion of art during the Occupy movement, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers wrote, “activist art turns a protest into a spectacle, from a turn-off to a turn-on, from an event ignored to one that is widely reported. The protest itself becomes art.” I definitely see this in our movement. The sea of pink hats on January 21st was the most obvious demonstration of this. Also check out things like the Bowling Green Massacre and “Nevertheless, She Persisted” memes on social media, as well as the logos and other graphics associated with the alt-government Twitter accounts, and even the “missing” stickers placed on milk jugs all over Congressman Paul Cook’s (CA-R) district as a commentary on his availability for a town hall with constituents.

But more than that, a healthy society just needs art - and artists to make it. I don’t want to be a part of a culture that doesn’t nurture creativity in all its forms, political or otherwise. It’s no coincidence that the current administration wants to completely do away with the National Endowment for the Arts AND the National Endowment for the Humanities, making it that much harder for the arts to flourish in the US. 

If you make art, keep making it. If you love art, keep loving it. If you are in a position to support the arts, please do. Those Sharpies? They’re not as cheap as you think and we’re gonna need a lot of ‘em.

 

A Woman Scorned

by Morgan W.

Being cheated on was the best thing that ever happened to me. After seven years of marriage and two kids, my relationship was struck by the breathtakingly violent force of infidelity. The affair had been going on for more than a year. I had a four year old and a one year old at home. I cried and vomited. I laid on the floor and I wanted to die. I hated myself and my spouse. Weeks later, when I surfaced for air, I looked at our lives and I decided to stay.

I took stock of the aftermath. There were huge piles of anger and the trust was shattered to pieces. Everything we had built together lay demolished at my feet. I don’t know why I didn’t give up. It would have been easier, certainly, but I found someone inside myself who was more willful and fierce than I could have imagined. A woman I hadn't met until then. So, fragment by fragment, I rebuilt. It was much more difficult than building the relationship the first time, but I was determined. I had been tested and I wasn’t about to fail. Almost everyone in my life told me to leave, save for a few women who had, themselves, stayed. So, although I sat in the courthouse parking lot more than a few times, I never did file for divorce, and the continued success of my marriage is one of my greatest accomplishments to date. We went on to have another baby and I became a serious distance runner. In the years after the affair, I discovered I could do absolutely anything.

Every day post-election pretty much feels like the weeks following my discovery of the affair. The blanket of depression is occasionally thrown aside by a surge of rage-empowerment and I finally get off the couch. Then I read about another Cabinet appointment or something Kellyanne Conway said and I slink back into the familiar covering. Which feeling will win out? Depends on my frame of mind when you ask, I guess. I’m committed to my marriage and I'm in it for life. I like to think of my country the same way. What it’s done to my family hurts like hell, though.

It’s estimated that up to 60 percent of marriages will be affected by infidelity. It can happen to anyone. It can happen if you are attractive, successful, a perfect Pinterest mother who does whatever it is that you’re supposed to do with shaving cream this week. It can happen if your husband is the president of the United States. As much as I tried to insulate myself from it during the campaign, I saw the memes and heard the derogatory attacks based on Bill’s philandering. If Hillary couldn't keep her husband satisfied, she couldn't handle America. Monica got the job done when Hillary couldn't. Bill chose other women over Hillary and the country should too. More puns on the word "blow" than I care to recount.

Aside from the misogyny and tastelessness of these attacks, I believe the opposite is true. Marital strife has only strengthened Hillary and made the Clinton marriage a force to be reckoned with. Every couple should feel they can take on the world together, but few literally do. People spend a lot of time speculating on why she stayed. It doesn't really matter to me if she loves him or if she's holding him hostage for the rest of his life, Gone Girl-style, or a bit of both. I would guess that everything that has happened in their marriage, has, like all successful marriages, made both of them better and stronger. I like to imagine that he has paid a personal price for his mistakes higher than impeachment or even being the subject of a Beyoncé album, but that’s my own revenge fantasy. Ultimately, we know very little about Hillary’s marriage, or any marriage besides one we’ve actually been in. What we do know for certain is that Hillary is strong as hell, which we see in her post-affair evolution. She rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a fire, witnessed by basically the whole world with access to television, many of whom were merrily roasting marshmallows around it. She thrust herself into the public eye again and again, doggedly pursuing her political career. The story of Hillary as a wife and as a person isn’t about being a victim or an “enabler,” which is also a popular way to deride her for staying. It’s about the might of commitment, perseverance, and unwavering ambition. It’s about turning powerlessness into dominating inner strength. Sure, maybe she already knew she could shatter every glass ceiling she came up against. Maybe she never once doubted she could take on the world. Or maybe, like me and so many other dedicated women I know, she's driven to accomplish the things she has in part because he cheated, and she stayed.

Around 62 million people voted for Donald Trump in last year’s election, stunning so many of us. I often ask myself how Hillary soldiers on, especially now. Somehow she won the votes and still lost, but doesn't seem to have wavered. Does she ever cry like I do or has she figured out a way to harness the power of political victimization the same way she channeled her personal hurt? More importantly, do I have that woman inside me still? I desperately want to take for myself just a tiny piece of her badassery for this resistance. As DGB staff, I try to do all the good I can every day. Like so many other women right now, I want this to be when I rise up and fight like never before. As the saying goes: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But what about a woman scorned by her country? How much fury and strength will she find inside herself then? And I'm not talking about Hillary. I'm talking about me.