Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Letter writing

I'm sharing the wording from my recent letter-writing efforts to my state and national representatives for those who want ideas on where to begin. Do feel free to borrow my ideas and wording and get shit done.

1-27-17 letter to US reps:

I’m writing today about health insurance in Texas and the U.S.

In 2001 my mom suffered a traumatic brain injury when was hit by a teenage driver and thrown from her motorcycle one night on her way home to her 6 children, ages 3 to 19. She spent three days in a coma and even her surgeons didn’t know whether she would survive.

She did, and after months in rehab, she finally came home with a shattered wrist and leg that would leave her physically disabled for the rest of her life, and permanent brain damage that prevented her from working full time and made it difficult to hold down a job at all.

An irresponsible driver ended the life that she had known.

She lived without health insurance for nearly a decade before the ACA eliminated pre-existing conditions as a barrier to coverage and finally gave her the medication she needed for the chronic pain and depression the accident gave her.

Please protect the Texas families who need health insurance and who face impossible odds with exclusions due to pre-existing conditions.

It is your job to represent us and our families. It is your job to protect us. I hope you do.

1-27-17 postcard to Texas state reps:

Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States. More than 4.3 million Texans—including 623,000 children—lack health insurance. Texas’ un-insurance rates are 1.75 times the national average. Without an alternative health care plan in place, it is no hyperbole to say that millions of Americans will die when the ACA is repealed.

1-30-17 postcard to state senator:

Don’t mess with Texas women.

Sexual violations are already illegal. Sexual predators are already prohibited from preying on women. We’ve already seen what damage that bathroom bills like SB 6 do to local businesses as in the massive boycotts in North Carolina.

Trans women ARE WOMEN, and the people just want to pee.

This Texas woman, and every Texas woman she knows, is against SB 6 and any bathroom bills like it.

1-30-17 e-mail to Texas’s US reps

I urge you to oppose Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, whose confirmation hearing proved that she lacks both the experience and qualifications to lead the Department of Education. 

I’m a local reading tutor as well as a content and copy editor for Dallas-based Istation, an education technology company producing programs that help struggling young readers. What these kids and these communities need is change from within and help from people who are familiar with the public education system and its opportunities for positive change. DeVos does not fit the bill.

Our young learners deserve a Secretary of Education who has experience with public education and who wants to see schools succeed.

Thank you for using your voice to represent Texas students and the educators and community members who work to enrich their education experiences.

1-31-17 letters to US reps:

Abortion is health care.

And it has enabled millions of women to not only start families when they are physically, financially, and emotionally able to but also allows millions of women to continue caring for the children they have. The Guttmacher Institute found that 61 percent of women who terminate a pregnancy already have at least one child. They already know whether they can care for a baby.

Medical decisions are for patients and their doctors, not politicians.

No matter your personal feelings about abortion, women and children—teenagers and girls even younger— deserve access to medically sound information and safe procedures. The World Health Organization found that banning abortion does not decrease the numbers of abortion; it increases unsafe abortions and kills women.

Abortion is health care. Abortion saves lives. And it allows women to raise safer, healthier, happier families.

Banning abortion kills women and children.

The majority of voters are pro-choice. And it is your job to represent them. It is your job to protect us.

I hope you do.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Talking about Anxiety

Inspired by a friend's Facebook status, this is a bit more stream-of-consciousness musing than narrative or informative.

"Religion was a wonderfully effective cloaking mechanism for the obsessive, racing thoughts," my friend wrote. "Oh, good god," I thought. I was raised Catholic, and I'll never know how being indoctrinated with incessant guilt precisely influenced my growing up with constant anxiety, but I'm still mad as hell.

Getting treated for depression (wellbutrin now) and self-diagnosing adult ADD (both within the last 3 years) has helped me A LOT in managing my anxiety. Learning about executive dysfunction and that I'm not just a fuckup has been key. When I feel on the verge of a meltdown, I can now recognize it for what it is, treat myself with compassion, and work through it, and often avoid it.

Regular mindfulness meditation sometimes helps me, yoga definitely helps, developing specific habits as a reaction to ADD has helped: training myself to put my keys, glasses, phone always in one of two places they belong; training a habit of making a mental note of the location of my car in relation to the building I'm entering EVERY SINGLE TIME; and perhaps others I don't even consciously recognize.

Learning to treat and act upon "maybe" feelings as if they are a "No" in physical/romantical situations has been HUGE.

I feel like Orlando broke me, and I had to pull WAY back from SJ/political posting and engagement on FB. My mood/anxiety have been a lot better because of that choice, but there's still that old guilt.

Completely quitting web dating for 8 months at a time was AWESOME for my anxiety and stress levels.

I'm slowly learning to recognize earlier when I'm becoming overwhelmed in a place or situation and giving myself permission to turn down invitations, cancel plans, and leave abruptly (as needed), trusting that good friends will understand and not take it personally.

I worry I'm framing this all as happy successes, but the truth is that it's taken a lot of damn work to get here, and I still go through cycles of needing to see a therapist regularly and not infrequently taking mental health days from work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Learning about refugees

Last night I attended a panel presentation on refugee camps around the world. I learned some interesting things that everybody ought to learn as well.

There are 65 million displaced people in the world and 23.1 million refugees. For reference, the population of Texas is just under 27 million. In order to attain (obtain?) "refugee" status, it must be ruled that a person, for their own safety, CANNOT return to their country. Period.

And there are countless stories of people denied refuge who obviously need/deserve it, so that 23M number is egregiously small.

On misconceptions: Refugees aren't illegal immigrants pouring across borders. They go through months and years of paperwork, vetting, and red tape to be "refugees." Sometimes the UN grants the status and/or it goes through the State Department of the US. It isn't easy to prove one's identity (when one has, for example, escaped in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs) or provide any proof that they would be harmed or killed if they returned home.

The refugee camps that the speakers described were pretty horrific. Some of them went from living in modest houses in areas just like our towns to immediately living in dirt-coated camps without electricity, running water or even clean water, or any kind of safety or security. Many people in the camps suffer and die from diarrhea and dehydration on a regular basis.

Violent combat continues just adjacent to camps and spills over into them as well. Some of the speakers' most vivid memories are of seeing bullets and bombs light up the night sky just above their heads when they were children.

They come to America to save their families, to start a new life, and to escape the violence—not to perpetuate it. They are VERY THOROUGHLY vetted before being settled here.

Maybe you can share some of this when family members speak disparagingly of refugees as vermin rather than human beings who are suffering and afraid for their lives.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Losing My Balance

I have run three times in the month that’s passed since finishing my December 10 marathon. I’ve done a bit of yoga and parkour as well and more walking than usual, but it’s still a marked difference from my previous activity level.

I believe strongly in choosing enjoyable movement to benefit your mind and body, not as punishment or a chore.

Yet I’ve been struggling not to struggle with anxiety regarding the change as it relates to generally recommended amounts of exercise, the amounts I’ve relied upon to manage my stress and mental health, and the amount of weight-bearing exercise I need to specifically counteract the detrimental effects my birth control has on my bones.

Race training was difficult and riddled with aches and pains, minor injuries, and illness. The race itself was pretty awful. I knew I would need a break from running for my emotional and mental health, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fill that hole to maintain my physical and mental health, or if I even wanted to fill it. I’d missed spending hours sitting and making arts and crafts, and I was so SO tired for so long.

I met my goal of finishing my first marathon, but the process of getting there wrecked the balance of exercise in my life.

I no longer want to train or race. I don’t want to keep hurting from the sheer volume of pounding the pavement. And I don’t know how to find joy in running again.

I’m letting my pool membership lapse because I hate having to drive to another city to swim laps at 5 AM in order to get a lane and get back before morning rush hour. I really want a membership for the rec center across the street from my house, but I cannot stand the idea of tolerating January-resolution crowds. I can and do use the fitness center at my office, but it has limited hours and I have to split the work day to get equipment and space to myself.

I enjoy yoga and weightlifting and walking and hiking, but will these be enough for my bones and my brain?

I have a strong interest in parkour and hip-hop dance classes, but the evening schedules are hard for me to attend, and I had to cancel last night's parkour lesson because of a migraine (which is likely to happen again).

I hadn't run in two weeks but woke today to a glorious 60-degree morning and laced up my sneakers to go hatch some Pok√©mon. I ran more today than I had the last two times I tried (both were shockingly challenging and painful and quickly turned into very long walks), and it felt really good. I don't think it necessarily marks a significant transition, but it is one good run, one good day. And that ain't nothin'.

I'm working hard to trust my brain and my body to do what they need to do for now.

And I'm meeting each day one at a time, adopting a bellydance teacher-friend's classroom rules as a personal mantra:

This body. This day.

A photo posted by Moniqa Aylin (@fierymon) on