A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

For whatever reason, the Universe has seen fit to make me a magnet for for the highly traumatized and downtrodden. Astrology tells me it’s my 29th degree moon in Cancer. Other intuitives tell me it’s because I’m a healer. Broken people are attracted to my energy like moths to a flame – drug addicts, sex addicts, narcissists, schizophrenics, borderlines, depressives, stage five clingers, and anyone who just needs a fucking hug (and I don’t even like hugs. Don’t touch me unless you’ve known me for at least six months).

While many of these scenarios have played out on multiple occasions, the one that seems to recur most frequently is me having a one-on-one with someone contemplating ending it all. A couple of weekends ago, I once again found myself in the suicide boat, attempting to convince an acquaintance from college not to jump overboard. By now, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the situation, I think.

I have experienced depression, but not to the depth that those who have considered or attempted suicide have. Being an empath, however, I do understand, with cold clarity, the kind of soul sucking hopelessness that often accompanies it. I understand, from personal experience, how we become trapped in our own thoughts, unable to see the way out. I understand how, in the right moment, when those two elements occur at the same time, taking your own life seems like the best and only solution.

I am and have been deeply connected to people who have and still do battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. Some of them have lost that battle. Some of them have managed to hang on, if even by pure accident. And for the ones who have, I’m glad you’re still here, and I love you. Even if we don’t speak often, or at all anymore, due to circumstances beyond my control.

I did a mental inventory a couple of months ago of all the people in my life over the years who had been clinically depressed and/or suicidal. Thirteen. Four of them were people I was romantically involved with to some degree.

There was Tim, a guy I knew from high school and briefly dated in college. We stayed good friends afterward. He dropped out of school temporarily after being diagnosed with depression.

There was my first love, who would never admit it and I was too young to recognize it, but it was most likely a contributing factor to the train wreck of a four year fucked up off-and-on non-relationship we had, which, coupled with psychological abuse, completely obliterated my self-esteem, led to my first depressive episode and brought me to the edge of an eating disorder, but those are much longer stories for another day.

There was Sean, who I also dated briefly in college and through a bizarre twist of fate, ended up being roommates with my first boyfriend from high school. He killed himself a couple of years later. I went to his funeral. It was hard, not just because of him, but because of all of the different friends we had in common. Collective grieving is an interesting experience. (Funny side story- I actually met a girl after I moved here that knew him. All these years later and he still mysteriously somehow knows everyone I know, even halfway across the country.)

One of my close friends from back in St. Louis tried to kill herself five times. I practically had to kick down her front door to get her to engage with human contact again after the last one.

There was a kid from back home about seven years younger than me. He tried to overdose on prescription pills when he was in high school. We talked about it after the fact.

There was a guy I knew from a Facebook group I used to manage, who I was texting during his first two attempts.

This isn’t all of them, but you get the picture. The list is long. Too long.

When Sean died, I saw how devastated his family was at his funeral. That angered me. At the time, I thought it was a selfish act. Years have gone by and I’ve been more thoroughly exposed to the internal struggles of people close to me who suffer from depression, and I now have a better perspective. I don’t begrudge anyone for feeling so much pain that they simply want relief from it. It’s not my place to judge you. Your choices are your own. You have sovereignty over your own body, your own life, and I can understand how ending your life may feel like the only way you can gain any semblance of control.

For those considering jumping overboard…

I don’t believe that depression and anxiety are something that just happens for no reason, and I also don’t believe that it’s a life sentence. I don’t believe that people have to be medicated for the rest of their days to simply cope with it, and I don’t believe that “it’s just the way it is.”

There’s no shame in how you feel, but there is hope. I believe in hope. I believe that there IS hope. Even when you can’t see it. And it’s my hope that you’ll be able to find it, in your darkest moments and the depths of your suffering. We were not made for that.

It is my hope that when you can’t find hope for yourself, when you can’t see the light, that you’ll reach out to someone who can show it to you. Someone who can lead you out of your darkness. Always remember that it’s temporary. No matter how frequently it comes or how long it lasts, it’s still only temporary. And with hope and help, it can become fewer and further in between, and the moments of joy, more frequent.

I don’t like the word “cured.” I do like the word “healed.” To be cured from something suggests that it had power over you and you needed an external antidote to save you. To be healed suggests, to me, that you’ve had the power all along. And I do believe that depression stems from unhealed trauma. Sometimes that trauma is so great and so multi-faceted that it’s overwhelming to even think about healing. Where the fuck do you even begin?

Depression, along with many other mental illnesses, are less a disease of body, and more a dis-ease of the soul.

It takes time to heal. It takes courage to push through and commit to continuing to heal. And it takes even more courage to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t know how. Sometimes we test the waters with vague statements, just to get a sense of how it will be received, and when it doesn’t feel safe, we withdraw. Sometimes the people we want to approach for help aren’t equipped to do so – even some professionals.

One of the most difficult things for anyone suffering from this, in my experience, is how alone you feel, especially when the people around you can’t relate, and aren’t able to help you. You feel like a burden when you find someone you CAN lean on, because leaning on them makes you feel safe, but a single person can’t bear the weight for both of you. That’s why having a support network is so important. A group of people who are able to provide a safety net for you is so much stronger than a single individual, to give you connection during the times when you feel the most disconnected.

And the key IS to connect. Connect with someone who loves you and let them do that. Let them love you. Let yourself receive it. Let it lead you out of your darker moments. Let it help you hold on, just until tomorrow, because tomorrow can make all the difference.

For those of you holding the life preserver…

If I’ve learned anything from these situations, it’s that you cannot make yourself solely responsible for another person’s well being. And it isn’t fair to you for them to make you solely responsible, either.

Your name is not Jesus. You’re not a savior. They cannot and should not carry the weight of this alone, but neither should you. No matter how much you love them, their healing is, ultimately, their responsibility. You’re job is first, to simply hold space.

What does it mean to hold space?

It means to offer a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Validate emotions. Listen. Be receptive. Be supportive (being supportive does not equate to fixing things). Let them know that they don’t have to be alone, if they choose it.

Secondly, your job is to help them find more support, preferably from a professional, and perhaps other friends and family.

Most importantly: maintain boundaries. Know where your responsibility ends and theirs begins. This is a collaboration.

For those of you who find yourself being “the” person, if YOU need support (and believe me, sometimes you do), or guidance about what to do, I’m happy to lend an ear and some advice.

Everyone… take care of yourselves.

Grief, Interrupted

Grief, Interrupted

Grief, Interrupted

I‘ve mentioned a few times over the course of the last six months that all of the stress I went through did quite the number on my body and my health. The first sign of what was to come manifested itself in January of 2016 as a light, annoying cough that wouldn’t go away. About a month later, it was compounded by the respiratory flu. By March, I had coughed so hard and so frequently that I bruised a rib. It finally subsided in April.

In November of the same year, I caught a cold (in addition to the stomach flu), which then settled into yet another cough that didn’t dissipate until June of the following year.

Both times, I went to the doctor. They pumped me full of anti-biotics and steroids, and nothing changed. Eventually they diagnosed me with “asthma” because they needed to call it something in order to give me an inhaler, which also did nothing.

This year, as of April, said cough has returned. I’ve been kind to myself over the past six months. I’m under very little stress now, I’ve recovered from my adrenal fatigue, and I’m actively purging stagnant emotional energies.

Traditional energy healing ties coughing to the throat chakra, but I’ve felt this is more of a lung/heart-chakra issue, and yet no matter how many things I’ve purged from my heart center, it persists.

I finally decided to try acupuncture. I met an acupuncturist who lives in my neighborhood when I first moved here, so I pulled up her website to book an appointment, and at that moment, a coworker walked into my office and enquired about my cough. When I explained the circumstances, he immediately said, “Acupuncture. Everybody says it works.” There was my sign.

I had my appointment this past week, and while explaining to her the situational stress I was involved in over the course of the last three years as this cough has arisen, she mentioned to me that in Chinese medicine, the emotion tied to the lungs is grief. If you’ll recall my last post, I processed a past-life soul fragment that was heavy with grief. So heavy that I had to skip work the next day!

As I’ve reflected on my consultation and how grief and loss ties in as a trigger for the coughing, I had a realization.

I’ve talked a bit about my dad in previous posts and most of you know that we’re no longer on speaking terms, and I’ve talked a bit about the circumstances leading up to that, but I haven’t done so in great detail.

2016 was the year that everything fell apart. It had to, of course, because it was leading me somewhere, but it wasn’t pleasant. It was not easy. There was a moment in 2016 when I thought, “I would feel so much better if I could just die.” I experienced a prolific level of grief and loss that year in a very short period of time. I lost my closest friend. Two weeks later, my cat Jordan – my shadow, my fur baby – passed away. And then a month and a half after that, my grandmother passed away. The first loss brought me to my knees. The second had me on the ground. The third was like being beaten bloody with a baseball bat while I was down. With each new gut wrenching loss, I thought, “How much more can I take?”

And then came my grandmother’s funeral.

I have to be honest…my family could probably carry an entire season of Jerry Springer. After my parents divorced, my dad married my mom’s first cousin. Suffice to say, this caused some friction in the family, which came to a head at the funeral.

The grandmother that passed away was my dad’s mother. My grandparents from my mom’s side of the family attended the funeral and so did my mother. They’d known each other for 30 years, after all. My dad and his new wife (my mom’s first cousin whom I refer to as my step-monster) also attended said funeral. This would be my maternal grandmother’s niece. As entertaining as it would be to go into great detail, for brevity’s sake, let’s just say that crazy typically attracts crazy, so you can safely assume that as batshit and manipulative as my father is, it is also evident in his choice of partners.

After the funeral, everyone was invited to a luncheon at my grandparents’ former church, at which point, my new step-monster attacked her aunt (my grandmother) right in front of me — and our ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY. I literally had to step between her and my grandmother.

I was furious. I was already furious at her for a plethora of other reasons, the least of which involved her texting me from my dad’s phone, pretending to be him. I was furious at her for being the soul-sucking vortex of melodrama that she is. I was furious at her for being so self-centered and narcissistic that she had to make a spectacle of herself at my dead grandmother’s funeral. We were attempting to grieve the death of someone we loved and she made it about her in the most embarrassing way possible.

The fact that I was able to swallow my anger and keep my composure instead of grabbing her by the throat and choke slamming her in front of everyone (which is what I actually wanted to do) says a lot about my ability for self-control. It’s also why I’m REALLY FUCKING GOOD at repressing my emotions. And as I later told my father in the five page dissertation I wrote to him about the consequences of his inability to accept emotional responsibility for himself and his actions, “She’s lucky I didn’t do more than push her away. The last time someone put their hands on me like that, they went home with a black eye.”

My dad’s response to said letter? Three months of silence, followed by a text message denying half of it, dismissing the other half, and a staunch refusal to acknowledge my justifiable anger. Several months later in a conversation with my mother, he would deny having ever received a letter at all.

I remember, very vividly, laying in bed shortly after all of this went down and finally allowing myself to accept that my father was mentally ill. That acceptance triggered a series of realizations about various events throughout the past where I began to see that he had lied, manipulated, and used me as a means to an end. It was a shift in perspective that brought on an entirely new epiphany: the “dad” I thought I’d had all these years was a figment of my imagination. That, in and of itself, was yet another loss. A death, in it’s own way.

My realization after my acupuncture consultation was that the gravity of a single loss is hard enough. Having four losses of such magnitude within four months of each other is downright cataclysmic. My anger toward father and his wife’s behavior interrupted my grieving process.

The weight of all of the conflicting emotion was too much to handle, and I sought out a therapist. Said therapist was not a very good therapist and ended up doing more harm by attempting to push me into simply acceptance of who my father was without giving me the opportunity to process my anger, ultimately invalidating my emotions and refusing to acknowledge that he suffers from mental illness.

I get it…as a therapist, you don’t know the full story of where someone’s coming from and of course their perspective is just one perspective. But, as a therapist, you can’t really argue that a person who has out loud two-way conversations with “demons” in public places while speaking in tongues and is completely paranoid that armageddon is right around the corner isn’t somewhat touched. When David Koresh went down in flames, taking 75 other Branch Davidians with him, I’m certain that no therapist said, “Those are just his religious beliefs and you need to accept him for who he is.” Oh, and guess what? Daddy dearest has started his own church now…

I got a six month break before my next trauma hit, which was my divorce. I lived in a state of constant anxiety for six months leading up to my move, and the minute he told his family about it, I was completely cut out. Yet another devastating sense of loss that I could barely process for simply attempting to survive. I spent most of my energy my first five months in New York freaking out about how I was going to take care of myself, financially. I’d had my own business before but rebuilding it in a new state takes time and I only had enough money to last me through the end of November. Eventually I found a full time job and was able to breathe for a moment.

All of this grief, all of the loss… I haven’t had a chance to fully process any of it. My circuits had been overloaded with too much other shit until just now.  It’s been two and a half years, now, and I suppose that stagnant energy has settled into my body. Any time I experience a smaller scale loss, the cough returns.

I had a reading a couple of days later with Christian Bradley West, a new psychic friend I made on Instagram. He’s hilarious, by the way, and you should follow him if you’re on there, and me as well! Sure as shit, grief was a topic of discussion.

I don’t know, logically, how to move through this. I’m hoping that getting some of it moving within the physical body through acupuncture will trigger some releasing. What I do know is that I’m going on my third month of hacking and I’m seriously over it.

Aligning With Your True Self

Aligning With Your True Self

Aligning With Your True Self

I’ve always been fascinated with how other people perceive me and how closely or not so closely it aligns with how I perceive myself. I used to tell people that I actually wanted to see a psychologist because I was morbidly curious as to what he or she would make of me.

The more aware I become of who I really am, the more I recognize how some people have been spot on about me in the past, while others have been completely fooled by the illusion of who I presented myself to be.

I used to be extremely closed off. In certain situations, I still am. I didn’t share my feelings openly, but I was quick to share my thoughts or opinions. A friend in college pointed out how unemotional I portrayed myself. At the time, I didn’t think that was accurate, but the more I’ve grown into myself, I realize that she was right.

Up until very recently, I’d always led with walls and it took a very long time for me to allow anyone inside. I was reserved and evasive. I could easily avoid talking about my emotions by deflecting and steering a conversation in a more comfortable direction.

Many people who have known me for years laud me for how independent I am. “You don’t care what anybody thinks about you. You just do your own thing.” I realize now that what they perceived as independence was actually avoidance. It appeared as though I didn’t care what people thought about me because I never allowed myself to get close enough to anyone to care what they thought of me. I did my own thing, not necessarily because I refused to conform, but because I didn’t know how to connect, or was too afraid to, and never bothered to try. What they thought was ‘doing my own thing’ was really just me, wandering aimlessly on the outskirts feeling like an outsider.

People used to complimented me on how even-keeled my state of being seemed to be. My cheer coach in high school once told me how she envied me because I never let anything bother me. “You just let it roll off your back,” she said. She didn’t know that nothing bothered me because I was dead inside. It’s hard to be bothered by things when you don’t allow yourself to feel anything. My heart was frozen and I navigated life with cold, hard logic. I held all of my emotions in.

I had people in college who told me that they couldn’t believe I had been a cheerleader. Apparently I didn’t fit the “bubbly and energetic” stereotype.

Especially in my twenties, I gave people the impression that I was aloof and uncaring. “Cold and standoffish” were the words my neighbor used to describe me my senior year of college. In reality, I was painfully introverted and experienced a copious amount of social anxiety. I spent six out of seven nights a week that semester drunk or nearing it so that I could function in a social environment, so he must have been one of the unlucky people who caught me on a sober day.

My own blog readers used to tell me that they thought I had my shit together, and they didn’t think I had any problems. Wrong. SOOOOOO WRONG.

It’s taken me a very long time and a lot of hard work to lean into feeling. Allowing myself to talk about love and to tell other people how I feel about them has been a major accomplishment for me, as stated in my last blog post on cultivating radical authenticity.

I still have a tendency to swallow anger and avoid conflict, and that’s something I’m trying to push through in a balanced way. I’m slowly and surely, over the course of the last two years or so, allowing myself to be more open and vulnerable in the most intimate aspects of my life, relationships in particular.

It’s a bit ironic. I used to despise public displays of affection and loathed any showing of feeling. It made me extremely uncomfortable when other people would tell me how they felt about me, and when it came to relationships, I would completely shut down and run away. I told myself I didn’t need to be in a relationship. I was fine being alone. I was in total denial of the fact that connection was the thing I craved the most, and that I was utterly terrified of the prospect.

I realize now that having deep, fulfilling connection in my relationships is exceptionally important to me. I want to be seen and understood and loved, and I’m far more willing, now, to allow myself to be seen and understood, and to give love and allow it to be reciprocated. Touch is actually my love language, and I’m an exceptionally physically affectionate person, even publicly.

Isn’t it bizarre how deny ourselves the things we need most?

I’m still fascinated with how people perceive me. I wonder if more of who I am on the inside is now in alignment with how I present myself to the world. You might be able to help me find out! Visit this link and you’ll see a list of positive adjectives. Choose 5 or 6 that you believe most describe me, enter your name (or just put in “anonymous”) and submit your answers. I’ll be able to see which words others use to describe how they perceive me.

Next, visit this link and you’ll see a list of negative adjectives. Again, choose 5 or 6 that you believe most describe me, and enter your name (or don’t if you don’t want me to know who you are) and submit your answers. I’ll also be able to see which words you use to describe how you perceive me.

I’ll post the results in my next blog post.


How to NOT Sexually Harass a Woman and Mind Your Own Fucking Business

How to NOT Sexually Harass a Woman and Mind Your Own Fucking Business

How to NOT Sexually Harass a Woman and Mind Your Own Fucking Business

It’s been a bizarre few days in the life of Ashley. An emotional roller coaster, as always, but also filled with tons of observations and insights, as the story usually goes.

Do you ever notice how, when you make a quantum leap in your own personal development, shit seems to get stirred up a bit and you lose a few people along the way? And it’s ok, because they were people who matched your old vibration and now that you’ve upgraded, they’re becoming dead weight that’s trying to hold you down, so you have to burn a few bridges in order to keep going. When you realize that, you’re totally ok with dousing it in gasoline and you might even utter a slight chuckle as you toss the match.

It all began earlier in the week when a “friend” that I’d dropped a few weeks ago suddenly reappeared. I’m at a point in my life right now where I have ZERO interest in people unsolicitedly telling me what they think I should be doing with my life. This person had a notorious history of doing this to me and no amount of me attempting to explain that my life and my decisions are not his to influence or determine unless I specifically ask for his opinion or advice seemed to make him understand that. So I gave him a very clear, explicit guideline of what I was looking for in a friendship at this point in my life:

Here’s the thing. I’ve spent the last 6 months of my life hard core purging people and relationships that are not conducive to my own support and well being. And that included a fuck ton of people who couldn’t find it in themselves to let me live my life the way I wanted to and simply provide me with the emotional support that I needed while going through a lot of shit.

So the thing is, I no longer have the time or the patience for people and relationships that can’t respect me, my choices, or my boundaries. I’ve come a long way in the last two months. Maybe even in the last two weeks. The personal development seems to continue to grow with every bridge I burn. I even blocked my dad’s phone number a few weeks ago.

So if you want to be my friend, then show up for me in the way that I need and how I need it. If you can’t do that… then that’s not a friendship that I want or need in my life at this point.

He didn’t like that. At all. So I had to throw some gasoline on that bridge, too, and I didn’t shed a tear over it.

Later in the week, I walked from my apartment down to another neighborhood where I was attending a business meetup and panel discussion. The walk was approximately 1.4 miles which took about 20 minutes. In the short amount of time that it took me to get there, I was cat called five times.

I’ve written about my experiences with sexual harassment in the past rather candidly and I talk about the things I experience day-to-day openly in my Facebook group. I think my previous writings about my experiences have made a pretty good case as to why this is such an issue, and this week’s events only served to support it.

I posted a Facebook status about my experience, thinking that many of the women on my friends list would be able to identify. So many of us endure near daily physical and emotional intimidation while simply walking down the street, fearing that if we don’t respond in the pleasing manner in which we are expected to, that we’ll be met with anger and threats of violence. Sometimes that happens even when we attempt to ignore it.

The commentary that followed from total strangers, both men and women who were supposedly “spiritual,” as that is the major makeup of my 4,000 or so followers, was utterly shocking to me.

I hope I don’t have to explain the absurdity behind all of the “just deal with it or stop going out” and “take it as appreciation” comments, but in case I do:

“I was told that I should take it as a compliment. I had other male friends tell me the same thing.
I’ve also been told the same thing about cat-calling and various other forms of verbal harassment. “It just means you’re pretty!” No. It doesn’t mean I’m pretty. It means I’m a target, and not only are you telling me that I should just accept unwanted negative attention in the form of verbal and physical harassment, you’re telling me that I should LIKE it. That’s fucked up.” – The Systemic Perpetuation of Sexism, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

If that’s not gaslighting and emotional abuse at it’s finest, I don’t know what is.

“Here, let me abuse you, just a little, and then tell you that you’re silly for feeling uncomfortable. Sssh, baby, just let it happen. You’re so pretty, don’t you like it when I tell you that you’re pretty? What’s that? You don’t like it? Well maybe you shouldn’t dress that way. What’s that? People do this even when you have no makeup on and are wearing crappy workout clothes? Then maybe you should just stay in your house and not leave. You’re so privileged, thinking that you should be able to leave your house without being physically intimidated or verbally assaulted.

Maybe you shouldn’t have looked at me from across the room. Maybe you shouldn’t have been polite and talked to me when I said hi to you, even though if you’d ignored me I would have called you a bitch or a cunt gave you a little dose of the rage and anger I feel every time I’m rejected that I have to project onto the first woman that triggers my insecurities. Who are you to to tell me that your body doesn’t belong to me?”

Seems slightly more absurd when you think of it that way, yes?

Am I supposed to “take it as appreciation” when I walk past a 50 year-old-man on the sidewalk in broad daylight who starts singing a song to me about sucking his dick? Oh, that just means I’m pretty? Got it. Yeah, I’ll try to let that make me feel good about myself…

The next evening, I was at a bar having drinks with a new acquaintance. A guy across the bar – young, semi-attractive, white, kind of looked like a jock – was yucking it up with his buddies. I happened to look in his general direction, at which point he made eye contact with me and yelled to his friends, “Oh yeah! She wants me!”

I had no idea that turning my head to the left and glancing in someone’s general direction was considered a sexual advance. I guess I should just keep my eyes on the floor from now on. Or maybe just not leave my house. But apparently, I can’t speak up about any of it, either, because then I’m just being bitter and complaining. How dare I tell someone, anyone, that it’s not ok to verbally assault, sexually harass, or otherwise overstep any of my boundaries. God, Ashley, you’re such a whiny cunt. Suck it up. Deal with it.

So I’m also not allowed to feel anything about it, because somehow my internal emotions are enabling and justifying this person’s behavior toward me. I’m just supposed to stick my fingers in my ears and close my eyes and pretend it’s all roses and sunshine, cause you’ve gotta keep that vibration up, you know?

Spare me your new age spiritual bypassing bullshit and pull your head out of your more-enlightened-than-thou ass.

Living your life where everywhere you go, men of all ages, races, and backgrounds are objectifying you, harassing you, and in some cases, physically attempting to intimidate you DAILY is not “such a small thing.” It is a global epidemic. A (shitty) piece of patriarchal karma that needs to be dismantled.

Women have been subjected to this kind of shit for so long that we are afraid to put up boundaries and stand up for ourselves, for fear of god knows what happening. But that’s a clear violation of our boundaries, and it’s not right, and FUCK ANYBODY who tells you that you can’t be pissed off about it or that you should just learn to live with it and deal with. That’s the kind of passive nonchalance that allows this heinous kind of suppression to continue. How about YOU stop ENABLING these douchebags and get on board with the rest of us so that we don’t have to live like this anymore? Because that’s what we’re here to do.

Additionally, to those who think that thinking happy thoughts will magically sweep all of the nasty shit in their lives under the rug… have I got news for you! Personal growth is painful. It requires real, raw, gut-wrenching WORK. Not just on your mind. Not just in how you talk, but also in what you do. Thought, word, deed – that’s the formula for manifestation. So if you’re not going get off of your fluffy ass and do something about it, then GET OFF MY LAWN, or at least get the fuck off of my Facebook page.

My original post spurred a secondary post by someone who got caught up in the conversation, and there was plenty of douchebaggery to be found there as well, with comments like, “Men have been flirting with women this way (in other cultures also) for ages. It’s like peacocking. And don’t be fooled. Women do it also and men feel great when it happens so what is the beef? People got to stop being such bitches sometimes and start loving life as it is.” Someone in my own group even commented, “I get sexually harassed, too. Damn sexist women!”

So let me get this straight…you think that your experience as a 6 foot, 200 pound something man being hit on by a woman is the same as my experience of having a total stranger who is twice my size walk up to me on the street, start pushing his body against me and telling me all the things he wants to do to me? And because you, as a man, feel great when a woman hits on you, that I, as a woman, should feel great about my experience as well?

How many times have you’ve rebuffed a sexual advance from a woman and she responded with an angry outburst? Maybe called you a name or screamed at you in a public place?

Has a woman twice your size – someone that could very easily overpower you, a complete and total stranger, ever come up to you while you’re walking down the street and done what that man did to me? I doubt it.

I get called a bitch and a cunt and a skank for simply IGNORING someone’s advances. Who knows what would happen if I actually responded.

Well, actually, I do, because I have done that on a few occasions with people who were on the lesser end of the intimidation spectrum. He still screamed at me in the middle of a party. I was told to “drop dead” once. That was fun.

Our experiences are fundamentally different, because yours don’t involve threats of violence, death wishes, or the possibility that someone will beat you, shoot you, or rape you simply because you said, “No.”

You got it, buddy. Let’s recap the definition of Sexual Harassment, shall we?

Sexual Harassment: harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.

There’s a sure fire way to avoid that. It’s so simple, you’re gonna freak! You ready? You listening?

Take an interest in a woman as a person, first – who she is, what she thinks, what she believes – rather than immediately jumping to, “I think you’re sexy.”

Strike up a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with her physical appearance. Just like you’d talk to a man. Or your mother. Or your sister. Or your niece. Or, you know, a normal, living, breathing human being.

After that, you can pretty easily assess whether or not she is interested in you, at which point, feel free to tell her you’re attracted to her.

Or… OR…

By now, you may be wondering to yourself, “What do the two things you’re talking about in this post have to do with each other, other than the fact that they both occurred in the same week?” I’m about to get there.

You see, not a single one of those people who made those comments up there has ever had a single conversation with me. They don’t even follow this blog. They’re just random people who saw a pretty face on Facebook and sent me a friend request, or, in the woman’s case, commented after her friend did. None of them know me. Not a damn one of them has met me. And yet, for some reason, they all felt the need to interject themselves, their opinions and their beliefs into my life, even going so far as to tell me how I should react, how I should feel, what I should think and what I should do in relation to this one little occurrence that I chose to document on Facebook.

Did I ask for their opinions or input about how I should feel, what I should think, or what I should do? Nope. Sure as fuck did not.

Sure, sure, it’s a public Facebook account and that’s simply the nature of a public forum. People are going to interject their shit and project their shit all over your posts. But the hilarious part is when they get pissed off that I tell them to mind their own damn business and get off my lawn.

It’s astounding how people will deflect themselves from dealing with their own shit by getting up in other people’s business and trying to tell them what to feel, think and do with their lives. Additionally, it’s also astounding when “enlightened” people show just how not enlightened they actually are.

You think that speaking up and telling someone that I will not allow them to treat me like an object, or that they have no inherent right to my body, or that they have no fucking business attempting to control and manipulate me by telling me how to think, act and feel makes me a victim? I think it’s quite the opposite. It’s not allowing myself to become a victim.

Get. Off. My. Motherfucking. Lawn.

Why Do We Need Boundaries If We Are All One?

Why Do We Need Boundaries If We Are All One?

Why Do We Need Boundaries If We Are All One?

Question from a reader:

“If we’re all one, how can we have boundaries? I’ve found that I struggle quite a bit with feeling like I “owe” certain things to the world, and that it is not my “right” to say “no.” I’ve also heard the Universe doesn’t hear “no,” and so it almost seems pointless to draw a line and say, “here’s my boundary.” I know instinctively this isn’t quite right–we should all have the right to say no–but if you have any additional perspective or explanation on this, that would be amazing! I feel like I need to rationalize it somehow but I’m not quite sure how yet. I’ve noticed a trend in my life where I attract some people (friends or otherwise) who violate those boundaries, and who sort of “walk all over me.” And I’m trying to figure out how to stop the cycle.”

Short answer – you can’t. 🙂 Not really. Boundaries are a human perception, in a way, because they come from the perspective that we are separate. What we view as healthy boundaries, we create precisely because we are all one. Think of it this way: you attract people into your life as mirrors to reflect back to you certain things about yourself. Those people are, more or less, extensions of yourself, and as such, they behave toward you in ways that you behave toward yourself.

If you’re walking around under the belief that you have no right to say no, you’re not thinking very highly of yourself and that’s the existence that you manifest. That’s the statement of who you are that you’re telling yourself.

When you have a higher appreciation for yourself as the magnificent, powerful, creative being that you are, then you’re naturally going to create an existence that reflects that. What we perceive as “healthy boundaries” are simply a byproduct of living in a loving vibration toward yourself.

What you are currently seeing as a separation, is actually the opposite. You’re actually embracing the all of you, including your own responsibility for the life and the people that manifests around you.

Feeling like you owe things to the world is really owing things to yourself. If you begin to look at every person in the world as an extension of yourself, and then translate what you believe about them, or what you believe you should give to them, as a belief you have about yourself, or something you need to give to yourself, you’ll begin to recognize things much more clearly.

I’ve made similar assertions to the notion of needing psychic protection from negative entities. These things, too, are a part of the “all” of which you are. As such, they are aspects of yourself, reflecting back to you beliefs and attitudes you hold about yourself. The only “protection” you need is to love yourself unconditionally.

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why

I binge-watched Netflix’s new series 13 Reasons Why in less than 24 hours this week. It left me feeling a lot of mixed emotions for a lot of different reasons, a big one of which being that I related so much with the high school experience of Hannah Baker.

I’ve written at length about the kind of sexual assault and sexual harassment that I and other girls experienced in high school and college. In some ways, I almost feel like the show didn’t do it justice because until the very end, it made it appear as though it was isolated and targeted at only a few people. It’s not. It’s ALL OF US. And the effects are real.

I loved the way that 13 Reasons Why attempted to show the duality of these kinds of situations, that nothing is black and white, and that there are many sides to every story, each with it’s own reasons and motivations. That was real, and it was honest.

I loved the way that it begged the question, “Did you do enough to help this person?” That’s something that all of us who’ve been touched by suicide have asked ourselves at one point or another. I remember feeling that guilt and asking myself the same question after I found out that a guy I had dated briefly in college, Sean, chose to end his life a few years later.

I was asking myself that question even though we hadn’t really kept in touch and had only spoken once or twice in the previous three years, even though we weren’t even that close. Even though I knew those things, I still found myself combing over our last conversation in my mind wondering if I’d missed a sign that something was wrong.

There’s another emotion that occurs after a suicide, a conflicting one that often creeps in. Anger. You feel angry at them because you see the devastation left behind. I remember Sean’s funeral, seeing his sister and his parents there and how utterly torn apart they were. And I thought, “How could you do this to them?” At the time, it seemed selfish.

And during the last episode of 13 Reasons Why, when Hannah’s parents found her in the bath tub, I couldn’t help but think about Sean’s parents and what it must have been like for them to find his body – and I cried. Hard. Harder than I’ve ever cried watching any movie or anything on TV in my entire life.

I liked how the show depicted the difficulty of the situation as it relates to Hannah’s mental state – the way she rarely asked for help, and in many cases pushed people away, even though on the inside, she was screaming for someone to help her. I’ve been on that side of suicide, too – being the person who KNOWS that this person is in trouble and trying as hard as you can to help them, but also knowing that ultimately, there’s nothing more you can do because it’s their choice.

That’s the hardest part. I’ve been the person who practically forced myself into the house of a withdrawn suicidal friend. I’ve been the person who is frantically sending text messages to someone who posted a goodbye note on social media with no response. I’ve been the person taking on the sole responsibility for someone else’s well-being… and it’s too much. It’s too much to make yourself responsible for another person’s choice of whether they live or die. All you can do is listen. And I suppose my situation is unique… I doubt most people find themselves crossing paths with so many people in that mental state in such a short span of a few years.

13 Reason’s Why also addresses bystander apathy, where people are less likely to offer a victim help when there are other people around. I’ve seen that in action, too. When I was 16, I was at a party at the house of a much older guy from my hometown named Kyle. He was in his twenties, and he was dating a girl my age from the next town over (this sort of thing happened frequently, I grew up in a very small, rural town). This girl – we’d been conditioned not to like her because one of our friends was dating a guy from her school and at some point, she’d made our friend feel threatened in her relationship. So now, a year or two later, she was dating someone else and we were all sitting in the living room of his house on New Year’s Eve. Several of his friends were there – guys his age – along with us, and everyone was drinking. He was drunk. Too drunk.

I remember four of us sitting at a table playing a card game – myself, an older guy named Jay, and the couple in question. I don’t remember what was said or how it happened, all I remember is Kyle becoming completely belligerent, standing up, reaching across the table and slapping his 16-year-old girlfriend across the face. The room fell dead silent, and no one did anything. I was a 16-year-old girl, too, and a socially awkward, extremely introverted one at that. I was in shock and I didn’t know what to say or do. I wasn’t really friends with Kyle, he was really angry and frankly it was scary and I didn’t think there was much I COULD do. But I do remember looking across the table at Jay – the one person in the room who was Kyle’s equal, the person who was the same age, who did know him – and waiting for him to do something. To say something. But he just sat there and looked down at the table like everyone else.

Later that night, a group of us girls took Kyle’s girlfriend back to one of our parents’ house and hid her in the basement while he called incessantly demanding that we give her up. I guess, in the end, we did protect her, as best we could. For the night, anyway.

If you haven’t watched 13 Reasons Why yet, I recommend that you do. It’s real. It’s uncomfortable. And I hope that it spurs the appropriate amount of reflection and social conversation on this very real problem. I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know that there is an answer…at least not a simple one. It’s a complex problem and it requires a complex, multi-faceted solution, but the beginning of solving it is becoming aware of all of the aspects of it, becoming more sensitive to it, and working toward solutions collectively in small ways.

I just heard a psychologist on the news say that this show should be pulled off the air immediately because it glamorizes suicide and shows that there is no help if you ask for it, and he believes that it will make more teens want to attempt suicide. I don’t think it glamorizes suicide at all. Whether or not it will make teens want to attempt it, I don’t know. But what I do know is that it’s not directed at suicidal teens. It’s directed at the people who stand by and do nothing, and it’s meant to show them the consequences of their apathy, and begs them to do something about it.

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