/> What Would Ripley Do: June 2020

Monday, 29 June 2020

Fighting Depression

I sometimes compare having depression to being a boxer, fighting in a ring.

Both you and the black dog are in a dance, with you trying to repel the quick jabs and the hard punches.  You duck and dance and deflect and sometimes manage to get a punch in there yourself too.  Some fights you will win, some you will be defeated.  That match is done and the next day you will get up, shake yourself off and fight once again.  

Just like boxing, depression is not a team sport and you are in the ring alone.  No one else can fight for you and your opponent is invisible to everyone but yourself.

Each morning you wake up and find out whether you have a normal day ahead of you, or a fight.  At the back of your mind you hope that one day, it is not a fight to the death.

Image from Unsplash

The things that I have heard people say about those of us who have depression disgust me.

I am not weak.  I am not lazy.  I am not as someone once said to me "wallowing in self pity".  I am strong.  Stronger than they are.  I would challenge anyone who thinks that depression is easy to spend some time in our shoes.

Unless you have had depression, you will never really know just how bad it can get.  How sometimes it feels like your soul is dying and your heart is shattering into a million pieces.  It takes a lot of strength to just get out of bed some days.  But we do.  We get up, we go to work and we hide the monsters that are attacking us just beneath the surface.

I started another battle with the dog today.  Everything I have done so far today has taken effort and strength.  All I want, and still want while I write this post, is to go home, hide under duvet and binge watch Bob Ross.  But instead, I reminded myself of what I have accomplished so far today, with each step a punch, however tiny, against the black dog who seeks to hold me down.

I dragged myself out of bed                  Punch!

I got myself dressed                                 Punch!

I left the house and got on the bus                     Punch! 

I went to work and spoke to client                         Punch! Punch!

I had a telephone conference and put my points across        Punch! Punch! Punch!

I am writing to you now                The black dog starts to back away a little

That sounds like a very normal day and indeed it is, there is nothing special about it at all.  But accomplishing even the smallest step feels impossible when depression hits and your tears are only a blink away.  Everything takes effort and will.

Some days, you know that there is no fight in you.  Not even the smallest steps are possible.  That is ok.  It takes as much strength to admit defeat when you need to, as it does to come out punching.  Even when the day is a loss and I feel like I have slipped down into a deep, black pit with that bloody dog standing at the top, snarling at me; I am silently picking myself up, inch by inch, for the next day.

I have spoken about how having depression is like being a boxer in a ring.  It also involves being an actress.  Whilst I am able the majority of time to have a normal day, go to work and converse with people, the symptoms of my depression are being held back by me, just under the surface.

My smile may not reach my eyes, but I am able to get through a day without anyone noticing that there is anything wrong.  (I do not recommend this to anyone, it isn't healthy.  But it is my way, for now).

Tears are either supressed or fit into time slots when no one else will notice.  I switch off my heart so the heartbreak I feel doesn't show whilst I speak to a client or a colleague.  How do you switch off your heart?   Practice.  Years of practice.  You are however turning yourself into a walking stone, for essentially other people's benefit.

I will finish my working day.  I will go home and allow myself to feel again.  The duvet will come into play while I recharge.  The gentle tones of Bob Ross will sooth my soul.  Tomorrow, if the black dog has stuck around, I will do all this again.

Tell me I am not strong.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Be a Lady They Said, But What Do They Mean?

Be A Lady They Said, But What Do They Mean?

A few months ago the now viral video of Cynthia Nixon reading a poem from Camille Rainville “Be A Lady They Said”.

For me, and for many women, it struck the perfect chord about the impossible and every changing standards that women face. Society it seems, some men in particular (not all men yada yada), seem to have no idea not only what they want from women; but also what label to put on us. Something that they desperately want to do. Why are labels so important? Because labels put you in a box. It is an element of control. The 21st century's version of the Scold's Bridle.

Only a few decades ago, in the Western world, it was easy to put women in a box. Child, wife, mother, spinster, fallen woman, whore. Fallen woman, what does that even mean? A search on Wikipedia tells us that a fallen woman is someone who has lost her “innocence”. What is never mentioned, is who took it.

In countries like Saudia Arabia, Iran and Iraq, women are still firmly in the boxes men want them to be. A woman's testimony is worth half of a man's. If a woman is raped, it takes two male witnesses for her to be believed.

Male rights activists love to point out to feminists that women have it so much worse in those countries and of course, this is true. They say that we should be grateful. Such a strange word, grateful. What it is, is a silent threat. “We did it to you once, be grateful that we don't do this now”.

Yet, in the case of Harvey Weinstein, it took over 100 women for just 2 to be believed. With every single woman who went public being called a whore in the press, someone who gained from the “casting couch”, a gold digger. An attention seeker. Same with the conviction of Bill Cosby.

CPS figures in September last year (UK) showed that only 3.3% of all reported rapes ended in a conviction. Therefore, according to the stats published, out of 57882 rapes reported, only 1910 were believed and their rapists convicted. According to the readers of the Daily Mail, that makes nearly 56000 women liars. Whores. The highest rated comment was “too many false claims by bitter women”.

That so many think that women would put themselves through so much, going to the police, being examined, relieving and retelling the rape over and over, giving evidence in front of their rapist in Court for supposed “financial gain” or “bitterness” speaks volumes of what women are thought of in society.

A society that still lets a woman's underwear be paraded in open Court as as example of her intention to have sex that night.

Be a lady they said. But what does that even mean any more?

“ A lady in the streets and a freak in the sheets” was something I started to hear in the 1990s. The best of both worlds it was called. A “good girl” in public and your whore in the bedroom. This was in my teenage years and was treated as a joke in the most part. Teenage boys did not in general expect sex. Now, thanks to porn culture, the expectation on teenage girls is far different.

The case of the girl in Cyprus with the up to 12 men who raped her is a prime example. Time and time again I saw the same things said. She wanted it. It was regret sex. Women are whores. See the word that is used time and again?

What made men and boys think that a woman would ever want, court and enjoy a gang bang? Porn.

So what is wanted from women today? Simultaneously a virgin and a slut. Enjoy sex, but not too much you slag. Be more adventurous, but where did you learn that from you whore? Don't be promiscuous, but don't be frigid. Be a good girl, but do anal. You know you want it.

So how do women respond to this? How do we combat this? We fight back. We band together, as so many women did in support of the girl in Cyprus. We say our truth. We call out the cultures and generational beliefs that men have the right to give us the labels they choose. We don't stay silent.

We be the lady, or not, that we CHOOSE to be. We reject the labels. We ridicule those that would label us. We teach our daughters that our self worth is nothing that can be given or taken away from us. We teach them that our bodies belong to ourselves.

We reject the labels and choose our own. Or reject all labels. We are women. Our choices are our own and the ONLY person who can judge us for our choices.

Be whatever you want to be and do not let anyone influence that or change that. This is how we fight.

They cannot change those that refuse to change. They cannot label those who refuse to be labelled.