Mental Health

Getting Rid of Pedestals

I think a lot about the ways in which my self image consciously and subconsciously rule my life. The idealizations people hold of me, although frustrating and limiting, sometimes fill me like a guilty pleasure; a dirty habit that continues to manifest and take hold of me.

And I know the ways my own perception and idealization of myself and my life hurt me. Those who surround me are held to impossible standards, including myself. Agitation and conflict arise as I try to micromanage behavior to fit a mold I can’t even squeeze into myself. In turn, life starts to look out of control and wild, spiking my anxiety and creating more problems and more issues over things I can’t and shouldn’t control.

I know I do these things. I know that much of this behavior is a defense mechanism, sprung from trauma and low self esteem. What I haven’t done is fully own up to it. I haven’t been harsh with myself, clinging to a false sense of independence and self that gets muddled by the genuine work done in rebuilding my self esteem and interactions with others. I’ve done very real work within myself, but now that I’m dealing with core, deep set issues, I’m scared.

I’m scared to own up to my weakness, I’m scared to allow for change when I don’t feel ready. I’m scared to sit down with a therapist and trust a stranger with my emotions. I’m scared to allow someone in, not only because of trust, but because I don’t know how I’m going to move forward with shattered idealizations.

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Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Being a Half Adult & The Power Dynamics of Age

In many ways, I feel like a half adult. I take out loans, manage bills, and have even looked at marriage as a potential tax break, but don’t feel completely like an adult. I’m young, entering my 20’s this year, and find myself between preparing for adulthood and embracing my youth. A constant back and forth, I’m exhausted with the amount of energy I expend puffing my chest around a bunch of assholes who will continue to see me as young, naive, and stupid regardless of the level of emotional and mental development I achieve.

A lot of these kind of toxic relationships have dissolved in my life, or are in the process of being removed and pushed away. They’re a feudal, based on the power dynamics that exist in misogyny. Very often, a young, feminine person like myself gets used, sexualized, and tossed away at the end, leaving crippling scars and bad dating habits in the dust.

And for someone like myself, they’re exhausting. These games of power and control have hurt my own ability to form relationships with others. I don’t trust men; I’ve become so detached from my romantic and sexual aspects of my life that dating isn’t part of my life anymore. Recently, I’ve kept to myself and to higher standards. I’ve been cultivating self worth and confidence through those around me and everything I do for myself. I’ve become keenly focused on my career and everything around me I have yet to experience.

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Social Justice & Organizing Work

To Lose Ownership Of Self

Masculinity has controlled my entire life. From my first boyfriend of my high school years, to my relationship with both of my fathers, to my general interactions with men, toxic masculinity has rooted itself within my deepest fears and refuses to let me exist. Masculinity prevents me from sleeping, the back and forth within myself raging on as I wonder if I should have stuck up for myself like that, still unable to treat myself right. This dialogue gets increasingly louder and louder until my entire being is riddled with anxiety, fear, and self loathing. Instead of getting rest I need the night before a big work day at the library, it’s almost 4am and I’m on the verge of tears as I write, trying to quiet my anxiety.

I’m thinking about my earlier interaction from the late evening, when a coy exchange turned into a pressure cooker, where I had to choose between someone’s approval and my own personal boundaries. Gabriel and I used to date over the summer, but fell off very quickly after I noticed a few misogynistic, controlling slips he’d make. Knowing my issues with self image and insecurity, he’d use it against me when trying to stop me from smoking weed, telling me how unattractive I was for doing it. He was aggressive and slick talking, able to dance around any valid points I’d make about his controlling attitude, but never acknowledging them. Again, we had broken off due to his disrespect but somehow found his way back to me after many months.

Gabriel tried to get back in contact with me recently, although his intentions weren’t very clear. At my current point in life, I’m very content with my single lifestyle. I can focus on my writing and school at a much higher intensity and I’m given the time I need to really invest in the relationships that are loving and healthy. I knew within the time between Summer and now, I had made significant growth within myself and also knew the same could done by anyone else, so why not try again? At the end of the day, I could simply have gained a friend I didn’t have before.

I was dead wrong about change. As our conversation started to dive into the hidden, delicate parts of our past relationship, the tone became more intimate. Plans were starting to be made, until the conversation shifted. Gabriel, who lives about an hour away from me, started to ask for nude photos. Nude photos themselves aren’t an issue, and just like a lot of other people I’ve taken them, but they aren’t something to be demanded. I expressed my discomfort to him, and was slapped in the face with his response. “Well you’re going to have to be a photo person if you want distance to work” he sent to me, the blood draining from my face.

I felt helpless. I knew I didn’t owe him anything, but still, it stung like a sting from a wasp. His controlling statement hit at something that’s core to toxic masculinity: the objectification of women and non-men folks. Telling me that I would have to get into something past my own personal boundaries removes my control over my own body and says he holds the power to what I do. It’s the same power dynamic that was present in my past sexual assaults, that ripped away any ownership of myself. And I’m definitely not the only person who’s felt this.

I distanced myself and removed him from my life, but the rippling effects of damage that was sent through me have left scars. My behavior has been diminished today, my work ethic falling. I know that I’ll be okay and that I’ll recover, but my worry is deeper. It’s for people like my sister, who I know can’t pick themselves up the way I can. My worry is for the woman who has looked trauma and toxic masculinity in the face, and still hasn’t been able to get up from it. In addressing the power dynamics within patriarchy and toxic masculinity, issues like rape are dealt with, and reduced. By understanding masculinity’s role in the further oppression of people, we can advance as a society and make sure people like Gabriel don’t ever happen.

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Mental Health, Student Life

The Vicious Tinder Cycle

I hate online dating. It’s dehumanizing, boring, and in the age of Tinder, pointless. Hundreds of faces litter the app, muscles flexing or double fisting two bottles of Hennessy,  and the intentions of those on it are unclear. Tinder is a cesspool of horny men and couples trying to engage in a threesome, yet I still use it. I still update my page with the best photos I can find, add whatever recent song I’m into, and make sure my words to emoji ratio is respectable. I still skim through the thousands of photos in hope that’ll meet someone.

When I do meet someone, it always ends up nowhere. I can never bring myself to actually meet them, filling their inbox with half-assed apologies about how busy my schedule is. I make countless excuses not to go out, and repeat this cycle over and over. It seems pointless to draw people out like this but I still do it. I still don’t think I entirely understand why.

I’ve realized a lot of my dating comes out of pressure. I worry a lot about being alone. I worry that I’m too bold or too ambitious for someone. I reduce myself a lot of others, and for once in my life, I’m not doing it anymore. I’m standing my ground and staying true to myself. At the same time, I’ve given up love in hopes of self preservation. I don’t try to date anymore, tired of the emotional acrobats it ensues upon my life. I don’t want to compromise, a key element in relationship, nor do I want to deal with issues outside of my own.

Maybe I’m just self-centered, a young, ambitious 19 year old trying to challenge everyone’s ideas about society, with zero time to invest into another person. That’s what this time is for, right? To somehow “find myself” as I wade through debt and the many mental breakdowns I have from schoolwork. Maybe there’s too much on my plate and I genuinely can’t emotionally connect with someone on a romantic level because I’m still trying to piece that together for myself.

But maybe, I’m challenging something bigger than some ego. My actions are a direct challenge towards a system that has always connected a woman’s worth to her husband, completely erasing the female autonomy and queer relationships that exist within the female community. My actions are bigger than being a self-centered 20 something year old, but challenging my piece of society that I exist in. I’m here to not only gain an education, but build and organize a community for a movement bigger than myself.

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