Needing Help Is Not A Weakness… It Made Me Stronger

I have never been someone to ask for help. I like to figure things out on my own, to be independent. I also got anxious when asking for help, I felt like some people may look down on me for needing that help, that I was weak or incapable. Then in my second year college, that changed.

There I lay in my 2nd year college dorm room, before the start of the fall semester. I was alone. I knew I wasn’t technically alone, I could call any of my family members, friends, but I was physically alone. None of my roommates had moved in yet and campus was still pretty empty. The place that I had longed for over the summer seemed dead. “Just get through this week…” I kept reminding myself. “You’re only alone for a week and then people will be here and you won’t have to sit in your room all day.”

Being alone with my thoughts was tearing me apart. I had just gone through a break up that summer. Even though I knew in my heart I didn’t miss him, it wasn’t a healthy relationship, I still wanted that companionship that I had when we were together. But I couldn’t, I sat in my room and sobbed multiple times a day, calling my mom every time I needed someone’s words to flow through my head other than my own. She would calm me but she couldn’t stay on the phone all day. I was scared I was going to be alone the rest of the year, no boyfriend, my friends too busy, my family far away. Even though I knew this wasn’t true and I was over reacting I couldn’t keep these terrifying thoughts out of my head

I started feeling sick to my stomach, not an uncommon occurrence for me. I could usually just eat small amounts for a day or two and it would go away. This time it didn’t go away. I couldn’t keep food in my system for more than an hour or two, I was repulsed by most foods, and the dining hall was a walk away but I began feeling weaker.

My mom was worried about my health so she asked me to make an appointment at the clinic on campus. I went and had blood tests, gave a urine sample for more tests, the doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. Anxiety was something I knew I suffered from but had never been diagnosed by a physician and had never been treated. She prescribed me an antidepressant for both the anxiety and depression. I started to feel much better that day, like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

The next morning I woke up in a state of extreme nausea causing me to run to the bathroom. I called my mother again, sobbing, “I thought it was over, I thought I was better.” She took the day off of work and drove three hours to Cincinnati because she was scared for me. She was scared I’d end up in the hospital. I hadn’t eaten anything in 4 days, water and Gatorade repulsed me, and I had lost over eight pounds.

She stayed the night that night and I was doing better, however, the next morning I was still so sick I couldn’t do anything, I could barely move. She decided then that she was moving me back home, and after a lot of tears and calming down, we started to pack my stuff up and left for home.

Within a week back home I had been able to eat three meals a day again, stay hydrated and started putting on the weight I had lost. I was still super exhausted but was slowly regaining strength. I was visiting friends and spending the time with my family that I really and truly needed. I got a job and signed up for online classes. I wanted to be able to return to UC in the spring. Not long after, many people showed me an outpouring of love. They supported my decision, one of my friends even said that she admired me for taking a step back and asking for help when I needed it most. This was exactly the affirmation I needed.

I met with my doctor frequently so my medication could be monitored and she started me on medication for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) that was the cause of my illness during my anxious and depressed state. I started feeling better than I had ever felt before. Though the medication didn’t start right away, I could see a true difference when I would go to do something, like driving, that used would have me sweating, heart beating out of my chest, sick to my stomach; I didn’t get those feelings anymore.

Other than medication, I coped with these disorders by writing more, getting out of the house on a daily basis, performing with my old dance group, going on morning runs, and spending time with the people who I needed to be around.

In October I went on a cruise, something I would’ve had to prepare myself for month in advance in the past was something that felt so fun and adventurous now. I started dating again, a thing I feared in the past made me excited. I got a tattoo. I went on a plane for the first time (by myself) and also rode a Greyhound (by myself). I am also now preparing for another trip over spring break. These things that I couldn’t have done in the past with some major preparation, and I can now do much ease.

I am back at UC as a full-time student, I am working part-time through the university, and I am still very involved with many student organizations. I am looking for internship opportunities and growing in my leadership roles. I don’t think I would be in any of these places today if I hadn’t taken the time to myself to heal.

I am happiest than I have ever been. I am healthy. I am in a loving new relationship with some-one who values me for who I am as a person. Most importantly, I am grateful, for the people who stood by me, even when I felt so alone, for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me, and for myself, because I finally took care of me for once. I learned in this experience that it is okay to ask for help when you need it, that needing help isn’t a sign of weakness. I learned that I am a strong person, and most importantly I learned that I am worthy of caring for myself.

 

 

Madison Landkrohn is a 2nd year Psychology student and a 1st year WILLer.

Closing a Chapter

As I am starting the process of submitting my applications for law school and looking towards the next chapter of my life, I’ve reflected on my experiences over the last four years at the place I called my second home—the University of Cincinnati. After much reflection, I am sad to come to the realization that the place that I was drawn to four years ago is not the same anymore. Although I have seen the university make general strides towards bettering itself, I have not seen enough progress towards supporting students who do not fall within the category of

I have seen resources on campus that students utilize and appreciate be swept from under them without even hearing out what the students want. The most recent examples of this are: the elimination of RECLAIM (and the implementation of its makeshift replacements), many words and little follow-through in regards to suggestions from the IRATE 8, and an unsupportive environment for students advocating for change.

But seeing this change of atmosphere during my last year at UC has left me with mixed emotions. My heart goes out to faculty and staff members who know students the best, yet they can only say so much as to not “cross the line.” I’ve learned that politics is everything and everywhere. I am disheartened that I must leave the university in this state, but know that the next generation of students will fight for their beliefs in this institution as well.

Although I am moving on to my next chapter in life, I hope that I can take lessons learned from my years here at UC and use them to navigate my future. I will always call this university my alma mater, but I will never hesitate to call out the truth in support of what students need and want of their university.

 

Tyra Robinson is a 1st year WILLer, Graduating Senior majoring in Communication, and plans to attend law school in the Fall of 2016.

When Self-Care Is Not an Option

This semester, I’m taking 18 credit hours, working on my senior capstone, running two different groups as co-president, working on a campaign, looking for jobs after graduation, and doing my best to be an active member of WILL. I’m very fortunate that my partner Robyn is working two jobs at 70 hours a week so that I can focus on my studies, but my lack of a job has left me broke and with no income of my own, and with nothing in savings. I’ve also been dealing with a debilitating leg injury for the past month that has left me home-bound for every part of my day that doesn’t involve my classes or extra-curricular activities.

After explaining my predicament to others, especially to feminist-minded individuals and those who hold values similar to WILL’s, one of the first questions I’m usually asked is “What are you doing for self-care?”

Now, this is not something you should avoid asking someone. It can be extremely validating and a great reminder to most people that they should be prioritizing their emotional/physical/mental health and well-being first and foremost, and it is definitely a question that is keeping in congruency with our WILL values. Self-care is important, valuable and necessary.self-care-yoga1Look at this bullshit that came up when I typed “self-care” into Google Image. Self-care is not only good because it allows women to perform feminized emotional labor for others, you piece of shit “inspirational” photo.

That being said, when someone asks me this question (and knowing with all my being that they ask it only with the best of intentions), I can’t help but feel like someone is trying to add more tasks to my already engorged to-do list. It gives me the same gripping anxiety that I feel when I’ve completely forgotten an assignment with an upcoming deadline, or when I wake up late for class, or when I’m assigned 400+ pages of reading to do over the weekend, or when I wake up in a panic from one of my weekly nightmares I have of doing any of these things. It feels like more work that I need to worry about doing when I’ve already got so much else I’ve got to get done.

I’m not sure exactly why this question elicits such a response. Maybe it’s the way it’s worded. “What are you doing” seems to demand more work from me, more doing that I need to get done. Maybe it’s the vagueness of the phrase “self-care” that leaves it up to me to figure out and list all of the things that I think would qualify as self-care, and that I also think are implementable within my limited time frame. Maybe if it were worded differently, but with the same intention of care, it might not feel like another anxiety-inducing task. “How are you handling everything so far?” “Are you doing alright with all of the demands of this semester?” “Do you feel supported and equipped to handle your work load?” “Why does capitalism demand so much sacrifice and productivity of us, even in more feminist-oriented classes and spaces?” Maybe these aren’t the right questions to ask either, but I don’t necessarily have the answer to this.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’ve completely given up any and all agency over the situation of my physical/emotional/mental health. I’ve tried compiling lists of what I usually (read: used to) do for self-care before this hectic semester:

  • Go on hikes and spend time out in nature
  • Buy myself small treats
  • Spend time with friends and loved ones
  • Spend time with animals
  • Read non-class related books
  • Fae faith/spirituality related rituals
  • Shop at farmer’s markets
  • Learn/practice Welsh
  • Play video games
  • Sing
  • Draw/illustrate

Right now, almost all of these things are either impossible for me to do or are extremely limited due to my lack of time, my amount of homework, my leg injury, the cold weather, and/or my lack of money and resources. Though I do as many of these things as I can, I’m not able to do them in enough quantity/quality for them to actually have much of an effect on my overall well-being. To pencil these activities in on my calendar gives me an amount of anxiety that I shouldn’t have about doing these activities, because I know that they are taking away time from something else that I need to be doing. When I’m doing these activities in the sparse amounts that I am actually able to, I can’t get rid of the constant nagging worry in the back of my head that reminds me of how much work I need to get done, and that I really don’t have the time to be doing these things. This causes the actual positive effect these self-care rituals would normally have on me to be cut in half, so not only am I doing these activities less, but they’re far less effective than they would normally be, and are causing me to worry more.

qnWPcawSource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w8Z0UOXVaY The song starts around 6:10, but the whole video is actually really funny, and looking up humorous videos on the internet is another good way to practice self-care.

All of this being said, what can I actually be doing for self-care? Am I just going to have to deal with having poor physical/mental/emotional well-being? Do I have to reconsider my list of what I normally do for self-care? Are there other things I can be doing that would have similar effects that my normal self-care rituals have on my well-being? Is it possible at this point to reduce the amount of work that I have for this semester? Are there any commitments that I can cut back on? What should be my biggest priorities right now, and is there any way I can re-prioritize?

I’ve been asking myself these questions all semester, but to no avail. Right now, I’ve come to the conclusion that framing these questions around self-care is not giving me the answers and relief that I need. Instead, I’ve found myself asking, “What can I do to get through the rest of this semester?” The two answers that have given me the most comfort are “Do what you need to get done in order to survive” and “Look towards the finish line.” What I need to do to survive is eat enough, get enough sleep, pay my bills, do my homework well enough to pass all of my classes, and maintain my commitments to my extra-curricular activities. The finish line is April 30th at 2pm, the day that I graduate, and I can’t wait to cross it.

 

Jack Crofts (they/them/theirs) is a second year WILLer and 7th year senior studying Graphic Communication Design and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. They’re tired and can’t wait for this semester to be over.

 

Questioning My Racial Identity

When I was a small child my mother told me that we were part “Native American,” which is just as vague as saying “your ancestors are from Europe” which is pretty much what I understood about the other part of my heritage. When I was growing up I learned vague, vaguely racist things about the aboriginal people in this country—that they could walk very quietly, that they wore feathers on their head and paint on their faces. I called myself “part Indian” even though I knew, because my best friend’s mother was actually Indian-from-India, that this was incorrect. I was really part “Native American.” I don’t think I understood at the time how broad of a term this was.

When I got older, my knowledge about the people I came from got a little more precise. I learned that most of my ancestry is Scottish and German, but I still didn’t know the name of the American people I was from. My connection to any of my ancestors is tenuous at best. My ancestors gave me DNA and a last name: Kutcher is German, I think it means “coachman,” but my family doesn’t even pronounce it the German way. When my great-grandfather was in the military his superior officers pronounced his name wrong and he couldn’t correct them because it was the military. So my family pronounces my last name in an American way. I don’t speak any of the languages of my ancestors; I only speak English. I was raised on American chop suey and lentils and birdseed pie and lasagna. I didn’t grow up eating traditional food of any of my ancestors. I was raised Christian. I don’t know any traditional stories or holidays of the cultures I come from. I am thoroughly a white American.

And yet, when I applied to UC, I checked both the boxes for “White” and “American Indian or Alaskan Native,” just another white person taking up space that People of Color need. After several years of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) classes, and the Racial Awareness Program (RAPP) and thinking critically I stopped identifying as part Native American. My single Native American ancestor is so far back in my history that they make up a fraction of my gene pool. But more importantly, I know nothing about that culture, that language, those experiences. I am white. I have white privilege. I grew up in a white American culture. I didn’t even know the name of the tribe I came from. So I stopped being shitty and identifying as part Native and forgot about it. Until last November.

November is Native American Heritage Month. The Office of Ethnic Programs and Services put a lovely display on their door, and Chief Diversity Officer Bleuzette Marshall sent me an email inviting me to a Native American Heritage Month Mixer. How did she know that I used to identify as part Native American? Oh right, cause I told the University that when I applied. My bad decisions were following me around. I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to be a white person taking up space in a place for People of Color. But I was curious; would it mostly be white people like me who had some sort of vague understanding of a Native ancestor? Or would there be actual Native American people who knew about the culture they were from? Fortunately, the mixer was on a Monday night during the WILL meeting so the decision not to go was made for me.

But I started thinking. A few years ago, we talked about racial identity in one of my WGSS classes, and I told my classmates that I used to identify as part Native American. One of my classmates told me that they knew someone who looked as white as I did, and who had a very small amount of Native heritage, like I did, but that this person had done research into the culture they were from, that they went to gatherings of people from their tribe, and so they identified as part Native. This made so much sense to me. I was white. I needed to stop identifying as Native American. So I did. But now, it occurred to me that the other response would be to research the people I was from, to learn more. So I started trying to do that.

This is my second cousin, Winona Linn:
will blog pics

She is a poet, and a visual artist, and a world traveler. (She is so cool, in every way.) Her father and my mother are first cousins. Her grandfather and my grandfather were siblings. We share a great-grandmother, Nina Jordan Linn. Nina Jordan Linn in the person through whom our Native ancestry runs.

This is a link to Winona Linn’s website: http://www.winonalinn.com/

And these are three spoken word poems she wrote which touch on themes of Native Identity:

“Grey Owl” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVxJUZK3mHQ
“Knock-Off Native” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_zFOsd_pqA
“Marie-Angélique et Moi” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Papzni5Bp7U

(Winona Linn is a much better writer than I am; I encourage you to listen to these poems [and other poems. All her work is cool.])

The difference between Winona and me isn’t the amount of “Native blood” we have, but the amount of knowledge we have about our Meskwaki ancestry and culture. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to have a conversation with Winona about our heritage, but my mother told me that Winona has done a lot of research into our Native American history and had been to the reservation. It is through Winona’s poems that I learned the name of the people that I come from: Meskwaki. A quick google search told me that the Meskwaki Settlement is in Iowa.
Winona is Meskwaki. And I am not. But I might be, someday. I’m trying to start researching Meskwaki history and culture. But I am busy, like we all are. I have homework to do and I want to read for fun and cuddle my girlfriend and hang out with my friends and work on creative projects. I don’t really want to read any of the books about the Meskwaki that I’ve ordered through interlibrary loan. So here I am. Still a white person taking up space that People of Color need? Maybe. I have, at least, begun to learn about my Meskwaki heritage.

 

 

Nat Kutcher will be graduating in April with a BA in Liberal Arts (consisting of a Fine Arts minor, a Creative Writing certificate and a WGSS minor). This is their second and last year in WILL. They are white and maybe a little bit Meskwaki.

Black, Feminist…Groupie?

**TRIGGER WARNING: contains information about consensual sexual activity, sexual assault and discussion of discriminatory attitudes and actions**

It started when I landed on vh1 Classic while channel surfing and caught the sight of a man throwing his black mane back, eyes wild, black paint smeared on his cheeks, and rep-lipsticked mouth contorted into a snarl at the camera. It was love at first sight.

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(In the beginning…)

Who was this man? Who was this band, running around in leather, studs and platform boots through fire and smoke? The music sounded vaguely, sort of, kind of like the Beatles, a bit like the groups I had adored in my “scene/emo” phase, but it was different. Louder, flashier, harder, nastier. Exactly what a preteen with hormones in overdrive and an overactive imagination was looking for.

 

You could argue my glam metal “phase” has persisted well into my adulthood and I would probably agree with you. After hearing those crucial first few songs from Motley Crue, Guns N’ Roses, Ratt and many more of that ilk, I was hooked. Before I had my nose in the works of bell hooks and Frantz Fanon, I read every rock star biography I could get my hands on. Before I knew a thing about black revolutionaries beyond Malcolm X, white men who had gone through the throes of troubled childhoods, lines of coke and divorces with Playboy Playmates were my heroes. These men understood what it was like to be “different”, and as someone who had suffered from crippling feelings of isolation from a fairly young age I found solace in knowing these “freaks” had gone on to be successful many times over. Classic hard rock and heavy metal was full of people telling me to buck authority (which at the time mostly meant my parents, not the white capitalist heterosexist patriarchy) and do my own thing (usually with sex, motorcycles, or drugs involved, but not always). The men of these genres were my everything when it felt like I had nothing.

Classic hard rock and heavy metal intertwined with my life just as I was beginning to explore my sexuality and see where my boundaries lie. Because most of my experiences with black boys (and men) usually involved being cat-called, followed or otherwise creeped on from a young age, white boys appealed tremendously to me. Whereas it appeared black boys felt that they had the right to my mind and my body simply because we shared the same skin color, I was somewhat delighted that white boys never gave me the time of day. I could fantasize about them (usually skater types in eyeliner) in peace. As I became older and bought into the idea that boys my age were not going to cut it because I was more mature physically, psychologically and emotionally, I began to project my yearnings onto the 80s versions of rock stars. The (black, curvaceous) video vixens I thought of as lewd and not respecting themselves in hip hop videos were not on the same level as the (white, thin) models in 80s music videos and on the arms of my favorite rock stars. Nelly swiping a credit card through a dancer’s buttocks in the “Tip Drill” video was vile and degrading. A slice of cherry pie landing in Bobbie Brown’s lap in the “Cherry Pie” video was silly and funny.

Untitled

(Glam metal musicians are the kings of subtlety.)

 

I was so enamored with everything hard rock and heavy metal, particularly glam metal, that I consistently pushed my cognitive dissonance aside and refused to try to even begin to reconcile what it meant for me as a black young girl to idolize primarily white men in their ranging from 20s to 60s.

 

Tackling this dissonance did not really begin in earnest until I began to become more are of kyriarchy around 17 or 18, ironically coinciding with my new freedom to actually attend concerts and try to mimic the models, wives, girlfriends and groupies I had admired for so long. Topics I investigated – fetishization, tokenism, respectability politics, objectification, power dynamics, code-switching – were setting my wheels spinning and I began to reflect on my personal experiences as a black woman actively seeking white male attention in predominantly white communities. Often in these moments of self-reflection, I felt like a fraud or a traitor to other black women. How could I call myself a feminist or a womanist one moment and the next desperately seeking ways to make myself more appealing to white men – the zenith of all oppressors – through the way I dressed, spoke and carried myself, often to fit into the predefined rules of heteronormativity within the rock music space? Did all these rock stars really understand what it was like to be me? Did they care what it was like to be me? Unfortunately, the more I researched the men I had loved for so many years, the more I saw that they often did not. Even beloved Nikki Sixx, the man on the TV screen that had lit my world aflame years ago, does not have clean hands, as exemplified in this article

(http://www.mtv.com/news/1432411/mtley-cres-sixx-clashes-with-carolina-security-guard/)

 

So, what is a groupie to do? Do I denounce all those ridiculous poodle rockers and listen only to Prince (my other favorite genre)? Do I swear off of white men and get over my childhood trauma to begin dating black men (who around this time of self-discovery had begun to cast me as a “Nubian Queen” archetype because of my afro and “au-natural beauty”)? Could I still call myself a black, intersectional feminist and also want to be front-row at the Steel Panther concert, getting ogled by the dashing, middle-aged guitarist?

axe

(This Axeslinger Adonis has written many odes such as “Asian Hooker” and “Handicapped Slut”)

 

Frankly, out of my teenage years and into my 20s, I am still not sure. I am still in the midst of self-discovery in all realms of my life; as such I am deciding how I want to fit into a multitude of identities. I have somewhat outgrown looking to celebrities for guidance for a few different reasons. A primary cause because I have come to see the infallible icons of my adolescence because often the entire role of celebrity in society is they reinforce and normalize systems of oppression. When it comes to critically thinking about people, music, movies or other media that I enjoy, I always try to recognize and analyze a work and how it relates to the “-isms”. I find the five key questions of media literacy (outlined here: http://www.medialit.org/reading-room/five-key-questions-form-foundation-media-inquiry) to be a great starting point:

 

  • Who created this message? (By extension, who is saying it?)
  • What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?
  • How might different people understand this message differently from me?
  • What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in; or omitted from, this message?
  • Why is this message being sent?

 

 

From this collection of questions and ensuing answers, I determine how much I am willing to support something, and to what degree does my collusion potentially harm others. Because I have become more assured in myself as a feminist black woman and no longer seek large amounts of direction and validation from without, I am more comfortable within identities that do not centralize the music I listen to. With detachment comes the ability to see things a bit more objectively, so I no longer the impulse to defend people like Nikki Sixx, Axl Rose or more recently David Bowie and Lemmy Kilmister of Mötorhead in the wake of their deaths when others bring up great points about how these men, and many others, have supported white supremacy, sexual assault, and more. My growing confidence in my identity from lived experience, voracious information collection and personal growth as aided by WILL enables me to draw more fitting boundaries for myself as a music fan who paradoxically does not separate musician from music, but can enjoy music without being limited by an musician’s personal beliefs or even their intent with a piece. Similarly, I’m fine being described as a “groupie” I know the history of the that appellation, comprehend how it is used and understood in a variety of contexts, and at the end of the day decide through self-determination how I want that title to represent me. I’ve used similar processes to wrestle with other pieces of myself, including what it means to be “black” and what it means to be “feminist”.

 

Existing as an amorphous conglomeration of all these pieces is not always easy. Sometimes I feel pangs of self-consciousness when I go to concerts and a woman who is the pinnacle of glam metal (and often white beauty in general) with blonde tresses, light eyes, a large bosom and thin frame gets more attention from a band member than I do. In those moments, however, I try my best to step back and remind myself that staring enviously at other women should not be my main concern. First and foremost I am there for the music, often to get my first-time chance to belt out a power ballad or similar with a band I adore. Aside from interacting with a band as an audience member, concerts are also a chance to alleviate remnants of my preteen isolation by meeting other fans. Something as simple as humanizing that “metal chick” ideal by complimenting her handmade jacket, and in turn receiving glowing praise for my (shoddy) make-up application, makes my concert experience less about being judgmental and “sizing up” and more about having fun and creating a cherished memory. While interactions such as this are not an magic solution to ending oppressive attitudes in hard rock and heavy metal among bands and fans, they help motivate me to continue delineating the right times to ask questions, be critical, and gather “receipts” if you will; to close my laptop, throw on a pink leopard-print dress, and party hard; and when it’s optimal to do all of them simultaneously.

 

El-Asa Crawford is a 5th year Graphic Communication Design major and Information Technology minor. This is her first and last year with WILL. She looks forward to finally having a safe space to dissect the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy while building her feminist leadership capabilities.