Monday, December 19, 2011

Yearly New Year's Survey

So, I fell off the blogging wagon.  WHOOPS.  Anyway, here's the yearly survey.  There is no #22, so no, I didn't skip it.

2011 was ... full of highs and lows, and not many in-betweens.  I'm glad to see it go.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Got an A in a university-level science course.  No, really.  And I actually worked for it, too.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Same as every year, I don't really make solid resolutions, and then I don't keep 'em.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Auntie Dora, my great aunt, died at the age of 105.

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Laundry in my apartment.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
January 1st, February 25th, May 14th.  June 12th.  July 11th.  July 27th and July 28th.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Got into graduate school.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Let's not talk about this.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Compartment syndrome!  Got my legs cut open.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new mattress.  OMG.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Amber's.  You know why.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
All republicans.  And that other person.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, food.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Starting graduate school.  My upcoming trip to Colorado.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Reconstructing Science.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Sadder.
ii. thinner or fatter? 20 lbs lighter.
iii. richer or poorer? Poorer.  Whoops.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Studying, cleaning.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Staying up late (still).  Eating, spending money.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Aunt and uncle's house for dinner, as usual.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?

23. How many one-night stands?
365, baby.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
Bones, Castle.  STILL.  I'm clearly a sucker for the sexual tension.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
The Emperor of Maladies.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
Got into graduate school.

29. What did you want and not get?
Let's not.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
I think the only movie I saw this year was Harry Potter.  Whoops.  Did I not see anything else?

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 25.  I taught in the morning, went to class afterwards.  After office hours, I did some shots with my friends before going to our second class.  After I got home, I went to dinner with my mom, and then I met up with my friends for drinks.  It was a great birthday.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably satisfying?

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
I had one!  Um, clean, comfortable, and chic.

34. What kept you sane?
Netflix, Loki, Amber, Michelle, Scott.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Dan Radcliffe, just so you know, I'm ALWAYS available if you're interested.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Is there one that doesn't?  I'm a socialist feminist shrieking harpy.

37. Who did you miss?
Lady.  That other person.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
CM/MCBB/EBE first years!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
When you know something is a bad idea, you SHOULDN'T DO IT.  And you really should NOT do it multiple times either.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I am done with my graceless heart
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart
Cause I like to keep my issues strong
It's always darkest before the dawn

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Quarter life

I've posted about how my birthday today is not going to be quite the celebration I'd hoped due to the horrific execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.  Now, I want to post about how, well ... I'm twenty-five.

It's weird to think about how much my life has changed over these twenty-five years.  I remember when I was a kid, I had ... no friends.  I was teased a lot, and I don't know why.  I've never been super cool by any standards, but as a six- or seven-year-old, I'm really not sure I was terribly uncool.  I mean, yes, I was hugely bossy, but I don't think I was being teased for that.

And then we moved, and I made friends for the first time.  Many of these people I'm still friends with today.  All of us have changed a lot, and yet we're still together.

I went through weird phases with clothing.  When I was young, I loved wearing pink, and I loved wearing skirts and dresses.  Then I switched gears; I cut my hair to my chin and refused to wear skirts, insisting that my favorite color was orange.  I didn't want to be a boy; I just didn't want to be a girl either.

In late elementary school and early middle school, I dressed extremely unfashionably, even for the late nineties.  I mean, really, really, really unfashionably.  Even throughout high school, I struggled to find a way to dress that I loved.  I went through my punk phase (giant Hot Topic pants and everything), and then settled on boring.  Experiments in fashion failed frequently.  It wasn't until this past year that I've really put myself together, to the point of receiving actual compliments on my outfits.  Huh.

My love life has had its ups and downs.  First was the epic crush I had on a friend who had a crush on me.  The crushes faded, returned, faded, returned, etc., never turning into anything, until we grew apart (or fell apart, more accurately).  My first kiss was at camp, as was my second.  My first boyfriend was a fellow musician, a member of the same Boston groups as I was.  Looking back, I see how UNserious we were, but when I was sixteen, I felt like he was totally perfect for me.  Our break-up threw me into a tailspin, and was the catalyst that brought me to therapy.

My first huge relationship was in college; it was with this boyfriend that I had sex for the first time, and learned how difficult it can be to balance principles with practice.  The relationship ended in a huge emotional mess, and it took me almost a year to pull myself out and move on.  It was then that I finally started dating for the first time, and even when dates sucked, I enjoyed it.

About a year later, I started dating my most recent boyfriend.  It started out with boring dating, became a moderately interesting relationship, and then fizzled.  I still had a tough time when it ended, but moving on was much faster and easier, especially when I realized that there was so much I was ready to give, and that I deserved someone equally giving.

Finally, I learned not to hook up with friends.

My heath has also done some weird-ass shit over the years.  From PCOS to idiopathic hives and angioedema to ulcerative colitis to compartment syndrome ... it's been pretty ridiculous.  Right now, it looks as if I might be emerging from this mess with my health intact.  PCOS seems to have ... well, no impact anymore.  I do have my LOVELY acne back, now that I'm off the pill, but so much of my weight gain was from the pill that I don't think it was fair to think that my PCOS was somehow in full force because of my weight all these years.  Meanwhile, my periods are coming somewhat regularly, or at least every 35 days or so.  Compared to before the pill, this is unprecedented.  I used to go months without a period.  So I guess ... it's gone?

Hives and swelling haven't reared their ugly heads, although I know that going off my antihistamines will change that.  I was having some mild hives along my waistline, from the pressure of my belt, but I realized that my Zyrtec had expired several months before.  New Zyrtec and POOF, hives were gone.  But they're so well under control, I feel as if I'm finally free.  I just have to take an over the counter pill.  That's easy.

Colitis came back last summer and lasted about six months, but hopefully that's the end of it.  I've been fine since January.  And compartment syndrome?  Well, that'll either be cured or not.  We'll find out in a few weeks, when I can run again.

My professional life is so much different than I ever could have expected.  Wasn't I going to be an artist?  An animator?  A flutist?  A veterinarian?  A farmer's wife?  Even in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I still don't know what I want to do, but the difference now is that I'm getting my PhD.  I never thought I would do that until maybe a year and a half ago.  And here I am, in a program at BU, still in Boston.

My family circumstances have also changed.  I went from being super close to my siblings, in a home with two parents, to living with just my mom and sister while my brother was at school, to living on my own and not speaking with my dad or his new family.  My relationships with my siblings are ... complicated.  It's a bit sad, realizing how far from ideal my family is.  But at the same time, I still have a family that cares about me, that supports me.

I lost Lady, our dog since I was seven years old, back when I was twenty-one.  I didn't think she would necessarily be around when I was twenty-five, but losing her was still one of the worst things that ever happened to me.  Our bird, Kiwi, died when I was sixteen, and I didn't know how to mourn.  Now, I have a beautiful parakeet, Loki, who is endlessly adorable and entertaining, and while sometimes I just want to bite his head off, he's very sweet and loving.

Didn't I used to want to own a lion?  Yes.

Speaking of which, my obsession with the Lion King faded with time and was replaced by a similar, albeit more intelligent obsession with the Legend of Zelda video game series.  My favorite TV show went from the Simpsons to That '70s Show to House to Friends to Scrubs to Bones.  Somehow, I'll still watch any episode of Forensic Files that's on.  My musical taste started with the Goo Goo Dolls ... and is still Goo Goo Dolls-centric.

I didn't know how INTO politics I'd be at my age now.  I'm open about being a feminist and an atheist, two things which were absolutely not always true.  I'm working every day to check my cis, white, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical privileges.  I'm so liberal, it hurts being an American right now.  My first time voting, I voted for Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election.  We all know how that went.

When September 11th happened, it was maybe the third day of high school, and I was in class.

My best Halloween costume was when I had swine flu and stayed home as a "sick person."  Okay, no, it was probably last year, when I was Hit Girl, but no one got to see :(

I will celebrate my birthday by teaching lab, going to my classes, and holding office hours.  Then I'll have dinner with my mom and go out with classmates.  Friday, I'll go to my classes and then go out with some friends.  Saturday, I will do work and laundry, and go to a friend's party.  And Sunday, I will have lunch with my grandparents and then be surprised by my childhood friends.

And hopefully, in another 25 years, I'll look back and think, "Wow, look at what's changed and what hasn't!"  It's sort of inevitable, isn't it?

Birthdays and deathdays

On the evening before my 25th birthday, at 11:08pm, Troy Davis was executed.

There's a lot I'm feeling about this.  I'd rather not go into tons of details about the case, which are widely available through online news and Wikipedia.  The gist of it is that Troy Davis was tried and convicted in the murder of a policeman in 1989 based on witness testimony, and he was sentenced to death.  One of the witnesses was a suspect in the same case, and seven more out of the nine total have recanted their testimony, citing police pressure as the reason for their testimony.

I have never felt good about capital punishment.  I don't quite see how it actually makes any sense.  Perhaps if we were absolutely sure of someone's guilt, with no evidence suggesting otherwise, overwhelming evidence suggesting truth, and no sign of remorse on the part of the person convicted, then maybe, maybe, I'd say ... "Maybe."  Because even then, what good does it do?

The person murdered is still dead.  Capital punishment is purely for revenge.  "You did this, and now I'll make you pay."

So what happens when we're not absolutely convinced of guilt?  In the case of Troy Davis, the people with the power to stop his execution acknowledged the lack of evidence for his guilt.  They acknowledged it and didn't do anything about it.

His execution was scheduled for 7:00pm, but he sat on the gurney, with the needle in his arm, for hours, waiting for the US Supreme Court to save him.  They did not.  And no justice dissented.  Before tonight, I considered Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be something of an idol for me.  Now, I'm just too shocked to even process the complete lack of dissent.

And that was the night I went from disliking the death penalty to actively working to abolish it.  I don't know what's so different this time; I've already known I've disliked capital punishment, but really didn't DO anything about it.  But something's changed.  Maybe it's because I'm older.  Maybe it's because I have friends and acquaintances who have been sharing and retweeting the heck out of this case.  Maybe it's because I'm no longer ignorant about so many issues.

Or maybe it's because those people in power, people who had the ability to grant clemency, knew there was doubt as to Davis' guilt.  They acknowledged there was a good chance he was innocent.  And they murdered him anyway.  They did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I've turned twenty-five.  I've had an extremely difficult week so far; major family illness, news of a friend's imminent deployment overseas, and now the government-sanctioned murder of a man who was likely innocent.  I've been missing someone whose friendship I lost this summer, and I've been struggling to take care of my legs.  All in all, I feel much, much older than twenty-five.

And this morning, I have to teach biology to some first-year students, many of whom might not even be aware of what happened last night.  It's so strange.

It's difficult that I've just started my PhD, and now I want to run off and get my law degree so I can fix our broken justice system.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Two towers, ten years

It is really weird to be in my apartment this weekend, reading textbooks and papers, and realizing how much time has past.  Not only that, but it's unnerving to think how the course of my life and the lives of all Americans have been irreversibly affected by one major event ten years ago.

I have actually been dreading this day for about eight years, which is the day I realized that September 11th, 2011 was going to be a day full of politics, where my identity American, ten years later, would still be questioned.  All throughout this August, my heart sank as I saw all the retrospectives.  It's not that I'm against remembering, against mourning those lost, against uniting as a country.  It's that I'm angry at the way that this event has been used, much like a weapon, to tear apart the country I live in and give political leverage to men and women who would see the lives of so many Americans destroyed.  And I'm not talking about terrorists.

Ten years ago, I was fourteen years old, and it was one of the first days of high school.  When the World Trade Center in New York City was struck by planes and collapsed, I was in early morning classes.  I left band class to find that there were TVs set up all around the school.  We saw the smoke and flames, but like so many people, we had no idea what was going on.  No one knew how this had happened.  No one knew why.  Even worse, no one was quite sure exactly what had even happened.  And, to make matters even worse, I remember the very, very real possibility that other cities would be targeted, including Boston.

I remember watching the news a lot for the next several weeks.  I remember that the radio that night played zero music; there were just people talking about what had happened.  One young man called in to say that his father had died in his office at the Pentagon, and that he would avenge his father's death by joining the army and destroying the people who had done this.  I remember flipping through channels one evening to find that nearly every single channel was showing a memorial concert.

In this one horrible, terrifying day, I feel like our country was destroyed.  We have not been able to unify in the wake of tragedy.  We were not able to effectively punish the people who did this.  Instead, we're in ruins.

We have politicians who do not help us, who instead have petty arguments, abuse their power, and ignore their constituents.  These are the kinds of people who would deny healthcare to the first responders, who are dying because they were heroes.  Poorly executed and illegal wars have bled us dry financially.  These politicians, through their decisions, have killed innocents, illegally imprisoned suspects, and tortured people.  Instead of unifying our country, and standing up and defying those who hurt us, we're vilifying entire groups of the population for not being appropriately "American."  Our consumerism still permeates every facet of life.  Instead of being able to say to al-Qaeda, "You were wrong about us, and we will, as a whole, avenge the deaths of those you took from us," we have fought amongst ourselves, we have done a disservice to those who died, and we have validated the justifications in the eyes of extremists.

It's been ten years.  Ten years ago, I was a freshman in high school.  I believed I would one day be a professional flutist.  I had no sexual experience, I lived at home with my parents, and even "college" was only a distant milestone.  I had no politics, only strange feelings as I watched the coverage and mourned the loss of life and our collective sense of safety.

Ten years later, I'm a first-year again, this time in graduate school.  I haven't thought of being a professional mucisian in years, and am fulfilling my subsequent goal of becoming a scientist.  I have sexual experience, as well as a desire to be involved in sex education; I am living in my third apartment, with three roommates, far from my hometown; my parents have been divorced for several years; and college feels like a distant memory.  I am passionately political, and dismayed to see my feelings from ten years ago have been identified ... and validated.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Today, the Boston area is in the middle of some nasty weather from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, which started to hit yesterday afternoon.  I actually slept through what I think was the worst of the Boston-area weather, at least according to the radar at Weather Underground.  Right now, it looks a little rainy and pretty windy out.  I haven't lost power, although I had some flickers about an hour ago.*

Right now, I think the most annoying thing about this storm is the "OMG SO OVERHYPED" reaction.  I don't just find it annoying because of the political implications; I find it obnoxious because I'm really not entirely sure how the storm was overhyped.

Let's think about the Boston area, how much hype there was, and what's actually going on right now.

The MBTA decided to shut down today, after 8am.  People were advised to stay indoors and not drive, unless leaving/driving was necessary.  Coastal and low-lying areas were warned about flooding and advised to prepare for it.  Folks planned in advance in case they lost power, or if they lost power and clean running water.

And what's going on?  Trees are falling, lots of people have lost power, and there has been flooding in various areas.  It is extremely wet, dark, and windy outside.

So, how was this overhyped?  Yes, the storm weakened before it reached us (from a cat 1 hurricane to a tropical storm).  But it's still here.  And this isn't just a bad thunderstorm.  And naturally, most of the people complaining online about the hype still have power.  You're not hearing a lot from the people who've lost power; even if you have mobile internet, you're probably not going to want to waste the batteries when you're not sure when your power will be back on.

In NYC, the "omg overhyped!" reaction is even more unacceptable.  Entire blocks in the city flooded.  People died.  That's not overhype.

And then onwards to the political implications.  Because this isn't just that people crying "overhyped!" are fucking wrong.  This is about the responsibility that government has to protect citizens.

No one knows exactly what will happen when bad weather hits.  We don't know which houses will flood, or exactly which trees will fall.  But it was obvious that the east coast was going to be hit with a major storm, and people needed to be protected.  Governments made the right call and took steps to protect people.**  If they hadn't, it would have been worse.

This is an example of government working, not an example of how government is useless or shouldn't bother itself with things like hurricanes.  An example of when government does not work to protect people?  Katrina.  When Katrina hit six years ago, people were unprepared.  Government was unprepared.  And the death and destruction was absolutely devastating, not just because it happened, but because it could have been prevented or minimized.

So, the bottom line?  If you got through H/TS Irene without losing power or having your life interrupted in any way, that doesn't mean in any way that the storm was overhyped.  The storm wasn't overhyped, and because governments and people took the storm as seriously as they did, the storm isn't causing as much death and destruction as it could be.

* Had three more flickers just as I finished writing this post, around 1:45pm.  GAH.

** An exception needs to be noted: there is no evacuation plan for prisoners in Rikers in NYC.  Not just "there was no plan for this hurricane."  There is no plan, period.  While I believe that many people in that prison are in there for good reasons, that does not mean that it would be totes okay if a hurricane flooded the facilities.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two miles omg

I went out to dinner tonight with a friend of mine; we went to Burtons Grill and got the Restaurant Week menu.  It.  Was.  AWESOME.

To get there, I walked about a half mile to the bus, and took the most almost all the way to the restaurant.  On the way home, I still wanted to chat with my friend, who had decided to walk home.  She agreed to walk with me if I chose to walk home, too, even though it was a bit out of the way for her.  So I walked home, no bus.  I didn't realize it, but it was a mile and a half walk home, not just a mile.

So I walked two miles today.  And now I am absolutely exhausted!  I've gone months without running and been able to get back on the horse fairly easily, but I've never gone this long without walking on a regular basis.  Normally, I walk at least a mile every weekday, to get too and from work.  So I guess I shouldn't be so surprised at how tired I am now.  I could totally fall asleep right now.  Yikes.

I won't, though; Loki is having too much fun running up and down my legs right now, having conversations with my big toenails.  Not joking.  It's very weird because he keeps walking over the part of my leg that's still numb.  He takes great care to avoid the incisions; he's afraid of the left interior one, with the blister.

Oh, bird.  But whatever.  'Cause I walked two miles today, suckahs!

Monday, August 22, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about embodiment lately.  Growing up in a culture that teaches women, from a young age, that they must work on their bodies endlessly, I came of age believing that I consisted of two separate entities.  I was me, Stephanie, and I had this body that Stephanie was in.  It's definitely a weird disconnect.  It's not that my body was somehow unfamiliar to me.  It was always that my body was a thing that belonged to me.  It wasn't actually me.

I think a lot of messages women receive about beauty and appearance reinforce this disconnect.  We're encouraged (in a heteronormative society) to want a man to love us for our brains, not our bodies.  Some of us feel like "a thin girl trapped in a fat girl's body."  Many of us look in the mirror and feel depressed that our external appearance isn't "correct," that it is not an accurate representation of who we truly are.

I struggled for years with these issues, and they linger in some ways.  For example, as a diehard contact lens wearer, I'm sometimes surprised when I look in the mirror while wearing glasses, or if there are pictures of me in frames.  Then again, as a diehard contact lens wearer, I'm quite unused to seeing myself in glasses.  But spending years looking in the mirror and feeling surprised that I looked so much bigger than I felt--that was a problem.

I don't have a recipe for fixing embodiment issues, just a smattering of things that helped me.  An avid doodler, I stopped drawing "myself" as slim.  I started to check out online shopping sites that used plus sized models, even if I wasn't buying anything.  I mentally checked myself any time I worried about looking "too fat."  I would go sleeveless and remind myself mentally, several times throughout the day, that no one cared but me.  I would wear clothing that made me feel awesome, instead of clothing that I thought would hide all of my horrible, terrible, unacceptable flaws.  I started working on hair and make-up for fun, which switched my focus from "hiding and changing" to "decorating and enhancing."

I don't know if I'll ever completely destroy the disconnect, but it's a relief to lessen it significantly.  I'm so much happier with myself and my life without the disconnect looming over me.  And the funny thing is, as the disconnect lessens, as I take care of ME instead of MY BODY, I get more compliments on my fashion sense.  Go figure.

So far, though, I've found two ways to erase the disconnect, at least temporarily.  The first isn't that shocking--it's sexual activity.  No matter how much my body weighs, or how large or small it is, no matter how insecure or not I've been feeling, sexual activity lets me be me, not just a mind and a body.  The effect lasts for about as long as the encounter, usually going over slightly until I get distracted from thinking about it.  I never feel "one" during sexual activity with a partner, and that's never my goal.  I just love that I feel one with myself.

The second way to erase the disconnect is running.  I guess running is similar to sexual activity in a lot of ways, and it's not surprising to me that both methods of erasing the disconnect are physical activities that make people feel good.  But somehow, when I'm running, it's just me.  Compartment syndrome didn't even bring the disconnect back; even though I knew the problem was with my calves specifically, it was still me, not my body.

I've been very ambivalent about my post-pill weight loss, and I've written as much on multiple occasions.  I spent years trying not to obsess over my weight; obsessing over it only increased the disconnect.  But now, like it or not, I'm losing weight, and I have no idea how much I'm going to lose before it stops, and what life will be like from now on.  I like knowing how I function; I know that if I eat ice cream and don't take a lactase pill, I will feel like crap.  So, what are the new rules for my weight?  The old rules were easy: weight will go up about 5lbs a year forever, no matter what you eat, HAVE FUN.

As I've written about before, losing weight has benefits, even if I was happy and healthy before.  This is a culture that treats fat people, especially fat women, like shit.  So yes, I will be happy to not have as many people treat me like shit.  But I don't like that my mom keeps obsessing over how "skinny" I look now.  Yeah, I'm totally healthy, but she was excited when I lost weight from ulcerative colitis, and upset when I didn't lose weight while I had mono.  It's not her fault; again, this is a culture that doesn't care about health as much as it does about fat vs skinny.

But the biggest downside is that the disconnect is returning.  I look in the mirror and the person looking back isn't really me anymore.  I look at my stomach, and it's not my stomach.  My thighs aren't my thighs.  My face isn't my face.  My arms are still mine, only because they haven't changed.  My calves have changed, but not from weight loss; I'll have to get used to my calves being floppy.  But that's different; that's change I made intentionally, for reasons other than a disconnect.

The disconnect appears even when I'm not looking in a mirror.  A lot of my clothing, especially jeans, fit differently now.  Going to the grocery store today was so strange; the fabric of my clothes moved across my body so much differently than usual.  My body, not me.  There's the disconnect.  Because after finally minimizing it, looking in the mirror and seeing me, moving around and feeling me, things changed, and right now, this isn't my body.

Embodiment is a tricky subject, but hopefully this resonates with some people.  My goal is to see how far this weight loss is going to go, hit that plateau and maintain it, and get back to work erasing the disconnect as best I can.  I don't want to be going through life trapped in my body.  I just want to go through life as me.

Slowly but surely recovering ...

I had my stitches out on the 12th.  The appointment ended up kind of sucking.  The fellow who did the follow up had zero sense of humor, and she also had no real advice for what to do with the huge blister that was intersecting with my interior left incision.  She did feel some swelling that felt strange, so she sent me to have an ultrasound done to make sure it wasn't a clot.  (It wasn't.)

The next evening, I had a great time at a friend's housewarming party.  First time I was really out and about (and drinking) since surgery; we hung out and played Rock Band all night.  Badass :D  By the time I got home, though, three of my incisions were leaking, my calves, feet, and ankles had swollen pretty seriously, and I was in some pain.  One evening of elevation fixed the swelling, though.

Since then, there's been a general pattern with my legs and incisions.  My right leg looks pretty damn great; one incision looks amazing, and the other is 50% amazing, 50% a little sad looking, nothing serious.  My right leg stopped discharging first, and I can shower and put antibiotic cream on it without either one getting pissed the fuck off.

My left leg hasn't been as happy.  The left exterior incision was the leakiest when I had my stitches out, although it got its act together after three days or so.  It looks a bit angrier than my right incisions, but it'll be okay.  The interior left incision is a mess, though.

The blister intersected with the bottom of the incision, which has left that spot looking horrible.  The skin doesn't look evenly sewn together near the top.  A week after my stitches are out, the incision has discharge every time I shower or put antibiotic cream on it.  The discharge isn't pus, at least it doesn't look like it.  It's more like serum-y with a tinge of blood.

The most disconcerting thing, though, is the blister.  Most of it did dry out; most of the top skin has already dried and broken off.  The splotch where it was is light pink (not from infection, but just an exposed underlayer of skin), and it'll probably scar, but it's fine.  It's just the center that's the problem.  There's a little knot of scab material in the center, and then a weird yellow squiggle shape.  The squiggle is not liquid or abscess; it's solid.  My friend believes it's devitalized tissue, which is essentially dead cells and ECM.  If that's what it is, I'll have to have it removed.  The squiggle is not getting bigger or uglier, and so I'm going to wait till my next follow up to have it examined.  My immune system is famously overreactive, so I'm hoping very much that it gets its ass into gear to heal my legs faster.

I also can walk easily now, without getting tired, and without any pain.  I still take stairs carefully, but I put less and less thought into it each time.  Unfortunately, my legs, ankles, and feet swell when I leave my legs unelevated for long periods of time, but it's easily fixed.  My first PT appointment is in two days, yay!

Meanwhile, the unintentional weight loss saga continues.  I've lost a total of 21 lbs, and I've lost about 5 or 6 lbs since I had surgery (Well, more like I was down 19 lbs two weeks after surgery, and it took my body another week to get down the last lb to -20).  I've had a couple of people express some concern that I'm losing weight while lying in bed all day, but I'm actually not confused about it.

1) Now that I'm off the pill, I seem to be losing weight no matter how unhealthy I am anyway.  I think the general gist of it was that while I was on the pill, lifestyle changes that should have led to weight loss did not.  But the thing is, I STILL maintain those lifestyle changes; they're only kicking into effect now.

2) Healing takes energy.  That sounds new-agey, so many I should add that when I say that, I'm imagining my ATP synthases spinning wildly.*  My body is more active right now than it was pre-surgery while I sit around and do nothing (except fuck around online all day).

3) I am not sitting around eating candy and chips all day, although I admit that I HAVE had some candy and chips this month.**  For two weeks, my mom bought my groceries, so they were almost completely healthy foods, and then last week, I was trying to make the most of what I had so I didn't have to go to the grocery store--canned fruit, cream of wheat, frozen vegetables, etc.  As much as I'd love to eat nothing except homemade mac and cheese all day, every day, I haven't been doing that.

4) I am such a lazy person.  That's why people are surprised that I love running (and that I'd actually have surgery just so I can run again).  I am so lazy that I'll often not eat because the kitchen is too far away.  With my legs the way they are, this laziness has been seriously augmented.  I also only went to the grocery store for the first time today.  It's hard to eat like crap when you're too lazy to go out and actually BUY crap.

5) Now that my stitches are out, I have been a bit more active.  I've already been doing arm exercises since my surgery, but now I'm walking around the apartment more, making short trips to Walgreens (not just for candy--mostly for more gauze and bandages), cleaning, and going out with friends.

In summary, I am definitely not starving myself in an attempt to say, "HA!  Losers!  I lost weight while lying in bed all day!  It's easy!"  Because, to be frank, it bothers me that I'm still losing weight while lying in bed all day.  I hate not knowing exactly how this weight loss is going to work.  How long should I wait to buy jeans that fit?  Can my dresses be altered no matter how much weight I lose, or will it be impossible to take them in enough if I lose too much weight?  Will I gain everything back if I start carb loading for running?  ARG?!!


** I am in my mid-twenties.  You bet your ass I will sometimes have candy for breakfast.  Two days ago, I made brownie batter from scratch as a snack.  What's the fun of being an adult if you can't do any of the things you dreamt about as a kid?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Slightly improving

Life's been much of the same, leg-wise, all weekend.  I had a friend in town, and I let her crash with me, which was pretty fun.  It definitely broke up a lot of the monotony I've been dealing with for the past week!  But alas, she's gone home.  My mom visited me again today, bringing lots of groceries with her, but she won't be back till Wednesday (we're going to try to get me over to her apartment--sans Loki--then).

The good news is that I seem to finally be improving.  I still have the world's saddest limp, but ankle pumps are getting easier, my limp is less pronounced, and I have much less pain.  I'm starting to hurt myself from walking, though.  My left knee is constantly getting hyper-extended from the position it's in when I limp, and I have definitely twisted my right leg twice.  The latter wouldn't be so bad, but since my leg is far from healed, it's pretty painful and I'm sure it just adds more inflammation.

I also haven't had a fever since Friday evening, for the first time since the weekend right after surgery.  It's definitely nice, only because fevers make me feel really shitty (not because a fever after surgery is necessarily a bad thing).

But I'm definitely ready to stop being stuck in my bed.  My back (both my shoulders and my lower back) are stressed from being in bed all day, every day, I'm sick of my apartment, I'm tired of not seeing my friends who haven't offered to visit (this is not a hint; there really isn't anything to DO here, trust me).  I want to take a real shower VERY badly, and I would wear something other than a tank top and sweat shorts, but that's really the best thing to wear when I'm stuck in bed all day with bandaged calves.  I have the immense pleasure of having my period right now, which is a lot more obnoxious when I'm stuck in bed and can't take a real shower.

As much as I love Loki, and I know he's thrilled to have me (and other people) around a lot, I really need some time away from him.  It's good that he can fly around, since I can't really get up a lot to deal with him, but that means he refuses to spend a lot of time in his cage.  Right now, it's almost midnight, and he's sitting on top of his cage, SCREAMING for no reason (and by "no reason," I mean, "because I won't let him sit on the plastic tumbler full of water that's on my nightstand, since he has totally knocked it over in the past, and I can't deal with that right now, Loki, OKAY?").

I am so, so ready to move on and start physical therapy, because I am so bored and tired of being stuck in bed with these legs.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And they're finally off!

Last night was a bit rough.  My fever came back and went up to 100.8, which still isn't an emergency, but was extremely uncomfortable.  I took some Tylenol and monitored my temperature as it slowly went down.  It was a bit gross being awake for my fever breaking, since I got all gross and sweaty.  But I felt better afterwards.  Walking had been just as difficult.

Today has been one week since surgery, which meant it was time to take off the original dressings.  Eeee!  My mom came over, and we slowly peeled away the ace bandages.  I knew that there had been a lot of layers, but I still wasn't prepared for how small my calves would look when I got them all off.  There were so many layers of bandage and gauze, I couldn't believe I could feel the ice packs through all of that.  I also understood why they had no problem sending me home with fresh incisions.  There was no way anything was getting through all of those layers.

First, we did my right leg.  The first incision we uncovered looked fine, and we didn't even notice that much additional bruising.  The second one was similar, but there was some old blood on the gauze that was directly over the incision.

My left leg was worse, as expected.  Both incisions had some dried blood on the gauze, but what was worse was that directly below one of the incisions (below as in closer to the ankle, not deeper in the skin underneath the incision) was a HUGE dark red blotch, with an even darker center.  We immediately panicked and called.  In the meantime, we wrapped the leg up anyway.  We didn't notice anything else weird, just the scary blotch.

Without the old bandages, my legs look so much smaller.  The discoloration isn't that bad, not as bad as we were expecting.  The compression from the bandages must have been ridiculous because even right now, a couple hours later, my (swollen) ankles look huge against my strangely regular-sized calves.  The compression also has left my legs very, very numb.  When I called and left a message for my surgeon with his assistant, the assistant asked me if the blood-colored patch hurt.  I admitted to her that my whole leg was kind of numb, and she replied, "Oh, yeah," indicating that numbness is completely normal.  Besides, I would be shocked if it weren't; I did everything right this week, so if it's because the wraps were too tight, that's they're fault.  But compression is good; it improves circulation.  So I think the tightness was intentional, and the feeling is slowly returning to my calves.

Walking isn't easier.  While the light bandages are much easier to walk with, the numbness is fading enough that the pain is worse.  Arg.  Most of the pain is in the deeper part of my calves, which is unsurprising, but unpleasant.  I can't wait for it to fade; I miss being able to walk!

I am one (figurative) step closer to being able to run!  Next week (on Friday), my stitches come out, and I can start physical therapy.  One week down, 5-11 weeks to go!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More of the same

Today isn't much different from yesterday, minus the AWESOME THUNDER STORMS.  Say what you will about New England weather, but it really never gets old.

I woke up around 6am with lots of stiffness and pain.  And by lots, I really don't mean lots, I just mean that it's not as great as my first couple of days.  I left Loki uncovered, so he woke up when I did.  I got up to pee and start my ice pack usage for the day, and Loki moved to follow me.  He was a complete brat about it, shrieking and flying and being annoying.  While I was getting my ice packs ready, he decided to fly back to my room, but I had closed the door to keep the cool air inside.  So he sat on the floor in the hallway, crying, waiting for me to get him.

I share that little hallway with one roommate, and let's remember that it's 6:15 in the morning on a weekday.  Loki wouldn't shut up, so I leaned down a bit to get him to jump on my finger, and my right calf didn't appreciate it.  It felt as if my stitches were being pulled out of the exterior-side incision.  Fuck.  After discussing things with a medically-inclined friend, I figure that my incision oozed a bit and got stuck to the gauze, which isn't an emergency.  It just hurts like a motherfucker.  My left leg is much the same, still worse than the right leg.  My left ankle is in rough shape, too, very swollen.  No fever yet today.

I covered Loki up, but couldn't fall back asleep for the rest of the morning.  I finally uncovered Loki and changed my ice packs around 10, which is around when I did finally fall asleep, until about 2.  since then, I've been mostly awake, taking very quick naps here and there.  I had dinner about an hour ago, but I'll probably nap again as soon as I bring my dish back to the kitchen and switch ice packs again.

Two more days till the dressings come off!  It's going to be gross.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Slogging along

Today continued in the same vein as yesterday did.  Definitely feeling drained, partially because I'm just lying in bed all day, and partially because my body is still a bit shocked from surgery.  My legs are starting to get very uncomfortable.  I keep readjusting my pillows so my knees aren't locked, but I keep getting the sensation that they're locking anyway.

The pain and swelling in my right leg is significantly decreasing.  The only pain I get right now feels like it's from stitches catching onto my bandages, although it's hard to tell.  It's an unpleasant pain, but I try to avoid it.  The swelling is down considerably, or at least that's what it looks like to me.  It's hard to tell with all the bandaging!

My left leg is not doing as well.  It feels worse in general, and the pain makes it hard to walk somewhat normally.  Because my right leg is so much better, I walk with a limp, and because of how bad my left leg is, I just sort of slowly shuffle towards my destination.  The swelling isn't any better, and even though (again) it's hard to tell what's going on, it looks bigger than my right calf does.

Last night, I felt some twinging pain in my left calf and called the on-call doctor.  He reassured me and explained that if I had a blood clot, I wouldn't really know about it or be able to do much about the clot on its own.  Instead, he told me to look out for a racing pulse and shortness of breath.  I asked about the trouble urinating, and he said that was normal on oxy.  I didn't mention bruising or fever, like my mom wanted, because I know both things are normal.  My fever was a bit high (for me) last night, around 100.6, but it broke overnight again.

I slept most of the day, waking up to pee at 6:30 and 10am.  I noticed some numbness in my left pinky and ring finger, but after talking with a few people, I know it's nothing serious, probably just from lying down since Thursday.  My fever hasn't come back yet, but I also took more Tylenol this morning.  We'll see if it comes back tonight or not.

I slept more, from 10ish to almost 1, and then I napped again before my mom came over around 2:30.  I fell asleep again around 6 and woke up about 20 minutes ago.  I mean, I know part of it is because I'm bored, but wow, I'm tired.

I hate my dreams on oxycodone.  They're worrisome, even when they shouldn't be, and I end up waking up a lot and being confused.  I actually woke up from this nap thinking that my lip was swelling up, and that one of my roommates had come into my room multiple times to lecture me on my Netflix usage in very condescending and inappropriate ways.  Best part?  The guy in my dream was just some made-up guy, not even one of my roommates.

I will NOT miss these dreams!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Better in some ways, worse in others

Last night, my fever kept climbing, and I kept feeling worse and worse until I went to bed.  I was otherwise in a good mood, and I'd spent a lot of time with my mom, talking about break-ups and school and life.  I know that a low grade fever is fine, so I wasn't terribly worried, but even so, fevers do suck.

I prefer not to take fever reducers when I've got a fever.  It's not that I don't want to feel better.  I just like knowing just how sick I am; it's hard to monitor an illness when you're masking a symptom.  So I went to bed with a fever hovering between 99.7 and 100.0.

I woke up at 5:45 in the morning feeling wretched, and as much as I love any chance to use that vocabulary word, it sucked.  My fever was hovering around 100.4, my head was throbbing, and I just felt like crap.  I caved and took one more oxycodone and two Tylenol.  I also texted my mom to let her know, and went and got my ice packs for my legs.

About an hour later, I woke up feeling no better, but no worse.  My fever was still going strong, so I just switched my ice packs.

I woke up around 8:30 covered in sweat, which was gross, but it meant that my fever had finally broken (confirmed by the thermometer).  Yay!

I'm still dealing with a bad headache and fatigue; I suspect my fever will be back tonight.  But my legs feel all right.  A bit twingy and uncomfortable, but nothing unmanageable.  My knees didn't end up locked over night, my feet aren't any more swollen.  All in all, a good night for my legs.

Not much on tap for today.  I need to rest some more because I didn't get a lot of restful sleep.  My mom is going to come over again to watch a movie with me.  Loki will do hilarious and annoying things.  Predictable day!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Good mood fading a bit

Thursday and Friday both went so well.  Saturday is definitely a let-down.

Last night, I decided that my pain wasn't bad enough for oxycodone while I slept, especially since I don't like sleeping while I'm taking it.  So I just took some Tylenol, and some hydroxyzine.  I should have adjusted my pillows better as well.  I'd been making do with three pillows (one throw pillow, one standard IKEA pillow, and one giant king-sized pillow), but I had set them up badly before calling it a night.

I woke up in a lot of pain around 4:45 in the morning.  My pillow arrangement had left my knees extremely hyperextended, and my feet and calves weren't elevated enough, leaving my ankles and feet very swollen and in a lot of pain.  I took one oxycodone (difficult, since I was out of it and my vision was crap), readjusted my pillows, and went back to sleep.  I woke up again at 8:20, not feeling much better.  I added another large pillow to the pile to fix that problem, and then went to get ice for my legs.  I should have iced my legs more on Friday, so I'm making up for it by icing them as constantly as possible today.  I then took two more oxycodone.

I've been sleeping on and off the rest of the day so far.  I got up to change my ice packs, and when I did that, I washed up (hair, face, body), put in my contacts, and changed into clean sweats.  Walking around was exhausting, but it's good for my legs.  There's a sizeable blue bruise growing on my foot, which I find amusing.  My mom is a bit grossed out, but it's expected--just lots of fluid.  It's definitely uncomfortable, but I guess it's turning the bandages into compression stockings.  They're staying on very tightly!  It's irritating, skin-wise and pain-wise, but I'm glad the dressings are staying on so easily.  One less thing to panic about.

My mom is here with noodle kugel and some of her work for school.  I will probably nap for a bit and then watch a movie with her.  I'm trying not to eat too much (stuck in bed + no appetite), but I'm also trying not to eat too little (body needs fuel to heal + oxycodone).

The biggest downside to today, besides all the painful swelling, is Loki.  He was a huge pain in the ass all morning, waking me up by slamming toys against the side of his cage and screeching at the top of his lungs.  He knows when I'm sleeping or trying to sleep, and has known for a long time (since college), so this isn't a case of, "Oh, he doesn't know any better."  I can tell he's a bit freaked out by the strange circumstances: mommy is home all week, her legs look funny, her mommy is around a lot, there are those scary crutches, etc.  I wish he would be better at remembering, though, that when mommy is lying down with her eyes closed, SHHHHH.


I was feeling a little warm, unrelated to the weather, so I checked my temp.  Unsurprisingly, I have a low-grade fever (99.1).  This doesn't mean that I have an infection, of course.  My immune system is very aggravated right now from surgery, and fever is part of that system.  Unless it goes up to 101.something, I should be fine.  I'll just keep an eye on it, but it does explain the loss of the good mood a bit.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hey, I had surgery!

This is going to be a long post because I want to remember as much as possible about my surgery yesterday.  Apologies in advance, all you tens of readers!  Warning: I'm writing about surgery; while most of it isn't that squicky, some of it might be a bit TMI.

Wednesday night, I had some trouble sleeping.  I had to sort of re-dump my friend earlier that evening, and although I hadn't pigged out before midnight, I was feeling extremely nauseous.  I thought about throwing up so I could maybe sleep more easily, and ensure that there wouldn't be anything in my stomach come morning, but I decided I'd rather feel sick now than get dehydrated later.

I woke up around 5:30 and slept on and off until 6:15.  I got up and went to the bathroom, and while I knew I could brush my teeth if I wanted to, I opted for quick mouthwash instead.  I wore a comfortable cotton tank top, which was not too tight, but clingy enough that it wouldn't be baggy and revealing any boobage.  I also wore sweat shorts, as recommended by the clinic, and my new BU zip-up hoodie.  I had to wear sneakers, which sucked.  I knew why I had to wear sneakers, but even so, I knew my feet would be a bit swollen after surgery, and that it would be tough to get the sneakers back on.

My mom picked me up at 6:30 and we arrived at the center around 6:50 for a 7:00 check-in.  Check-in was smooth and easy.  The nurse at the front desk was very informative and very friendly.  We sat around for a bit longer, maybe until 7:45 or so, and then I was called in for pre-op (before I went in, I gave my mom my sweatshirt because it was cold in the waiting room, and I was just going to be putting it in a locker until after surgery anyway).  I changed into socks and a gown, got weighed for anesthesia purposes, and got on the gurney with some awesome warmed blankets.  My vitals were taken, and I got my IV set up.  I was really amazed at how great the staff was; they were obviously busy and working, but always smiling and conversing with me.  I felt really safe and comfortable.

They brought my mom in for pre-op for two reasons.  First, she would be given my prescriptions (to fill while I was in the OR), and very often patients don't even remember pre-op instructions.  Second, I was just going to be sitting around and waiting for surgery, so she was there to keep me company.  She was still cold, though, even with my sweatshirt, so the staff brought HER warmed blankets!  First one, and then two more later on when she was still cold.  At one point, my mom (wrapped in three blankets with the hood of the sweatshirt up) rested her head on the gurney and took a nap.  We were both pretty warm and comfortable!

The anesthesiologist and some nurses came by to talk to me about what to expect, asking me for my name, DOB, and surgery each time (gotta make sure they have the right patient).  The staff was surprised and a bit concerned that I was having both of my legs done at the same time, which made me a bit worried, too.  Finally, around 9:20ish, my surgeon came out to talk to me.  He had been in one surgery already that morning, hence the lateness, but hey, at least I wasn't the last procedure of the day, waiting even longer :)  We went over the procedure one last time, and he checked with me one last time to see if I really wanted to have both legs done.

His concern wasn't rude or even misguided.  My risk of blood clots is relatively high.  Not only do the chances increase because I'm having two legs done, but the pill I used to take had twice the risk of blood clots as most other birth control.  I know I've been off the pill for two months (I've got massive weight-loss and extensive acne to prove it!), so I hope that means that whatever risk I had from the pill is now gone, but I'm still worried.  Finally, my doctor (and most doctors) usually give patients aspirin post-op to help prevent blood clots.  Aspirin is really great for that, but I'm allergic to it.  There really aren't any drugs in between aspirin and the super powerful blood thinners, which would be extremely dangerous, so I'm not on anything at all to prevent clots.

I'm just being vigiliant, and hopeful that if I get a clot, the pain will be obvious and I'll call the doctor right away.  Hopefully, there won't be any clots at all!!

So he marked both legs with a marker, and the anesthesiologist came by and gave me a cocktail of sedatives.  I handed my glasses to my mom for safe-keeping, put on the hair net, and got wheeled into the OR.  I moved from the gurney to the operating table, and they gave me a mask.  That's all I remember before waking up in recovery two and a half hours later.

I was not happy when I woke up, which sucked.  I'd been in a good mood all morning, so it was a downer.  My legs were uncomfortable and in a lot more pain than I thought they'd be in, or at least that I'd hoped.  They had given me pain meds during surgery, and so I guess I expected them to not have worn off by the time I woke up.  I was happy that my throat didn't hurt from the breathing tube, though.  I don't think it was the pain, just the stress of surgery in general, but I couldn't help but cry a bit as I woke up.  It was distressing because I didn't emotionally feel like crying!

After another half hour or so, I was definitely awake, and the staff helped me change back into my shorts and tank top (my mom still had my sweatshirt, but I felt okay, temp-wise).  They also got me crutches and helped me move into a nice, soft arm-chair that had leg support.  That was really painful, and it made me worry that I was really screwed.  I mean, it hurt that much and was that difficult to move from the gurney to the chair, and I needed two people to help me.  They got me settled in and brought me some crackers, ginger ale, and oxycodone.

My mom came out to sit with me and listen to post-op instructions from my doctor and the staff.  My doctor said that the surgery went well, and that while he didn't notice any signs of compartment syndrome, he didn't expect to.  My CS is exercise-induced, and I hadn't induced the symptoms, so there shouldn't have been any.  He did say that there was some increased pressure in the right calf, which wasn't surprising; when I arrived that morning, my right calf was aching, and I had mentioned it to my mom and to the staff.  My mom questioned him a lot about how to prevent blood clots, and the only advice he had was to make sure I was getting up and moving around every hour or so.  Because I just had my fascia worked on, and not my muscle or bone, my legs are fully weight-bearing.  It's a bit uncomfortable and painful, since I do have incisions and I literally had pieces of fascia taken out of me (some of it was deep inside each calf), but I can walk without even using crutches.  I use them sometimes, though, because my balance isn't great.

The staff gave us more instructions after that.  I got information about who to call if I had any questions or problems.  I also was told that I would need to keep the current dressings on for a week, and they gave us materials and instructions to put new (lighter) dressings on when the time comes.  I won't be able to take real showers for another week, after I get my stitches out.  Bummer!  I also got a cool ice-pack holder and some ice packs, so I'm switching legs every so often.

They gave me three different medications.  I got oxycodone, which has been working very well.  I also got a stool softener because oxycodone can cause constipation.  I find that highly annoying, but I'm glad they at least warned me.  I also got hydroxyzine, which I find hilarious.  I first took hydroxyzine back in high school for my hives and edema.  I hated it; it wasn't that effective, and it knocked me out.  My allergist at the time was a total tool, and he kept insisting that I stay on this medication even though it was ineffective and the side effects were interfering with my life.  I was falling asleep in class every day, and whenever I woke up in the morning, I'd be extremely groggy.  After falling asleep while sitting in traffic on the way to Boston, I stopped taking it completely and demanded a new med.

Hydroxyzine isn't just an antihistamine or a sedative.  It's also an anti-anxiety med.  But that's not even why they prescribed it for me.  It's an anti-nausea med, just in case I have post-surgery nausea!  Cool.

A nurse helped me into a wheelchair and brought me downstairs, where my mom was waiting with the car.  I got home around 3pm, and my mom and I got me all set up in bed.  We spent the next few hours hanging out, resting, watching some TV, and talking.  She made sure I ate some food, even though I had no appetite, and that I took my meds on time.  I got up every hour or so to walk around, which went pretty well.  Loki is unsure of what to make of the whole situation, but he seems okay!

Even though I know I'd be in a worse mood if my pain were worse, I don't feel loopy from the meds.  I'm just in a really good mood.  I wasn't even sleepy when I got home yesterday.  I did get hit pretty hard with sleepiness later in the evening, but generally, I'm awake and alert.  Pain is not completely gone, but it's nowhere near how it was when I first woke up, and even that wasn't excruciating.

Right now, my biggest complaint is that I keep needing to pee, but when I go to pee, it's like I don't really HAVE to pee that much, and I don't pee completely.  I'll sit for several long minutes, and when I'm finally done, I'll stand up ... and feel like I have to pee again.  Arg!  If this persists through Monday, I'll call my doctor.

This morning, I woke up at 8:40 in some pain, so I took my meds.  The staff called me at 9:30 to see how I was, and the nurse I spoke with said that if I was doing this well after surgery, it bodes well for my recovery.  I'm very happy about that!  I forgot to ask about the peeing thing, but I did ask about clots, and she told me what to look out for.  I was feeling pretty icky at that point, not leg-wise, so I got up, put in my contacts, washed my face, washed my hair in the sink, and did a quick sponge-over before changing into clean clothes.  I feel a lot better now!  Just a little sleepy; my mom broke up with her boyfriend last night, and called me afterwards, so I stayed up to talk to her about it and didn't get as much sleep as I thought I would (I got about 9 hours instead of, like, 12).

We'll see how today goes, but I'm so relieved that surgery is over, and I hope my recovery goes smoothly!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's have surgery!

In 7 hours, I will be on my way to the surgical center in the 'burbs!  It's finally time to have my bilateral fasciotomy.

I was supposed to get a call from a nurse three days before my surgery, and a call from the administrative assistant two days before to give me the exact time of my surgery.  On Monday, I was feeling a bit panicky, so I called to see why I hadn't heard anything.  You know, because surgery was supposed to be Tuesday.

The administrative assistant was confused.  Apparently, my surgery was Thursday, not Tuesday.  And they would never have scheduled it Tuesday; the surgeon is in the office on Tuesdays, so clearly, I just put down the wrong date.

I wouldn't have put down the wrong date.  I don't do that, not with stuff like this.  Do you think I put down the wrong date for my colonoscopies?  I don't think so.

Fine.  So I was cleaning my room on Tuesday night, and lo and behold, as I am cleaning up my desk, I find all the paperwork from my consult.  Including a form where the administrative assistant, the same one who told me that I must have been mistaken about the date, had written that my surgery was scheduled for Tuesday.  So, I wonder why I thought surgery was on Tuesday!


Whatever.  The downside to the mix-up?  I backed out of the flute ensemble I do every summer.  I hadn't been feeling well last week, and knew I needed to take some time off to recovery before surgery.  With flute ensemble, I wouldn't have a day off at all; rehearsals were Thursday through Saturday, the concert was Sunday, and Monday I'd be running around doing errands, and cleaning up my room.  So I cancelled.  It turns out, I didn't have to; I would have been able to rest all day on Monday and most of Tuesday.

The upside?  I was able to meet up with a bunch of friends for ice cream in my hometown.  Two of my friends are leaving Boston on Friday and Saturday, and I'm not going to be able to get to their going-away party tomorrow night, so this way, I actually got to see them before they left.  D'awwww!

I'm all ready for tomorrow.  I'm going to sleep in my loose clothing (got a sweatshirt ready to go as well), I'll be wearing glasses, and I've got my phone all charged.  My mom will hold my phone and wallet while I'm in prep and surgery.  I know I'll be bored during the two hours between arrival and actual surgery, but I'll either nap or daydream.  Or a combo.  My apartment is clean and my fridge and pantry are stocked.  I have a key for my mom so I don't have to get up to let her in for the next week.

As for entertaining myself, I've got a computer with internet and Netflix, some Netflix discs on the way, a coloring book and crayons, a book of brain teasers, a ridiculous parakeet, lots of books, and lots of friends to entertain me.

I bet I'll still be bored, though.  When can I go running again?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Going away ... starting to hit me

This afternoon, my coworkers surprised me (sort of) with a goodbye party at the Boston Finale.  It wasn't a huge surprise; I knew that my going-away party would be today, and by the time my friend mentioned that the errand I was accompanying her on was to get a cake for her friend's birthday, and it would require us to take the T, I figured it out.  But it was still awesome and heart-warming, and I kind of like that they wanted to surprise me.

The good news for them was that I had NO idea what gifts they had gotten me.  We just had a going-away party for another coworker last week, and she had requested a bunch of gifts.  She had excitedly and correctly guessed a whole bunch of them, and we felt a bit deflated.  So I told my coworkers not to worry: I really had no idea what I was getting, and wouldn't guess.  I mostly stuck to that promise.

We had appetizers and a "main course," all of them delicious desserts!  The drinks were yummy, too; we mostly got fruity cocktails, and everyone loved what they got.  I got blueberry lemonade (two of them), and it was very, very delicious.  We all dug into the awesome desserts, too.  Badass.

My gifts were all very thoughtful, funny, and personal.  It was really amazing to see how well my coworkers knew me, and how much they care about me.  They know I'm having surgery in a week, and so to get me through my boring recovery, they got me a coloring book, 96 Crayola crayons, brain teasers, and pencils and erasers to do the teasers with.  That'll give me a break from reading and Netflix, and the brain teasers will keep me sharp for September!

Since I sold my car, I got a gift certificate for Zipcar, which will definitely take the edge off, so I can feel better about making a trip or two.  I got a cute BU hoodie, so I can apparently not get shot on campus (I didn't realize that you couldn't be on campus without swag, but it's good, I don't want to get shot).  I don't have any BU swag, so this is my first piece!  It's awesome.

From our academic coordinator, I got the required milky white thigh book.  It's about vampires, apparently!  But it took six of us twenty minutes to find ONE sex scene!  How disappointing.  But I found one, and read it, and we had a good laugh before the uncomfortable waiter came back!

To improve my wardrobe for grad school, I also received an awesome Portal T-shirt, with Still Alive lyrics on it.  Booyah!  It's like they KNOW I forget to do science because I'm chatting ... how strange that they figured it out.

My two friends presented me with their favorite gifts.  One friend presented me with a chemistry cocktail set!  Now I can serve drinks in test tubes, and have it actually be okay--I mean I never did that, what?  It's a set I've been interested in for a while, which no one at work knew.  Again, they definitely know me very well.  My other friend presented me with his favorite gift.  It was a Red Sox lunch bag (I tease him a bit because he has an old school lunch bag he uses; now I have one, too!).  But there was more inside.  He explained it was necessary for grad school, and I jokingly said, "Oh, so, alcohol!"  AND IT WAS.  It was full of nips of all kinds, mostly flavored vodka and rum.  YES.  So that's the only gift I managed to guess, and it was by accident.

The lab we started in has a tradition, where the PI gives the departing employee a beautiful wooden box.  It's such a tradition that usually, that's when people start crying; it's always the last gift.  I'm the first person from my boss' (new) lab to leave, and she wanted to start her own tradition.  I could not BELIEVE what it was ...

It was a 2-volume copy of the sixth edition of The Origin of Species.  From 1896.


No, really.  Wow.

I'm still in shock a bit!

Finally, I got my scrapbook.  It was AWESOME.  My coworkers are fantastic.

They loved the gift I got them (a new digital camera to replace the horribly shitty one that the lab has been dealing with for a very long time, it seems).  I was glad; I was worried they might refuse it because it wasn't cheap.  I did get it on sale, and I saved up for it, so hopefully they won't be worried that I dug myself into a financial hole.  It's a decent camera; not the best money could buy (because I don't have $300), but it's good!

All in all, I had a wonderful afternoon with my coworkers, and I'm sad to be leaving the lab.  It's really hard to accept that I'm going to leave on Friday evening and that'll be it.  How can that be it?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Breaking up with friends

When we think about break-ups, it's usually in the context of committed romantic relationships.  It's when the relationship isn't working anymore, so it breaks up, and the two of you spend time recovering by hanging out with friends, possibly eating ice cream, maybe watching bad TV.  And then you get up and think about starting another romantic relationship with someone else.  Or something like that.

Breaking up with friends is different, and rarer.  It's not uncommon, at least in my experience, for friendships to become more or less intense.  The people I talk to on a nearly daily basis, or the people I talk to about deeply personal issues, are not necessarily the same people I was super close to four or five years ago.  We don't just change as people; our circumstances change.  I'm certainly not as close to most of my high school friends as I was several years ago, but many of those people live in different states now, and I see them infrequently.  Some of my closest friends right now, I didn't even know a couple years ago.  And yet for the most part, these fluctuations occur with little or no ill will.  Sometimes, we lose touch.  Sometimes, we get back in touch.

I have been dumped by a friend.  The two of us were on and off close for years, and by high school, we were very close.  And being close friends who were both heterosexual and of the opposite sex, we had our fair share of confusing, "Is this just friend love or what?" drama.  And then by senior year, we were fighting a lot, and somehow, we just imploded.  After graduation, my friend told me that our friendship was over, and I was devastated.  Not only was I on the upswing of the "I think we should be more than friends" arc, but I couldn't comprehend that this person who had been so important to me for the majority of my life suddenly didn't want me in it.

I spent my summer before college crushed over this loss.  And if you know me, you also know that I don't take stuff like this without a fight.  I tried to win him back.  Made promises.  Spent a lot of time crying in therapy appointments.  Worst of all, I knew that it wasn't as if I hadn't done anything wrong.  I had just assumed that he and I would always be friends.  I had also assumed that he was, for lack of a better reference, my lobster.

It's been a long time since I graduated from high school.  This friend is back in my life, and on the rare occasion we've been in the same state, we've tried to spend time together, over dinner or coffee.  And when we do, things are great.  But our friendship isn't ever going to be as strong or close as before.  I'm sad about that; it would be awesome if we could be close again.  But I'm okay with it.  I'm several years older and wiser (although in several more years, older me is gonna be like, "Wise?  At twenty-four?  I call bullshit!"), and I can't know for sure whether this person would still be my very, very close friend if we hadn't broken up back then.

I can't say that this friend break-up was worse than my first big relationship break-up.  But then again, that relationship break-up was a hot mess.  And I was sick at the time, which made everything much worse.  But years later, I'm glad to be out of that romantic relationship.  I'm not glad that I lost my friend.

Six years later, I find myself in the midst of another friend break-up.  This time, I'm initiating the break-up.  I sort of wish that would mean that I could be cool and calm about it, and unwavering in my stance that this break-up needs to happen.  But this is me, people.  My ability to be cool, calm, and unwavering is questionable at best.*

I don't feel comfortable putting in too many details about the reasons behind this break-up.  I'm reasonably sure that the only folks who read this blog either don't know me in real life, or know me well enough to already have all the details about this mess.  But at the same time, I don't want to assume that there aren't exceptions.

The bare bones behind this friendship break-up?  Hurt, betrayal, loss of trust.  Not feeling valued as a friend.  It's gotten to the point where thinking about this person makes me queasy, being around him ruins my appetite, and talking to him causes me to vomit.  I know I deserve better from someone who is supposed to be one of my best friends.  And I know I shouldn't have to stick with a friendship that makes me physically ill.

But this break-up isn't going very well.  Not that my last friend break-up went well either, of course.  But in this case, there are two major problems.  The first?  Man, my friend isn't sorry.  He's pissed.  He doesn't understand why I'm dumping him, even though I've explained it extremely clearly.  His response is along the lines of, "I didn't mean to hurt you, therefore everything should be fine, and also you are being unreasonable and here's how this is completely not my fault."  Understandably, this does not make me feel like he values our friendship.

The second problem is me.  As I said earlier, I am not really the cool, calm, collected, unwavering person I need to be in order to keep this friendship over.  I'm devastated that it's ending, but it was my decision to come out and say, "It's over."  I know that barring the right response and reaction from this person, I need to stick with my conviction.  But this is hard.

I know that I am losing someone I care very deeply about.  I have a small list of people I would probably die for, although I would appreciate it if no one would actually put that to the test.  And he was one of those people.  The thought of not talking to him every day, of not spending my upcoming birthday with him, of not seeing him every weekend-ish, it hurts.  It makes me not want to break up with him.  But I can't sacrifice my emotional and physical health for someone when the pay-off is ... nothing.

While he completely misunderstood what I meant when I said it, I stand by my assertion that this break-up is worse than my romantic break-ups.  No matter what happened with my boyfriends, I wasn't losing my best friend.  I could tell myself, "There will be someone else, someone better, who will love me for who I am," and let that person go.  There was no gaping hole in my life where the boyfriend used to be.  But there is one where my friend was.

I hate it that it's just as hard dumping my friend as it was to be dumped all those years ago.  Maybe it's because when I was dumped, I was remorseful beyond belief, and the friend I'm dumping is not.  Maybe it's because it wasn't my decision last time.  Maybe it's because I'm just ME, and this is how I handle things (e.g. not well!).  Maybe it's because my old friend was just as conflicted and miserable and heart-broken, and I painted him as a villain for so long.

Friend break-ups suck.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Father's Day to you, TOO, Google

Yesterday, I woke up feeling somewhat refreshed; I yawned and stretched and then grabbed my laptop to check my email.

Like a lot of folks, especially folks my age, I use Gmail, Google's email service.  I'm sure many of my tens of readers do, too, since Blogger is a Google site.  I love Gmail; it's the first email service I've used that I've loved enough to stop using other email providers.  That is, back when I had AOL mail, I also had a Hotmail account and a Yahoo account.  I checked all three on a regular basis.  Now, my AOL mail is long dead (RIP Steflutie), my Hotmail is officially my spam account, and I think I check my Yahoo mail once a month to make sure no one's emailing me there by accident.

Meanwhile, my work and grad school accounts are both hooked up to my Gmail, even though my grad school email is Gmail-based.  I just can't be bothered to check BOTH accounts.  Plus, my regular Gmail is already set up just the way I like it.

Last year, when Gmail put free voice calls in Gchat, it was a lifesaver for me.  My cell phone microphone had just broken, and I was waiting two weeks for my new smartphone to arrive (it was out of stock at the store).  I could make some phone calls at work, but my boss was discouraging us from using the work phone for personal calls.  So I quickly set up a Google Voice account and was able to make calls using my home and work computers.  It wasn't as convenient or easy as making a regular phone call, but I was able to make necessary phone calls during those two weeks.

These days, I don't use the phone call function, mostly since I've got a working cell phone again, and it's just much easier to use that.  But that didn't stop me from noticing something odd yesterday when I pulled up Gmail.

The "Call Phone" button had a line of text underneath it.  It said, "Reminder: call dad."

At first, I wondered if one of my siblings had somehow hacked into my computer, thinking they were doing the right thing.  Then I realized that neither of my siblings would know how to do that, and that both of them have been pretty great with respecting my decision to stay estranged from our father.  Then I wondered if maybe I had somehow signed into the wrong email account.  But no, those were my regular contacts underneath the offending message, and here were all of my emails.

And then I got what it was.  Granted, this all happened in the span of a few seconds, so if you're imagining me scratching my head, pacing around, shouting, "I must find the culprit!" you are both very imaginative, but also a bit wrong.  It wasn't my siblings or the wrong email.  Google put it there.

I mean, I understand why.  It's a good way to remind folks about the call phone function.  Great.  But seriously?  Not a good idea.

Like plenty of other people, I'm estranged from one of my parents, in this case my father.  A reminder to call him is like a bad joke.  But what about people who don't have fathers anymore, whose fathers have died?  What about people whose fathers have abused them, neglected them, deserted them?  What about people who have grown up with a single mother, or with two mothers, or who were raised by a sibling?

So, Google, if you're listening, please don't ever do that again.  It's enough that Father's Day is all over the place commercially.  But invading my email, putting up a reminder that stayed up ALL day?  It made me seriously angry and uncomfortable.

Also, you need to have a way for people to complain about shit like this.  Your "Help" section doesn't let us do that.  Bulllll.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Letter to Medical Professionals

Dear medical community,

Hello!  How are you?  I hope you're well.  Because I'm a bit pissed off at you.  Don't worry, I'll explain in detail.

When I was fourteen years old, I woke up on Rosh Hashanah with an impressively horrible stabbing pain in my abdomen.  My brother thought my appendix was bursting, but I had no other symptoms besides the worst pain in my life.  By the time I could get to the doctor's office, the pain had subsided.  A couple of weeks later, on my fifteenth birthday, I sat in the waiting room again, needing to pee, waiting to have an ultrasound.  There was a medium sized cyst on my ovary, on the other side, making it highly probable that the pain I had was from another cyst on the other ovary rupturing.

I saw a pediatric endocrinologist after that.  She was one of the more respected doctors in the field, and is still one of the more prominent endocrinologists at Children's Hospital in Boston.  I hate her, eight years later.  She diagnosed me with Poly-Cystic Ovaian Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that would explain the cysts, as well as the fact that in 3 years, I had only had my period about 10 times.  She decided that she wanted to check and see if she could feel any additional cysts.  Without telling me what she was going to do, she performed a pelvic exam.  When I was in pain, she told me that "it shouldn't hurt," when clearly it did.  I was so upset afterwards that I cried and couldn't concentrate when I got back to school later that day.  When I told my mom what happened, she was furious.  I was only fifteen; I had not been asked for my consent to have this exam, I was not even told it would be happening until it had already started, and it was incredibly painful.  I regret that my mom and I didn't file a complaint with Children's.

She and my pediatrician scared me into going onto the pill when I was sixteen, since that was the "treatment" for PCOS.  When I asked the simple question, "If I don't go on the pill, will that affect my fertility in 15 years?" they answered non-committally, and told me that, "If we don't take care of this problem, then you might have a lot of trouble conceiving."  I explained that I didn't want to go on it, that I felt like it would make me MORE likely to have sex before I was really ready, but they both ignored me.  I finally caved to the pressure about six months later, and was incredibly ashamed to be on the pill.  Even now, when I mention that I've been on the pill since I was sixteen, the reaction is very negative; a lot of people assume that I was already having sex very early, or at least expecting to have sex so early.

It took me a while to find a pill that worked for me.  The first two gave me severe morning sickness, which I hadn't been warned about when my doctors put me on it.  I would miss class in the morning every month, like clockwork.  I finally switched to Yasmin after a few months and had no problems.

Being on the pill did have benefits.  While I didn't love having my period every single month, it was nice to know when it was coming.  My cramps became less severe, my flow was much lighter, and each period only lasted four days, instead of six or seven.  It cleared up my acne a bit, and when it didn't clear up all of it, it let me go right back onto Accutane; I didn't have to start birth control and wait a month before I could start the acne medication.

But one thing became very obvious.  My breasts, which had been a slightly large B since I finished puberty, ballooned up to a large C.  And I started gaining weight.

Since I'd hit puberty, my mom had fretted hardcore over my weight, since I weighed more than she did.  But I was super healthy; 130lbs, 5'5".  Not skinny, but certainly not overweight.  Very, very normal.  When I started the pill, I was about 140.

By the end of high school, I was at 180.  Now, I'm struggling to stay below 195.

I've done Weight Watchers three times.  I've dieted and counted calories endlessly.  I've tried working out more.  And even regular lifestyle changes made no difference.  I would eat only as much as my slim friends, often less, and I'd gain.  I would walk and take the stairs significantly more.  No change.  Last year, I would walk about 3 miles a day just to get to and from work.  I gained weight.

My mom was in the camp of, "You must be doing something wrong."  If I was dieting, I was either cheating, or I needed to exercise.  If I was exercising, it was because I must be overeating afterwards as a reward.  But it was obvious that something was keeping me from actually losing weight.

My doctors insisted that it was PCOS that was keeping me heavy, and I just needed to try harder, since I was at risk for type 2 diabetes.  But I have a life.  I have other things I want to be doing other than obsessing over my weight.  And that was really the only problem; my blood tests were always fabulous, and I wasn't even close to being really at risk for diabetes.

All of them denied that the pill was causing the weight to come on and stay on.  Every last one of them.  For eight years.  Never mind that I gained 50 lbs.  Never mind that my breasts grew.  And, more importantly, never mind that almost every woman I know who has gone on the pill has gained weight.  I know so many women on the pill, or other hormonal birth control, that I've lost count.  It's the majority of my female friends, and plenty of acquaintances.  Only two of them haven't noticed any weight gain or breast growth.  Clearly, something's happening, and it's not just "water retention."

I went off the pill on May 31st in preparation for surgery.  I haven't been exercising lately (beyond walking to and from the T, and clubbing with friends), and while I haven't been eating ridiculously unhealthily, I haven't been making an effort to eat well.  When I went to Planned Parenthood on the 27th, I weighed 196 lbs, 5 lbs more than I did at the beginning of the month.

Today, I weigh 188 lbs.  I have been off the pill for almost two weeks.

So, medical community, here's my advice for you.  Stop lying.  Really, that's it.  Be honest with your patients.  That means:

Don't tell them that the pill is necessary for treating PCOS.  It's not.  When I got older, I did my research.

When your patient is deciding to forgo treatment, that is their right.  Don't pressure them.

The pill causes breast growth and weight gain.  Stop saying it doesn't.  I didn't gain 50lbs of water weight.

Do not perform a pelvic exam on a patient without informed consent.  It doesn't matter how necessary it is.  Otherwise, you will violate them.

I hope we've learned something here today.  Because if I keep losing weight now that I'm off the pill, you can be sure that I will never go back on hormonal birth control.  I've worked very, very hard to love my body as it is, and I've dealt with discrimination, nasty remarks from people who love me, stressful shopping trips, and the overwhelming number of negative feelings that fat people deal with in a thin-privileged society.  I have spent eight years fighting and wishing and trying very hard to love myself while knowing that other people hate my body.  If I find out that this all could have been avoided by having better doctors, you can be sure I'll never go back on the pill.  And I will be making a stink about this.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

Man Down

Trigger warning: Rape, murder, non-consensual crap

After reading a bunch of tumblr posts and short quotes about Rihanna's new video for her song "Man Down," I finally decided to take a time out for 5 minutes to watch it.  The video can be found here, although if you are easily triggered by sexual assault, this might be difficult to watch.

I'm not going to go into how I felt about the song.  As many of my friends know, I prefer to listen to alternative pop-rock (think Goo Goo Dolls).  I like to go out to clubs, so I have some favorite club songs I like (Ke$ha sets my teeth on edge ... except when I'm at a club), but otherwise I'm not so much interested in hip-hop.  I don't think I would ever have heard "Man Down" if I hadn't sought out the video, and while the song wasn't awful by any means, it's not my style of music.  Point is, I don't care very much about the song, or even the lyrics so much, with one exception.

The video

As for the video, it speaks for itself without the song, and even if you watch it, unaware of the controversy.  The video opens with a semi-crowded market, with plenty of people walking around; out of the shadows in a building window, Rihanna appears, looking immensely tense and unhappy, and she very slowly brandishes a gun.  She then shoots and kills a particular man, and disappears as the crowd runs from the gunshot.  We then cut to "Yesterday."

"Yesterday," Rihanna is walking/biking around, looking pretty normal and quite happy.  It's obvious, even if you don't know what's coming, that that dude she shot did something to change her from bright and happy to miserable and in the shadows, driven to kill.  We see her interacting with people happily, including children, smiling, enjoying life.

Then we see her go to a club.  She does dance with a guy a bit, pretty sexily, but then she stops dancing with him and leaves the club.  It doesn't look like she's upset (she still seems to be in a good mood); it seems as if she danced with him for a while and enjoyed it, and then decided it was time to go home.  But then the man follows her, even asking bystanders outside which way Rihanna went.  He catches up to her, grabs her forcefully, and rapes her.  When he leaves her, his shirt is torn.  Rihanna runs home, and frantically searches her drawers until she finds a gun, the one she uses at the beginning of the video.

The song

Like I said, I don't really care so much about the song, since it's not my type of music.  But one important thing I noticed about the song is that it never references the rape.  It's about how she shot a man, she feels guilty about it, that he meant something to other people (specifically, that he was someone's son), and that now she has to run.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it, since again, it doesn't reference the actual rape, but it seems to capture the guilt that many survivors feel for trying to seek punishment for their perpetrators.  We're encouraged not to "ruin the lives" of these perpetrators, and we're reminded of their humanity (that they're sons, boyfriends, brothers, friends ... normal people like you and me*).  Rihanna's motives are absent from the song, making the video very necessary to understand it, but when both are together, the lyrics become much more powerful.  You don't just know the motive anymore.  You GET the motive.  She's not saying, "He raped me, so I killed him."  She's singing about the guilt that she feels, the knowledge that she did something she shouldn't have, but we don't just know why she did it.  We understand why.

As a survivor

As many of you know, I was sexually assaulted as a teenager.  My assault wasn't violent, fortunately, but it still happened.  Part of my experience, along with the work I've done in sexual violence prevention, is that I cannot seem to separate myself from the feelings of a victim/survivor when hearing about sexual violence.  For example, I was having a conversation with a coworker, and we somehow got on the topic of Emma Watson, the actress who portrays Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films.  He told a story he thought was amusing, that someone asked for an autograph from Watson, but the photo they wanted signed was a paparazzi photo taken up Watson's skirt when she wasn't wearing underwear.

I didn't find it funny.  I couldn't really.  If someone had taken a photo of my vulva without my consent, and distributed it, that would be incredibly, horrifyingly violating.  My coworker brushed it off, saying that Watson should have just worn underwear.  But this is bullshit.  Sometimes, people don't wear underwear; there's no law that says that they can't.  And no one should be punished for it either.  Upskirting is illegal in the United States; going commando is not.  Second of all, how would the photographer have known that Watson wasn't wearing underwear?  And if she had worn underwear, THEN would it not be okay that it happened?  Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Point is, I go right to the victim/survivor's point of view.  And that's what happened while I watched the "Man Down" video.

As soon as the man began following Rihanna out of the club, I started getting very upset.  When the video cut to a shot of him covering her mouth, I started crying.

Folks, it was kind of terrifying.  Especially because I often go to clubs, wearing "sexy" clothing, and there are times when I dance with male strangers, and then decide I'm done dancing at one point or another.  Not that I'm now too scared to do either now, but it's chilling to know that for some men, that's all it takes.  A sexy outfit indicates that the woman's a slut.  Stopping dancing with you indicates that she's a tease.  Go punish her.**  This could happen to me.

Like I said, I'm not going to stop dressing up, getting tipsy, going to clubs, and dancing with male strangers.  I have a good time.  And I already have known for a while that I'm taking a risk when I do that, a risk that there will be a rapist around, and he'll choose me as a target.  But I know that ANYTHING I do besides barricading myself in my room and never going anywhere without gay male bodyguards, will increase my risk of being raped, because then I'll possibly expose myself to rapists, and not have a way to deter the rapists from raping me.

Would I ever shoot a perpetrator?  Well, I haven't shot the friend who assaulted me.  I've passed up opportunities to track him down, too.  But I understand the anger and helplessness.  I understand the fantasy.  It's pretty fucking horrible.

Bottom line

Rihanna's "Man Down" video is a shocking, but good way to get people talking about sexual assault.  It puts us in the place of the victim/survivor, and demonstrates (maybe too simply, but well nonetheless) the way that such an experience can change a person, and make them do things that would have seemed out of character before.  I appreciate this video a lot, and I'm thankful to Rihanna for making it.