A Rant:

A conversation that I had with a dear friend yesterday evening has me up at 3am unable to sleep, so worked up that I need to vent, to rant, because the ignorance of some is astounding.

This dear friend asked about my pregnancy, but each time I attempted to convey what is happening (even light-heartedly), I was shut down. When I joked that I’ve been cooped up for a while and I’m going batty, I was told not to use that phrase, that the phrase “cooped up” is negative and what we think becomes reality. But the phrase “cooped up”, for me, is an easy, breezy way to express that I’ve been landlocked to my house for quite some time now – first, with the vertigo, and now with a high-risk pregnancy.

Yes, I’ve been cooped up.

I’m not complaining. It’s a challenge, but I’m not complaining.

I expressed the very real, very honest feeling that when I see other women who get pregnant easily and have an easy pregnancy, I’m jealous. I was admonished. Stop with that bullshit, I was told. But that, my friends, is not bullshit. It’s true. Stripped down and bare. I – am – jealous. And I deal with that jealousy. Here’s the thing – we struggled to get pregnant. It was a challenge, a journey, one that made us so very appreciative of this life growing inside of me, but it was a challenge, a painful one, nonetheless. And I realize that our road to pregnancy was not as long and arduous and painful as others, as some of my close friends who are currently on this journey, experiencing the pain of miscarriages, and the pain of fertility issues. To all of those women (and men) – I see you, I hear you, and I have compassion for you. (Shouldn’t we have compassion?) But now that I’m pregnant, I am high risk. So, yes, I’m jealous.

I was then lectured on a “natural” birth, a vaginal birth without drugs. That she always believed that she would have a “natural” birth and so she did, that our thoughts, once again, become reality. This, friends, hit a nerve. A zinging one. Here are the facts: I have complete placenta previa; I must have a C-section. And when I told her this, she pushed – have you gotten a second opinion? A third? Women have been giving birth for years naturally without drugs. Women still do in other parts of the world. Yes – this is true. But guess what? If I were to have a vaginal birth, there is a very real, likely chance that I would bleed out on the table (at the very least I would need several blood transfusions), and my baby girl would be in danger, she would be in distress, and she might not make it either. I am lucky, I am blessed – yes, blessed, to live in a country and in a city where I have access to excellent health care, where I am able to birth a child in the safest way possible considering my condition, where if I have a big bleed and do go into pre-term labor, which is a possibility with previa, that I will have doctors that will likely be able to control that bleed and keep me in the hospital for as long as possible, keeping my baby girl inside of me as long as possible, before taking her by C-section.

I think I’m already an excellent fucking mother. I think that making the decision to do what is best, what is safest for your child makes me an excellent fucking mother. That I’m not pushing for a vaginal birth just to push for a vaginal birth because some women think that that’s what’s important – no, what is important is the safety of my child.

And I told her I was offended, that the idea that my thoughts could change my condition was offensive, that I was somehow creating my situation by acknowledging the reality of my situation was offensive.

Reality:

Each day I deal with excruciating pain in my pelvis from an old injury. Some days the pain is about a four, and I am able to take short walks, to go up and down the stairs in my home, and on those days I take advantage of that relative pain. But other days, the pain is so severe that I can barely move, that getting to the bathroom is a challenge, that my pelvis gives out on me and I must catch myself before I fall. The orthopedic surgeon has said that it will only get worse, that I may need to use a walker or crutches as I get bigger. But each day I deal with this pain, and I grin and bare it, because it is just one more thing (pesky and painful, sure) that I must go through to get this baby girl Earth-bound. I’ll do it. Happily.

And each day I deal with the fear of a bleed: I cannot exercise; I cannot lift things above ten pounds, at least not from the ground, not if I’m using my pelvic floor; I cannot do yoga; I cannot stretch; I cannot exert myself physically (I can go for walks); I need to manage my stress; I cannot be in the heat longer than a few hours at a time; I cannot be on my feet longer than a few hours per day; I have to manage social activities with friends due to the adrenaline. Sure – I could try these things again, but the last time I did, I bled. And I’ve learned how to listen to my body, that when I feel a heaviness in my lower abdomen, an aching heaviness as though I’m about to start my period – that’s the sign to stop what I’m doing and get my feet up and rest. Everybody’s body is different, is able to withstand different amounts of stress, and this is what my body can handle.

I’m handling it.

And each day I deal with the fear that I will bleed, and it will be a bad one, and that she will come early. That she isn’t getting the nutrients she needs to grow (this is another possibility with previa). We had an appointment with the doctor a couple days ago and my last ultrasound showed that she is in the 14th percentile, growth-wise – so, small. So the doctor ordered another ultrasound to check my baby’s growth, but they can’t fit us in for a couple more weeks. So my husband and I are handling that fear as well. In my heart, I know she’s fine, I know she’s growing. But, still – fear.

But we are handling it.

So each day I deal with excruciating pain and each day we deal with fear and each day I work to funnel that pain and fear into positivity and hope because that’s so fucking important right now.

So when I am lectured about my thoughts or my words or having a C-section – yes, I must rant. I am doing everything I possibly can to keep this little girl safe and happy and growing, everything that is within my power to control. And there is still the chance that my placenta will shift and these restrictions will fall away – I’m holding onto that hope. But if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. Because I know she will be OK. Because I believe that if she chooses to come to this world early, she will be ready. That the excellent doctors will do their jobs. That my husband and I will continue to handle it. That we will continue to make the difficult, right, decisions for our daughter. That having a C-section is not a crime against my child. That, if I’m able to deliver vaginally if the previa moves and I decide to have an epidural (which I would need to because of my pelvis), that this, too, is not a crime against my child.

Women need to stop shaming other women.

Also, have some compassion.

Period.

Rant over.

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Complete Placenta Previa, Another Challenge.

A dear friend told me she believes we aren’t given more than we can handle, and that she’s fairly certain I’m a shark; I’m fairly certain as well. I’ve been challenged, for almost a year now I’ve been consistently challenged – physically, emotionally, mentally – and I hit it, I hit the wall and I’m ready to coast – sharks can coast, right? But I can’t. Because here is another challenge…

For those of you who have been following my pregnancy journey, you know that I’ve had spotting throughout my entire first trimester. I had a pause without any spotting, and I thought that I was in the free zone, done with the scary shit, but then last week I began to spot again, brown at first and then bright red and then pink. Yesterday we had an ultrasound to see what was happening and baby girl is just fine – she’s spinning and twisting and waiving “hi” (whoohoo!!), but my placenta has covered my cervix, resulting in Complete Placenta Previa.

Now, there’s nothing I can do about this so there’s no sense in becoming too upset. What I can do, I am doing, which is meditating and visualizing my placenta moving away from my cervix. But at the same time, when you tunnel into the rabbit hole of the Internet and learn more and more about the condition you can become scared as shit – baby girl could be triggered into preterm labor (no!), and if I went into labor, I could bleed out because my placenta is literally covering baby girl’s exit path. So, a C-Section is a must. But how lucky am I that I live in a time and place that has access to medical advancements in order to safely deliver baby girl, and keep me as safe as possible?

I’m searching – I’m finding the positives.

Bed rest is no longer recommended for women in pregnancy as it can cause more harm than good (think blood clots), so I am on restricted activity for the remaining five months. But it’s interesting, this feeling that grows inside of you as your child grows, that I would do anything and everything necessary to keep this little girl safe, to protect her, to get her to this world; I suppose I’m already a mother. So I will restrict my activity. And I will meditate. And I will visualize this placenta shifting (they say that women with a complete placenta previa have a smaller chance of the placenta shifting as it can become stubborn when it’s already covered the cervix, but I will be that woman whose placenta shifts – I will be, dammit).

And each time I hit the wall and cry and feel as though it’s time for a break, it’s time to coast, I find myself needing to pull myself up and face the next challenge, but I suppose that’s just fine because I’m a stronger person now than I was yesterday or the day before, and when baby girl gets to this world I will continue being strong, setting an example of strength for her.

So…I accept my condition. I will stay away from the deep, black hole of the Internet. I will not focus on the scary shit, but on baby girl growing inside of me. I will read to her and sing to her and hope that she stays in there as long as possible. And all of these health challenges have been a lesson in accepting the things that I cannot control – a good lesson for parenthood.

But those that have book recommendations for me to read while on restricted activity – send those my way. And a heads up for the social media world – I’m going to be cutting back so don’t take offense; you can always call.

Again – thank you for reading, thank you for caring.

Xoxo.

Fear & Pregnancy Go Hand and Hand, At Least for Me.

Today I am 7 weeks, 5 days pregnant. And today I want to talk about the fear that comes along with being pregnant (especially when you’ve miscarried in the past) and how that fear doesn’t really go away.

This time, the stick lit up like a firecracker when I peed on it and there was no waiting or faded positive line, not like last time, but a sure, distinct positive. Because I’ve miscarried before, they did blood work to test my HCG Levels at 4 weeks, and this time my levels were high, really high, and tripling every 48 hours. (They were low when I miscarried and fell even lower after 48 hours.) My husband and I were ecstatic. He kicked right into work mode and purged his closet, something I’ve been asking him to do for a year, and then went around the house making a list of things to do and checking them off. I was loving this – my husband, nesting.

A week later I began spotting, brown blood, and for anyone who has miscarried before (and I’m sure those that haven’t miscarried before), any sight of blood is unnerving. No, petrifying. This pit in my stomach deep, cavernous, filling with fear. What could we do? More blood work. So in I went again to get poked, wait 48 hours and get poked again, and this blood work looked amazing, fantastic, super high, tripling again, into the thousands.

My hormones were off to the races.

But I’ve been cramping. Horrible cramping since conception. Cramps so bad that I wake three times a night to wander the house and stretch. This is scary, too: the changes happening to your body. And how those changes can mimic miscarriage, but turn out just fine – be absolutely normal.

So we waited and we watched and I began spotting again, pink blood this time, and so they hurried me in for an early ultrasound at 5 weeks, 6 days (this is where they placed me, conception on February 8th), and they found a heartbeat – a heartbeat! – but that heartbeat was low so they scheduled another ultrasound for 6 weeks, 6 days.

I can’t explain to you the trepidation, the balancing act of excitement and fear – I saw a heartbeat, but that heartbeat was low – and how to contain all of that inside of me, and to cope – how do you cope? Well, I became a bit guarded. I also began meditating – A LOT! – acknowledging my fear and then releasing my fear (as best as I can).

I continued to spot throughout the week, but didn’t call my doctor – what was the point? I’d be doing an ultrasound in a week – they would just tell me to wait and watch. And a week later my husband came with me to this ultrasound and there it was – the heartbeat, strong, 131 beats per minute – and there was the baby, tripled in size in one week.

My guard dropped and things became real. That I’m pregnant. That the baby is strong. That things are looking good. That all of the fear, that toxic fear that I can’t keep at bay still didn’t touch that little fetus. Little baby Tereshko chugging along.

This has been my mantra while I meditate: My body is strong; my baby is strong.

But now, this morning, I woke and immediately used the bathroom and there is bright red blood, more of it than I’ve seen this entire pregnancy, and my breasts are still sore, but not as sore as they usually are, and I’m no longer as nauseous as I was (you tally up these things when you’re pregnant, you take note) – so say hello to my old friend, fear.

Crushed, fearful, I called the doctor. Began writing this blog while waiting for the doctor to call back. And they did. And this is what they said: wait and watch, and bed rest.

We have another ultrasound scheduled for next week so we wait. And I sit here on bed rest grappling with the fear, letting out the tears because they’re toxic when they’re stuck inside, trying to remain positive and hopeful, but hopeful is a dangerous feeling, especially with pregnancy, and I don’t believe I will be truly at ease, that I will truly allow myself to be hopeful and excited until I am clear of the first trimester. But even then, my dear friend told me, you still have fear – you will still look at the tissue paper each time you wipe when you go to the bathroom, and when the child is born, you will still be fearful then, fearful that you will fail or hurt the child in some way – the fear doesn’t go away.

So I’m learning to live with it. Not to allow it to govern my life. But I’m not going to lie, not right now, not as I sit here fearful – I am afraid – and that is OK. That is honest, that is real. And I’m going to try and lose myself in my novel, and when that doesn’t work anymore, I’ll lose myself in someone else’s words.

I’m tired. I’m emotionally and physically drained. And I’m trying to be kind to myself, to my body, to my husband. But right now, it’s a little hard.

And my husband is in London. Which is hard. To have these conversations via the telephone. And like he said today, “This has been a rollercoaster.”

But we will have answers, more answers in one week. And until then: we wait, and we watch.

Meniere’s Disease: A Misdiagnosis

This has been such an exhausting (and expensive!) journey, this journey into my health issues – seeing doctor after doctor, doing test after test – at least one per day – and what have I learned? We must be our own advocates.

I had a flight in December and my body never regulated. Afterwards, I was functional, yet had a steady stream of motion sickness that never abated. I became clumsy, dropping things, bumping into things, stimulated visually so that I could no longer look at a computer screen and scroll – I could no longer work, I’m a writer and a reader – or be a passenger in a vehicle, or look at cars driving for that matter.

One brain scan later and my blood panel cleared, I saw an ENT who referred me to an audiologist, who did a bunch of hearing tests on me. They found excess fluid in my left inner ear, which sent me back to the ENT for a diagnosis. This ENT spent five minutes with me before diagnosing me with Meniere’s Disease. She put me on a water pill and a low sodium diet of less than 1000mg/day (and if she’d looked at my records, she would have seen that my sodium was already on the lower end and didn’t have too far to drop), and I ended up worse than before, my vertigo 5X worse, and in the ER.

Now, I never needed low sodium. I never needed a water pill. Because, guess what? I don’t have Meniere’s Disease.

I’m lucky, truly, because my best friend is an audiologist and was pissed at my diagnosis and my plan of action set by this ENT. She said, “You don’t fit the symptoms.” And I don’t – true Meniere’s patients lose their hearing (I have excellent hearing), they have episodes of vertigo that are debilitating, not a steady stream of motion sickness, like me.

I got a second opinion. Went to an ENT who spent time with me, who listened to all of my symptoms, who took notes, and he diagnosed me with Labyrinthitis, an inflamed balance organ (now, this diagnosis was still wrong, but at least it wasn’t a lifelong disease). He wanted to get a better look at my brain scan, so we did, and the scan showed that I have a tiny cyst on my pineal gland. Now, most people don’t have symptoms with these types of cysts, but those that do, have mine. So I was worried, worried I would have brain surgery on a cyst living in the center of my brain, but the neurologist cleared me, saying he was positive my symptoms weren’t from my cyst and no neurologist would touch the cyst with a ten foot pole.

Great.

But I’m still going to imagine that cyst disintegrating while I meditate, blast that cyst to pieces with my mind and my breath and visualization.

Now, this new ENT put me on steroids and sent me to vestibular therapy. He also wanted a specialist to take a look at me because I was a “tricky” case. So that’s where I went today, to an inner ear specialist, a Meniere’s specialist, and this specialist listened to my symptoms and immediately shook his head, rolled his eyes, and said, “You don’t have Meniere’s Disease. What you had was one flight too many.”

He told me what I already knew, that my body never stabilized after flying.

“It happens,” he said. It’s this huge long word that starts with an M. And he said, “Of course you ended up in the ER. You don’t need meds.”

So I don’t need meds; I won’t go deaf; I don’t have a chronic, life-long condition; I won’t always be dizzy; I won’t always be nauseas; I won’t always be land-locked; I won’t always be clumsy.

So what’s the cure? Vestibular and vision therapy, which I’ve already been doing, and it’s been helping – I can drive now, but I still can’t be a passenger; I can scroll; I can read; I can work (yes, only for brief periods, not full days, but it’s still work).

So why was it so fucking hard to get a proper diagnosis?

My best friend said that ENT’s misdiagnose people with Meniere’s Disease all of the time, and had I not had her to tell me to investigate further, I may still be spinning on water pills and fatigued with low sodium, debilitated.

So today was a good day. I got incredible news. I’m regulating. I’ve still got a long road ahead with vestibular and visual therapy, but this will not be, is not my life.

So thank you, friends. Thanks for taking this journey with me. Thanks for sending me your love and support. And those that checked in with me the week my husband was out of town and I was reeling from low sodium and an adverse reaction to the water pills – thank you. Really, truly. And, as always, thanks for reading.

I’m Struggling: Diseases Suck.

In December, a dear friend of mine (a piece of my heart) passed away. She was suffering. She had been in and out of doctors for two years and they had yet to be able to diagnose the autoimmune disease/diseases she was suffering from. And she suffered. Oh, did she suffer. But I didn’t realize the extent of her pain until she unexpectedly passed away. She hid that pain from me, from others, and put on a brave face, went dark and quiet so as not to “burden” those that love her.

But I wanted to be burdened. And I couldn’t understand why she would choose to suffer alone. I thought: This is what friendship is for – for me to help carry the burden and try to ease her pain, at least let her know that she isn’t alone.

But I understand now.

Friends, I’m suffering. And I’ve gone dark and quiet because in some way I am embarrassed by my inability to get well and so I only want to emerge when I am brilliant and bright, but what if that doesn’t happen? What if I need to adjust my way of life so that I am slower, less “brilliant”, but limited?

I broke my laptop. I broke my phone. On Christmas Day a bowl of spinach flew from my hands and my husband had a panic attack; this isn’t like me, to be clumsy – I’m sharp as a motherfucking tack. But it wasn’t until I broke a bottle of olive oil and sliced my two fingers and got eleven stitches between the two of them that I sought medical help (I was forced to – an open wound will do that).

Honesty: I’ve been clumsy, I’ve been dizzy, I’ve been nauseous, I flew to Chicago to attend my dear friend’s celebration of life and the motion sickness never left me, my eyes vibrating vigorously at all times. My primary care doctor ordered up a brain scan to rule out a tumor, a full blood panel to check for an autoimmune disease, she referred me to an ENT.

Blood is clear. Phew. Brain is clear. Phew. ENT sent me to an audiologist who performed an ECOG test, which showed that I have excess fluid in my left inner ear that is pushing on my balance organ causing the dizziness and nausea; she believes I have Meniere’s Disease.

Now, I’m lucky. I don’t have cancer. I’m lucky. I don’t have a neurological disorder. I’m lucky. I have excellent health insurance that has allowed me to find an answer. And to hear a diagnosis, I wept.

But Meniere’s Disease is chronic. Life-long. And you can only treat the symptoms.

Let that sink in.

They’ve got me on a low sodium diet (less than 1000 mg per day) and a water pill, and the dip in sodium and the dehydration landed me in the ER on Friday. The dizziness is worse, spinning, always spinning, and I scoot down the stairs of my house on my butt.

My husband is out of town for the week and I’m fearful of being alone in my own home, fearful I will fall, or my sodium will dip again and I won’t have the energy to call someone for help because that is what it felt like – extreme exhaustion in which pulling my hair into a ponytail had me collapsing on the floor.

I’m feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities of this disease (though I’m getting a second opinion – I won’t accept it), the possibility that I will always be dizzy (the meds for vertigo aren’t working on me), that I won’t be able to have a child because I’ll drop it, that I will eventually go deaf in my ear, that they say my right ear could possibly be infected and then I could go completely deaf, that I’ll never hear the piano again, that I won’t be able to sing any longer – that pieces of me that make me, me, will be gone.

But deaf is better than dead.

On Sunday, I lie down on the sofa spinning, feeling helpless and hopeless, but my husband played the guitar and I watched as he played for me the song we walked down the aisle to and I felt this overwhelming sense of love – this, here, is my husband, and even though I am unable to move, I can still see him and I can still hear him and I can still love him. I marked that moment in my memory – his voice, the strum of guitar – sounds amplified in my swollen ears; even broken, I am still loved.

If this turns out to be my life from here on out – at least I still have life. And I will need help with self-compassion. I will need to learn how to ask for help. But life doesn’t have to be fast. I don’t have to be sharp as a motherfucking tack. I’m not brilliant at all times; I’m not always bright. Right now, I’m a mess. So here I am, asking all of you, my friends, for help. Send me love, send me light, send me prayers – I’m weak right now and I need them.

Everybody struggles. Everybody suffers. This is my struggle and I’m suffering.

(But don’t worry. If I have this disease – I will garner my strength, your strength, and kick this disease’s ass. Just watch me.)

My Road To Pregnancy (It Hasn’t Been Easy):

Some women “accidentally” get pregnant, barely feel any symptoms, skate through their pregnancy fairly easily, and then push that perfect, beautiful baby out no problem.

This has not been my journey.

My husband and I “accidentally” got pregnant at the end of June; it wasn’t exactly an accident, but we weren’t exactly trying either, it was more of a test to see if the other one was ready for a child by seeing if I stopped him or if he pulled out – I didn’t and he didn’t and bam! I was pregnant. That night, after sex, I thought – he just got me pregnant. It was that instantaneous, the changes to my body, my intuition prickling.

In the first week of July I would become narcoleptic, nauseous. We traveled to Chicago and Michigan and my breasts were sore. No, not sore, they hurt, like a little jiggle when walking was painful.

Instantly, I became protective, allowing my body to rest when needed, practicing self-care (which is something I don’t normally practice yet desperately need to). I napped when necessary, kept active yet didn’t push too hard, worked, but didn’t work myself to a stressed out mess: I found balance.

And my husband was doting, running out to buy ginger beer, going for runs with me when sitting still made the nausea worse. We were excited. We were hopeful. And then a week after we got home to Seattle, I found myself eating ginger cookies simply because they were cookies and not because I was nauseous. My breasts were no longer tender. I had a day with odd blood clots, and then that was it.

This world of fertility and pregnancy and miscarriage is all so new to me, so secretive, so I went to two separate doctors and they both hypothesized that I had a chemical pregnancy (yet I still wasn’t exactly aware of what a chemical pregnancy was).

The next month we tried again, and we ended up drowning all of the little spermies in lubricant. (Whoops!)

Then the next month we both had the flu, had sex once, and bam! the symptoms were back, but this time I was not exactly excited, but wary. Was I being dramatic? Making this all up in my head? The doctors said I had a chemical pregnancy, but we couldn’t prove it because I miscarried before I could get a positive pregnancy test. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. So I fought every single symptom of this pregnancy, fought the idea that I could be right, that I could actually be pregnant, and when I took a test, I lined five positive tests up simply to convince myself that I hadn’t made it up.

I miscarried at 5 ½ weeks.

I felt robbed. Smacked in the face, now grieving two miscarriages, not one – the first at 4 weeks, the second at 5 ½ weeks. My hormones rising and falling, rising and falling – feeling like total, absolute shit for 4 months straight. Not being able to control my body. Feeling like a failure for miscarrying – twice.

It seems I don’t have trouble getting pregnant, but staying pregnant.

I believe I am pregnant again.

This time, because I have had two miscarriages, my doctor placed me on progesterone twice daily, and let me tell you, these hormones suck balls. Seriously, they do. I have all of the symptoms of pregnancy to the umpteenth degree (I drank 2 gallons of chocolate milk in 2 days), yet I may not actually be pregnant, the symptoms could simply be side effects from the progesterone.

Right now, I can’t trust my body, when I have finally learned to trust my body; control soothes me, and I have no control.

This journey has been challenging (at the very least). And I’m not sure how much longer I can continue with these hormones spiking and dropping, spiking and dropping, and spiking again. The hormones are debilitating. And I feel like instead of being excited for the possibility of pregnancy, I am guarded – what if I miscarry again?

It isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair (If you want to see unfair, look at who our president elect is, and not by the popular vote).

This is what I know: I’m jealous of other women whose journeys are easy, who barely feel any symptoms, who don’t need to try so hard. But I’m also happy for them, truly I am, many of them are my friends. And the jealousy makes me feel guilty; I’m not accustomed to being jealous. But you know what? I’m human. And at the moment, I’m struggling. At the moment, I feel pregnant. At the moment, I need to learn how to practice self-care. This journey is tiring. And perhaps I’m not as strong as I thought I was as I can’t imagine functioning as a mother, a writer, an actor, a wife, and a friend as all of these symptoms persist; so perhaps one child is enough (if/when we have a child).

Next week I will know for sure whether these symptoms are from pregnancy or hormone therapy or both. But in the meantime, I need to give myself a break. I need to rest. I need to be good to my body, my mind, my heart. I need to allow myself the excitement of a possible pregnancy – I cannot allow the miscarriages to rob me of my joy (easier said, than done, I know).

And once again…I’m waiting.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing in my journey. It’s not all sugarplums and roses and unicorns and giggling bundles of baby joy. But hopefully one day, one day soon, it will be.

From One Unlikable Female to Another, Hillary Clinton, I See You.

First, I will say this: this is not a political post, it is not about politics, the right or the left or the in-between, this post is about humanity, being human, it is about morality and hypocrisy and injustice.

I grew up in small town Michigan where our town had one stoplight. Actually, we were a village. And I had a great childhood, I did, there are a lot of good things about growing up in a small town – my childhood was spent zipping through the woods, using my imagination, building forts and make-believe towns, discovering old settlements, picking blueberries and running amuck with no fear of stumbling upon a meth lab or weirdoes in the woods, or the neighbors calling CPS because children were unattended by adults.

And yet, I didn’t fit in.

I came screaming out of my mother’s womb with a fierce independence, a drive to succeed (even in Elementary school, I needed all A’s) that was never (and will never be) abated. I became an actress, a singer, striving for perfection in every area of interest. My mind was (is) hungry, almost desperate for knowledge. I yearned for the satisfaction of a good, healthy challenge; in sixth grade I chose Gone With The Wind for a book report when I was told I wouldn’t be able to read those seven-hundred-thirty-three pages (challenge!), and I did, I read them, went home every day after school and locked myself away in my bedroom and read, victorious when I got to the end of the book.

I say this because when I got to high school, I felt misunderstood. When girls became women and were expected to act a certain way. When “male” characteristics (like ambition and drive and a competitive spirit – which aren’t “male” characteristics, I know they’re not, or they shouldn’t be, but some people still think this way, some people are still stuck in the past, which is why I use the quotations) were not becoming on a lady. When female whiles such as submissiveness and flirting were used to secure boyfriends. I never had a boyfriend. Boys didn’t date me (a few dates, here and there, but nothing serious). And I felt lonely, alone, unwanted, not…enough.

I was told that men found me intimidating. I was told to be softer. I was advised that if I wanted a man to date me, then I needed to change who I was (am), and play the game (dim my light, my brightness, my intelligence, ambition, and passion), be more likeable. But were the boys/men told to be less intimidating? To lesson their ambition or intelligence? To be more…approachable? More likeable?

I refused. I refused to lower my expectations, my self-respect in order to be soft.

I learned hypocrisy at a young age. The hypocrisy of the standards some men and women hold other women to, but not men. I see you, Hillary Clinton. I see how hard you have worked in your career, and I acknowledge how infuriating it must be to have an opponent, a male opponent who has ZERO experience in your professional field, a field where you are quite possibly the most prepared, knowledgeable, and tenacious candidate.

And yet, some people look down on you for those very characteristics. Some people say you’re too prepared. They say you don’t smile enough (I’ve heard that one myself). Or you smile too much (I’ve heard that one as well). You are under constant scrutiny. Your words dissected. Twisted. The masses searching for lies while your opponent lies 91% (source from Politico) of the time. But your lies are the important lies, the unforgivable lies. Donald’s lies are pardoned.

Why?

You are unlikeable. You are a ferocious, ambition woman. You are intimidating. You are a force. A force who has thirty – 30! – years of experience in public service, who has done MORE good than harm in her career, but it doesn’t matter. Your mistakes will be what you are remembered for. Because you are unlikeable and you are a woman.

I see you. I feel for you. I admire you and champion for you. No, you are not perfect. Yes, you’ve screwed up. Yes, you’ve lied. Yes, you’ve had to make tough choices – such tough choices! Yes, others have been hurt by your choices, or mistakes, but guess what? You have had the experience necessary in order to make those mistakes and I will take that experience over ignorance, over incompetence any day.

So why is your opponent – Trump – not held to the same vicious scrutiny? Sure, people make fun of him, they call him a big, orange dummy (my words), or the Cheeto Bandito, and point out the fact that he can’t finish a sentence, that he talks in circles without actually making a point, that he rudely interrupts you – wrong! wrong! wrong! – or that he makes up words – bigly – and has no real stance on the issues at hand, that he blows where the wind takes him and right now it has taken him right, and it peeves me, it infuriates me that this wishy-washy man with no experience is even a candidate. It is a slap in the face to you and your profession, your entire career in public service.

I am sorry for that. That sucks. It really, really does.

But what sucks even more is that this man has followers, voters, people who proudly where t-shirts that say TRUMP THAT BITCH, or CROOKED HILLARY, or t-shirt’s with a picture of your face and the word CUNT.

Disgusting.

This is no longer about politics, it stopped being about politics the moment a reality television personality became a presidential candidate. It is about morality, and sexism, and a candidate who is perpetuating racism and rape culture, perpetuating hate. I wonder what people would say if Trump was a woman? Like Paris Hilton, a fellow reality television star, a fellow child who inherited a fortune? Would Trump’s supporters support Paris? Who, by the way, grew her fortune faster and on a wider scale than Trump ever did?

I’m sick of the double standards. Of Trump’s supporters, Trump, calling Hillary crooked, or a liar when Trump lies – all the time. To excuse his filthy mouth as “locker room talk”. To point a finger at Hillary for Bill’s actions (newsflash – Hillary is a person all on her own, she is not her husband, and Bill is not running for President, Hillary is) when Trump is caught with numerous sexual harassment, even rape allegations. But people say that the women are lying, Trump says that the women are lying: that’s what people said about Bill Cosby.

Why must we women have to fight so hard against the current? And if you don’t think we need to, think again. Even when we are better, stronger, smarter, more deserving than a man.

Now, to the men and women who tell other men and women to get over Trump’s “locker room talk”, I tell you to fuck off. As a woman who has been sexually assaulted both verbally and physically, I tell you to fuck off. Because words matter. When we excuse this behavior, we are essentially telling young (and old) boys (and men) that women’s bodies are there to be touched by them, with or without consent. And believe me – it happens.

The first time my personal, private space was invaded by a man, I was sixteen, working behind the counter of an ice cream shop. The shop was deserted. No one came in there. I had no phone. And two men walked in to change out the advertisements in the hall. One of them took one look at me, and knew what he wanted. Uncomfortable, I stood there, rolling my neck to pass the time, and he said, “Your neck hurt? Let me rub it for you.” I said, “No.” He came behind the counter, put his hands on my neck, my skin, and I was stunned, a deer in headlights, not knowing what to do – stuck. The other man took one look at what was happening and his face darkened, he said, “What are you doing, man? Let’s get out of here.” But if this other man was not a good man, all they had to do was flip the lock on the door and I would have been had. This is when I began to find my exits in every room, every situation I was in; this is when I began to look for makeshift weapons in case this ever happened again.

I moved to San Francisco five years ago and walked by a group of guys. They hollered, “Come sit on my dick, bitch. Come sit on my dick.” I rode the bus one day and a man sat close to me, too close, but I didn’t want to be rude and tell him to scoot over (it was probably my imagination, right? Right?), and when I pulled the lever to get off of the bus, this man slid his hand between my thighs. Who gave him permission to do so? Not me. What makes this OK? I was running one day, and readjusted my leggings, my underwear, and a man hung out of the passenger side window of a car and yelled, “Grab that pussy!”

Fuck off.

Just because I am a woman, does not give a man OR woman permission to touch me, to assault me verbally, to speak of my privates, to force himself on me – no way, no how.

I do not absolve Trump of his words, his actions. I believe the women who have claims against him. I am offended when he says that no one has more respect for women than he does. If his actions, his words, are what he considers respectful then we are teaching boys, men, girls and women that this behavior, this talk is OK.

It is not.

It is not OK for Trump to be racist. To incite hatred. And do not get it twisted, I do not hate Trump – I am saddened and disgusted by him. I am furious at the injustice of this election. The misogyny that oozes from Trump’s orange pores. What a slap in the face this blatant sexism must be to Hillary.

This election is not about politics. Not to me. Because Trump is not a politician. And some people say that’s exactly why they support him, but guess what, folks, it is called politics for a reason. No, this election is about morality. It is about intelligence, having the intelligence to elect a WOMAN with overwhelming experience over a grossly unfit, ineloquent, unqualified MAN.

I see you, Hillary Clinton. I see the fight you have in your heart. I see how you have not, and will not give up. No matter the hateful words thrown at you. No matter the injustice. And I take strength from your strength, tilt my chin upwards, eyes forward, daring the world to call me unlikable, too.

I will take it as a compliment.