This time of year is always the most difficult for me - the end of April and the beginning of May. While at this point in time I do not wish to disclose the precise reason, I will allude to it. When I was but an adolescent, I experienced the worst trauma of my entire life. That trauma has followed me every step. I suffered from PTSD for a long time after - although at the time I didn't know what was happening. The flashbacks wouldn't end.
Flashbacks, in accordance with PTSD, can make you feel like you've returned to the scene of the trauma. They can make you believe that no time has passed and you're stuck in time repeating history. It's frightening, painful, and inescapable. Your mind is triggered backwards and it has a hard time remembering how to leave.
While many years have passed, and the flashbacks have slowed - they like to reappear annually around this time of year. I will be innocently smelling the night air, or perhaps laying in bed, when all of a sudden I'm back at the scene of the crime. Emotions flood my consciousness and I'm reminded of all the horrible things that happened, like it's happening in the present. I try to move past it, but I've learned a long time ago that flashbacks are not easily escaped, or for that matter, avoided.
Last night was no different. I spent a good piece of my present time remembering my excruciating history. It brings up so many dark memories, and darker feelings. Self-loathing, depression, anxiety, panic, fear...I felt myself falling backwards into torturous nothingness. Luckily for me, this instance had a rare exception to previous instances - I had a very loving and supportive partner. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been able to express myself openly, or as easily. I would have flailed in my own personal hell for a lot longer. Instead, they listened and held me, and reminded me that I was safe.
I think about all the other people suffering with flashbacks, and empathy pours out of me. I wish no one had to re-live their traumas. The mind is a delicate machine, that can be unfortunately programmed with undesirable routines. The trick is learning how to cope. While I understand the pressure to make it "all go away" (all too well), it's not the best solution. You inevitably end up hurting someone else - and perhaps even cause them PTSD, making it a vicious cycle. It's best to learn how to cope. The most important thing here is that time heals. While it heals rather slowly, it does heal. Perhaps there will be a scar, but it means you're a survivor - not a victim.
While I was thinking about coping techniques, I did a Google search for the hell of it. I turned out this article: Coping with Flashbacks by Matthew Tull. There's some good information there - I think next time I experience a flashback I'll try either biting into some peppermint gum, or cranking my music. It can't hurt.
For most people female and feminine are synonymous, just like male and masculine. However there is a distinct difference. Sex and gender are not the same thing.
Sex refers to the genitalia of a person making them male, female or inter-sex (discussed later). Gender is completely different yet it is continually used as though it meant the same thing. Many words are used incorrectly. People often say cement when they mean concrete. Cement is an ingredient in concrete while concrete is the finished product. Similarly, weight is inappropriately used on health forms when they actually mean mass.
Gender is not sex. Gender is a social construction. This means that gender is something simply made-up to describe an archaic belief known as biological predetermination.
Biological predetermination is the belief that women are inherently feminine and men are inherently masculine. This goes hand in hand with the idea that men like women and vice versa. It is widely accepted despite its fallacies. Most people think that women are naturally nurturing, compassionate and giving, making them excellent mothers. Just like they also believe men are naturally brave, aggressive and lascivious, making them excellent in business. Oddly enough, this set of beliefs is common and unquestioned. However it is false. I'm sure that in your own life you have met women who are "masculine" and men who are "feminine". If such qualities were natural then why doesn't everyone fit in? The simple answer, they're not natural. Believing in biological predetermination would also mean subscribing to the belief that homosexuality is a disease. It's not. Some guys like guys, some girls like girls and some people like both. This is naturally occurring and doesn't fit in with this little "theory".
Life is too diverse to fit into neat little categories. That is the truth of the matter. Not every man will identify with being masculine just like not every woman thinks she's feminine. Yet we live in a society that likes labels. So we've found terms to describe things in relation to what we assume to be fact. Transgender is a term people use to describe themselves when they identify with the gender that's not typically associated with their sex. For example, a man might behave and dress like a woman and choose to call himself "transgendered" but that doesn't mean he's homosexual. Sexual identity and gender identity are not always synonymous. Transsexual describes an individual that identifies with the other sex and may or may not have an operation to make the transition. Sexual and gender identities are flexible.
As noted earlier, I mentioned something referred to as "inter-sex". The world is not a clean dualism. Things are not simply black and white, male or female, masucline or feminine. Nature is more complex than that. Inter-sex is the third sex. Someone may be born male, female or inter-sex.
Inter-sex is when you cannot distinguish the genitalia or chromosomes to be either male or female. This is not the same as hermaphrodite. It seems unlikely but it does happen in one baby in every 2000. In nations like Canada when a baby is born inter-sex, public healthcare will pay for the procedure to "correct" the baby's genitalia. This means that the doctor and sometimes the parents will make the decision to either have a boy or a girl. This sort of decision will impact that child's life forever and I fear it is made too cavalierly. Often the child will grow up identifying with a sex not their own and have corrective surgery. Why can't the baby grow up as they are? It is too much to ask for people to accept a third sex?
I hope that someday the world will be open to the unique differences and similarities that make us human.
*For Canadian residents, if you're interested in a documentary about inter-sex I recommend watching InterSEXion by CBC.
I can't believe it's the fourth Sunday since I've started Storytime Sunday. Time truly does fly by. If this is your first time reading Storytime Sunday, I have some links to assist you so you can catch up: Part I, Part II and Part III. If you don't feel like reading the previous segments that's okay. You'll still enjoy this part.
I know I kind of left things hanging last time so without further ado, here's Part IV.
Teddy Bear Day! What a beary wonderful day! I could go on about Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States and how his persona created the "Teddy" bear after a hunting trip in 1902 Mississippi, following the mercy killing of an injured bear. A toy maker, Morris Michtom heard the story and thus created a toy bear in his name. Instead I want to discuss cute Teddy bears!
In North America it is common for every child to own a Teddy bear at one point in their lives. Some own many. Some hold on to their Teddy bears into adulthood. Most likely because they come to signify many adolescent memories and an attachment to their inner child. To the left is a photo of a StarCraft 2 e-sport commentator, Day9 and his Teddy bear, "Manfred".
Day9 is not the only adult who still cherishes their Teddy bear. I personally love mine. Her name is Matilda and she's a mouse. I've literally owned her since the day I was born, in my eyes she is my age. I dragged her everywhere as a child. I was so enamoured with Matilda as my best friend that my mother made up a song about her and I. At one point I even requested to make one of my middle names Matilda!
So take this day to celebrate the Teddy bears we know and love or the ones we no longer have.
In the past few weeks I've seen one particular date over and over. I thought to myself, what a strange coincidence. Each time I saw today's date I was reminded of what that date used to mean to me. September 6 is the birthday of someone I knew. At one point I knew them as a best friend and at another I realized they were a bully. I couldn't be friends with a bully.
Bullies are one of the most egocentric personalities. They can be narcissistic, focusing their concerns on their own lives while disregarding all others. This sort of behaviour seems common in schools. This is probably due to the social hierarchy, forcing adolescents to socially combat each other for higher status. That combined with each adolescents' feelings of insecurity creates a ceaseless need for recognition. Some do it by getting the best grades they can, others throw themselves into the claws of their peers and still others become bullies. They harass their peers and berate their friends, all in an attempt to cure low self esteem.
Growing up is one of the hardest things to do and being an adolescent is definitely one of the most difficult times of anyone's life. Everyone must overcome challenges in order to mature into an adult and sometimes those challenges can overwhelm us to the point of surrender. To everyone out there still experiencing the horrendous reality of adolescence, I salute you. I know you have the strength to put it all behind you and become a healthy adult.
People need titles. Whether you're discussing historically or presently, people need labels to place on others. They need a quick way to define you in order to categorize the information in their brain. Every person develops templates in their mind about what each label represents and who fits into the category. No one escapes scrutiny. Everyone is judged. For better or for worse.
In the case of historically, one clear example is 19th century Cesare Lombroso's atavisms. He believed that criminals were born criminals and they were throwbacks to an earlier stage of human development, hence morally inferior. From his ideas sprung physical stigmata one could possess that would determine if they were a criminal. How convenient! He perpetuated social darwinism through his ridiculous ideas. Unfortunately his ideas were popular and to this day some of the physical stigmata remains. For instance, an excessive amount of tattoos. It's true that tattoos have become mainstream but whenever you see someone with tattoos everywhere, you're questioning their morality.
Labels sadly become other ghastly things like stereotypes which in turn end up causing undue prejudice and animosity. While it's true that stereotypes may exist, it's also true that they represent a minority. People are more alike across boundaries than they are different just as more differences exist within boundaries. Did you know there are more genetic differences (although subtle) between African tribes than between Africans and the rest of the world?
While it's true that people are programmed to develop templates to easily understand the world, that ability also limits our understanding. By automatically filing people into neat little categories, we're missing details about that person that make them unique and at the same time, similar to you. That's why it's important to think before you judge, or at least spend some time thinking after you make your snap judgement.
You've been labeled. You've been called names you don't appreciate. Labels carry with them negative connotations. Whether it's a racial slur or a social one, they can hurt. When it happens it's important to remember something, they don't define you, you do. You define yourself. You don't have to become that label. You are who you want to be.
Everyone spends time as an adolescent wondering what they're going to be when they grow up. For many of us they are the same things. When I was 12 I was convinced I wanted to be an astronaut more than anything in the whole world. I wanted to explore outer space and experience weightlessness. I even had a poster of Chris Hadfield in my room, a Canadian astronaut.
Then I found out that you needed to have perfect vision. I just got my first pair of glasses. I felt completely heartbroken. I wanted to be an astronaut. What else could I do? Then I started to think. If I can't be an astronaut, what can I be? I thought I wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada. Someone who could make changes in my country for the better. My new hero became Lester B. Pearson. Not only was he Prime Minister, he had also been a diplomat. I started to think about the possibilities. I could go to law school, become a diplomat and then later, Prime Minister. I had big plans.
So I went to university and studied an undergraduate degree. I slowly realized that I might not want to go to law school after all. I graduated and thought, what now? What do I do with my life now?
Then I came to an answer. I wanted to be writer. I've been writing my whole life. Everything from poetry to short stories to essays. I've written more than my share of essays. Now I want to write something bigger. I want to write a book.
For the past while that's exactly what I've been doing. I've been writing pages and pages of a book. Someday I hope to get my finished book published.
I think when we're young we follow our passions, wherever they lie. Sometimes our dreams change but that doesn't mean that our passion has to leave.
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