World Bipolar Day

Today is World Bipolar Day, a day created to bring about awareness and show support for those suffering with the disorder. There are many myths and misconceptions when it comes to bipolar disorder, and it is often used in improper context. We say that someone who is moody is bipolar, and we say that the weather is bipolar when it constantly changes, but bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that affects over 5 million adults and 2 million children each year.

There are different types of mood disorders, such as bipolar I, bipolar II, rapid cycling bipolar, etc. I’ll run through the basics of those three as they are the most common. First is bipolar I, characterized by manic and depressive episodes. Mania consists of elevated energy levels, elevated mood, grandiose thoughts, poor judgement, reckless behavior, inability to concentrate, restlessness. It can cause auditory or visual hallucinations in some cases. Each person cycles at a different rate, some faster than other, and some periods last longer than others. No experience is the same.

Bipolar II is categorized by hypomania and depressive episodes. Hypomania is very similar to mania, just less severe. However, it can be just as debilitating. The depressive episodes are relatively the same as bipolar I.

Rapid cycling bipolar disorder can occur in those with bipolar I or bipolar II, and it causes moods to change at a more advanced pace. For some, it happens daily, for others a few times a month. Surprisingly, nearly 20% of individuals diagnosed as bipolar disorder are rapid cyclers.

Now that I got the definitions out of the way, let’s discuss myths.

Myth: Bipolar disorder is the same as mood swings. However, bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance of the chemicals in one’s brain. They are more severe, longer lasting, and impede every day functioning.

Myth: Mania is always happy. Unfortunately this is not the case. There are often mixed states, in which one experiences the elevated mood of mania (or hypomania) with the depressed thoughts. There is often irritability corresponding with mania, and sometimes agitation.

Myth: Bipolar disorder is an excuse to act how you want when you want. This is a stigmatized assumption for those who wish to discount those with mental illness. Those with the disorder often have difficulty regulating their moods and the actions resulting from those moods. This is not voluntary, and can ruin many relationships be it familial, romantic, or platonic.

Myth: There is no way to treat bipolar disorder. Although it is a lifelong condition, there are ways to regulate the disorder. This could be through medication, therapy, or a mix of the two.

Managing bipolar disorder is not easy for those with the diagnosis as well as for those with a loved one who has a diagnosis. The best way to work through it is communication. Be open and honest about what you need, and be receptive to those who are expressing their needs. Be patient with yourself, and be patient with other people. Surround yourself with people who are understanding and kind, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t control your emotions. Just know that you are not alone, and that each of your emotions are valid.

– JB

The Consistency of Self Worth

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this account, mostly due to the hectic nature of my life as a senior in college. However, I’m on break right now and in light of some recent events I want to discuss individual self-worth and how the opinions of others do not fluctuate that self worth.

As a human, we all naturally have self-worth. We are taught both consciously and subconsciously from a young age that appearance has a lot to do with measuring this worth. Whether people find you attractive, whether you fit into the right clothes, whether you fit a certain stereotype. Although physical attributes are often evaluated, these evaluations have no impact on your actual self worth. For example, one person may find me attractive while another may not. Neither of those things makes me better or worse, because they don’t fluctuate your worth.

A person has self-worth whether they have “desirable” characteristics or not, being physical or inner. What someone thinks of you has no bearing on your actual worth. What you look like outwardly has no bearing on your worth. We are taught that skinny is good, and that pretty is good, and that long hair is good, and that following gender norms is good. But if you don’t do those things or aren’t those things it doesn’t make your worth as an individual go down. Not being conventionally attractive or not being “skinny enough” *insert eye roll here* does not make you worth less.

It is important to challenge these thoughts that are taught to us and consciously make an effort to judge the worth of a person less on appearances and more on characteristics that go beyond that. It’s unfortunately natural for us, even me, to immediately judge the worth of a person based on their looks. Pretty people get hired first, skinny people get complimented first, it’s the nature of our society today. However, those things don’t have any actual bearing. Looks fade and weight fluctuates, styles will change a million times in the next ten years. When you base your worth on your outward appearance you are bound to be disappointed because of the constant changing of beauty standards. That’s why it is important to begin evaluating people from a deeper level than what is on the surface. This includes yourself. Don’t let your physical appearance be your only way of feeling good. Don’t go the rest of your life hating what you look like or feeling less than because you don’t exactly fit the perfect stereotype of beautiful.

Active ways to challenge this need to happen within yourself, but also outwardly. Start complimenting people on characteristics other than physical one’s. Do the same with yourself. It’s easy to equate a bad grade with a lack of self-worth, or someone calling you a “potato” with being worth less than someone who is traditionally beautiful. Make yourself aware that those factors have absolutely no impact on your worth, because it is constant and non-fluctuating. Make yourself aware of your accomplishments and achievements, and let those be your anchors to reality. It is more than easy to get swept up in appearance or someone else’s interpretation of you, but practice believing in the inflexibility of self-worth and it will go a long way.

It’s perfectly ok to take pride in your outward appearance, I highly encourage that. Just not when it is the only factor being taken into account. Your beauty is not the absence of mine, just as my beauty is not the absence of your own. There are more ways than one to represent beauty, and there are more factors to self-worth than anything physical. Take the time to evaluate where your judgments come from and take time to be actively aware of the consistency of your own self worth.

-JB

Myths about bisexuality

Lately I have been seeing a lot of talk against those who are bisexual. Unfortunately, pretty much of this talk has come from fellow members of the LGBTQIA community itself. For some reason, there is a lot of stigmatization around identifying oneself as bisexual and it is often not taken seriously. This happens a large amount in grade school, but the stigma never really dissolves. I’m going to address myths that I’ve encountered.

1. Bisexuals are more promiscuous.

  • False. Liking more than one sex does not make you promiscuous. Sexual orientation does not make you more promiscuous, gender does not make you more promiscuous. Sure you have a wider pool of potentials, but that doesn’t automatically make someone more promiscuous.

2. Because bisexuals are more promiscuous, they are more likely to cheat.

  • As previously mentioned, bisexuality has no correlation with promiscuity and, believe it or not, has absolutely no correlation with cheating. People cheat because they are bad people, not because of their sexuality. Another myth that goes hand in hand with this is that those who identify as bisexual are “greedy”, making them cheat because they like a lot of people at once. However, emotions work the same in people regardless of sexuality. I can’t speak for everyone but liking someone usually eliminates the likeage of other people, regardless of how you identify your sexuality.

3. Just pick a side.

  • Sure, sometimes bisexuality is used as a label before a person really discovers their true sexual orientation, but that doesn’t invalidate the label. Sexuality is fluid and coming out as gay is scary and experimentation is ok and you have no say in the validation of someone’s label. This idea of “picking a side” is so problematic. It erases the identity of bisexuality, making it mythical. Bisexuality is a real thing, not some in between. It may be for some people, but that doesn’t make it not true at the time. It’s ok to change the way that you identify. However, there are some people who identify as bisexual for their entire life.

4. Monogamous relationships make you straight or gay.

  • Along with thinking that bisexuals need to “pick a side”, people also refuse to acknowledge that bisexuality is real even when one is in a monogamous relationship. A lot of the time, their identity is reduced to the relationship that they are currently involved in. However, it is entirely possible to continue to identify as bisexual whether you are with the same or a different sex.

5. You are only interested in threesomes.

  • This is actually infuriating because I can’t tell you how many times I was greeted with “Do you want a threesome then?” when my sexuality came to light. Your sexual orientation has no relation to the desire to have a threesome. Please for the love of god stop sexualizing everything and making it about your pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with being bi and wanting a threesome, there’s nothing wrong with being straight and wanting a threesome, but please get rid of the association between being bisexual and only wanting to have threesomes!!

6. Can’t identify as bi if they haven’t been with ____

  • This isn’t only used against those who identify as bisexual, but I see it used a lot. People come out as bisexual and “Have you  been with the opposite gender? How do you know?” are some of the first things asked. However, you don’t need to intimately be with a person to know that you are attracted to them. How do you know you’re straight if you’ve never been with someone of the opposite gender? It’s just something you feel, and crushes are a thing that happen. You can identify as bisexual no matter who you have or haven’t been with.

7. Means you like only boys or girls, and equally.

  • There are a few things wrong with this. First, being bisexual isn’t only limited to male and female. Being bisexual means being attracted to two OR MORE genders. I know what you’re thinking, bi means two!! It has to be two!! You are wrong. Most bisexuals welcome all guys, gals, and nonbinary pals. Second, bisexuality isn’t an equal thing all the time. You can be mentally attracted to a certain gender while physically attracted to another gender, you can be both physically and mentally attracted to different genders, you can like one gender more than all the rest and STILL identify as bisexual.

Basically what I’m trying to get across is that sexuality is fluid and the only person who can dictate your sexuality is yourself. Those who identify as bisexual are valid and you have no place trying to tell them that they aren’t. Stay out of other’s sexualities and PLEASE reevaluate the biases that you hold within yourself.

-JB

Slut

We’ve all either been called a slut, know someone who has been called a slut, or called someone a slut ourselves. It’s a common word, especially recently. But how does one become a slut? What’s the criteria?

The problem is that there is none. Anyone can be called a slut for any real, perceived, or imagined sexual activity. There’s this prude/slut dichotomy and we are forced to stick our toes in the slutty side, but have to be careful not to cross fully over in order to be accepted. However, this often gets skewed and women are shamed no matter which side they are on, because it is all up to interpretation.

Often times “slut” doesn’t have anything at all to do with a persons actual sexual activity, but with their *perceived* persona. How sexually a person is perceived, because they developed early, because they flirt, because of what they wear, etc., determines if they are labeled a slut.

So if the word is meant for those “too sexually active”, why does it apply to those who aren’t sexually active at all?

It’s a way to police all women, not only the one being called the slut. When a girl is called a slut her reputation is ruined. Consequences of being labeled a slut include, but are not limited to, verbal harassment, being sexually assaulted, engaging in sexual activity before you are ready, engaging in unhealthy sexual activity, depression, eating disorders, and self harm.

Seeing what this label does to other girls, they want to avoid having this done to themselves. Sometimes this means joining in on calling someone else a slut in order to avoid having the label placed upon themselves. This fear causes hatred among females and furthers the cycle.

Of course another aspect to being called a slut is the double standards that go along with it. Sure, we’ve all heard about some “man whores”, but what are the implications of that compared to girls who are called sluts? If you go online and search synonyms for both slut and man whore two totally different feelings come about. For females, synonyms are hateful words. For males, one of the synonyms is player, another being ladies man.

So for a man to be considered a slut, it is more of an empowering word, a congratulations of sorts. As previously mentioned, the repercussions of being a female labeled a slut include self harm and detrimental behavior.

What I’m getting at is that the reasons we call each other sluts needs to be evaluated and analyzed, and so do the double standards involved. People throw around words without thinking about what will happen because of them. Start to think more critically about the words that you use.

-JB

*side note, I was inspired to create this post because I am reading “I Am Not A Slut” by  Leora Tanenbaum

Fat shaming

Eat, guilt, restrict, binge, guilt, restrict, binge, guilt, restrict.

This is a cycle that far too many of us are far too familiar with. The reasons behind this feeling of guilt after eating nearly anything are a lot more ingrained than we think. It is put in our heads from a young age that eating food and feeling full should result in regret. It stems from “cheat meals” and “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!”

Fat shaming is pushed on each one of us, mainly girls, through every avenue of media and every aspect of our social lives. I remember being 11 and looking in the mirror, sucking in my stomach to look thinner. Girls are taught that the number on the scale dictates their worth. 

Not that all of us are told directly that being fat is the worst thing you could be, but that’s the message that is being sent to us. Recently there was a “plus size” model in a bikini on a sports magazine. She was a size 6. Do you know the average size for a female in the US? A 12-14. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that we are having more average looking bodies on covers of magazines, but how detrimental is it to label a size 6 as plus sized when the average is a size 14? It leads to feeling ashamed, due to the negative association with “plus size”, if you are a size 6 or up. This is the kind of standard that leads to fat shaming and self hatred. It causes repetitive, unhealthy eating habits that can be extremely harmful.

I’ve been seeing a lot more body positivity trending lately and I absolutely love it. However, there is still a lot of fat shaming that goes on with body positivity. Those who exceed a certain look or weight are often excluded. It feels like “you can be proud of your body until you reach this point, then it’s unhealthy”. 

The idea of loving your body no matter what is phenomenal, but it seems that skinny people are often trying to dictate what is body positive and what is not. For example, if a heavy girl wears a crop top it is automatically considered body positive. Sounds good, right? But what say does the girl in the shirt have? She should be the one to decide if she’s feeling body positive that day. A heavy person wearing a crop top is not always doing it to take a stand. Wearing a certain style is not inherently brave, people can wear what they want. 

What I’m getting at is that, from a young age, we need to teach people that there is not one correct way to look (talk, skinny, fit, white, blonde). It is absolutely great to love your body, but having it be the deciding factor on your worth can be extremely harmful. So love yourself for whatever body you have, and don’t try to tell other people what do do with theirs. 

Stop policing what people wear, stop deciding what makes a person body positive, stop only complimenting people when they lose weight. Start loving yourself and those around you for reasons other than their body. 

-JB

Take Back the Night

Take Back the Night is an event held at my college campus each year (Kutztown University for those who don’t know). During the day there is the clothesline project, which is where people write their stories of abuse on t-shirts, or they could write inspiration quotes, among other things. At night we do the Take Back the Night portion, which is where students, staff, and community members have a chance to tell their story of sexual abuse publicly. Yesterday was my second year attending, and it was just as moving as the first time.

The way that it works is the audience is invited to come to the front of the room and share their story if they would like. No one is forced to, it’s not planned ahead of time by staff, it’s impromptu. Once the first person goes, more people gain the courage to speak. A few of the people who spoke said it was their first time talking publicly about their assault. Many cried while they recounted their trauma, and the audience was all moved to tears through the whole night. 

Multiple people when up and started with “I wasn’t planning on speaking today but” and then told their story. That’s what is so necessary about Take Back the Night – it inspires people to talk about their trauma in a safe space. It is a place without judgement, without blame, without bias. They also have trained advocates, like myself, attend in case anyone needs to talk after hearing such emotional stories. Having events like these allow students to have the opportunity to get their abuse off their chest and it also gives them the chance to meet other students who have been through similar situations. 

I think it’s very important that we hold Take Back the Night each year. I plan to attend as long as I can, and I urge anyone in college or who lives near a college town to see if your campus has an event such as this one.

-JB

Starting Small

The more you learn, the harder it is to ignore. Statistics float in my head constantly; one woman a minute is sexually assaulted as a war tactic, one if four college girls will be sexually assaulted, one in six men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Educating myself on social justice issues has been a big part of my passion since I began my college career. Knowledge is power, but it can also be debilitating.

My privileged background often makes me feel guilty, makes me feel like I have to save the world. Fix hunger, stop sexual assault, change sexism, end racism. No matter how unrealistic those goals are, that’s the responsibility I put on myself. As an activist, one of the hardest things to do is to realize your limits. One person cannot do all of those things, and I’m still working on accepting that.

A few months ago my Women and Gender Studies Professor spoke at a diversity conference and her topic was activism. She was addressing the million dollar question: how do I begin to change the world? We have been learning all semester that education is the number one way to spark change. Laws only work when they’re reinforced, and in many places they aren’t. Societal norms won’t change until the mindset of the people change.

I was struggling to find a way to properly educate people. Who do I target? Who wants to listen to a liberal college kid complain about how messed up the world is? Is it enough just to correct people when they make sexist and homophobic jokes? My professor suggested blogging, and she’s the reason that Jessie and I started this blog. To be honest, I was skeptical. I have a lot to say, but I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously. My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t be making any difference at all.

In that same class, we are reading a book about activism to end the semester. Through this book I am learning that making a change doesn’t have to be some monumental, instantaneous thing. I am learning that change takes time, and that everything has a ripple effect. Educating my friends on why their jokes are harmful does make a difference, because once they learn that it is offensive they start to tell their other friends who use those same words.

Someone may stumble upon this blog and, even if my words don’t completely change their mind, their interest may be sparked. They could talk to their friends about it or search for more information. Or they could just let my words resonate with them while they form their own opinion. No matter the case, what we are doing with this blog is meaningful. We are putting issues out there that many people are afraid or unwilling to discuss. We are making people think twice about actions that they normally wouldn’t think about. We are slowly but surely creating change.

Although I am still struggling with not being able to save the entire world on my own, I am proud of what I am doing. Small efforts really build up. Education creates awareness, which in turn creates change. I feel that in our society we have this belief that we need to be great right away at everything we do. We don’t allow ourselves the time to cultivate our skills and passions without feeling like we have to be better than we are.

I am here to tell you that small steps can make a world of difference. Not only with activism, but anything. Setting small goals to accomplish makes our experiences more rewarding, and allows us to realize just how much of a difference small steps make. So stop avoiding whatever you are because you feel it won’t be good enough. You don’t have to be perfect or have all the answers in order to create change.

-JB