Tuesday, April 29, 2014
To kick things off, I'd like to bring attention to an incredibly asinine new piece of legislation that our incredibly ignorant state legislature brought to the governor to sign, and in an act of equal ignorance, Governor Haslam indeed signed it. This legislature criminalizes pregnant women for using drugs during their pregnancy, potentially leading to jail time. I absolutely, 100% agree that drug use during pregnancy is really, truly horrible, both for the mother and the child. As someone working in a field where drug abuse and dependence is prominent, I fully understand that there are serious consequences of drug abuse on the individual and society as a whole. As someone who is currently expecting, I also feel a deeper connection to this issue, including an emotional response that I have to check at the door when encountering these sort of situations. I recognize that I am doing every possible thing in my power to keep my unborn child safe, including watching what types of food I eat, what type of air I breathe (sorry smokers, stay away), and totally abstaining from alcohol (guys, that's a big sacrifice for me), and feel a strong moral obligation to do so. But I also recognize that I am able to approach pregnancy and childbirth from a place of abundant resources, privilege, education, and support. All that to say, pregnancy and cultural experiences of pregnancy may be a great future blog post!
So, with the groundwork of my basic stance on the issue of drug use during pregnancy, let's get into the messy details of this legislation, details which everyone who helped make this bill happen have completely ignored or not bothered to care about.
We don't live in a vacuum. Plain and simple. The whole notion of punitive cause & effect is incredibly flawed, since we do not live in said vacuum. In a totally simple, black & white world, where we're all robots and nothing is complicated, it makes sense that someone should be punished for engaging in something illegal (in this instance, illegal drug use) that leads to serious harm of another individual (in this case, an unborn child... which raises other concerns, but let's move on). And the ultimate hope here is that the punitive measures will be a deterrent to the bad behavior. This makes sense if you're dealing with a 5-year-old who refuses to take his nap. This particular issue, however, is much more complex and delicate than lawmakers seem to realize.
First of all, let's consider the incredible racism and classism existent in our current criminal justice system. I see it every day. My homeless clients are incarcerated for things that they simply would not be arrested for if they weren't visibly poor and/or visibly Black. It's absolutely disgusting. From a more fact-based standpoint, though I don't have the data in front of me, I have done research on the disproportionate arrests and sentencing of people of color, based purely on race, and boy is there lots of it. This is a pretty obvious (unless you're a rich, white, probably male politician) concern when addressing a piece of legislation such as this. Women of color and poor women are going to be targets for this legislation. Given the current culture of our criminal justice system, I just can't see this law being enacted in a way that is fair or just across races, religions, and socio-economic classes.
I'd be willing to bet that many of the women addicted to drugs during pregnancy were not intending to get pregnant. Perhaps this is a dangerous assumption, but hey, I'm a risk-taker. If we want to address the effects of drug use on pregnancy, we need to first address the absolute lack of reproductive education and resources available to women in Tennessee. I never received sex education in my public high school. I received slut-shaming abstinence-only education. That is not effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies. Our state needs to start by offering women support before they become pregnant, in the form of true sex education, more accessible women's healthcare, affordable birth control options, accessible early-term abortions, and some freakin' respect. Slut shaming and ignoring the value of women's bodies and reproductive abilities is the first part of the problem, and is never, ever a solution.
So onto the issue of drug addiction. I work in mental health. I work with a lot of people who have addictions to drugs and alcohol. Many of them are in recovery, and I see how unbelievably hard they work at their sobriety. Many of them are still struggling with addiction, and it is a very serious struggle. Addiction is a disease. It is a serious disease, and it rips people's lives apart. Many addicts are also dealing with mental illness, which is perhaps often an underlying cause of the addiction. Addiction is such an incredibly multifaceted issue, with social, financial, cultural, and medical complexities. The criminalization of drug addiction has not adequately addressed the problem of drug addiction in our society. And it won't solve the issue of drug use during pregnancy.
What I envision happening with the implementation of this bill, based on my own experiences in social service work, is that women who have a drug addiction and learn of their pregnancy will forgo prenatal care for fear of arrest and further legal ramifications. Women will hear horror stories of their sisters being locked up, and will therefore fear reaching out. Addiction will continue. Babies will continue being born addicted to various drugs. The cycle of overincarceration of poor women and women of color will continue. No one will be better because of this legislation. A few politicians will sleep better at night because they have tricked themselves into believing they've done something good "for the children", rather than actually getting in the midst of the communities this new law will affect and asking "what do you need?".
Politicians need to stop deciding for women what is best for us. Period. And Tennessee politicians clearly need to consult a few social workers before making any more decisions, ever.
***Let me say here that I know my arguments are very emotionally charged & certainly not fool-proof. I also acknowledge that I use some pejorative language, mostly for my own tension release; I apologize if anyone is hurt or offended in the process. I also want to be very clear in saying that this issue is complicated - I don't know all sides to the story & I don't have all the answers... I definitely don't claim to.
Monday, January 27, 2014
And maybe it's also because I'm having a hard enough time processing my life internally, which makes it seem almost impossible to figure out how to do externally, for even one other person. I'm realizing that as soon as I think I've got myself figured out, life throws me a curveball. It's been a weird year (aren't they all, though??), and I'm still sorting through the mess that is my emotional state.
Today was a hard one. One of those days where I just wanted to curl up in a ball and wait for life to pass over me. So, I deal with depression. Nothing major. Just a minor case of depression. I take a really low dose of antidepressant, see a therapist monthly, and usually I suffer no more than an occasional case of the blues. But then sometimes it hits me hard, and recently this is where I've been. I withdraw, lose excitement or enjoyment in the things I know I love, feel unmotivated, don't find my husband's jokes funny (and he's a really funny guy!), feel a particular type of alone-ness, and just can't escape those blues. It sounds dramatic, but usually I don't notice all of those things. Today is a day that I do, though. Today is a day that I wanted to cry pretty much all day long (I even did, in front of a client... which was embarrassing). Today is a day that I sort of wish I could just give up and never leave my bedroom.
Thankfully, I pretty much know that these types of days will pass (you know, I'm generally a pretty peppy, sunshiny kinda person). I know that at the end of even a really shitty day, I've got a partner who loves me and supports me no matter what, friends who lift me up and remind me who I am, a warm home of my own to restore myself in, pets who will cuddle with me under any and all circumstances, and a body that is strong and able. Being able to know those truths gets me through the times when it's hard to feel those truths.
I'm pretty confident that this upcoming year is going to be better than the last. There were so many great things about this year - we bought a house, got a new dog, Nathan graduated from divinity school and got a job, I started a new job that I love, we started getting involved in a really awesome new community, etc., etc. But it's also been filled with a lot of tough stuff- feeling pulled completely apart in a billion directions by my parents' divorce and the complete unraveling of my family unit (that's a big one), the unexpected death of my Nana, my Grandma's worsening Alzheimer's, mine & Nathan's two best friends moving away, the stress of a tough job, marriage, etc. I've had to parse through what all of these big life things, good and bad, mean for who I am. What I've learned more than anything is that I'm never going to reach a satisfying answer. Life keeps moving, and I keep changing with it. I think that's usually a good thing, but I know it's also usually a freaking hard thing.
i'm trying really hard not to apologize for sounding melodramatic. on my own blog. which i wrote as an outlet for myself. yet i still feel like i should write a disclaimer or an apology stating that i really do love my life and am so grateful for all that i have been given & all that i have and I realize i have it really easy, please don't hate me. BUT i'm NOT going to write that disclaimer/apology. Cause it's my own damn blog.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
I am seeking new ways to unpack some of the chaos that goes on in my mind, and this seems like it may be a healthy outlet for me. I am not writing with hopes of gaining a large following or impressing anyone with any sort of artistic abilities (due to the fact that I have none). I am writing as self-guided therapy.
I welcome anyone who wants to read my posts, comment with questions, or altogether ignore this blog.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Seems I forgot about my blog for a while. Perhaps it was a needed break.
I've been thinking lately on the growth I've experienced over the past year & a half of marriage (what?!). This time last year, I was in a good but kind of rough place. I was happy, but also dealing with some anxiety issues that, as I can see pretty clearly now but perhaps didn't at the time, were pretty crippling. I feel a lot healthier now. I feel more confident & happy with myself as a human than I ever have. I feel capable of accepting my flaws and trying to grow, without wanting to crawl in a hole anytime I hear criticism or feel insecure. It's extremely liberating, and I am really happy to have reached this place in my life. I owe so much to Nathan, to my loving & encouraging friends, to my family, to my boss(es) & colleagues & clients, to my pets, to the Tennessee mountains, to myself.
Things are changing, but in very unexpected ways. My parents are divorced, my sister doesn't talk to me. Life as I know it is officially different. What will happen when Nathan & I have kids? Do I tell my sister even though she asked me never to contact her? Will my parents be able to be in the same room to see my family? Will my child(ren) have relationships with both of their maternal grandparents? I don't know what it looks like, and that scares me, but I know that we will figure it out whenever that time comes.
I don't know where we'll be two years from now. I'm still definitely considering graduate school, but I don't know where or when. I hope to continue in my field, where I feel extremely fulfilled and challenged every day. It's exciting to think about living somewhere new, but is it feasible or financially responsible?
I have been paying more attention to my physical and personal needs lately, and in order to meet them I've been exercising a lot (Jazzercise & Yoga) & knitting as much as possible. My body feels healthy & strong, and I've challenged myself with really fun new knitting patterns. Both are extremely enjoyable & fulfilling for me.
There are certainly struggles at times, emotionally, financially, & otherwise, but I feel like I am in a much better place & pretty capable of handling what comes my way. I am feeling overwhelmingly blessed & fulfilled by my life right now, and so incredibly happy to be sharing it with so many wonderful people (and pets).