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Saturday, October 03, 2015

"Never Again." From Columbine to Oregon State

I was a Freshman in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. April 20th, 1999 changed everything about going to school. For the rest of the year, we had emergency drills, and were sent home for many copycat threats that followed. Counselors were on hand in the days following, if anyone needed to talk. Trench coats were banned and the media scared us into thinking that anyone wearing one, or listened Marilyn Mansion might just shoot our heads off. Though oddly, metal detectors were not put in. 
I had never thought about getting killed at school before Columbine happened. It was certainly a scary thought that I could be sitting in Math class and be dead a moment later.

9/11 happened as I started my Senior year of High School. By the time I graduated it felt like America's innocence had been lost, and I was graduating into a whole new world. If America were a VHS, I would have rewound it into the innocent, naive past and paused there forever. But just like a movie playing, the world moved forward. All of those promises we made after Columbine were lost. America said "never again" and "things need to change".

But Columbine wasn't the first school shooting, and it wouldn't be the last. In fact, America's history of school shootings dates back to July 26, 1764. When four American Indians entered a log house school with guns, the teacher begged them to spare the students. He was shot and scalped, along with ten children. These early school shootings didn't provide the shooters with the nonstop glamorous news coverage that today's society does, but there are hundreds. You can read the full list here. If you look for the one common thread between the killers in these shootings, it seems to always be personal dispute, feelings of rejection, or mental illness. In many cases, the shooters have been treated with antidepressant medications which can cause suicidal and homicidal thoughts.

So why are we here we are again, 17 years after we first said "never again"? Mass shootings have only continued, and on a more frequent basis. Sandy Hook, Chattanooga, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Newtown, multiple movie theaters and now Oregon State. There have been 45 shootings so far in 2015. Even with the continuous deaths from gun violence, our government has done NOTHING to restrict gun access. President Obama recently said, "There is no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal." 

As we all know the second amendment protects the right of the people to "keep and bear arms". Gun backers continuously trot this out as some sort of undeniable evidence that there should be no gun regulations. It says, in full: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
But let's keep in mind, the second amendment was written in 1791. Back then things were vastly different than they are in 2015. For instance, there were only 3.9 million people in the United States. You could own a slave. You could sell your daughter as dowry. There were no semi-automatic weapons that sprayed 50 bullets per minute. Indians attacked often and there were no police forces in the then 13 colonies to protect citizens. Clearly our country has grown and progressed, and our gun control laws need to follow it's lead. 

Many gun owners equate gun control with the idea that their guns will be taken away. This is not the case. The GOP likes to fear monger this idea, and not educate Americans on how these regulations would actually work. This is because they receive a TON of money from the gun lobby. We are talking over 18.6 million on various campaigns. Though 90% of Americans support a simple background check for every gun purchase, the right wing congress values their funding over the lives of every man woman and child in this country. But, not to worry. If god forbid one of your friends or family every get shot, they will tweet their thoughts and prayers for you.

Let's be clear. Having effective gun control laws in place will not take away guns. Americans will still be able to hunt and own a shot gun. The laws will simply make it harder to obtain a gun. This means, if you piss off a crazy person, they can't just walk to the nearest Walmart, buy as many semi-automatic weapons as they want, and massacre you and your entire office staff. I can't imagine why anyone would be ok with that idea.

So why can't America grow some balls and follow the lead of other countries who have taken a stand against these shootings?

Lets take a look at Australia, Norway, and Great Britain.
After Australia's Port Arthur massacre in 1996 which killed 35 people, strict gun control laws were put in place. The new legislation prohibited sale of semi-automatic and rapid fire guns. They required a 28 day waiting period to obtain a gun. Firearm owners had to be 18, complete a safety course, and have a genuine reason for owning a gun. Reasons could include sport shooting, hunting or occupational requirements. The amount of ammunition sold was restricted, and gun licenses could be restricted if evidence of mental illness was found. They also used revenue from a small tax hike to buy back over 700,000 fire arms. By 2012, suicide rates had dropped by 80%. Studies show the laws have not ended gun violence, but have decreased it in huge numbers. There hasn't been a school shooting

In response to the 1996 Dunblane school shooting, the UK completely banned sale of semi-automatic and pump action firearms. They began to require gun registration, and banned private handgun ownership in mainland Britain. Though the drop in gun violence wasn't as significant as it was in Australia, the number of killing are still less than 10% of those that happen in America.

In Norway in 2011, a shooter mass murdered 69 people on Utoya Island attending youth camp. Gun ownership and ammunition sales were strictly regulated in response, and a full ban on the type of semi-automatic weapon used was put into place. There are now 32 guns to every 100 people in Norway, and 89 per 100 in the United States.

I think the important thing we can take from these three countries, is that they took action. Yes, everyone knows that taking the same precautions these countries have will not end gun violence. There will always be a way to get guns illegally, even with laws. That old saying that guns don't kill people, people kill people is true. But a person with a semi-automatic and unlimited ammunition can do a hell of a lot more damage than someone with a knife can. If implementing some restrictions can save the live of even one innocent victim, why wouldn't we?

Despite what your views on gun control are, I hope there's one thing I hope we can all agree on. School and massacre shootings are a tragic, horrific thing. They should make you angry. They should make you livid, and as an American citizen they should make you want to stand up and shout for a change. Because if nothing changes, we will be here in another 17 years still saying "never again."

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Why I threw away my scale

I used to be in love with my scale. But then I divorced that mother fucker.

During the height of my anorexia, getting on a scale was an obsession. I weighed myself between 50-75 times per day. It started out in a normal "healthy" way, but slowly destroyed my brain like a flesh eating disease.
I weighed myself after waking up, after drinking water, after eating, after exercising and after peeing. If the number the scale was too high, sometimes I would work out an extra hour, or restrict my already 500 calorie a day diet to under 300. Sometimes I would go back to bed and cry for hours because the starvation and over exercising wasn't working anymore. If the number was too high, I felt like a worthless loser, and wanted to die. I felt like I wanted to apologize to everyone I met for my imperfect body.

This was my life for over two years. An endless, sick cycle of self torture and hunger. I was slowly drying up into a pile of skin and bones. But my size 0 dresses fit, and I could see my ribcage, so I was satisfied. But, even at my thinnest I wanted to be smaller, and still saw a chubby girl in every photo.
After a certain point, my body started fighting back. My metabolism had quit its job, and I was holding on to every single calorie I ate. I went from 5'7 and 109lbs to 114 in a week. To counter act this new issue, sometimes I had to settle for chewing and spitting my food, so that I could enjoy the taste, but not absorb the calories. Rarely, I would just binge and eat everything in sight, then throw it up. But I was never the bulimic I strived to be. Lucky for me, I was never able to throw up quietly like most secret bulimics are pros at. I also hated throwing up so much, I never got further into it.

I began having severe panic attacks when I had to be in public situations involving eating. Most restaurants didn't list calories counts, and I did not trust them not to add butter, salt and oil into my food even when I asked them not to. I tried to avoid eating at restaurants as much as possible. Seeking something to take the edge off having to eat in front of people, I started turning to something that had previously been off limits, the biggest empty calorie of all-alchohol. Not that I recommend this as a form of therapy for recovery, but drinking it on an empty stomach before dinner relaxed me enough that I was able to eat again. I'm sure if I had sought therapy, prescription Xanax could have done the same, but at the time I was not willing to admit I had an eating disorder.
The bad part about drinking however, was that I ate less healthy than I would have, and bigger portions. The good part, was that it broke a spiral that was out of control. My brain began fighting it's anorexic voice more than ever. I was exhausted mentally and physically and felt like the old me was screaming for help from inside this new skeletal body. I just wanted to feel normal again.
I just wanted eat bread or a slice of pizza, and some fucking ice cream without feeling three days of guilt. The foods I had formerly loved had become like a beloved deceased relative. They were always on my mind, but I could never be in the same room with them again.

I woke up one morning and began the daily routine of weighing myself, counting calories and beating myself up over how I had failed on my diet the day before. I don't know what changed in me that day, but I had a brief moment of feeling like a fog had lifted. My mind felt clearer than it had in years. I walked into the bathroom to weigh myself, but instead of getting on the scale, I threw it in a garbage. For the first time in years I felt free, and excited at the possibility of being able to enjoy life again.  

I haven't owned a scale since, and I no longer weigh myself. I now monitor my weight by my clothing. If something starts to get too small, I cut back. During my years of recovery, i've learned that weighing myself was a major trigger in my disorder.
Despite knowing this, I am still often shamed for refusing to be weighed at doctors appointments. The first thing a nurse usually says to me is "get on the scale." as if my weight is more important than how I feel. The first time I refused to be weighed, I wasn't brave enough to say why. The nurse looked annoyed but didn't argue. As a dress size 4, anyone can see my weight isn't going to give me high cholesterol or diabetes.

I eventually got so tired of struggling with nurses trying to force a weigh in, that I would flat out tell them "I used to be anorexic and the scale is a trigger." The first time I said those words out loud I almost started crying. I had hidden my disorder for so many years, that saying it out loud was emotional and empowering. Most times when saying this, the nurses have been understanding and backed off.
However, other times, the reception is not empowering. Recently a nurse rolled her eyes and said "Just get the scale backwards then, I don't understand what the big deal is. The doctor needs your weight". After refusing a second time, she harshly told me that I would need to 'explain myself' to the doctor for refusing to be weighed, then slammed the door.
Clearly, not every nurse is educated or compassionate about eating disorders, but it is so important that medical professionals are. Anyone has the right to refuse being weighed at the doctor without shame. I compare forcing someone with ED history to get on a scale, to putting a bottle of vodka in front of someone in an AA program.
The times I have been berated by nurses over a scale, have made me feel inadequate, and really crappy about my progress. What they don't understand is that the fear of seeing my new weight isn't just about a number. It's about being terrified of going back to the very dark place I was trapped in for so long, but next time not getting out alive.
Throwing away my scale was a monumental step in my recovery, and I am thankful I did it. Maybe someday i'll be in a good enough place to weigh myself and not care, but i'm not there yet.