Wednesday, August 02, 2006

End of Blog

Well, I think I've said all I have to say about this subject. Thanks for taking the time to visit. I'll leave this up for search purposes, in case you are here looking for information on migraines, chronic pain and their treatment. Thanks for joining me on my journey of discovery as I tried to deal with these issues. I wish I could've wrapped it up in a neat little package and tied it off with a miracle cure for y'all, but I can't. I'm still in pain, still lacking a definitive treatment, but at least I'm on a better pain management program than I was at first. I wish you all who are dealing with these or similar issues the best of luck in future. God bless you and God bless the USA.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Insomnia: When Sleep is Just a Bedtime Story

I was recently involved in a discussion on insomnia and thought I'd post my story of how I was able to overcome it and how you can to, without medications and fancy products.

Disclaimer: Of course, this is my story, my experience and you shouldn't ditch your drugs without talking to your doc about it first, ok? So, don't get all huffy with me if you act like a fool, ditching your meds and quitting cold turkey, and you get sick, because I'm warning you that that could happen if you don't detox under a doc's supervision. I'm not responsible for you, you are, so take care of yourself, ok? Ok, Disclaimer over.

I had insomnia ever since I was 12, but it was controlled for the most part and didn't get worse until I was in an incident when I was about 19 or so. It's something I never talk about, so I'm not going to make an exception about it now. Suffice to say I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for years before I was diagnosed with it, or even knew what that term meant. I always assumed it was something only soldiers got from being in war and was a modern term for being "Shell Shocked".

PTSD really can affect your sleep, and I wasn't the exception to this rule. When I had become really desperate, going up to 5 days without sleep, I sought out a sleep clinic. (By the fifth day, I was so desperate that I'd just take all the sedating type over the counter medications, drinking nyquil, took benadryl in big quantities, and consumed some high proof alcohol (ick!), I could find in the house to knock myself out. That was before I started seeking professional attention for my sleep disorder, but even after I sometimes needed that in addition to the prescription sedatives/downers in order to get a full night's sleep.)

They recommended that I keep a sleep diary for a month or until my appointment. I was kind of skeptical about that and warned them that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of "sleeping" in it, but I did it anyway. What I found was that keeping the diary could really help in and of itself, because you may be able to target the source or cause of your sleeplessness just by looking at the diary.

I kept my appointment and saw a sleep disorder specialist at a clinic who referred me to a sleep lab overnight. Of course, I couldn't sleep and they really want you too, so I did what I did every night, took a butt-load of prescription sedatives, hoping they’d knock me out—yep I was that bad off.

Well, that freaked them out, because I guess I actually stopped breathing in my sleep. The lab tech said he was about to come in and give me CPR when I suddenly started breathing shallowly again. Scary. That probably happened every night and I’d never have known. Still, I told the sleep doctor, "You can't have it both ways, Doc." *sigh* I either don’t sleep or I have to knock myself out. I couldn’t sleep without sedating myself, ever, not even to nap.

Because I’d been complaining about the insomnia for years, my previous doctors, all primary care physicians, just kept prescribing more medications in stronger doses to knock me out. Well, that’d work for awhile, but when their effectiveness decreased, they’d prescribe stronger doses. This just kept going on for years. No one ever mentioned that I could fix my insomnia, naturally, chemical-free. What a concept! But, then, I wouldn’t have to go back to those doctors every 6 months or so to get my prescription increased, now would I? And they wouldn't get their kickback from the drug companies for prescribing the latest miracle drug, would they? “What a racket!” That’s what I thought when I found out differently from the sleep specialist. But, that's because I'm a cynic. A nicer person would probably be more charitable in her thoughts and give them the benefit of the doubt, "Gee, I wonder if my doctor knows that you can fix this problem without medication?"

Anyway, I was delighted, if skeptical, that I'd be able to sleep sans drugs. It was fantastic! And I was able to sleep, really sleep, and get through all the sleep stages (quality is as important as quantity when it comes to sleeping and you can’t do that when you’re depending on drugs to help you sleep. So, if any pharmaceutical company claims that with their medication you’ll go through all the stages, they’re lying).

For a couple of years, I slept like that until about 5 months ago when I started triggering real hard. (A "trigger" is something that makes your mind remember or takes you back to the incident that caused the PTSD in the first place. For some people, it could be a car backfiring reminding them of a gun going off, or an image on tv, something they read, etc. Triggers can last anywhere from a few hours to days to months, depending on the trigger, the event and the survivor/victim/whatever).

That’s where PTSD can really sabotage your efforts, so keep that in mind. However, I know I just have to go back to following the Plan they gave me to get back onto my sleep schedule. I just don't want to sleep right now, because when I do, the nightmares are so real that it’s like I’m right there going through that whole event again. I'm afraid I'll end up attacking my dh in my sleep, thinking I'm defending myself, you know? And then he gets hurt, poor guy. It was horrible enough going through it the first time around IRL, so I’d rather stay awake and be exhausted than to relive it every single night.

Of course, that has it’s own potential problems and I don’t want to get so tired that I start having waking nightmares, which really suck and can be dangerous for other people if they’re around. It’s a fear of mine that I’d mistake them for being a part of this certain event and now that I’m better equipped to deal with it, should I find myself in a similar circumstance, I could really do some damage. So, it becomes this balancing act for me. I stay up as long as I can and then I crash and sleep and do the nightmare thing, getting only a few hours of sleep, so I don’t end up accidentally acting out against any innocents during the day. I was really hoping that if I gave it time, they'd just go away, but that hasn't been the case, so far. Don't know how much longer I'll wait before I have to aggressively work on this again, but my patience is beginning to wear rather thin with it. So, that’s how PTSD can really screw you if you have to deal with it along with or as the primary cause of your insomnia.

But, that’s my choice and it feels good to know that it is a choice and when I’m brave enough & can figure out a way to deal with the nightmares, I’ll go back to following the sleep schedule again. So, yeah, I can relate to both the insomnia and the nightmares/triggers/PTSD that keeps you up and aware all night long. It sux, but there are ways to deal with both.

I had a psychologist for awhile who was really helpful with the PTSD, but I’ve still got a long way to go. However, the nightmares did calm down, change pattern and weren’t every night, like they are now, for about two years after going to therapy. So, if you go through this, I’d recommend therapy. It’s kind of weird, baring your soul to a stranger. I mean, as a general rule, I don’t do that well , soulbaring, with people I’m really close to! And, not being Catholic, it’s not like I was used to confessing to a priest or anything, but I imagine, it’s probably similar to that. The difference is you’re not confessing only your own sins but those committed against you and random acts of crapulence that occur, too. So, it's time well spent and I'd recommend trying that out if it won't interfere with your other goals.

The thing about PTSD is that, even if you don’t think it’s really bothering you or causing problems for you, at some point all that pissed-offedness, the insomnia, the ultra-vigilance 24/7, the inability to completely relax-because you know, as no one else does that the enemy is out there and you're the only one capable of defending or protecting your domain/territory/loved ones,etc.-does eventually mess with your goals, the things you want to accomplish in life. From what I've read, the sooner you seek therapy, the better the results are from it. Jmho and this is most certainly a case of do as I say and not as I do, cuz I'm not seeing anyone right now, (my insurance doesn't cover it), but I sure wish I was. Even the few months of treatment that I received helped alot.

My next blog will give you specific steps you can take to get onto a proper sleep schedule. These are the things I had to do and they really do work, but you have to be dilligent and follow them religiously every single day.

Now, here's the hardest thing. Be patient! This process can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. It took me almost an entire year, but I was sleeping better and better throughout the whole process. So, keeping in mind that it’s a process will help you to deal with the frustrations and hiccups along the way.[Geez, I've almost talked myself into getting back on my program again. Ha!]

I was the biggest skeptic, too. I mean, if all the junk I was taking wasn't knocking me out for more than a couple hours a night, then why in the world would they think doing it sans drugs was going to work? But, I just did it anyway, cuz I wanted more than anything to be chemical free for one thing and to sleep was like a fairytale come true. Insomnia was really messing up my game and I didn't like it. And, contrary to what some people think, you’re alot more effective on your job if you can get the right amount and best quality of sleep you need.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Initiation Ceremonies

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.--Helen Keller

I was watching this Travel Channel show about the Polynesian Islands, you know Tahiti, Ranguan, etc., and they were showing a girl, about 17 or 18 yrs old, getting tattooed.

The tattoo artist, or maybe he was a shaman, I forget, anyway, he took this piece of wood and tapped it on another one that looked sort of like a comb with some kind of needles for teeth. He stretches the woman's skin with one hand and taps on the comb with his other. (Guess the hand that stretches the skin is holding the comb?) The woman's laying with her head in the lap of another woman and holding her hands. Why? Cuz it hurts like a mofo!

So, this man's rattatatatting on her leg and she's squeezing the life outta the woman holding onto her and trying her hardest not to cry. Only, she can't help crying, right? because it hurts so gosh darned bad. The artist says it'll be really painful for the first one to two hours, but after that your body gets used to the pain and it doesn't hurt so badly anymore.

So, the interviewer asked the girl, why's she doing this to herself? Why would she put herself through this kind of pain. Problem is that she can't exactly answer him because her teeth are gritted together so tightly. So, the tattoo artist replies that it's a sort of initiation ceremony that shows she's ready to take her place in the village and be given her particular job to do or her duties in the family. It's also a way of keeping track of their family's history, because historically it was written in picture language through the tattoo. Interesting, eh?

That got me to thinking, as just about anything does that has to do with the subject of pain, about whether the kinds of pain we deal with in our lives has as much significance as getting that tattoo did for that young woman? A part of me would like to think it does, but then again, I tend to be hopefully romantic that way sometimes. Ha! Ok, so yeah, you're right, that's like really rare for me to have those moments, let alone admit them and this may even be a first for me. However, I don't really believe that.

The difference is that that girl had a choice of putting herself through that pain and how much pain she was willing to withstand for a relatively short amount of time. We don't get that choice which leads me back to the conclusion I've maintained from the beginning, there is no special meaning attached to the pain we have no choice but to deal with on a regular basis.

Some may think my attitude is fatalistic. Maybe it is. I find it comforting, though, to know that I'm not in pain because of a past sin, some mystical future assignment or as a prerequisite for nomination to sainthood. (Ok, if anyone tries to cannonize me after my death, I'm tellin' ya now, I'll roll over in my grave!)

As a spirit-filled, reborn Christian I was raised to believe that we share in Christ's sufferings when we're afflicted physically. This belief has been based on a couple of scriptures, most notably the one by St. Paul where he says, (paraphrasing from memory), "Brethren, Think it not strange when these fiery trials come upon you." and another passage where he talks about "partaking in the sufferings of Christ". He's talking about this in a letter he's written to encourage a church group who're under serious religious persecution on the level of what the Jews went through during the Holocaust. Now, there are two things that leap out at me in these two passages. One, is that we have to take into consideration WHO he's talking to and why he's written that way. Two, is the letter itself. Now, when I write a chatty letter I talk about all kinds of stuff and they're not necessarily related to each other. So, just because he goes from talking about a physical affliction he has to deal with chronically to talking about partaking Christ's afflictions, doesn't necessarily mean that he's talking about the physical. He's following a line of thought, something that he learned from his affliction about enduring trials with patience, humility and compassion.

And yes, I know, there are going to be people, like Someone I know, who will say, "But, he could've meant the physical, too." And, sure, he could've, but that's why you can't build an entire belief around a couple of verses. You've got to have confirmation, have those verses from the New Testament backed up by a couple verses from the Old Testament to prove the theory.

Which is why I'm so glad my pastor in TX preached a series on this once, because he gave me a whole new perspective on physical trials and that started my inquiry into what it really means, if anything, when we suffer physically. Of course, at the time I didn't know that I would need that information for as long as I have, but grateful for it all the same. If you read through the bible wherever it talks about what God wants for his children, it's always positive, always good. He doesn't want us to suffer or be in pain. As a matter of fact, he states very clearly through the prophet Jeremiah, what his desire is, (again, paraphrasing from memory) "I know the plans I have for you, plans for good, not for evil, to give you a secure future."

In my humble opinion, this suggests to me that just like I want my daughter to have the best life she possibly can have and to be the best American citizen, a productive member of society, that she can be, He, God, wants me to have the best life has to offer, too. But, life happens and things don't always work out like you want them to. But, it's not because it's making us any more perfect or anymore equipped to be God's children. We don't have to do anything for that status, but join the family and once you're in you're in. You can't lose your salvation.

What I think these scriptures refer to is how we suffer persecution for Christ's sake and in that way are we partakers with him in his suffering. He died on the cross to take away our sins, endured whipping in order for us to be healed. Why then would he want us to partake of physical illness and afflictions to be like him? It doesn't make sense to me. It makes more sense that he would encourage us that if the Son of God had to endure persecution, then who are we to think that, as imperfect as we are, we can escape the same? That's how we are like Christ. Not because we have to deal with illness and disease. That's something else altogether.

So, if God wants the best for me, why am I in pain? I can't answer that. All I know is that He's not a Genie. He doesn't rescue me out of situations that I'm in. What I do find is that I can count on him to go through the crap with me. Just as if I was in battle. He's in the foxhole, right there by my side, and if you hear soldiers talk about their wartime experiences, knowing that they're surrounded by their brothers while they're in the thick of an onslaught, is the greatest comfort they can have. It's enought to give you a sense of security, knowing that those other soldiers, well-trained and prepared like you are, are right there at their stations, ready to give their lives for you if they have to in order to see you through. So, that's how I feel about God these days. It may be simplistic, but that's the beauty of it. God's got my six and that's enough for me. And that's not to say that I don't get frustrated or pissed off at God. I do. I rant and rave at him sometimes. But, you know what? He's a big Guy and He can take it. And, better yet, He understands and is compassionate.

So, I guess my point is that the reason that bumper sticker is so popular is because it's a truism. Shit happens. Sometimes you just end up on the short end of the stick and you deal with the cards that are dealt to you. God didn't do it to you. You didn't make it happen to you. I didn't cause my own illness (hate it when people say stuff like that). It's not because you're paying for some sin you did in a past life. It's not because you're working out your salvation or are becoming saintly or more christlike. It's just that enough random circumstances collided at just the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) moment to create a unique situation that you now have to deal with.

What matters is, how's my attitude? What's my character like? Am I responding to this trial by becoming bitter and taking on an attitude of entitlement? Or am I allowing my character to be built up, solidified, secured and reinforced, because of what I'm going through? There are a couple of ways that we can deal with the sucky experiences of life and this goes for any sort of shortcoming, not just the ones we can't control like chronic pain or illness, but also our failures and mistakes. One way is by passing the buck, handing off the responsibility, going into a state of denial or by resenting the situation to the extent that I refuse to deal with it in any way. The other is to accept the reality of the situation, analyze what I can and cannot salvage from it, what I can or can't change about it, make restitution wherever possible whenever necessary, reprioritize and finally learn what I can from it.

As an initiation into developing true character, I'd have to recommend adversity, because I just can' t see much use for it otherwise, can you? Either way, I'm still trying to figure out what my new job is, what my new duties will be with this new life and I guess that part will take some more time.

And if I'm supposed to learn the history of my ancestors from going through this kind of initiation, well, I guess I can say that I've learned what it's like to face adversity and continue on in spite of the obstacles. What's that called? Tenacity? Persistence? Stubborness? Foolishness? I think I had those qualities already, though. But, one thing I've really learned is that nothing beats dealing with reality, honesty, because the converse is to live in fantasy land and denial and is a waste of life and time, stunting one's growth and limiting one's abilities. When you don't face the obstacles, the adversaries, then you'll never know your limits or what you're truly capable of. Knowing your real talents, abilities, and limits is the biggest step toward actualizing self-confidence. And there's nothing more attractive in another human being, save humor, than self-confidence, don't you think?

"The true character of a nation, organization, or an individual is revealed when it is faced with life or death choices."

(If you know who I'm quoting, please leave a message in comments so I can give them the credit. Just can't remember who said it. Thoreau? Emerson? Lincoln? MLK, Jr.? Dang! Hate it when that happens and couldn't find it online, either. Help?)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tribute to Our Heroes

You guys have got to check out this beautiful tribute to our soldiers in Iraq. I'm not kidding you. I don't cry and I teared up like Niagara Falls was about to burst wide open. But, seriously, this is just the best slideshow I've seen yet of this kind and make sure you've got your audio turned up high so you can hear the accompanying soundtrack which really adds to the beauty, here. Just click on this link:

God Bless our Soldiers and the USA

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Nightmares & Memories

Sometimes, instead of talking about what's really bothering me, I'll go off about something less significant and rant on that instead. Like the last time I blogged, it was about Hollywood. Well, I mean, that stuff does bug me, but not as much as it probably seemed to someone else who read it. If you read all that stuff, that way too long blog, you might've thought, Whoa, she's so ultra-anti-hollywood, or something like that.

The truth is that I get nightmares. Now, for a long time I was able to like, fight back in my nightmares against Evil and get myself out of the situation, or kick some Evil ass, etc. But, for the past several months, I'm back to being unable to fight back, like I was for most of my teen and adult life.

The fact is that I have been avoiding sleep for months now. I'll go 2-3 days without sleeping and then crash. Or I'll take some phenergan to knock myself out occasionally so I can sleep. When I don't take anything, which is most of the time, I end up with the nightmares and they're pretty bad, because alot of te time, they're not just nightmares, they're memories of something that really happened to me. It's like I'm transported back to that place, time and everything is the same. Same smells, sounds, sights, everything and it's so real, like it's really happening again. Living through it once was bad. But, now, I get to live through it over and over again. The monotany of the cycle, alone, is enough to make you nauseous, let alone the sequence of events.

At least I'm not beating up my dh, anymore, who once threatened to buy a cup just so he could sleep without fear. lmao! I'm laughing my butt off right now remembering that. I mean, it's not really funny, I guess, but yeah, it's funny in a sick way.

So, tonight, I'm awake again, because I don't want to go to sleep and dream. Dreams suck. Nightmares really suck. Being helpless in a nightmare sucks the worst. But, you know what's even worse than all that, is waking up from a nightmare and going back to sleep, only to have that same stupid nightmare all over again.

I wake up drenched in sweat, crying, panting, sometimes screaming. It's so...disconcerting, I guess. I dunno. Terrifying. No. It was terrifying at first, but I don't know if you can be terrified of something you're used to. It's like torture. You know it's coming, but you also know that no matter how you prepare yourself for it, it's still going to surprise you with it's magnitude and it's still going to completely fuck you over mentally, emotionally and physically. And then, when it does, you're surprised. Why is that? How can you be surprised by something that happens on a nightly basis. I bet POW's asked themselves that all the time, too. And after that, when you live through it, you don't know whether to be grateful you've lived through it, angry that you lived through it and are going to have to face it again, (wanting to yell, "Just finish me off already, would ya? Quit dinkin' around!"), or to start preparing yourself for the next time, or what.

How do you respond to the broken record of torture, or in my case, nightmares? Exactly. I don't know either. You just deal with it. You know it's gonna happen and no matter how you try to protect yourself, it will still happen, so you eventually just accept that fact, but that doesn't make it any easier to live with, you know?

So, now, I'm not going to bed until just a little while before my dh wakes up, most nights. That's not a good answer, not practical or useful and I really do need to get back to a normal, or at least a normal-for-me sleeping schedule, rather than this vampiric schedule I'm keeping. Until then, I'll keep avoiding what I really should talk about by blogging rants against The Man, The Machine, The Tool and whatever else I find to rant about in order to distract myself from the real issues that are bugging me. Hey, at least it's a plan.

(And now you know another of my secrets. This one makes two, right? You know two of my secrets. That's more than anyone learns about me in a lifetime. Even my dh only knows this one, and he doesn't know what it's all about, either. Weird. Strange compulsion to put it out there like that and yet I can't talk about it. But, there's a big difference between going through it, dealing with it, (or not) and speaking it out loud. It's like it takes on a life of it's own if you say it out loud. Have you ever noticed that before?)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hollywood: Behind the Times

Hubby & I always comment on how prejudice Hollywood is. They're the biggest hypocrites in the world, in my humble opinion. I mean, it's like they're determined to be the last holdouts of racial bigotry. They're the last holdouts from the civil rights movement and are still in denial in regards to feminism, too. Are you scratching your heads, wondering what the heck I'm talking about, yet?

I was reading a really great blog the other day and it raised some of the same kinds of questions and issues that I have had with Hollywood for a really long time, so I thought I'd give my two cents worth and a link to direct you to the original posting, by a woman who works in the industry, no less. You can get there by clicking on the title to this blog entry. Now, I'll continue my rant.

The reason I say that Hollywood is still a bastion of bigotry is pretty obvious. If I were from, say, China and I were watching American TV programs, I'd be under the impression that their population was primarily white and that blacks and Latinos were a very, very small portion of the population. I'd also think that Asian, Indian, Middle Easterners were almost non-existent in the population. Most of the TV and movie stars are of Caucasian descent. Now, it's true that th major stations try to add people of color and some shows, usually those in prime time, have a black person in them, but not most and not to the extent that it is equally proportionate to our demographics. Sure, it's better than it was in the fifties, but not by much. Hollywood could do so much better.

Take two really popular programs: 24 and Alias. Alias had two, count them, TWO black people on the show from the beginning. A man and a woman. That's pretty progressive compared to most of the programming out there. But, why weren't there more pople of color on the show? They didn't even add a Latin character until two years ago. And then they killed off the black guy. Does that mean that theres not enough room on a show for two people of color to be on it at the same time. Now, I also was proud of that show, because they did have an interracial couple on it, for a short period of time. It was pretty awesome to finally see a couple who didn't look exactly alike.

Now, let's look at 24. They had a black guy on that show. Oooo! And they one-upped Alias by putting him in charge of the whole country. Very cool. But, on a show with a huge cast, why weren't there more people of color on it?

We can look at a few other of my favorite programs. CSI--one black guy, but they do have everal Latinos in CSI Miami which actually makes sense with the demographics. But, are any of them in strong authoritive positions? No. The first year they showed Illana (sp?), H's sister in law, who was a cop and Latina. That was pretty good, but still, it's not like she was the DA or anything.

General Hospital. Now this one bugs me to no end. They have two black people on the show and they're a couple. But, they get almost NO air time and their romance is relegated to the back seat. If this was a bus it would say, coloreds in big bold letters right in the back of the bus and Whites only at the front. There are no chinese, no indians, no middle easterners.

They've finally added another black character to the show a few months ago. She's a BBW (large lady) and she's hysterical and a GREAT actress, but she most likely will never get a romance, because she's fat (and everyone knows that only scrawny white girls can catch a man's attention) and she's definitely just an extra character. (They needed a new nurse at the hospital, I guess) She won't ever have a strong storyline, though. Not a romantic one. However, she's such a great actress that any scene she's in becomes stronger and memorable simply due to her presence.

I've stopped watching this soap, altogether, because I'm tired of only seeing white people all the time on TV. And I'm half white! So, it's not like I don't like my own kind of people. But, hell's bells, I like, no I LOVE variety. It's 80% of why I like to live in the city.

I do give GH kudos for finally introducing a gay storyline, but if that sweet guy ever gets a real romance other than some hand holding and maybe a chaste kiss here and there, I'll die of shock. And he deserves a romance, might I add. He's totally adorable. But, see the thing is that GH is so cutting edge in so many ways, they're really good about dealing with social issues and I guess I just expect so much more from a serial like theirs, because they're capable of changing things if they really want to.

There are a few shows that we could hold up as role models, but unfortunately they're the exception rather than the rule: The 4400 has an interracial couple, but that's sadly where the variety ends in their menu; The Closer is great, they've got Latinos, Asian American, and a black in a prominent position. Kudos, gang! Lost has not one, but THREE black people, an interracial couple, an Asian couple, an Arab (who's actually an Indian in real life, but hey, they all look the same don't they? That's what I imagine the HW exec said to the others when they chose Naveen Andrews to play the part of an Afghani, lol, not that I'm complaining because I could sit and drool over him all day long, he's yummy, but still, that's not supposed to be the point, is it? I could as easily drool over a hottie Arab, too), and there were two Latinos, before one of them was murdered because she had to serve time or do community service for drunk driving (dopita!). So, our biggest kudo goes to the hottest show on TV which should say SOMETHING to those blockheads in HW who're making the casting decisions. I know if I owned a company and saw those stats, I'd definitely do whatever I had to do to repeat it. How does that saying go again? Oh, yeah, $ talks and Bullshit walks. Seems that's only applicable everywhere else but in Hollywood.

Now, I want to ask you, how many TV shows can you think of where the hero, the main character, is Black or of a race other than Caucasian? I can think of one. The Unit. Now HERE'S a truly modern, non-bigoted program and I credit that in great part to Eric Haney, who doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body. This show is wonderful. We see a Black man in charge; a man of middle eastern descent, (well, probably not really, but as the saying goes, "they all look the same", right? -- what's up with that? Aren't there any good Arab actors out there?); a Latino and, omg! hold your shorts on, because there's another black man on the freaking show! I know, it's a shocker. And you know what? It's a popular program. People love it. Personally, I hoped they'd give the young, single black guy an Asian girlfriend, but they didn't get that creative. They gave him a black gf. Ha! That's ok. We're just happy to see more than one person of color on the show.

The other problem I have with Hollywood is the way they stereotype people. I mean, you might as well haul out the shoe polish and white mouth with some of these shows. Not all black people speak ebonics, carry guns, are funny, play basketball and rap music and eat collard greens (yum!). I've even met black people who like country music, couldn't dribble to save their lives and would rather be shot than speak ebonics which makes one sound uneducated. *gasp* (Of course, most of the black people I know are highly educated, so maybe I just run with the *wrong* crowd). Not all gay men are flamboyant. Omg! No, way! Yes way, really! I've known gay men who are such bad asses they're more alpha male than some straights. (Rock Hudson anyone?) They don't all know how to dress and they dont' all decorate. I know, it's a shock, but we'll get used to it and I think we'd even like it if we saw real people on TV more often. I think it adds to the problems when we dont' see "normal" acting gays on TV, because if they're acting insane, then it gives straight homophobes added motivation for hating them. It lets people justify their gaybashing and bigotry. And not all Lesbians look like short, beefcake men and wear flannel. I've met lesbians who're so beautiful they turn both men and women's heads. Can anyone say Josephine Baker? (Ok, I think she was bi, but you get my point, right?)

And then there are some shows that I've never seen a black or hispanic person on their show, like Gilmore Girls, which is a cute show with witty dialogue. They have an Asian American girl and her mother, but that's as "colorful" as it gets in their town. What's that about?

Apparently Blacks make up about 20% of the population, which is hard for me to believe, because having grown up in the Bay Area, and even lived in LA for a short while, I grew up thinking that there were as many blacks as there were whites and that the Mexicans and Chinese ran a really close second (as far as population was concerned). To me, minorities were the Hindis, Arabs, Cambodians, Tongans, etc. They seemed exotic and different back then. Nowadays, there's alot more Indians and Middle Easterners in The City, so I'd have to adjust my perspective if I still lived there. But, I know that not all of America is that diverse and port cities are always more diverse than inland cities, I guess. Even so, that statistic seems so low to me. But, let's just say it's correct, and that HW really did try to match their demographics to reality, we're still seeing way less of the ethnic populations in the product they create. C'mon Hollywood, let's get this show on the road and get it together. Show the world what America is really like, the America that I love, that wonderful melting pot where everyone has their differences, but we grow and learn how to cooperate and live together in spite of, or maybe even because of, them. I'd be happy if I could just see more variety, more colors, more individuals and less stereotyping in their programming. Until then, I'm not interested in watching popular TV & Movies. I want to be heard.

Now, I've said all of that to say this. Women are the primary buyers in our society and as such we have the greatest influence over...well, EVERYTHING!!!! We are the world's largest market segment, but we don't utilize our power intelligently to get what we want, see? Just like we don't usually negotiate for higher pay on the job. We just seem to accept whatever the HR person says they pay for the position, but the truth is that Men tend to negotiate their salaries more often and end up getting paid, on average, at least 10% more than the HR or Boss says they're willing to pay. And, guess what? That's just about the difference in pay between men and women these days. It's still better than when I first began working where women were paid over a dollar less than men. 10-30 cents less is a little more palatable, these days, but let's start negotiating, Girlfriends, and we'll close that gap, ok? Sorry. Back to my point and off the rabbit trail:

And you know who's the second largest purchasing segment? Our daughters, pre-teen girls! (That totally cracks me up. I have this fantasy in mind where all the women are taken out of commission for some reason, and our daughters end up taking over the world. Suddenly all the kitchen appliances are in hot pink and neon blue and aqua and purple with rhinestone accents and crystal handles.)

Last year, women bought more electronics than men did, but only 1% of us were happy with what we purchased. The other 99% said we didn't think the companies creating the products had us in mind at all when they were designing them. Huh, no kidding! And you know what? We're right, because those companies are still working off the old frame of reference when computers first came out during the 60's and 70's!!! and only men were using them, because they were the engineers back then. But in the last ten years women have caught up quickly with men as users and we are the ones, (75% of all technology purchasers in 2003 were women), who buy the product. It's my guess that if the products were designed with us in mind, then we'd actually pass up men as the primary users of technology, too. Not that we should have to pass them up in order to have our desires met.

Builders are starting to catch on. Women are the primary decision makers in that area, too, (we always have been, in theory,), but now single women are buying houses at an unprecedented rate. What is really cool is that in this instance we're the better negotiator. Surprise, surprise. We tend to get the same exact house for at least 10 grand less than men. Now, if only we can parlay that negotiating talent into higher paying jobs, hmmm....

We need to exert ourselves, Sistahs, and raise our voices or withhold our pocketbooks. I read an article recently that said something about how if women stopped purchasing in Tokyo, Japan's economy would collapse! We could do that so easily in America, too. If we started writing to the advertisers, telling them what we want to watch, the kind of programming we wanted to see, they'd have to listen. For the the fun of it, let's just take that new show, I think it's called, the Girls Next Door (about playboy bunnies and the old fart who can't be bothered to get dressed), but we stop purchasing the advertised products, in effect we boycott their advertisers, and we let them know why, how fast do you think GND would go off the air? Pretty damn fast, I'd bet.

We have the power to tell Hollywood off and to make sure that we get what we want. TV is all about advertising. We could send a message to advertisers too by purchasing products who advertise using models with healthy bodies, "real" people. I mean, as a former model, I understand the importance of having an attractive face on your product, but why did I have to look like a scarecrow to get someone to buy a shirt? It's not good for our daughters. Take the new add for that women's moisturizing soap from Dove. That company is saying we're beautiful in all our shapes, colors, sizes and ages. If only more companies would send a positive message like that. If we started sending messages by purchasing from companies like that, who don't advertise using models who look like they're high on heroine, then I'm willing to bet that advertising practices would change. I know that we'd like our daughters to feel good about themselves and to see positive role models in other girls who look like them on TV, not like some geezer's ideal of what a girl should look like.

I don't want her to think that just because she's not blonde and blue eyed, she won't be able to find love. If she were fat, I wouldn't want her to think she's unworthy because of that, as TV suggests, no, not suggests, pronounces emphatically to us on all the ads and shows. I mean, geez, we should be emphasizing Health, not size/weight. Are you healthy? Should be the question, not, Are you a size 2? (And I'm not knocking blonde/blue-eyed people, hope that's clear. If the shoes were on the opposite feet, I'd still feel the same way,ie if she were blonde/blue eyed and most of what she saw on TV was brunette/brown-eyed, etc., see what I mean?)

Another annoying statistic is that men outnumber women on TV 4:1. That includes children's shows. In cartoons the number is 10:1. And as far as movies and starring roles go, men still far outnumber women. It's still considered an exception to the rule for women to star in a movie. And, this is really stupid, TV shows are still made with the idea that white 18-25 year old men are the majority of who's watching. However, the truth of the matter is that women are still home more than men, not much more because 43% of us now work outside the home), and we're the ones who're watching TV, especially during the daytime. What's up with that? It doesn't make sense when you think that there are something like 20-30,000 more women than men living in the US.

The top companies in America have hired and created entire departments in thier marketing tiers devoted exclusively to coming up with products, ideas and the advertising needed to communicate them to & for women. But not Hollywood. They must think they know something the rest of us don't. Maybe all the women are going to be suddenly destroyed, leaving only men within the next couple years, so they dont' feel they need to "waste" their time coming up with stories and programmes that we'll enjoy. NOT! They're just a bunch of egotistical white men aged 18-40 who spend all their time in front of the tube. It seems like we can get whatever we want, except when it comes to Hollywood, but you know what I think? I think we just haven't tried hard enough, yet.

I find it hard to fathom that women in Hollywood, the producers, directors and so forth, the women with the power to change things, don't use it. Instead, they're too busy fitting in, trying to make it in a "man's world", trying to be accepted by the old boy's club. Fuck the old boys club, Girls. I'm not joking. My dh and I have decided that we're not watching shows and movies that do not have a wider variety of ethnicities amongst the cast. That old "joke" about how if there's a black guy in the cast, he'll be the one to either wear a dress or get killed first, isn't funny anymore, it never was, and it's not a joke, it really is what happens and I for one am not going to give my money over to people who're prejudiced and bigotted and so quaint that they can't get with the program. When are we going to start showing Hollywood that we expect them to portray our America, the one we actually live in and not this weird 1950's version of how they wanted it to be. I don't want my daughter to grow up with the idea that Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Jews, Africans, Spanish, Mexican, etc., are unusual or diffferent. They're not. They're all part of the rich tapestry, the melting pot that makes up our society. It is what makes the United States so unique. You won't find this kind of mixture in any other country in the world. Why is it that Hollywood is in such denial over the very thing that makes this country so damned wonderful?

I want to see programs that reflect our view of the world. Our view of the world, what we teach our daughter is that we judge people according to their character, the choices they make, not according to their race, religion, gender, or who they fall in love with. Our view is that different is not abnormal. Different is wonderful and what makes life interesting. It's the spice. What is abnormal is seeing everyone on TV looking exactly like everyone else on TV: skinny, white, blonde, blue eyed and with teeth that could light up a runway. In my opinion, Hollywood represents the Nazi party more than those groups of skinheads do and certainly doesn't try nearly hard enough to represent the variety of characters that make up the USA.

So, what I'd like to know is does this bother you about Hollywood or do you think the status quo is fine? Do you have any ideas on how we could effect change in the entertainment industry in the future?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bleak Future or Transitional Phase?

I've been doing alot of thinking lately, but that's not knew. It's probably my biggest vice that I think too damned much about everything. People have told me that my whole life. lol "You think too much about stuff" or "You're overthinking this..." So, yeah, it's my, uh, weakness, I guess.

But, you know how I said I was in a funk and really I didn't realize it would last so long. Well, it did, though and I think that's the first time I've actually felt depressed in my life. Isn't that weird? I feel so gloomy about all this stuff so often and THIS is when I thought I was depressed? Don't ask me, because I don't get it either. I literally couldn't shake it, didn't want to talk to anyone and the biggest clue was that I stopped playing my game. (Let me know when you've revived. Fainting is completely understandable in this situation. lol)

But, I'm feeling better lately, like the cloud has passed on at least. However, during that time I came to several conclusions about my life and I'll share one of them with you right now. (Big build up, right? Well, try not to be too disappointed by what comes next, because, no, I didn't get The Key or figure IT out, sorry.) I have accepted, completely, that my situation is likely not to change in the future and for that reason, I need to either adapt or die. I mean, that's what evolution is, adapting to changes. And, I had to believe for myself that I do have other talents, other things that I can offer the world, besides how I previously defined myself. My life has been split, very definitively, into ba and aa, Before Acccident and After Accident.

So, I've decided that I really need to earn my keep again. I can't stand this feeling of uselessness, like I'm just biding my time until Death comes to carry me home or whatever, right? I can't live like that. That sucks and it's a bad attitude anyway. Imean, it probably won't happen, but what if my dh left me, or worse, if he died? Who'd pay the bills? Besides, I hate living on one income. It sucks. I need money to be happy.

Yeah, that's right, I said it. I need money and lots of it. So, I'm going back to school, again, and let's hope that third time's the charm, right? I'm going to take an accellerated learning program, online, because I do really well with those kinds of classes. I get bored if I have to wait around for everyone else in class to catch up with me. lol And, they're willing to work with me, within reason, if I need to take a day off here and there it won't create any real hardship, so my grades won't suffer too much because of my head pain. Still working out all the details and need to have it all finalized by August. So, I'll update you around that time.

I mean, if I can't be out there doing, then at least I can still do something. I'll figure out what my limitations are while I'm doing my schooling, too, so I'll know exactly what kind of work to look for after I graduate. The program is a five year course, but I think I can finish it in two and have my bachelors degree. The uni is accredited in the UK, so I don't know what that means over here. I may have to take an extra legal course out here if I go to work for a paper or magazine or something, but I really want to work freelance. The pay will suck big time, most of the time, but the more I output the more I'll bring in, so I should be able to contribute well enough. I just got to thinking how, from the age of 12, I paid for everything for myself. I even used to help buy groceries for our family when we were really broke from my babysitting money sometimes. I paid for anything I wanted to do, swimming, clothes, school pictures, yearbooks, christmas and birthday gifts. Then, when I turned sixteen, I insisted on paying rent when I worked to my parents. It wasn't much, but I'm sure it helped. And, still I took care of all my own personal needs and pitched in whatever extra I could when we needed it to the family's funds, usually in winter. I've never been a slouch. I've never been afraid of hard work and I've always paid my own way in life. I really hate the idea that a guy is "taking care" of me, too. That really sticks in my craw in a big way. And, yeah, I know, he's my husband and he isn't complaining...much. lol jk But, seriously, he's accepted it because nothing else could be done about it. Well, I still may not be able to move around much, cuz of the pain (which I also plan to change in the near future, but we'll save that for another post), but the pain killers and the patch really do help bring the level down enough that most days I can concentrate on my writing and reading, I've found. So, since that seems to be sustaining, I'm going to pursue writing and hopefully I'll find a new career for myself in it.

A quick update on my health: the pain's been pretty bad lately, again, and I'll probably have to go up on my dosage with the patch at my next doc's appointment if I can hold out til the end of the month. I really don't want to do that, because it makes me so sleepy, but it's either that or go back to losing my insanity from the pain and we can't have that when I have these other plans, can we?

This is really scary, you know? I haven't told anyone else, so try to keep this info under your belts, ok? I don't want to have to talk about it, just in case I am a total failure. At least, if that happens I'll be the only one who knows it and I won't have to put up with that look you get when people feel sorry for you. You know which one I'm talking about? Yeah, that's the one. That look. And, if I'm successful, it'll just be a nice surprise one day when I hand over a fat check to dh and say, Here honey, this should help.

Besides, I dont' think I want to deal with the nagging that comes along with all that expectation. Ugh. Thanks anyway. So, there you have it. From my mouth to whatever. Anyway, that's the plan at this point and I'll let you know how it all unfolds. (Did I tell you? I finished chapter 1 and the prologue of my novel? Rough draft form, but they're written. Feels good.)

So, have you had to change your self-perception lately? If so, what happened and how'd you deal with it? How do you feel now about your conclusions?