Month: April 2013

Allow Me To Introduce Myself…

FEMINISM

Hello, my name is Justine.

I’m the woman behind MFB.

Seeing as I’m coming up on almost 50* posts by now, and some of you are actually reading this, I thought it a good time to tell you a little bit about myself.

I’m the youngest of three children, with an older brother and an older sister.

My brother and sister both have dirty blonde hair (at least naturally they do), green eyes, sun-kissed light skin, and they’re both tall. I’m five feet tall with brown eyes and dark brown hair (at least naturally, it is) and I have olivey-tan skin. I’m adopted. Yet I somehow look more like our mom than they do.

I used to sing and play guitar in coffee shops. (Yes, it was the 90s)

I grew up in Venice, CA. (Think: beaches, skateboarding, drive-by shootings!)

I used to work with animals. Then I worked in fashion. Then even later, I traded in my Gucci and Prada for t-shirts and jeans in order to work at a grocery store while in college. Giving up that fabulously fashion-forward job to go back to school full-time was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And I had just left my boyfriend of 5 1/2 years right before doing it (yes— leaving him was easier than leaving the job).

I left home at 17, but only became a serious college student at 22, just shy of my 23rd birthday. I mean, come on—living on my own, and in a different state at 17 years old….? For me, being a responsible and independent SEVENTEEN year old college student was riddled with contradictions.

Once I did become serious about obtaining my B.A., however, I was an English major for the first three years  until I got to UC Berkeley…where I felt like the universe had opened up a Pandora’s box of all the world’s knowledge from which I could pick and choose what I wanted to learn. Who could pick just one “major” from all this worldly knowledge…? So I went with the department that let me make up my own. I majored in Gender Politics (under the auspices of the American Studies Department) and ended up studying how and where law and gender intersect. I spent over a year researching and writing my thesis, which was on the socio-politics of childbirth. If you’re curious, you can read an excerpt here.

I became so enamored with reproductive law and feminist jurisprudence that I actually went on to law school in order to pursue a career as a legal advisor in the field of ARTs (Assisted Reproductive Technologies), as well as possibly practicing midwifery law (midwives need good lawyers dammit). Unfortunately, as I came to learn, law school is a soul-sucking experience and as much as I loved studying the law, I knew a life in law was not the life for me. But I continue to study it in my own way, writing about that which I am passionate about here, and I do still enjoy at least attempting to apply legal reasoning to my everyday life.

When I first started college I was a musical theatre major.

Music will always and forever be my first love. I still own two guitars from when I was 15 and 21, and still listen to a lot of the same music I listened to at age 13, 15, and 20…which seems weird to me now because that seems so long ago. I have also had the #1 most favorite song in the world for the last 20+ years. I listen to so much music, and so many different kinds, I like to think that I am some kind of idiot savant when it comes to the music round at pub quiz, but if I were really that good at identifying so many songs and musicians, my team and I would probably win more.

The end.

 

*This article has been revised as of 1/13/2014. When first published I was only at approximately 20 posts.

Book Review: How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

how-to-be-a-woman book cover

Three word synopsis:

Hysterical, Intelligent, Contentious.

Here’s the deal: I really enjoyed this book. The entire first half had me in stitches. I was laughing out loud in the break room at work, on the BART train home, and in my own living room. She is hysterically funny. Both the stories in and of themselves, as well as her sense of humor. I was so thoroughly entertained I wasn’t even taking notes. And I am ALWAYS taking notes. Or, at best, resisting the urge to notate any and every book I read.

Here’s a glimpse at one of the parts that had me beside myself cracking up at work—on the topic of naming your vagina, naturally. I ended up sharing it with my coworker:

 

“But, let’s be honest, “pussy” is the least of it. There is a panoply of slang words that are, in their ways, just as truly awful as “vagina.” Let’s bullet point!

  • Your sex: sounds like a preemptive attempt to shift blame.
  • Hole: a bad thing that can happen to stockings or tights. My Johnnylulu is a GOOD thing that happens to stockings and tights.
  • Honeypot: inference of imminent presence of bees.
  • Twat: an unpleasant melange of cow-pat, stupidity, and punching. No.
  • Bush: the band of the same name are tiresome. The vegetation has spiders. No.
  • Vag: sounds like the name of a busybody battleaxe, a la “Barb” and “Val.” Suggestion also of chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, and borderline addiction to bingo. No.”

 

I mean, really—”Vag”—she is so dead on with that description.

Oh, and then she goes on to list a few of the names that she does like, and that bit may actually be even funnier (especially if you like Star Wars and/or came of age in the 80s).

 

Moran is a British writer, born and raised in the countryside of Wolverhampton, who at 16 gets to go work for a rock magazine in London. Her upbringing is interesting, to say the least, especially to someone born and raised in LA like myself. It is not only foreign geographically, but culturally. She grew up in a small house, in the English countryside, sharing what little space they had with 5-6 siblings in addition to her parents and a dog. (She not only shared a room, but a bed, with one of her many sisters.) On her 13th birthday she gets, instead of a cake, a baguette filled with Philadelphia cream cheese. And the cultural, class, and gender differences just continue on from there.*

*note: there is not much said, or discussed, in regards to race throughout the book. end note.

Her chapters go from pre-adolescence to present-day womanhood, in chronological order, and one of my favorite aspects of this journey is her chronological commentary on sexism. Ironically, the chapter titled I Encounter Some Sexism!—found dead center in the book—is also the point at which I wanted to bang my head against a wall out of frustration. Really, it boils down to the fact that:

(a) she says “You couldn’t find a woman making music for love nor money” in the early nineties. Hello?! L7, Verruca Salt, 7 Year Bitch, PJ Harvey (whom she does mention, at least), Tori Amos, Hole, The Breeders… and I’m sure many of you can think of even more amazing female artists, both rock and otherwise.

(b) she furthermore states that we’ve “had little more than a handful of female geniuses” since women got the right to vote (“There was still no female rock band to rival Led Zeppelin…No female hip-hop artist to rival Public Enemy…”) *Ahem* I’d say Janis Joplin earns at least the right to rival Led Zeppelin, and as for female hip-hop artists: TLC, Lil Kim, Da Brat, and SALT N PEPA. And don’t even get me started on [musician] female geniuses between the 1920s and 1990s: Nina Simone, Billie Holiday (whom she does mention), Peggy Lee, Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane), Sarah Vaughan, Wanda Jackson, Alice Coltrane, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees), Kate Bush, Nico (The Velvet Underground), and I COULD name more…

finally, (c) I’m not sure whether it was in this chapter or the preceding one, but she does state at one point that she probably learned most about being a woman/how to be a woman from her husband; However, in this chapter she is upset at her boss saying, “You wouldn’t know what it’s like to be a fat teenage girl, being shouted at in the street by arseholes,” when, as she says, she in fact is “a fat teenage girl, being shouted at in the street by arseholes.” Well, Mz. Moran, given that you just stated you probably learned most about “being a woman” from a man, perhaps it is not so unfeasible for your male boss to know more about being a teenage girl than you. It just seemed a little hypocritical to at one point say you learned most about being a woman from a man, but then say, well, this guy is a jerk for thinking that he knows more about being a teenage girl than I do (because, once again, apparently your husband knew more about “being a woman” than you did…? Perhaps she could have at least expanded on this in order to clarify…) I just found those two aspects of the narrative a bit incongruous and I was miffed.

With that bit of criticism stated, I did love her “Is this polite?” sexism test (as I’m sure most people would- men and women alike), as well as her chapter on strippers and strip clubs. It’s a really delightful, laugh-out-loud funny, and insightful take on the whole sex work/sex worker debate. Something I’ve yet to decide on myself, but I do like what she has to say. One of my most favorite aspects of the book is the pairing of the two chapters, Why You Should Have Children, followed by Why You Shouldn’t Have Children (Chapters 12 & 13). Maybe it’s due to my legal studies background, but I do so enjoy how she is able to argue for each side, and quite deftly at that. My only point of criticism here is the last paragraph of the former chapter (chapter 12). Having studied childbirth, and having a midwife mother-in-law, that last paragraph made me give the book a sideways glance while thinking, “ummmm….ok, Moran, sure. uh huh.” But it’s a trivial piece of criticism, really. This book is truly and sincerely more than the sum of its parts.

She decides to almost end the book (it’s the second to last chapter) with abortion, and wow. It’s profound. It’s clearly well thought out. And of course, it’s contentious.

In spite of my pieces of criticism it really is a great read. I am so glad I read it and would definitely recommend it. I love her intellect, and perhaps most especially her humor. It will keep you entertained, and make you think, and I don’t think a book lover can ask for more than that.

 

La Femme Fetal

One of the most amazing politically conscious pieces of music ever…

La Femme Fetal by Digable Planets

Lyrics:

It was 8:49 on a beautiful 9th day of July
There was not a cloud to speak of
So the orange sun hung lonely in the sky
I lay prone in my catboat home
Thinking of fine nappy Jackie and his jazz cat’s horn
Sliding in a tape of bird on verve when suddenly rang my phone

“Hey butterfly”, the voice said
Slip on some duds comb out your fro and slide on down to my pad
The vibe here is very pleasant and I truly request your presence
A problem of great magnitude has arose and as we speak it grows
Damn, what could it be I thought
A juice I bought and rolled on down to her spot
Seeing bros I know slapping fives I arrived and pressed G-5
And there was Nikki lookin’ some kind of sad
With tears fallin’ from her eyes she sat me down
And dug my frown and began to run it down

“You remember my boyfriend Sid that fly kid who I love
Well our love was often a verb and spontaneity has brought a third
But do to our youth an economic state, we wish to terminate
About this we don’t feel great, but baby that’s how it is
But the feds have dissed me, they ignored and dismissed me
The pro-lifers harass me outside the clinic
And call me a murderer, now that’s hate
So needless to say we’re in a mental state of debate”

“Hey beautiful bird”, I said digging her somber mood
The fascists are some heavy dudes
They don’t really give a damn about life
They just don’t want a woman to control her body
Or have the right to choose but baby that ain’t nothin’
They just want a male finger on the button

Because if you say, “War”, they will send them to die by the score
Aborting mission should be your volition
But if Souter and Thomas have their way
You’ll be standing in line unable to get welfare
While they’ll be out hunting and fishing
It has always been around, it will always have the niche
But they’ll make it a privilege not a right accessible only to the rich

Hey pro-lifers need to dig themselves ’cause life doesn’t stop after birth
And for a child born to the unprepared it might even just get worse
The situation would surely change if they were to find themselves in it
Supporters of the h-bomb and fire bombing clinics
What type of shit is that? Orwellian in fact
If Roe V Wade was overturned would not the desire remain intact
Leaving young girls to risk their healths
Doctors to botch and watch as they kill themselves

Now I don’t want to sound macabre
But hey, isn’t it my job to lay it on the masses
And get them off their asses to fight against these fascists
So whatever you decide make that move with pride
Sid will be there and so will I
An insect ’til I die

Rhythms and sounds, spinning around
Confrontations across the nation
Your block, my block, dreadlocks what a shock
Land of the free but not me
Not me, not me, not me, not me
Not me, not me, not me, not me

 

 

 

 

 

Dove’s “Real Beauty Campaign”

Last week a certain Dove ad gained wide popularity throughout the media.

Many of my own friends posted about it on Facebook, citing how it brought them to tears.

Feministing.com had this to say about Dove’s latest addition to the “Real Beauty Campaign.”

Naturally, with a few fellow feminist friends talking about it, saying how moving or significant it is, I had to see what all the fuss was about.

I felt…nothing. It was lackluster, contrived, and a bit patronizing, in my opinion.

This is what I had to say on the MFB Facebook page (taken from a thread in which I shared the feministing.com article)

“glad you each read, and appreciated, this article. i watched that video and just thought, “seriously…?” You know what, So what if one of them actually did look like the first sketch more? OH DEAR GOD NO, NOT THAT! There is still, at the center of this ad, underpinning it all, this abstract ideal of beauty… And I do feel that a demonstration of confidence would have been more powerful than a showcase of insecurity. We need more examples of strong, confident women of all shapes and sizes and colors in the media. But what am I saying… Consumerism is consumerism. Looking for meaning in the consumer marketplace is like looking for love in the red light district.

of course, “looking for love in the red light district” works… if you’re “Pretty Woman”….”

The bottom line, for me, is that this ad still rests on a social standard of superficial physical beauty, and, to quote the feministing article, “This version of the message–that you’re thinner than you think you are–reinforces the assumption that thinness is valuable. The take-away might be immediately gratifying. But by accepting the worship of slenderness within a supposed challenge to mainstream standards, the video entrenches fat-shaming further.”

Furthermore, as previously mentioned, I find it a bit patronizing in its almost exploitative demonstration of female insecurity. Yes, lots of women are insecure. So are lots of men. I’m not inspired by this and I feel a slight discomfort that so many women were. I suppose its in the relatable aspect of it, but still, are we not all already aware of the universal human frailty that is insecurity? Once again, I find demonstrations of strength, confidence, and self-actualization much more inspirational. I find inspiration in Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Judith Butler, Cherie Moraga, and James Baldwin, who taught me that I must accept the inherent value that is placed upon me as a human being.

As a matter of fact, I think this is a way more “feminist,” awesome, and inspiring ad, so there. Enjoy.

He’s My Man, and I’m His Lady

he's my man i'm his lady

My man generally (on the day-to-day, when in conversation with others) refers to me as his ‘lady,’ (and I do indeed refer to him as ‘my man’ quite frequently) and it has come to my attention that this can, in fact, bewilder some of those who know about my feminist leanings. And it’s funny actually, because now I’ve come to see it as almost a kind of epitomizing symbol of us as a couple. It kind of encapsulates our whole dynamic. After all, we are, I suppose—when I really think about it—liberal, yet traditional. We’re like “traditional radicals,” if that can even be a thing. (Yeah, you know what, it is a thing. Because I just said so. We’re it, so there it is. Done.)

We have democratic leanings, to be sure. We engage in thoughtful political discussions and debates. We share a secular belief system as well as what some might call “radical” socio-political ideals and morals. He is, of course, aware of my feminist perspective, and moreover, he welcomed the thought of possibly becoming a house-husband/stay-at-home-dad if I was to be a full-time (i.e. working 70-80 hours/week) lawyer.

But then on the other hand:

We got married (which does, in my opinion, infer some degree of “traditional” deference). I did say I would take his last name (though I have yet to change it legally). I do, in fact, do the bulk of our domestic housework (laundry, dishes, coordinating puppy-sitting and vet visits), and he does, in fact, handle all of our finances, as well as anything that involves power tools or heavy lifting (& killing bugs).

So, does this make me any less of a feminist?

Does it mean my husband is a sexist?

I think not.

As sexist or stereotypical as it may sound (which it shouldn’t, because I am simply talking about myself here—one singular being—not the whole of women everywhere) the plain fact is, I’m just no good with numbers, I’m no good with money, I’m not skilled in the arts of fixing or building things, and you know what, I’m effing TERRIFIED of spiders. So there. And as for my husband, well it’s as simple as this: he wasn’t raised by a total neat freak like I was, he is gifted in all the aspects of intelligence of which I am not (he went to motorcycle mechanic school/ I studied feminist jurisprudence), and while I seem to be able to effortlessly oversee the “domesticity” of our household, he seems to be able to effortlessly develop amazing financial planning strategies and build things like planter boxes and a dog house for our two large hound dogs.

Is this sexist? Are we gender stereotypes? Is this offending you???

Hey, it’s just who we are.

I’m not saying it’s biology. I’m not saying these are the roles we are meant to play. And I’m definitely not saying this is the way it “should” be. It’s just how we ended up, it’s just what turned out to work for us, and trust me, the irony is never lost on me.

So in spite of the fact that I’ve referred to him as my partner for years now (& still do on occasion), yes, I like calling him ‘my man’. I mean, why not—he’s “manly”! It doesn’t mean he relies on it (being manly), or thinks it’s essential to his persona, or his being. He isn’t dictated by his masculinity. He just happens to have some very masculine attributes. Conversely, as I have mentioned in a certain previous article, I relish in my feminine side. I delight in the gender performance that is femininity. So I like that he refers to me as his ‘lady.’ It’s very old school/old-timey charm, if you ask me, and I’m into it. Why not. We are, after all, traditional radicals.

“WALK A MILE IN HER [gendered, sexist, high-heeled] SHOES”

Image source: http://unews.com/2011/09/26/walk-a-mile-in-her-shoes-men-raise-awareness-of-violence-against-women/

“Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above. ”
― Virginia Woolf

The following was posted to the MFB Facebook page by a reader the other day:

“My school, George Washington University, is holding a “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event. While I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across, I have an issue with the high-heeled shoes part. According to the website “men will literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes (from Mid Campus Quad to the Lincoln Memorial) in order to help them gain a better understanding and appreciation of the experience of being a woman in today’s society.” High heels play a very very (very!) small part of my life as a woman, and I think that the mere symbolism of high heels can be seen as more of a sex-symbol than empowerment for women’s rights.”
http://gwsasawalkamile.eventbrite.com/

This is what I deem to be a case of “their heart is in the right place but the idea’s very half-baked.”

As a matter of fact, the idea is detrimentally half-baked. To quote the aforementioned MFB reader, “I understand and support the point that this event is trying to get across,” but the inference that wearing high-heeled shoes is somehow intrinsically, or perhaps even innately, linked to “womanhood,” or is somehow a fundamental aspect of being a woman is not helpful. It’s actually quite harmful.

In fact, it’s predicated on a very gendered and somewhat sexualized notion of what it means to be a woman. That is to say: femininity does not equate being a woman, nor does being a woman mean being feminine.

One more time:

FEMININITY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING A WOMAN / BEING A WOMAN DOES NOT EQUAL FEMININITY.

A straight woman can be masculine, a gay man can be masculine, a gay woman can be feminine, a straight man can be feminine, many of us can, and do, express both masculinity and femininity, perhaps even simultaneously, and let’s not forget the factual presence of androgyny among us humans, as well. In addition to this gendered notion of womanhood, this “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event also speaks to a sexualized (think: “male gaze“) concept of being a woman due to the inherent sexuality ascribed to the high-heel. It is, after all, a piece of sexual symbolism in itself.

I have to here stop and say, once again, that I applaud the young men that take part in these events across the country. Their hearts are in the right place, as are those of the people that created it. However, it does unfortunately propagate gendered and sexist notions that we women would do better without, and moreover, it doesn’t really accomplish anything in the way of helping young men “see what it’s like to be a woman.” But then I have to ask: Can such a goal even be accomplished? Can a man ever truly understand the experience of what it is like to be a woman?

Something to ponder, from the amazing Cherrie Moraga:

“…a gay male friend of mine once confided to me that he continued to feel that, on some level, I didn’t trust him because he was male; that he felt, really, if it ever came down to a “battle of the sexes,” I might kill him. I admitted that I might very well. He wanted to understand the source of my distrust. I responded, “You’re not a woman. Be a woman for a day. Imagine being a woman.” He confessed that the thought terrified him because, to him, being a woman meant being raped by men. He had felt raped by men; he wanted to forget what that meant. What grew from that discussion was the realization that in order for him to create an authentic alliance with me, he must deal with the primary source of his own sense of oppression.”

(Taken from Moraga’s essay, “La Guera.” Bold added by me, for emphasis)

Into The Void

Around this time last year, I was nearly suicidal. It wasn’t me, though, really. I hadn’t been me in months. It was mostly due to the drugs. I had been on vicodin every 4-6 hours for, oh I don’t know… about 4 weeks I think? It’s kind of a blur, really—the sequence of events [and events themselves]—but I’ll never forget the feeling….

I was on this steady stream of vicodin (& orange Fanta, to ease my stomach) due to an unexpectedly major arthroscopic surgery on my right wrist, (it ended up being a two hour surgery, which was not at all what I, or the doctor, had anticipated) and yes, I am right-handed.

I had sustained a worker’s comp injury almost a year earlier.

As a fellow worker’s comp veteran friend of mine said recently, “hell has nothing on the work comp void.”

We are like sisters in arms, her and I.

No one else seems to  understand. I don’t think they can. At least, not if they haven’t been through the system as we have.

This is not something I really want to write about. I don’t want to relive it. AT ALL. Just the mention of it makes me quite anxious. But these stories need to be told. They need to be heard. I have come into contact all too often with this preconceived notion that being out on worker’s comp is like some kind of vacation. It is anything, but.

It is isolation. It is constant physical pain. It is constant mental pain. It disrupts your life, and therefore your world. It changes your reality, and therefore your perception. It is isolation. It is a void in which you lose your sense of self, your personhood, any feeling of purpose, any sense of being alive.

It is as though you cease to exist.

And depending on your work situation, you may lose people in your life you once thought of as “friends,” too.

Isolation.

Deprivation.

Dehumanization.

It was just about two months prior to the beginning of this whole mess (i.e. about two years ago from today) that I went off birth control. It was the first time I had purposefully gone off the pill in 13 years. “They” say you should stop taking it about six months prior to conceiving. I was finally done with school, working a full time job that I liked, making decent money, and my boyfriend and I were renting an adorable house in San Diego. We were finally about to start the life [it felt] we had been waiting for. After all, I had been a full time student who also worked full time since the beginning of our relationship. The golden times were about to begin, and we were looking forward to it. Just working and hanging out. Living life. Settling down. Maybe starting a family. And just going from there… (I was thinking about grad/ law school, but just wanted to kick back and enjoy life with my man for a while…see where it would take us)

Then my injury occurred.

Suddenly I was “out on worker’s comp.”

And my life changed.

Not only could I now not do my job which instantly eradicated the bulk of my human/social interaction for 40 hours a week, 5 days a week, but  I also couldn’t do yoga, lift weights, even holding up a book could be taxing, and driving was painful. So my options quickly became: sitting at home, alone. Oh, and let’s not forget that going out on worker’s comp also meant missing a paycheck at the outset of my claim, with this gap in income to be followed by a paycheck from the insurance company for much less than what I was used to making. So, also, no money!

*Under worker’s comp you receive either 60%, or 66%—I forget exactly, but it’s one of those two figures— of your normal pay and it is not taxed, but my new bi-weekly payments were undeniably less than this. I did the math. Why did I not raise hell and fight this, you ask? Because I had a bigger fight to fight: obtaining the medical treatment I needed.

***Let me here also note that had it not been for my then boyfriend (now husband) I don’t know what I would have done as far as housing. WIth the gap in income followed by much smaller paychecks I would not have financially survived on my own. I don’t know what I would, or could, have done. Live in my car, with my cat? Possibly. Stay in my sister’s boyfriend’s little guest house up in the LA area? Maybe, but for a year and a half and through surgery?! Doubtful. I mean, really, had it not been for him financially saving me, I really and truly don’t know where or how I would have ended up.

So, as of July 8, 2011, I was bound to the couch. Over that first month I had to see a doctor for weekly assessments/”work status” updates (the “update” being “well, she can’t use her right hand/wrist!”). However, out of these approximately 4 weekly visits I had one doctor who actually told me I should go back to work regardless. I said, “but I can’t use my right hand and wrist, and I’m right-handed. It really hurts and I don’t want to worsen it. I’ve been trying to do my job for two months now with this pain, and it’s resulted in doing less and less of my job, which is how I ended up on worker’s comp in the first place—I can’t do anything required of me!”

This doctor looked me straight in the eye and said—and I’ll NEVER FORGET this—”Miss, I have just as much of a duty to your employer and the insurance company as I do to you. You need to go back to work.”

My boss was NOT pleased. Needless to say, I could not, and did not, go back to work. And after being out for approximately 3 weeks, the insurance company finally approved physical therapy, which I quickly came to find out was actually a rapid response time within the work comp world. I was one of the lucky ones! One of my coworkers had waited about 6 months to get physical therapy approved. Meanwhile I was texting and “Facebooking” coworker friends that I thought would come over and hang out/visit with me, or maybe even come pick me up for hang time. Nope. Three weeks alone, in an apartment, in quiet, boring, solitude. (We had moved into a *much* cheaper apartment down the street right before I went out on worker’s comp, which turned out to be a godsend due to the decrease in our dual income. And no, I didn’t do ANY of the heavy lifting at all.)

So this was just the beginning. Over the next 5 months I would continue to battle with the insurance company and “Utilization Review Board,” over approval of diagnostic testing and treatment (my physical therapist and I were convinced that there was a torn piece of cartilage in my wrist) but to no avail. They don’t want to approve these things because it costs money. After the first month of solitude, just waiting for physical therapy to be approved, followed by two more months of solitude, arguing with a wall about my healthcare and ultimately winding up feeling helpless, defeated, and quite frankly, worthless, I called a lawyer.

I was out for a total of 7 1/2 months before finally getting the surgery I needed.

I’d had a sinking feeling from the start that I would need surgery. I had never had one before and the idea had always scared me, but with the pain I had been dealing with, I was gung-ho-all-for-it from the start. As it turned out, I had torn a ligament and a piece of cartilage, in addition to the initially diagnosed (and by now all resolved) tendonitis.

7 1/2 months.

221 days.

Of barely leaving the house.

Of barely having any visitors over.

Can you imagine how you would feel?

No work. No play. Just listless, restless, lifeless life in a dejected body that no health care provider or insurance company seemed to give one half of a shit about (save for my physical therapist, and later on, my AME). Waking up every day with nowhere to go, nothing to do. No purpose. Watching everybody else’s lives continue, progress, move on, go forward, while you are held, against your will, in limbo, in pain. You have no choice, no say. Your life comes to a complete stop, only to be dictated by the insurance company and/or your lawyer, and you have no choice, no say, isolated, in pain, for 221 days. Things are happening around you, outside in the world, everybody else is moving, but you are held down. No choice. No say. In pain.

Isolation. Depression. Dehumanization.

That’s worker’s comp.

And I was still only about 1/3 of the way through…

After all, I was 28 at the beginning of my work comp claim, and I would be 30 by the time it ended.

I haven’t even told you about how no pain meds or anti-inflammatory pills took away the constant pain—only alcohol did. Or how my boyfriend and I had to cancel a long-awaited trip to NYC due to my incapacity to travel, its interference with my treatment, and the lack of funds available now that I was on my measly work comp stipend. Or how I didn’t get through my first semester of law school, yes—the real catalyst for my law school withdrawal—due to my continuing post-operative pain, continuing physical therapy, and my inability to carry my casebooks and take notes.

I haven’t even told you about the constant fear and paranoia of being videotaped or photographed by one of the insurance company’s private investigators—perhaps while I was doing laundry in my apartment complex courtyard, or driving—and then I would be denied any and all treatment because they would think I was “faking it.” (This happened to my sister years ago; Yes, there are private investigators, and once you are on work comp, your privacy upon leaving the house is potentially non-existent) Or how I had just thrown away my last bottle of Xanax the January before my claim began. It had been prescribed to me the year before for PTSD.

And I haven’t even told you about the toll this took on my relationship. Pain changes a person. Being in pain 24/7 for weeks and months, unending, frustrating, debilitating pain, will change a person, and undoubtedly how others will see that person as well. We had some of our toughest challenges and probably the worst argument we’ve ever had, as a direct result of my injury and this situation. But I was lucky to have had the partner that I have throughout this ordeal. Others are not so lucky. I cannot even fathom how they endure.

And so, after having been in “the void” since July 8, 2011, I finally had my surgery on February 15, 2012….