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Being open about mental health: what about eating disorders?

Author:
2109

By Isla Whateley

Content note: Mental health, eating disorders

Society, in the last couple of years, has changed with regards to attitudes to mental illness. Depression and anxiety are becoming less stigmatised – people talk about them a lot, it’s more acceptable to use humour as a form of coping with them, and it’s more understood. Maybe this is just in my social circles and the corners of the Internet I personally inhabit, but it’s a change I have noticed and one I’m thankful for. The rise of mental illness memes too, for me, normalise these conditions without trivialising, and help those suffering find solace and a sense that they’re not alone.

But this is only really for the two ‘main’ (i.e. most talked about, most understood and most focused on) mental illnesses – depression and anxiety. Although I suffer from both, and find these online communities and acceptance very helpful, one of my other illnesses is still hugely stigmatised.

I have an eating disorder. My first appointment with the mental health services is next week, although I’ve suffered for nearly 5 years now. It was only a few months ago that I realised what I had was an eating disorder and went to the doctors to try and get help. Now I’m being open about it, both to myself and everyone else, I’ve noticed some things.

It’s a lot more stigmatised than depression or anxiety. Family members tiptoe around it, and ask me when my “special appointment” is, or will say things like “how’s the food thing” instead of being upfront. Every time I try and use humour as a way of coping, I’m met with awkward looks and uncomfortable silences. Although I have many friends who can relate to ‘depression jokes’, I have comparatively few who ‘get’ the ones I make about food and eating. I know it makes people more worried. People don’t know what to say. And it’s isolating.

A huge symptom of eating disorders is hiding it and denying the fact you have one. I should know, because I did it on and off for 4 years, and still sometimes lie about my eating to friends. So by nature, it’s not talked about nearly as much as it should be. There’s not the same level of understanding in the general population, so people are taken aback when you make a joke about food and how you haven’t eaten all day ha ha. Especially at the stage I’m at right now, where everyone KNOWS you have an eating disorder (because I’ve publicly posted and spoken about it online and to most of my friends), so there’s that constant level of concern every time you make a joke that implies you haven’t eaten, or that you’ve eaten the ‘wrong thing’.

I like to think that I’m doing the right thing by speaking up about it. I hope one day we reach the point that ALL mental illnesses are on an equal playing field with regards to awareness and discussion – even the ones with the worst stigma and stereotypes, like schizophrenia, personality disorders, bipolar and OCD. It’s isolating, and it’s lonely. There’s only so much that a couple of ED-related Facebook meme groups can give you. But I’m not giving up. I hope that someone might see my posts or my tweets, or even this article, and realise it’s okay to talk about it. It’s not easy but it’s okay. And the more you talk, the more people listen.

If you are worried about your eating habits or think you might have an eating disorder, beat is the UK’s national eating disorder charity. They offer a wide range of support which can be found on their website. https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services

Find Isla on Twitter at @islarosem

Naming myself witch

Author:
moons

By Anna Hill

As a kid I desperately wanted to be a witch. Now I’m grown up (kinda…) and I am one! I was always fascinated by the idea of witchcraft, but it was only in January 2017 that I really decided to dedicate time to witchcraft and develop my own practice. I think my first witch was The Worst Witch, and then the next were from Harry Potter. I vaguely remember that when I was five I wore a beautiful black and gold velvet dress to be Hermione Granger to go and see the first film in the cinema. I was so proud to be dressed as such a powerful magical girl. I’ve come a long way since then, in terms of perspective, age, understanding, dress sense and more. Despite this, that core spark that draws me to witchcraft stays the same: femme power.

Before I talk more about my witch identity I just want to be clear – being a witch is not the same thing as being a wiccan. Of course, you can be a wiccan witch, but you could also be a Jewish Witch, or a witch of any other faith (or no faith). Secondly, there are many ways to be a witch, many different paths to choose (or not choose) from. Examples of these might be an Eclectic Witch, or a Kitchen Witch, or a Solitary Witch (here’s a video about 13 types (although there are many more!)). Lastly, you don’t need anything to be/come a witch – if you want to be or decide you are a witch, then that is what you are! You don’t need to spend money on anything (unless you really want to, of course)!!

Dodie Bellamy once wrote that “the monstrous and the formless have as much right as anybody else,” and this quote – I think – speaks to the core of how I make magic and how I make sure to centre my rage, ugliness, and wildness in my craft. I feel very lucky to be able to share my energies within a coven, although not all witches do practice in groups. My coven is a space of care and sharing, where we practice collective self-care and validate the shit out of each other – both in terms of our traumas and our victories. The solidarity and inspiration I feel from practicing with such a lovely group of strong, interesting and open people helps me survive under the oppressive hellscape we live in.

Being a witch to me is also about seeing and stoking my own inner power and using it to make the world better and to heal/endure my sometimes sad, always queer life (and yes, I do believe cursing people is a valid way to engage with magic). Naming myself as witch is a way to mark out that I should be feared because I am vengeful and emotional, I am fluid and free.

Witchcraft, and specifically the eclectic type of witchcraft I practice, is also very accessible to me as a disabled person. I am in control of what I do and can adapt or create spells and rituals that need only small amounts of energy or that don’t require me to stand up for long periods of time. Being a witch whilst you’re sick is also a way to contribute to the revolution(s) even if you can’t leave your house, or even your bed.

To me, being a witch is about making sense of myself; using magical tools to understand myself and find wisdom. Through tarot, for example, I can figure out potential ways to change my behaviour or perspective on topics or my future/past/present. Naming myself as Witch is also an invitation to look closer at the world, and noticing is a kind of worship. “Looking closer” includes re-examining my identities, holding myself accountable, working towards self acceptance – and maybe even self love.

Being a witch allows me to trust in something or somethings, whether that’s my own inner power, the moon’s protection, the earth, my coven, or even the stars. I’m a Capricorn, so I feel connected (and often disconnected) to the Earth. I’m also invested in a kind of activism that centres our roots; the lineages of survival of mad and queer people. Naming myself as witch is a way to resist dominant toxic ideologies and instead focus on the “smaller” things, on the histories and people who are erased and hurt, and to lift them and myself up.

Being a witch is fun! The joy I take in my practice is radical too; it keeps me alive, it keeps me connected, it gives me a vocabulary and even a culture that helps me enjoy life and my friends. The art of my witch identity is inspiring – I make zines and watch art that is about, or is, actual witchcraft and it’s fun and exciting and close to me. Naming myself as witch is a way to see the beauty in the world and the beauty in being alive and present.

With all that being said, it can be overwhelming to know where to start with your own craft so I have compiled some resources that I hope will be helpful to you!

Cool resources/people to follow and check out

For those interested in activism and witchcraft

the yerbamala collective

This is an incredible anonymous collective who create and share words and poetry and artwork that is about countering fascism (focused in the US). They release these incredible and powerful spell books and encourage other witches to make their own as forms of antifascism!!

YOUWILLNOTWIN is my favourite spell book, but they are all incredible! You can see links to all the documents here.

W.I.T.C.H

I’ve written about W.I.T.C.H before, but it is basically an international witch group, with anonymous branches in various places, fighting against oppression of all kinds. On the starter groups website (W.I.T.C.H. PDX)  it says this: “A single witch is a dangerous outlier. A coven is a force to be reckoned with. An international circle of witches is unstoppable.” For more inspiration and witchy activist art check our their winter 2017 zine here!

For those interested in tarot

Little Red Tarot

This is the best tarot resource I’ve found online so far!! Not only does the blog try to centre marginalised, and especially queer, voices, Little Red Tarot is a cute shop based in the UK (really helpful if you are looking to buy some independent tarot decks but you can’t afford shipping from the US). There are some regular columnists on Little Red Tarot and my two favourites are called See the Cripple Dance by Maranda Elizabeth (about disability and tarot, generally) and Heathen’s Journey by Abbie Plouff (about Runes).

Other specific folks to check out:

Asali Earthwork

Maranda Elizabeth – especially their zines Telegram #36 and Telegram #38.

I really like this tumblr although it hasn’t been updated in a little while!

For those interested in astrology/horoscopes

Chani Nicholas writes amazing horoscopes and I personally love Mask Magazine’s monthly poetic and radical horoscopes written by Corina Dross!

General people to follow/information

To ensure your witch practice isn’t culturally insensitive or appropriative I would recommend firstly doing your own research and also checking out this zine as a starting point!

Haylin’s beautiful and gentle witchy newsletter is a must read – it often focuses on the moon cycles and rituals of self care.

The Hoodwitch, or Bri, has a great website

Two Witchblrs (witch tumblrs) to check out: Wishful Witchy and The Witchy Stuff.

Cafeteria Judaism and feminine queer identity

Author:
jewish queer

By Kara Sherman

“Man shall not lie with man as man does with a woman. For it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22)

Religion isn’t always easy. I often like to pretend it is — buzzwords like “interfaith” and “pluralism” pervade my discussions about faith. But every now and again, I’m reminded that the history of my faith is not so easy. Judaism was, in fact, built on questions. How do I find support as a woman from a faith founded on patriarchal texts? How do I reconcile ancient laws with a modern identity of queerness?

When I think about the concept of pluralism, the center of focus is usually external — I’m trying to be welcoming to a new community member, school of thought, or way of practice. But pluralism, the acceptance of multiple truths, gets a little trickier when it becomes an internal struggle.

There are plenty of arcane biblical laws that many people don’t practice anymore. It’s no longer commonplace for fathers to sell their daughters into slavery, and many Jews around the world don’t worry about the potential of G-d’s wrath when they turn on their stoves to make breakfast on Saturdays. How people go about ranking the importance of the many laws in our ancient texts largely remains a mystery to me, but it’s apparent that the act of picking and choosing — “Cafeteria Judaism,” if you will — is common practice.

When discussing obviously outdated parts of the Torah, like Leviticus 18:22, my head and my heart suffer a kind of cognitive dissonance. My Judaism is the most important part of who I am, but I have a difficult time reconciling the history of my faith with my identity as a bisexual woman. How do I practice my religion while remaining accepting and proud of my sexuality? How can I identify with a history and a text that directly contradict my values?

In these instances of reflection, I remind myself why laws like these were instilled in the first place. I believe that many traditional religious texts, whether it be the Torah, the Talmud, or the New Testament, were written for the purpose of procreation. These texts are ancient guides to prolonging human societies and bloodlines. If abortion was banned (except in cases when the mother’s life was in danger), the next generation would be born and its mothers no longer deemed important. If homosexuality was considered an abomination, populations would, in theory, continue to grow, instead of being stinted by relationships that couldn’t produce children.

G-d does not hate me. I have to keep in mind that these texts were written by men; men who just wanted their tribe to keep on trekking. No higher power came down from the sky and declared that me, and people like me, have no right to live and love like others. To believe this is to misunderstand the origins and intentions of religious texts — and to overlook their deeply loving central themes.

Leviticus has taught me that while Jews will never be entirely free of the oppressive aspects of our history and texts, we are free and encouraged to question, and to reinterpret our religion through a lens of contemporary values. I’m proud to be part of a progressive community of spiritual people that allows me to celebrate both my Jewish and queer identities, and that doesn’t see them as mutually exclusive. I’m proud to be Jewish because of the struggles and the questions that come along with the identity. It is inherently Jewish to disagree, but some things are just better together.

This content has been provided by the Jewish Women’s Archive

“On Anxiety” anthology – a review

Author:
on anxiety

By Pip Williams

Content note: Discussion of anxiety

On Anxiety is the first anthology from British micropublisher 3 of Cups. The press was set up by founder Clare Bogen, with the admirable goal of “providing a platform for voices otherwise unheard in the mainstream.” This means that On Anxiety is a diverse project, full of wide-ranging voice and experiences across its central theme.

On Anxiety was crowdfunded in 2017, in order to ensure all contributors could be paid fairly for their work. This merits a mention, as all too often marginalised creators can be exploited in pursuit of the goals of “awareness”, “visibility”, or “exposure.” Not only were 3 of Cups’ original goals met, they were far exceeded, allowing a stretch goal of additional contributors to be realised. Now, the book is available in eBook form, with physical copies to come later this month.

The anthology comprises 24 works from creators both well-established and new to the scene. There’s something for everyone; fiction, poetry, prose, comics, art. Dr. Rachel Kowert’s informative factual essay sits alongside Nicolo Froio’s heartfelt, painful words on the anxieties she experiences travelling as a woman from the global south. There are essays on horoscopes, jewellery-making, bird-keeping; all metaphors for anxiety, in one of many shapes and forms.

On Anxiety serves to provide comfort and companionship to fellow sufferers, whilst acting as an illuminating introduction for those less familiar. Whilst anxiety is perceived as a more palatable and easy to discuss mental illness than many, it’s still fundamentally misunderstood by many who have not experienced it. By including such a variety of works, the picture On Anxiety paints is diverse, inclusive, and easily accessible to those who may not have a thorough understanding of the illness.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, I saw myself reflected in many of the works in the anthology. I also came to understand how my various privileges – whiteness, Britishness, middle class-ness ­– cushion me from certain aspects of the anxious experience. On Anxiety introduced me to these concepts gently and without judgement, opening my mind to the breadth I had perhaps not yet considered.

My favourite contribution to On Anxiety is Sophie Mackintosh’s gorgeous personal essay “Alignment”. Sophie – like me, a Scorpio with an Aries moon – finds comfort from her own anxieties through astrology and horoscopes. The familiarity of her thought processes, couched in beautiful, meandering prose, was like a hand on my shoulder as I read. Anxiety can be a horrendously limiting illness, and the people it preys on come from all walks of life, but we never truly suffer alone. There’s always someone whose story reads similarly to our own, and I suspect many people will find them in On Anxiety.

You can purchase On Anxiety here.

What the Torah says about sexual assault

Author:
weinstein

By Sofia Heller

Content Note: Sexual assault, sexual violence, rape

“Dustin Hoffman accused of sexual assault.” “Mario Batali Tells Fans: Sorry for the Sexual Assault, Here’s a Cinnamon Roll Recipe.” “More Women Accuse Russell Simmons Of Rape, Sexual Assault.” “California Democratic Party official resigns after rape, misconduct allegations.” “Former Intern Accuses Wyoming’s Secretary of State of Sexual Assault.” “Houston firefighter arrested for sexual assault of teen.” “No charges for alleged sexual assault at Kansas basketball dorm.”

These headlines are only a few in the recent surge of coverage about sexual violence. The avalanche of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape allegations over the past few months – catalysed by the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein – make it clear that sexual violence is a problem deeply embedded in our society; it even finds credence in Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says, “If a man comes upon a virgin who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekels of] silver, and she shall be his wife. Because he has violated her, he can never have the right to divorce her.”

In other words, the Torah determines that a rapist must marry his victim, thus framing it as punishment for the rapist. The wording in the last sentence – “he can never have the right to divorce her” – makes it seem like we’re supposed to feel bad that the rapist is trapped in this marriage. No part of this passage recognises that the person truly being punished in this type of arrangement is the victim – a disturbing example of the Torah’s patriarchal views and authorship.

If the Torah had been written by women, I’m pretty certain that marriage between a rapist and victim wouldn’t be conveyed as punishment for the rapist, and this type of “punishment” probably wouldn’t have appeared at all. The text, as it is written, completely erases the woman’s victimhood and trauma, and, while framing it as a punishment, actually gives all of the power and privilege to the rapist. To add insult to injury, the text makes it seem like the woman benefits from this type of arrangement, when in reality, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

This text illustrates the great importance of being aware of who has a voice and who doesn’t; who gets to tell stories, and who isn’t given a voice. The recent flood of sexual violence allegations as well as the #MeToo movement represent women seizing control of the narrative, and that’s extremely significant. However, there remain those voices that sympathise with the predators because of how they’re being punished, just as the Torah does, when it’s the survivors who should finally be receiving the sympathy and support they deserve.

In the aforementioned headlines, there’s an emphasis on men in positions of power who have taken advantage of women beneath them in rank. These men seem to feel that they are invincible, and they have a basis for feeling so entitled. Companies and even whole industries often work to protect men who have been accused of sexual violence. Women are intimidated or threatened into staying quiet. We see this in the Torah as well. After all, since women are forced to marry their rapists, staying silent is theoretically a way to avoid that fate.

While these past few months are not, by any means, the first time women have come forward to speak out against their attackers, hopefully the mass media attention and the actual punishments we’re starting to see represent a positive shift in our society – a shift away from the type of male privilege we see in the Torah, privilege born of a patriarchal system that’s intentionally designed to benefit men and oppress women. These allegations, and subsequent repercussions, serve as a new message that sexual violence will no longer be tolerated and that sexual predators will no longer be protected.

This content has been provided by the Jewish Women’s Archive

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