The ramblings of a 20-something disabled, queer, feminist, Irish kitty

Posts tagged ‘charity’

Armpits 4 August

This year I am taking part in Armpits 4 August.

Armpits 4 August banner

Armpits 4 August is like a feminist answer to Movember. The idea is that anyone who self-identifies as a woman (whether cis or trans) can take part by growing their armpit hair for the month of August. As with Movember, the goal is to raise money for charity, and raise awareness of an illness that is rarely talked about. Armpits 4 August’s chosen charity is Verity, who are the UK charity for people with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

I first heard about Armpits 4 August a few months ago, via social media. As a relatively newly-found feminist, I was intrigued, and decided to read more. I had never even heard of PCOS before, and I think that that alone is enough reason to take part. According to their website, approximately 10% of women suffer from PCOS, and yet I didn’t even know it existed!

A big part of events like Armpits 4 August are not only raising money, but also raising awareness. There’s lots of helpful information about PCOS on the Armpits 4 August website here.

But Armpits 4 August is an important event, not just for people with PCOS, but for everyone. The amount of misogyny levelled at women (or those perceived as such) on a daily basis is simply staggering, as shown by the Everyday Sexism project.

A fairly major part of this sexism revolves around societal standards of ‘beauty’. From a startlingly young age, girls are taught that they will start to grow more body hair around the age of 12, or whenever puberty decides to strike, but that this is disgusting and they should shave it off as soon as it begins to grow! Combined with fat-shaming, and all the other body-shaming tactics that the media and society churn out, women are constantly bombarded with images and ideas of how they ‘should’ look. This unrelenting pressure to look and act a certain way, this idea that a woman’s body is not even her own, is damaging beyond belief.

Well, I’ve got news for you. It’s MY body. There is nothing disgusting or shameful about having body hair, or spots, or blemishes, or not wearing makeup, or not having perfectly coiffed hair, or not wearing high heels. If I want to shave, or wear makeup, or do any of those things, then I will, but it is my choice, not anyone else’s.

A collage subvertisment that reads 'Imagine never having to shave again! It's easy Just Smash The Patriarchy'

Imagine never having to shave again…

So, this year, I am taking a stand, and taking part. I have been growing my body hair for a few months now, partly in preparation for Armpits 4 August. I have decided to keep my existing pit hair, instead of shaving it off and starting over, as I intend to try dying it, and wanted to make sure the hair would be long enough!

I will be documenting my progress over the coming month on my Tumblr account – Angry Activist Artist  as well as my Twitter account @MyWrath

If you would like to sponsor me, you can do so here. Anything you can give would be very much appreciated.

Alternatively you can visit the main Armpits 4 August justgiving page.

If you would like to find out more about the charity Verity itself, please check out their website.

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Self Injury Awareness Day

Trigger Warning: Self harm

Today, 1st March, is Self Injury/Harm Awareness Day. This is a particularly important day for me, and one that I feel does not get enough attention. Self harm is still a taboo topic, which people shy away from talking about all too often. Even I avoid talking about it most of the time, as I know that doing so upsets the people around me. I even find myself hiding the artwork that I do instead of self harming, because seeing such dark paintings would also upset people! But you know what? Not talking about it only makes it worse.

And so it pleases me greatly that there are charities and initiatives devoted to this topic, and who use today to raise awareness of self harm and how prevalent and damaging it is. When researching the topic, I found 2 particularly informative charity websites.
The first, www.selfharm.co.uk contains some important information, and disturbing statistics. The only problem is that it seems to focus entirely on teenagers and young people, as though once you hit the age of 25 all your problems magically disappear and you no longer feel the urge to self harm.
The second site, www.lifesigns.org.uk, while being a bit of an eyesore in it’s design, at least acknowledges that people of *any* age can be affected by self harm.
Sadly both sites perpetuate the gender binary, declaring that self harm is not just a ‘girl thing’ and boys do it too, completely dismissing anyone who does not identify as either of these. But I guess Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I hope these sites do more good than harm even if they are not perfect.

But I digress. I wanted to give a personal account of my own experience of self harm.
I have been self harming for as long as I can remember, certainly before the age of 9 (when I was first treated for depression). I have been told by professionals that I learnt to do this as a coping mechanism because I did not learn any of the ‘normal’ methods of expressing emotion, especially anger. My anger was stifled, it was an emotion I was simply not allowed to feel, never mind express. So I bottled it up and took it out on myself physically, regardless of who or what I was actually angry at.

To this day I am still not sure what a ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’ way to express anger is. I try to use other methods such as writing, painting, or, on rare occasions, actually talking to the person who has angered me and discussing the situation like a healthy grown up. These alternative methods are always a struggle though, and my first gut reaction is always to hurt myself in some way, or to lash out violently. This second part is the scariest. Sometimes I self harm because what I *want* to do is express myself violently outwards, at others, where others can see it. Thankfully since I went on medication a few years ago this side of myself has been easier to control, but it is still there, and it still terrifies me. One of my biggest fears in life is that someday I will lash out violently and I will lose the people closest to me as a result. And so I turn the anger inwards. It always seems better to hurt myself than others.

I had an extremely frustrating assessment with a psychiatrist a couple of days ago. She admitted to me that she intends to write a letter to my GP saying that she is discharging me despite knowing that I will continue to self harm until I undergo intensive therapy. The anger I felt in that meeting was overwhelming. This doctor in essence admitted that even though they are aware that I will continue to injure myself on a regular basis, I must wait several more months to begin therapy and they will not take any more drastic measures because they do not think I am a danger to others.
And whatever organisations like selfharm.co.uk might have you believe, even this doctor is not delusional enough to think that I will magically stop self harming in 35 days when I turn 25 and am no longer to be deemed a ‘young person’.

As I mentioned before, until now I have been too frightened to share the artwork that I make instead of self harming. But as it is Self Injury Awareness Day, I think I shall finally bring some of these pieces out into the light. They may be dark and distressing and all sorts of other negative things to other people, but to me they are a positive thing. They are what I create when I have just enough self control to paint instead of hurt myself, when I can take scissors to paper instead of skin. They may be an ugly outpouring of feelings that people do not want to see, but at least they are *out* instead of stuck inside me. Surely this is a good thing?

Red snowflakes and black text that reads UNWANTED, Drops of Blood in the Snow, drop by drop, it all comes pouring out

Drops of blood – My only painting specifically *about* the urge to self harm

 

black on red oil pastel piece

Pure rage – Quick pieces like might not look pretty but are particularly good for getting the anger out in a hurry.

black lines on bright pink paper, and text that reads 'pain' over and over

Pain – It makes no sense to me at all, but sometimes when I’m in physical pain it makes me want to self harm

Paper and bubble wrap collage including key words re mental illness - psycho, depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc

Psycho – This time I took scissors to paper instead of my skin.

 

 

There’s a lot more art where this came from, and maybe soon I’ll find the courage to post it all on my Tumblr. I honestly don’t know, are these disturbing? Can you look at these and feel my pain and anger? I know they’re not pretty, but they’re healthier than scars, right?

I feel like I’ve been too critical of the charities mentioned above. I genuinely feel that the work they do is very important. In fact, charities are one of the only things keeping me alive right now. During my current breakdown the NHS has failed me over and over again, but I have turned to charities, namely OSARCC, Mind and Samaritans and they have given me the help and support that the doctors have refused me. Someday when I am better and hopefully earning more again, I will give back to these 3 charities in particular, for without them I might not even still be here. I urge anyone who can to support any and all mental health charities. Whether you offer them your time or your money or whatever else you might have, these services are vital and horrendously underfunded.

And it all comes back to the fact that mental illness and self harm are still taboo topics in our society. Not enough people talk about them are far too many people feel that they have to suffer in silence. So even if it is just for one day, please help us smash this ridiculous and outdated stigma. Talk about it. Write about it. Tweet about it. Paint about it. Think about it. Please.