This post is about addictions, self-harm, self-discovery and eventually, self-care. I recently had occasion to think back to when I was 20 years old. I retraced my steps to the present day for the first time in one sitting and was quite surprised with my reaction to the story of my own life.
Looking back, I was terrified at the prospect of finding my way in the world. At the time, I just knew that I was getting high all the time and felt shame, despair and fear like a lump in my throat almost choking the breath out of me. I was on the verge of a great sadness, constantly frightened and alone.
I looked around for love or sex or something to quiet that feeling of loneliness, but no such comfort was there to be found. I remember awkward, clumsy moments with women and some conversations we had about sexuality, friendship and literature/music. I remember standing in my kitchen talking to one woman on the phone about her attraction to women. She was wondering where to go with it and I wanted to be her friend even if it meant not being a lover. I hope to god that I actually communicated that!
I remember another girl that I tried to get a relationship with, but she eventually stopped the relationship because I had no money and no clear indication that I was going to have any. That triggered my shame issues and I chose to leave for the Green Berets like some romantic sod off to the French Foreign Legion in the wake of a broken heart. (what a mope!)
I figured that if my life didn't change, I was going to end up as someone standing around talking with great authority about how my life would be if I ever lived one.
So, off I go to the Green Berets because it was the hardest thing I could find in the military. I joined the Green Berets because I was lost in my life. I figured that I would either grow up or die trying.
Trafficked women redraw their portraits with a new identity through the lens of photographer Achinto Bhadra. Hemlata Aithani captures the metamorphosis.
From brothels to mainstream, it has been a journey of transformation captured through the lens — the journey of 126 young women rescued from the red light areas in Kolkata and rehabilitated. Capturing their metamorphosis from ‘pain to power’, as they portrayed themselves in characters they could identify with, was acclaimed photographer Achinto Bhadra. At an exhibition organised at Alliance Francaise in New Delhi, he displayed 50 out of the 126 portraits he had created.
While the striking compositions, colour, costumes, make-up, expressions and captions made each portrait captivating, the exhibition for the most part was about the successful reintegration of the young subjects into society; their newly-gained independence; their determination to start life afresh; and how they see themselves and what they identify with.
The photographs were part of a project that began five years ago by the Kolkata-based NGO, Sanlaap, with support from Terre Des Hommes Foundation, Switzerland. “Sanlaap has been working for the past 21 years against the trafficking of girls and women... working with girls rescued from brothels.... and children of commercial sex workers and helping them to come back to main society,” says Indrani Sinha, director, Sanlaap.
Suffering a stroke can have a profound effect on relationships and lead to significant changes in how couples relate to each other on a physical, psychological, social and emotional level, according a study in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Researchers from Northern Ireland have come up with four key recommendations for clinical practice after speaking to 16 married stroke survivors, nine males and seven females, aged between 33 and 78.
They found that sexual relationships were significantly affected after a stroke, gender roles became blurred and feelings like anger and frustration were confounded by a lack of independence and ongoing fatigue.
“All the participants perceived stroke as a life-changing event” says Hilary Thompson, who is based at Mullinure Hospital, Armagh, and carried out the research with Dr Assumpta Ryan from the School of Nursing and Institute of Nursing Research at the University of Ulster.
“They faced a continuous daily struggle to achieve some sense of normality and that required huge amounts of physical and mental effort” adds Hilary, a nurse specialist, who earlier this month won the Patient’s Choice Award at the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year 2009 for the support she provided to the family of a stroke survivor.
Healthy conversation: a group of men discuss the taboo of widow cleansing and (left)former cleanser Esban Ochanga. Photo: Frederic Courbet
The men sitting in the shade of a large thorn tree on the outskirts of Kano-Angola village, 10 miles inland from the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya’s Nyanza province, are in buoyant spirits today. There is bravado, there are lewd jokes, but there are also long periods of silence.
One man in particular commands attention. As soon as he begins to talk, the rest of the group listen deferentially. Esban Ochanga is tall and slender with a far-away look in his eyes. He has called the men together to talk about the practice of widow cleansing, whereby Luo women, after the death of their spouse, are pressurized into having unprotected sex; ostensibly to allow their husband’s spirit to roam free in the afterlife. It is a tradition rarely spoken about in public. ‘I knew my brother had died and they told me it was AIDS, but I thought a Luo could not die because of that virus,’ says Ochanga. ‘So I cleansed his widow and I contracted HIV. That is what killed my first wife.’
I read an excellent piece on 'Not Rape" today, by Latoya Peterson from Yes means Yes. It stirred me. So, here is a piece I wrote about my own life that was posted at The National Gadfly, not long after I began the journey to create this site.
I was 12 or 13 years old, back in '72 or '73. It was summer. I played outside with my friends and did whatever young boys do, with time on their hands and no supervision. My friend Bob and I were outside goofing around. We ran into Jimmy, a man that lived in the neighborhood. He was tall, thin, had a mustache and long hair, in his late 20's or early 30's. He often said hello to me as he walked by. Bob and I saw him and we got to talking. There was a forest preserve across the street from my house, where I often played. As we walked along talking, we entered the woods. I had no reason to be suspicious. I was always in those woods.
Somehow, Jimmy and I became separated from Bob. We were alone in the woods. He told me that he wanted to tell me a joke, but that we should go further up the hill, away from the path. Once we were away from the path by a good measure, he told me that he wanted me to "do him a favor". I had become nervous, but I was too frightened to move. I feared that I might upset him if I did. I began to think in my mind as to how I might control this situation. But, I was not the one in control.