The Long Haul Imposter and Ageist Wank

Ageism and sexism have always been dance partners. Like peas in a pod. Like flies to shit piles.

I felt invisible until I was 45. So whilst I’ve packed as much as I can into my life, I’ve mainly kept my head down and tried to stay invisible.

Then I started doing comedy. Now as I enter my 49th year I am more visible than ever and here for the long haul.

For the first time in my life I feel my story is important. That all our stories are important. If we are going to get truly intersectional, now is the time.

I wanted to write about the feminist cause and how long it takes to get things done and how we will always need feminism. But then I thought that was best told through my story.

Largely because, now, more than ever I am beginning to see the signs of a new “ism” for me.

I know ableism. This is a reality of being on the spectrum and having some acquired injuries as well.
I know sexism. All too well and I tell these stories on stage as a comedian to remind the world we still need feminism. I have experienced the “tone policing of the patriarchy” where I wasn’t allowed to like myself, let alone be proud of my achievements. Men and women in my circle of influence ran me down for any shred of pride. Until I left that circle of influence.

But this fucking ageism that says I am not allowed to be proud of where I’ve come to because I am now less relevant or need be humble? WTF. This is usually spoken before they know my history, based on zero knowledge of that story. However I’m “older” and these generalisations are usually accompanied by a range of comments about age.

Sometimes the use of humility, “stay humble”, is just another way the patriarchy tones polices women. I’ve done my fair share of self-depreciation sheathed in a supposed “humility”. No more.

I’m not promoting myself as dull for no-one, not even for the Dalai Lama.

As a side note, I’ve been retreating and studying eastern thought on subjects such as humility for a decade now and I’ve met a few significant Lamas. None quite the Rockstar of his holiness, but the contradiction of people commodifying Buddhism to the west so it can be culturally appropriated is not lost on me. I’ll just use mindfulness and meditation as techniques in and of themselves and stop trying to twist humility to serve the patriarchy.

I find it fascinating when women use humility in a way that was once used like “sweet, nice and passive” was once heavily used for oppressing women. Internalised misogyny is something we all work to recognise and manage.

Now I am proud of my achievements, proud of my place on the autism spectrum, proud of my association with feminist action (even before I called it that) – and that new ism of ageism is interfering with my pride.

I am not having any of this ageism wank masquerading as “relevance”. It can fuck off. I’m going to tell my story, whether people think it is relevant or not. Because there will be someone who benefits, someone who walks away from it feeling better or more empowered.  Even one is enough.

I currently work with a group of 40 plus of the cleverest women and men I have ever worked with. I’m not naming that organisation because I like to keep my public face and private face separate. But let me just say I regularly don’t feel bright or clever enough to work with them at all. I feel like an imposter sometimes.

Today my Chief Executive Officer reminded me it was time to let that go and by golly gee gosh (irony alert: isn’t that just such sweet older lady talk, I’m just saying it like some expect me to!) – she is right.  I am one of this crew of clever people. But this story isn’t just about me or the cohort I work with. It’s about how all women survive. It’s another story of survival and resilience. We really do need to honour ALL our stories.

This ageism is interesting, especially when a woman nearing 50 is assumed to have had a “traditionally female life”. Or that her history is not as relevant as younger contemporaries (whether traditional or otherwise). This suggests that we only assign value to whatever story is commodified by popular culture. Still, popular culture tends to, unfortunately, reinforce sexist norms about a woman’s beauty being most important. She is then, either a relic of the past, or, less relevant as she ages. If she dares modify her appearance she is then told to act her age.

Damned if you age gracefully, damned if you age disgracefully, just damned if you age. So age! Age however you fucking want and enjoy every freaking bit of it.

I’m here for the long haul as a feminist as old and irrelevant as some might assign me. As I always have been a feminist, unknowingly for a period, but nonetheless worthy of the label.

So, it matters not what anyone else thinks really. Besides, if I can wear a large vulva costume on stage and sing rewritten show tunes about reproductive rights – I clearly don’t care if certain quarters don’t like me. My audiences have been happy and the audience does not lie.

Desperately staying relevant is the new corset. The foot in our back is the patriarchy.

I was originally an accidental feminist who was most influenced by a father who didn’t believe in traditional notions of gender. I now know that as an AS woman I am less likely to be drawn to traditional notions of gender binaries, so that makes sense. I never understood “girl stuff” vs. “boy stuff”. If I wanted to do something, I did it, aided and abetted by a father who was 20 years older than my peers’ fathers. It wasn’t until I was studying at 28 I discovered the world of feminist literature and then I realised I was quite the feminist. I have worn the label with pride ever since.

I joined the military as a teen because I hated school and dropped out in year 11 and I decided to follow the rather dreadful family tradition of service. I started out a clerk supply in the Royal Australian Air Force, even though I had applied for technical positions. I had done all my trade related subjects at high school, but I was told I did not have the “aptitude”.

A year in to my service, my Commanding Officer at 486 squadron Richmond noticed my tech ability and let me become what he called a “pseudo-techo”. I was trained to do duty crew on the flight line – marshalling, refuelling, towing and doing general checks of Hercules C130 aircraft.  When the bases education officer revisited my recruitment tests, I most certainly did have the right aptitudes and there were tech places when I signed up.  So some sexist creep decided they wanted to limit the numbers.  This is a story I have heard from quite a few women in the forces from the 1980’s and 90’s.

With my CO’s support I quickly applied to become an Instrument Fitter (known as a re-muster when you are already in the services). Off I went to trade training and then went onto to be one of the first female Avionics tech to graduate (this was after becoming an Instrument fitter first).

I found myself part of a total quality team leaders’ group in the Royal Australian Air Force that convinced command to bring in paper recycling. It’s a funny story – I’ll tell it one day. So, yeah, green sensibilities are not new.  Sorry not sorry.

I also need to say that the two women in a unit of 300 had to ask for a toilet to be allocated to us. Then we had to share it with senior officers who went to extreme lengths to keep it to themselves (a story for another day). We were required to walk 500m, only to be abused for taking too long to pee. Yeah, you read that right. This was 1992, not 1942.

When I left the RAAF, I went on to train as a Scuba Dive Master (and there were very few females in the industry).

Unfortunately, I did a round with “the bends”. Surviving two forms, Neurological and Musculoskeletal Decompression Illness after a dive went wrong and I rescued two students in bad conditions. I was treated in a hyperbaric chamber for a few days on 100% oxygen. This was after being flown at low altitude from Maroochydore to Townsville and after a long delay. Horrifying. Painful. Debilitating and almost fatal.

The next few years were more hell and I successfully sued my dive operator for damages, only to get a mere $25 000 after six years of lost income. At that time the insurance giant HIH was crashing and my dive operator was insured with a subsidiary. My payment was limited as part of the government bailout for HIH.

I went on Today Tonight at 23 to raise awareness of the need for a hyperbaric chamber in Brisbane. For bends patients, cancer patients and the gamut of other conditions that benefit from hyperbaric medicine. I got 1000 signatures with others working on a petition. Thank goodness for all those electronic petitions now, I don’t have to walk the streets and talk to people I am literally scared of.  Comedy audiences are further away…over there. Now there is a shiny Hyperbaric Medicine facility at Wesley Hospital.

I have a copy of a dreadful That’s Life magazine with a story about me in it that a friend returned to me last year, she had hung onto it for over 20 years. The reporting was all about my husband’s despair about my difficulties, not about my bravery or my recovery. But that was considered the only thing important in 1994.  It was also part of the narrative that covered up the abuse of women with disabilities or mental health issues.

At 27, a new mum and in the abusive marriage from hell, I decided to go to University, despite still recovering from an acquired brain injury. In addition, I was regularly being misdiagnosed with a range of mental health conditions at the urging of my abuser who actively informed the medical process and who worked hard to keep me sick. It’s hard to cope and heal from significant injuries while being tortured in other ways.

It’s so easy to blame domestic violence on a woman’s mental health, particularly when she is recovering from a serious injury/illness. Any retaliation can be deftly blamed on her and the society that has normalised that violence goes “but the wife was crazy”. It’s a view that, thankfully, today is beginning to fade as we strip back the myths of violence against women.

Interesting how I have thrived ever since I left that relationship. If that is not proof enough, I don’t know what is. I have never remarried and came out as bisexual in my early 40’s.

It turns out that in my mid 30’s I was properly diagnosed with Asperger’s but I rejected it until my 40’s. Every treatment (except for my forays into mindfulness and meditation) up until then was potentially damaging and I wasn’t sure I wanted another label. The earlier PTSD diagnosis was accurate, but that was made worse by abuse.

In the late 1990’s I worked hard to use the techniques a neuropsychologist taught me to rewire my brain. I learned to manage my mental health and what I know now were AS meltdowns, not psychosis. I can now de-escalate them by working with my sensory differences (hypersensitivities to noise, sound and my vision) instead of working against them.

At 34, I graduated from the University of Queensland with Honours in Anthropology (socio-linguistics). I left my husband and went to become a sacred sites anthropologist in Alice Springs.

I lived in Alice Springs for two periods of 9 years and 2 years. I did interesting social justice related work. Drove 26 000 km off road and recorded song and story with local Aboriginal people. Worked with violent men in maximum security educating about family violence. Helped build Indigenous road crews along the Tanami Road. Worked as a homelessness advocate. Worked for Alice Springs Women’s Shelter and for Gap Youth Centre in differing capacities.

In between stints in Alice Springs I did similar work and a bit of lecturing in critical literacy in Cairns in Far North Queensland. I then did 6 months in China teaching English part time while I finished writing my historical fiction book (which is currently with last edits with a publisher – hopefully to go to print in the next year all going well).

Then did a year in Darwin in 2015 (and then back to Alice Springs in 2016). During that time I doing stand up comedy and it has morphed into women’s rights issues based comedy and my solo show about growing up different.

In July I moved to Melbourne. I experienced a low-level sexual assault at work in February in Alice Springs. A random off the street tried to force his way in a building while groping at my breasts. That was it. I’d had enough of frontline work. I struggled with it and got lots of counselling. Had some months off and had to live off the good will of friends in Melbourne for accommodation during that period. It was extremely difficult, but I am glad I decided to take a leap of faith and come home to Melbourne (I was born here, but have not lived here since 1974).

So the sexists, the ableists and the ageists can all kiss my broad, middle aged, cottage cheese, faded tattooed ass.

I’m here. To stay. See you at Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The show’s called Mad Pride. It’s the 4 – 5th April (I’m the 5th) at 7 pm. Firefly Room – Newmarket Hotel. Inkerman St. St Kilda.

Book at http://www.comedyfestival.com.au

Bi the Bi Positive

*Satire* Unsure? Google “satire” before reading further. I shared an article recently about how being sex positive is viewed by the world on Facebook. I’ve been online dating recently and a few things have been brought this into a stronger focus for me. The reactions I’ve experienced to wearing a vulva costume (if they find my comedy page) and to being sex positive are interesting. Add to that the perceptions of bisexuality and it’s a recipe for utter heteronormative wankery. So I thought I clear a few things up (this is tongue in cheek, not a vent, no advice or splaining required, just read and enjoy or ignore):

1. Bisexual does not mean I want a threesome. I usually want someone of any gender who has a brain – with a range of traits I admire. If your brain automatically takes you to “threesome” when you hear bisexual you don’t have much of a brain. *There are sex positive people who are up for a threesome of all sexualities, but best not to make assumptions.

2. Sex positive does not mean I’ll have sex with you just because you offer or place pressure or obligation upon your “sexy” offer. That just makes you a creep. Even if you are not a creep and I lose interest, I’ve lost interest. Try being interesting. I might joke about being “greedy” as a bisexual – but I don’t mean gluttonous. Sex drive is personal and not dependent on sexuality. A little bit like choice of car. Some people drive a 4WD and never go off road, some 4WD drive owners regularly off road and others wish they had a 4WD and complain about everybody who does. Don’t be the latter person whilst secretly wishing someone in a 4WD will pick you up. If you want a 4WD, consider owning one and if that’s for you, own one and drive it how you like.

3. Sex positive does not mean sex all the time, with anybody because you can – it means you are not hung up on what sex may or may not mean to you. It may still mean that sex + people have things that turn them on or off – and they are unlikely to judge others for the same. Sex addiction is something else. Think of it like “I like a drink when I feel like it on a regular or non-regular basis”…not “I want to live above a pub, wear a hip flask and maintain a blood alcohol level at all times”.

4. Sex talk or talk about sex does not worry, shock or delight me in the slightest – it’s neutral. That being said, if you think talking sex all the time is to impress me or get my attention, I’m going to go “sex is a normal, intrinsic part of life, like walking, eating, sleeping and normalising it is important but I don’t talk about sex all day”. If you do talk about sex incessantly, I’m going to ask you if you talk about eating, walking and sleeping at the same frequency. If so, I understand, but if not; your point is?

nb: politicians obsessed with regulating other people’s sex lives need to shut up and sit down. That or get a good dominatrix to sort themselves out (yes Cory Bernardi, I mean you).

5. I wear a massive pink vulva on stage. That’s about being okay with bodies and not viewing them or any part of them as ugly or dirty – not about sex per se. I don’t tell sex jokes wearing the vulva – that’s low hanging fruit. If unsure please read numbers 1 – 4, over and over until you fucking get it.

6. Being open about sexuality does not mean anyone deserves to be a target for other peoples hang ups. It does mean people misunderstand and that’s okay. Again if you have a problem with people openly declaring that they are not heterosexual, then perhaps you need to examine your own attitudes about sex first. Being open is a way to prevent people with hang ups wasting my time. It’s like a sign at a restaurant, no more, no less. The whole fucking universe (literally) is not all straight and some non-straight people are only speaking up because you heteronormatively obsessed people are walking into a buffet looking only for lentils and then getting annoyed cause it’s a buffet.

7. Consent. This one word is like the most important word in the sexual universe. If you don’t fully appreciate it, do some fucking research. Same goes for the necessary sexual and reproductive health precautions.

And finally…

8. Yes, I like “dick”. Sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. Depends on who it is connected to or operated by. Yes, indignant phrases like “but you like dick right?” have been said to me by a few people of the male gender when I’ve not been interested and they are feeling confused. Having a dick does not make you automatically and irresistibly attractive. What makes you attractive is a combination of actions, words and physical and non-physical features. But carrying on about how I should like your dick is not a free pass to anything other than sexual dinosaur land. Remember dinosaurs? Extinct, yes?

Don’t be a dinosaur 🙂 or though I always kinda liked those ones with the really long necks that snorted snot on the kids in Jurassic Park movie.

#sexpositive #heteronormativebullshitcanfuckoff

#bisexual

I hear you and I love you

I hear you. I love you.

There have been a lot of you lately. In the press. On social media.

I hear how you demean other women for speaking up about harassment and abuse. I hear your internalised misogyny.

Here is what I hear you say:

“Don’t waste police resources for a small thing like harassment”.

“Get over it”.

“You need to deal with your past”.

I hear you. I love you.

If you are ever harassed, abused or assaulted I hope you report it. But I know it’s not easy.

But I will gladly stand beside you.

Believe you. Hear you. Love you.

I’ll hear you and believe you if you are harassed and need support. I’ll choose to love you.

I reported violence to the police and they told me he loved me. For a headlock.

No one heard me. Not even the police.

Since then I’ve seen huge changes with police culture and I’m happy to report now – but many voices once told me not to. I nearly died. But I’m here and I’m not letting fear get the better of me.

I hear you. I love you.

That’s just one example of horrors I have recovered from. Talking about them doesn’t mean I haven’t healed. It means I can hold peace with my past and be strong enough to carve a better way forward – with honesty.

I love me now. So I won’t hesitate to stand up to harassment and abuse – even when it’s you, another woman, trying to strip me of my right to be heard. I hear you extending the reach of the patriarchy with your compliance, your collusion. I love you.

I feel fear too – but I face it. I’m hopeful that you can one day too.

But I’ll love you too. I’ll call you out on your hatred and condoning of harassment when you diminish its impact. That’s how I’ll love you.

I’ll process the hurt you inflict on me and I’ll choose to love you after you’ve shown how much you hate your own sex. But I won’t buy into the narratives that say women like me are man haters for speaking up.

I hear you. I hear how when you minimise other women’s experience of harassment and abuse, how much you dislike your own sex. I love you.

I love you. I hope you can learn to love your own sex and face that internalised misogyny head on.

I hear you. I love you.

Reflections on The Bachelor – Desperation TV

It’s been a while since I posted. Post Fringe Festival lethargy!

But this TV show The Bachelor and the recent uproar! Wow! I don’t watch commercial TV, but “The Bachelor” came on my radar this last two weeks, so I watched the last two episodes. It’s not that I dislike all reality TV, just the non-sensical dating versions.
Apparently, the Honey Badger (seriously, wtf? his name is Nick Cummins) decided not to pick either of the two women the shows twisted process of shortlisting had reduced the pack down to.
Outrage! Some defended him, some defended the women. I’d like to say – let’s not focus solely on the contestants and look at the format as a whole and how it diminishes men and women.

I found myself angry at the rubbish being peddled as journalism. The whole thing is a capitalist neo-liberal wank-fest aimed at diminishing women to good looking brides and diminishing men to muscle bound bread-winners who call all the shots.

The 1950’s I hear you calling and I wish you would sit the fuck down and remember you lost.  Oh! How dare you! I hear some fans say. But hear me out because you don’t have to like the show less because someone else dislikes it (fancy that!).
“But the women are smart and he is successful and…” Blah. Blah. Blah.
Yes, but the entire premise is basically about the idea that women are only handbag like accessories to men and men are supposed to wear all the responsibility and make all the important decisions.

Even “The Bachelorette” is about old toxic ideas of men competing for sexual and/or social access to a woman. Dog eat dog, get the woman at all costs. Men, don’t be vulnerable or real, women be passive and nice even when you choose the men (cause you can’t really be in control because they will have “killed” each other to be front and centre). I am not the first to say this either…

But the offshoot of that is, in the recent Bachelor Nick Cummins, who allegedly told us all to “get over it” (and I agree with him), he decided to “shock” us by not picking anyone.  I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Some commentators were horrified that he defied his duty of objectifying a bunch of women and not culling the herd to just one of beautiful “girls” (for fucks sake they are women) who gave up jobs and lives to be on the show. Whilst there is some part of that resonates because women often are the ones to move to be in relationships, I think they had more agency than that – cause they are successful women in their own right before and after they were on The Bachelor.

Perhaps we should be horrified at something else. The fact that women with successful lives and careers and still in their “prime” physically should by portrayed by the media as not having any choice but to accept him and that somehow he took away that choice. The problem is not them as individuals, I respect their choices to be there. The problem, as I see it, is that this show exists to perpetrate the view that these women are still incomplete without a man and the backlash to no one being “chosen” is proof of that.

Folks, kisses are not contracts.  Remember that? And thank fuck they are not.  I don’t want to go back to the days of being forced to marry someone cause I kissed them or slept with them and the social authorities (as the media sometimes place themselves) deemed it necessary penance for being “sullied” (such bullshit). Fuck that shit.

I need to stress that the “contestants” on these shows do have agency in the perpetration of the networks dumpster fire delusion and that I don’t see them as victims.  I hope they turn it into something worthwhile (which many of them do). But the narrative impact on the masses is worrying. I think someone should do a study on what it does to their lives long term and have contestants reflect back every five years for the next twenty. Now that would be interesting TV! Maybe that would be worthwhile to counter the sexist rubbish the current show format is.
There are no winners here from a media point of view and there should be. Some parts of the media are using this to cling to old century views of rigid gender stereotyping.
The media has infantilised the women as “girls”. Nick should “explain himself to the girls” as though they can’t have an independent thought without a detailed analysis from him. Nick is diminished for not being decisive enough and for not being sure in something that could be predation and for being honest about being “a bit lost”. What crap.
Let’s look at this through a less old fashioned lens:

  • Well done Nick for not putting these two women through any more indecision and being honest and open about your feelings on air to millions of viewers. You are not less of a man because you decided not to stuff them around any further and were uncomfortable with playing with their feelings, despite what the network may or may not have told you to do. If more men walked away when unsure rather than play head of the household power games we would have less women and children being psychologically abused or, worse, dying each week at the hands of their intimate partners because they “can’t let go”. The pressure on men to be in charge is huge and it results in suicides and other toxic behaviours.
  • Well done to Brittany Hockley and Sophie Tieman and the host of other women who put themselves out there. But most importantly bravo that you all have lives to go back to and can make choices to be able to take this time off for a potential extension of your career to TV. How you have agency in the world is a choice and you are what we all fight for, women with choices who could take time off and enter this show. It may be a career move for many of you. Even if I think the show is rubbish, the fact you got in there and were successful before and after the show and have the ability to be mobile professionally to do so is a testimony to your personal agency as women. May you go from strength to strength.

But I do think we should create a whole new channel called DTV (Desperation TV) just for histories sake. So once, these things are history, we can sit and watch them as a glorious guilty pleasures of old.

Like the time we now go to the museum and gasp at the old washing copper boilers and wood fired ovens that we once slaved over by candlelight with six children at our feet.  Cause this is where this patriarchal bullshit belongs.

We can gasp at Desperation TV just for shows like The Bachelor, Farmer Wants a Wife, Paradise Island and The Bachelorette.
We can gasp at when people watched (and often modelled their lives off) the beautiful ones in captive environments like “Ken and Barbie Zoos” preying upon each other in some inane perfection quest to maintain a rigid gender trajectory that doesn’t really exist anyway.
Heteronormative bullshit at it’s best. I do love that Vietnam’s The Bachelor had two female contestants fall in love and it went to air. That is refreshing.
So let’s call this new TV channel – Desperate TV. Not because the individuals in the shows are desperate, but because the existence of these ridiculous and insulting programs is because the old world is hanging desperately on and clinging to the patriarchal life raft that is dating based reality TV.

I hope contestants are well paid – but they are probably not and that is a blog entry for another time…

*By the way, why isn’t The Bachelorette named “The Spinster” (which is the gendered term for older unmarried woman past her “prime”)? Oh…that would mean that it is clear that the entire show is measured against the old-school gender gaze…or symptomatic of the patriarchies desperation to keep women in their proper place. Young (or young looking), pretty, dependent on men for everything and happy to be so. The fact that older, successful, happily single women of all shapes and sizes who are independent in their own right (and queer too) exist would not make good TV according to the reality TV schtick. Sigh.  Can’t wait to shove that shit in a museum.

The Girl who Cried Blood Pressure and Gender Bias in Medicine.

That’s the Red Sea in the featured image.  When I was in my 20’s I couldn’t have possibly imagined ever being able to snorkel off the coast of Egypt.  But at 47 I did.

In 1993, at 22 I nearly died in the sea.  Off the coast of Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast.  My scuba dive operator (I was a Dive Master trainee) was so obsessed with completely the dives for a course that he did not think safety was much of a concern.

The result was two students who kept floating away and me chasing them.  I got the bends; a nasty combination of neurological and musculoskeletal forms.   Before I go any further…no, I didn’t “come up too fast” – it’s much more complicated than that and can take hours to experience symptoms.  That’s Hollywood bullshit.

Ever since my life has been plagued by all sorts of health issues related to being in a hyperbaric chamber after a delay of 28 hours before I could get treatment.

One of the issues is uncontrollable blood pressure (BP).  No matter what I do.  I could sell my soul, strike a deal with the druids, have an exorcism or launder money for the mafia to pay for a black market heart transplant and none would work.

For years I thought that my BP was related to the neurological trauma of the accident and subsequent treatment.  A couple of doctors with some specialist training agreed, but invariably most doctors (both male and female) didn’t pay any attention to my concerns.

In the last ten years I have had it confirmed via two specialist doctors and a lot of testing.  There is nothing wrong with my heart – my brain (in the driver’s seat of controlling my blood pressure) has rejected the notion that I need reasonable blood pressure to survive.  *Damn you, brain*

It’s extremely frustrating to be told by the medical profession that you do not know your own body.  Try that for over 25 years, only to finally have your viewpoint validated in 2013 and 2018.

I’ve done everything to keep my BP at bay.  Most recently I had a virus for a few weeks and my medication for hypertension did not absorb, resulting in a hospitalisation.

When I go to hospital I am a bit of curiosity for doctors, but until recently that hasn’t been necessarily positive.  Most of them won’t get to meet a survivor of Neurological Decompression Illness (NDCI) in their careers.

This recent hospitalisation this past week was the nicest hospital visit (albeit under awful circumstances) since like…forever.

I’m used to blank stares from nurses and doctors when I mention the NDCI, blood pressure and my constant battles with chest pain.  But this visit this did not happen.  In fact there was a great deal of knowledge about it and I was treated with respect – not suspicion or condescending disbelief.

The Huffington Post has recently brought up the phenomena of gender bias towards women as patients.  I found the article of interest about gender bias in the treatment of pain whilst sitting in a hospital bed.  I was going through what I go through every few years with the medical profession around the “mystery” of my blood pressure and associated chest pain.  It’s not a mystery to me, but hey…what would I know?

Laurie Edwards, in the 2013 NY Times article “The Gender Gap in Pain” writes:

The oft-cited study “The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain” found that women were less likely to receive aggressive treatment when diagnosed, and were more likely to have their pain characterized as “emotional,” “psychogenic” and therefore “not real.”

If you want to see the original study referred to above you can find it linked at the bottom of this post.

I know at times I have been referred for mental health services for describing the pain I experience as a post-bends patient, rather than take me seriously.  I even had one doctor refuse to take seriously dangerous blood pressure because he thought it was “emotional”.

Yet prior to getting the right medication mix, I could meditate and be totally chilled and still have massive blood pressure. When properly medicated it comes down to normal.

I am reminded of the time in 2009 when I meditated in the emergency room to prove to the young male doctor there that I was not merely “stressed out and emotional unnecessarily”.  I managed to drop my heart rate down so low he said he was “impressed” and yet my blood pressure stayed dangerously high.

He concluded that, at 39 years old and after years of arguing since I was 22 that I had no control over my BP, “that you clearly need medication”.

No shit Sherlock.

I did everything before the medical profession would take me seriously.  At one point I rode a bike 300km a week, went to the gym three times a week,  meditated twice a day, ate perfectly and lived only for my job and my young child.  I don’t drink or smoke, so that wasn’t a problem.  I didn’t have a life though.  And I still had fucking enormous blood pressure that resulted in chest pain and feelings of general malaise.  All of which I pushed through like the pain in the ass trooper that I am.

Since then I have just stood my ground, changed medications when side effects became a problem and changed doctors when they told me to try diet, exercise and other treatments for heart related hypertension.

I don’t have heart related hypertension – my heart is a fucking legend.  It has allowed me to trek 211km in the Himalayas at altitudes of 4600m no problem.  My heart has put up with average BP of 160/111 – 180/120 for extended periods of time because no doctor would properly medicate me.

This week my cardiac stress test result garnered the words “heart like a Mallee bull” from one of the doctors.  Because my heart could handle blood pressure of 240/140 during the stress test.  Gee…thanks.  Now let’s fix it so my heart and organs aren’t under so much pressure, eh? Yep, goodo.

Yet in the past,  I was often treated as though myself and my blood pressure machine was “all in my head”.  Interesting considering stress does not affect my shitty blood pressure.  It’s just shitty and between 150/110 and 190/120 on a daily basis.

This week a fabulous team at Alice Springs Hospital took all my concerns seriously.  I didn’t have to argue.  Wow. That was different.

One really cool young guy doctor knew a lot NDCI and reassured me that it was most likely that it had caused my struggles with BP and that it should be treated accordingly.

I was in hospital this week because it appears my medication hasn’t been doing what it should for the last 18 months or so.  I got a virus and for the last few weeks my medication wasn’t absorbing and I had bad chest pain and BP of 200/130.  I was admitted to hospital to sort it out.  It was scary.

But the result was that I finally have doctors permission to adjust my own medication dosage, with specific parameters, around my daily blood pressure readings.  Just like a diabetic does with blood sugar readings.

*HOO-FUCKING-RAY.* there is a little happy dance that goes with this…but I can’t replicate it in writing…

There is finally medical acknowledgement of what I have been saying all along.  I never had blood pressure until I suffered NDCI and now it is uncontrollable – no matter how much of a “good girl” I am.

It does get worse when I am around abusive shouty people and things that generally put up people’s blood pressure, that is for sure. Regardless of medication. But now I can bring it back down with the right combination of medication – and removing myself from toxic situations.

It’s taken a while but we got there.

I need to point out I am always calm when I present to hospital with massive blood pressure and chest pain, despite how distressing it is.  Why? Because from 2006 and 2009 they keep referring me as a mental health patient for being upset about chest pain – chest pain that I legitimately had because I had been getting around with massive blood pressure.

In case you didn’t know, carrying around really high blood pressure is shit.  I’m tired for no reason.  My ears ring much louder than normal.  I see a swarm of black dots.  Overy the years some doctors say that is typical with high blood pressure, some have said it’s anecdotal.

But, by fuck, none of those things happen when my BP is normal.  I know have so much evidence from the medical establishment that it is not “in my head” that it’s almost insane in itself.  But still I still have to explain that over and over again.

So now I work really hard not to feel or act emotional about my blood pressure when I present to a doctor, despite how crap I might feel.  I tend to get better response from both male and female doctors.  But the downside is that they then think I am exaggerating;  until they get the blood pressure machine on me and watch me over time.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

So I suppose the moral of the of story is this: if you are female and experiencing pain, expect to be treated differently by the medical profession.  Be prepared for it and don’t tolerate it. 

Even better, if you find yourself having to explain the pain over and over again and it falling on deaf ears – don’t take it.  Print out the study The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain and shove it under their noses and asked to be taken seriously.  Then ask to see someone else and make a formal complaint.

Because a good doctor/s – like the team I had this week, they’ll listen and not treat you like a “malingerer”.

Don’t give up and don’t let any condescending medically trained poop treat you like a “hysterical woman”.  You are entitled to express that you are in pain in whatever way you need to (with the exception of abusive behaviour – that is never okay).  You are entitled to ask for help and to be treated with care and concern, not condescension.