I Believe Her. And So Should You.

I was sexually assaulted again about a year ago.  This time it was different.  It shook me to the absolute core, and I can’t really pinpoint why but I’ve spent the last 12 months just trying to pretend it didn’t happen.  But I can’t go outside alone anymore.  I run from my car to my house when it’s dark outside.  I’m hyper aware of what is happening around me when I’m walking down the street.  And I get nervous as hell when I’m traveling.  It sucks to be afraid ALL OF THE TIME.

Last September, I was traveling for a conference in Albuquerque.  I decided to go to an early morning yoga class before the start of the conference, and the studio was only 4 blocks from the house that we were renting.  I woke up, got ready for class, and out the door I went.  It was still dark outside because it was only about 5:45am, and when I arrived at the studio, the doors were still locked.  I sat down underneath a street light, next to the studio door in the parking lot waiting for the teacher to arrive.

I didn’t have my phone, so I wasn’t distracted during yoga. I didn’t have my wallet because I paid online.  The only thing on my person was my yoga mat.  I sat on the curb for about 10 minutes, and still, no teacher.

Then, very quickly and out of the shadows, a man came from the dark side of the building.   His pants were pulled down around his thighs and he was completely exposed and coming straight at me.  I fumbled to try to get up from off the curb and his penis was within inches of my face.  I threw up my arms to protect my face and yelled out. I don’t even remember what I said, but there was a group of people waiting for the bus just around the corner and they came running.  The man grabbed the crotch of his pants and ran past the building and into the alley.

I started crying uncontrollably… There was a young man in the group of bus folks who sat down next to me and asked me if I was OK.  He called the police for me and waited in the parking lot until they arrived.

I can’t remember all of the questions that the police officer asked me, I was far too disoriented and afraid.  I do remember the last thing that he said to me.  “Well, ma’am, it sounds like there is just nothing that we can do.”  And that was that.

Most victims do not go to the police after a sexual assault, and this is exactly why.  Because they know that NOTHING will happen. That man is probably still out there exposing himself to woman, and likely much worse.  Men like Brett Kavanaugh are a danger to society.  Abusing women is NOT acceptable.  He has no place on our courts.  We need to believe women so that we can STOP this from happening in the future.  Because what men don’t realize is that these stories that I’ve outlined, they aren’t just MY fucking stories! They are the stories of NEARLY EVERY SINGLE WOMAN THAT YOU KNOW!!!

 

 

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Fight or Flight… or Freeze.

The first (and second) time that I was sexually assaulted I froze.

During moments of intense stress or fear, our bodies have this physiological reaction that we often refer to as the “fight or flight” response.  What I didn’t know when I was 18 years old was that there is a third response – the “freeze” response.  This happens when you are confronted with a situation that is so overwhelming that your body is left paralyzed in fear.

This is my body’s response when I feel emotionally or physically overwhelmed.  And this is a legitimate response to fear that can protect us in dangerous situations.  One time while hiking in California, we encountered a mountain lion on a hiking trail.  Instead of running away or yelling to try to frighten it, we stopped (probably I held my breath) and waited quietly until the animal moved on from it’s hunting spot.  Another thing that happens to me when I’m in an emotionally stressful situation such as when someone asks me a difficult question, my mind goes completely blank. Because I am so overcome with the fear of getting the answer wrong, my body literally goes numb and feels tingly all over.

Back to 18 year old me… 

My first semester of college, I did all the things that kids in college do.  I wanted to fit in, I wanted to make friends, and I wanted to be cool. I was also a college athlete, which meant added pressure to fit in with a group of people that I would inherently be spending the majority of my time with. So when I was invited to a party with the football team on a Friday night in December of my first semester of college, duh.  I went.

Also, there was a boy.  He was going to be there too.

I honestly don’t remember much about the party.  I remember heading over with my roommate.  I remember that we were all drinking too much.  I know that I was drinking too much.  I remember that when “the boy” asked me if I wanted to head down to the bar with him, I said yes.  I remember that I had a drink, maybe two, at the bar before deciding I really needed to get home and go to bed… My roommate was on the same page.

We decided that we were going to walk, and a “close friend” (whom I’ll call Joey) offered to walk with us to make sure we made it back to our dorm room safely.  I reluctantly said goodbye to “the boy” and the three of us headed back to campus.

There are a few things that stick out about the walk home.  I remember that we had a difficult time walking – normal for drunk college kids – and that we laughed and stumbled most of the way while Joey helped us along.  I remember when we got back to our dorm room, I climbed into my top bunk and fell out of the bed into a pile of my roommates clothes because we were laughing so hard.  I remember sitting in her pile of clothes laughing even harder that I didn’t hurt myself because of her cushion of dirty clothes below me. I remember Joey helping me back into my bunk and giving me a glass of water.  I remember saying goodbye to Joey as he left the room while my roommate and I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew someone was in my bed, holding their hand over my mouth, trying to take off my clothes.  I knew who it was.  I could smell him.  My response was to freeze – pretend like I was still sleeping, and he’d surely go away.  My brain went blank and my body numb.  I didn’t move.  Being physically, mentally, and emotionally immobilized allows your body and your brain to not to feel the torturous gravity of the situation as it’s occurring.

I can’t go into details about what happened next, but Joey didn’t go away.  And I didn’t go back to sleep. I lay frozen in my bed until the sun came up.

You can judge me for not fighting.  It’s super easy to say, “She should have just fought back.” You can judge me for drinking too much and making bad decisions.  It’s easy to say, “She was underage and shouldn’t have been out drinking at the bar.”  You can judge me for not locking my door after Joey left.  You can blame this all on me by arguing that I put myself in this situation. I’ve already judged myself for all of these and a million other things, trust me.  I have felt such a tremendous amount of shame around my sexual assault, and the years that followed were some of the darkest years of my life.

Ultimately, though, this is something that never goes away, and something that I’ve had to deal with every. single. day.  The trauma that was suffered on that one single night has impacted everything from that point forward in ways that I can never sufficiently describe.

And guess what.  There isn’t a shred of evidence to prove that this ever happened to me.  Putting this out on the internet is the most vulnerable thing that I’ve ever done.  I have to trust that you’ll believe me.  And if you don’t, I have to be strong enough to know that your judgement are just a lack of perspective and understanding.  Because what I know now is that THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT.

I’m sharing this because something desperately needs to change. I’m sharing this because I want you to know the impacts of sexual assault so that you can help support the people that you love who have live through it and are living with it. I’m sharing this as a small way of standing up for others who also might not want to share their stories.  I am sharing this because this is not OK.

I do not have the answers for how to move forward, but I know that telling my story is part of that process.  Telling my story might give someone else the confidence to stand up and share theirs.

 

I feel like I want to tell you a secret…

This secret will very likely change the way that you think about me.

The reason that I want to tell you this is two-fold. First, when I found out my news, I was completely devastated.  I couldn’t stop crying for almost a month.  I basically thought my life was over. I thought the world was ending and I felt like I was dying on the inside.  When I went to the internet for consoling, I found zero articles that were written from the first person.  They were all stories told by someone else to hide the actual person’s identity.  I get it because I don’t want you to know my secret either.  It’s fucking private.  And when you know it, you’re most certainly going to judge me.  The ironic thing is that now that I’ve been living with my secret for some time now, I feel like I judge others a lot less.  Because literally EVERYONE is going through some kind of shit storm at the exact same time you are, and the world would be a lot better off if we realized that.

Secondly, I hate being vulnerable and telling my secret will cut right to the core of all my insecurities. But I’ve grown tremendously from putting this kind of shit out into the universe, so a huge part of me WANTS to tell you.  What I’ve discovered is that when I tell others my secret they almost always just shrug it off like it’s no big deal.  At first I was super pissed at this reaction.  My internal response was something like, “How can this person NOT think this is as big of a deal as I do?! Don’t you realize that my life is OVER?!”  As time has passed, I’ve started to realize that all of those people were right, my life isn’t over.  But there are still very few people who know my secret… Because I’m embarrassed to share it.  And even as I type this post right now, I still can’t bring myself to tell you even though I want to.  I’d love to the be the first person on the internet to tell my secret to the world through my own voice and not through the words of someone else.  I’d love to be someone who is brave enough to share their story so that others can feel comfort in the fact that their life isn’t ending, just as my life hasn’t ended.  But your judgement scares me.  That first time that I see a friend or family member that doesn’t already know, god, that’s going to be awkward… And what if you judge me so hard that you don’t want to be around me ever again, ugh.  (Note that none of these things have happened with the people who DO know, so while I realize this is irrational, this is still 100% how I feel.)

And this is where my heart starts to break. The societal pressure to bury this deep inside is overwhelming. Society says that I have to keep this a secret, but it feels like if I just say the words out loud, it will feel as though an anvil has been lifted off my chest.  But I can’t. I just can’t say it out loud (or type it) because I don’t want you to know.  Because you’re not SUPPOSED to know. Because I don’t want to be LABELED. So I’m going to keep holding onto it, burying it deep inside my soul.

Instead of telling you what my secret is, I just want you to remember that we all have secrets.  You’re not the only one who might be suffering today or tomorrow or the next.  Be a little kinder to those you encounter, be a little more gentle with your loved ones, and show a little more compassion to strangers because you never know what they might be holding just beneath the surface.

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It’s Been Too Long – Here’s the Scoop

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It’s unbelievable that it’s been almost a year since I posted anything…

I started this blog because I love writing… but not in the same way of most people who love to write.  I like to write scientifically, I like to write about the work that I do, I like to pull together grant proposals, I like to write science-y reports, I like to do THAT kind of writing.  The kind of writing that is 100% impersonal, lacks flavor and personality, and will be steeped in facts.  It’s so easy for me to write when it’s not about ME.  This blog was meant to help me talk more about myself, to get more personal, to write more about life and less about science.  My dear friend recently pointed out that I’m an extremely private person (and she was totally right on), and the intention of this blog was indeed my solution to becoming less private. Literally letting the entire world into my life… (I’ve never been good at taking “babysteps.”)

In any case, I failed.  I went straight for the one thing in my life that is super important and personal to me (food) and I made it so much less personal by just posting recipes here and there.  The irony is that I don’t follow recipes. I’m notorious for looking at one then saying, “Eh, I can make it better,” tossing the recipe aside, and diving straight into the kitchen.  I gave you a lot of recipes, told you all about what I do in my kitchen, but I gave you zero content about myself.  Not that YOU necessarily care about ME or the things that I want to write about, but my purpose was to give you those things.  And I failed.

And so, I’m going to give this a real shot.

For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with stomach issues.  At times, my stomach issues were so terrible that I was the butt of many jokes with my friends because I couldn’t keep my rump roaring under control (yeah, that’s a euphemism for farting).  At times I’d be incredibly gassy and bloated, others constipated, and there were moments of the worst diarrhea I can imagine (now finally there’s some openness).   To be honest, I actually didn’t realize that the way that I was feeling was NOT HEALTHY OR NORMAL.  I thought everyone felt like this, and everyone else was just better at keeping their barn burners in the barn (gotta love fart jokes).

It’s been recently brought to my attention that feeling this way is really quite far from normal or healthy.  I said, “Huh? How can this be? Everyone doesn’t lie in bed awake with stomach pain?” Sounds silly to say out loud, I know…  So two weeks ago, I started on a journey to figure out what the triggers are for my digestive issues by starting a low FODMAP diet (WTH is that, you ask? Google it, I say).  UGH.  The word “diet” shatters my freaking heart into tiny pieces because to me it actually spells “restriction.”  (A little more irony for the pot: I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years – but that’s another story.)  I didn’t want to go on a DIET… I didn’t want to have to think about what I was eating and not in a “I will eat all the cookies and donuts” sort of way (maybe sometimes) but more in a “I want to cook what is calling to me when I walk into my beautiful kitchen” kind of way.  Food is my soul.  Feeding my family delicious food is my love language.

The thought of starting a diet was a lot for me to process, yet I desperately wanted to get to the bottom of what was causing all my troubles on my bottom half.  I looked up recipes to (kind of) follow, I did a bunch of research about the foods that I could and couldn’t eat, and then I went grocery shopping and only bought things that I was allowed to put into my body.  I also gave away whatever was already in my pantry that might be triggers so that I didn’t accidentally chef-up something that was going to put me back into mega digestive discomfort.

My mind was completely blown at how quickly everything turned around.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel ANY of the symptoms that I had before.  None.  It was working, and I was learning a ton about how non-restrictive the diet really was (like, I don’t actually HAVE to use garlic and onions in EVERYTHING that comes out of my kitchen).  And then last Saturday night happened…

We drove to Massachusetts for a super awesome show, and I hadn’t even considered the idea of eating at a restaurant as being the worst idea ever.  It struck me as we were looking over the menu that there was literally nothing that I could do to avoid the inevitable, so my strategy was to minimize the impact.  I went for ramen.  It was certainly the best choice for taste and also the most terrible choice for my stomach.  The fresh mushrooms, the garlick-y broth, the marinated onions, the noodles, oh my.  Throughout the entire show I was in pain, throughout the entire drive home, I was in pain, and all night, I was in pain.  When I woke up in the morning, 12 hours after eating, I was still in pain.  You can see in the photo below that even 12 hours after eating, I was still super bloated.  Even 36 hours after that meal (I stuck to low FODMAP after that), I was still not feeling my best.  It took 2 full days to get back on track.  It’s astonishing to me that THIS IS WHAT USED TO BE MY NORMAL!

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But it’s not my normal anymore!!!  The diet isn’t forever, and eventually I’ll start adding things back in one-by-one to find out what the real triggers are for me.  My NEW NORMAL is a path to digestive health, and I’m incredibly grateful that I’ve started to shape my eating into something that makes me FEEL good and not just around something that TASTES good.  I really can have both of those things at the same time (who knew?!).

All that is to say that I’m not going to give you a recipe.  Even if you ask nicely.  This week, I made sesame roasted vegetables with tahini glass noodles.  It was low FODMAP, it was delicious, and I felt really freaking fantastic after eating a bowl of this delightful meal (and scarfing it for lunch leftovers for 2 days).

If you’re still reading, thanks.  That’s a lot of support and I totally appreciate it.

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^Doesn’t that look so tasty!!! 🙂

Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic

Oh man I’ve been down for the count this week.  It all started out as the flu and morphed into something much uglier.  I’m not one for drinking ginger ale, and I mixed up this tonic as an alternative.  A little bit of ginger, a little bit of cayenne, a little bit of lime – all the good things for getting your gut back on track.

Ingredients
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup really good apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp grated ginger
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp honey
2-3 dashes cayenne pepper

Directions
Mix all ingredients in tall glass.  Try to enjoy!

Asking the Universe for Good Vibes (and also Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

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Er-mer-gerd… I haven’t posted anything since November? Really? How on earth does time slip by so quickly?

I’ll tell you how.  It’s this fun trick that I’ve played on myself called, “Getting A Ph.D.” It makes time pretty much disappear.  For the past month, I have spent every waking  hour either 1) doing yoga or 2) studying for my candidacy exams (and by every waking hour I mean I also have hardly slept).  I have spent such little time in the kitchen doing the one thing that I really love, and I’ve eaten more take-out or snack meals than I probably have in my whole life.  Making this simple salad is one of the few times that I’ve been in the kitchen since December. And I’m dying to get back to making GOOD FOOD as soon as possible! However, the end is in sight!

While I did want to get this recipe into cyberspace, the main reason for posting today is a little bit selfish.  Next week, I will be taking the written part of my Ph.D. candidacy exams so I’m asking for all of you wonderful people in the cyber-universe to send as many thoughts and good-vibes my direction over the course of the next week.  I’m trying to stay positive – recognizing that this is supposed to be a stressful time, knowing that it’s supposed to be the hardest exam that I ever take, but that isn’t exactly comforting!

Thanks to everyone (especially my family) for supporting me through this whole crazy process, because I wouldn’t be here without so much love surrounding me!! I appreciate you all SO MUCH! Wish me luck!

Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Ingredients
1 can chickpeas (or 1 cup cooked chickpeas!)
1 cucumber (chopped)
1 large heirloom tomato (chopped)
1 red onion (diced)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 bunch parsley (finely chopped)
8 oz crumbled feta

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper (to taste)

Directions
1)  Combine chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley and quinoa in large bowl. Top with feta.
2)  Combine lemon juice, yogurt, dill, garlic, and cumin in small bowl.  Whisk to combine.

I like to stir the dressing into the salad and let it sit in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving, but some folks like to have their dressing on the side.  Serve it in whatever way makes you happy!

Samosa Pie

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It feels as though this snowstorm was a harbinger of things to come…

And if all the storms this winter are anything like this one, bring it on because the first snow storm was super productive!  I made some new curtains, knitted up some pot holders to be felted, baked cookies (again!), and made a delicious samosa pie.  This is totally one of my favorite recipes.  I love samosas, but the idea of making individual ones sounds silly when you can just make a giant one!  So that’s what we did… We made one giant, delicious, mouth-watering samosa and had post-storm leftovers!  Here’s the recipe:

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Ingredients
2 pie crusts
4 medium potatoes, quartered
3 tbsp butter or ghee
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cook potatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes or until you can cut them with a butter knife. Drain and mash, leaving small chunks.
  2. Heat butter or ghee (or any oil!) in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, cauliflower, garlic, and ginger, and sauté 5 minutes. Move onion mixture to side of pan, and add spices to the oil. Toast 30 seconds. Stir in peas and vegetable broth. Stir together vegetable mixture into potatoes.
  3. Line bottom of deep-dish pie plate with rolled out pie dough.  Fill pie crust with vegetable samosa filling.  Cover with top crust, trim excess dough, and seal edges with fork.  Bake 45 minutes, or until top crust is golden brown.
  4. Stir together yogurt, cucumber and cilantro.  Serve on top of pie.  I also like to serve this with Indian pickles on the side (limes are the best!).

Also, you could TOTALLY make this vegan by just using olive oil!!!