Monthly Archives: September 2017

GENDER | open queer library

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GENDER | open queer library

it’s no secret how much i hate how elitist queer academia is. i think it’s a bunch of bullshit that these highly educated academics preach about how we need to destroy class and gender and all other unfair structures prevalent in our society, but make it virtually impossible for anyone without a university degree to be able to read those revolutionary works they take so much pride in writing. posh language is one thing, but it’s also about access to those works; which is often very rare.

and i say, what a crap. i’m sick of information being available only to those who are approved by the academic circle. and because i don’t wanna end up like those dear academics, complaining about this and that but staying in my educated bubble without actually doing anything to change it, i’ve set up a lil online open queer library for anyone interested. it’s all the PDFs i have saved on my computer, some real classics of queer studies, some more niche studies. i’ve done PDF giveaways on my Instagram before, so why not make it available for everyone all the time?

it’s not much, but it’s at least a little step forward to making the stupid academia a bit more accessible, isn’t it? so just click the link below and read, read, read, my dears, there sure is a lot of interesting stuff!

online queer library open to all

here’s what you can find there so far (will keep on updating):

Sandra Lee Bartky – Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power

bell hooks – Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

bell hooks – Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics

Simone de Beauvoir – The Second Sex

Leo Bersani – Is the Rectum a Grave?

Judith Butler – Bodies That Matter

Judith Butler – Gender Trouble

Judith Butler – Undoing Gender

Judith Butler and Performativity for Beginners (worksheet, summary of Butler’s theories)

Tim Dean – Mediated intimacies: Raw sex, Truvada, and the biopolitics of chemoprophylaxis

Michel Foucault – Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Michel Foucault – The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction

Jack Halberstam – Gaga Feminism

Annamarie Jagose – Feminism & Psychology

Toril Moi – From Femininity to Finitude: Freud, Lacan, and Feminism, Again

Laura Mulvey – Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema

Juana Maria Rodriguez – Queer Sociality and Other Sexual Fantasies

Gayle S. Rubin – Thinking Sex

have fun, educate yourself, and make academia queer again!

ACTIVISM | screw your language elitism

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Screenshot from Melissa A. Fabello’s article “Why Grammar Snobbery Has No Place in the Movement” on Everyday Feminism

 

ACTIVISM | screw your language elitism

hold on before you call out someone on how they phrased something or laugh about their accent. your language snobbery is oppressive and discriminating, so please stop.

it is no secret that i hate the pompous language academia is so fond of using. however, what i want to address in this article is something a bit different, way more common (as in happening to common people, every day, everywhere), and way less bougie. nevertheless, it is equally oppressive and, fancy words aside, stupid.

now this problem is something i’ve noticed both amongst English and Czech speaking folks. and while it for sure happens all across our society, i wanna focus on when it shows up in queer and/or leftist activist community. what the hell am i talking about?

some sort of language/grammar discrimination. you might have noticed it already. it is my native-English-speaking friend who works as an editor and complains when articles aren’t written by other native speakers because he can simply “tell it wasn’t a native speaker.” it is my super activist leftist friends, otherwise incredibly open-minded and accepting, who get into Facebook comment fights almost daily and often call out their opponent’s grammar mistakes. it is native speakers rolling their eyes when someone tries to hold a conversation in a language that’s not their second or third or whatever and stutters or makes grammar mistakes or just has a strong accent. it is anyone who has ever dismissed someone’s opinions for how it was said/written. it is anyone laughing at someone else’s accent, or grammar, or just the way of speaking.

focusing on the form instead of on the message is a) plain stupid, b) an upright refusal to listen to those who aren’t privileged enough. because, surprise surprise, language skills are often very closely tied to class, as class not only gives access to education, it also means being surrounded by people with certain language assets, it determines your learning abilities,… class has to do with a lot of stuff, and often sets what your future life will be from the day you are born. which is why it always outrages me to see queer/leftist people call someone out on their language because suddenly their fight against the oppressive class division is gone and they become the oppressor of those less privileged themselves (and yes, i definitely stand behind the opinion that language skills are a form of privilege).

another thing is that people have learning disabilities. people have problems learning languages. people get nervous and make mistakes? should this mean they should keep their mouths shut and let those more skilled do all the talking/story telling. hell no.

by choosing to focus on how something is said instead what is said is cutting oneself off those most important stories, because those who are least encouraged to speak are usually those we should listen to the most. and when it comes from a community that actively criticizes the oppressive social hierarchy, it is just damn pathetic.

SEX ED | STDs are normal, the end.

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SEX ED | STDs are normal, the end.

never had an STD? cool. 
had one, a few, many? also cool.

so many of my friends boast about never getting an STD, usually not forgetting to mention their head count. i’ve heard it so many times. but let me tell you, hun, you’re not getting a medal for that from me, nah. i mean, it’s definitely a step forward that it’s now more and more common to discuss STDs casually, but i’m not buying all that “look how clean i am” shit, sorry.

because, ultimately, STDs are just illnesses you can catch at any time of your life, just like a flu or mono or whatever. each body reacts differently, and some are more prone to getting ill, some are not. it has nothing to do with who you sleep with, how many people you sleep with and so on. it’s all about coincidence, mostly. and just let me repeat it one more time – the number of your sexual partners does not determine the likeliness of you getting an STD. you can get an STD even after your first sexual encounter.

another thing is, while you might think you’ve never had any STD, chances are you actually have. just because you’ve never experienced an outbreak of symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’ve always been STD-free! so many STDs can stay dormant in your body for years or can cause minimum of symptoms you simply disdain as something normal. unless you get tested regularly, you cannot be sure. and no, a regular gyno checkup is usually not enough.

“but i always use condoms and i bet those people who get STDs don’t!” 
again, shush. sure, condoms are very important in minimizing the risk of getting/transmitting STDs, but they’re not almighty. for example, there are STDs that can get transferred even through the genital area not covered by condoms, such as syphilis, herpes, HPV. speaking of HPV, it is probably the most common “secret” STD people have which is, at the same time, incredibly easy to transmit. all Czechs will probably remember this huge campaign promoting the vaccination against HPV in early 2010s urging everyone with a cervix to get vaccinated asap to prevent cervical cancer (funnily enough, i don’t recall it ever mentioning what the actual cause—an STD—of the cancer was) – well, what they forgot to mention was that the vaccination used in CZ, and in many other countries, was only effective against a few specific strains of HPV but not for all of them. and, what’s more, it is usually pretty common to only use condoms for P-in-V penetrative sex, but STDs can be transmitted even through your mouth too…

it might sound scary, but it really isn’t. we’re brainwashed into thinking that STDs are disgusting, based on the doctrine that our genitals are something dirty and filthy. i guess that’s just some old-age propaganda which attempted to keep people religious, subordinate and sheepish instead of actually enjoying themselves by engaging in sex play. our genitals are nothing scary or disgusting. they’re supposed to secrete fluids (just like our armpits do with sweat), they’re supposed to have a specific smell (again, just like sweat), they’re supposed to be prone to get ill (just like every other body part does).

getting an STD does not make you impure. it does not make you irresponsible. it does not make you stupid. it does not make you a whore or a slut or a fuckboy or whatever. it does not make you any less.

when someone tries to prove how clean, responsible or sex-educated they are by taking pride in never getting an STD, they automatically imply that having an STD is indeed something bad. something to be ashamed of. and through that, they further perpetuate the stigma around sex, they victim-blame, they slut-shame. and that is definitely not right. the whole discussion around STDs needs to be reframed from promoting sexual abstinence and claiming that condoms solve all (and if you don’t use them, you’re a bad, silly, untrustworthy person), we need to focus in normalizing the whole experience, because only then will people feel ok about getting tested, about receiving a proper treatment and it will possible to deal with STD outbreaks, which are still common.

so, repeat after me: STDs are normal. 
STDs are (pretty much) inevitable.
STDs happen. life goes on.
you’re not better if you’ve never had one, you’re not worse if you’ve had.

BODY | anna vs menstrual cups

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BODY | anna vs menstrual cups

i’ve talked about my love/hate relationship with menstrual cups over and over again but i’ve never really fully shared my personal experience with them, have i? i mean, actual personal experience, stories and tips and jokes, right? well, here they are!

as i’ve addressed in this article, the first time i tried to introduce a menstrual cup to my clenched vagina suffering from vaginismus (= involuntary clenching of vaginal muscles which partially or fully disallows foreign objects to enter the vaginal canal, i.e. your vag makes it super difficult for anything to penetrate it) wasn’t much fun. truth be told, it cost me a lot of tears and even more trauma about my extremely tight vaginal muscles than i’d had before, so after a few unsuccessful, painful, and defeating tries, i decided to forget about the idea of ever using that stupid thing again. that questionable cup, which quickly became an instrument of torture in my eyes, was from a Czech brand Yuuki, the smallest size, yet still too big and unyielding for me.

even though i put the idea of being an active cup user on hold for quite a while, the fact that i was using tampons instead was still very upsetting to me. knowing i could not afford to switch to natural alternatives, i felt bad for putting nasty chemicals into my own sacred body as well as polluting the planet with oh-so-much plastic waste. to be honest, it haunted me. so much that i kept on thinking about the cup over and over. so much that i even tried to use it once again, but all those tries were yet again unsuccessful.

but then i started eyeing a different brand of cups sold at a local drugstore, and after checking the displayed sizes out for a while (all three sizes were unpacked so you could compare them and feel the material yourself – that helped me so much!), i decided to give the holy cup a second chance and purchased the smallest one available. it took a bit of practice, but hey, i finally managed to put it after a few tries! as vaginismus is mostly a psychosomatic condition, it took me a while to get used to having this strange object in my vag: even though the cup was small and extremely soft and supple, i was clenching my muscles so much i could always feel it in. and that made me freak out. it actually made me feel physically dizzy and nauseous, just like the idea of getting blood tests done does, and sometimes i had to take it out and instead put a tampon in.

few months in, i’m all good. i’ve mastered a fold that works for me the best (because you gotta fold the cup when inserting it to make sure it slides in and fits smoothly) and i no longer panic because of the idea that there’s “something” (bigger than a tampon) in me. sure, i still have problems with leaking, taking it out takes ages and sometimes, when i’m at home and don’t really have to do anything and my flow’s not very heavy, i prefer to freebleed because i just cannot be bothered to go through all that cup hassle, but i’d say, otherwise, i’m a happy a cup user.

but as i’ve mentioned in so many articles before, cups are definitely not a universal solution for everyone – they might not be your thing, or your body just works better with some other menstrual product, and that’s ok.

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and since many people have asked me about tips & tricks about cups, here are few of them based on my very own experience:

– the cup i’m using now is from a brand called MeLuna, which you can get in pretty much all German dm stores. they come in three different sizes, with three different ends (stem, handle and a little ball), and they also make short cups for those with low cervix (thinking of getting that one too actually!), all in a vast variety of colors. i’m really happy with the cup as it’s really soft, small and easy to fold, and, based on my research, MeLunas should be the cheapest ones on the market. however, i got the one with the handle (like a little O letter at the end) and i’d prefer to have the one with a ball as the handle is sometimes really difficult to grasp with fingers.

– i’d always pick colored cups over the clear ones as those get discolored super fast (period blood makes them go yellow, meh)

– if you’re buying your first cup, i’d strongly suggest going to a physical store where you can check it out irl instead of ordering it online. it’s really difficult to imagine the sizes and materials, so it helps a lot to see and feel the cup before buying it. as i’ve said, the German dm stores all have MeLuna cups now with samples on display (Czech ones also carry cups, but a different brand), most (good) sex shops have them now too, as well as health stores and pharmacies.

– it might happen that your first cup won’t fit. or that any other cup won’t fit. that’s ok.

– so many people fuss about how difficult it is to clean the cup – just get some sterilizing tablets, hun! they’re supercheap and get your cup clean in 15 mins. works like magic!

– don’t push it too far – if your cup gets beyond your cervix (meaning cervix is not in the cup), you will just bleed outside of the cup. happens to me every single time, yay!

– just to make things clear: it cannot get “lost” in your vag. your vagina, unlike your butt, is not an endless void that sucks up anything. in fact, that little fella cervix is there to stop anything from going too far, so don’t worry, there’s no way you will get a cup stuck in you forever. on the other hand, sometimes it takes ages (and a lot of frustration, sweat, and swearing) to get it out, in which case squatting and kegels can help!

– i usually use the so-called Punchdown or Triangle/7 fold technique, the most commonly recommended C fold doesn’t work for me at all!

share your tips, experience or horror stories with me, please!

MENTAL HEALTH | how does anxiety feel?

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MENTAL HEALTH | how does anxiety feel?

ever since i figured that what i’d been feeling pretty much throughout my whole life was this nasty thing called anxiety, i’ve come across a certain problem uncountable times. many people just cannot grasp what suffering from anxiety means, and let me tell you, it ain’t that easy to explain.

i tried writing down some feelz i often have that which i blame anxiety for, but, see, that’s the worst thing about it – i don’t even know if it really is anxiety anymore. is my paranoia caused by an actual reason or not? do i really have zero friends or do i just distance myself from everyone? am i a bad writer or is it just self doubt? etc etc etc. i can’t fucking tell. meh.

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so, how does anxiety feel?

sometimes it feels like being physically sick, like having a neverending flu, your body sore, your muscles weak; when all you want to do is sleep but don’t feel rested even after more than 12 hours of sleep

sometimes it feels like waking up with your heart, lungs, and guts all tangled together

sometimes it feels like drowning; drowning in paranoia and worthlessness and abundance of emotions

sometimes it feels like being paralyzed

sometimes it feels like you will never be able to stop crying, without even knowing why you’re crying

sometimes it feels like no clothes fit you; no matter what you wear, you feel stupid and uncomfortable, and then you have an angry sob in your room full of scattered clothes, feeling like a bratty posh kid

sometimes it feels like literally everyone around you—especially in public—is incredibly annoying; your hearing is heightened, everyone is too loud, moves too fast or too slow, and you just wish you could hide in the dark under the ground

sometimes it feels like everyone hates you, or uses you, or doesn’t wanna spend time with you, and you are and always will be left alone

sometimes it feels like something awful will happen to you in large crowds or unknown places

sometimes it feels like you’re not good enough to text your friend, e-mail your co-worker, call your doctor

sometimes it feels like you cannot focus on a single thing because of the constant worrying

sometimes it feels like not being able to eat anything, or feeling like puking after each meal, or losing taste completely

sometimes it feels like everyone is plotting against you; like an endless paranoia

sometimes it feels like you’re about to shatter to a million little pieces

sometimes it feels like everything is incredibly overwhelming and you just cannot cope

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often, it involves a lot of shaking, sobbing, feeling nervous, feeling alone, feeling worthless.

GENDER | menstrual cups – a blessing or a curse?

(this is an unpublished article written for a sex-positive, educational platform)

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GENDER | menstrual cups – a blessing or a curse?

sure, cups are an awesome invention helping the planet, your wallet and your own vaginal health all at once, but perhaps they’re not for everyone.

based on the media coverage, it seems like all menstruating folks gotta love menstrual cups. but do they really? is really everyone so happy about this so-called wonder of menstrual hygiene? does no one else spend a lifetime trying to get that stupid thing in? is it just me who’s slightly terrified of the size of the cup (even though i have possibly the smallest one available on the market)? or… am i the only one who’s got problems with that silly silicone cup? suffering from vaginismus, i’ve struggled with using any form of menstrual hygiene you’re supposed to insert into your vag ever since i started menstruating. even putting the smallest tampon in my first year of menstruating was an incredibly difficult challenge, which i—thank god, because i am not really a fan of pads to be honest—eventually managed, so it took me ages before i felt brave enough to try the cup for the first time. i knew it’d be hard, but as so many people around me kept praising their menstrual cups so much, i still wanted to try it; especially as i am an eco-conscious gal who cares about the environment. long story short, i bought my first one from a tiny, local brand, and when it arrived, i almost burst into tears. i tried, tried, and tried some more, but no matter what i did, i just couldn’t get it in. i felt awful. i felt failed by my own vagina, once again. i happily resorted back to the normal-sized tampons which, by then, fit just fine and caused me no pain or anxiety.

i kind of wanted to forget about this whole menstrual cup mishap, but i couldn’t. being very interested in feminist topics, the discussion about cups seemed to be thrown right at me almost every day. even my Facebook ads were, for some reason, all about cups. my friend, a happy cup user, kept on giving me advice on how to insert and take it out and encouraged me to keep on trying (thanks hun), even though each attempt just resulted in more and more tears. years passed by, during which the pro-menstrual-cups movement has only been growing steadier. cups were now popping out of mainstream media, words of praise and fascination flying everywhere.
The menstrual cup is the best sustainable solution for everyone!
Not using the cup yet? Here are 10 reasons why you should start straight away!

cups, cups, cups. while i cannot deny that the eco part of my soul was very happy about media picking up on this alternative, eco-friendly solution for menstruating people, the i-suffer-from-vaginismus-and-i-hate-my-vagina-for-it me wasn’t that excited. in fact, i felt horrible. if everyone can use them just fine, why the hell am i not able to do it too? even though these articles and ads were meant to do good, they only perpetuated the “i’m broken” feeling of not being enough, of having a vagina that’s somehow faulty goods.

soon after I got more involved with feminist and queer groups that were—let’s put it this way—considerably more inclusive and progressive, i realized that it was not me that was wrong or faulty here – it was the very normative, almost ableist discussion surrounding the cups instead. the thing is, most often, cups are talked about in relation to “normal” bodies. any sort of disability, personal beliefs, or simply experience is disregarded as not so relevant, which, unfortunately, can cause of a lot of harm. once we include all these factors in the debate, the conclusion is clear – cups sure are awesome, but they’re simply not for everyone. and that’s fine too. let’s only hope that soon we’ll have other sustainable menstrual hygiene options so that literally any menstruating person can find whatever fits them, without destroying the beautiful planet we live on.

oh, and before i finish this off, here’s a little tip from me – don’t be like me and a) don’t order your cup online when you cannot see the size irl, b) don’t give up so easily. after almost three years, i decided to give the cup another chance after i saw a different brand on display at a local pharmacy, and, hallelujah, it worked out! when i later compared the two cups i had (see yourself on the pic above), the new one was almost twice as small and from a suppler, nicer material – so maybe it wasn’t all fault of my clenched up vag, but just a wrong cup from the very beginning?

MENTAL HEALTH | care-and-safety-for-everyone kit

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MENTAL HEALTH | care-and-safety-for-everyone kit

“self-care” has been the it-word for years now, and something that has become heavily commercialized – companies have figured that it’s a great way to increase their profits by targeting people going through hard times because, heureka!, we’re made to feel great yet short-lived satisfaction from spending our money on things that don’t really help our health anyhow. think face masks, fancy candles, body oils, ice cream tubs, fluffy pillows and blankets, what-have-you. self-care kits are a big deal. shameless vanity is now hidden behind the word “self-care”, again, only available to those privileged enough (while it has been proven that the lower the social class, the more common mental illnesses are).

but i don’t wanna slam the whole concept of self-care here, not at all. self-care is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT (but shouldn’t require spending half your savings), no doubt about that. i think it’s great the fact that each person needs to step back and asses their own abilities, boundaries, and general state of mind is getting more and more discussed and encouraged, it certainly is a huge step toward wide acceptance of the reality of mental illnesses.

however, i don’t think it’s that good that we’re only focusing on the “self-” when it comes to caring. sure, it is important to finally let go of the societal pressure to be always 100% on and perfect and never allow yourself to fail, but only going for SELF-care is, um, selfish. imagine if we all only put our own needs to the spotlight and stayed completely ignorant to those of others – ugh, right? the world would be a horrible place (not that it’s not already). i believe that, just like it’s important to acknowledge one’s own limitations and seek comfort and safety, it is incredibly important to offer the same to the people around you. you know, just like that “no man is an island” bullshit – we oughta help each other. and care for each other, because only that way you can be sure that it will eventually be cared for you too.

but all this you-gotta-love-everyone-and-help-each-other is still actually not the point of my article. after a solid year of having anxiety, i’ve figured that i could ease the symptoms of an approaching/full-blown anxiety fit if i was equipped with things that could make the situation more bearable and less threatening. a list of things i always need to have in my backpack wherever i go to feel safe and prepared for anything that might happen. and then, at this year’s Black Lives Matter march, i realized that this little kit doesn’t always necessarily have to help me only, but can offer needed support and comfort to those around me, just like when my friend was feeling anxious and needed water to calm down, or when another one got hungry midst-march and i was able to pull up an apple and whole pack of cookies.

you know, we keep on talking about making public spaces safe(r) and meeting needs and demands of everyone, so why not transfer that to everyday life? why don’t we try to make all around us feel safe and cared for – and even if carrying a few things in your bag might sound stupid and not that important, trust me, such simple gesture of being able to offer someone in need something that can help them can go a really long way.

well, if you’re still reading this, congrats, you’ve finally gotten to the point of this post! as you can see above, i’ve selected a few items that are a must-have in my care-and-safety-for-everyone kit: 
bottled water – an obvious one, right?
snacks – anxiety and stress can often be linked to hunger, so make sure to pack some energy bars, cookies, fruit etc.!
tissues
antibacterial gel
mints/chewing gums
tampons – even when you’re not menstruating. even if you physically cannot menstruate. please always have a few menstrual products on you! (i’ve switched to the cup months ago but still always carry a few tampons in my cosmetic bags for all the menstruating cuties in need!)
pain killers
power bank – i love these little magical devices! there’s nothing worse than feeling a panic attack approach and realizing you only have a few percent of battery left, which makes you panic even more, because what if you won’t even be able to call someone for help? nah, it’s good to know you can have access to all important contacts no matter what
pepper spray – you never know. there’s too much violence in this world. duh.

this little set can help both you and your friends/family/colleagues/whoever you’re with in (almost) any kind of situation.
it’s time we update the cheesy saying to “being prepared and sharing is caring”, what do you think?

calling myself out

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calling myself out
it was a really, really long time ago when i was still updating this blog regularly. something broke down inside of me last year and i could no longer put my thoughts on the virtual paper, keeping all my angry blurts of anti-societal-norms rage to my Instagram account. i wanted to write, so many things were racing through my mind, but i just couldn’t. now i know that the thing that was keeping me back from running my blog was my depression. a few months ago, i finally decided to seek medical help and started taking antidepressants. i definitely want to cover that topic more (i’ve already wrote a lot about it on Instagram), but to keep it simple, after a while, pretty much all the things i used to like started giving me joy again. and now i want to write. i need to write. i really want to try and be regular at this again, because there’s still so much unsaid, untouched, so please wish me luck. but before that new era starts, i want to look back and address a few things.

i always say that starting this blogmore than 7 years agowas the best decision i’ve ever made (moving out of CZ was the second best). and most of the time, i really believe in that, but sometimes i’m rather like “ugh, why though”. the thing is, i hopped on this blogging train when i was 15. fifteen. back then, i wrote pretty much about everything that was happening in my life, and while i still stay incredibly open and tend to overshare online, it was a slightly different kind of here’s-everything-about-me.

i started this blog when i was 15, and now i’m 23. i literally grew up online, sharing my way from puberty to adolescence with god-knows-how-many people. and as my age was changing, my opinions were too. i am no longer the same person i was when i published my first article, because, frankly, my main goal back then was to get to the showroom of an unnamed fast fashion brand (lol, i know – but you have to take into consideration that i was a shy small-town kid with extremely low self-esteem, so that seemed like a promised land to me back then, the highest validation that i was “cool enough”) – while now i refuse to support (and haven’t done so for 3 years) any of such brands. i don’t share the same views and opinions as the 15 years old me did, not even the one that was 21 perhaps. i’ve figured everything, and especially activism, is a great learning process, which is perhaps never truly finished. and that sometimes it’s better to listen, read, and research, and not to talk so fast.

this leads us to the main point of this article – while i am happy i have been keeping this little online diary of sorts for so long, because, hands down, it has opened a lot of doors to me, allowed me to meet a whole bunch of great people with the same mindset, and definitely made me grow so, so much, a lot has been said that i feel the need to kinda fix now. to explain. to denounce, to redefine, to let go of.

so, here are some of the topics that i have either discussed or promoted here or anywhere else and have very different feelings about now:

1. minimalism

well, there was a time where i was pretty well-known for my minimalist views, images, interior design, whatever, wasn’t there (at least i never reduced it to simple aesthetics only, the so-called Scandinavian design, lol). i think i even wrote some of these stupid “how to be a minimalist” articles too? not so sure about that to be honest, but i do remember i’ve written “invest into something long-lasting and high quality instead of buying cheap crap” multiple times. oh lord.

while i still do live quite a minimalist life, mostly because of having a tight budget, moving several times a year and simply being the opposite of a hoarder, and while i still enjoy simple, minimalist spaces/things rather than something that’s bursting with colors, patterns, shapes etc., i’m also very aware that minimalism is just a bunch of crap. not minimalism itself, but the whole movement around it. this movement, made up almost exclusively of people who are well-off, preaching how it’s important to invest into good, well-made things, how we need to value design and manufacturing and quality and should therefore be happy to spend large sums for that, how we should just minimize everything, including our troubles and stress (don’t even get me started on the whole mindfulness movement, please) – speaking from an incredibly privileged position. as the years have passed, i’ve learnt that it’s been proven that poor always pay the most – simply because they’re never able to gather enough money to be able to invest into anything, and end up buying cheap items that prove to be more costly over the time. and we’re not only talking about high quality clothing, appliances, furniture and so on, we’re talking about not being to buy very basic items like food, toilet paper, cosmetics in bulk packaging which is pretty much always cheaper in the long run.

so, telling people that in order to save money, you gotta invest, and using that as a universal rule, looking down on people who do not “care enough” to invest, is just plain stupid. and i have to admit, i was like that too. when i got enchanted by minimalism, i was about 16, still living with my parents, coming from a slightly higher upper class, and even though when i was child, my family was pretty poor, i never really thought of things outside of my social class. i did not realize how different, how diverse, and how unfair the whole world is, and that a great movement like minimalism, a movement that cares about our nature as much as it cares about our wallets, was just a bunch of privileged crap.

minimalism, with its simple aesthetics contrasting with the high prices for products that are deemed “minimalist”, has become a way of showing how sophisticated you are, showing that you can afford to invest into quality and design. they say minimalism is timeless, but all i hear in that is that a looking away from people below our own class is actually the thing that’s so timeless, and that’s really fucked up. minimalism is a fancy fad made for the wealthy, and it is not accessible to majority of people.

i regret i failed to recognize that a long time ago.

2. healthy food/living

does anyone remember an article that was literally called “healthy ≠ expensive”? i do. god, how foolish was i! again, i was still living at my parents’ place, and though i did participate in the weekly grocery shopping and knew what was going on with our family finances, i had no idea what it meant to live on one’s own.

let me say it loud now – healthy food IS expensive. veganism IS expensive. access to healthcare IS NOT universal.

and again, those who are the most unprivileged are experiencing this the most.

i’m sorry i was such a little brat living in my own middle class bubble.

3. white feminism

i mean, i was never really shouting “yay, white feminism!”, of course. i started identifying as a feminist when i was 16, which was also the time when i first brought up the topic in one of my articles. that article was an all-girl mixtape, and i wrote a bunch of angry lines along that. *eye roll*. i found my way to feminism through tumblr. i don’t really know how it happened, but i think i discovered it through the riot grrrl movement and bands like Bikini Kill and Hole. the problem was, for a long time, i stayed exclusively within that tumblr bubble, within pastel-colored aesthetics, illustrations of heart-shaped sugar candies with “girl power” written over them, mixtapes and DIY zines, within “reclaiming femininity”, whatever that means. i’d write about catcalling, about how much discriminated women were, but that was about it. for a long time, i did not care to extend my knowledge, and that was a huge mistake.

after a while, i was asked to collaborate with Transparent CZ, and that was quite an eye opener. suddenly i realized there was much more to feminism than just my experience as a white, able-bodied, middle class, attractive cis woman. then i moved to Berlin in summer 2014 and finally stopped suppressing my pansexuality (even i knew i was not hetero since i was, like, 7?) and started identifying as queer. that broadened the topics i was researching more and more, and i began reading feminist works; i remember reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman on the insanely long car drive from Denmark to the Czech Republic, and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex on the everyday bus from my dorm to the uni in Reutlingen. then i started the Copenhagen uni and met a teacher who studied Gender Studies himself, who made a list of classic queer theory works for me, and that really kicked off my interest in queer academia, which i now, in fact, despise because of its stupid elitist way of writing, which prevents so many people from getting access to it (but more about that very, very soon!). i’ve been working with queer people/on queer projects, and i’m about to start a Gender Studies long-distance Master’s at the Charles Uni in Prague. i’ve met a lot of people, read a lot of articles and books, worked on a lot of things, and definitely learnt a lot. i no longer identify with the feminism i was talking about when i first started addressing it here, because it was incredibly cis- and hetero-normative, focused on a certain privileged group, ignoring race, class, sexuality etc.

i have to say i think that this is a natural process that everyone somehow goes through, i just vented it out a lot. we live in an age when everyone just shouts out how feminist they are, each brand sells tees and jackets and panties and what-not with “girl power” sprawled over them, and famous cis women who (slut-/body-) shame other women or only address problems that revolve around the gender binary (hello, Emma Watson!) are pronounced to be the ultimate feminist speakers. that is a form of feminism which i, unfortunately, used to support too, but don’t anymore. now my opinion is the following: let’s just wipe out all the GRL PWR merch and focus on things that really matter, like social inequality, like racism, like discrimination of non-binary people, like ableism (which i think is still a topic too rarely discussed in all forms of queer and feminist movements), for example.

____________________________________________________

there’s a lot of other things i could address, but i guess i’m out of words for now.

the main point of this article was to make a few things clear before i continue with what (i used to) do. you know, people change, people grow, and that’s great. well, talk soon, i promise!

GENDER | on menstrual hygiene, cups, and “well-intended” pressure

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GENDER | on menstrual hygiene, cups, and “well-intended” pressure

tampons and pads are toxic!
tampons and pads are unhealthy!
tampons and pads pollute the environment!
tampons and pads are expensive!

yes, yes, yes, and yes; that’s all true and most of us are already informed about that. and we’re also told what measures to take to reduce or prevent all the risks. yes, there are menstrual cups that are cheap and eco-friendly and safe and so on and so on, and there are natural alternatives to regular tampons and pads – so, how the hell, aren’t you woke yet and throwing all the harmful menstrual hygiene products out of the window? how can you be such a disgraceful beast that’s just destroying our beautiful planet?

well, as many things, it ain’t that easy.
we’re told to use menstrual cups but our physical (dis)abilities, religious views, or personal beliefs are overlooked.
we’re told to opt for natural, non-toxic products but our budgets or access to those items are not taken into account.
yet again, even though this is supposed to be an alternative to a certain oppressive mainstream way of dealing with one’s period, one’s that’s more sensible and in certain ways queerer too, it adopts the same methods of oppression in the sense that it, again, pushes one approach to everyone regardless of their different needs.

now i am talking about my own experience; even though i have been a fan of menstrual cups and bought one several years ago, only recently i really started using it. unfortunately, the first one i got was not suitable for me at all – i had problems inserting it, its size was too big (even though it was supposed to be the smallest one, “suitable for virgins”), and the material was not comfortable either. i kept on using regular tampons, and even though i would have loved to be able to buy the natural, eco-friendly ones, i had to stick to the cheapest ones from a local drugstore because of my budget. articles about the toxicity of bleached menstrual hygiene products would be popping up all around my social media, my eco-conscious friends would give me weird looks, and the never really used menstrual cup would always be laying around in my closet, making me feel strange anytime i’d stumble upon it. i’d feel angry, and embarrassed of my own body for its inability to accommodate a cup everyone seemed so ok to be using. the more i felt pushed into using it, by both people around me and the endless media pressure, the more i felt stubborn not to use it again and quite sceptical and generally opposed to the whole menstrual cup hype. i really got excited about the period panties, but again, money was the issue.

well, after quite some personal trauma, i decided to give the cup another try, as you can buy them in pretty much any DM drogerie markt in Germany. when i first saw it, i noticed it was way smaller and much softer than the one i had, and after a bit of thinking, i got it. and, surprise surprise, it was absolutely ok this time! even though, due to certain physical restrictions i have, it’s still not the easiest to insert it, it’s definitely better and i stick to my own nice and smooth cup now.
here are two morals from my own story:
no. 1: it’s better to check how the cup looks when you’re buying a new one. the first one you buy might not fit you, and you might have to invest into another one. no vagina—and no body, per se—is the same and there are hundreds of sizes to choose from. the first one might not be working for you, but one eventually will, or maybe not, and that’s fine too.
no. 2: never ever think there’s something wrong with body if it doesn’t fit a certain standard or doesn’t do all the things it is “supposed” to do.

here’s the deal:
menstrual cups might not be for everyone, and that’s ok.
not everyone can afford natural menstrual hygiene products, and that’s ok.
some people might not want to stick anything up their vags, and that’s ok.
etc. etc. etc.
menstruation is already a lot of a unpleasant hassle thanks to how our society perceives and treats menstruating people, so putting them through even more shit is, in my opinion, just plain bullshit.

so, perhaps instead of trying to persuade everyone that there is only one (or just a few) eco way(s) to deal with your menstruation with no regards to one’s limitations and boundaries, we could rather demand those big brands to go more sustainable, and encourage more research on and development of new products that would be more ecological, safer, cheaper, and suitable for all bodies, ages, and so on.
let’s not turn something that’s supposed to liberate us from the pressure of commercial brands into just another thing that uses manipulation and one-size-fits-all approach to achieve its goals.

MENTAL HEALTH | sharing is caring

2017-02-06 15.44.41

MENTAL HEALTH | sharing is caring

it’s 7 years since i started writing this blog, and over the time, it has transformed into something completely different that what i had originally intended – in a good way. since the very beginning, i’ve been very open and quite straight-forward about many details of my personal life, and in recent years, i kind of bared myself online, both in the literal and metaphorical sense.

if anyone told me 3 years ago that i’d be openly sharing information about sexual preferences/experience, the state of my mental health, and other super-intimate stuff i publish here or on my Instagram, i would probably laugh and say that i am not that stupid to share so much personal info i’d become quite unemployable. the thing is, now we’re here with tons of images of my body parts flying around, and a great abundance of articles and descriptions chronicling the lowest lows of my adult life, and i feel great about it. sure, it might make me unsuitable for certain jobs, but i guess i wouldn’t want to work at a place where the topics i discuss are stigmatized anyway.

even though it can be incredibly scary to share such intimate information online—and trust me, it still feels like it with some topics (just check the second Glowimin podcast when i’m introducing the topic and talking about our dislike of penetration, look how much i’m blushing!!), even now—but at the same time, it kinda feels amazing. first of all, here’s something i have discovered in the past few years: if you’re worrying about something, saying it loud—or publishing it in the online sphere—kind of makes the problem way less bad. i mean, the problematic thing will stay the same, but your approach will change – by having to formulate it and think through it all, you realize what really might be at its core and how to, perhaps, solve it. furthermore, as you’re not bottling it up inside you any longer, you feel relieved, and can look at the situation from a whole new perspective. and, of course, sharing it with someone else means the person will most probably help you with it all, and that’s something i cannot stress enough (but should learn to practice more): asking for help is not a sign of weakness. amen.

in my personal life, i have learnt that sharing what bothers me with other people, being it either about my relationships with other people or about my own issues with my mind and health, is thousand times better than keeping it inside and overworrying so much you turn a tiny issue into an avalanche of stress that might crush you completely. it might be scary to take the first step, but really go out of your comfort zone and tell people what you think. being open about your feelings is probably the best way to keep healthy relationships with yourself and others (now that’s something i always say – i will rather have a fight with someone and discuss all the shitty things even though it might hurt than keeping it inside until the moment you totally snap).

another thing, and that’s something i’ve noticed throughout all the years i’ve been writing about stuff not so many other local bloggers were discussing, is that even though it might expose you and your own issues, it helps several other people. and, i have to say, that’s exactly the reason i keep on doing this. i’ve received uncountable supportive messages saying how much a shitty 3-line description on Instagram helped someone with their own issues. people would be glad i talked about what they also experienced. people would be glad someone addressed how others treated them badly in certain situations. people would be glad someone showed that everyone was vulnerable, and that it was ok to admit that. i’ve been told i’ve made people believe they were not alone, and i’ve been even told i have saved lives, which is something that’s still quite impossible to grasp for me, because, um, i haven’t really done much more than just writing about my own reality.

and it worked the other way around too, because, even though i would like everyone to know that i am always there to help, i sometimes need someone to hold my hand too. i would get advice and supportive messages from strangers which instantly made it easier for me to cope with hard times, and at the same time, it even helped me finding new friends through this online connection (now that i think of it, i met most of my currently close friends through my blog/online activism). what’s more, given i live far away from most of my close friends and relatives and i cannot really explain how i feel to everyone constantly because of time or even willpower, saying it online made the information available to quite anyone who cares, and much easier for me to express it as i can think about it for a longer time without being pressured or questioned, while i do not have the feeling that i’m just trying to desperately get the attention of a close person and ditching all my burdens at them (see, i really have to work on improving my ability to ask for help without hating myself).

all in all, even though i sometimes do feel weird about publishing so so much online, knowing that stepping out of my comfort zone has helped several people, and also made me grow personally, i have to say it is totally worth it. because, in fact, the reason why we are afraid to share information about certain topics is just the pointless stigma attached to it anyways, and maybe it’s just about time to get over all that, huh?

SEX ED | in defense of masturbation

2017-03-01 13.18.44-1

SEX ED | in defense of masturbation

even though it seems like we’re experiencing a sex revolution of sorts, what’s really being liberated is mostly “sex with someone”, and not “sex with oneself”. even today, masturbation is still being the topic one’s supposed to feel too awkward to discuss in any form, let alone openly praising it. although sex shops might be springing up on more and more places, sex toys are often marketed as helpers to improve the sex lives of paired, heterosexual individuals (a great part of my Bachelor thesis actually dealt with this phenomenon, and it actually is a practice many sex toy manufacturers openly admit and promote). another issue is the gender inequality in portrayal of masturbation – as you might have noticed, it is pretty common to talk about or even show male masturbation, yet female masturbation seems to be this weird, mystical ritual no one actually really does. the truth is women do masturbate (and non-binary people too, ofc. PEOPLE do masturbate, and that’s the end of it). women watch porn. i do all of it, often and proudly. i even talk about it with my parents, like seriously, they know what my favorite sex toy is, because why the fuck not? as Michel Foucault would say, this stigma around parents and children discussing sex is just a (quite new in fact – a couple of centuries old) social construct.

for me, sex and masturbation are completely different, even though they are, um, executed in the same areas and aim at the same thing. both are here to satisfy a specific need, yet both feel completely different. it’s a bit like eating – when you cook for yourself, you mostly focus on satisfying your hunger, and from time to time you like to try new recipes and treat yourself. you know what you like, and you usually go for that. it’s about satisfying a certain need you would survive without. whereas having sex with someone else is more of an event, kind of like preparing a dinner or going to a nice restaurant. it’s nice, but you can live without that, kinda (again, that’s my own view of things). you’re still eating and enjoying it, but it’s the other factors that make it so special, and the whole setting makes it more of an experience. see where i’m heading? having sex with someone and masturbating might be the same at its core, but sex has all these added factors that differentiate it completely.

another thing is that through masturbation, detached from its “oh it’s pathetic and for losers only” stigma, it might be way easier for many people to test new things and push their boundaries. now i’m gonna get very specific and personal, so buckle up – not a long time ago i had my first experience with anal play and really liked it, but did not really enjoy straight up anal penetration. so i bought some toys and decided to test it myself, and figured i actually loved it, but needed some time to explore this part of my body and to get to know my own limits. to get back to my eating metaphor, sometimes you want to try new things but are afraid you might not like it or don’t want to spend a fortune on it in a restaurant, so you buy it in the store, google a recipe and test it on your own. and then you might realise you love that ingredient or that specific dish, and wanna try it more and perhaps with some other people and in a nice setting. and that’s like saying “hey, let’s try anal” with a partner (or partners). but also, who says you have to try anything with someone else if you satisfy yourself just fine? why have bad sex with someone who doesn’t even care that much (now i’m hinting at bad one-night-stands etc.) when you can have a great orgasm thanks to your own hand or one of the little lovely and helpful toys that are so easy to buy now? or, why pay for a shitty fast food meal when you can buy some nice ingredients and cook yourself a nice dinner?

by the way, here’s a concept related to that thought – what if i told you that “virginity” was just a very sexist social construct and that those with a hymen don’t actually need to have a penis shoved up their vaginas, but could use a sex toy to lose their imaginary holy virginity by themselves? wow, right? (and also, what if we took a bit more time to discuss the whole heterosexist nature of the concept of virginity which devalues any other forms of sexual experience? would you be up for that?)

anyway, before i get totally lost in metaphors and various related critical theories, let me get back to my main point. there is nothing wrong with masturbation, quite the opposite. masturbation has been proven to be incredibly helpful in improving one’s self esteem and body image, and, surprise surprise, as a way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs (oh yeah, here’s another wild concept – masturbation can basically be a sexual act you do with, or—rather—in front of, someone). it’s a great way to explore one’s body and to figure out what you might like. it is by no means something to be ashamed of doing, and definitely not something “only losers” do. it is natural, normal, helpful, and in certain ways, educative. it’s self-care and self-love.

MENTAL HEALTH | productivity x poor mental health

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MENTAL HEALTH | productivity x poor mental health

let me tell you something – mental illnesses suck. i mean, that’s no surprise, but they suck to an extent some cannot even imagine. they’re not just temporary cases of sad feels that will go away once you take a hot bath and eat a tub of ice cream or go for a 30 mins long run. mental illnesses can literally suck the soul out of you. while some make you manic and reckless, others turn you into a tearful mess unable to leave the bed. one way or another, they make it pretty difficult to focus on all your responsibilities and plans, which—guess what—sucks big balls.

in my case, my anxiety can make me listen to the same one song on repeat for 1 hour, not really doing anything but that. it can make me feel absolutely hopeless about simple tasks as washing the dishes or getting dressed after taking a shower, so i sit there, in my pile of mess, with old, running make up, a wet towel wrapped around my body, staring into the wall and crying because all these tasks are so overwhelming i feel physically sick. some days i break down after interacting with people i don’t know that well, even via email. it makes me starve for hours because i cannot get myself to the kitchen, and cooking seems like an unbelievable effort anyways.

unfortunately, the responsibilities won’t wait until you feel better, and who know when that will be, right? well, even though i can barely reach the level of productivity i used to execute on daily basis a year ago, i have figured there are some things and measures that can help me finish what’s needed in an acceptable time. not saying this will solve everyone’s mental health issues, it’s just a bunch of tips i have found helpful myself. let me know if there’s something else that helps you, thanks!

adjust your plans according to your health 
do not overdo it. be realistic, and admit that you perhaps cannot do as much as you used to. if you really hit the rock bottom, start slowly. it’s ok to take things at your own pace, don’t worry.

stay organized
that being said, try to keep strategic in your work. make lists; break it down to the tiniest tasks if you have to. i often write that i need to straighten my hair or wash the dishes, because it literally makes me feel better to tick off things of my list, and my memory tends to get awful on bad days, so it’s better to have it written down.

step by step, piece by piece
as i’ve said before, take it easy. so you’ve found yourself sitting in a pile of mess, surrounded by dirty dishes, clothes thrown on the floor, and a hungry stomach. what to do now? take one clothing item, put it into the wardrobe. then the next one. and then again. you can make it. it’s just a bunch of little steps.

do the worst things first
even if it’s incredibly hard, try starting with what feels like the biggest pain in the ass. in my experience, the longer you try to postpone something, the more you resent it, and the harder it is to start. and then, after a month of stressing out about it, you finally get your hands on it, and realize it’s actually not that bad at all. grit your teeth, take a deep breath, and try to delve into it as soon as you can.

get over with it asap
as i’ve said – n o p o s t p o n i n g. even when it comes to little things. come home and hang your clothes straight away instead of leaving them lying around. do the dishes right after you finish cooking/eating. etc. etc. the sooner you do it, the less you will stress about it.

plan in advance
if your plans involve a lot of running around the city, especially if you have to go to unknown places that make you nervous, make sure to plan your way before so that you minimize any uncomfortable, stressful situations. there’s nothing worse that being lost or disorganized, right? make a good use of Google Maps and similar to make your trip smooth and to make yourself feeling prepared and ok with doing it.

ask for help
you don’t have to be alone in this. and don’t assume no one cares. i know it can be scary. i know it can be defeating. but try getting someone to help you. maybe someone can help you with cleaning your room, or help you structure that awful thesis you need to write, do your groceries or go to the bank or post office or wherever with you – just try and ask!

drink a lot of water
water is good. water always helps. being dehydrated would only drain you more.

don’t forget to eat
food is also good. i know it can get hard to find the time or the will to cook or the appetite in general, but try to get some fuel into your body. stock up on healthy, nourishing, easy-to-prepare meals—for me, that’s hummus and carrots and nuts and a fruits and veggies for smoothies—and keep yourself replenished. also, if you need to run some errands outside, don’t forget to bring some snacks – anxiety can get really bad when you’re malnourished!

keep self-care props on hand
if you need to get into a situation you know can or will potentially make you uncomfortable, make sure to bring some little helpers to ease you through the situation. now, that’s gonna be different for everyone; i sadly have to admit it’s cigarettes for me, because they make me feel a bit more confident in such situations (please don’t start smoking, it sucks. it will eat your heart and wallet out. do not start.), but you can also go for pleasant scents or roll-on essential oils or candy or anti-stress toys to keep in your pocket or whatever that can make the stressful time a bit more easy to cope with.



turn it into pleasure
you know, it all doesn’t have to be such a dreadful chore. surround yourself by nice things as you work; make yourself a good cup of tea, buy a snack, put on a nice essential oil,… anything that will make it less of a pain. nice and soothing. warm and cozy.

reward yourself
once you manage to tick off all your tasks, make sure to treat yourself! do whatever you want/can; being it putting on a face mask, lighting up a candle, masturbating, cooking your fav food, buying yourself something if you can afford it,… whatever makes you happy, my dear.

don’t punish yourself
so what, you didn’t finish all you had to. there’s still tomorrow, and the day after, and like million other days after that. you are not lazy. you tried, and that’s what matters the most.

SEX ED | on pro-sex activism

TW: sex, rape, sex work, porn, promiscuity

DSC_0506
photo by Miruna Sorescu, Kotryna Abaravičiūtė and me for our ‘Pornification’ project

 

SEX ED | on pro-sex activism

i have spoken about it already, but i just wanted to give you all a little heads up again:

pro-sex (or sex-positive) activism should not be only about embracing the positive aspects of having sex and ditching any stigma surrounding casual/promiscuous sex.

being pro-sex, or “sexually liberated” as many like to call themselves, does not mean you are enlightened and entitled to judge anyone who does not practice the same lifestyle as you.

pro-sex activism should encompass both vanilla and kinky sex, monogamous and polygamous and promiscuous and any other kind of sex. it should be for those who fuck on the first date and those who don’t fuck once in their life. it should include casual sex and sexting and unusual sex and care for the right state of porn industry and sex work as well as discussions about sexual trauma and demi-/auto-/asexuality and rape and how the internalized hetero sex narratives fail all the sides.

most of all, pro-sex activism should aim to destigmatize and embrace ALL KINDS of sex. it should strive to make sex, no matter how or with who performed, a positive and safe experience.

P.S.: remember, no matter what kind(s) of sex you’re having, consent and discussion are the key!

MENTAL HEALTH | self-help

TW: mental health, depression

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MENTAL HEALTH | self-help

i am sick of all those super-mindful articles about how to overcome feeling depressed which all tell you to stress less and maintain healthy sleeping patterns. sure, everyone would love to do that, but there’s this little thing called mental illness that prevents many from doing so. no, saying “don’t stress” to yourself when your heart is racing and your whole skin is covered in sweat will not make the anxiety disappear. of course, 8 hours of sleep each day would be brilliant, but it’s not that easy to influence, right?

unfortunately, a lot of self-help articles repeat those—in my opinion—slightly stupid and not that helpful tips. however, the reality of mental illnesses is much different. of course i’d love to follow all these steps and live a blissful life, but i also want to listen to the same sad song 20 times on repeat and cry on the floor for several hours. and knowing that i am both mentally and physically incapable of fulfilling them makes it even worse, in fact.

and because my own mental health has been quite a shit show lately (which is why this blog has become so quiet), i decided to make my own list of tips that can help me and—if you want—you too with surviving the dark days. it is more of a checklist of what to do to keep up with being a person when you hit the rock bottom. when you’re lower than low, and just the idea of being alive is a bit too much. (or, not just a bit. it’s overwhelmingly, terrifyingly too much, and you have no idea what do with it, and would rather hide under the blankets until it goes away.)

so, here’s my absolutely most important self-help things to do shortlist:
– drink water
– eat at least one proper meal*
– get out of your bed**
– take a shower and wear clean clothes
– take all the meds and vitamins you need
– breathe

*i know eating tends to be incredibly difficult, and sometimes you feel like throwing up straight after you wake up. by “proper meal”, i mean anything that can fill you up a bit, if it’s hard to imagine yourself eating, try a banana or oatmeal, for instance. or try disguising a lot of good vitamins in a smoothie – it’s a drink! it’s not a meal! it’s easy to swallow! (frankly, banana smoothies were the only thing i could stomach when i was experiencing the worst physical depression of my whole life) also, if the only thing you’re craving are fries or instant noodles or kebabs, just fucking go for it. people often laugh at me for consuming so many instant noodle soups, but hey, i’m eating at least! just get some nourishment into your body in any way you can, deal?


**even if it’s just for morning/evening hygiene rituals and going to the bathroom. that’s still great!

ok, if you manage to go through these 6 things, you are amazing. you are alive and trying. you are clean and taking care of your body. that is just enough.

now, according to how brave you feel, try incorporating these activities to get back on track:

first of all, sort out what really needs to be done: have you replied to important emails and messages? is there any important project you need to finish? (if yes and you’re absolutely incapable of working on it, try splitting the work into small parts, starting with what’s the most urgent) have you washed the dishes or is there a huge, disgusting pile of plates with week-old leftovers? do you have clean clothes or do you need to do laundry? when was the last time you took out trash? do you have food in your fridge? (if you’re unable to go outside, order it online, or get someone to bring it to you. do. not. starve. yourself.)
i know all these tasks are the most difficult in such times, but try get done with them. take your time, plan a reward system, whatever you like. it’ll feel like a little victory when you manage, trust me.

now, make yourself feel good, or at least relatively ok, again:
go for a walk. if you cannot really face being surrounded by people, do it at night/early morning. if you’re physically exhausted or incredibly anxious, just go outside of your house (or perhaps take out the trash) and go back. slowly increase. cook or bake something really nice, or just ok. clean your room. or just the surroundings of your bed. take a long, long bath. do some kind of wellness, like a face mask or peeling or mani or whatever. draw. write a journal. read. watch your favorite movie or TV series. take naps. light candles. sing to your fav songs. pretty much anything that feels soothing to you.

remember to take baby steps. don’t overpush yourself. you and your wellbeing is the most important thing here. it is okay to admit that you cannot do certain things (just yet) because you are not healthy enough. there’s no shame in that.

you are allowed to cry. you are allowed to complain, and hate, and scream. and feel like everything is shit and the future is bleak. but please, do not give up trying.

_______________________________________________________________________

this article is like a little reminder to myself how to keep on going when it gets tough. i am no specialist, so, if you’re experiencing severe problems with your own mental health, please do not hesitate to search for help. your mental health is not a DIY project.

BODY IMAGE | childhood & body shame

TW: weight loss, eating disorders

2016-05-25 10.37.03

BODY IMAGE | childhood & body shame

dear mom, i love you—and i know you’re reading this—, but you are one of the reasons why my relationship with my own body used to be (and sometimes still is) quite bad.
dear grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and all the other family members, you are to blame too.
dear teachers from primary and grammar school, you are not innocent either.
and it goes all the way back to my childhood.
all of you who were supposed to set a positive example to me as a small, unknowing kid: you failed a lot.
i remember how my mom used to tell me how she hated her body when she was a teenager because she was tall, skinny, and had no breasts. i remember how weight loss/gain would be one of the first things that would be discussed on family gatherings, i remember the razor-sharp slurs shaming one’s food choices in relation to their body types, i remember hearing how one ‘could not wear’ this and that because they were ‘too fat’ for it. i remember my teacher commenting on how much weight i had lost after a serious mononucleosis when i was 12, stating that she used to think i would become chubby, but wow, i was ‘so skinny now’.
i remember it all and i know that it played a huge role in why i later decided to punish my body with only eating a piece of fruit and a low-fat yoghurt each day, and why i still sometimes struggle with my stomach rolls, why i keep on checking the size of my breasts, and why i’ll probably never get rid of the idea that my thighs are too thick.

dear caretakers, i know i cannot blame you. i know you were probably raised the same way, and it’s incredibly internalized in you. you have probably struggled with the same thing for ages.
you don’t want to hate your body, but you do, because you have always been told to.

_____________________________________________________________________

some of you reading this might already be parents, some of you might feel like becoming one soon.
i am neither, but i do think a lot about how i’d raise a child to make sure they’d grow up as a confident, self-loving person that know their worth. and i am sure about one thing – no body shaming will be allowed! i don’t want to ruin another life with constant self-monitoring, self-hating, and self-reducing to skin and fat. i don’t want to slam my own or someone else’s body, i don’t want to limit my own or the child’s diet to achieve a certain body ideal, i do not want to put the food blame and guilt onto anyone else.
many don’t realize how much trouble can a single word, or a single, scathing sentence to be precise, cause. but, really, words are sometimes more harmful than thousands of actions.

i’ve read a bunch of articles on the topic, which helped a lot in identifying what and how those i used to look up to managed to damage my own sense of body measures, but also in getting some tips what to do to prevent doing the same mistakes.
here’s a small list:
1. do not slam your own body
2. do not negatively comment on your child’s body (changes)
3. do not laugh at, despise, or shame in any other way other people’s body
4. do not praise ill-conceived weight-loss diets, do not force yourself or your child into them
5. do not set ‘ideal’ body types, rather teach about the beauty (and importance!) of diversity
6. do not present physical activity as a way to lose weight
7. do not let others to shame you, your child, or anyone else
+ encourage body positivity, of course!


here are two more articles i found really helpful:
here & here

just remember – if you don’t try to overcome your own body shame, how can you stop others? i know it’s goddamn hard, but we all can at least try.

GENDER | menstruation talks

TW: menstruation

menstruation

GENDER | menstruation talks

the taboo surrounding talking about menstruation is definitely loosening up, which is absolutely great, but i would still like to address a somewhat problematic issue related to it.

menstrual health, just like any other health-related thing, is a topic the pharmaceutical/beauty industry is milking till the very last drop, and thus there’s a lot of nasty marketing incorporated to make us feel like we have to use exactly this specific product or else we’ll suffer through the every single minute of our menstruation. however, this is not only a thing of the commercial, capitalist world of the tampon and intimate wash (did you know that these actually cause more harm than help?) brands, there’s also a certain policing coming from within the feminist/eco community.

what the hell am i talking about? the fact that there’s way too much discussion about what the ‘best’ menstrual hygiene product is, yet there is nothing like that. there are a lot of lowkey-shaming articles about how much you destroy the planet when you use disposable tampons/pad, which is of course true, yet there’s very little acknowledgement that menstrual cups are not the best fit for everyone, being it due to comfort, shame, religion or any other personal belief. menstruation politics, however liberating it might appear, still tends to police menstruating bodies heavily, which is not progressive at all.


thus, i would just like to say one thing:
no matter if you let your blood flow loose or collect it via any kind of menstrual hygiene product, it is your body and your menstrual blood, and you decide what you do with it. of course, there needs to be a certain responsibility in (all) our consumerist choices, but your own health and comfort should be the most important in this case.

ECO | ethics vs economics/possibilites

x

ECO | ethics vs economics/possibilities

quite recently, i stumbled upon this article, i kind of wanted to scream with joy. someone finally put my internal struggles into words – how much it sucks when you realize how important it is to make conscious shopping choices, but when your own budget prevents you from it.

i’ve been writing about sustainability, ecology and conscious consumerism (can such thing actually exist?) for quite some years now, yet i find myself reaching for the cheap pasta wrapped in plastic at Lidl almost every week and tossing out multiple metal cans quite regularly. every time i do this, it feels like a sharp cut into my soul – you, who preach so much about reducing waste and being sustainable, you do this? how pathetic. there are so many options to be even more eco-friendly, yet you don’t do them! you fucking suck.


yes, there are so many ways to become a conscious consumer: zero-waste shops, composting at home, making your own snacks instead of buying them and so on, no doubt about that. but, as most of these things often cater to those who have a steady income, have their own private place to live and can afford to spend their time on practising them, i, as a student with a limited budget, who has to move every other month because of the current surging housing crisis, who, in order to pursue own dreams, moves from a country to country every couple of months, find it impossible to make use of them. yes, i’d love to get myself a bunch of glass jars, only shop at Original Unverpackt, a waste-free grocery store in Kreuzberg, prepare my own cookies to bring to work, make my own deodorant and toothpaste and what not, but there are several elements that prevent me from it, and one of them is money. as the author of the previously mentioned article said, not everyone can vote with their dollars—or, in my case, euros—but that does not mean that my efforts are completely pointless or that i’m betraying my beliefs.

i am still trying hard to save the planet on as many accounts as i can (for example, i strongly refuse to shop at fast-fashion stores, even though it sometimes means it takes 10 times longer to find a garment i really need, like socks or underwear), but i will, for a while at least, have to keep buying pre-packaged stuff from Lidl, because i simply cannot afford to do otherwise, and i should stop feeling bad about it. unfortunately, a lot of decisions we make are often decided without us actively participating in the decision-making. 

i am not trying to make this a whole apologetic piece about myself, i just want to point out that even if we want to support a good cause, the way our society is structured can rule it out for some of us. however, it is important to keep on raising our voices about these topics, and to never stop hoping that this will eventually change. perhaps that’s actually even more influential. or?

SEX ED | the real sex positivity

TW: sex, gender binary, promiscuity
 photo a_zps2qukwb3g.png
photo by Miruna Sorescu, Kotryna Abaravičiūtė and me for our ‘Pornification’ project

 

SEX ED | the real sex positivity

hookup culture, one night stands, friends with benefits, Tinder, Grindr,…; all these terms are quite strongly embedded in our modern culture. they are part of the so-called ‘sexual liberation’ of today. while i think that it’s great that we have (somehow) managed to move away from stigmatising sex and promiscuity, i would like to talk about the harms this ‘liberation’ can do.

let me make it clear straight from the beginning – i do not want to criticise promiscuity, not at all. it’s each individual’s own decision whether/how/with who they want to engage in a sexual, um, whatever and everyone else should mind their own business. what i want to address here is how this ‘sexual liberation’, often interchanged with ‘sex positivity’, can actually only liberate one group of sexually active people, while oppressing the other.

‘sex positivity’ is often presented as the opposite of the ‘old-fashioned’ sex-after-marriage, if-you-have-more-than-one-partner-it’s-too-much idea. somehow, it has transformed into an ideology which only embraces one attitude towards sex; that is the promiscuous, care-free, i-do-it-for-the-pleasure, no-strings-attached idea. while i cannot stress that the action (= flamboyant sex life) is completely ok, the attitude (= ‘this is the right way to approach sex’) is wrong. first of all, it completely forgets about the fact that there are people who are demi-/asexual, suffer from past trauma/gender dysphoria/body conditions (e.g. vaginismus) etc. which makes it difficult for them to have sex and simply people who wish to be in long-term monogamous sex relationship based on a bit more than just bodily attraction; and that all these approaches to sex are completely legit and should be embraced too. unfortunately, this isn’t really happening in real life; and people who do not wish to engage in the promiscuity are humiliated for being ‘too prude’, ‘judgemental’ and what not. this creates a funny contrast: those who have been shamed for being promiscuous now shame those who aren’t like that, which, in the end, leads nowhere near liberation as it simply creates another way of oppression. 


we all know that many of our acts are fuelled by the need to be approved and liked by the society, and in many cases, we might adjust our behaviour to ‘fit in’. there are many people who present this way of ‘sex positivity’ as the ‘new normal’ and openly voice an opinion that if you’re not into that, you’re boring/weird/not cool (side note – these people are also called assholes), which creates a very strong social pressure and can trick people into doing something they don’t like/want to just to follow the norm. this is a very harmful way of manipulation – no one should ever make you do things by belittling your personality and own opinions.

simply put, there is no right or wrong attitude towards having sex; and sex positivity should embrace all those diverse ways people approach their own sex lives. we should not pressure anyone into any specific attitude towards having sex, because sexuality, same as gender, is different for each and every one, and all is valid when it comes to that.

make sure to check out this great comic which perfectly sums up what i just wrote!

SEX ED | stds

TW: sex, birth control, STDs, genitals

 photo 2016-05-11 17.28.23_zpsmv7cjuqc.jpg

SEX ED | stds

i know, i know – sexually transmitted diseases (aka STDs) are not particularly something you want to be reading about in your free time, but since the standards of sex ed in most countries are below the low, it’s exactly what you should be doing right now.

i started investigating the topic when i decided to focus on STD prevention for a school project; and have been annoying my friends with warnings and scary facts whenever we discuss our sex/love lives ever since. it always surprises me how little knowledge many young people have of the issue, and how much of a mysterious no-no topic it is for many. that’s why i decided to write this very brief summary of important info about the most common STDs. i am no doctor/specialist, so all the info you can find here is based on my own Internet research and talking to my gynaecologist. still, it’s better than nothing, right?

______________________________________________
first, we need to bust a couple of myths:
‘only promiscuous people get STDs’
no, no, NO. sure, the more people you have sex with, the more exposed you are to the nasty bacteria and viruses, but literally anyone can get an STD, regardless of how many partners they sleep/have slept with. STDs also don’t pick between sexes, genders, sexualities, races etc., so no one is really safer than others.
‘STDs can only be transmitted during penetrative sex’
oral sex, and even rubbing genitals against each other can also transmit STDs. you can even get chlamydia in your throat, so… again, you can reduce the risk during fellatios (aka blowjobs) by using condoms.
‘if i don’t see any symptoms on my body, i’m fine’ or ‘i should only get tested when there’s something wrong with me’
if only it was that easy! the symptoms don’t always appear, so you might go years with the infection in your body without showing any signs. furthermore, the incubation time differs with each disease, so it might take a long time before anything comes up.
‘getting diagnosed with an STD is already really embarrassing, i should not tell anyone else’
first of all, STDs are not embarrassing. they happen, they are normal, time to move on now. secondly, it is important to tell your current and ex partners you have been diagnosed to prevent further spreading of the disease.
‘if i use condoms, i’m completely safe’
some STDs, like HPV for example, can infect even those areas you cannot cover with a condom, therefore the risk of transmission is still there! also, condoms are not always used correctly, which also reduces their protective ability.
‘if i get an STD, my (sex) life is over’
most STDs can be treated, or at least all the unpleasant symptoms (like itching, warts, discharge) can be rid of. you might have to refrain from sex for the time you get your treatment, but that is not forever. however, if you know you are still infectious (= when you have been diagnosed with HPV, HIV or herpes), you need to inform your partners prior to the intercourse.
‘STDs are disgusting, filthy and definitely not normal’
STDs are the most normal thing, literally. majority of people will have one (or more) at some point of their lives, often undiagnosed. sorry to break it for you, but if you get one, you’re not special : )
‘if i get the Cervarix vaccine, i don’t need to worry about HPV anymore’
sadly, no. Cervarix, the vaccine mostly used in the Czech Rep, only protects against the HPV strains 16 and 18, which are the most common to blame for cervical cancer, but does not protect you against genital warts caused by HPV 4 and 9. Gardasil and Gardasil 9, similar vaccines that are also available on the market, can protect you against most kinds of warts – however, there’s still lots of strains no vaccine will protect you against.
______________________________________________
now that we sorted that out, let’s get to all the things you should do to prevent STDs:
get tested
and not only after an unprotected cheeky session or when you feel like there’s something wrong with your genitals. get tested regularly. as i’ve said before, it takes a while for some diseases to incubate, so it’s better to get tested every now and then to be 100% sure.
talk about sexual health with your partners
make sure you know about the STD records of your current partner(s) and inform them about your own sexual health. if you’re unsure of someone’s health, always use protection; if they refuse to do so, back out – better safe than sorry!
protect yourself
as i just said: always protect yourself with partners about whose sexual health you cannot be 100% sure. if they refuse to do so, refuse to have sex with them, as easy as that.
educate yourself
keep yourself informed about all the diseases and, pretty please, educate the others!
keep your toys clean
if you share sex toys with your partners, don’t forget to take proper care of them and clean them after each use – they can transmit diseases too.
______________________________________________
let’s do a quick summary of the most common STDs you can come across now:
 
chlamydia
– bacterial infection which can infect vagina/penis/cervix/urethra/eye/throat
– symptoms include abnormal discharge, painful urinating, swelling, bleeding
– often has no symptoms!
– if untreated, it can lead to problems with fertility in women
incubation time: 5–14 days
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex
symptoms: discharge from penis/vagina, burning pain when urinating, pain/swelling in testicles, rectal pain, bleeding
how is it tested: urine samples, swabs from genitalia
curable*: yes (but repeated infection is common)
do condoms protect: yes
(however, a mother can transmit it to an unborn child!)
(* ‘curable’ means if the body gets fully rid of the bacteria/virus)
gonorrhea
– ‘the clap’
– the most common symptoms are abnormal (smelling) discharge and painful urinating
– symptoms might only appear after the infection has spread to other body parts
– if left untreated, it can cause reduced fertility in all sexes
incubation time: 2–5 days (sometimes up to 30 days)
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex, very close physical contact (not that common)
symptoms: discharge, pain/burning sensation when urinating, irritation, tenderness, itching
how is it tested: urine samples, swabs from genitalia
curable: yes
do condoms protect: yes
 
herpes
– two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2
– often shows up as sores and blisters on genitalia and/or mouth
– the symptoms can be treated but keep on recurring for the rest of the life
incubation time: 2–15 days
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex, kissing, touching affected areas
symptoms:
HSV-1: cold sores, blisters
HSV-2: can have no symptoms for many; genital pain, flu-like symptoms, red bumps around the genitals or mouth, later developing into crusty, painful blisters
how is it tested: blood tests, swabs from the sores
curable: no; symptoms can be treated be often reoccur
do condoms protect: yes; however, (oral) contact with the sores can transmit the disease
 
syphilis
– bacterial infection causing open sores
– has 3 stages throughout which the symptoms are spreading over the body
– if untreated, it can cause serious damage to mental health and the brain and nerves
incubation time: 1 week – 3 months
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex, intimate touching/kissing
symptoms:
1st stage (3 weeks after exposure): painless ulcers (or ‘chancres’) (in mouth or rectum)
2nd stage (weeks/months later): spreading sores, rash, sore throat, loss of energy, hair loss
3rd stage (1 year – decades later, very rare these days): arthritis, damaged brain, nerves, heart, liver,…
how is it tested: blood tests, if a sore has already appeared > swab tests
curable: yes
do condoms protect: yes; but can still be transmitted by touching affected areas
 
HPV
= Human Papilloma Virus
– there are plenty (over 70) strains of HPV, only some of which can cause cervical cancer or genital warts
– the most common STD, pretty much every sexually active person will contract it at some point > the body often fights it off without any serious complications
– vaccines (Gardasil, Cervarix) can prevent cervical cancer and genital warts, but do not protect against all HPV strains!
– the strains that cause genital warts do not cause cancer
all kinds of warts and cancers can be treated!
incubation time: 1 month – several years
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex, skin-to-skin contact; even when the infected person shows no symptoms
symptoms: often no symptoms (however, the virus is actively present in the body); some strains cause genital warts (on vulva, cervix, penis, anus, mouth or throat; cauliflower-looking, painless, sometimes itchy)
how is it tested: pap smears from cervix (important to get them annually!), inspection of warts; cannot be tested through urine or blood
curable: no (symptoms may disappear but the virus stays in the body)
do condoms protect: partially; the virus can affect areas that cannot be covered by condoms
 
HIV/AIDS
– HIV (= Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, which can (but often doesn’t!) later develop into AIDS (= Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), during which your immune system is already severely damaged
– the so-called PrEP medicine (marketed as ‘Truvada’) can lower your chance of getting infected if taken daily
PEP antiretroviral medicine is taken in emergency situations after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent getting it. it needs to be taken 72 hours after the possible exposure – it pretty much works like the contraceptive ‘morning after’ pill.
– once diagnosed, you will receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce the spreading of the virus in your body
incubation time: a couple of days – 3 months
(however, the HIV antibodies can only be detected by tests after at least 3 weeks of transmission)
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex, needle/syringe use, mother-to-child contraction (also through breast feeding)
symptoms: fever, fatigue, rash, swelling, sore muscles/throat, chills, night sweats
how is it tested: blood tests
curable: no
do condoms protect: yes
 
hepatitis
– hepatitis A, B, D, E can be transmitted through sexual contact (amongst many other ways)
– type B can be prevented through vaccination
incubation time: 2 weeks – 5 months
transmission: vaginal/anal/oral sex, contact with contaminated blood or water/food
symptoms: flu-like symptoms, dark urine, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
how is it tested: blood tests
curable: type B, C, D – no; A & E – self-limiting
do condoms protect: partially; it can still be contracted through contaminated fluids
 
bacterial vaginosis & yeast infection
– both are not typical STDs but rather health issues caused by imbalance in vagina, resulting in discharge and other problems
(i included them because they can greatly affect one’s sexual health too)
bacterial vaginosis is caused by overgrowth of germs normally found in vagina
yeast infection (or ‘candidiasis’) is caused by a natural fungus Candida albicans which can be spread through sexual contact and can affect any moist area of one’s body
– yeast infection is very common and easy to treat
incubation time: 1–3 months
cause: imbalance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in vagina which can be caused by, for example, recent change of sexual partner, copper coil contraception, or even bubble baths, as well as poor immune system, stressful life periods or chronic diseases
symptoms: smelling discharge, itching, soreness, burning, rash
how is it tested: pelvic exam
curable: yes
do condoms protect: partially
scabies
– tiny mites that lay eggs in the skin and cause a lot of itching
– most widespread skin disease in children
incubation time: 4–6 weeks
transmission: holding hands, sleeping in infested bedding, wearing infested clothes
symptoms: strong itching, rash (often in patches), tiny blisters, scales
how is it tested: inspection of the rash
curable: yes
do condoms protect: no
______________________________________________
and last but not least: STD testing!
 
how often should i get tested?
whenever you find any of the symptoms listed above, obviously, and do that as soon as you can. but even if your body does not show any signs of STDs, it is really important to get tested regularly as many STDs come symptomless. i’d say getting tested every 6 months if you have multiple partners over the time (even if you use protection) is ideal; many experts recommend getting tested at least (!) once a year.
 
how soon after having unprotected sex should i get tested?
it is often advised to wait 1 month after the intercourse to make sure all major STDs have incubated already. however, some STDs might only incubate after several months or years even though your tests were negative.
 
where can i do it?
there are special STD prevention centres in pretty much every hospital, a quick search online will show you all the nearby places where you can get tested. your gynaecologist should also do the tests – and don’t forget to get pap smears regularly (those of you who have a cervix, of course)!
do i need to get an appointment?
it is better to do so because you’ll avoid a lot of waiting, but most STD testing places offer walk-ins too.
will i have to pay?
you don’t have to pay in most countries, however it depends on where you get treated.
will it be anonymous?
unfortunately, STD tests are often not anonymous, but don’t worry, your information will stay confidential.
 
how does it work?
you come to the doctor’s office and answer a few questions about your sex life (e.g. which kinds of sex do you have, when was the last time you had unprotected sex, if you have been diagnosed with an STD before, if you have any symptoms etc.); and then the doctor will proceed to do the tests. depending on the diseases you are tested for, it can be a blood test, a urine sample, swabs or examination of the genitals. the whole testing session will take 30 minutes maximum.
when and how will i get the results?
it usually takes a week or 10 days to get the results. sometimes you need to come to the office to pick them up in person, but often you can just call them and ask.
 
what if i test positive for some STD?
no need to worry – you will receive a treatment straight away. you will have to take a break from having sex for a while and take meds or use ointments on affected areas. it is important to go through all steps of the treatment to prevent health complications and further spreading to your current and future partners!

MENTAL HEALTH | depression awards

MENTAL HEALTH | depression awards

back in spring, i somehow came to the conclusion that doing my semester exam, moving out of my dorm, moving to Berlin and starting my internship all within a matter of two weeks is absolutely manageable. nothing to worry about!

turned out it wasn’t. the last weeks of May and pretty much the whole June were the worst days of my life, in terms of how i felt at least. it was a very turbulent time which, obviously, wasn’t the best for my (non-existent) mental stability. my depression intensified so much simple everyday tasks were the biggest struggle for me. the only thing i wanted to do was sleeping; and i did, around 12 hours a day, only to feel tired again a couple of hours after waking up.

during those times, executing the simplest tasks felt like a victory. cooking lunch, washing the dishes, taking a shower, replying to my boss’ email – all that was an honourable act.
that’s why, on one of the better days, i drew these little awards/badges; to reward myself for the hard work. and trust me, that was hard too.

if you feel the same now, remember, it will eventually get at least a bit better. you’re a great, wonderful and strong human being and you can live through this, even though it’s difficult. ♥