Michelle Elton

@melton876 | contributor
I'm the mom to two amazing kiddos and wife to my amazing husband. I am also a survivor of sexual violence and abuse. I am many things.
Mia Jones

The Problem With Assuming That Abortion Ban Exceptions Will Actually Work

I am overwhelmed with all the abortion talk since the ruling overturning Roe vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. I had an abortion when I was 17. I was pregnant as the result of incest. It is one of the lowest parts of my life. I was alone in my trauma and there was no support in sight. I went into myself and just buried the memory of it all. I do not remember all the details of how it all transpired. I just know I was pregnant, and my parents took care of it. I cannot imagine what would have happened if my abuser did not have access to an abortion for me. Certainly, he was not going to alert the authorities of what he had done. He could not be found out. I assume they could have suggested that I had sex with some boy, and he impregnated me. They could have found an off the book’s abortion somewhere. They could have done something to harm me to cause me to lose the fetus. I can only guess to what lengths they would have gone to keep their secret. For me, I would have lost my scholarship to college that I was starting in two months. I would have stayed home possibly and raised my child in an environment that was abusive. My child could have had health issues because of the familial DNA match. My abuse would have continued. I would be another unwed mother with the scorn of the community around her. The so-called “incest and rape exceptions” with recently enacted abortion laws Now everyone is talking about abortions, with even anti-abortion and pro-choice commercials on television (they are driving me “crazy”). There is no escape. There seems to be no end in sight. I am going to have to find a way to cope. For me, after Roe was struck down, the hardest thing is the knowing that abortion is now pretty much inaccessible for those who experience rape or incest. Some of the states are outright banning all abortions for any reason. Some are making exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. This sounds on the surface noble, but this in no way guarantees an abortion because of rape or incest. Incest reporting data What abuser is going to admit they raped their 11-year-old daughter and allow her to have an abortion? The U.S. Department of Justice estimates “incest occurs in over 10 percent of American families, yet only 20 percent of these offenses are reported. It is reported and is very obvious that the crime often goes unreported because the abuse is initiated by someone the child, usually a girl, loves and trusts.” Rape and reporting Rape victims immediately after the rape are dealing with a whole host of emotions and experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may not be able to think about reporting or about checking to see if they are now pregnant in the first six weeks. The U.S. Department of Justice also reports that most rapes and sexual assaults were not reported to the police. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Selected Findings, the reasons for not reporting to law enforcement authorities when victims of rape, attempted rape, and sexual assault did not report the crime to the police, the most often cited reason was that the victimization was a personal matter: victims see rape as a personal matter 23% of the time, fear of reprisal 16% of the time, and police bias 5% of the time. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said he is going to end rape and incest in Texas to justify Texas’s radical new abortion law, and its no exceptions for rape and incest. The Austin American Statesman paper quoted Gregg Abbott saying they “will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.” I doubt he can do this or has any intention of trying to. Abbott further said that they will be “aggressively going out and arresting [rapists] and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.” That sounds noble, but Texas has a backlog of rape kits and the rape would have already happened, therefore not preventing it. Not accessible after all The laws are unclear and do not say how to prove you have been raped and some require you to make a police report, turning in your lover, parent, friends’ father, priest and so on. Which seems like an insurmountable hurdle. Some states that have rape or incest exceptions in their abortion bans, according to POLITICO “that while the law may allow people to terminate their pregnancy in those instances, it will likely be easier to get patients across state lines for an abortion than try to clear the hurdles associated with obtaining one legally in their home state.” Basically, there is no access for abortions. Even if you meet the criteria for an exception that does not mean there will be a doctor or clinic in your state to do it. There is no exception. You are out of luck, especially if you are poor and cannot travel to a state with more lenient laws. Now What? What can we/I do about it? Vote for politicians who support laws that give everyone who can get pregnant access to an abortion. Donate to help women in poverty access abortions. Join the school board and vote for responsible sex education in schools. Talk to your circles about abortion and why it is important to protect the right (be clear this Supreme Court is coming for all marginalized people). Organize inclusive actions that lead to changed minds and policies. Educate yourself about the abortion laws, how they are made and how you can influence policy making. We can raise our boys in a way that they avoid displaying toxic masculinity and acting on it. Men can hold each other accountable in the way they talk about women and how they approach relationships with women. It is not too late Now is not the time to throw in the towel and give up hope. We need to support each other and pick up and take action to make change. Our policy makers on both sides need to be called to account. They have a responsibility to protect our rights and we need to make sure they do. Shore up your Mighty cape and forge ahead; we can do this.

Community Voices

What's the hardest part about working out for your health?

<p>What's the hardest part about working out for your health?</p>
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Matt Sloan

The Problem With Saying Something Silly Is Giving You PTSD

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on social media lately. Sure, it’s harmless in intention as these things often are, but it is nonetheless damaging to people living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And, since it’s relevant, I feel the need to clarify: I’m talking about the reality of PTSD here, a debilitating disorder caused by traumatic events, diagnosable by certain criteria. I’m not talking about vague discomfort at a memory or situation. I’ve seen it too often on social media and in real life — people saying things are giving them PTSD just because they don’t like them. After a quick scroll on Twitter, I could find people referencing “glitter PTSD,” “eyebrows giving me PTSD,” and “long denim skirts give PTSD” because they didn’t like the fashion trend. Let me make this abundantly clear: I am in no way calling individuals out to be harassed or contacted in any way, as I know they are likely speaking without a full understanding of the nuance of their words. However, their examples offer a prime opportunity for growth. PTSD is not feeling a little uncomfortable. PTSD isn’t caused by a memory or reminder of a vaguely unhappy time, a bad episode of a TV show, a fashion trend we’d rather forget, or any other example I’ve come across that has made me roll my eyes in exasperation. We’ve shared before what PTSD really looks like, but I’ll rehash it here. PTSD is debilitating and life-impacting. It’s often caused by a traumatic moment (or multiple compounded traumatic moments) and can cause physical changes to the biological structure of the brain. It’s flashbacks that feel like re-experiencing the traumatic event over and over again. Imagine, if you will, something truly horrible happening to you; something completely life-altering, harrowing, terrifying. Now, imagine the simplest moment that forces your mind to recall that event in vivid, excruciating detail. It might not even be visual or carry with it the smell and the sound of the event, as somatic flashbacks cause physical reactions in the body without the presence of actual memories. This is what we mean by being “triggered,” yet another term that is often used without a full understanding of its meaning, and which is often damaging to those living with PTSD. Because if a person you know is living with PTSD and does not realize it, misuse of the word leads them down an altogether different path. It tells them, “PTSD isn’t real,” or, “It’s not a big deal, you’re just overreacting,” and may lead to that person not seeking the help that they deserve. Every time we describe something vaguely uncomfortable as “giving you PTSD,” we actually harm someone struggling in silence, whose voice we are actively silencing with our facetiousness. By using these words without the seriousness they deserve, we strip people of the safe space these words provide. These words need to be taken seriously so that, if a person does open up about their experiences, they can feel safe in the knowledge that they will be understood and cared for. That’s why we cannot allow these words to lose their power. They cannot continue to become a part of our common vernacular in a way that minimizes the damage they represent. We have already allowed depression to become synonymous with sadness in a way that means people, like me, do not understand what they are going through until it’s already hollowed us out. And then there’s obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a debilitating disorder that has, instead, become synonymous with cleanliness, perfection, or vague discomfort at patterns that are slightly “incorrect” or displeasing to the eye. These misconceptions fail to grasp the real horror felt by those actually living with OCD. As we try to move into an age of enlightenment free from stigma and misunderstanding, let’s make sure we educate others on the truth behind their words. Even if they aren’t meant with malice, they still cause harm, still threaten to cause people to hide their truth, and even one person struggling in silence because PTSD is treated as a joke is one person too many.

Community Voices

New to the group!

I’m a parent of an adult son dealing with anxiety PTSD depression, late 20’s and lives/works across the country, in therapy. How can I best help him?
#Parenting

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Community Voices

New to the group!

I’m a parent of an adult son dealing with anxiety PTSD depression, late 20’s and lives/works across the country, in therapy. How can I best help him?
#Parenting

27 people are talking about this
Jenny Coffey

Reflecting on the Roe v. Wade Reversal on the 4th of July

I had nothing to celebrate this July 4th. It used to be my favorite holiday. My favorite years were driving the ambulance in the parade and having fun with the firefighters and police department. This time of year we were on duty, but able to enjoy it, and to have some laughs with each other. For the first time in my life, this holiday, the pride I used to feel, is just gone. Sometimes my brain feels numb, and other times I start to feel anxiety. It’s that sensation that you get right before a full-blown anxiety attack. My chest is tight, my neck feels full, and it becomes harder to take breaths. For the first time ever, I worry about having access to an IUD birth control device. I’ll tell you a secret. I haven’t had a cycle since 2013. When they told me that I had cancer again, I stopped having a cycle. My body literally just physiologically acted and shut down my long-broken oven. I would have loved to have been able to use it more than once. Are you surprised? Do you expect me to be against babies? The one thing I never got to do in EMS that I wanted to was “catch” a baby. I can’t tell you the number of heartbreaking miscarriages that I attended in my career. Back to the point. With the IUD, I have released a very low dose of hormone into my uterine walls. The use of this device has caused thinning of the walls, and decreasing in the adenomyosis that had occurred. One of my surgeons told me that his handprint stayed when he examined my “boggy” uterus during surgery. The amount of pain and suffering that I would go through at times, and the fact that I had already had cervical cancer, which cost me half of my cervix, left my reproductive organs far too broken. I need this for very real reasons. These laws are all ready to be written and enacted, to be introduced into states, and remove coverage for birth control such as IUDs. When I was in my 20s, I had polycystic ovaries, along with newly diagnosed endometriosis. The endo actually barred me from military service. I was in the hospital almost every month with ruptured cysts and horrific pain. I would internally bleed from the endo and fill the cul de sac with fluid from the ruptured cysts. The ones that didn’t rupture would move as I did, and bang into the insides of my body. The doctor put me on back-to-back pill packs. Yes, birth control pills, with the idea of preventing menstruation. I remember feeling humiliated, and so very small and dirty, when the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription. He said, “It goes against my religious beliefs.” He motioned for me to leave, as he waved my script back in my face in a rushed motion that I should take it from him, as if it would burn him if he held it any longer. I remember hiding “the pill” from the sight of others, worried about judgment even as I was wheeled out of work by an EMS crew with a ruptured ovarian cyst. I felt ashamed, as if my reproductive organs could be seen by others. It caused me to crumple to the floor in a fetal position. It felt like shards of glass trying to get out of my torso. Not only my abdomen, but my entire body revolted from the pain and tried to shut down. At least I didn’t puke, at least not at first. Let’s face it. I’ve never had it easy. I have fought against being sickly since I was a kid. All I seem to acquire these days are new diagnoses. The trouble with being chronically ill, especially with rare diseases, is there is never the achievement of a cure. The finality of being able to walk away from it all. It was hard enough when I didn’t have to worry about accessing the care that I needed to live. Now I have fear. The care that I have already sold my life to buy into gets harder and harder to access. Am I now on borrowed time? Will my access be harmed? I’ve talked about this before, from a different angle, most recently in my article, The Reality of Chronic Pain Care, on The Mighty. This year, I am a second-class citizen. I’ve long felt that way as is. I can’t access the same medical care that I gave. You think you have lived right until they can’t cure you. I have lost the right to have total control over my own body. It feels awful; damn, it feels unreal. Those in power claim to want to stop abortions, while simultaneously not investing in, but removing, birth control access, comprehensive free prenatal care, parental support, WIC, food stamps, housing, education, and so on. The far-right is working for more children to be born into an unsupported life of poverty. Can I tell you from personal experience that those people are assholes? Guess I just did. This is not politics as usual. This is stepping back in time, and women and people with a uterus are no longer equal. Forced pregnancy is disgusting and dirty. I still feel shocked. It feels like I am watching the birth of Gilead. In my freshman year of college, I read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a work of fiction that now seems to be becoming real. This is the new America, and the birth of the underground railroad for women. That is what they have succeeded in creating. They have signed the death certificates in advance for countless women who will die by suicide, ingest poisons, and have backroom abortions. Most of those occur in private homes, typically affecting people of little means. Consistent with out-of-control religious patriarchy, the objective is clear — removing the right to abortion, access to birth control, and forcing procreation on women. None of this is hyperbole. This is real. Women shaming is already happening. I’ve seen so many social media posts with comments like, “keep your legs closed” and “don’t have sex outside of the bonds of matrimony.” I’m reminded of another Mighty writer, Seanín Hughes, who wrote, “In learning to become a woman, I learned our bodies are subject to social commentary, opinion, and judgment based on how successfully we strike the balance between prescribed function and aesthetic — and we remain at the mercy of those who have the power to tell us we are failing.” When we dress wrong, live wrong, or do something to cause sex to occur. The ability to feel, to enjoy intercourse without the intent to have children. We still fight against stigmas inflicted upon us and edicts we never signed on to follow, and are shamed for what our male counterparts are rewarded for. We are in a world that was on a great track to creating equality, one I took great pride in being a part of. Now, shamed and sad, I have lost my freedom, my Independence.

Monika Sudakov

How the Roe v. Wade Reversal Has Triggered My PTSD From Sexual Abuse

Ever since I heard the news that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision affirming the constitutional right to an abortion, I have felt my mental health take a nosedive. My PTSD got triggered in a myriad of ways that I partly didn’t anticipate but certainly comprehend, as with one fell swoop, those possessing a uterus had their fundamental human rights ripped out from within them. At first, it began with somatic responses fueled by rage and disbelief. My head felt hot and like it was going to explode. I felt nauseated and sick to my stomach and I had a sense that I was being smothered or restrained, as though someone had bound me up in a straight jacket. Then I had a good old-fashioned panic attack complete with the inability to breathe, elevated heart rate, and a sense that the whole world was spinning. Once that passed, I slowly devolved into a catatonic state, dissociated and numb to everything, as if my body had been attached to an electrical supply that had experienced a short circuit, frying all of my internal mechanisms and halting them from functioning. Then came the nightmares. My most pervasive PTSD symptom is the persistent intrusion of violent dreams that terrorize me and wake me up. Most are permutations of feeling in danger or out of control, but every so often I will have dreams that are more direct recollections of my sexual abuse. These types of abuse dreams have taken over again, a nonstop barrage of having men violate me in various capacities against my will, and no matter how hard I protest nobody will do anything saying their hands are tied. I’m so beyond exhausted from nightmares that I’m operating in a zombie-like capacity somewhere between “I haven’t slept in five years” and “I’m a sloth on Xanax.” Not exactly conducive to a job involving customer service and working with sharp objects and fire. But the worst part of it is the degree to which this has triggered old feelings of inferiority and a sense of helplessness. As an 8-year-old child, I had zero control over my own safety or capacity to protect my bodily autonomy. I was a vulnerable little child whose agency over her body was destroyed by the violation of being sexually abused. And now, the abuser reaching down my panties is the government and they are transgressing each and every one of us with a uterus. This may sound hyperbolic but it’s not. To be told that you do not possess the right to determine what happens to your body is an abuse of power and for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, there’s a visceral and soul-crushing guttural pain reminiscent of what we endured in the past. Let me be clear, this isn’t a political statement, it’s a human one. I have spent years in trauma therapy processing my sexual abuse. The gnawing sense that I was somehow broken, flawed, disgusting, dirty, and that I deserved to be abused because of something I must have done coursed through my veins… a part of the very essence of who I thought I was. Disentangling these beliefs from the abuse of power and infringement of my rights as a person was no small feat and now it’s as if all of that work has been nullified. If the government can force their way into a person’s body with zero concern for how it affects that individual physically, emotionally, or financially, then they clearly don’t care about bodily autonomy or agency. Those who inhabit a person with a uterus, be they men or a fetus, are worth more than that human who has a uterus. It’s shaming, disenfranchising, and ultimately tells me I don’t matter in the same way that I felt like I didn’t matter when I was sexually abused. All I know is that I’m grieving. I’m grieving for those who have experienced sexual violence and understand the ramifications of this all too well. I’m grieving for those who will be violated in the future and will have to deal with a double violation. I’m grieving for those who will lose loved ones because their lives are endangered by carrying a child to term. I’m grieving for women who have to carry non-viable fetuses to term. And I’m grieving for the loss of potential of so many who will have to give up on their hopes and dreams because they didn’t have the opportunity to plan the timing of beginning a family for whatever reason. It’s a tragedy and I know that I’m hardly alone in the angst that I have been experiencing. If you are struggling to regain your sense of balance since the ruling, there are many things you can do. I know that for me, action helps to reset my nervous system and pull me out of my freeze trauma response. You can donate to abortion access funds, protest, write your congressional leaders, volunteer at local women’s health clinics, and above all… vote. Unlike when I was a child, I now have a voice. I can and will share my story, uplift and amplify the stories of others who have had to obtain an abortion for various reasons, and take up space by advocating for the rights of all human beings to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Monika Sudakov

How the Roe v. Wade Reversal Has Triggered My PTSD From Sexual Abuse

Ever since I heard the news that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision affirming the constitutional right to an abortion, I have felt my mental health take a nosedive. My PTSD got triggered in a myriad of ways that I partly didn’t anticipate but certainly comprehend, as with one fell swoop, those possessing a uterus had their fundamental human rights ripped out from within them. At first, it began with somatic responses fueled by rage and disbelief. My head felt hot and like it was going to explode. I felt nauseated and sick to my stomach and I had a sense that I was being smothered or restrained, as though someone had bound me up in a straight jacket. Then I had a good old-fashioned panic attack complete with the inability to breathe, elevated heart rate, and a sense that the whole world was spinning. Once that passed, I slowly devolved into a catatonic state, dissociated and numb to everything, as if my body had been attached to an electrical supply that had experienced a short circuit, frying all of my internal mechanisms and halting them from functioning. Then came the nightmares. My most pervasive PTSD symptom is the persistent intrusion of violent dreams that terrorize me and wake me up. Most are permutations of feeling in danger or out of control, but every so often I will have dreams that are more direct recollections of my sexual abuse. These types of abuse dreams have taken over again, a nonstop barrage of having men violate me in various capacities against my will, and no matter how hard I protest nobody will do anything saying their hands are tied. I’m so beyond exhausted from nightmares that I’m operating in a zombie-like capacity somewhere between “I haven’t slept in five years” and “I’m a sloth on Xanax.” Not exactly conducive to a job involving customer service and working with sharp objects and fire. But the worst part of it is the degree to which this has triggered old feelings of inferiority and a sense of helplessness. As an 8-year-old child, I had zero control over my own safety or capacity to protect my bodily autonomy. I was a vulnerable little child whose agency over her body was destroyed by the violation of being sexually abused. And now, the abuser reaching down my panties is the government and they are transgressing each and every one of us with a uterus. This may sound hyperbolic but it’s not. To be told that you do not possess the right to determine what happens to your body is an abuse of power and for anyone who has experienced sexual assault, there’s a visceral and soul-crushing guttural pain reminiscent of what we endured in the past. Let me be clear, this isn’t a political statement, it’s a human one. I have spent years in trauma therapy processing my sexual abuse. The gnawing sense that I was somehow broken, flawed, disgusting, dirty, and that I deserved to be abused because of something I must have done coursed through my veins… a part of the very essence of who I thought I was. Disentangling these beliefs from the abuse of power and infringement of my rights as a person was no small feat and now it’s as if all of that work has been nullified. If the government can force their way into a person’s body with zero concern for how it affects that individual physically, emotionally, or financially, then they clearly don’t care about bodily autonomy or agency. Those who inhabit a person with a uterus, be they men or a fetus, are worth more than that human who has a uterus. It’s shaming, disenfranchising, and ultimately tells me I don’t matter in the same way that I felt like I didn’t matter when I was sexually abused. All I know is that I’m grieving. I’m grieving for those who have experienced sexual violence and understand the ramifications of this all too well. I’m grieving for those who will be violated in the future and will have to deal with a double violation. I’m grieving for those who will lose loved ones because their lives are endangered by carrying a child to term. I’m grieving for women who have to carry non-viable fetuses to term. And I’m grieving for the loss of potential of so many who will have to give up on their hopes and dreams because they didn’t have the opportunity to plan the timing of beginning a family for whatever reason. It’s a tragedy and I know that I’m hardly alone in the angst that I have been experiencing. If you are struggling to regain your sense of balance since the ruling, there are many things you can do. I know that for me, action helps to reset my nervous system and pull me out of my freeze trauma response. You can donate to abortion access funds, protest, write your congressional leaders, volunteer at local women’s health clinics, and above all… vote. Unlike when I was a child, I now have a voice. I can and will share my story, uplift and amplify the stories of others who have had to obtain an abortion for various reasons, and take up space by advocating for the rights of all human beings to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Adele Espy

How Roe v. Wade Ruling Impacts a Sexual Abuse Survivor With Anorexia

I’m a sexual abuse survivor. I also have an eating disorder — anorexia, binge/purge type. My abuse started at age 4 and lasted until I was 21 years old. During each episode of abuse, I felt helpless, afraid, trapped, and powerless. While I can’t say I was lucky to experience abuse, I can say I was lucky I didn’t have my menstrual cycle yet. I was training my body too hard and starving my body too much to have a period, and therefore I didn’t get pregnant. I can’t imagine raising a child who has DNA from one of my abusers. It would be incredibly hard to have a reminder that I’m responsible to love. Now I have an implanted birth control, so I feel fairly safe (for now…), but what happens in three years when I need to change the implant out? Will I still have my right to birth control? Or will that be gone too? The feelings that flooded me when Roe was overturned were the same feelings I felt when I was abused — helpless, afraid, trapped, and powerless. I am privileged to live in Maine, where we haven’t yet lost our rights to safe abortions. But knowing that women’s rights are being stripped away makes me very scared for my future. It’s not that I don’t love and want babies either. I have a genetic condition that I don’t want to pass on to my offspring. Once I’m healthy enough to raise kids, I will absolutely adopt. I don’t want to create another sick kid when there are sick kids who already exist and need good parents. I want to be a good parent to a kid who needs love. That is my human right. And if I get pregnant unplanned, suddenly that is no longer my right as a woman, and that makes me want to scream and rip off all of my skin. Because it wasn’t my choice to be held down against my will and raped again and again throughout childhood. That wasn’t my choice, and this would not be my choice either. I identify as asexual. I could be asexual because of trauma, but it doesn’t really matter what caused it, it is what it is. That doesn’t mean I won’t get sexually abused again. Honestly, this ruling makes me want to get a hysterectomy and remove my uterus even though I don’t have sexual intercourse! And I have no reason to have a hysterectomy. It is really triggering to my anorexia too, because, despite having a birth control implant, I still do not want my menstrual cycle. Being able to make choices about my body is incredibly important to me and my recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Roe being overturned is a trigger to restrict my calories because it’s the only thing I feel I have control over. It makes me want to give up on life. What’s the point of sticking around if the world is so fucked up? Restricting my calories and losing weight is all I feel I have control over these days. I don’t want to get sucked back into my anorexic patterns. I want to be healthy and free to be the driver of my own life, my own body, my own uterus, and my own feelings and actions. We cannot go back to 1973 when abortion was illegal. My whole body is shaking with rage because my gender and uterus status shouldn’t determine my legal rights.