Reflecting on My First Semester at the Women’s Center

By Elise Wantling

As I write this, it is the beginning of finals week, which means the fall 2019 semester is drawing to a close, and with it ends my first semester working at the Women’s Center. I didn’t join the team until the end of October, so I haven’t been here very long, but I have learned a lot in my short time working here. I’ve learned the basic workings of the Women’s Center, like how to run the front desk. I’ve honed in on my creative skills while working with my coworker, Michelle to create a video game themed bulletin board and helped create the boxes we used for our menstrual product drive. I also became a pro button maker, making tons of buttons for our tabling events. Most importantly, I have learned about each of my coworkers, from their names and majors to what makes them a unique part of our team.

I’m sad to see the semester come to an end already. This is only my second semester at UMKC, and next semester is slated to be my last, but I’ve really come to love it here and I’m going to miss it when I graduate. Sure, my commute is long and I can never find a spot in the parking garage (except on the 5th floor), but the people here are wonderful and I love all of my professors. I’ve worked a lot of jobs during my college career, but I think my job here at the Women’s Center is one of my favorites (probably only second to my job at the library at KU). I love helping with the events and meeting people who drop by the center’s space or who attend our programming. Looking forward though, I’m excited for what the future holds. Next semester I plan on helping actually plan and run events of my own, taking more of a leadership role than I had this semester. I’m also working on becoming the new social media intern, so hopefully I’ll be the person behind the keyboard typing up interesting content on our social media sites. While I’m a little sad about graduating, I’m also super excited to finally be done with undergrad and to move on with my life. I’m getting married next May as well, and I’m excited to create a family of my own with my fiancé.

Overall, it’s been a good semester. We’ve had a lot of fun here at the Women’s Center while also putting in a lot of hard work. Some of my coworkers are leaving after this semester, and I’m going to miss them, but I’m also excited to meet the people who will take their places. Next semester is shaping up to be a good one, and I think I’m ready for it.

Loving Someone with Depression

By Elise Wantling

I have struggled with depression on and off, (but mostly on) for the majority of the past decade. My partner has struggled with it for even longer than that, probably close to 15 years now. We have been part of each other’s lives for a little over two years as of writing, and together we have taken turns caring for one another when the depression brain takes over and things seem too hard to bear.

First, let me explain what depression is. Depression is a catch-all term for a couple different mood disorders. The most common type (according to Harvard Health) is major depression, also known as clinical depression, which would be classified as the “worst” type, that carries with it changes to your sleep patterns, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts and feelings. This can last for years before it goes away, if it ever does. There is also persistent depressive disorder/dysthymia, which is basically “depression lite”. It comes with most of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, but they aren’t as intense or long lasting. It is characterized by a “low mood” lasting at least two years. The third kind is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs during the fall and winter. I’d rank it as the “least bad” on the scale, as it usually isn’t as intense as major depression or PDD and only lasts a few months of the year.

There are other types of mood disorders or personality disorders that depression can fall into, but these three are the most common. Ryan, (my partner) and I both have standalone depression diagnosis (we both have clinical depression/MDD), but we both have other mental health issues as well (one of which is anxiety, which often comes alongside depression). We are both currently seeking treatment for our depression, taking meds and seeing our own therapists, but that isn’t always enough to keep the depression at bay. Depression can manifest in a number of ways, but for Ryan and me it manifests in a similar way. First, it starts with the gradual decline in energy. I’ll notice he sleeps more and seems less present during his waking hours. He wants to go out less and stay in more. When he sleeps, it’s restless and full of nightmares. He becomes disinterested in his hobbies, he stops helping around the house, his life starts to become a cycle of work and sleep with very little in between. It starts out slow, and gradually gets worse, and usually manages to escape detection until we reach a breaking point of either me or him getting frustrated with his lack of ability to function.

Then it usually hits us: the depression fairy visits and casts a nasty spell. This usually leads to a conversation about how he’s been feeling, which will reveal that emotionally he’s doing about as well as he is functionally (which is to say not doing well at all). We then draft a game plan: first, an appointment to get meds adjusted. Second, investigate therapy options if he isn’t already actively in therapy. Third, get back on a healthy eat/sleep/work schedule, making sure no meals are missed and that there is a healthy level of sleep being accomplished, not too little but also not too much. We check in daily on emotional levels, having candid conversations about suicidal thoughts or feelings and feelings of worthlessness or not being good enough. Little by little, together, we pull him out of the dark hole he has fallen into. Sometimes it takes just a few weeks, sometimes it takes a few months, but eventually he is able to wake up one day and tell me that everything is alright again.

It’s not always him that gives into the depression. Sometimes, just as often as it happens to him really, it happens to me. We’ve been lucky so far in that when one of us has needed to be carried for a bit the other has had the strength to do the carrying. In the beginning of our relationship I often worried what would happen if we both fell victim to depression at the same time. What I have learned is that love has given us the ability to rally when needed. Some days, even when I can’t manage to care much for myself, I find the strength and energy in me to care for him, and vice versa, he does that for me. I am by no means saying our love or our relationship has cured our depression. But I am saying it has made things more bearable. Through my relationship with Ryan I have found someone I can confide in and share my struggles with, who truly gets them and can relate. Someone who shares the feeling of triumph when after weeks of dragging yourself out of bed you finally wake up and find yourself excited to face a new day instead of dreading it. He reminds me to take my meds and takes me to my doctor appointments. He rejoices in my joy, and holds me in my sorrow, and I likewise am able to do that for him.

Loving someone with depression when you have depression isn’t easy. Some days it feels like the cycle of depression will never end. Other days, you feel like you’re free of it forever.  Just like every relationship, a relationship that is touched by depression still requires love, trust, and communication. It can be incredibly challenging, but also deeply fulfilling. Even with its’ challenges though, I wouldn’t trade my relationship for the world, and for those of you who can relate, I hope you can say the same.

Ending War On My Body

By Elise Wantling

 

One day, when I was very young, probably 6 or 7, I was drawing at the kitchen table with some crayons. I was furiously working on a self-portrait. I picked out the perfect shade of blue that matched my eyes, made sure my hair went down to my waist (as it did at the time), drew a t-shirt and pants in my favorite colors. I remember looking down at the drawing of a little girl lying in front of me, and something struck me as off. Then I realized the difference between the drawing and myself: she was skinny, and I was not.

My weight has been my biggest insecurity since I was young. I have always resented my flabby stomach and my thick thighs. I have been consciously fighting my body for over a decade now, trying to make myself slim while my body insists on being all curves. It didn’t help that other people enabled me. Like when my fourth-grade teacher, who ran into me in the cafeteria when I was in fifth grade complimented “it looked like I had lost a lot of weight.” I can’t recall the exact words anymore, but at the time they stung, and they weighed on me for years. Or the aunts and uncles who were always quick to give me dieting tips when I saw them on the holidays, or let me know if I had gained or lost a few pounds since I had last seen them. Some of my worst enablers were my friends, who would sit with me and lament about their own bodies. We would plan how we could lose weight and dreamt about how great our lives would be as newer, skinnier people.

I wish I could say one day I woke up and said “no more” and that was it, but that wouldn’t be the complete truth. I have reached high points with my self love a number of times. There have been many times where I have concluded this is just how my body is meant to be and what is truly important to me is being healthy. But I’ve dipped to low points as well, like crying in the fitting room while trying on clothes and vowing that next time I came back to that store, they would fit like they were supposed to. Loving your body is a constant struggle, especially when we exist in a society that is constantly encouraging us to do the opposite.

While no one has found the perfect solution to the problem of negative body image, there are tools out there to help. One such tool is Jameela Jamil’s “I Weigh” campaign. The purpose of her campaign is to push back against the negative things people see in the media and on social media, like advertisements for weight loss products, body negative posts, toxic beauty standards, etc. She encourages people to take unedited photos of themselves and over those photos insert texts saying “I weigh….” And then list the positive, immeasurable things they “weigh”. For example, one could say “I weigh wonderful friendships, fulfilling career, loving partner, bright future”. She then encourages people to post these photos on social media and tag her account @i_weigh so that she can like and share them on her page. She also encourages people to redo their posts when they’re feeling down and need a reminder about why they are worthy and wonderful.

Maybe making a social media post won’t be the final thing to help me end the war I’ve started with my body, but it can at least help me in not feeling so alone while fighting these battles, and it’s a good way to show support for others who are fighting their bodies too. The important thing is to remember, there is so much more to every one of us than the number on the scale.

How Wedding Culture Almost Ruined My Wedding

By Elise Wantling

My now-fiancé and I began discussing the possibility of getting engaged in early January of this year, and that was when the problem started. Dreaming of my wedding day was never really my thing until I realized a wedding was in my near future. In an attempt to catch up, I started consuming any wedding-related material I could get my hands on. I created a board on Pinterest, I picked up copies of the national and regional variants of The Knot Magazine, I bought a wedding planning book recommended by my cousin…. And then the trouble started.

My fiancé and his family are very simple, no-nonsense people. Though I tend to be a little more flashy, I’m a pretty humble person myself, this is part of why my fiancé and I get along so well. About a month after our Valentine’s Day engagement my fiancé and I sat down with our parents and drafted a budget. We settled on a modest budget, significantly less than the national average cost of $32,641 (as reported by The Knot). I was perfectly happy with this, and so was my fiancé. We discussed getting married on his family’s property, or at a small lodge on the military base in Fort Leavenworth. We envisioned a simple wedding, perhaps in the early fall, with a rustic theme, and sunflowers as the main motif. It sounded perfect for us!

Everything was fine until wedding fever set in. The more I read wedding magazines, scrolled through Pinterest, or talked to my other engaged friends, the more insecure I became. While looking at Facebook marketplace and wedding dress resale websites, David’s Bridal was emailing me almost daily encouraging me to look at their newly released lines or check out their sales. Wedding magazines were advertising “how to wedding plan on a budget” with suggestions that were nearly double what we had designated for each area. The Knot was emailing me weekly countdowns to our tentative date, with suggestions of vendors they recommended to check items off my “to-plan list”. It all quickly became overwhelming. While I had started the process with a clear vision of what my fiancé and I wanted (something affordable and simple), suddenly my thoughts were inundated with all these new ideas, themes, and standards of what was a must-have or a must-do.

The wedding I was mentally planning started to become bigger and bigger. I got my fiancé to agree to change our wedding from a $300 venue to a $1,500 venue, then I started working on convincing him we needed to look into an all-inclusive venue that had decorations and catering arrangements as part of the package instead of trying to plan everything ourselves. We started making plans to tour country clubs and mansions, and he tried to figure out how he could save up over the next few months in order to contribute more to our wedding and increase our budget. I was stressed, he was stressed, and still I felt like I needed to keep thinking bigger. After all, your wedding is supposed to be the best day of your life, right?

Then one night, everything came crashing down. I started discussing wedding details with my fiancé, then suddenly broke down crying. I couldn’t handle the stress of it anymore. I didn’t know what I was planning, because it didn’t really feel like my wedding anymore, it felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I expressed all this to my fiancé and he listened patiently, then gently suggested maybe I needed to scrap everything and start over, but this time without the help of the magazines, the Internet, and my friends. This time I just needed to sit down with him and figure out what we wanted, instead of everyone else.

We went back to square one, and now we are planning our wedding, not a wedding built on unrealistic expectations. Looking back, I realize I got too caught up in the standards of the wedding industry. I became invested in the culture of the wedding and focused on that, instead of the reason for the occasion. Sometimes, as a young person growing up in the age of social media, it becomes so easy to listen to the voices on the Internet, or focus on the pictures in the magazines, that they drown out our own thoughts and feelings. Wedding culture encourages us to think large, go grand… but sometimes that’s not what is needed. We have to remember magazines like The Knot or places like Pinterest aren’t actually our friend, they’re just tools used by businesses to sell their products.

I’m looking forward to my wedding now, and I feel like a lot of the pressure is off. We are doing a low cost event with our families and closest friends, and I couldn’t be more excited. It’s going to be casual and fun, just like us, and I look forward to having the wedding of my dreams and not one built on expectations. I feel like I learned an important lesson applicable to all areas of my life which is this: Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the expectations of others. Always stay true to you.

Another Tinderella Story

By Elise Wantling

If you currently are, or recently have been, single, then you’ve probably heard of an app called Tinder. Or its’ more feminist sibling, Bumble. Perhaps, you’ve even heard of Grindr or Her if you’re LGBTQ+ identifying, or just well versed in dating apps. Online dating is nothing new. It dates back to 1995 with the creation of Match.com, but the creation of Tinder really revolutionized the industry, (though it was not the first dating app on the market). The release of Tinder spurred the creation of more and more dating apps.

With Tinder, no longer did you have to look at full profiles, and read detailed descriptions of who someone thinks they are and why they think they’d be a good match for you. Instead, you could simply swipe through photos without ever opening the profile and determine solely based on looks whether or not you think you’re compatible with someone. Tinder simplified things down to a science: swipe right if you’re interested, left if you’re not. If they like you too, you’ll match and you can chat. If they don’t like you back, you can’t message them. Simple, easy.

When I first got on Tinder back in 2016, I was nearing the end of high school and had recently turned 18, making me one of the people in my friend group old enough for the full Tinder experience. (At the time, Tinder also had a teen section for ages 16-18). My friends had gotten into it while I was seeing my first girlfriend, but after we broke up they encouraged me to download the app. I was recently out as bisexual, and the queer dating pool at my high school was pretty limited, so I decided to give it a try.

It wasn’t until I was a few weeks away from leaving for college that I got brave enough to go on my first Tinder date. It went horribly, we were not at all compatible (plus he showed up almost an hour late, said he would buy me coffee, but didn’t, and talked my ear off for two hours without me getting a word in edgewise). Despite that, I swiped on.

Tinder has a reputation for being a hookup app, an app people can use to find a quick date or a one night stand. While yes, some people do use it for that, a survey of 1,000 Americans done by Simple Texting found 52% of Tinder users surveyed said they never had a one night stand. From that same survey, almost 14% of those surveyed said they were engaged/married to someone they met on Tinder. Despite public opinion, the facts are there: Tinder is a viable way of meeting a long term partner.

Flash forward to my sophomore year of college. One lonely night I’m swiping through Tinder, only half paying attention, when a cute guy catches my eye. I open his profile and see that his chosen anthem is “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman (one of my all-time favorite songs!). I swipe right, and we immediately match, so I shoot him a message. Flash forward again, another two years, to October 2019. We’re now engaged and counting down to our wedding day that is in less than 7 months. We live together, we recently added a puppy to our family, and we have Tinder to thank for bringing us together.

One might assume my Tinder love story is an exception to the rule, and not the standard. Perhaps it is (though we are the second couple that I know in real life who met on Tinder and are getting married). However, according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2016 5% of Americans who are in a married or committed relationship said they met online. That is not an insignificant number of people! If you’ve been considering giving online dating a try, or getting back into it, consider this your sign- perhaps you can become just another Tinderella story.

 

 

 

Moonstruck: A Howling Good Comic

By Elise Wantling

Are you a fan of girls, gays, or ghouls? If you answered yes to any of those, you are going to love Moonstruck by Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle. This is one of the most recent projects of author Grace Ellis, who is also the author of the popular comic Lumberjanes. The comic stars Julie, a chubby, shy Latina werewolf who lives in a small college town called Blitheton, where she is a barista at a coffee shop. She works with her best friend Chet, a nonbinary centaur who is dashingly handsome and fabulously flamboyant. Julie is dating Selena, a fellow werewolf who is black, on the chubbier side, and full of confidence. There is also a full cast of side characters, monsters and humans alike, representing different races, body types, and species.

Currently there are two published collections of comics, Moonstruck Volume 1: Magic to Brew and Volume 2: Some Enchanted Evening. Volume 1 follows the gang as they struggle to find and battle a magician who steals Chet’s magic at a free community magic show. Chet deals with an identity crisis, as he doesn’t know who he is if he isn’t a monster anymore.

While Julie and Selena are hot on the case, things also heat up between them, and eventually boil over. They also get some help from their friend Cass, who helps them put victory in sight. In Volume 2 the gang rescues their friends Lindi, Ronnie, and Mark from some serious trouble. They also manage to get themselves into the middle of a rivalry between the fairy sorority and fraternity. Julie and Selena have some relationship trouble when Selena finds out that Julie is keeping secrets. Mark is also keeping a secret, which is accidentally revealed!

The comic has a diverse cast of characters, both main and background. I really appreciate the representation of a variety of races, genders, body types and sexualities. While Julie is a bit on the shyer and more timid side, she is still a strong female character. There is also positive representation of a healthy woman/woman romantic relationship that is not hyper sexualized or used as a joke. Chet and their love interest are also taken seriously and display a healthy (and super cute!) relationship. It is refreshing to see a comic with a truly diverse cast of characters, and not the usual formula of “all cisgender, heterosexual, thin, white people + one or two characters who break that mold”. The comic simply reflects the realities of the world, which is that people come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and sexualities.

The comics are full color and beautifully illustrated. Each panel is a work of art unto itself and I personally adore the art style and character designs. It is easy to tell what is happening in every panel and not at all difficult to follow the storyline. Whether you’re a lover of strong women in media, cute art, the supernatural, or LGBTQ fiction, there is something in Moonstruck for everyone. I would recommend them for ages middle school and up, but they definitely appeal to the young adult as well as the adult crowd. Moonstruck tells simple, pleasing stories in a way that is easy on the eye. Volume 3 comes out February 11th, 2020, and I am counting down the days!

 

Introducing Elise, The Women Center’s New Staff Member

By Elise Wantling

Hello all! My name is Elise Wantling, and my pronouns are they/them/their. I am a senior here at UMKC studying political science, with the goal of attending grad school next year either here or at the University of Kansas to get my masters in social work/social welfare. My plan is to become educated in non-profit management, and eventually open my own home for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. I transferred here from KU at the beginning of 2019 because, well, out of state tuition gets expensive after a while when you’re a Missourian studying in Kansas. While I enjoyed my time at KU thoroughly, I am also really enjoying studying here at UMKC! I am glad I found a school in Kansas City that has a strong political science program and an LGBTQ+ friendly campus.

I am excited to work with the Women’s Center to promote equity and equality for all genders. While I do not identify as a woman anymore, I have lived as one for about two decades and I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the struggles women face. Being nonbinary, I also have the unique perspective of what it is like living outside the gender binary. I hope to use my unique gender related experiences to be able to help people of all genders live a better life. I am looking forward to blogging, working and planning events, and seeing everyone’s beautiful faces at the Women’s Center.