Tuesday, 9 June 2020

No Rest for the Weary

Pat Cody was, without a doubt, an unfortunate victim of a spectacular medical fiasco. And yet in a bizarre way, Americans are lucky that of all the women affected by DES, Cody, a rabble-rousing feminist activist, was one of them. She just switched gears, or veered ever so slightly, from left-wing rebel to health activist. What began as a few friends meeting around her kitchen table blossomed into a global DES activist organization that still exists today. Here's what the flyer will say, Iris explained, as she read from a scrap of paper she fished out of her purse. While I am destitute, living at my parents' in my teenage bedroom with our three children, my husband is shacked up with this floozy in a penthouse apartment. Jill realized her friend was going off the deep end. We need to talk this through, Jill said, launching into all the repercussions this plan could have. This will do permanent damage, Jill warned. What if you guys can work things out? Iris broke down: He's not coming back, she said. If he hasn't come back by now, he never will. To Jill's relief, Iris accepted her invitation to come over for dinner on opening night. Note to anyone who finds themselves in Crazy Town after their divorce: Be sure you tell a close friend about any plan you've hatched that involves destroying a WBR. There's a psychological phenomenon involving something cal ed a `cognitive blind spot', which can make it difficult for us to honestly assess our actions and take ownership. This is what happened to Jenny. She made a decision, and then when she subjectively decided later that it was the 'wrong' Our brains are hard-wired to flatter and shield our egos from blame when we make mistakes. What then happens is we find someone or something else to 'blame' to take the attention away from ourselves. People who shift blame to someone else further engage in irrational thinking in order to justify the blame.

It's my partner's fault that I missed out on the job of my dreams because he was the one who told me to take the other position. He doesn't understand me or what I want in life. The more she focussed on these justifications, the more convinced she became of them, and this eventually led to their split. If you find yourself relying solely on the advice and input of others, what you are really telling yourself is that your opinions and views don't matter. In the faint light of the attic, the old man shuffled across to a pile of boxes that lay near one of the cobwebbed windows. Brushing aside the dust, he began to lift out one old photo album after another. His search began with the fond recollection of the love of his life - long gone. He knew that somewhere in these albums was the photo he was looking for. It was the black and white one, when she had that smile. Patiently opening the long lost treasures he was soon lost in a sea of memories. The old man wiped away one or two happy tears. Although the world had not stopped spinning when his wife left it, the past was more alive than his present emptiness. Setting aside one of the dusty albums, he pulled from the box what appeared to be a diary from his son's childhood. He couldn't recall ever having seen it before - or even the fact that his son had kept a diary. Cody joined forces with women like Andrea Goldstein, who were rallying women on the East Coast. They fought for legislative changes that increased funding for DES research, published newsletters encouraging women to have their daughters examined for DES-related reproductive changes, and pushed TV executives to incorporate DES into story lines. Cody bombarded Saturday Night Live with hate mail when Jane Curtin, during a 1971 eve-of-Mother's Day Weekend Update, said, DES daughters are the only ones who don't need to send their mothers a Mother's Day card. There have been perhaps hundreds of lawsuits; It was not an easy process. A few states reformed the law so that women had three years after the time of the discovery of the injury, not after the use of the drug.

Also, with more than 200 brands of DES, few women could remember which product they took. All too often, women took a mix of brands, depending on what their pharmacist stocked that day. On top of that, most women could not get access to their 20-year-old patient records. And even if they did, sometimes the DES information was missing. Your friend will gently talk you off the ledge and help you regain perspective. Iris's Aha: I really lost it and was about to act in a very destructive way--and probably most destructive to me. It's embarrassing to think of how desperate I felt. I'm so relieved I didn't go through with my crazy plan. Though it had been months since Bill left Carlotta for another woman in town, she couldn't move past the hurt and rage. Carlotta continued to refer to Allyson as the whore, and everything that went wrong was Allyson's fault. When she knocked over a glass at dinner, the first words out of her mouth were, I hate that whore! When having brunch with her girlfriends, Carlotta would casually note that her ex was spending Thanksgiving with the whore. Suzanne heard her complain to everyone, from the coffee barista to the waiter, that she didn't get divorced; One day Carlotta called Suzanne up and said, Do you know that I will be thirty-nine years old next month? You are valuing other people's opinions far above your own. You essentially disown yourself. Somewhere in your mind you are telling yourself that other people must know better. We need to recognise that the moment we decide upon a course of action, it becomes ours and ours alone. No one knows the real you, but you. When you choose to make a decision, you must take full responsibility for both the decision itself and the consequences that result.

When you realise this, it becomes incredibly empowering. This is what Jenny didn't do. She blamed her partner wholeheartedly for her decision which led to great unhappiness. While other people can influence a decision, they do not force you into action. Opening the yellowed articles, he glanced over the entries and his lips turned up at the corners in an unconscious smile. His eyes shone and he chuckled aloud. He realized he wasn't just reading the words . In the utter silence of the attic, the earnest words of a six-year-old worked their magic and the old man was carried back to a time almost forgotten. The spidery handwriting reflected on important issues for a six-year-old - school, football, holidays, arguments with his big sister - entry after entry stirred a sentimental hunger in the old man's heart. But it was accompanied by a painful memory that his son's simple recollections of those days didn't tally with his own. The old man's wrinkles became more deeply etched. He remembered that he'd kept a business diary. He closed his son's journal and turned to leave, having forgotten the cherished photo that had triggered his initial search. Hunched over to keep from bumping his head on the beams, the old man stepped down the wooden stairway to his office. For some doctors, it was a routine drug, like prenatal vitamins, so it wasn't included in the medical records. Although DES has been tied to a variety of reproductive ailments, it is difficult to prove that the pill itself is responsible for a woman's infertility or her miscarriages. Needless to say, lawsuits may be cathartic for some women, harrowing for others. In the early 1980s, a few lawyers fought for legal changes (passed in several states, including California, New York, Wisconsin, and Michigan) that allowed women to sue every drug company that made DES if they could not identify their specific pill. If the plaintiff won, the drug companies would be responsible according to the market share they had during the woman's pregnancy. The early wins made headlines and once again, DES was in the news.

Without a doubt, DES is a story that comes and goes from the media's eye--first in the 1950s as the wonder drug, then in the 1970s as a cancer-causing agent, and then in the 1980s as the focus of massive malpractice suits. Those of us who were affected by it were Flavor-of-the-Month about 20 years ago, wrote columnist Anna Quindlen, a DES daughter, in a 1993 New York Times Mother's Day piece. Some say the drug itself changed the nature of the patient-gynecologist relationship, crystallizing and politicizing anger brewing among American women. From Kitchen-Table Surgery to the Art of the C-Section Suzanne was wondering if Carlotta was hinting about having a birthday party when Carlotta added, It occurred to me as I was thinking about my birthday that since he left me, I've been living my life like it's over, and I probably have forty more years to live. It was when Carlotta finally took a long-term view that she realized her life wasn't even half over and she could still choose to move in a healthy direction. Did her husband leave her? Would she let his affair with the WBR shape the rest of her life? Not if she could help it. Did she want her gravestone to say, Turned into a walking shadow of her former self after her divorce but managed to keep a pulse and control her bowel movements until she actually expired? She knew it would take time to get to acceptance, but she was open to trying something new. When a man walks out, we want answers. We want to know why. Carlotta and so many of our friends learned that you might never be able to answer that question. You always make a choice. Blaming others means we transfer responsibility to them. Known as `projection', `denial' or `displacement', this sort of blame helps you preserve your sense of self-esteem by avoiding awareness of your own flaws or failings. In doing this, we avoid having to take ownership of the mistake (which may be more comfortable in the short-term), but it also denies us the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. I was able to work with Jenny to help her realise that she shouldn't be fearful of making mistakes. I helped her acknowledge that she is human and mistakes are part of life - they teach us lessons and help us grow.

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