Adventure in Breaking/Mending

Eight weeks ago something happened. Six weeks ago something worse happened. One week ago more brush was shoved on the fire.

It’s not a new topic for me, especially in the last couple of years, but try as I might, try as others might, I won’t stop talking about it.

Eight weeks ago, between eating lunch and picking up a comic to take to his next city, I stopped at the home of a person I know. Someone I had spoken with regularly. Someone I considered a friend. In the course of less than half an hour, everything changed.

I was able to take myself out of the situation before it became desperate. But “no” wasn’t a viable answer. “This isn’t why I came over,” was also unaccepted. “I don’t want to redo my makeup” was a good reason. “I’m on my period” granted me enough space to get up and leave, but not enough space to have control to stop things.

I picked up the comic and went about my weekend.

Six weeks ago, I was feeling good. I met up with someone and lost complete control of the situation. I’ll continue to spare you details. I got home in the middle of the night, uncontrollably sobbing. I knew the right things to do. I knew to call the police. I knew not to shower. I knew those are the things you’re supposed to do. Another thing you should do, if you’re able, is take care of yourself, whatever that looks like. So I did. I showered. I took my clothes off. In that order.

I did something I haven’t done before though. I reached out to people immediately. Everyone was asleep, but in the morning so many people were affirming. So many people kept my mind safe. My dear friend, who is far away, encouraged me to go to the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. My dear friend, who is down the street, hugged me while I sobbed on him.

I called the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, because I didn’t know how it worked. She said to come in immediately. I asked, “Can I wait an hour? I have a job interview in 15 minutes.” She called me a toughie.

Throughout an hour-long job interview, I held it together. I needed this job. She asked how I handle stressful situations. I refrained from saying, “I haven’t cried once or given pause that something is wrong in this interview, have I?”

My dear friend, who hurried back from out of town, met me at the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. I met with a forensic nurse, a police detective, and a woman from victims assistance. I had a full exam done. I only cried once. She was kind. She was patient. She took my time, not hers. Some times when we interact with people who need kindness and patience, we offer them patience on our own time. She did not do this. She gave me time to breathe. She waited until I said okay. I know it’s her job to act this kindly with victims. We could all stand to work this kindly with everyone.

My dear friend waited in the lobby for two hours. Her phone died. She read every pamphlet. She waited on my time. She was kind. She is kind.

Another friend far away shared my assailants picture. He told the story. He checked with me and then told anyone who would listen. Profiles were removed. People were talking, in the best ways. He shared the truth, not the easy parts.

The next day I had a gynecological exam to get checked for my tumorous cysts. The nurse was kind. She talked to me about her own trial. The RN was not kind. She was cold and shaming. I scheduled another appointment for an ultrasound, because the RN didn’t believe me. It was five weeks later.

I stayed open. I kept talking. I asked for help, for company. I was granted this more times than I can explain. Food was brought to my home. Kindness after kindness.

Two weeks later I had a second interview for the same job. I hadn’t slept in four days. I was certain I wouldn’t get it. It was a terrible interview. I was exhausted. I was beaten. I was destroyed.

The next day I received a call from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t just my fears. Other unwanted news came. Nothing uncommon, just unpleasant.

Three weeks went by, and it became a problem for some people. This made me stronger. My survival and my means of survival were problematic for some people. I vowed to become immortal out of spite.

At four weeks, I wanted nothing, but hugs. I also wanted to never be touched. I was watching as people I knew were having pretty serious allegations brought up against them. I was watching and being pulled in. People were contacting me, as if I’m an authority on consequences. The only consequences I understand are my own, the ones I face every day. I watched possible (albeit likely) assailants keep friends, which is a type of affirmation of those actions. While I was losing people for being dramatic, for causing problems.

Do you know why someone talking about rape seems dramatic? I do. Because trauma is dramatic. Because tragedy is drama. Because truth is dramatic.

This only made me louder.
“I wish I could talk my way out of being raped the way rapists talk their way out of trouble.”
“So we’re clear. A rapist hears the word ‘no’ and expects that to mean ‘yes.’ But when accused the rapist is like ‘I didn’t rape her.’ Apparently only his ‘no’ means ‘no.'”

I started to feel more isolated. It was silly. Weeks prior I was surrounded, literally and figuratively. Friends from all over were reaching out to me. Nonetheless, I began to fear I had worn out my welcome on asking for favors. I’m not quick to ask for help, but this time as a means of survival I knew I needed to. Coming up the stairs at home and collapsing to my knees sobbing, I knew I needed help. I had reached out to someone I was told was a therapist. They proved to be a crazy person that would only escalate my issues.

I felt alone. I was not alone. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. I felt alone.

Loud noises began to affect me. My parents’ dogs barking made me terrified and panicked. Thunder made me panicked. A dear friend brought me earplugs and other kindnesses.

At a show, I wore my “please-don’t-rape-me” jeans that I bought eight weeks ago. I told my friends not to touch me and to make sure no one else did. I did not keep it together. I left in the middle of the show. Broken. I had stayed because I couldn’t be alone, but the music was loud, the voices were loud.

Week five I was fine again. The dogs and I were fine. I could cuddle my dog again.

Creative 30 for 30 started again, and I could force myself to put some of the things in my head to good use. I started baking again. I didn’t start passively baking. I have no one to give baked things to. I started baking to heal. I started baking more than just that one cupcake Kristen Wiig made for herself in Bridesmaids. I started making full pies. I made pies for healing. I recorded recipes. I made the same pie twice. I improved on pie. I improved on pie to improve myself. I taught myself new skills to show myself I can do more. I watched Moana eight times.

I went to my ultrasound. The tech was kind. The tech took my time. She made six marks on the image of my single ovary. She paused. She asked if I wanted children. I turned my face as tears grew in my eyes. I’ve been in pain again for a couple of months. When I finally saw my doctor she explained I had several cysts in my ovary. They ranged in size from 0.5 cm to 1.3 cm. She explained that they would likely dissipate. She explained that in my case they needed to be monitored closely because of my history. She said it was Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It explained so much about my last year. It explained so much. It still scared me so much. It still does. Of course, it does.

I also made it one whole year writing affirmations. It’s not been a full year since I moved them to this platform, but I’d brought myself a full year on the strength of my own mind. I’ve continued. I will continue.

At five weeks I also found out I got that new job. I found out I’d be working in an incredibly life-giving, safe, and affirming space. I could walk to work again. I could pay my bills again. I could be motivated to fight PCOS simply by doing my daily work.

Six weeks/eight weeks later I started my new job. I love my new job. I’ve been doing research on diet options to make PCOS more manageable. I’ve continued to reach out to people. I’ve broken my own heart this week. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve cried on the phone with someone I haven’t heard from since I told them what happened because I felt abandoned. This crying went unnoticed.

In eight weeks my nightmares have come back. In eight weeks several people have taken themselves out of my life because I’ve been too much. In eight weeks I’ve cycled through peace and pain. In eight weeks I’ve screamed and cried. I’ve gone silent. I’ve pushed myself. I’ve been pushed. I’m not healed. I’m not cured. I am still moving. I am healing. I am mending. Pieces of me are coming back together. (please, ignore that Ashley Simpson reference. I can’t take it out now, but I don’t want it there either).

Some times for no provoked reason, I still fill with all manner of sadness and pain. It doesn’t take new provocation. There’s a lasting provocation lodged inside of me. A provocation I can only hope to learn to cope with. It will live beside me. I will be bigger than it. Some days, I’ll get to a place where I will feed it too much. It must be fed. If it’s starved it will get loud and angry. It must be fed and acknowledged. It is my constant companion. It is my monster. It is not me.

Thank you to everyone who has helped carry me over the last two months and over the last 30 years.

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 16

Baths.

I take baths more than I take showers. I just do. It’s relaxing. It’s comforting. With the introduction of bath bombs, they’ve only gotten better.

I’m also someone who enjoys shaving. I don’t shave for any societal pressure. I shave because I sleep better when my legs are smooth. And in a bath I can take the time to enjoy the slow catharsis.

Read a book. Read a comic. Listen to a book. Zone out entirely.

The bath clears my head.

Adventure in Gratitude Day 12

It’s been a hard weekend already. It just has.

But today, I went out into the woods to clear my head. What’s even better, my dear friend came with me. We wander the woods for miles. The sun was shining. The air was cool. The conversation was sincere.

We came back to town and wandered downtown. Showing off my city to my friend.

Some times a clear head does wonders.

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 11

Growth.

A year ago, I was a disaster. I was holding it together when I had to, but I was spiraling. Two years ago, I was so codependent that I could barely stand to be alone. Three years ago, I asked to go to Parkview Behavioral Health.

Today, I have so many ways to manage my thoughts and emotions. So many people to reach out to so that I do not bury my darkness and let it consume me. People look to me for strength, and it doesn’t overwhelm me so much that I can’t breathe. I have healthy friendships with boundaries and respect. I no longer sit quietly by while terrible things happen, because I’m no longer scared to be alive. I’m not. I’m not scared to exist. Things still terrify me. I still find myself sitting in the car waiting to feel strong enough to go into the house. I still cry a lot. I still feel incapacitating loneliness. I’m still scared for my person and what can happen, but being alive does not scare me.

Hope is real. Hope is real. Hope pushes and pulls you out of bed. Hope warms you on the inside when your whole body feels like the dripping walls of a cave.

Love is real. Love is real. Love propels you forward. It pushes out darkness. It creeps into dark corners and shines.

Strength is real. Strength is real. Strength is more than just lifting cars and tossing cabers. Strength is shouting for truth even when your voice shakes. Strength is holding the hand of someone in need even when your own hand shakes in fear. Strength is breathing. Strength is loving. Strength is hoping. Strength is living.

I’m growing.

I’m here.

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Adventure in Gratitude Day 1

November is as good of a time as any to get a little sappy. Life has been hard and taking a beat to be grateful for the little and huge things will be good for me.

Day 1:

Let’s start with someone tiny who means something huge.

Over three years ago my friend came to my parents’  house where I was watching their dogs. He brought someone named Lizzie. Lizzie hid in the bathroom. Lizzie batted at dogs.

Lizzie moved with me to my apartment and was renamed. I tried to do it slowly like Lorelei with Paul Ainka, but like Lorelei I gave up quickly on the change from Lizzie to Lily to Gilly to Gildy to Gilda.

One giant leap. And now she’s set to stay with me forever. I love her. She needs my aching abdomen. She hugs me around the neck when I hold her. She curls up beside me in bed when I cry and cry.

I need her. And I hope she needs me.

Thanks, Gilda Catner.

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Adventure in Getting a New Bellybutton

All of this has happened before, and it will (likely, but hopefully not) happen again.”

I’ve been very out of commission for almost two weeks now. Please, let me explain why, because I think I’m about to have a hard time with my emotions.

In July I went to an urgent care clinic because I was having the strangest pain in my vagina and pelvic area. They suggested an ultrasound, but didn’t have any idea what could be wrong. They also managed to trick me into a pap smear, which terrifies me, because of all that’s happened.

I went about my life. I lived some months just thinking my body was just being a jerk about bowel business. October 19 I called in sick for bowel stuff. My boss is absurdly understanding and a human I’m actually friends with, so I told her everything. I stayed in bed a couple more hours. Before I couldn’t handle the pain anymore.

I waited in the waiting area for a while with my mom. At least an hour. A woman with an actual screw loose in her head fell from her wheelchair, and no one rushed to help her. A man having a stroke sat and waited. It was going to be a long day.

In the emergency room, I was taken seriously. The very first time I went to the hospital in similar condition, I waited and saw no one, until I was handed midol and told to leave. This time they were kind. They believed me. They were concerned. I know my body. I know when it’s rejecting me like it’s middle school all over again.

The ultrasound technician insisted I not get my roommate for the day until after she’d done the highly invasive ultrasound. Here’s the thing about a vaginal ultrasound. It’s terrible. It’s worse if you’re in pain. It’s worse if that pain is what they’re seeking out. Prodding inside you. It’s worse if you’ve been sexually assaulted and don’t want anything shoved up inside you. There’s no amount of kindness and forewarning that makes it easier. It’s worse when they cannot locate the offending ovary. It’s worse when it needs to be done, but it’s taking too long, so you just turn your face away so they can’t see the tears on your face.

When she couldn’t find the ovary, they sent me for a CT scan. The men in that room were also kind. One of them held my hand while tears silently rolled down my face.

When the gynecological surgeon got out of the operating room he came down to explain some things to me. That there was a mass. He couldn’t tell where it was, so we’d have to wait for the CT scan results to see if it was, in fact, in my ovary or if it was in the spaces between my intestines. The ovary was an easier solution. The bowel was going to be a problem.

He came back after the CT results came through, and with plans of a new bellybutton they took me upstairs to the operating room to get the monster out. Until I was unconscious, I was telling the anesthesiologist about Let’s Comedy. He was very politely enthusiastic about the ramblings of a quickly fading woman.

There was another teratoma, which is both a cyst and a tumor. It had caused a torsion of my right ovary, effectively killing it. Both were removed. When it was removed the tumor broke open and spilled some fluid on my skin. I have burns on my skin, that are more painful than “some irritation suggests.”

I was home that night. I was cranky and mean and still owe my parents a lot of apologies for how much I snapped. I spent the next few days in a recliner watching Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage and Murder, She Wrote.

The next two weeks were spent shoving down my emotions. “Focus on dealing with the pain,” I kept telling myself. “You shouldn’t deal with your emotions and your pain at the same time. You’ll never stop crying.”

I don’t know that I ever wanted to have kids. I don’t know that I ever really could. I’ve always known I’m supposed to be a foster parent. I don’t know for sure yet that my other ovary is functional or fully functional. What I do know is emotions are starting to surface, and every once in a while I cry. There’s a difference between opting out of child bearing and waiting to find out if you’ve lost that capability. Or not knowing for sure ever. Compound that with the lies I’ve been fed most of my life by conservative evangelical leaders and friends that my worth as a woman is met up with my production of humans. (I know this is a lie, reminding me is not a helpful action. That’s something you’re affirming for your own sake. Please, don’t take a beat to affirm that this is a lie). I know my worth as a woman, I know my worth a person is so much more than procreation. It does not make the mental and emotional destruction any easier. It only makes me more aware of the cognitive distortions, which compounds the feelings of being crazy. I have not even begun to deal with this. I’ve slowly breached some conversations with people who have prodded successfully, but ultimately am still delivering information in the form of facts and laughing absurdly at the current feeling of emptiness. I’ll be fine. I will. Right now, I am. In a few days, I’ll probably cry on someone unsuspecting.

In my brokenness, I told several people, I didn’t care what it took. I only wanted to be able to keep my word and perform at the annual Dead Comics Party, a night where wonderful people resurrect wonderful people. I’d been pining for this show for five months. I couldn’t miss it. I sat in my recliner reviewing my bit, but couldn’t do it out loud, because it hurt my stomach. I had shaped a wig before I got sick. All I wanted was to be in Indianapolis on the 25th. I didn’t rehearse my bit aloud until that day. Sitting on my friends’ couch shouting. Standing in my friends’ bathroom shouting. Petting my friends’ dogs shouting. Between each line an enormous gasp of pain. Finally, three minutes and 25 seconds of ignoring my pain and thinking, “I wish I could be doing better.” I walked off proud of myself, but knowing it could have been better, if my body had been better. That to say, I got to spend an evening being one of my heroes, a genius, who coincidentally died of ovarian cancer. Here’s what I could muster.

 

Adventure in Psychological Contagions

Let me preface, and this is important, by saying mental illness is real. It is prevalent. It affects more people in your life than you realize. It’s incredibly real and hard and some days impossible to deal with.

Now, excuse me while I begin to sound like I don’t believe that.

I went to a small private Christian school kindergarten through senior year. Thirteen years in the same rooms with 22 of the same people. I remember the chapel where a very beautiful, very well-accepted, well-liked, popular, and by high school standards successful girl spoke about her struggle and triumph over her eating disorder. She broke out. She did it. I feel the need to placate to you (and myself) about how that’s not something that just goes away forever, but I’ll let it slide. Hooray. She did it.

What so many young women in that school heard was “stop eating. That’s how you make friends in high school. That’s how you look like she does. That’s how you get a boyfriend. That’s how you make a sport team.” Moreover, they also heard “if there’s no tragedy in my life, I’ve made no conversion to Christ.”

The next year there were more eating disorders in our school. Percentage-wise, compared to public schools, I know it had to be a greater number.

After the closing of a musical I remember being in a car and hearing from an older student her story. Her struggle with an eating disorder and her triumph over it. It’s not my story to tell. Her story is not my story to tell. She, too, was popular, pretty, high school successful.

The next year many of the girls in my class, in that car, were affected. It tempted all of us. It crawled into our ears and crept into our brains like the yeerks in Animorphs. It moved through our class like a virus. It became almost trendy. I wasn’t stronger than anyone else. I didn’t resist because I felt so okay with myself. I did not like myself, hell, I was jealous of everyone’s self-control. I envied what would make a great story of triumph soon.

I was selfish and didn’t for a moment consider that my friends were sick.

What I see now in my life is a similar thing. A trendiness to mental illness. I’m all for identifying the things in our lives that break us and shape us. Working on those things. Trying to get healthier. Being open about them. We need to.

It scares me though to watch it slowly come into everyone’s hand like a brand new Lisa Frank folder as they self-diagnose. “I exhibit some of these symptoms and can work harder to prove the other ones. We’ll just say that’s what it is. I will live as this broken person.” While someone in their life struggles and survives and carries on quietly and strongly, someone self-diagnosed has decided to parade around wearing their illness like a new fuzzy sweater from Limited too.

Understand, I know I’m not in therapy anymore, and I should be. Could I afford it, I might be again. I hesitate so often to tell any piece of my story, because I don’t want it to be an inspiration to get sick. I don’t actually want to be an inspiration at all. I tell my story for my own sake. If it helps someone else, huzzah, and I really am so glad. But I speak for me.

As I watch mental illness get more voice, as it should, I’m so excited. It’s important. As I watch mental illness get more voice, I curl up in a ball of fear watching as youth after youth, woman after woman, creates a pain they do not need to carry. It’s not theirs to carry. Mental illness, in all of its forms, is heavy and painful and some time seemingly completely vanished. It tears and it breaks and it shoves and it does not relent. It is mean. It is cold. It is lonely. It is not a prize. It is not a yo-yo or a hacky sack or a tamagotchi. It is a battle.

Something I’ve always struggled with, and I’ve blamed a lot for this, but ultimately it’s my fault, is that if something isn’t14344317_716454937939_8245958060792482384_n wrong something is wrong. And I see it happen around me. There’s nothing glamorous about mental illness. There shouldn’t be anything trendy about it. If you want a trend, buy a Yikes pencil. If you have a mental illness, please, seek the help you need and deserve, not an audience.

(the irony of writing about this in a public forum is not lost on me)

Adventure in Reminders

Brock Turner is being released today. Brock Turner is being released today on “good behavior.”

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Brock Turner was caught in the act of raping a woman. He was caught by two other white men. This act of violence has been regarded by Brock Turner’s remorseless father as “20 minutes of action.” I hope you’ve never been raped. I hope you’ve never been assaulted. “Twenty minutes of action” is a long time for anything terrible. As someone who no longer runs, 20 minutes of action in the form of running causes my sides to hurt, my legs to hurt, my lungs to sharpen, my throat to tighten, my mouth to dry. “Twenty minutes of action” of me running is unpleasant, but a choice I made. “Twenty minutes of action” in the form of someone chasing me, pinning me to the ground, and raping me is 20 minutes I never want to suffer through again. Do something unpleasant today for 20 minutes, just unpleasant not even something so terrible you’ll want to be dead for the rest of your life. Just something you dislike. Sniff shit for 20 solid minutes. Run for 20 solid minutes. Hold your breath underwater for 20 solid minutes, because that’s what it feels like. But even when you start to drown and your lungs fill up with water, your body isn’t being violated. No one is rapidly, immediately shattering your psyche. Do you know how quickly a gun can fire into someone’s brain and kill them? Seconds. It can take seconds. Do you know how long trauma stays in a person’s brain? How long it stays in their muscle memory? It’s a hell of a lot longer than the three months Brock Turner spent in jail in police protection, because his precious blonde hairs needed protected.

I am not a violent person. I’ve gotten in one fight. I hit a kid a few times in middle school for being a real dick about my brother. The idea of violence can make my whole body tense up. The idea of hitting someone else makes me feel so sick.

In middle school and high school I was a weird kid, but I was a mean girl. I was. I won’t pretend I wasn’t. I had no right to think the things I thought, to say the things I said. My adult life is action after action of me trying to better myself from that. I say some aggressive things. I think some aggressive things that I am not proud of. I can’t call myself a pacifist because I know my heart. I may not ever be capable of violence, but I am capable of some pretty aggressive thoughts and words.

I say all of that because the idea that Brock Turner was protected in jail makes me sick. There are people who are in prison for marijuana possession. They are in there for their whole lives for something that is becoming legal across the nation. They are not protected in prison. There are people in prison who have been wrongfully convicted. They are not protected. They are in prison for their whole lives for something they didn’t do, and they are not protected. But Brock Turner was caught in the act of a raping a woman and was sentenced to six fucking months. SIX MONTHS for a class B felony. (which don’t even get me started on the class of that felony) He is being released today on good behavior. Well, sure. There weren’t any women for him to attack in that three months.

You know what isn’t good behavior? Sorry, this is a tough one. It’s raping a woman. Remorselessly. When Brock Turner testified he laughed. LAUGHED at how “ridiculous all this” was. It’s ridiculous to Brock Turner because he’s used to getting everything he wants. Well, good news for him. He still will. He’s a rich, white man. He’ll be fine. He could have spent years in prison, and his parents, who also saw nothing wrong with his actions, would continue to fund his life. He may never be able to get a job, that’s a possibility. It’s not likely though. Because a rich, white man won’t have a lot of background checks run on him. He can lie on any application and say “nah, no felonies.” No one will check.

Meanwhile, the woman he attacked, the woman he raped will walk down streets knowing he’s out there walking the same streets. It’s hard enough after being raped to walk down a street, even if you were inside when it happened. Everyone is a threat. Every sound is terrifying. Every slamming door could be your own trapping you in. Every footstep could be anyone coming up behind you. She will live knowing the courts believe raping a woman is something so irrelevant and common place that the punishment should not be severe. She will live knowing raping a woman is something that can be glanced at as good behavior. Because here’s the thing about serving three months in jail, not prison, jail, for raping a woman. Three months (even his full six month sentence) and early release for good behavior. Three months to someone that remorseless is just a bother. It’s an inconvenience. To let someone that remorseless walk away free on “good behavior” after violently raping a woman doesn’t say to any survivor that he had good behavior in jail. It tells all of us that raping that woman was good behavior. It’s a pat on the head, and a “good boy.” It tells all of us we have no value, and we will continue to have no value. Our bodies are an inconvenience. We’re here for men, and our causing a fuss about only wanting to have sex when we want to have sex is an inconvenience. So when we “cry rape,” it needs to be “punished” to show we were “heard,” but the courts are really saying “nah, man. We get it. She’s being a real bitch about it. It’s why she’s here. We have to lock you up for a few months to get her to shut up. But we’ll let you out real quick. Promise.” Never in the history of time has “Bros before Hoes” meant more. because that’s what the courts are saying we are.

Women, you are not here for men. You are not here for men. You are not here for men. You are not here to appease anyone. Your body does not belong to anyone else. Your value extends so far beyond your vagina. Your worth is in so much more than the strength of your vagina. You are so much more. You are so powerful. You are so strong. You are so brave. I’m so sorry this is what we’ve been handed. I’m so sorry that things have not changed one ounce since Shakespeare wrote Measure for Measure. I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry. You are not here for men.

 

Adventure in Preparedness

The last couple of days very minor hijinks have been going on at my desk while I’m at lunch, such insignificant hijinks I can only assume Winston Bishop is the culprit.

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Sure, I said I was done talking for a while, but I need to get this out of me to see if it’ll loosen something up.

First, it was a sticker label from a Kroger pastry stuck to my nameplate and to the granite counter that is my desk. It took several minutes to get all of the sticky residue off the counter. Then it was my chair being raised all the way up. So tiny and insignificant. It barely matters. It doesn’t matter. To a normal brained person it wouldn’t matter at all. Might even be fun. Might start a tiny prank war.

Not for me. I don’t like pranks. When I was in high school a prank went awry, and it scared our dog so badly that he left the house less and less. Just to do backyard business. He was the sweetest dog, but it messed him up forever.

At my old office the guys loved to startle the gals. This is a craze I will never understand. Some guy would sneak behind a gal, usually the one that gave the most extreme reaction, and then laugh and laugh. “You’re so easy to scare!” They tried it on me several times. I don’t react when people try to startle me. Not because it takes the fun out of it, and they’ll stop, but because my brain and my body go into shut-down mode. I close down completely in a self-preserving mode to prepare for the worst. Because it’s usually the worst. My brain closes off so I can’t remember. My body either completely tenses to block anything or goes completely numb to remove all feeling from the situation. Even when other people are startled, those full-winded, sharp gasps put me on high-alert. My body gets ready to respond. I never know if it’s ready for fight or flight if it’s not happening to me. I only know everything within me is tightened.

One day last year my landlord came into my home or sent someone into my home without telling me. I came home to find on my bathroom sink something I’d never seen before. There were weird pieces in my bathroom trash. I went tense. Someone was in my home, and I didn’t know about it. I checked every corner of my home. What if they were still there? Maybe fixing the toilet was a ruse because the toilet still had all of the same problems it had always had. I cried. I cried for hours.

Today when I sat in my chair, it wasn’t where I left it. My body went completely rigid. My heart was racing. My chest hurt. I got so dizzy. It felt like I was doing everything in triple time. I couldn’t see straight. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking. Because my chair was moved. Because my chair was moved by someone who wasn’t me. I cried. I cried at my desk. I cried at my desk unashamedly.

And yet, everything within me felt like I was being a baby. Maybe I was. Maybe my reaction made me a baby, but my brain and body went into a very passive defensive state. My brain is constantly on edge for the next attack. Loud noises, sudden sharp sounds send chills down my spine. My whole body tightens. My senses are heightened. Not only when something has just happened, even something minor. All of the time. Some times normal volume speaking terrifies me. People who constantly yell all of their thoughts, all of their words, make me so tense.

Screw PTSD.

But like ask for consent first, because that’s how we got into this mess.

Adventure in Spelunking

I’ve never been cave diving. But I love the idea of caves, and I’m pretty decent at regular diving. Or I used to be. I can’t actually remember the last time I was in a pool, which feels weird. Not the point.

The thing about speaking up about all of the things that have happened to me is it’s not always great for me. It’s not always empowering. It’s not always helpful. Many people in my life think things are worse than ever, because they’re finally hearing about things as they happen. As I deal with them, instead of never having to hear about them.

Another side to it is a lot of people think that that’s all that I am. I am just a victim. I am just PTSD. I’m not, if you’re wondering. I’m pretty grossly complicated. Pretty grossly broken, I admit. But there’s a lot more going on in my life than living with a disorder. There’s a lot more going on in my life than being a survivor. Not a victim. Maybe I’m more than that. Maybe I’ve read a book or two that isn’t about rape or rape culture. Maybe I have hobbies.

Another side to it is many people co-opt my pain for their own. To tell and retell my story like a folktale that makes them seem like they, in such a distorted way, know someone interesting.

Truth is, while I know there are people in my life that my speaking up does help, I do it for myself. I do it to maintain my sanity. It’s a beautiful side effect that encourages other people to soldier on like the warriors they are.

Right now though, what I’m watching is the gross sides of it, the things above. It’s my story to tell as publicly or privately as I wish, not anyone else’s. So for the time, for right now, it’s going to private again. I don’t know how private. I want to hold it tight to me and bury it again and never let anyone else in. I know that’s not the right choice, but know that it’s what I want. That I feel like shutting everyone out again. It will probably look more like letting a few people in until they feel too burdened, or more likely, until I think they feel too burdened.

It’s time to take a deep look at what protecting myself looks like again, because too many dark creatures have found their way into my mind and my life, and I do mean people. It’s time to shut up the house for a while and only let those who were invited in. Everyone is a vampire until I feel otherwise. I don’t feel safe, but I wear my armor. I wear those that are safe. I keep them with me. IMG_2751