It’s been a few months since my last themeless blog post, perhaps because I’m obsessed with attaching meaning to senseless shit
I’m sitting at Jeter’s kitchen table in Milwaukee with a cup of coffee and quarter moon eyes. I slept poorly last night. I’ve been sleeping poorly for the past week, really. I keep waking up with sentence fragments pinballing in my brain at full speed: “asked for this / hero /slut / bunch of lies / tupac? / writing makes me nauseous / keep fighting / give up.”
Here’s an attempt at cohesion.
Chaos and Crashing
My therapist suggests that PTSD thrives on periods of chaos in which the feelings associated with trauma are replicated within the survivor’s system. I’m accustomed to hyperarousal. At this point, my system craves it. This means I can “tolerate” mass amounts of stress and disorder, which is what I had to do last week.
My tendency towards chaos-seeking behavior is nothing new. In the past, I’ve sought chaos through promiscuity, prostitution, toxic friendships, codependent relationships, shoplifting, drug and alcohol addictions, and generally careless behavior. I’ve found chaos in car accidents, lost wallets, explosive arguments, failed engagements, and felons.
And then every time something dramatic and shitty happens, I ask the spirit realm, “WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME? I must have terrible luck. I must be marked by the devil. It must somehow be my fault.”
Maybe it is my fault, at least on the surface. I’ve certainly put myself in dozens of dangerous situations. But dig a little deeper, and the concept of “fault” doesn’t even apply. It’s not a matter of good / bad or right / wrong. It’s about what happens after someone is traumatized.
Here’s an excerpt from my recent 12-Step post: “Trauma survivors often retraumatize themselves without meaning to. We put ourselves in danger without realizing that a situation is dangerous because trauma creates blind spots. Let’s say, for example, that someone gets in a bad car accident. Over the next few years, they get into five more car accidents, all from the same angle. The initial car accident created a mental block that keeps the survivor from being able to see danger from that specific direction.
And again, THIS IS NOT THE TRAUMA SURVIVOR’S FAULT. It shouldn’t be our responsibility to weed out abusers or keep our antennae up in supposed ‘safe spaces,’ but the sad and unfair truth is that we sometimes have to.”
My point is that people with trauma histories rarely seek out suffering intentionally. We continue to suffer because PTSD, that insidious shithead, prevents us from recognizing incoming danger.
Yep, this is complicated and multilayered stuff. It’s hard to understand until you experience it. Cross your fingers that you don’t have to!
Right now, I’m knee-deep in the crash that follows prolonged periods of hyperarousal. My therapist calls this “the settling phase.” For maybe a week after the chaos ends, I’m exhausted. I feel hopeless, drained, pessimistic, and introverted. I usually get off of social media (overstimulation!) and haul up in my room with cartoons and coloring books. I’m an asshole to myself throughout this phase. If I’m not writing or making art crusading against something, I feel like I have no reason to be alive.
My crash period looks a lot like depression.
Fortunately, I’ve started to reframe this phenomenon. I now know that these periods of exhaustion don’t last forever. Feeling tired and antisocial is a normal side effect of prolonged emotional intensity. These weeks of “settling” are refueling periods. I do bounce back. I am resilient.
Age and awareness continue to alter the chaos/crash sequence. My body still craves hyperarousal, but I’m now obtaining that sensation from less detrimental sources — like writing, for example. But writing, unlike drinking or stealing, is more productive than destructive, depending on the intention behind it. And I know my intentions are good. I know that my writing comes from a desire to be understood in ways that have felt unattainable until now.
Fuck You, I’m Furious
When I was in treatment, I left a poem about prostitution outside the medical director’s office. I wanted him to know my past. I hoped he would still care about me when I shared it with him. When he found it, he scolded me. “How can you be so careless with this type of information? Anyone could have picked this up and read through your secrets.” He attributed my action to having no boundaries, relating it to the act of prostitution itself — except, in this case, I was giving myself away for free.
Well, fuck you, Dr. Viner. I have nothing to hide. I refuse to be shamed into concealing my truths — to go back to feeling alone and defective.
(BTW, Dr. Viner is a known piece of shit. Here’s one of his patient reviews: “this man is a terrible, terrible person. he has built his fortune on the backs of desperate patients and abuses them until they are out of money. he does not care one – single – bit about a person getting better. he is unbelievably manipulative and has brainwashed most of his staff into believing he is some sort of genius with the heart of a saint. i STRONGLY encourage you to NEVER use this man’s services. he should have his license revoked.”)
Some reactions to my writing are my lifeblood. Knowing that people benefit from my words is enough to keep me going.
Other reactions send me down the self-hatred spiral. They paralyze me. I end up feeling stupid, careless, shitty, and insane. I’ve been gaslighted. I’ve had my diagnoses used against me. I’ve been on the receiving end of comments like, “I hope the world fucks you sane someday.”
Most recently, I’ve been straight up bullied. By women. Sex workers, to be exact. They bombarded my Twitter (which I don’t really use) on Thursday morning. By the evening, I was crying in Jeter’s arms with memories of middle school pounding in my chest.
The worst of these cases occurred when I was a patient at Dr. Viner’s treatment center — a fucked up hellhole called Yellowbrick — in 2012. Three patients ganged up on me in an addiction group and called me a pathological liar, shooting accusations back and forth until I fell to the floor in a panic attack, terrified that my entire life had been a dream. It was gaslighting at its worst and the two facilitators did nothing to stop it. I went back to the residence that night and constructed a timeline of my life. I printed out my brother’s missing person posters. I found the newspaper article from when my house burnt down. I dug up my prostitution journal.
It was my worst fear, manifested in the mouths of the three patients who openly despised me, and I was too weak to cradle my truth like an egg in my hands. I crumbled. The egg cracked.
I’m shaking as I write this. I pride myself on my honesty. In fact, I’m borderline incapable of telling a lie — even a stupid white lie. When you accuse me of lying, you’re telling me that I don’t exist. You’re dismissing my entire life’s work. Sometimes it feels like all I have are my journals, my essays, my words. All I have is my truth.
But the real, honest to god, capital “T” Truth is that I don’t owe you shit. If you don’t believe me, you can fuck yourself.
Last week taught me a lot. For one, it taught me that there are some amazingly courageous, kind, brilliant, and supportive individuals out there. It revealed my true friends — and, holy shit, I have a lot of them! The amount of love you guys showed me left me speechless at times.
It also reiterated that I know more people who have been raped than people who have not been raped. It showed me that survivors are some of the strongest people in the world.
Lastly, it revealed to me that we share this earth with some despicable human beings. I consider myself a fairly positive human being, but lord, there is darkness around us.
And I’m furious.
I am furious at rape apologists.I am furious at cops and courts and victim blamers. I am furious at rapists. I am furious at Alcoholics Anonymous. I am furious at Natasha VC, who not only accused me of lying, but also published this shitty essay about a woman with BPD. I am furious at Sean and the other fuck heads who raped me. I am FUCKING FURIOUS at Alexander Askelin, whose rape count is now THREE. I am furious at the people who remain friends with him. I am furious at my ex-boyfriend. I am furious at men’s rights activists. I am furious at anyone who went out of their way to harass me after I told my story.
What pisses me off more than anything, though, are the people who use my mental health against me. When I first outed Alex Askelin as a rapist, he told people I was bipolar. He said they shouldn’t believe anything I was saying. Uh, hello, I’m not bipolar. And even if I was, how would that make me a liar?
After my xoJane story was published, a friend who interviewed me a few months ago messaged me with this info: “I was contacted by three different people to remove it in order to not allow you to ‘have an outlet to voice your insanity’ or something along those lines. They’ve been blocked from making further comments and I told them they’re full of shit, more or less.”
Hey, assholes, my diagnosis is called PTSD (and if you do your homework on BPD, you know it’s essentially the same thing) and it resulted from shitty people like yourselves doing shitty things.
Would you talk to a cancer patient like this? “Psh, don’t let Susie have an outlet. She has breast cancer and she’s probably going to die soon. Let’s silence her. She’s probably lying about how much pain she’s in, anyway.”
If you talk about / treat people like this, I hate you. I’m serious.
Are You Afraid of This Female Rage? You Should Be.
I’m that bitch in the moshpit throwing elbows at the dudes who untie my dress, who touch my tits, who grab my waist, and ask where my boyfriend is. I’m the bitch who put the six-foot-something bro in a headlock after I found him choking a young girl. I’m the bitch who screamed “you touch her again, I’ll destroy you.” I’m the bitch with the pepper spray pointed at the man who put a hammer through Jeter’s window two weeks ago. I’m the bitch who outs rapists on Facebook. I’m the bitch who punched the dude harassing my friend in the stomach. I’m the bitch with the knife in my purse. I’m the bitch in your Krav Maga class. I’m the bitch with the master lock.
I’m the bitch who cries a little bit, blasts some Queen Latifah, and returns to the pit.
It’s about time for us to be angry. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have raped, silenced, shamed, or blamed us in the first place.
I went into writing this entry without direction, hoping my thoughts would dance whichever dance they wanted.
This is my moshpit.
I started out by addressing the need for hyperarousal in trauma survivors. So far, I’ve mostly talked about the destructive side of this. Let’s end on the opposite note.
Survivors have a pain tolerance that most can’t comprehend. Sometimes this turns into masochism — we pile as much bullshit on ourselves as we can tolerate, toying with the line past which we’re mentally and emotionally fucked. Most of us do this without realizing it, especially when we attempt to soothe our PTSD with drugs and alcohol.
But if and when we let go of the behaviors that dim our radiance, you better shield your fucking eyes.
We are activists, painters, dancers, yogis, chefs, therapists, lovers, and dedicated friends. We are fighters. We fight because we’ve been fighting our whole lives.
I’m still fighting my ass off. The only difference is that I’m no longer at war with myself. The barrell is off my forehead and pointed at the rapists, the apologists, the MRAs, the blamers, the shamers, the silencers, the harassers, the catcallers, and the chauvinists.
A Parting Metaphor
Survivors are warriors who remain on the battlefield after losing limbs, losing friends, and losing faith. You can’t fathom our strength until you’re forced to fight the same fight. We pray that you don’t have to.
This is not a war we signed up for. We were drafted and shipped off without our consent. If your name wasn’t on the list, you’re a lucky sonofabitch.
Some survivors don’t make it. They fight as long and as hard as they can, but this war takes parts of them that they can’t get back. Some lose fundamental facets of themselves. Some are already dead. Do not shame the warriors who die in battle — honor them.
To the survivors on the front line: we are stronger than the people who dragged us into this hell. We can’t let them win.