Hi, I’m Leif E. Greenz and I have PTSD episodes.
Today has been a very bad day and on my worst days, I turn to my blog. There are certain things I can’t say out loud, certain truths that are more easily revealed in silence. Mostly, I don’t want you to see me or my shame.
I am isolating when my arms want to hold and be held. I am isolating because I’m convinced that I’m inherently unworthy of love and that it’s safer for everyone if I quarantine myself in my office.
This really didn’t have to happen, but it did. I didn’t have to get so upset, but I did. And I ruined Sunday because of it. Now I’m doing the one thing I know how to do — I’m transforming my pain into something “productive.”
I feel terrible about what I’ve done today. Forrest is terrified, I think, and he’s glued to his phone as a result. That’s what he does when he doesn’t want to think about/feel anything. I can’t blame him. I was a terror this morning. I still am, really. I can’t feel my body — everything is numb and heavy. My eyes feel empty… like if you looked into them, you wouldn’t see anything.
I feel like I should explain what happened, if only because the origin of this breakdown has its own implications about early childhood trauma and sex work. Basically, I tried to offer my own fucking boyfriend sex in exchange for him helping me with housework. He told me it was bad to do that and I couldn’t understand why. Seriously. I could not figure out why it was wrong to offer sex in exchange for favors within the confines of my own relationship.
After Forrest told me it was bad to do what I had done, I started talking like a five-year-old, speaking only in fragments. “Why? Why is it bad? I don’t understand. Explain it to me!”
“Dude, I did not get out of bed wanting to have this conversation with you today.”
“But I don’t understand. What’s wrong with what I said?”
“I shouldn’t have to explain this to you, Leif.”
Forrest’s reaction set off an enormous amount of shame in me and I could feel it rising from my stomach. I tried to laugh it off at first, giggling in my five-year-old voice, then fell silent, then left the room.
“Sorry I triggered you,” Forrest called as I walked away
“Fuck him,” I thought, stripping off my pajamas and getting ready for the gym. I chugged a second cup of coffee, grabbed my keys off the kitchen table, and sped to the gym, hitting 80 on the small town street outside my house.
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” one part of me said. “Speed into that busy intersection without looking,” another part said.
I was pissed. My muscles were tense. I hated everyone on the road, I hated all the thoughts in my head. I sat in the parking lot in front of my gym sending horrible text messages to my partner about how he doesn’t understand me, how I’m meant to be alone, how I hate him. No response. I got even more pissed, sent another five or six text messages.
On my way home, I tailgated everyone, even though I constantly complain about how much I hate tailgating. I practiced seeing how fast I could accelerate. I pulled out in front of cars so abruptly, my tires screeched. When I got home, I ran inside and locked myself in my office before my boyfriend could see me.
Forrest heard me come in. He called my name sweetly the first few times. When he realized I’d locked the door, he got worried and then angry and then sad and then angry again. He pounded on the door while I sat silently on the twin mattress with Tallboy (my dog), ignoring Forrest. Tallboy started shaking and I rested my head on him. Midway through this, I realized I was reenacting my trauma. I had built a scenario that ensured events of my past would happen in the present.
Tallboy moved to the closet, which is where I wanted to hide, and Forrest got in the shower, which was my second hiding choice. So, for a while, I just stood by the locked door, listening for movement and trying to be as silent as possible. When I was sure Forrest was in the shower, I ran out and grabbed everything I thought I’d need — my computer, a phone charger, and something to drink. I felt like a little girl sneaking through the house, trying not to be seen.
I ran back to the office and locked the door, then stood listening for the faucet. I knew Forrest wouldn’t do anything once he saw me, but I felt like I was in danger all the same. I BUILT the danger. I designed it, manufactured it, and then reveled in it. During these episodes, it’s like I’m directing an autobiographical play that ends up so closely resembling the original events, even I forget the play isn’t real. I get lost in my own false realties, trying to recreate something I should have processed and been done with a long time ago. What am I trying to prove?
After his shower, Forrest started knocking on my office door again. He said he noticed I’d moved my laundry from the hallway and wondered if I was ready to talk yet. He said he thought it was shitty that I would make such a big fuss over him expressing how he felt about something I’d said.
I opened the door, empty-eyed.
“If your girlfriend tries to prostitute herself to you, maybe you’re doing something wrong in the relationship,” I said.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Did you really just say that?”
I took off my clothes and turned the shower on. We exchanged more terrible words. Forrest cursed me under his breath as I engaged in a self-destructive behavior in the bathroom. I yelled something to him and he came over to give me his retort, only to find me engaging in said act of self-destruction. We fought for control over the item in my hand and then I dropped to the bathroom floor and sobbed when he won.
I was a naked madwoman — just as I’ve always wanted.
Forrest went to the bed and I sat on the floor. He said I was being shitty and I started screaming. No words, just screaming. The dogs were barking at me, so he had to calm all three of us. I slapped myself and said I wanted to die, all parts of our routine.
He joined me on the floor when I started slapping myself and then I moved to the bed. He leaned again the wall and cried. I still had empty eyes.
“You should just leave me,” I said. “I’ll kill myself once you’re gone, but that won’t be your fault.”
More crying. Screaming. Empty.
“Are you going to leave? I’m trying to push you away.”
“I don’t want to leave,” he said. “But sometimes you push really hard.”
I nodded. I knew this. Forrest wants so badly to give me love and I keep him at an arm’s length no matter what. The psychic told me I’m worthy and deserving of love, which is something I needed to hear but still don’t believe. I’m convinced he’ll leave me eventually, once he finds someone more normal and better looking. I’m convinced that he’s a better person than me in general — more liked, more talented, more respected.
As my insanity intensifies, as do my insecurities. I’ve learned that at my weakest, people leave. That’s the pattern I grew up with and now it’s the pattern I instill forcefully. Oh, you’re not going to leave on your own? Cool, then I’m going to say a bunch of shitty things and then pretend I’m moving to Colorado without you.
It’s really this same song and dance every time — it’s the same moral played out in different versions of the same story.
I tried, in my haze, to explain my reaction to Forrest. In between incoherent blubbering, I told him that I’d been raised to equate sex with worth. I’ve believed for a long time that the only power I have is my body — sex — and that men will only take me seriously/listen to me when I offer it. It’s a form of psychological prostitution, maybe. It’s definitely a remnant of the industry.
When I was a sex worker, sex was everything. If I wasn’t having sex, I wasn’t getting paid and if I wasn’t getting paid (or taken care of), I wasn’t having sex. My body was my weapon, as well as my voice. My sexuality was all I felt I had. I didn’t believe I held any worth beyond that.
If I gave men sex, I learned, I could get what I needed. Sex could pay for my survival. Through sex, I earned money, validation, and something that felt enough like love to replace it. So what if I didn’t have talent and couldn’t hold down a job to save my life? At least I could fuck!
I rode on that high for a long time. I felt like I was part of some secret club, which then made me feel special and important where previously I’d been self-loathing and suicidal. Sex work made me — the perpetual misfit — feel like there was a place where I fit in.
This is why so many early childhood abuse survivors are in the sex industry. Chronic sexual abuse leaves many of us with debilitating symptoms that prevent us from surviving in standard work environments, so we often find ourselves returning to what we know best: using/being used for our bodies.
This is such a deeply ingrained myth in me, I couldn’t even see this most recent manifestation of that belief. I could not figure out why it was so wrong to offer sex in exchange for cleaning. Isn’t that what men want? Isn’t that how we get them to listen to us?
“So do you not feel like I listen to you normally?”
“I don’t know.”
“Really, can you name any specific instances of me not listening?”
I couldn’t really. And that’s because it wasn’t about Forrest. I was projecting my past onto him, once again. I’d been driven into chaos and self-destruction by a myth. Forrest is not one of the men who used me for sex, and yet I interact with him like he is because I am stuck in my traumas — because one trigger can lead to a full day of me existing in a past reality.
It’s now 3:30 and after writing this, I’ve stopped dissociating as badly. I took a few breaks from writing to give Forrest hugs. I’m trying to listen to what the psychic said — that I am worthy and deserving of love. I have to stop pushing Forrest so hard because one day he could decide he’s had enough. I don’t want to tempt that fate. Losing him would be the biggest mistake of my life. I’m not sure I could recover from it.
So I’m sorry Forrest. I’m sorry I fell apart instead of articulating myself in the moment. I am trying to be better, but I’m nowhere close to perfect. Thank you for being patient with me. I love you very, very much.
Now if you’ll excuse me… this breakdown has exhausted me and I think I need a Sunday nap.
Leif E. Greenz