I promised myself I would write something. Wrote it in ink on a page in my notebook amidst the day to day things I do to run this life of mine. I don’t feel particularly inspired and type this with lethargy and cigarette ash on my keyboard. The bathroom tiles are cold and the window is open to let the smoke out. The lights are off but for the monitor, and I am groggy from pacing, working, putting food in my mouth. But I promised myself. I take promises I make to other people very seriously, and so I should uphold the same standards for myself. It has become clear that I have some lessons to learn in kindness, and it must start here with this person whose hands brush ash from the keys and whose toes curl together for warmth after the cold tiles of the bathroom floor. Some nights end that way, and I am okay with that right now. Tomorrow will be different, as will the next day.
It’s been said that we own nothing, ownership is mere human perception. Our bodies themselves are on loan by the elements. The atoms which create them have existed far beyond the perceptibility of our consciousness, and will continue to exist in a fragmented state, immersed within the ground to cycle back to becoming atoms in a new forms, new people, trees or animals.
While I cannot speculate with certainty about any of that, I have been assessing the distinctions of the multiple selves existing under a single identity. What is “me” is considered this body, the mind acting through the brain and nervous system, and a spiritual encompassment. (Some say what we create is an extension of ourselves, but I believe creations have more autonomy than that of a proverbial third or fourth head.)
I have begun to notice that there seems to be separate personalities within these forms. Dissected, there could be countless versions of the self interacting in here, explaining the various internal dialogues in here, clamoring for my focus. But for time and simplicity, I am more interested in looking at the distinction of this body of mine, and the conscious mind which appears embedded within the cellular, neurological, and atomic levels of said body that I claim as my own.
The body is honest. There is a consciousness within the body that is perhaps controlled by a deeper, more primitive realm of the brain that the consciousness at the forefront of our focus doesn’t always register. The body retains memories in a way the mind will often try to rationalize or minimize, effectively self-gaslighting the individual identifier. But the body recalls what it has perceived as danger.
Recently I was walking down the street when I suddenly felt the sensation I can only liken to riding a horse that balks. My body, my mind and I were walking down the street when my head sensed the sudden bend of the neck as the legs turned heel and walked quickly in the other direction as the rest of me carried on a forward acceleration. As we collectively took several brusque steps in the opposite direction, my mind registered a few moments later what my body had already perceived. Somewhat down the block there was a man who bore a striking resemblance to someone who had assaulted me. When my focus was brought to him, I could see immediately it was not my assailant. I stood somewhat detached after I moved a ways down, and as I scanned my body I saw that it was shaking rather aggressively. My mind instantly jumped to the role of soothing and shushing as a parent might, and I worried momentarily that I was being insensitive to my body after taking such a psychic shock. For a long time, when the body began to shake and show reactions of fear or hurt, my response as the abusive parent would be to tell it to shut up, either psychologically or chemically induced.
Recently, the dichotomy of the two as separate entities seemed to emerge. I have continued to inquire the tangled state of the two, how they are so inherently interlinked, yet lapsed in communication at times.
For a long time, I have experienced back pain, muscular spasms, tightening and clicking of the hips, jaws, spine, gastrointestinal problems which has led me to multiple medical treatments, insomnia, panic disorder and terrible circulation resulting in freezing cold hands.
These could all be symptoms of of psychological trauma. Unregistered, unvalidated, the mind repressed the fear and upset but pushed the energy of it into the body. The body doesn’t forget, although the mind may try to force it.
As I treat C-PTSD, I hope to alleviate these physiological effects. But I don’t want to linger in this area, despite that I started writing these damn blahg posts in alignment with my recovery in hopes that it may speak to those who are going through or in proximity to similar circumstances.
That the body and mind seem to have different wills, and perhaps even personalities, is curious to me.
Any addict can attest to the bodily cravings and the spiritual desire to stop. But any average person can empathize with the body craving nutrients when the mind is too preoccupied to eat, making the individual identifier cranky. Or vice versa, the mind wants gratification through taste while the body does not want any further food intake.
This may all seem obvious, but as aforementioned it seems more and more like the body is a separate entity, a more innocent being which I need to feed and take care of. Neglecting my body for years, she has accrued a number of pathological issues which result from the lack of attention she needed.
Many of us feel strange physiological sensations in our stomachs (gut feelings), our heads, our hands and feet. Many trauma therapy methods (such as EMDR) focus on these sensations as carrying warnings from our bodily consciousness.
In acupuncture, I am told that emotions lie in the organs. Fear and anger have been stored up in my body when my mind did not properly process them. The nerves in my hip and lower back have become so inflamed and painful that the lightest touch can set me screaming. The nerves are attached to the organs, the spine, which in turn are absorbing information from the mind.
This in my rudimentary understanding of the ancient practice. But body healers have seemed to know traits of mine that I had not told them, or the mind had not even registered. But the body had.
If you had asked me previously, I would have told you I was fine. So be warned, when I am asked that question, I am now answering honestly.
You could argue for the mono-consciousness of all this if you want. Yes I know its all one, and we are all one, and all that circle of life shit. But at least two distinct consciousnesses seem to inhabit this life form, and I have only been attributing myself as one of them.
We have all watched ourselves turned into monsters when something in our subconscious was unhinged and disturbed. Generally speaking, projection is often the culprit of anger to unmatched situations. When somebody pisses me off, it is likely because they exhibit some quality I dislike within myself and repress. When I have reacted strongly and defensively to something, I can see in retrospect that it touched upon some upsetting memory which my physiological being reacted to outside of my immediate perceptive mind. This exemplified in the above scenario walking down the street.
In countless examples of other circumstances, I know I have looked on at my behavior in retrospect, or even out of body in the present moment, and wonder for better or for worse, “who the hell is that?”
As it would happen, I did later run into the aforementioned assailant. A similar reaction, my body took off running through the crowd with some unconscious barreling through people (sorry) where my mind short circuited in panic. I was snuck out the back door by a dear friend who was working at the bar where it happened, and I was okay. Allowing my mind to process and accept the situation as it was, the upset from it was not so long term as it had been in the past. I have previously refused to acknowledge when I was scared, violated, or hurt. The bodily consciousness was unrecognized. The mind created an idea of pain associated with weakness and blocked the pain of the bodily consciousness, refused to look at the wounds. I would not call them for what they were. When I did, I experienced a state of delayed shock for several weeks.
But since then, I have noticed a conversation between my mind and body that did not seem so tangible before. Healing the inner child, the abandoned self, is at the forefront of spirituality and self improvement. Initially, these phrases induce eye rolls and sighs. At least for me, but I notice where I am most hardened and cynical, where I least want to look, is where my attention is most needed.
Responsibility is a hard thing for people to wrap their heads around. And owning it means many claimed incapabilities are moot. The processes are long and arduous, they test patience and require some nights staying up with the crying child, quality time spent with the body to make sure she is okay, what she is telling me about my psyche and other consciousness that my vernal mind might obscure or minimize. Sometimes I need to sit her down and ask her, truly, if she is okay, if she needs anything, as any healthy relationship would call for. It takes a long time, so don’t ever tell yourself or someone going through this shit to “just get over it.” I have experienced that internally and externally, and it made the blockade far, far worse.
I have talked about the sensation of looking in the mirror and thinking “what the fuck, I am in this bitch.” Perhaps. But not so much like a martian controlling a spaceship with extended appendages walking about performing tasks and interacting with the world. It is more like a being that speaks or requires different languages to access different areas. The body has its own autonomy. The consciousness of the body has been dragged around in this form by proxy, taking the hits of the subconscious. Only recently, however, has she begun speaking to me. Actually, I retract that. She has been speaking to me for years, through all the afore mentioned symptoms. She has been trying to get my attention like the kid pulling at the parent’s hand. I just haven’t been listening.
Excuse any type-os - this was a late and spontaneous endeavor in a very sensitive subject to which I am dedicated to opening up for all persons who have undergone parallel situations. Part of recovery involves being honest and open about these things which I’ve carried for so long, to deconstruct the protocol of silence enforced upon us so as to not destabilize social systems which protect abusers and shame the abused. I will no longer carry this shame.
*Updated for spelling and clarity.
Beneath the sounds of late night traffic eleven stories below, the room expands around in high pitched tones of stillness. The light seems obscene and out of place as it sits, still switched on, atop my nightstand. I brushed my teeth hours ago while weight amassed in the thin skin beneath my eyes. The hours merge and pool like stagnant water on the floor. I have been here before. Rather than sleeping, my body takes on a numb resonance which keeps me inert.
From six or seven years old, I began the fights through to the morning with nighttime brain activity. When I accepted that I would not be falling asleep anytime soon after lights out, I resorted to reading. By the light of the street lamp outside my window, I would strain to get through young adult novels. Soon I began hiding a flashlight beneath my pillows, and then the mattress after my mom found it. Do not credit me for staying up out of enthusiasm for reading. I always loved books, but such nights I sought them out in desperate need for company. The sensation of being in my body, all this flesh and blood and bone in the small, strange vessel of child form constricted my developing sense of self as I lay staring at the ceiling, hoping to fall asleep. That I would be trapped in this human until I died was a strenuous fear in which I often found myself entangled.
Only recently did I associate the beginning of this phenomenon with the first time a boy my age touched me when I begged him not to. Compassion and forgiveness was demanded of me immediately when I first began speaking of this nearly a decade later. He was the one I was encouraged to have empathy for, someone must have touched him in the same way. He must have learned such manipulation tactics. Threatening me with the old “you’ll be in trouble too” tactic, he would berate me into allowing him access to parts of me I did not know or understand. It may be true, that someone was hurting him, and this taught him how to so successfully abuse me. But I was never given the space to come to terms with this early developmental block. Below the age of nine, the cranial and emotional development is at its most vulnerable. The body does not distinguish age, relationship, whether they knew better or not. It only knows when it was afraid and forced into something physical that it did not want to do.
I would say no, I would beg him to think of something else to do. He told me if I did what he said, nobody would ever know; but if I didn’t, he would tell my parents that it happened, that I was the one who offered, and that nobody would believe me. I was trapped. I was the new kid, and I did not have any developed authority to stand up for myself. I had nowhere to go. He lived two doors down.
Minimizing the behavior was the primary reaction. Kids explore, they do things with each other out of harmless play. This I understand. Self exposing and some intimate play that would not be considered acceptable in the pubescent realm is normal. I am not disputing that. What happened to me was not along this line. Begging him to not touch me, and being bullied into submission, removing clothing while I cried and crumpled with shame, I first felt the crippling defeat that becomes familiar in the lives of heartbreaking statistics of young women and men.
How I knew this was awful and deplorable was likely from the subtle clues society constantly emits. These areas were never seen in public, and rarely within ones own family. Countless times I wanted to tell my parents, I even went so far as to address my mother once and tell her I had something I needed to say. I panicked and backtracked. I was around ten years old.
We are observant from a young age. It is made clear to us that if these things happen, if someone feels entitled to your body and your space, that you will be shamed for this kind of touching. The instincts of self protection go haywire in these circumstances, and at young ages we begin to deteriorate in our senses of self.
In those years from about seven to ten, my aversion to sleep worsened. Certain senses of isolation and silence caused some ineffable fear. Trying to write it off as a fear of the dark, something normal like other kids had, I tried nightlights and cracked doors. But I much prefer sleeping in the dark, and the hallway lights through the doorframe gave me no comfort.
There were others, growing up. We moved often when I was a kid, and making friends was not something that came easily, even though it was a constant necessity. I guess this made me an easy target. Later, doctors would tell me the risk of future abusers multiplied when one has been subject to sexual abuse. In a college course at NYU entitled Sex Crimes, Sex Panic, I would learn that up to a third of child molestation cases are perpetuated by other children, but the statistics can’t be known as they are vastly underreported or written off. We have to address that we teach people, especially young boys, that they are entitled to other people’s space and within their right to throw tantrums when they are denied. We must stop teaching this.
I minimized my own experiences. I constantly berated myself for holding such terror of my own body, of other kids. Bullying ensued at another new school by the time I was eight. Having lunch money stolen, picked on for my clothes, my lack of friends, my reading abilities, I was not believed when one girl was targeting me in particular. Until finally when she locked me in a dark closet despite my screaming and pounding on the door. I was believed then, but it was never acknowledged again.
When I was nine, I started wearing my hair short and wore clothes from the boy’s section. This lasted until puberty, and I tolerated the ostracizing that came with being labeled a child dyke.
At another new school in Maryland, girls would run from me in the locker room when I had never even glanced at them, calling me “gross” and “lesbian.” I had no idea why I was so afraid to allow the feminine aspects of me to show through, I simply knew it felt raw and exposed, like I was drenched in syrup and sat upon an anthill.
I tried to articulate once to a peer why I felt the need to cover myself and crop my hair in such a manner. Even my dad told me it was an “awful” haircut. I began crying when I said I was afraid of my body, that it would be taken from me, specifically by boys. She rolled her eyes at me.
When I was twelve, I started menstruating. Driven to social integration with the sudden frenzy of pubescent hormones, I had noticed darker hair growing, panicked, and repressed when a girl at summer camp scoffed at me when I mentioned what I saw growing, and where. “So what?” she had accused, “I’ve had that for ages.” I didn’t realize it was a competition to grow to womanhood. We are pitted against one another, gauged by our appearance and desirability from a young age, and then set up to for shame and failure when these enforced characteristics lead us to the intended outcomes of sexual contact. Girls pick up on this dichotomy, and struggle to find the impossible balance we are never meant to master.
I grew out the boyish haircut, borrowed skirts from a neighbor until I bought my own. I flipped, but not after a phase of binding my growing breasts with an ACE bandage, staring at myself in the mirror and crying. I didn’t know what I was mourning at the time.
Women had been put into this strange category of coveting I’d been observing from such a young age, how beauty was fetishized, how fat women were mocked, how my dad yelled at my mom, how men laughed about women for feelings of sensitivity, how women allegedly resisted sex but were obligated to it anyway.
Teaching us that women didn’t like sex but had to have it anyway is a dangerous cultural trope that has been insidiously disguised in sitcom humor. Teaching boys that women don’t want sex justifies them to have sex with girls who don’t want to be touched. I knew I feared something about this role of woman, and for a while, I didn’t want to be a part of it.
When I couldn’t thwart my own development, I threw myself to the other end of the spectrum. Age twelve was when I wore skirts again, used tampons for the first time as the girl’s school I attended did not have any sanitary pads when my first period came unexpectedly in gym class. Twelve was when I drank my first beer, when I first got drunk and that same night, was first kissed by a boy.
Still, I was teased for being prudish and undesirable. I tried to fit in, but kids in suburban Maryland and D.C. were into pastels and pop music. When I arrived at a neighborhood friend’s house with my nails painted black in the eighth grade, her mother grabbed my hand as it rested on the door frame, pulled my wrist close to her face and squinted at the color.
I had a Master of Puppets t-shirt I loved, even though I only had half the album downloaded on the newly introduced iTunes. I tried to go to a Marilyn Manson concert, somehow acquired tickets, nobody would drive me. I burned CDs of heavy metal and passed them out to the few classmates who might be interested, to their mother’s disdain. I tried to carve a new understanding of myself, and began to settle into the skin which had always tightened around me in the company of peers or trying to sleep at night.
Boarding school in England afforded me an opportunity to leave the awkward kid who had often been mistaken for a boy, the goth freak who heard constant reminders of her lack of appeal to boys, the nerd. (The latter two phases I proudly have not grown out of.)
The summer I turned fourteen I tried more feminine clothes, make up, and after reading Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging, I decided to lose my virginity and avoid the humiliating taunting for my prudish lack of experience that I didn’t especially want, but was framed to me as a remedy to the social isolation I’d felt my whole life.
I turned fourteen on July 13th 2007. In August of 2007, my virginity was taken by a family friend who I had known a long time. He was sixteen, and two nights later he made a show of bringing other girls back to his place. When I confronted him for this betrayal, telling him he’d fucked me just the day before, he did not blink when he looked me in the eye and said, “So what?”
I think I passed out for a moment, drunk and crying. One of his friends woke me up by removing my underwear and using his mouth on me as I continued to cry. I told him to stop as he started to put a condom on, and he did. But he kept trying to touch and kiss me even as I pushed him away.
Showing up to the boarding school in southern England a few weeks later, I felt depleted and worn to an ancient exhaustion beyond my age. But at least these experiences would save me from another year of mocking. European kids would all be having sex, surely.
No. American Whore.
Four years, I had this hurled at me regularly. Slut, slag, skank, disgusting, stupid, loud, angry. An older boy took me into the bushes behind the girl’s dormitory in the second week after a few evenings of speaking softly and affectionately to me. After convincing me to some hand stuff, he assured me he would be discreet. The next day, another older boy caught my eye grinning, and mimed a jerking off motion.
With a week, the boy I had been involved with started laughing and pointing at me, instigating the name calling after successfully coercing me.
That year I was introduced to binge drinking. The next year, I was introduced to cocaine, ketamine, and MDMA. I was fifteen.
I am surely no angel, and sought out this behavior as it seemed another angle into social acceptance where sexuality had failed.
Alcoholism runs rampant in my family, my mother had first told me of how it affected my father as she steered the car down the road on summer break and did not break her gaze upon the road. She was doing the best she could to hold it all together, so I never brought up what I was dealing with in school.
I had sex with some boy whose name I don’t remember on a weekend out of school. I had been shoved onto him by the same family friend who took my virginity, and really only slept with his friend out of spite. Immediately afterwards when I returned to where I was staying, he took me into his bed again, had me climb on top, but would not kiss me.
Still fifteen, the third person who fucked me pestered for weeks. He was older and hung out with the ‘cool’ crowd, and his interest in me was something that felt desperately validating after my social acceptability was knocked again when the self inflicted razor cuts on my wrist was reported by a girl in my class. She had followed me out of the dining hall at school when I raised my arms and exposed the cuts. She grabbed my wrist to look, and then ran off crying. A housemistress was told. I was pulled into an awkward conversation while she sunnily explained that clearly I didn’t want to kill myself based off the placement of where I had cut, then I was sent to a couple counseling sessions and that was that. I felt further estranged as other kids didn’t know how to react.
The guy was eventually deemed “just an idiot” to excuse his breaking of my boundaries. The minimizing of his standards of treatment towards other people threw the responsibility onto my shoulders again.
We had smoked pot together in London a few times, gone to some of the same parties. He had lunged at me with his tongue out on many occasions but I always laughed it off and said no, before shoplifting wine from Tesco and getting drunk.
One night I was left at a party by a friend whose house I was meant to sleep at. When she wanted to go, this guy offered me a place to stay. I reminded him, point blank, that I had no interest in sleeping with him. He seemed hurt by the prospect that I didn’t trust him. He offered me his brother’s room and assured me I would be left alone. When another friend came as well, the brother’s room was suddenly occupied, and I was led to his room, drunk and alone in a foreign city, my parents an ocean away, trying to work their shit out. Theirs is another story.
I would be told that all that happened afterward was my fault. I should have known better, I should have been more persistent.
After curling into a fetal position away from him, he began to do what he wanted to do. I tightened up and kept trying to say no, without seeming ungrateful for a place to stay when there was nowhere else I could go. He wouldn’t stop. He kept pushing himself on me and coercing me. When I asked if he could keep it a secret, I relinquished. I was tired of fighting again. In the morning, the friend who had taken the brother’s room was disappointed in me. I wondered why, then, had he taken the free bed I was meant to have.
I felt very strange and uncomfortable about what happened, but he carried on being nice to me and letting me have a place to stay so I wouldn’t be stuck at school on the weekends when most of the other students went home. Recently, an Internal Medicine M.D. told me that it was extraordinarily common to normalize the experiences which disregarded any boundaries or consent so that they might not feel like victims of assault.
Not only did he tell people, but he lied and exaggerated what happened. He later admitted to making up the threesome, and other acts that would suggest far more enthusiasm than was true. I called him out on it, and he admitted his lies. Nobody ever said a word to him about it aside from that, as far as I know.
The torment of the SLUT, WHORE insults increased. I would try to defend myself, saying I hadn’t even wanted it to happen. This would either be met with a sweeping gesture and the negation “nahh, you loved it didn’t you?” and laughter, or a shrug and sad, furrowed brow saying, “yeah, but you let him. You should have known better.”
I was fifteen. He was eighteen, a legal adult. Below sixteen, I was still legally considered a child. Nobody has ever explained to me why I was the one who was supposed to know better.
At one point during those weeks of minimizing the discomfort, and desperate for a place to stay so I could socialize and drink like the other kids did, I spent another night at his house. I didn’t have sex with him that time, we did end up in a compromising looking appearance of little clothing. I was coming down off drugs and having trouble sleeping. The downstairs tenant burst in for unspecified reasons, and launched into calling me “a little slut, a little whore.” I still have no idea what set him off.
He threatened violence, then grabbed my hair and pulled me out of bed as he continued the name calling. He never called the older guy a thing. The man continued to berate me with the name calling in front of the entire family while I gathered my few belongings and left. I returned to school where kids continued calling me those names, bumping my shoulder in the hallways and coughing “slut” aggressively into their fists.
I stayed far away from sex for a long time to try and taper the name calling, but I needn’t have bothered as it didn’t help, and people would just make things up to justify the words.
Somehow, I got decent grades. When I found out at the end of this academic year I went through a turnaround and applied myself into academic subjects. I had given up drama even though I desperately wanted to be an actor, the name calling and mocking of my accent made the idea of going on stage before my peers to be seen and heard an enormously stupid idea of self-exposure for further means of making fun of me. When I realized I had some capability, I threw myself into English Literature, French, Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. I ended up studying Philosophy at Bristol and was absolutely in love with the subject.
My depression and anxiety had progressed, however. I had started having massive panic attacks, once so severe during a party that I accidentally hit someone’s mother in the face as she tried to settle me while I thrashed and screamed. She was very kind, and wrote an understanding note in response to my apology.
At Bristol, I made some more mistakes influenced by alcohol and men. I started self harming again. I felt unfulfilled, and thought another change of scene might reroute me. I was missing creative fulfillment, and transferred to NYU to rediscover the artistic approach to my education.
In New York, the drinking and drug use got worse. There are hundreds of torrid little stories of demoralizing nights when I found myself being taken home by a stranger who then expected some favor from me when I was black out drunk, or high out of my mind. From my first few experiences of men touching me, I had learned that even if I did say “no,” it was unlikely to be respected. Even if I did fight, I would surely lose. Fighting will wear a person down. I would try sometimes, but my neural-pathways were hardwired to this blueprint of taking the hit again, and again.
I was meant to graduate early from NYU, but I was on a flight to rehab the summer I was meant to graduate. My father and brother had spent stints in the same rehab, neither had kept sobriety. I didn’t intend to, but I didn’t know what else to do.
I was violently assaulted two weeks before I went to rehab. Lying to myself on behalf of him, I assured myself that it wasn’t as bad as it felt as I sat and put cigarettes out on my legs the day after.
I wouldn’t recognize it until nearly a year into sobriety, when a male mentor in AA heard me tell the story of what happened, and pointed out that the man I described had raped me. Seeing myself as a victim of this was strange and unsettling for many obvious reasons, but mostly that I had been so convinced that everything was my fault.
My friend, a forty-something white cisgender heterosexual man who has had trouble with heroin, alcohol and sex addiction, calmly pointed out that it takes a truly sick kind of person to tell a young, wasted girl covered in clear marks of self-cutting, to shut the fuck up, to ignore her saying she was scared, and to force things into her she said she didn’t want.
That I had to recognize it for what it was seemed impossible. My mind did not accept it, and turned a numbing resonance over it all.
Two years of sobriety I kept much of these thoughts to myself, convinced it was all my fault, that it was unrelated to substance abuse issues. I scorned and berated myself for continued panic attacks, continued submission to sexual coercion, self harming, and insomnia.
Around this time last year, I relapsed. Just under five months I was drinking and using cocaine again to try and come to terms with this seeming inability to rid myself of loneliness, toxic patterns, mistrust, dissociation, dysphoria, gastrointestinal problems, muscular pain, a twisted spine, a tilted pelvis, panic attacks, self harm, insomnia, depression.
I was so sick of this weight on me, and I didn’t know how to talk about it. I was so afraid to look at these early memories because I had been told repeatedly that it was my fault. After the rape that occurred at age twenty one, I was sexually assaulted in a bathroom two days later, and I screamed this time. I pushed him off me and became upset, the manager came out and took me upstairs so I could wash my face. While I did so, he mockingly asked if an addict like me dared reporting this to the cops. I can’t remember what I said. He looked at me square in the face and told me I deserved to get raped.
He wouldn’t have known what had happened to me two nights prior. He was making a general statement that I deserved the sexual assault, and I deserved more aggressive rape.
When I relapsed, I was quickly swept into the darker spectrum of sex that was far out of my control. I hated myself for this cycle of folding to coercion, and attracting the worst kinds of men. It culminated in an ugly five days with a frightening, predator of a man who fed me drugs, pills, cocaine, alcohol, and manipulative tactics. Apparently I called a friend at one point to tell her I was afraid, but I don’t remember. I never consented, but even if I had it would have been redundant in my wrecked state of mind. I don’t even remember the first time he pushed himself on me as I spun out in drug induced stupor. I remember afterward, crouched naked on the floor, and saying over and over again that I hadn’t expected that to happen. He shrugged it off. When I continued to flounder and try to wrap my mind around it, him fully aware of my history of substance abuse, he looked me in the eye and told me that I had wanted to be broken.
Every part of me screamed that this was not true, but my self doubt pushed hard and my freeze instinct that had seeped and settled in when I was seven was hellbent on survival. If he does what he wants, what he will do anyway even if I fight, he won’t hurt me. Like a newborn horse, he said, you want to be broken in.
As he raped me again, he grabbed my shoulders and shook me when he knew I dissociated from my body. He slapped me and yelled at me to stop resisting mentally. I had been awake for three days, and had no strength left. It gives me horrible pain and shame to say this, after he began hitting me I snapped into survival instincts of going along with it out of fear. I didn’t acknowledge it for what it was until months afterward. It was difficult to accept that it had happened again.
He still goes around and brags about how he fucked me. I know there are still men who laugh at my expense.
Gaslighting me and keeping me well stocked on substance to disarm me, I was trapped in this cycle for five days of which I have almost no memories. I got out after he ODed and I called the paramedics for him, I was so sick I couldn’t go home for Christmas. I had a fever, an infection in my lungs. For a week, I slept mostly. When I didn’t, I lay awake and scorned the trap my body was.
Months after I got sober again, I acknowledge this for the violent assault that it was. I told myself I would never have to withstand what happened to me at twenty one ever again. But many victims of molestation and sexual assault, particularly those with substance abuse issues, find themselves here again, and chalk it up to personal failure. I want us all to register that we are not alone.
Because I am an affirmed addict, because women and all victims of this abuse are forced to bear the burden of other people’s actions, these things are regarded as my responsibility. None of those men were ever held accountable.
I know some of them were just stupid, selfish, conditioned to entitlement who didn’t know the damage they were causing. I know others were aware of the harm they inflicted, and didn’t care. There is a difference.
But the world we live in wants to carry on this lazy trajectory of blaming the easy target. Women and men who have been violated are shamed into silence and carrying the long term effects of these moments.
I want you to know something. As much as I hate all of this, I still want to love men. I still want to believe that sex can be a kind, compassionate and fully open experience. I know it can be. Optimism is hard for someone like me, and cynicism has acted as my security blanket. I am working hard to not be like that any more.
I have recently written a couple of articles for SOVO// magazine about positive sexuality. I am very proud of them, and look forward to the print magazine being published this coming December. I want to continue to embrace all the good that can come from sex. I have recently come to believe that it can be one of the most sanctimonious acts of spiritual worship, melding body and mind when all are fully willing and loving.
Inversely, it can be the most soul destroying experience shoved upon a person. I carry my part, my choices were not well informed, I have tried my best to self educate. Little was available to me in learning how to draw boundaries or stand up for myself.
We do not teach people how to behave on either ends. We do not teach people how to conduct themselves in infringing the space of others. We do not tell people that coercion is abusive. We do not tell people that berating to submission does not qualify as consent. We do not teach people that the normalizing survival techniques they employ to try and gloss over what happened to them are common reactions. Successfully avoiding responsibility and respect for others, assailants are taught they can do this to people and get away with it. Victims and bystanders are shamed into upholding this systematic victim blaming.
Something has to change.
Recently, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Shocked but simultaneously relieved, it explains much of why I was an easy target for predators in repeated circumstances. The shame was nauseating, crippling. Depression and anxiety has made it impossible for me to get out of bed for days, while also making it impossible for me to sleep. An eating disorder has complicated my relationship with myself for the last ten years. I was convinced that I was weak for having been broken down. I knew I didn’t want it. I didn’t want any of it. But we are set up for failure.
Prude, idiot, slut, whore, broken. No matter what we do more than half of the population are rigged to lose.
Physical symptoms I’ve experienced since adolescence may be explained by PTSD: TMJ pain and clicking, spine issues, frequent nausea and headaches, fluctuating weight, compulsive sex, dissociation and numbness around sex, sexual withdrawal, inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract, nightmares and flashbacks, volatility, a weak immune system, low grade fevers with menstrual cycle and ovulation, panic attacks, an inability to form long term intimate relationships, insomnia.
I always reflected on my childhood with a sense of ‘otherness,’ I was often the new kid, never the desirable girlfriend, on one side of the spectrum or the other in terms of behavior. From around the age of seven I started having fits of extreme emotion, hypochondria, volatility, self harm, insomnia. I forgot what I was like before.
Mom told me, with gentle compassion, that I was an “unshakable” child. This in response to my C-PTSD diagnosis. I hardly ever cried, I was calm and trusting. I was engaged and lighthearted. When I started experiencing these swings with mood, sleep, school performance, she told me she thought it was a phase. I do not blame her. This society is not at all equipped to address these systems of perpetual abuse and victim blaming. We have to pull these dark aspects of our early informed experiences into the light. We are now collectively addressing it, again. Hopefully this time it solidifies.
Oppression is not creative. The same tactics to silence and intimidate people are used across the board. Fear and shame are used as tactics to allow abusers to acquit themselves.
After years of dissociating, it is wildly intense to reintegrate into my own body. Even in previous sobriety, this sensitivity to being is new to me. It is as if there were tourniquets lodged in my brain and they have been removed, flooding my cranial chambers with blood and oxygen.
Recovery has been a spiritual experience. Connecting to people in ways I never knew was possible for me has allowed me to walk this path to confront these demons. I have been allowed to not be okay. I have been allowed the space to go through the mourning, the pain, the sleepless nights where I was finally able to cry for that little girl.
Numbness and fear are what has kept me up at night. Sometimes cyclical resentments masking my terrified and saddened sense of injustice, and scorn for my perceived weakness. I mistook it for anger.
In this night of insomnia, I distinguish it from others as I have accepted a sense of calm anger undulating within the space around me.
I have lost many nights of rest and peace because of what I have described, and other experiences like them. Some were through lack of communication tools, some were just through the selfishness and entitlement granted to men, some through coercion or a sense that drunk young girls were “free for alls,” “asking for it,” “deserving rape.”
I was told I deserved rape. I was told as a child that I was responsible for the manipulation others forced on me. I was told to shut the fuck up.
But I am not broken, I have never desired brokenness.
I am moving through the reconnection of my neural pathways that were misrouted when I was so young. I am learning to feel safe and connected to my own skin, my own senses. I am experiencing hope, and I am noticing deep anger.
I was often criticized for being an “angry” girl when I was in high school. It hurt because I knew I was not made to be of that disposition. I felt when my mom reminded me of my natural, unsullied self as a child, that it confirmed my sense of injustice when I was accused of pointless, uncontrolled anger.
The mind lies. The mind self berates, minimizes, glosses over. The mind tries to justify and make sense of senseless acts. The body is always honest. The body never forgets what happened to it.
Anger masking pain and shame is not quite the same as anger coming from a place of deep self-protection only recently reconnected an empowered. Many of us are beginning to see how deep this mistreatment has cut into ourselves, into our societal norms.
I still have insomnia. But I am awakening to myself for the first time since I was very, very young. I am rediscovering and reclaiming this person who was trapped in the airlock of a sinking vessel.
If you have read this far, I appreciate the time taken to hear me. I do not want to express all consuming, defeating anger anymore. I don’t want to attract any more of this horrible, hideous energy. I am working hard to learn, and mostly to unlearn.
This is hard work, and the berating I received from myself and misguided peers who tried to command that I simply “get over it” was unjust. I want to acknowledge and move on. But there are many entanglements I have to sort through. It is rewarding work, and it has connected me to safe people in a way I never imagined possible.
I am alone tonight, as I am every night living alone in a studio apartment in Los Angeles. But the solidarity of the compassion we have for ourselves and others will balance this collective anger.
Regarding all I have disclosed: this was part of my story.
It is not who I am.
As it approaches 4am, I will see if I can get some sleep now, settled into the mental, spiritual and bodily alignment of this being. I am getting to know this body, this woman, for whom I only recently found the autonomy.
This is a tangent.
Here exemplifies the paradox of writing about ‘not writing.’ There is an art to ‘not writing’ which blends a game of literary ‘chicken’ with the eventual masochism of writing after prolonged ‘not writing’; flogged by the encroaching deadline and nights spent glassy eyed, bent over the keyboard. ‘Not writing’ is, in subjective accordance, anything else I do in life.
The caveat is that writing, like most art forms in my opinion, requires a degree of ‘not writing.’ Just as photography requires time spent simply observing with no mechanical eye, acting requires feeling life on life’s terms, playing music requires time spent listening, there is an essence of ‘not doing’ needed in what we ‘do.’
Or perhaps this is what I tell myself when I am left stricken in the panicked wake of distractions.
I do concede that in order to have a subject worth writing about, photographing, creating melody and to lyricize, or dramatizing for stage or film, there must be a deep sense of the life which inspires the art. I don’t think art is remotely interesting if it reveals nothing. Defining art is under constant debate, and I am not necessarily interested in that zeitgeist. Art evolves with the societal paradigm. I will postulate that personal stakes in life are necessary to evolve. Art is mere replication if there are no personal stakes.
Feel free to argue with me on that idea. I am not interested in hearing you talk about the ‘art of replicating’ as an art in itself. I am sure you are right, but that is just pandering to argument for argument’s sake. We are encouraged to dispute others, and to do whatever we can to feel ‘right,’ mistaking our ‘opinions’ for ‘righteousness.’ Reaffirmed, I know I have made and participated in art that was low risk, low vibration, and boring. I am not exempt. Lessons I learned in acting and writing is that you must navigate high stakes for what you convey to be compelling. Seeking safety and comfort is a natural human instinct, and I pander to them myself. But I don’t think your art is interesting if there is no desire to be expository or set high stakes.
Particularly in a town like Los Angeles, artistic careers are navigated through idolized paradigms. Commercial success is a desired outcome. Bands, actors, photographers etc. look to the success of people who set high stakes and replicate them with contrived high stakes and exposition. They are not high stakes if they don’t affect you. That is what I mean when I say ‘replication.’ If someone already set the foundation for a path to success, derive inspiration, absolutely. We all inspire one another and reset the paradigm with each endeavor. How ironic that the image of danger and edginess has amassed so much commercial appeal that it is now a safe route? But I do not think that is new or unique to these times.
On the other hand, the analogical slitting of the wrists and bleeding on the canvas is also low risk. Emotional vomit, photographing something so explicit it leaves no room for discourse, indulging the pain of heartbreak through song. Execution is so often fraught and messy, and the chopping block is stained with the endeavors of generations. I have found we all go through this phase at one point or another, and that is okay. I certainly have. A phase of development is exactly that if you can evolve beyond it.
Replicating is just adding to the factory line conveyer belt of mass produced images and sounds which have already demonstrated the efforts of someone else. There is no sin in this, it is basic training of course. Many painters were told to replicate the masters until they have learned, musicians learned the tunes of others to understand the language, writers read to know how to write. All generations have taken points of contact and methodology from the previous. They’ve been saying nihil sub sole novum (nothing new under the sun) since ancient Rome. By the very nature of our anatomical structure, we are all recycled material. Where originality is a farce, I suppose what I am seeking is courage, personality, self-revealing; which is a terribly unoriginal goal in artistry.
However, I don’t believe that I have felt all I am capable of feeling or considered everything that there is to consider. I trust the art of others to reframe my perspective. I trust my own efforts to lay foundations for my road, and I hope it can speak to someone.
I have spent a great deal of my writing career ‘not writing,’ as I have spent a great deal of my acting career and training ‘not acting.’ Navigating and reframing life experience has become the baseline for my efforts, but I am open to that being shifted as well.
Creating some demonstrative procrastination wan’t necessarily my intention to this. Justifying what I do outside of practice may have just been personal soothing. Much art is masturbatory, I think. Philosophizing is, I’ve been told, intellectualized masturbation. Perhaps I just spend this whole page jerking off rather than doing what my duty to the deadline demands. If there is an art to ‘not writing,’ I suppose that inherently suggests there is an art to simply being.
I suppose that, in the end, is my unoriginal human endeavor.
“Notice that.” In reference to the breath, the spine, the sense of weight between me and the ground below, I am instructed to notice.
Addicted to instant gratification, I get frustrated with these instructions. I’ve been in here for 25 years - a quarter of a century. What is there left to notice?
In broad strokes, all of it. I have hauled this body and mind around, but I have hardly noticed what was there.
For weeks I have experienced waves of my vision becoming bright and vivid, almost overwhelming. My limbs vibrate with a sense of heavy blood flow rushing through them. The nerve endings below my skin have shed hardened layers and are receptive to sensations. A sense of space and matter has become clearer to register. The interconnectedness of it all emerges out of the murky vision. My breath draws deeper between my ribs. The body is lit up with signals for me to notice what is there which is me. Amidst that, I see expansive dark patches of what was blocking the sensory experience of my self.
Knowing fully well I have been seeing a trauma specialist for therapy and EMDR treatment, it was still a massive unsettling to hear and actually register that I had Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I asked if it was wise to research this condition, or if that internet hole would deteriorate into an echo chamber of panic and misinformation. My therapist shrugged and said he trusted me to distinguish what’s credible from what isn’t. Signs of improvement.
Much of the bodily phenomena I’ve experienced in here, shoved aside as quirks I would just have to put up with, were brought into sight. Anxiety attacks, substance abuse, bouts of compulsive promiscuity/a seeming inability to say no followed by sexual withdraws and avoidance, muscular pain, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, fatigue, poor concentration, an inability to form long term relationships, dysphoria, depression, eating disorders, and dissociation.
I was afraid to hope for improvement in all of these areas. Acceptance is an answer for what I cannot change, but I have only recently come into the wisdom that these attributes could be confronted. The first step was noticing what was there.
In beginning to see “me” I was able to then see “not me” built up like calcium deposits all over this being I thought I was running.
Rewiring this vehicle has been a fascinating albeit painful process, destined for live electric circuits to make contact with exposed skin. In prior years I have been maniacally driving her along, wondering “where the fuck are the brakes on this thing?”
Work involving bodily, mental and spiritual detox has been catalyst to the reintegration of myself.
Alien in my own form, I have regarded this body as something I only just alit back into. Although it may be the reverse, the consciousness running through it is something I was only recently able to access. Either way, I have stared at my hands and feet, felt lungs expand and contract. The tiny nerves in my eyes moving on their own accord to register my environment, mechanical wonders of the natural world, assessing the light bouncing off the material vicinity. The vertebrae of the spine hold more distinction, the teeth and tongue clearer in their functions, the skin sensing more vibrations and tastes of the air.
Rather than being in here, my consciousness had trailed behind this body like a deflated balloon, never quite catching up and registering all it was trying to tell me. The body is incapable of dishonesty. But the mind can overthink, gaslight oneself after gaslighting from others, minimize horrible experience for the sake of social integration, keeping the mouth shut for fear of shame for what happened, and focus on the wrong places.
She’s been in here, I just haven’t noticed her.
This is the first post of a blog I have stalled on creating for a long time. Encouraged often by kind people who recognized a drive to write, I always thought a blog was indulgent and narcissistic, for arrogant people with low self-esteem. Knowing intention, distinguishing what’s loving and what’s fear driven, has opened up the space for this to be about a record of this crux of development. I hold hope that it can meld in a collective development in our psychological/spiritual zeitgeist. Part of me wants to be really cynical and scathing about that statement. It’s not the best prose, granted. I am trying to make a point to myself. I’ll notice that little demon pop its head up and move on.
Amidst the scar tissue, there was somebody in here who I hadn’t noticed. I thought I knew myself, I thought I had paid attention to her. I only recently struck into a level which has assured a more expansive understanding of what is available through this human experience. Problems can’t be solved until they are brought into full awareness, and some twist in our psyche makes it difficult to look at what hurts. I had demanded healing, then spat and scoffed when I was told to simply notice what was going on in here.
I wanted to be anybody but this, anywhere but here. I couldn’t see or feel this form, this being. I didn’t know how to settle into my own skin. This is a step into being. To allow myself to flow throughout this creature, this form, this consciousness. To claim this body as my own. I had been tapping on the glass but didn’t notice the creature within. In a series of gentle shifts and some heavy reassessment, she appeared. I’m in here.