Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 2: Silencing those who blame

As a sexual assault survivor, there are numerous negative messages that play on my head on repeat. “It’s your fault. You could have done something to prevent that from happening. You are broken. You are damaged. You aren’t worthy of love and respect.” Every day, they haunt my thoughts and dictate my actions.

What’s been even more damning, though, is the confirmation of those thoughts by outside parties.

During an intake appointment with a social worker, I told her that I was just beginning a graduate school program for counseling. Her response was, “Do you really think that’s the best career path for you, given your history?” Somehow – and I’m pretty sure this was divine intervention because I’ve never been one to respond well under pressure – I found the strength to reply, “I actually think it would help me to be more empathetic toward my clients.”

To have a mental health professional – someone who is supposed to “do no harm” and treat all clients with the empathy and respect – tell me that I am too broken to achieve my goals completely debilitated me for a while. I wondered if I had made a mistake in going back to school and changing careers. I thought maybe I was kidding myself in trying to move on with my life, and that I could never be anything more than what the person who violated me saw – a piece of garbage that can be used and thrown away.

Then – and this probably devastated me even more – I once had a significant other make repeated remarks about my recovery and how I didn’t measure up to his preconceived guidelines. I wasn’t affected by what he thought I should be. “X is a trigger for you but Y isn’t? That doesn’t make any sense.” And the fact that I chose not to report the attack bothered him so much that he told me it made him sick my attackers were still out there, free to do that to other women. In essence, I felt as though he was holding me culpable for another person’s (and a criminal’s as that) actions.

I thought this person loved and supported me. And when he made those comments, I began to feel like he saw me no differently than I often saw myself. The negative self-talk that pervades my psyche became truth in those moments, and the part of me who believed at least one person didn’t find me responsible was shattered in an instant. Not only that, I wasn’t conforming to some ridiculous mold of what he thought my recovery should look like. Even as a victim, I was failing in his eyes.

Sexual assault advocates would probably refer to these instances as victim blaming. The ironically screwed up thing is, I probably blame myself more than any other person ever could. That’s why I think it’s critical to validate and honor survivors. For me (because I can’t speak for anyone but myself), that would mean patience, understanding, tenderness, kindness, compassion, and love. Since it often seems impossible to give those things to yourself, it’s even more critical to be surrounded by those who can offer it to you.

I’m still trying to figure out how to silence those thoughts. It’s a process, and a life-long one at that. I just know that I want to be happy, and not let these events define who I am and who I’m capable of becoming. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Day One

This little blog gets used in super sporadic spurts. I used it regularly for a couple years when I was booted from my only paying professional gig as a writer and since then, it’s been pretty neglected.

I’m giving it another go, for a couple of reasons:
  1. Self-care. Writing is one of the ways I’ve always been able to cope and make sense of things. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and wrote anything, much less hit publish on this platform. But almost every self-care list suggests journaling, and since I know the written word is so therapeutic to me, I figure writing on a more regular basis can only help me come out of one of the darkest periods of my life.
  2.  Awareness. I’m choosing to go public about such deeply intimate aspects of my life in effort to connect with others experiencing similar situations and help spotlight an issue that is often seen a sign of weakness. In the past few years, I’ve been diagnosed with a cocktail of mental illnesses. It’s gotten to the point where I have a hard time determining which one is the most accurate while also telling myself that my identity isn’t solely compromised of a medical professional’s diagnosis. Compound this with our current technological age, and the mediums that are supposed to help us more easily connect with others. Ironically enough, scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., ends up amplifying the feelings of depression, isolation, and loneliness that comprise a majority of my day. It’s so easy to look at snapshots of people’s lives and conclude that their days are filled with sunshine, trips to the beach, rainbows, marital bliss, butterflies, and cuddles with their babies. I want to offer an alternative perspective – a glimpse into my own spiritual journey of self-growth, as I try to pull myself out of one the darkest periods of my life. If my story can reach just one other person, it’s worth the rejection I could potentially receive from others.
Here’s to day one of a life in which I can forgive and love myself more easily, care less about pleasing others, and strive to find light in what can often feel like an endless tunnel of darkness.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Irrational (?) Fear

It’s been more than six months since I turned the big 3-0, and I have to say, so far it’s not so bad. The Buzzfeed articles are pretty spot on: I’d much prefer brunch, complete with bottomless mimosas and a few of my nearest and dearest to downing shots of Goldschlager while gyrating to the latest Pit Bull song and actively avoiding douchebags trying to grab my ass. (Actually, that’s a lie. I still enjoy the occasional shot of Goldschlager. At home. In my PJs. While watching Netflix.)

This new decade of my life has ushered in an influx of friends reproducing like jack rabbits. Apparently your twenties are for weddings and your thirties are for popping out babies. At least among my group of compadres.

About the time I attended my fifth wedding single and dateless, I started to feel like I was enduring a cruel and unusual form of punishment.  It almost felt as if I were being repeatedly taunted and continuously reminded that I was nowhere close to that milestone. And then of course, my irrational and emotional side would take over and convince me that I would never get married – that I was destined to life as an old maid with nothing but a horde of Pomeranians and cats to comfort me.

Now, as more and more of my friends take on the role of mom and dad, things seem even more complicated. For starters, I’m no longer single, but still nowhere close to getting married, and even further from feeling ready to reproduce. Actually, I’m not sure if I ever want to have kids. And that thought sometimes makes me feel like a failure as a woman, like I’m abandoning some pre-ordained life role. I worry that I won’t be accepted or have anything in common with my friends who do have kids. I’m terrified that I’ll be left behind, stuck in everyone’s dust as they progress further through this journey called life while I continue to buck societal norms, albeit not always intentionally.

Will my friends, as well as society, continually reject me for being a single, childless woman? And will I have the confidence, backbone, and grit to write them off should they do so?

As with the conclusion that I am doomed to a life of solitude, I know these fears are in many ways irrational and unfounded. But, such is the curse of having a vagina. It makes you worry. It makes you blow things out of proportion. It makes you freak you the fuck out when those close-knit bonds with your girlfriends seem much more delicate than they used to be. That extra X chromosome makes those qualities run rampant. It’s just science. 

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