Tag Archives: fear

Empty Girls Walking

I could never write again.

I could go the rest of my life without putting pen to paper. No one can force me to pour myself over essays or arrange stanzas for another sad poem or pick apart the meanings of words that I have yet to unpack.

I don’t feel like a writer. I haven’t sat down to work for ages – I write blog posts, sure, and some poems here and there. Words still tumble around my brain until they ache, until I have to do something or I’ll explode.

But there’s an essay that won’t let me go. I haven’t written it and I don’t want to do so. I don’t want to write down the thoughts – I want to pour them down the drain, light the sink on fire, and run away.

I don’t want to face this memory.

And it’s holding me hostage in the worst way. It has me by the brain and every time I get close to something else, it throbs in my skull. The words have come to me, angry and insistent, time and time again. It’s too much.

I wish there was a tidy ending.. a promise I could give that I’ll write everything down, that I’ll explain myself, that I’ll empty the vault and release the pressure building up behind my eyes.

I don’t know, man. I’m scared of everything I have to say. I’m afraid of how true it is, it was, it continues to be.

All I can do is look down at my hands and think, maybe someday.

maybe soon.

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Across and Over

I was planning to leave.

Not now, but soon enough. I saved money, I checked out travel books, I asked friends and family and travel writers. I reached, stretched out, until my fingers were nearly across the Atlantic.

I was going to be gone. Far enough away that I’d be more memory than woman, more reflection than flesh and bones but now…

Plans change. Dreams must be flexible or they’ll die, you know, so adjusting my course isn’t a sign of surrender – it’s the only way forward. I’m not giving up.

Right?

If I stay, if I run and find a little room of my own, I can create on my own terms. I can belong somewhere. I can feel at home. Maybe I’ll be able to breathe again. The air in my lungs is stale and muggy, made thick by time and tension. It’s made me so tired.

What else can I do, really, besides linger at the edge of a life I never imagined?

I suppose I could jump. Let the wind carry me if it must. Find somewhere new, seek the sun. Who knows, who knows, who knows.

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Queen of Sad Things

I’ll be the first to say it: my body of work is largely depressing, a sea of sad stories that stretch far beyond the horizon. It isn’t often easy to read, nor is it meant to be, because stories of bodily assault should never be easily tolerable. Their very nature insists on being difficult, tragic, scarring.

As a species, we tend to deal with trauma in a few specific ways. We can let it engulf us. We can swallow it. Or we can cut off its head and parade down the streets, blood dripping on our shoes as we refuse to stay quiet.

There is no right way to do it. I have tried staying silent. I have tried being swallowed. Only now, in this age of unrest, do I feel comfortable demanding to be heard.

I was eight and her name was Andrea. I was eighteen and his name was Niko. I was twenty-one and their names were Audrey and something I didn’t quite catch.

I was in school. I went home with him. I was at a party and everyone else was drunk.

I went back. I went back. I burnt everything down.

And now I speak – no, I shout. I scream. But why?

First and foremost, I write for myself. I write to process what has happened, to glean meaning from the wreckage, to find peace in the aftermath. Writing is a wonderful and healthy alternative to being dead, so I write. Additionally, these events have shaped the manner in which I interact with the world. To ignore them is tantamount to erasing my past and, without this context, you will not understand how incredible my existence is today.

I share my writing for four reasons.

  1. I didn’t know women could be perpetrators of assault. I did not know a woman could hurt me this badly. When I was first assaulted in a classroom at school, I didn’t even realize what had happened. I didn’t have the language for it. For years, I felt like I was a monster, like there was this consuming darkness in my lungs. I felt like it was my fault. When I was researching data for my thesis, I couldn’t find much about female sex offenders – and if I can’t find it, that means other victims can’t find it either. It is vital that other survivors hear me. Being able to articulate your experiences cannot happen without vocabulary, without language, and I am here to scream for them, too.
  2. I am not a ‘good’ survivor. It is important to be seen exactly as flawed and imperfect as I am in conjunction with my experiences – because the police asked me why I went to Niko’s house alone, because people told me I shouldn’t have gone to Audrey’s party, because people keep finding ways to tell me that the assaults were my fault. “you shouldn’t have… you could have… you didn’t…”

    No more. I am not a ‘good’ survivor. I didn’t follow the rules that people rubbed in my face afterward, and by no means does that translate to fault. I want survivors to know that. There’s nothing you can do that justifies sexual violence against you.
    It was never your fault.

  3. I want to be more transparent with my mental illness. There is so much stigma around people with PTSD – how we function, what we look like, what we’re capable of. We’re not all soldiers returning from war, but my diagnosis is just as valid as anyone’s. I want to reframe the conversation about mental illness. This past Tuesday, as I sat in a training room, the speaker told us how to deal with ‘brain sick’ patients. They spoke to us as if no one in the room could relate to a man dissociating in a lobby – as if we had never had nightmares we couldn’t shake. And I felt such shame in that moment, like my illness was always going to make me an Other, like I couldn’t belong here. They can’t tell that I’m sick, but only because they have a very clear idea of what sick should look like. I’m here to tell you that, unless you live with a mental illness, your perception of the mentally ill is probably incorrect. I want to change how we are seen – I want to change the limits people think we can reach –  I want to excel and grow and become successful enough to educate the masses: we are sick, but we are capable. Furthermore, I want other survivors to see that it really does get better.
    {I promise.}
  4. There are still assholes in my life who make rape jokes – who make PTSD jokes – who spread rumors about my sexual promiscuity to excuse their flippant disregard of my safety – who told me I deserved it – who basically make time to announce to the world that they are trash. I write to remind them that I am ill, that I am conquering, that I refuse to be quiet in the face of their cruelty. I write to stick in their brains. I write because the next time they open their mouths to say they totally raped a guy on a video game, the next time they expect me to laugh at a joke where I am the punchline, I want them to picture me as a child.

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    Picture this little girl crying herself to sleep – refusing to sleep alone until she was eighteen – throwing up in the dorm room showers for three hours afterward – entering a psychiatric hospital barely a month after turning nineteen – spending years wanting to die. I want them to see me. I want to be inescapable. I want them to feel guilty. If you picture and you choose to make that PTSD joke anyway, I hope you fucking choke.

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And now, a brief note for those who know me outside of my blog. Please do not ask me for details about the assaults. If I want to talk to you about these situations, I will initiate the conversation. Otherwise, let me be. Do not ask my other friends and family for details. If you’re worried about me after reading this post, please know that I am healthy and happy. My life is exceptionally beautiful right now. I am okay.

If you read this post and you recognized Andrea, Niko, or Audrey’s name, absolutely do NOT talk to them about me, do not ask them about me, do not share this post with them, and do not talk to our former coworkers about my assault. I did not include their last names for a reason. I do not want to speak to them, I do not want to speak to you about them, nor do I want to be spoken about to them or to anyone. My assault is not a circus act, it is not a gossiping point, it is a tragedy and they have taken enough from me. Please respect that. I take my safety very seriously and so should you. If you cannot, you will be cut out of my life so fast that you’ll get whiplash. If, however, you have also been assaulted (either by these individuals or someone else), and you want to talk survivor-to-survivor, then I am absolutely here for you.

As always, thank you for reading.

It really did get better. Really.

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The Anxiety of Happiness

This summer is, without a doubt, the best of my life.

I’m excelling at my job, I am surrounded by endlessly kind and supportive friends, I get to spend an inordinate amount of time with a thoroughly lovely man, my art is lighter… This is the life I could not imagine for myself on my best day as a child. I cannot believe it’s unfolding around me.

It scares me.

I am not used to experiencing so much goodness at once. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real, as if I’ve stepped into someone else’s life with both feet. My anxiety makes me glance over my shoulder, almost shaking as I wait for them to show up and demand their happy little life back.

I feel like I could ruin it at any moment.

I am clumsy and too talkative and oddly aloof, detached when I don’t mean to be, altogether too far to reach and too close to escape. I am worried that I don’t have the tools to maintain this happiness, or that my decision to move to Denver will rupture it prematurely. For the first time in five years, I don’t hate this town. We’ve walked under black skies, our hearts in our hands as we laugh into the moonlight. My people have made Fort Collins beautiful and now I have to leave. I’m scared of what’s to come.

There is no neat ending to this story, only a gentle recognition that I am trying my best – that what is coming will come and until then, I’ll keep holding hands and laughing too loudly and treasuring everyone who has painted my life in these brilliant shades. I never thought it was possible to feel this whole.

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I am so grateful.

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