11… Phrases People Have Responded With to My Writing
Last night, I pressed publish on a post about the fact being reminded I was raped seven years ago. This morning, I woke up to a notification from Instagram saying someone was concerned about my current well being and a list of resources. I couldn’t help but giggle a little bit. I greatly admire the existence of that feature, and also find it incredibly misdirected at me.
Last night, I was sad. This morning, I was fine. I am a rape survivor. I am a rape survivor who talks about being a rape survivor. I do so publicly because doing it in private does not create change on a systemic level. Oh, and I quite literally made it my job.
The fact that people are concerned about me is sweet. I do appreciate it. I receive at least one message from a follower, acquaintance, or random stranger telling me to seek help before it’s too late or letting me know about the redeeming qualities of Christ every time I write a post on my past or mental health. These are actually a bit comical because it comes from someone who does not at all know me and makes sweeping judgements based on very little information. Instead of looking at what my story represents on a cultural or global scale, they take it as a cry for help. What I do appreciate is when followers and friends reach out to let me know that my writing resonated with them or taught them something. That’s why I do what I do. I’m not here to be a martyr. My writing is not a cry for help. Pity is not welcome.
To write the pieces I put into the world, I have spent years processing, soul searching, and articulating how I feel. Then revisiting all of those feelings to see if they still ring true. The last time I was raped was seven years ago; there’s been some time for healing. I am at a very stable place. Stability is relative, just like mental health is relative. We all have our struggles. Mine are on display so others know they’re not alone and the world cannot claim to have a lack of stories and information. I’m here. I’m speaking. The knowledge is out there to be had, and a person’s own ignorance lies in their unwillingness to look for realities of the world.
When people read my work, they are taking in a culmination of years of introspection and self-awareness. The fact that I am so forthcoming about my struggles and feelings is really quite a good sign. I wasn’t able to talk about any of this without dissolving into a puddle of tears at the outset, let alone write piece after piece for the world to consume and tear apart. I’m stable enough to know that I’m opening myself up to criticism and even threats. When my writing and experiences are criticized and torn apart, it’s more than the words and my ability to formulate them; people are going after me, the human, because in memoir pieces the words and the human are one and the same. Had I chosen to slam all the raw feelings I was experiencing onto the page as they first bubbled to the surface of my psyche in the beginning phases of my recovery, well that would have been an absolute rambling disaster. There would have been no cohesion or really anything for anyone to gain from reading it other than… confusion. I was confused myself. I still do not attempt writing on topics that I am not acutely aware of my feelings, experiences, mental state, and a preparedness to lay it all out there in written format.
I’m not at all sure why anyone looking for positive affirmations or a rosy outlook on being a survivor is following me. I’m not here for that. I’m not here to tell you this shit gets better. I’m not here to be an inspiration of “look how far I’ve come, you can too.” My goal is and always has been to make people uncomfortable by forcing them to look beyond the pretty pictures that cover my Instagram feed to see the reality of what living a life fraught with violence and trauma looks like. At best I’m an existentialist, but most days, I’m a nihilist. I don’t approach life with an “all will be fine attitude;” I approach life with an attitude of “if I don’t die and the dogs are healthy, it’s a successful day.” I don’t subscribe to the ideologies that everything in life happens for a reason or what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I was a fucking badass before I was raped, gaslit, and abused for years. I’m pretty cool now, but I’m not better because someone raped me. I use my past as a way to connect with people and open eyes to the harsh realities of what surviving looks like. I’m also not telling anyone else’s story. This is strictly my own, but the fact it resonates with so many from all walks of life and genders means this is a huge problem, and I am not unique. Because my story may seem extreme, but it isn’t unique. There are so many humans who can identify with my struggles in one way or another. You may not see them in the comments, but I see them in my inbox and when I’m approached in public and when I hear through the grapevine that my story helped someone’s someone. I’m here to rock the boat, make noise, create a space for people to feel safe, and most importantly impact change.
This space is where I write on whatever I want to write on without getting paid; I wish I were getting paid. From the books I read to the pieces I write to the causes I support, this space has always been about equity and inclusion. The thing is: I’m a writer. Like actually for realsies. Writing pays my bills, puts food in my dogs’ bowls, and buys plane tickets to cool places. I’ll write on just about anything that pays the bills, but I specialize in social justice with a focus on gender and racial equity. I’m also a memoirist tackling violence against women, abuse, sex work, sexual identity, and all the things that have touched my life.
If you read my work, you know I’m not going to write about rape or abuse and pretend everything’s fine, it’s all in the past because it’s not. All of those events have a ripple effect that will forever impact the way I live, think, and interact with people. I go to sleep and memories play on my eyelids like I’m at the IMAX. I have an innate distrust of men. I avoid attachment. I’m careful when entering relationships of any kind. I’m overly cautious in everything I do. I have depression episodes and anxiety attacks and PTSD triggers. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I am honest about all of these things because I am okay. If I were not okay, I would not be writing. If I were not okay, I would be institutionalized. If I were not okay, I would actually probably be dust because I don’t want to be buried. I’m honest about everything I live with and go through because it is quite literally my job, but I only make it public when I am in a good place. Just because I’m in a good place does not mean there is a lack of pain. That pain will always exist in tandem with every other feeling. If I hid from these feelings or pretended I am thirty, flirty, and thriving or told people it gets better, I would be an awful writer and a liar. It would play into the zeitgeist of all that Power of Positivity, manifesting bullshit. That may work for you, but I hate that crap. You will not find it here. You will not find it from me. You will not find it in my story. I’m here to be obnoxious. If you don’t like it, unfollow. I’m not phased. I won’t be offended. I’m not for the faint of heart. I’m not someone who half-asses anything. I’m not going to make my pain smaller to make it more palatable for the world. If it’s hard for you to know what I’m going through, imagine what it was like to live through it and keep going day after day after day.
Today’s listicle day… So let’s add a listicle that is somehow related to this post… Umm… Lot of ellipses here because I’m thinking. Ta da, eleven phrases people have said to me after posting an article.
- “I know you like books, so you should definitely add the Bible to the top of your list.”
- “I’m so sorry you went through that. I promise, one day you’ll wake up and it just won’t matter anymore.”
- “Have you considered meditating?”
- “If you’d gotten pregnant, then your rape could be something to complain about.”
- “You’re gay, we get it. God still loves you. Less but there’s always redemption.”
- “What were you wearing?”
- “If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’ll show you what it’s really like to be raped.”
- “You’re really flirty, so I don’t know what you expected.”
- “Rape happens. I’m tired of hearing women talk about it like it’s the end of their life.”
- “You can’t write about being raped if you’re dead.”
- “Women don’t call it rape when it’s a real man.”
Originally published at https://onthebl.org on January 17, 2022.