dignity of risk

Because all you can see from the outside is what we show and what we say, people are very easily tricked into thinking we’re doing okay. When we do this ourselves, they call it lying; when they teach us to do it, they call it therapy. All they can see is the same: a smiling face. crossed legs. someone who speaks up just enough, articulate and intelligent but without needs or identity. They call it recovery.

*

They look at your body and all they can see is sadness and fear. You wrote it there, years ago, for yourself, to try to scream to the world: I am sad, I am afraid. This is not what they see. They do not see anything–they feel the emotions I broadcasted to the world. They feel the sadness, voices dripping with pity I never asked for. They feel the fear, shying away, groping eyes unsure. Never bothered to ask me what I think, what I feel about it, instead projecting their own views onto you: it must be so hard with a nightmare of a body, it’s really no wonder you think you’re ugly. Nevermind that I don’t think I’m ugly. Quiet, girl, don’t you know that it’s only what other people think you think that matters? won’t you just let us fix you? it’s for your own good, just let us help, let us give us your sympathy for those scars.

They see what they think is wrong with me and try to fix it. I tell them, no, you’re making it worse. I tell them I don’t care if I have a body made of monsters, I beg them to fix what’s underneath. I tell them, I’m not a girl, I thought you were going to teach me how not to be quiet, how to care what I think, how to be free. They don’t listen. They never do.

They recommend scar creams.

*

I am monitored. The eyes feel like they’re in the air, pressing in on you from every direction, an oppressive atmosphere heavier than the worst humidity. I do not know how to say this. I am not allowed rope or sharp objects; my pills are doled out in small packets, twice a day, so I can’t overdose. Fear and pity, fear and pity, permeate the atmosphere. Danger to herself is whispered in hushed voices. The unspoken question hangs in the air as everyone’s emotions vacillate: Is she the monster or is she the victim? When I shower, my mom knocks on the bathroom every five minutes, ear to the door to make sure I do not stick my fingers down my throat while the rushing water hides the gags. They ensure I do not get even the smallest of self-destructive comforts.

It is supposed to help. That is what everybody says, that this is supposed to help. It’s for my own good. I can’t hurt myself like this.

I am once again working very hard to be neither. My training to be perfect student, daughter, friend is shown off as I become the perfect client. Compliant, that’s always the highest compliment that can be given. Compliant, meaning yielding, bending, pliant, submissive. Not assertive, not strong, not honest, not authentic.

I untie the noose hidden in my room, as per the contract, but I keep my razor blades, even though I don’t use them. A small resilience. A statement: noncompliant.

*

It is always in absolutes: Don’t do that to yourself. You’re not allowed. You’re worth more. Abstinence-only.

I want to tell them: How did you decide this? How did you decide what counts and what doesn’t, what’s normal and what makes you crazy, what is enabled fully and what is stigmatized, driven underground? It sure as hell isn’t our feelings about it–I’ve seen too many people, quietly miserable, hurting themselves with exercise or smoking or high heels or diets or alcohol or working while sick or even compliance to believe that. It’s how it looks to the observers. It’s the sorrowful silence when they see my body, the disgust at the vomit trailing down my chin when I wash up. It is the extreme, the primal: drugs and sex, blood and bones. That’s what gets attention, what gets you the heralded label of crazy. There are the things that you are required to do, and there are the things you are forbidden to do, and some of it feels pretty goddamn arbitrary from the inside but I’m not allowed to notice that.

They declare their ultimatums, and they have guaranteed one thing: that we will not trust them with our freedom, that we will not go to them for help. If we do hurt ourselves, or have sex, or do drugs, we will not know how to do it safely. They do not give us condoms, or replace rusty razor blades with clean ones, or tell us to gargle baking soda instead of brushing our teeth after vomiting. They do not do needle exchange programs or buy us extra-large bandages and burn cream. They tell us, as if it were easy: Stop. Don’t. Say no.

There is the unspoken threat: We will do whatever we need to to make this happen. We will take away your privacy and your freedom as much as we need to, so that we can make sure you’re never a danger to yourself. It’s all for you, really. Nevermind that I am begging for my freedom. Don’t you know, they say, that you are our prisoner? Don’t you know that we are doing this all selflessly, for your own good?

*

Because that’s what looks good. It looks like you’re not allowing dangerous behavior. Not, god forbid, enabling. It signals to the world: no scars here, no messy and imperfect freaks, no outbursts. Just a quiet, intelligent girl who doesn’t know how to say I want anymore. Doesn’t matter that you feel worse. You look better. No more behaviors. So you’re doing better.

(This is how they tell you, insidious as love, “your feelings don’t matter.”)

Dangerous behavior is everywhere. Humans invented roller coasters and skydiving and extreme sports. To control me with concerns for my own safety is to push things under the surface, to let them fester in the silence and distance that seems like it stretches on and on. If I do not have the freedom to say yes I have no choice to say no, to recover and grow and be kind to myself. If I do not have the freedom to say yes I cannot own my desires unashamed, cannot fight for my autonomy and rights. My own desires and boundaries are overwritten–too crazy to think for herself, to know what she wants, got to think for her (“not a her,” i say, quieter this time. barely audible). The ultimate control. Strip me of my personhood, my individuality, my bad decisions and the pieces of my identity that are jagged and sharp and inconvenient, and fill in the blank pieces with compliance.

*

It’ll make you better. The first step towards recovery is just following directions. Don’t be so hesitant–don’t you want help? You’re lucky. You’ll be grateful someday.

I know. I know. I should’ve known better than to think you’d listen.

*

I wish I could be free from the fear of this essay being used against me. Of a therapist reading it, getting on me about the razor blades. Of it being used as evidence of my insanity, as proof that I don’t deserve freedom.
I’m not. I’m so, so afraid. Fear and sadness. Fear and sadness. But this time it’s not because of what things look like–no. If it happens it will be cloaked in sugar and kindness. I will be the one in the wrong: bad girl. if you’d have just let us do what was best for you, this never would have happened. if you’d have just been more quiet.

quoigenic

0.

what did this to you?

who did this to you?

All I can give is a helpless shrug. It’s not the right answer.

 

1.

I am not supposed to exist.

Around 1 in 100 people have schizophrenia; only 1 in 40,000–by the highest estimates–have childhood-onset psychosis. Extremely rare, they say.

And multiplicity? Not a thing. Not a study. There’s DID, OSDD, sure, things my therapist shakes her head at. Studies, articles that call my existence a part at best, a dissociative symptom at worse.

I am weird.

I shake, I rock, I flap. I have vague, intangible nightmares when I sleep, and calculated, stabbing fears when I awake. I want things I’m not supposed to want. I always have the wrong emotion. I flinch when anyone raises their voice; I fall to the floor, curling in on myself in a fraction of a second, when an adult goes shh-shh-shh, but not for any “real” reason, “just” a reflex as natural as blinking when I look at the sun. I am confronted with tragedy, and I feel nothing, or worse, laugh. My friend confides her self-destruction and I am positively happy–glee turning to contentedness–, albeit ashamed because I know the feeling is wrong. Or I go to the other extreme, situationally appropriate emotions but inappropriate strength, sobbing and screaming over a tiny inaccuracy.

I see myself as inhuman; otherworldly, yet always tangible. Always embodied, even if it is only through my fluidity–the sharp exhale of air from my lungs, the fingers always grasping for something to touch, the slow trickle of blood down my skin. “Never still,” my therapist described me.

There are holes in my narrative. Always too weird, always too clumsy, too large, too feeling, my life story does not fit without dissection, without surgery done on my memories by someone with an untrembling hand and a clear mind.

If I try my best to make my story fit, to make it seamless, tear and fold and patch and sew back together without the string poking out, it doesn’t work right. It comes out cold and clean, clinical, like the recitation of words in a foreign language; the sounds are right, but there’s no real meaning behind them. I get congratulated for it, but it doesn’t seem right.

Even then, it doesn’t quite work. I can try to blame society, or smiling girls with high ponytails and bouncy two-syllable names, but when it comes down to it I have friends who mirrored my life exactly, attaching to people with similar penchants for cruelty, following queer paths in this society alongside me, and yet most escaped without this strange calamity I call my mind. Even those that did end up with twisted brains got theirs later in life, for the most part, trying to learn to deal with self-harm urges at twice the age I dealt with my own, four times the age my brain first decided to set itself on fire. Still, in most ways my life is idyllic; I have a few friends who love me deeply, the single most Healthy and Functional family I’ve ever come across, no real financial worries. Had it not been for the exquisite strangeness of the brain that sits behind my eyes, I would be right alongside them and my friends. Quirky, of course, but not one of those people.

So attempts to blame my past end up ringing flat for me. While it certainly did affect me, they are not the sole reason for how I am.

In some sense, I just came this way, weird and crazy, all too sensitive and never quite of this world.

 

2.

Perhaps this is the gift they were talking about when they called me gifted. I knew what they were saying, of course–I was smart, a bright young lady, IQ 130 or higher–yet I was never quite sure of their choice of words. Gifted & Talented; well, I have the talent down, where’s my gift?

So maybe this was my gift, given in fourth grade: a peculiar tendency to self-destruct.

See, I can try to shift the blame fully off myself, spin my story into man vs man, man vs society, man vs nature, man vs the supernatural, but when I look at it I have to admit that there is something in me, even now, that stops to listen to the fairy bargain.

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s curiosity. Maybe it’s the beauty, as strange as myself, I see in pain and torture and tragedy. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, and a writer has to find a good story. Maybe it’s the dysphoria, the body that never fit, everything at the wrong angle. Maybe it’s the way I see the world, senses askew, gagging at the taste of apples, trying to run from my emotions so fast I am not allowed to go on field trips in elementary school (a safety hazard), spending a day smelling everything Bath&Body Works and LUSH and every other store in the mall that makes anything, anything scented. And of course, it is everyone else, it is the glittering girls who hurt me, it is the society that screams at me for my wrongness, it is the ghosts and demons that haunt a brain made of broken glass.

Maybe it’s the way I hate myself, maybe it’s the way I see myself as innately bad. Not just someone who shouldn’t exist, someone in pain, put them to sleep; no. The way I see myself as deserving of the worst tortures, the worst sufferings of this earth. (They say “there are people suffering worse than you,” and I wish I could say, “not if I could help it”–not just because I don’t think others should suffer, but because I think I should.)

Maybe it’s the fact that, given all of this, my impulse still is not to avoid the rabbit hole, but to jump in, headfirst.

I didn’t run away from the big bad wolf, after all; my friends warned me, my parents warned me, and I snuggled closer and closer to her. They begged with me not to eat the pomegranate seeds, and I reached out with both hands for that which I dreamed would send me to hell. I fancy myself a girl among monsters, a monster among girls, an uncanny thing.

The success of these various strategies, of course, changes, but there is always the same premise: since I was eight, I have been trying my damndest to hurt myself. Destruction or strength, tragedy or monsterhood, carving a path for myself with knives and fingernails or else die trying, reaching my hand into the fire to save a fellow person, these are all good as end goals, and certainly I see this as superior to most average lives; but I’d be lying if I claimed those as my true reasons. My true reason is simple enough. I want to hurt myself. I am nothing if not a sadomasochist, hurting and being hurt all in one, a lovely relationship with my own self. As to why I chose my certain ways–other people, sure, and society, read every other post on this blog for the lurid details, but there is also my own need to change myself in ways that are careful, controlled, always acting in and never acting out. A good girl, and a girl in total control over her own life, all in one. The reasons behind it are murky, sure, and the results are icing on the cake, but when it comes down to it, you can give me anything and I will find a way to hurt myself with it. Self-destruction out of a childish sort of macabre curiosity feeds and feeds upon itself (you can’t go halfway, nobody loves someone who’s damaged) until you have no self left to destroy, and then you are left with an empty sense of satisfaction and the knowledge that it is time either for you to blink out of existence utterly or for you to start building everything you just tore down. And they see you, a tiny thing in the midst of the wreckage of your life, and they wonder who did that to you. And the answer, simply, is: I did. My reasons are external in a way, not a part of my soul and selfhood, but when it comes down to it, I am the arsonist, the murderer.

But why do I have this peculiar penchant for destroying myself? I can discuss my own brain until I pass out, and still no solid answers, no reason that sits on my collarbone or between my thighs or in the curve of my spine. Surely there are other weird girls out there who did not make it their life’s mission to destroy themselves.

Her and I would have lived very different lives. She, too, was not supposed to exist; but perhaps she did not take this as instruction, as gospel. She would be a very different person; a different past, a different present, a different future, all the tearstains shed at 3am disappeared, the bloodstains on my bed and the bathroom carpeting missing. Perhaps she can live at war with the rest of the world without also having to declare war on herself. Perhaps her body does not burn with the same hurts, bear the same scars; the ache of the back, the sharpness of an infected blister, the feverish heat of the gag reflex, the bright silver of the blade. Perhaps she does not doodle on her homework nooses and pills and razors and deep water. Perhaps she did not ever walk towards quiet train tracks, or walk across the street without looking both ways, or send naked pictures to men twice her age. Perhaps her life never looks like ashes no matter how hard you squint. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Is she the true version of me, of us? The tidy narrative, the unstained child, the manic pixie dream girl, the weird one, the psycho who is still an undanger to herself and others. Is she even me at all, really, or is she fundamentally someone else? Where along the line did our selves diverge? Is there a sense that, with every cut and tear and scream, with everything I did to try and unravel me, I made myself?

Only questions. No answers. But this is what I know: to live as I lived is to be a paradox. Your self comes from your ability to destroy yourself. Eventually the whole thing crumbles. And then, you pick up the crumbs and you build yourselves anew.

 

3.

who made you this way, strange girl, so unlike everything else i have ever seen?

who created you, for you cannot have simply arisen this way, such an unnatural child?

who filled your soft brain tissue with razor wire and the echoes of distant screams?

 

4.

i don’t know.

i don’t know.

i don’t know.

 

5.

maybe that’s okay.

a failed martyr

I do not know how to start this post except for this:

I have been suicidal for most of my life.

I still am, some days.

When I was younger than I am now, I saw this as beautiful. Before I was even legally old enough to be on tumblr, I ran one of those tumblr depression blogs, black-and-white, sad quotes, pictures of my cuts, the whole nine yards. It’s been deleted, so don’t ask me for it. I dreamed about death being as soft and gentle as sleep. I fantasized about slowly wasting away until I disappeared. I wasn’t going to grow up; I was going to be Tragically Beautiful, Died Young, eternally a shy twelve-year-old with a messy ponytail and good grades and a sad backstory. A fairy, a waif, a whisper of a tragic yet inspirational story. Of course, being this way took a lot of work; but that didn’t matter to me. What mattered was that it had to look effortless, or else the illusion would be dropped. And I did know, on some level, that it was an illusion (why else would I have the crippling sense of inadequacy that I did at failing to live up to this image? why else would i not shower for a month until i was looking decidedly un-beautiful? more to the point, why else would I still have a pulse?), and I learned a few years later that it was impossible, but it is only in recent months that I have begun to give it up as an ideal.

See, the ideal of martyrdom is beautiful. You are single-minded, radiant, giving yourself up fully, saying: here i am, do as you will, set me on fire or tear my heart from my chest or drape me on a cross, and i will be a saint forevermore. It is a transformation from the altogether messy and wretchedly human plane to the elevation of idea, symbol, archetype. You are strong, content, brave. It is forever. Yours is not a life; it is a story, and this is its ending, the narrative resolving with you as the selfless tragic heroine.

But it doesn’t quite work that way. Your burn gets infected, and you ask your therapist for a bandage and neosporin, and the pus is decidedly not romantic, even with a capital R. It is so easy, so tempting to idealize wasting away to nothing; harder to glamorize half-digested cookie dough clinging to your fingertips while skype calling your best friend. Sometimes “I want to die” is less a dramatic climax and more just a part of a life that also involves things like “laughing with friends” and “not wanting to die” and “doing homework” and “kissing girls” and “watching mythbusters”. Sometimes life is just… life.

Of course, at the time this would have seemed unbearably ordinary. I didn’t want to live to be normal. I wanted my life to be Dramatic, a Grand Epic. I kept trying to shove my life into stories and narratives, even when it didn’t fit, and I blamed my life for that (just have to end it before you can mess it up too much) instead of blaming the boxes. I didn’t want a small-scale life with a few friends when instead I could be worrying about grander things like ‘philosophy’ and ‘what a sad story it is of Corrupted Innocence that a 12-year-old is writing funeral plans’.

(This is to be distinguished from the definition of “normal” which is, like, “neurotypical cishet vs weird freak”; I have, if anything, I have moved farther away from “normal” in the sense of “neurotypical cishet”, mostly because “coming out and figuring out the gritty details of family and school as a queer-ass crazy” is one of those things that don’t fit well into most Grand Stories out there. Also, it is very sad that I was writing funeral plans at twelve; however, the fact that I was focusing on “wow this is such a tragic story, it’s going to be so beautiful when I die” instead of “hey maybe instead of doing this I could talk to my friends or accept my mom’s offers of getting me help” is kind of fucked.)

Here are the facts: While other kids dreamed of being a veterinarian or a fashion designer or a teacher, I dreamed of being dead. And there is a very real sadness to that, a wistfulness, a tragedy, even a grandeur in a way (stories about death: generally considered more deep and meaningful than stories about life as a chef), and when you are eight years old and suicidally depressed and you read far too many fantasy stories because nobody will talk to you, it is not exactly like you should be blamed for any of this, and doing so only adds into the And Society Rejected Me angle of your tragedy. And now you are fifteen and trying to choose a college and your brain short-circuits because you are still having difficulty seeing yourself as a person with a future and you are trying to unlearn this disaster of a life you have forced yourself into but it feels like losing the only purpose or dream you have ever had, and you sit down and you start to write.

There is a sort of appeal to stories like Amanda Todd, Leelah Alcorn, Phoebe Prince. A save-the-world story and a tragedy, all wrapped into one. It is really no wonder teen suicides are so contagious–one is publicized and several follow in their stead–because they are kids, canonized by society by their death, and which sad kid on the other side of the screen doesn’t want to be a saint?

There are things that you think you cannot live through. Cliff Pervocacy calls it, on his blog, The Worst Thing In The World. You do anything you can to avoid it. It is terribly melodramatic and incredibly terrifying, because you honestly believe that you will not survive if it happens. It’s not quite that rational, though; it’s more a feeling than a thought. A desperation, a need. An “I will do anything it takes.” It might be the end of a relationship. It might be falling into a pit of snakes. For me, almost everything is like The Worst Thing In The World; when I’m depressed, even just surviving another day can be The Worst Thing In The World.

So, my point is, I’ve had a lot of practice with trying to avoid things I think I cannot live through. I’ve also had a lot of practice with living through things I think I cannot live through. And by this point, I’ve discovered that life is, in fact, livable. The Worst Thing In The World happens, and you do not know how to deal with it so you cut or puke or have sex or cry yourself to sleep or scream at your best friend, and “the next morning I woke up and had to pee.” Life carries on, and not just the grand and glamorous and romantic parts of it. Because those aren’t the important parts of it. The important parts are the parts that show that you’re alive, goddamnit.

There is an important distinction, to me, between two kinds of self-harm. One is “it makes me feel better, and that’s good.” The other is “it makes me feel worse, and that’s good.” The first is a last-ditch survival attempt, even in the most ironic and contradictory way, using self-destruction as self-preservation. The second is self-flagellation, the idea that There Is A Correct World Out There And It Is The One Where I Am In Pain.

Of course, both can be melodramatic, both can be awful and confusing and crushing and just plain painful. But in my life, at least, I slowly morphed from holding onto my own destruction as a lifeline, to idealizing it as simply being, not the lifeline of a terrified child, but as the Correct Thing (aesthetically, morally, instinctually, intellectually, whatever, doesn’t matter).

I am learning this distinction, today. I celebrate the first–play with matches if you think you have to play with matches, just stay alive–while at the same time trying to destroy the second, trying to teach myself that no, in fact, there is no correct world out there, there is no right thing to do or grand plan to follow, there is just your life. Go out and live it (whether that means eating too much candy on halloween or cutting deep between your ribs or both).

One is a grasp upwards, trying to survive when you want to die; the other is an intentional fall, trying to survive when you want to live. Stay alive, keep staying alive, and keep going when you can.

Of course, this is terrifying. The idea that there is no One Right World, that there is no path out there for you to follow, no guide, no judge, no grand epic or destined plan, there is just you, and you are 15 and alone in a giant world and you don’t exactly have a great track record at the whole existence thing.

But terrifying things happen, and then you wake up the next morning in a terrifying world, and you are still alive, and you still have to pee. Life goes on. It is not good, not yet, not for me, but it is so much better, and that matters.

I may be a failed martyr, but I’m getting better at being a person.

abnormal psychology

too much.

i am five years old and i am psychotic for the first time, words spilling out of my mouth, rambling on and on, letters uneven, some backwards, when i write: and then i cryed and my unicorn teers heled stefiny

the other kids whisper, they laugh. i am too young to connect the dots, between the way they look at me and the way my books get pushed off my desk day after day, the way i sit alone at recess (distracting myself by singing gibberish words of Divine Importance), the way they find insults scrawled onto a desk in the back. i do not draw connections, not yet, between the way my teacher hisses “quiet hands” like a threat and the way i get yelled at for getting distracted by ant colonies during phys ed and the way i never quite learned how to whisper and the way nobody seems to want to talk to me. i know, somehow, that i’m doing something wrong, or else that other people are–but what?

i am confused. i am blindfolded, walking in circles, hopelessly lost, trying my hardest with no results, over and over again.

i thought that, as soon as i could just figure out what was happening, why this was happening, i would be able to fix things. i could just be less weird, or i could just distance myself from the people hurting me, and then everything would be okay.

i didn’t know, not yet, that finding out why would, in many ways, make everything so, so much worse. even if i did know, i had a blind curiosity and naivete at the time that would have propelled me straight into the trainwreck anyway.

looking back, it seems inevitable. this world was not built for a crazy girl.

 

 

too much.

i am 11 years old and i have figured it out. i am too loud, can’t whisper; gotta stop talking. too distractible; so, stop paying attention to anything, stop thinking, let my mind go blank and far away while my mouth parrots the right words. other people don’t like me; so, i have to get away from them, don’t talk to them. i fidget too much, hands twirling in the air, mouth always chewing on cloth or hair or paper; i try to stop fidgeting, fail; discover it is more acceptable to chew skin and fingernails, start doing that, let my fingertips get rubbed pink raw and stained reddish brown because at least i won’t be as weird anymore. i am lumbering, clumsy; my voice in chorus is a loud alto. gotta fix that. i starve myself, walk on my tiptoes, sing as quietly and high as i can. i start existing as we, but keep it hidden, keep up the performance. i am a girl, i am nothing, i am certainly not people.

(did i know then that i would, four years later, struggle with standing up and losing my breath, or get told when auditioning for a solo that they can’t hear me and be overwhelmed with shame because i’m singing as loud as i can, or try to gather up the courage inside me to tell my mom who i am and then chicken out again and again and wish i didn’t, or hate the way my voice gets me ma’am-ed? no. of course not. all i knew is that i was too much, and i needed to get rid of it, and if that meant i had to get rid of myself then by god i was going to try. i didn’t consider what would happen if i wanted my self back, if i wanted to take up space or exist in this world, because i thought i never would. i didn’t think i would ever want anything again. want is selfish, want is repulsive, want is disgusting.)

and it makes sense–it’s not an unreasonable position. far from it, it’s the logical continuation, the obvious extension of what everyone had been telling me. they tell me, “be quieter, be more ladylike,” so i train my voice. simple. easy.


(it’s not easy. i tell everyone it is easy. i try, as hard as i can, to make it look easy. it is the hardest thing i have ever done. but since i was able to tell you i was fine, then it must be true.)

if you pretend, for long enough, that you do not want, that you do not crave anything, that you do not even need anything to live–not love, not food, not communication, not blood, not even air–eventually you come to fear your own desires. but however much you teach yourself to fear yourself, you never disappear. you can train your body to panic and scream and tear itself to shreds, but you can never stop your mind from wanting.

 

 

too much.

that was her excuse when i tried to tell the guidance counselor what was going on.

i believed her.

 

 

too much.

i am a teenager and i am queer. i am a teenager and i am queer and i want touch and pain and intimacy. i know i am dirty/gross/wrong/bad/evil/predatory/objectifying/sinful. i know, at this point, that i cannot just make myself stop. monster, i call myself, voice vengeful. irreparable evil. original sin.

 

 

too much.

i learned my lessons well. i have been taken to the hospital three times by now but each time i managed to be articulate and smart and relatable enough to avoid getting kept there for longer than an hour or two. i am quiet, i am polite, i am very good at acting normal–no matter what.

i am still not good at being normal, because i am not normal, and i know at this point that i never will be, that all of my efforts are for nothing.

everyone else looks at me and sees a tiny, quiet girl, voice high and whispery–two inches shorter than she should be, growth stunted by malnutrition, but two inches taller than the doctors told me i would be after a year and a half of my starvation diet, wearing a hoodie, black to hide stains from being a chronically messy and chaotic person, hood pulled up to hide from the world–and they cannot see how someone like me could want like i do.

they cannot see how this is overcompensation, trying to keep my exterior quiet and neat because i’m afraid of people seeing my interior, my interior that is too weird and too crazy and too overbearing and too messy and too needy; always, always in excess.

i learned my lesson early: if/when they do see, they recoil. freak. they tell me: stop that. get small again. get quiet. that’s what you’re supposed to be. so i listen. i am a very good listener. very obedient. well-trained.

my weakness has always been caring too much.

 

 

too much.

i do not know how to handle a friendship that is not overflowing, bursting at the seams with feeling. when i try, i make accidental, careless wounds; a misspoken word, a yelled confession, a clumsy trip that pulls them down with me. i do not mean to hurt anyone, but beneath all my guards i am a feral cat, full of claws and teeth and fear. and then i hurt someone, and in that moment i know that i was right. monster. stay in hiding next time.

and so i do.

“but you didn’t do anything wrong” not this time. not this time. but i have. i will. won’t we all? and maybe you don’t think i did anything wrong but there are so many differences of opinion about that, really

“why do you feel bad? it’s just thoughts” thoughts are enough to me. i can train my face and hands and voice, but i can never stop my thoughts. the thoughts are the bad part, really, they’re the part that bleed through accidentally when my emotions get too strong and my mask slips. (thought-action fusion, they write. magical thinking)

i try. i try. i try. but my friends and i, we are screaming. we are wild.

 

 

too much.

(forgive me father for i have sinned.)

my self-flagellation took on a religious fervor. there are two reasons for destroying yourself: as punishment, and as relief. what started as an overflow for when i could not help but spill slowly but surely became its own punishment and its own reward, desire and pain and self-hatred, all in one. unable to talk, at war with myself, my body became my battleground, each battle both lost and won at once. my bodily fluids, a source of shame from the moment i was first called crybaby, the only way i can reliably communicate when words seem impossibly far away, intermingle, spilling over the bathroom floor, my blood and pus and vomit mixing with my tears and cum.

(the three populations at highest risk for self-harm: young women with a history of trauma. prisoners. captive animals.)

 

 

too much.

the third time i went to the hospital, i was psychotic again. the body was catatonic, utterly still, undemanding, yielding to the force of others; and yet my still, compliant body said what years and years of a compliant mouth never could. when i was there, i was not in danger, not like i had been so many times in the past.

i did not know how to ask them: where were you when i needed you? why do you care more about my lack of response then you did about my pain? why do you direct your ire towards the girl with a mind on fire, excited or pacing or frozen and distant, and then smile and nod when she learns to hide? why do you worry now, and not when i have the knife in my hand, not when i am sobbing, not when i am starving, not when i am withdrawn and suicidal and destructive? do you even worry, or do you just look at my still frame with the same condescending hiss at the disruption to the class that you did when i was five? why do you only care about this girl is too much and approve of this girl is destroying herself in her quest to be less? why am i fifteen years old and trying to grow but too afraid of being too weird? why do you only care about what you see in me and never think to care about who i actually am?

why did you encourage her to destroy herself, and then bring her to the hospital when she obeyed?

i did not ask them this. i willed my mouth to be good. i told them a half-truth: a history of seizures, a cocktail of medications.

they sent me home.

everything in this forest

Jupiter ♃: I want to touch.

Jupiter ♃: I want to be touched.

Jupiter ♃: I want to hurt.

Jupiter ♃: I want to be hurt.

Jupiter ♃: And if you feel the same way, you’re as bad as me.

 

 

Josie–her name was Josie, and we were four years old.

 

And she was my second friend, the first one I chose, and she humiliated me, and that’s how it was. That’s how I would be allowed to be her friend. And I was okay with it, and I told my mom over and over again, she is my best friend, and I want her.

 

Friendship is hurt, closeness is hurt, intimacy is vulnerability, love is pain. I learned these lessons in my bones. From as far back as I can remember I knew them.

 

Some people, when learning these lessons, decide to make themselves invulnerable, isolated, strong; I did the opposite. I decided that the love was worth it, every single damn time.

 

 

My memories after that are fragmented into bits, shattered glass pieces of my life that dig into me when I try to get too close. I wasn’t with Josie anymore, but I was with–I don’t know. I was with more people, more girls who are like her. Girls who are in my fifth period, now, who I stare at all period with tunnel vision and fear until the bell rings, and I am late in my homework because I am distracted and my breath stutters whenever she looks back at me because what if it starts again, and she was my friend.

 

 

The friend I talk about most on this blog tried to kill me, once, and I talk about that a lot. I don’t know if she meant to do that, but she did, and she did a lot more, too.

 

But what hurt me the most, what I remember the most, what made me truly, unbearably suicidal, it wasn’t that pain–physical and mental–she inflicted on me every day. It was the loneliness that came with her leaving and taking all of my friends with her, the whispers she spread through the school: don’t touch her, don’t be friends with her, don’t talk to her, ever… That was what broke me. I would go up to her and beg–you can do whatever you want with me, I promise, I’ll do anything, just be friends with me again. Love me. Come back.

 

And she said, “What do you mean? I’m not doing anything to you,” and she rolled her eyes at me and tossed her hair and turned her head away, and she would laugh at me and everyone would laugh with her, and that cut deeper than every lie, every fist thrown, every time she implied that I was ugly and worthless.

 

(And I couldn’t talk about that, for a long time, because, well. Not talking to someone–that’s not abuse. It’s normal. It’s fine. Attempting to kill someone, that’s bad, but bullying? exclusion? No. Of course not. Use whatever words you want, but make sure to shut me up. That’s just elementary school drama, no big deal. I’m making inappropriate comparisons. I’m trivializing things. I’m not supposed to have this experience, these feelings. I’m inconvenient. I’m not supposed to exist.)

 

 

I learned to love pain in seventh grade. Sure, I felt it before then, banging my head against walls in elementary school, scratching at my arm to try and draw blood, finally cutting myself with scissors and safety pins in sixth grade. But I didn’t love it until seventh grade: in the bathroom of my room, with a pink disposable razor, cutting it up until I could get the blades out. Waiting, baited breath, and then–slice–and then I could feel calm, and happy, and safe, and okay, my brain sparkling with light, and I fell in love. I cut myself almost every night; I do not regret it. I don’t cut anymore, but it made me happy, and kept me alive, and my scars are one of the only parts of my body that feel like me.

 

 

I remember being in kindergarten, dreaming–during the day and at night–of gore, of torturing my best friend, of betrayal, of deadly diseases and parasites that eat you from the inside out, and feeling the dread and bile rising in my throat and playing pretend with Maddie and playing the villains every time, feeling the sick want together to torture, to take apart, to take over.

 

I remember sometime in middle school: crying, screaming it can’t be THAT bad; and no, it’s worse; seriously, what did you do? i promise it’s not as bad as you think; i slapped him–i slapped a kindergartener–i slapped maddie’s little brother. And it was as bad as I thought, and all of my worst fears came true, and I almost killed myself that night, and my mom stayed up all night to lecture me but also to make sure I didn’t die.

 

I remember learning what sex was in sixth grade, and immediately, vivid thoughts paralyzed me, dreams and dreams and dreams, of gore and torture and betrayal and parasites and mutilation and then sexuality was added into the picture and getting aroused by it and concluding that I was irreparably, irredeemably evil.

 

I remember asking to hold my girlfriend’s hand, and she wasn’t ready, and she had been sexually abused by three different people by that time, and I asked as gently as I could if I could hold her hand, told her that I knew she didn’t want to be kissed and that I would never ever kiss her because of that but that I thought she was beautiful and I kind of wanted to kiss her for that, and she had a panic attack. And if that was enough to hurt someone–then my true self must be an unspeakable sort of evil.

 

I remember hearing that my existence is a trigger to one of my internet friends and relapsing. I remember reading about Scott Aaronson, and crying, and crying, and crying, and having a screaming panic attack where my mom tried to hold me down to keep me from hurting myself.

 

I remember hurting myself to punish myself for the fact that people out there are hurting worse.

 

I remember being a crazy, self-hating child. I remember being a queer freak, an outcast in a world that didn’t want me. I was raised on stories in which I was the monster, and I was at once afraid of that and sure of its truth. I was lonely, and I was reaching out, begging for love in the only language I knew: pain. Look, I cried, look at me, I can hurt you, or I can hurt myself, and won’t you see me then? won’t you love me?

 

But I stayed invisible, and I stayed alone.

 

 

I have feelings that I’m not supposed to have. When my close friend confessed to being a cutter, I wasn’t horrified–I was joyful (and my conscious guilt and horror over that secret joy was what propelled me into a year-long unhealthy relationship with her). I get aroused or find solace in things I’m told are degrading or disgusting.

 

 

In group therapy, a girl confides about her experiences with street harassment and sexual violence, and my first thought is: Why can’t that happen to me?

 

I have never been afraid of rape and I have never been harassed on the street for one simple reason: I’m unlovable, psycho, an ugly not-girl not-boy monster. And I would take that pain, the anguish, the soul-crushing trauma, over this–over being alone, unwanted, unloved.

 

 

Hurting someone, or being close to someone, involves closeness. Intimacy. And often I mean this in the physical sense–to choke someone, to rape them, to break their bones one by one, you have to touch them. As someone who spent their childhood undesirable, the children scattering, running away, nobody willing to spend recess with the weird girl, I took friends who punched me, who drowned me, who threw me to the ground, who twisted my wrist, because at least they would touch me. And sometimes I don’t–rape also goes hand-in-hand with sex, seen by many as an expression of love; psychological torture requires a knowledge of the most intimate workings of the victim’s mind; betrayal requires an initial trust and closeness. And I took friends who lied to me, who betrayed me, who gaslit me and insulted me, because at least they would talk to me.

 

 

As someone who spent a childhood being hurt and an adolescence hurting myself in fear of hurting someone else and a lifetime of not knowing that love and pain are even different things, of course I’m in love with pain. Of course I see it and love as so overlapping to be almost indistinguishable. Of course I want to say to someone I love “please, hurt me, love me and touch me, cut me and kiss me and let my brain sparkle with endorphins.” Of course I want to be able to take the power back, to be the one to hurt other people, and to be in control of it–for it to be something they like, instead of it being something that hurts them (a stupid decision or an accident or irrefutable proof that I’m a monster). Of course I want to be able to control the way other people hurt me–to say “please, touch me, hurt me”, and to have them listen, but also to say “stop hurting me, please, leave me alone” and to have them listen.

 

But I shouldn’t feel these things. I know. I know.

 

So I apologize for existing again. I make myself a little bit smaller, a little bit more ignored, a little bit less seen.

 

But I can’t stop myself from feeling, from wanting.

 

 

Jupiter ♃: But if it’s only what I feel inside that matters, what am I supposed to do?

Jupiter ♃: I can’t stop that kind of touch.

inertia

inertia: a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force

 

 

inertia: drifting or rushing or standing still, powerless to do anything other than what i’ve been doing, powerless to change the course of my life

 

 

inertia: learning the scripts, learning to dissociate and recite them, learning to talk less, smile more, learning to keep walking and keep your head down and your chin up, learning to hate yourself into silence, to keep doing schoolwork while your brain is taking a break from reality, and continuing on, keep going and going and going and going

 

 

inertia: eight years old, trapped, waiting, going to school every day, crying every day, realizing one day that i could just stop. nobody put the idea in my head, i just realized it: death, easy as falling asleep, stopping forever, not having to live anymore in this body, in this life, in this world that i hated

 

inertia: twelve years old, deciding i will die this year, it makes perfect sense, 4-8-12, counting by fours: starting school, starting self-destruction, starting suicide, wake up go to school don’t say anything that isn’t a response to a question, come home, do homework, smile, cut, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat until suddenly one day you turn thirteen and don’t feel anything except disappointed that you came this far, but you’re stuck in your pattern, as unable to kill yourself as you are to ask for help

 

inertia: fourteen years old, not sure how long i’ll live, bombarded by statistics of 48% of trans youth and 1 in 5 anorexics, and still holding my funeral fantasies close to my chest, casually letting my friends know how i want to be buried, what song i want to be sung, what i want them to say, just in case, because in my story i’m supposed to die young but i’m older than eight and older than twelve, living on borrowed time because every day i just wake up, go to school, stay quiet, stay on the script, smile, come home, do homework, cut, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat and i can’t break that schedule

 

inertia: fifteen years old, alive today because of inertia but trapped by it, trying to get free from the spiderwebs that force me to go through the same schedule, the same scripts, every day, the narratives that give me room to die young or else to keep getting by, but never to actually live, trying to break out of them and failing, failing, falling

 

 

inertia: saying yes because i can’t say no, saying i’m fine because i can’t say help me, saying a fake name as automatically as breathing, trying to go off the script and losing my words, my throat closing and choking and not letting me say anything that i actually mean, being articulate so you don’t have to listen

 

inertia: trying to say something i actually mean and being punished for it, being honest and being punished for it. admitting i have a problem and having my phone taken away for not hiding it, losing friends for “my name is sofia, don’t call me casey”, reprimands for rocking back and forth, criticism for getting Bs and being happy instead of being suicidal and dissociated and getting As, for talking too much instead of having panic attacks at the idea of speaking out in class, careful punishments designed to force me back into inertia whenever i got too close to being free, punishments designed to teach me what to say and who to be and how to stay there at all costs, even (especially?) the cost of my life

 

 

inertia: clinging to stories and to the internet, going and going and going and not stopping to let myself think, staying up too late on my kindle so sleep deprivation clouds my thoughts, desperately trying to stay out of my thoughts, reading and reading and reading, writing this because i can’t stop writing, writing desperately whenever i get better because i know it’s only a matter of time before i get bad again, writing this because i’m manic and paranoid and i can’t think, writing about my problems so i don’t have to face them, blogging and reading and chatting and not letting myself off my phone, avoiding and avoiding as the problems pile up and up and up, as they become bigger with every passing moment, as i need even more to avoid them because i can’t face the fear that grows exponentially with them, them trying to overwhelm me, and me turning my face away, because if i let my guard down for one second then i’ll notice what it is that i’m trying to hide from, an endless cycle of avoidance, a self-perpetuating trap

 

 

inertia: not being able to recover, taking steps forward slowly, with the help of adjusted brain chemistry and prompts from other people because i can’t do it on my own, knowing that i will be living with this for the rest of my life and not knowing how to do it because this isn’t in the script unless “the rest of my life” is short and miserable, searching for a new script and finding a couple, small ones, tiny stories from online bloggers, and keeping them secret because if i tell anyone then they’ll ruin it and i’ll be back to living without any script at all

 

inertia: knowing that i can survive anything, that i can stay alive, wait it out, get used to hell and keep walking until i get out, knowing that i can find happiness anywhere eventually and that i have no time limit because i can just keep going and get through it, knowing that i will survive the worst, knowing that i have time to worry about life because inertia saved mine

 

 

inertia: not being able to move for two hours, staying in whatever pose people put me in, frozen solid, an object at rest staying at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, knowing that once I start moving I won’t be able to stop, remembering how to move my eyes and then how to move the rest of my body

 

inertia: waking up day after day, same routine, moving robotically, reciting and remixing and repeating scripts, punctuated by long periods of silence i taught myself trying to escape from the ridicule that followed me when i let my brain connect to my mouth, not acting unusual or out-of-the-ordinary ever, being unable to cry after years of being the crybaby, being unable to do anything except to keep going, each day exactly like the last, the last thing my brain clings to in a desperate attempt to keep me alive

 

inertia: pacing and pacing, writing and writing, 25,000 words of a story in a day, 4,000 words of essay in a day, throwing myself into books, not letting myself have any time to think because it hurts too much, talking to myself nonstop, pacing around a classroom, around my room, around the school, hours on end, not being able to stop, copying down essays and lyrics and chapters from books, translating them from code to code, tripping over myself in the library during my pacing and taking 15 minutes trying to remember how to stand, living life spinning around and around in a roller coaster and not knowing how to get off

 

 

inertia: wanting to do things when i’m stuck frozen

inertia: wanting everything to stop or just slow down when everything is happening too fast

inertia: being controlled for so long that you get stuck in a feedback loop, controlling yourself so they don’t need to do it, not being able to stop

inertia: wanting to have control over your own life, what you say, what you do

inertia: not having any control over your own life, your own body, your own words and emotions

inertia: not having your own life or body or words or emotions, just ones that are given to you

inertia: having a million words but not being able to say any of the ones that aren’t on a script, a narrative written for you in advance

inertia: not being able to do anything

inertia: running on autopilot and not being able to turn it off

 

 

inertia: losing independence, losing control, losing freedom, losing autonomy to nothing and nobody but yourself

 

 

inertia: wanting to die but not being able to

inertia: wanting to live but not being able to

inertia: wanting freedom but being kept captive by your own mind

inertia: saved my life

inertia: won’t let me live it

Watch Me I’m Flying

[I would like to issue a minor apology for the fact that almost all of this post is written in words and style that are distinctly Not Mine; this is something that I do not have the words to express yet without borrowing the words of others, and I would like to express my sincerest apologies for this; still, it is something I feel, and I appreciate that enough that I decided to post this.]

When I was a child, I was alone.

I was abused. My best friend tried to drown me. She would hit me, she developed a game out of “what’s the worst thing I can convince them to hallucinate”, she messed with my reality and told me I was fat and ugly, but the thing that traumatized me the most was not any of that. The thing that hurt me the most was the isolation. She had cut me off from the rest of my friends, and her favorite punishment for me was not the insults or the physical pain or even the reality manipulation and emotional abuse, it was the silent treatment, because nothing hurt me more than being alone.

When I was a child, I was alone.

I had started cutting and starving myself when I was ten; I was suicidal since I was eight. I asked my mom when I was eleven if I could check out Wintergirls or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and she smiled condescendingly, told me that those books were too mature for me. She tried to protect me from the reality I was living; she cut me off from the idea of people like me. I didn’t tell anyone even a whisper until ninth grade, when I entered a relationship with the girl who showed me her scars, a relationship so dysfunctional it almost ended with a suicide pact, a relationship that made me the weirdest kind of happy because at least I wasn’t alone anymore.

When I first read Julia Bascom’s blog, two years ago, I cried, because here was someone like me, and she was alive, and she was writing about the things everyone turned their back on me for mentioning.

I stole a copy of Wintergirls from the library, hid it in my backpack and under my bed, and waited for everyone else to fall asleep before I read it.

I was almost hospitalized when I was 14, for having a psychotic break too obviously, and I blogged the entire time, and I was still so happy because I wasn’t hiding anymore. Because I wasn’t alone.

I was watching a musical, a couple months ago, and it hit me just how afraid I am of the future–I’ve spent my life assuming that I didn’t have a future, because I was going to kill myself (goodbye cruel world hope you enjoyed your stay) when I was twelve (and then, when I passed that, I decided on 16), and that would be that, so I would never have to worry about how I’d end up or what I’d be as an adult because I would just never grow up. But now, I’m older, and I don’t think I want to die anymore. I was (am) terrified of growing up and still being me–of growing up and still being crazy.

I’ve discovered, though, that teenagers can grow up, even those of us who are gay and crazy and trans. We don’t all die. We can survive. I’ve learned that there is a we out there, and it started with Julia Bascom:

“At some point, and I’ve told this story so many times and it never stops making me want to cry, I started hearing about other disabled people. People who were older than me, people who weren’t about this thing is going to kill me one of these days, people who weren’t about living with, living with, living with, not dying from disease, people who were disabled and alive and not sick, not dying, but raising hell and building lives and screaming, screaming, screaming when we were being killed.

People who used words like we.”

And it was amazing, because she wrote about how she learned that there were other disabled people out there, and that meant that I got to learn too, that there are other disabled people, they exist, they use words like “we” and say that we’re not sick or dying, we are here, we are existing, and I don’t have to be alone anymore.

And that opened the door for me–a door to Mel Baggs and RENT and Ozymandius and Next to Normal and stimmyabby and Mad Pride and the Icarus Project and the Hearing Voices Network and tumblr #actually tags, and so many others, a door that led to people like me who said things like we, a door that led to a community–there are gay people, there are trans people, there are crazy people and disabled people and we have always existed, and here we are, screaming, because now we will be heard, because I am writing this in hopes that someone will read it and know that you’re not alone anymore.

History was always my least favorite subject, but learning that I had a history too, it all seemed so amazing, so deeply essential. They never taught it to me in school, I had to search for it. But it’s there.

As Thing of Things wrote, in their post “We Have Always Existed“:

 

Changelings are autistic children. There is art that looks like children with Down’s Syndrome. Socrates heard voices. Henry Cavendish may well have been autistic. Soldiers for thousands of years have experienced PTSD. The demon-possessed. Prophets. Acedia. The fool capering across a Shakespearean stage or a royal court. The village idiot. Asylums. CBT is Stoicism wearing a sciencey hat. Mindfulness therapies are Buddhism wearing a sciencey hat.

I cried when I read it–

There is a black-and-white picture out there, of two women, psychiatric survivors in a world that did not want them: paranoid, fighting back. It is from 1976: we have been fighting this battle since before I was born. It is not over. But it is so much better. And we aren’t alone anymore.

See, that is the thing about being who I am: it is, inherently, rebellious. There are entire branches of psychiatry and people who have dedicated their life’s work to claiming DID isn’t real and multiple people in one body isn’t a thing and alters are just parts, not real people, and all it takes for all of that to come tumbling down is for me to say that I’m real.

Living in a society like I do, where being even the smallest amount of different is a punishable offense (even though there is nobody that is perfectly normal; being in high school means that almost everyone around me is quietly unhappy and scared, while trying their best to be perfect, and never asking why it has to be this way) and being too different gets you killed (Mike Brown, Leelah Alcorn, 300 mentally ill people shot by police each year). The ones with voices, after all, get their tongues cut out.

Yet… not always. Gay pride was started when we were hurt by the police one time too many and we rioted, for days, and now we celebrate it each year, and since then a lot of us have died but some of us have lived, and things aren’t better yet, but last year they said I could get married. It is a bitter lie that we all die–there are, right now, #RealLiveTransAdults, and not just that–there are real live mentally ill adults and real live gay adults and real live aromantic adults and real live multiple adults and real live schizophrenic adults, and I can read things they have written and they can talk to me. They’re out there. Girls like me, we can grow up, we can live. I know that, now. I still can’t believe it, not yet, but I know it, and that’s half the way there.

I’ve never been to a protest or a pride. The extent of my activism is reading blogs online and flapping so hard my back screams at me, and claiming my existence. And yet, that is a kind of rebellion too–because rebellion is not always throwing stones and screaming voices and holding signs and starting fires. Sometimes, rebellion is much, much smaller. In friendships and jokes and tumblr posts and essays, in hashtags and holding hands and sharing our stories. In existing, unapologetic, unashamed, and saying you can exist too. It’s a lie that everyone who is different is doomed: we are here, we can live, we can exist, we always have, and when they say that we’re going to die (that the world hates us and that the best we can hope for is to hide and deny ourselves and try our best to pass and hope nobody notices), they are the ones who are killing us.

The most rebellious thing I’ve ever done was staring myself in the mirror, unflinching, saying “I don’t want to be normal” and meaning it.

Rebellion is a rejection of society, and there is nothing society hates more than someone who’s different and open about it. Society hates people who are brazen, unashamed, refusing to be smaller, to minimize, to smile when people misgender you, to keep your hands in your lap and your mouth shut. To be proud of being different is the most rebellious thing people have ever done. There is a reason that solidarity and empathy are so discouraged–because if you look too hard, you might find out that we’re all different people, and you might be relieved and happy because you’re not alone. And you’re not supposed to know that. You’re supposed to think that you’re alone in your differences, so that you will be afraid of them.

When just existing is defiance, being proud is brave. When we are supposed to be hidden, being open is strong.

We’re here. We’re alive. We exist.

We’re not alone anymore.