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.

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(nobody ever told me they can lie)

gaslighting (v)

the practice of brainwashing or convincing a mentally healthy individual that their understanding of reality is mistaken or false

 

The majority of childhood abuse victims meet the criteria of at least one mental disorder.

The majority of people who live with mental illness have been abused.

 

When you google “abuse mental illness”, you get articles about how domestic abuse is a very common problem in individuals with mental illness and mental illness linked to violence and does mental illness cause abuse.

 

They are abusing us and they are telling us that we are the abusers, and then they go on to talk about victim blaming and how it is terrible and you should never do it, and they do it all without a trace of irony in their voice, because they believe it. They believe that they are not blaming victims, because we’re not victims, we’re monsters.

 

 

150 mentally ill people are killed by hospitals every year.

 

Countless more are tortured. Do you know what it’s legal to do to us?

 

Probably not, actually.

 

It’s legal to kidnap us. It’s legal to tie us to a bed for days at a time, even if we’re nonviolent, because ‘acting weird’ means we must be dangerous. It’s legal to shock us 5,000 times in one day for things like “being afraid”, “talking to ourselves”, “saying no”, “twitching involuntarily”, and “crying”. It’s legal to starve us to get us to obey you. It’s legal to force feed us medication that hurts us; it’s legal to do so by injecting it in while we cry and scream and struggle.

 

Remember: it is legal to torture someone with PTSD for having PTSD. Many places say that it is necessary, that it is the closest to a cure we have.

 

It is illegal to kill us, at least on purpose, but it was probably just an accident, it’s not their fault that they didn’t listen when their patient said the ties were suffocating them, it’s not their fault that they beat us and held us down because we were acting weirdly. When our parents kill us, they get sympathy: it must have been so hard, they say, having someone like that as a child, no wonder they snapped.

 

I call bullshit.

 

 

I used to flap my hands and grin and pace and jump up and down when I get excited, when I got happy.

 

My mom told me to sit down, because “when you do that, you look, you know…”

My teacher told me “quiet hands” when I fidgeted.

My friends told me “you look retarded” when I rocked back and forth during a panic attack.

 

And the thing is, fear doesn’t cure people, but it makes them hide things from you and get steadily worse until one day they can’t hide it anymore.

 

 

When you tell a mentally healthy eight year old, “crying is overreacting to your best friend trying to kill you, you’re being oversensitive, you’re probably just making everything up to hurt her and get attention, you’re being selfish, or else you’re delusional and it’s all fake” you are generally agreed to be an abusive asshole.

 

When you say the same thing to a deeply disordered eight year old, you are generally agreed to be right.

 

It’s agreed that mentally ill people can have things like emotions that are too intense for the situation, a strong desire for attention, delusions and hallucinations, a poor memory, meltdowns, bursts of anger, and a blurry distinction between real or not real.

It is not agreed that mentally ill people are people and therefore are, in fact, sometimes legitimately hurt.

 

 

When I had a psychotic break and ended up in the nurse’s office, they called me “profoundly manipulative” for being too afraid to talk to them or drink the water they offered me.

 

When I went into the guidance counselor’s office to tell them how my friend was hurting me, they asked her for her side of the story and then agreed that I was the one in the wrong, and that I should be made to apologize to her for hurting her feelings.

 

See, my story’s not a story where I’m allowed to hurt, and if I’m not the victim then I must be the monster.

 

 

I have a petrifying fear of being angry, of being mean, of being the monster that everyone believes I am.

 

My class made fun of gay people. They said I wish it were the 60s, so I could beat gay people up without getting in trouble. Society now is just too accepting.

I almost got angry, but I was so afraid of hurting their feelings that I had a 7-hour panic attack instead, apologizing over and over for being gay and existing, in between tears and shakes and fast shallow breathing.

 

I let people abuse me, because I was taught, this is how you make friends with someone. From the time I was 4, I always let my best friend hurt me. I would do anything to make other people happy, and if they were mad at me I would never get mad back. I made myself become whatever everyone else wanted, and if it lapsed, even for a second, I would hate myself for it.

 

I’m supposed to forgive my abusers, it helps healing, everyone says that, but how can you forgive someone you were never mad at?

 

 

What I’m trying to say is that 250 mentally ill people were shot in America by police last year for the crime of being mentally ill (and often black, too, because rapists and school shooters get peacefully taken and their victims blamed, but if you dare to exist when you’re not supposed to then you get shot), and it is generally agreed that murderers are psychotic thugs, what I’m trying to say is that when a mentally ill person is afraid of the government they are experiencing a delusion of persecution (or obsessive thoughts or excessive anxiety).

 

 

I told my friend what she did to me. My friend asked her for her side of the story and she threatened me until I said that she had done nothing and that I was just delusional.

 

And the definition agreed, because nobody seems to realize that the victim was delusional and the victim is lying about being abused are, in fact, different things. Most of the time, they’re opposites.

 

 

She could have told me that the sky is green and I would have believed her.

She told me she was a fairy queen and I believed her.

She lied all the time, every conversation I had with her was peppered with it, from things as small as the breed of her dog and the type of watch she owned to things as big as who I was, and I always believed her.

I wasn’t allowed to question her or else she’d hurt me.

But I never questioned her, because I believed her, because she took my hallucinations and told me that they were real and that there was more, and that it all meant that she was better than me, and I believed her completely.

But that’s not brainwashing or convincing me that my reality is fake, because I was mentally ill so it was.

I was delusional, so that means she had done nothing.

 

 

It wasn’t abuse, either:

You abuse people when you hurt them.

And I may have been hurt, but I wasn’t a person. So it didn’t count.

 

 

And what I’m trying to say, is that the definition of gaslighting doesn’t include mentally ill people.

We can be hurt by it.

But we don’t count.

Because we never count.

 

 

I passed out in french class after starving myself for months because I had a friend with anorexia and I didn’t think I deserved to eat if she wasn’t, because she mattered and I didn’t.

They hear her story, of her abuse, and agree that it is abuse, because it was terrible and cruel and the police were involved and she hasn’t been a virgin since second grade.

They hear my story, and decide that since it is different (since different means defective means broken means not worth it) it doesn’t count.

 

 

We’re always told that to be perfect we have to be good and pretty and nice.

We can’t be angry at the people who hurt us; we must always put everyone else above ourselves; we must always cover up any bad emotions or else we won’t be pretty, because caring and loving and existing are all worse crimes than actual violence.

 

 

What I’m trying to say is, we are hurting so much.

What I’m trying to say is, why is it decided that our hurt doesn’t count?

 

 

What I’m trying to say is that when they tell us your hurt doesn’t count, when they tell us you don’t count, they are telling us that our reality is mistaken, is false, they are telling us that our understanding doesn’t matter.

But that doesn’t matter because they wrote a neat little escape clause into the definition: abuse is only abuse when it happens to people we like.

 

 

(Can your compassion extend to someone you are not told deserves it?)

 

 

What I’m trying to say is this:

Every time they say “your hurt doesn’t matter, they are the ones that are hurting you.