Calloused

I’m back writing again, and you all know what that means.

I’m in emotional turmoil 🙂

Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than succumbing  to my own humanity. Y’know, feelings and whatnot. Particularly the ones that make you appear vulnerable and weak.

I’ve developed into the classic “funny girl.” Ask anyone that’s had a 30-minute conversation with me, I guarantee I’ve made them laugh. Humor is arguably the most effective tool of deflection.

I guess this is my self-protective mechanism; my adaptation to the realization that i’m not safe out in the world. And it’s served me well, for the most part.

I want to be perceived as the comedic, confrontational, independent gal who couldn’t give two bothers as to what anybody thinks of her. And to my core, I am that person. And I love that person. But even she isn’t immune to the pain of rejection, betrayal, misplaced trust, and heartbreak.

And i’ll be honest, initially, things don’t really get to me. I can shrug off most anything, and I’ll probably even crack a joke about it just to assure you that I’m okay. But after a random duration of time, it all gets to me at once. Pain always catches up, no matter how far of a head start you have.

Today was one of those days where I felt the pain of the last decade all come crashing down on me at the same time. I happened to be at the gym, actually, when the lump in my throat began to build. Leg day was cut short so I could make it to my car in time for the water works.

I’ve been through a lot in the past 10 years. Puberty, anorexia, braces, high school, rape, the loss of friends and significant others, death, rejection, and the constant frustration that I’m the one behind the wheel, but my GPS keeps rerouting, turning me in unproductive circles.

And I really haven’t done a whole lot of feeling.

You can only suppress emotion for so long before you break, I guess. Being alive hurts.

A healthy, well-adjusted individual would probably just allow themselves to feel the pain in real time, give themselves time to work through it, and then move on. I’d really, REALLY like to be a healthy, well-adjusted individual.

Recently, I’d misplaced my trust in someone completely, allowing them to tug me around. They gained my trust and vulnerability far too quickly, and left me the fool. My initial reaction was complete denial that it even affected me at all, and then it turned to frustration. Granted, this person wasn’t in my life long enough to put me in the emotional state that I am now.

But there’s always a catalyst for this sort of thing.

And that lead me down the rabbit hole to every other instance in which I was forced into a vulnerable position, which turned into me driving home from the gym with tears dripping down my face and some Kanye song blasting in the background.

I would beg whatever supernatural forces that exist to take the pain away, but I think the point is for me to let myself feel it.

So i’m laying here, in a cuddle puddle with my two felines, doing just that.

Growth; it isn’t always pretty.

 

M.

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Itinerant

You thought I was done with this writing thing, did you?

Not a chance.

I’ve been spending a lot of time between now and January 23rd, my most recent check-in with you guys, making more mistakes, meeting different people, gaining new perspectives, and also attempting to learn a thing or two from all of that.

I’ve been graduated from college for a little over a year now, and I’ve been walking around like a deer in headlights ever since. It’s honestly adorable how unprepared I felt when I graduated high school. That was NOTHING in comparison to how I feel right now. Does one ever learn what the hell is going on in this whirlwind of experiences that we compile together and call “life”?

I turned 23 on Memorial Day this year, and shortly thereafter, experienced what I surely hope I can call a “midlife crisis.” You see, I woke up one morning and dyed my hair pink, and later pierced my nose. Two days later, I got the stud taken out of my nostril and began the process of vigorously washing out the color from my yellow locks. It could have been worse though, I could have gotten BANGS.

I’ve continued to draw further into myself while a part of me desperately tries to reach out. I’m a prisoner to my mind, a captive audience to a voice that chants, You shouldn’t be here. You don’t belong. You are not wanted.”

Sometimes, though, I do get over myself and defy my mean brain. I hide behind my sense of humor and cool demeanor as I interact with others, peeking from behind the sky-scraping walls at others whose intentions I may never know, may never trust.

Humans love an origin story. We want to know where we came from, what existed first. Chronology. But I can’t seem to put a start date on when I started feeling this way, which leads me to believe that perhaps I always have.

This isn’t a call for attention, or even sympathy. I don’t even feel pity for myself. Perhaps it’s an integral part of who I am. I’m comfortable in my solitude, acclimated to my loneliness. I am capable of making myself happy, and I do so often. It’s only on days that I fail that I wish I were different.

I guess the most I could hope for for myself is to eventually allow myself to be encompassed by those who help set me free from my malicious mind. I’m not there yet, though. So I sit in my quaint apartment behind a keyboard, attempting to assign words to feelings, transforming the internal to the external, so that I can get some peace and quiet.

M.

Remedial

I recently became a volunteer advocate at the Rape Recovery Center, a local nonprofit that provides counseling services, a crisis hotline, and hospital teams for survivors of sexual violence. In order to become an advocate, one must complete a 40-hour intensive training program. I’m at the midpoint of my training now, and while my experience so far has been one of empowerment, solidarity, and fulfillment, it’s also forced me to re-examine and really process (for the first time) my own rape.

I’ve come to realize that due to many contributing factors, I have yet to take the time to really process what happened to me, and how it’s impacted me physically, cognitively, and spiritually even now, a few years after the fact.

My initial response was one of damage control. Immediately after regaining control of my body, I sped to a pharmacy to pick up a plan-B pill, inquired a private feminist Facebook group that I was a member of about STI testing, and took the proper steps to ensure that my perpetrator would not be able to contact me again.

A member of the aforementioned Facebook group took it upon his (or her)self to notify my father of what happened to me. This member screen-shotted my original post about inquiring about STI testing, and emailed it to my father, which gave me more damage to control.

I’ve been floating around from day to day, somewhat numb, ever since. I’ve always been kind of a distant person, but since this occurred, I’ve been even more withdrawn, even less in-touch with my emotions and my ability to connect with people, especially men.

A guy that I’m not personally friends with DM’d me on Facebook the other day, and asked me if I was a rape victim.  I responded in the affirmative, and he proceeded to tell me that I’m so much stronger, and my spirit is more alive since I was raped.

I found this response both appalling and offensive, for a handful of reasons. First of all, this man does not know me. He didn’t know me before the rape, and he doesn’t know me now. How, then, can he feel confident in making such a statement? Furthermore, I was strong before this happened to me. Nobody needs to experience sexual violence in order to become strong. I had the strength to cope with this trauma before it even occurred, and I refuse to credit this incidence for giving me any such thing.

As for my “spirit being more alive,” I have felt quite the opposite. This incidence swiftly changed me into the cynical, numb person you all know and love today. I struggle with my emotionality every day of my life. I don’t know how to connect with people. I don’t even know how to process my own emotions without enduring a full-fledged panic attack. My sense of security has been breached, and I’ve realized that there are infinitely many things that are completely out of my control.

The man who made these comments did so with good intent. However, he does not know my experience, and therefore should refrain from telling me what it did to me. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I don’t feel like anyone is qualified to make such bold statements about an incident that had such a severe impact on my life except for myself.

Anyway, I am sincerely honored and excited to become an advocate in my community, and hopefully be the support that I so desperately needed when this happened to me. It’s going to be triggering, difficult, exhausting work, but I feel like taking it on will be a healing experience for me, overall. It will, however, force me to rely on others for support when the burnout inevitably hits, and discouragement sets in.

So I’d like to thank my amazing support system in advance, for helping me through this.

M.

 

Cured

It happened last week-the most dramatic mental shift I’ve experienced since the day that Anorexia dug its sharp claws in to my then thirteen-year-old body and held me captive for almost a decade.

I’ve been weight-restored for several years now, and my disorder is no longer visible to the public. But my mind was a battleground, my thoughts plagued with calorie counting and clean eating and ketosis and carbohydrates, drowning any rational thoughts as it pertains to food intake.

I ate the same thing, at the same time, in the same quantity every day for years at a time without switching it up. I didn’t know what hunger was, because I was doing everything I could to prevent a binge, and, consequently, a purge and episode of debilitating guilt that would inevitably follow.

I would turn down dates and social outings that would involve food, and at a minimum would conduct extensive research to ensure that I could find something “clean” to eat that would fit into the latest diet plan that I was subjecting myself to. Because there was always a diet plan.

Some days, I’d look at my body and decide that I was too fat to engage with others. I was disgusted by what I saw, and would spend hours in front of the mirror, sniffling as tears dripped down my face and onto my chest as I poked and pulled mercilessly at the cage of flesh I was sentenced to live in.

Anorexia lost, so bulimia took a swung at me, and suddenly I’d find myself bingeing out of control, tearing through entire cereal boxes, eating full packages of Oreo’s and loaves of bread, in complete secrecy. I would then hide the evidence of my binge episode, shut myself up in my room, and cry until I felt able to purge it out through hours of cardio at the gym.

I’d sit in the break room at work, mouth watering, as I watched coworkers partake in catered lunches from the company, candy at halloween, and pie during the week of Thanksgiving. I never gave in once, and stuck dutifully to my low-calorie, sugar-free, low-carb lunch that I’d packed the night before.

But then, one day, I gave in.

Last week, my company catered Zupas for us, as we’d had a record day the day before. I had packed my own lunch the night before, as usual, and intended to eat the contents of my lunch tote and then chew gum for the remainder of my break to avoid any more “temptation.”

But I was exceptionally hungry that day, and I just so happen to really like Zupas. So, I took a deep breath and marched straight up to the table, and grabbed myself a sandwich and a chocolate-dipped cookie.

For the first time in probably a decade, I sat down and slowly enjoyed every bite of that half-sandwich and chocolate-dipped cookie that I allowed myself. I let myself taste it all, and savor every last calorie. And when I was through, I smiled. No feelings of guilt, no compensatory behavior, and honestly, not even a second thought about it. It was an effing cookie, after all.

But that’s the thing about eating disorders, they instill a completely irrational fear of things like cookies and sandwiches, things that a lot of people eat on a daily basis. Instead of feeling guilt-ridden and anxious, I felt at ease, comfortable, even.

Ever since that stupid little experience during my lunch break at work, my entire attitude toward food and my body has done a 180. I eat slowly now, without anxiety or agitation. I enjoy every last bit of it, and stop when I feel comfortably full. I go to the gym almost every day, and I do workouts that make me feel good about myself and confident in my body’s capabilities. I don’t purge, and I don’t poke at my stomach in bathroom mirrors in pubic restaurants anymore. I haven’t weighed myself in months, and people call me “Thicc” and it doesn’t offend me one bit. My “thicc” butt still fits in my size 0 jeans from high school, and has frankly become one of my favorite features about my physical self.

And I’m happy. Of course, I have a laundry list of things I’d change about my body if I had an unlimited budget for liposuction. But I don’t have an unlimited budget for liposuction. I do, however, have a life to live and I think that after ten years of limiting my experience as a human being due to the fear of weight gain, I’ve had a breakthrough.

I think I’m finally free.

M.

 

 

Denunciation

I’ve heard a lot of bullshit regarding the ousting of sexual predators disguised as prominent and powerful men (i.e. a lot of hoopla from dudes exclaiming just how scary it is to be a man nowadays, The War On Men, etc.). I’m not quite sure which I find most disturbing-the sheer number of celebrity men finally being called out for their sexual offenses, or some of the reactions to these allegations from normal, everyday dudes.

I get it, you’re shocked. You don’t want to believe that someone as likable as Louis C.K. (your favorite comedian!!) ACTUALLY masturbated in front of numerous women. Or maybe you can’t believe that these women finally spoke out. Or worse, maybe you can’t believe that actions like his could potentially result in consequences.

I don’t speak for all women, nor would I ever attempt to, but I personally was not shocked, because I know that these things happen. And I know that oftentimes, the offender is someone you would have never expected.

You see, it’s scary being a woman every day. As girls, we learn very quickly where our place is in society, and that it’s safer and smarter to submit to the men who have power over us than to fight back or speak up. The brave women who have spoken up against their abusers over the past few months gain nothing from doing so, except for possibly allowing their perpetrators to victimize another woman.

And don’t give me that nonsense about “false accusations,” because only 2% of rape cases turn out to be false, which is no higher than any other alleged crime, according to the FBI. And if you ARE worried about facing a false accusation, why not just ensure that you’re conducting yourself in a manner that could never be misconstrued as sexual harassment? It’s not scary to be a man nowadays. Y’all still hold the majority of systemic power. It’s scary to be a sexual predator. So make your life easier by just not being one. Problem solved.

Finally, we’re being listened to. And furthermore, action is being taken against these malicious men. And if that’s not reason to rejoice, then I don’t know what is.

Frankly, if you’ve ever sexually assaulted another human being, I want you to be afraid. I want you to be looking over your shoulder all the time, anticipating a consequence that could ruin your career even, like you ruined your victim’s sense of safety.

In a perfect world, we’d identify all these perpetrators and put them behind bars so that perhaps one day, women would be free to explore their world without the constant, inhibitory fear that we could be harmed, raped, or killed at any moment by someone who can easily overpower us. Maybe one day, we can go for a jog at night, after the sun sets, and not worry about the possibility of our own 20/20 episode.

M.

Aloof

Want to hear another tragic tale about how yours truly embarked on a quest for human companionship and, in turn, got royally knocked on her ass again? Okay, here we go.

Today’s story starts where the majority of stories of this sort start nowadays: The Tinder.  It started with a mutual right-swipe of the finger, and an impressive pun in the form of a pickup line. For anonymity purposes, we’ll call him simply by his initials: “AL.”

No one is immune to the alluring power of a good pun, not even me. So I humored him.

AL was intriguing. The kind of intriguing that kept us talking for six consecutive hours on our first date-we even got ejected from the little diner that we were having brunch at for staying too long. He had a way of conversing that kept my mind firing at a rapid pace, and the conversation flowed effortlessly. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and would often push me to provide more substance to my answers in order to understand me better.

We talked nonstop, both in person and over text message. Our dates increased exponentially in duration, as well as in frequency. We’d spend an entire day together, visiting the planetarium, loitering aimlessly downtown, showing each other books we were interested in at Barnes and Noble. He even bought me one of the books I’d mentioned and gifted it to me the next time I saw him.

He was polite, respectful, a self-proclaimed feminist with hypersensitivity to consent and ensuring that I felt safe, validated, and comfortable at all times.

His friends seemed to really like me.

AL was also a pretty boy, in every sense of the word. He was muscular, had a neat, slick hair cut, scruffy facial hair, and dark brown eyes. He was a bit narcissistic, as well as greedy; money-hungry. He talked a lot about money, and how important it was to him that one day he’d be “loaded.” I didn’t fully understand or agree with this hunger for tangible wealth, but was encouraging and pleasant whenever these conversations arose.

Overall, AL was quite the stand-up guy. He was the type to send me a message after a date thanking me for my company, and expressing how sincerely he enjoyed spending time with me. He told me when he missed me. He was a forehead-kisser, as well as a snuggler. He owned stuffed animals, and wasn’t shy about expressing his emotions or love for Disney films. He’d heat up a rice bag in order to keep my toes warm in his freezing apartment, and offer to make me coffee in the morning before I went to work. In other words, and all-around sweetheart. And in other, OTHER words, too good to be true.

From one day to the next, the text messages went from engaging to aloof. We went from seeing each other all weekend and a couple times during the week to not at all. I saw it coming. Or ending, rather. Not that it was anything per se, our entire story lasted for a duration of a month and a half.

Then, on Friday, AL asked if I had time for a chat after work. My heart sank into my stomach, and my suspicions were confirmed.

He came to my apartment and flopped back onto my bed, his hands covering his eyes. He couldn’t commit to me, he said. He ran into a girl he still had deep feelings for downtown earlier that week, and he has to see what becomes of them. I bit my lip. Disappointed, but not surprised.

I shrugged and told him I understood. He apologized. Again, and again, and then again. Profusely. I wasn’t upset, but told him that I swiftly would be if he apologized again. I didn’t cry. I was stoic. All I wanted was for him to leave.

He wishes he’d ran into this girl a month and a half ago, before he’d ever met me. (Read: he wishes he’d never met me.) So that I wouldn’t become “collateral damage” to his devastating situation that forced him to “hurt” me.

The whole ordeal lasted an entire hour.

I told him that it’s his life, and he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I told him that I’m more than fine, I’ve dealt with MUCH worse, and am actually quite comfortable going about life in a solitary fashion. He’ll go his way, I’ll go mine. Most people are temporary, including him.

That sounds so final, he winces.

But it was final. That was the end of our fling.

It’s disappointing because whatever we had escalated so quickly, and absorbed all of my time. It’s going to be an adjustment, the absence of someone I’d been consistently interacting with for over a month. But that will be that, and I will inevitably stumble upon another suitor that may or may not waste more of my time, and all of this will be but a blimp on my rearview.

I’ve never been “dumped” before, and it’s certainly not my favorite feeling in the world. I’d prefer to not allow people to gain positions in my life where they have the power to hurt me. And it will probably be quite some time until I do so again.

AL, you were a good guy. But not good enough to hurt me the way you probably think you have. You’re just another guy who tugged at my emotions for a short time, and then dipped out. There are dozens just like you, and I’m willing to bet that there will be more to come.

I’m not heartbroken, I’m not hurting. I’m not doubting my worth or likeability. But I am withdrawing into myself slightly further than I was before this experience.

M.

 

 

 

Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with me.

M.