Category Archives: Survivor Life

Trying to get out of being stone

Stones are interesting things. People ignore them all the time, or kick them around, or use them to hurt people. They don’t think about how old a stone is, or that it’s alive and has it’s own soul. Once in a while I meet a stone that wants to go traveling with me. I like it when that happens, they’re good company. You just carry them around until they let you know they’re ready to sit someplace for a while, maybe back where you found them, maybe somewhere new. Stones deserve to be respected, they have feelings like anything else.

Same with people who turn stone. I suppose it’s a term for post traumatic stress disorder that is specific to the lesbian community. I know femmes can be stone too, but mostly I only know the subjective experience of being a stone butch. I think a lot of butches can wind up being stone. It’s a process, I started going stone early, and then shit just accumulated until I am where I am today.

Stone butches are probably the ones you most hate, if you’re butch phobic. We’re the ones that seem hard and cold and suspicious. It’s not that we’re really like that, it’s just that we learn after enough pain that in order to survive you have to keep from showing emotions. Even if someone is hurting you all over again, you just go away and try to maintain this impervious exterior. Getting diagnosed with a mood disorder put the final nail in the coffin of expressing emotions. I mean, when your emotions are considered pathological and grounds to be incarcerated in an abusive prison, you don’t often express them unless you know for a fact the person you’re with isn’t going to toss you into the psychiatric hoosegow.

I don’t like being stone. I doubt anyone does. There are a lot of different ways to be stone. The commonality between all types is a fear/avoidance thing about being touched, specifically due to triggers. Touch is supposed to be the most important thing for the mental well being of a person, but being stone shuts a lot of that out. Some people can touch me though, without me cringing or shrugging them off or slapping the shit out of them. Not many, and I really have to trust them, and you’d be surprised who I don’t trust in my life.

Coming out of the hospital I could feel myself going into the most intense type of stone anyone could be in. I sometimes wonder if a touch or a hug or just someone acknowledging I went through extreme emotional torture would have stopped the process. It’s really curious. Unfortunately the majority of my friends roundly rejected me after I got released, so I guess we will never know.

It’s sad, I guess I feel like parts of me have died every time I’ve gone more and more stone. Maybe they have, they’ve changed me anyway. Or maybe those parts just went somewhere deep inside until it’s safe to come out. I dissociate a lot. I don’t know if I have DID, but I know it happens. When it does it feels like going to a dark quiet spot in the back of me, kind of like hiding under a bed. And then auto pilot takes over. I don’t know if people can see it from the outside, who ever auto pilot is she knows me really well and can pull off pretending to be me. I can watch her talking or experiencing something but I’m completely disconnected from her. When she’s having a conversation it feels like listening from underwater, and I have terrible recall of what was said. And then sometimes I dissociate and it takes auto pilot a while to kick in, which I would think would look like an obvious glitch but I don’t think people are perceptive enough to recognize it.

I’m lucky in that I’m not completely stone, there are some people I trust, and there is at least one person right now I feel safe being close to. It’s kind of a relief to know I can express and receive physical affection. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve been touched lovingly since I left the psych ward. It feels like coming home to myself. I think people who aren’t stone can’t understand the feelings involved. I guess it’s just that after all of that stuff happened, it’s amazing to be recognized as a sexual desirable person who needs to be held and kissed and coyly flirted with. It’s not something just anybody can do with me, for sure. I wasn’t sure anybody would do it with me actually, which is really scary. I hate to say I need a woman to be saved, but it’s true that getting out of being stone means finding someone who’s touch is actually desired, and usually that’s a lover. I don’t know that this person will ever be my lover, but she can touch me and I don’t cringe or feel weird or anything, I just feel like I did before shit happened to me.

I don’t know how else to explain being stone. But there’s a song by Evanescence that describes it perfectly.

A different kind of child abuse

There’s a scene in the excellent movie Boogie Nights that always makes me cry. It’s when the future Dirk Diggler comes home after being wooed by the porn director and is confronted by his mother. She tells him his girlfriend is a whore, he’ll never amount to anything, and when he starts getting ready to run away screams that he owns nothing, everything is hers, and proceeds to destroy his possessions.

I didn’t have something exactly like this happen to me, but pretty close.

Even since I moved out of the house, I’ve been on a pretty long journey to figure out why I turned out feeling so depressed, suicidal, fucked up, etc. I started unravelling parts of my life and examining them. I had to name certain things that happened to me, which was really difficult. One of these was the fact that I suffered a lot of emotional abuse as a child. People often don’t know what emotional abuse is, or the insideous long term effects it has on a person. The only childhood abuse that gets any validation is sexual or physical abuse. I actually think the abuse I went through as a child is what kicked off my long struggle with depression.

With Christmas coming up I’m remembering a common past time among my mom, uncles, and auntie. All the cousins would be sitting around trying to be happy when one would be singled out for a prolonged ridiculing until they were on the verge of tears. It was bad enough to be abused like that by a group of adults who should know better, but to do it in front of our other cousins made it even more humiliating. Eventually when we had Christmas gatherings, the cousins were just really quiet, sneaking away to socialize with each other then coming back and trying to be as invisible as possible to avoid the annual ridiculing. It wouldn’t work, some kid would be trying to learn to be an individual and have different hair, or unconventional clothes, or piercings, and they would get picked on pretty severely. I’m actually surprised no one flipped out and started wailing on an abuser.

I had a lot of various kinds of emotional abuse happen to me, like being made to feel ugly, being “teased” until I cried and then being told I was too sensitive or that they were only joking. The worst though was when my mom decided I was out of line or was mad at me for some reason. She would ignore me, sometimes for a week at a time. She’d go to her room and not answer when I tried to talk to her, she would sit around in the living room and pretend I wasn’t there, we had completely silent dinners. I would be reduced to writing notes to her and pushing them under the door, and trying to decide between running away or committing suicide. As you can imagine, this all did lead me to have a very suicidal childhood. I didn’t hear of this happening to others until a friend of mine talked about being abused the same way. Both of us were children of single parents, so as you can imagine, being ostracised from the love of the only parent around was pretty shattering to a child. I only had my pets for a constant source of love, and even then they were used in this sick cycle of abuse, she would either threaten to have them put down or to take them away from me.

My only real outlet for talking about my feelings was writing my daily diary entries, which she routinely read and ridiculed me about. As an adult when I started writing in online diaries in order to reach out and connect with people dealing with the same issues as me, she also read my diary and defended her actions when I would get angry by saying if I was writing a diary on the internet it meant anyone could read it, including her. Nevermind that I was writing anonymously and dealing with some pretty heavy issues like her abuse (“you always write about hating your mother”), my sexual assault, various revelations about my sexual interests, trying to do healing.

It was hard enough being abused at home, but school wasn’t any better. Being an abused kid automatically makes you a target for bullying, so I had a pretty shitty school life. I hated school, but I didn’t like home either. I was one of those kids who wandered around alone a lot. Suicide was an escape hatch, I didn’t like my world and I was a kid with no options except to quit life and hope to god there was something on the other side. Later in high school I even seriously considered becoming emancipated.

I didn’t really start healing from my abusive childhood until I left home and found friends I could talk to about these things, cry with, listen to their stories, read about toxic families. I never felt safe confronting my mom about my childhood until I went manic, and then she threw me on a plane back to Montreal and helped get me committed. As you can imagine, I never felt safe confronting her about it again. And in a way, I know it won’t make a difference. She’ll never see her behaviour towards me as abusive, she’ll deny certain things happened, she’ll ridicule me for letting it bother me so much.

Recently she told me she was depressed so I had to be nice to her. I didn’t know what to say. I would like to be nice to her, but then I see certain things she still does that just fills me with anger now instead of sadness. Ever since I started dating as a teen she’s started a long campaign of hating everyone I love and trying to turn me against them. It’s really depressing. One older friend told me she was probably jealous that she would lose my love if I had a sweetheart. But it’s getting to the point where I feel like one day she’s going to make me choose between whatever woman I love and her, and I know I won’t choose her.

The one good thing is that the people in my generation, except for the ones who have become lifelong alcoholics, are pretty cognizant of how we were all treated as kids. We talk about it and try to figure out ways to heal or just to avoid continuing the cycle when we’re parents. We try to avoid the long standing grudges that are rampant in my parent’s generation. I know we won’t be perfect, even I notice myself doing the dreaded silent treatment at times, and I always feel ashamed and try to cut it out.

Maybe the hardest thing about dealing with my past is being saddled with the Crazy label. I was Crazy when I confronted my parents about abuse and neglect, and now that I have a history of hospitalization I know I’m vulnerable to being hospitalized again for stepping out of line or pissing someone off or just going through an emotional moment of healing around events of my past. Anytime I talk about my feelings I’m asked if I took my medication, and when I fly off the handle (something common to abuse survivors and people with rape-related PTSD) I’m accused of being a terrible broken bipolar person. My view of the world is consistently invalidated by the diagnosis given to me by people who know nothing of TLE, abuse survivors, rape survivors, or people suffering PTSD.

And I’m tired of not talking about this just because I’m worried it will hurt my family. They weren’t worried about hurting me. I would hope they would take this information and become more loving, compassionate people with insight into their actions, but I know it will probably be taken as an affront to their parenting skills and me just being mean.

What really made me realize what my abuse was, was when I dated an emotional abuser. She was charming, everyone thought she was amazing, but she was undermining me, invalidating me, taking me to parties with people I didn’t know and then abandoning me, and then eventually telling me I was a horrible lover. She even went so far as to bite me so hard I was trying to punch her head to get her away and ended up with nerve damage in my neck. Luckily I was seeing the emergency suicide counsellor I saw for two years and she helped me see that I had an abusive lover and it wasn’t my fault. I started learning about emotional abuse and seeing how it impacted my childhood.

Once I was talking to a friend who was an incest survivor about my abusive childhood and I was trying to say it wasn’t as bad as somethings that happened to kids. He told me not to minimize my abuse, it doesn’t matter what happened or didn’t happen, if I ended up with bruises or not, it was still abuse and it still had a major impact on who I became. In fact, studies have concluded that of all the types of child abuse, emotional abuse is the worst.

I don’t want to live in a rut caused by abuse, it sucks ass. I want to grow as a person and be capable of love without fucked up shit accompanying it. I think I am. My closest friends tend to be people who have also been abused in various ways, whether they name it or not. I wish my parents could get out of their own rut of abusive patterns. I know they’re only repeating the cycle laid out by their own parents, but I don’t think repeating cycles should be condoned.

This Christmas my wish is that families respect and love their children. I hope that parents realize they simply have the role of responsibly raising an individual who is not their possession and with whom they cannot dictate their life path. I hope that parents encourage their kids to pursue their dreams, even if those dreams seem unorthodox or foolhardy. I hope that at Christmas dinner, someone will engage a small kid in a conversation that doesn’t invalidate or ridicule them, a conversation that will make them feel they can be expressive and respected.

Imagine if kids weren’t abused how different life would be. I think most societal problems can be linked back to the formative years of all of us.

Self Test for children of Emotionally Abusive Mothers

Description of Emotional Abusive Mothers

A good article on emotional abuse in families and it’s effects on children

Overview of Emotional Abuse

We’re all a little Kogepan some days

A girlfriend of mine turned me on to Kogepan, we used to go strolling through Sanrio based stores in Vancouver’s Chinatown so she could buy Kogepan related items. This is Kogepan:

Kogepan was supposed to be a high quality elite red bean bun but got burnt during his birth when he fell back into the oven and was forgotten in there for thirty minutes. Depressed and despondent because no one wanted to buy him, he went on a smoking and drinking binge (milk is like beer to him) until he hit bottom and went back to the bakery of his birth to prostelyze on the meaning of life.

Some of us who have been through some harsh moments in life can completely relate to the feelings of a little burnt bun, especially his struggle to understand his place in the world and deal with a society which has little care for a burnt bean bun. Anyone who has been marked by difference or a traumatic life changing event can understand the life of a Kogepan.

Here is his premiere:

Kogepan meets his drinking buddy, another Burnt Bun:

Kogepan traumatizes young pretty bread and then teaches the meaning of life. Then he gets them drunk:

There are ten Kogepan episodes in total, and probably you can find all of them on YouTube. If you’re having a rough day, watch some Kogepan!

Give Me Life, Give Me Pain, Give Me Myself Again

**** !!!! This blog contains triggers specific to sexual assault survivors, if you need a support person or safe place please find one before reading. If you need to skip this blog there is some cuter lighter fare after this post. If you know me but don’t want to know this part of me please stop reading. !!!! ****

I have over 70 Tori Amos songs on my iPod. That means every 6th song that comes up is a Tori Amos song on shuffle. Sometimes it will be a run of Tori Amos songs. I first got turned on to her in high school when Cornflake Girl came out. Maybe it came out earlier but I didn’t buy the album until high school. Whatever. I continued to buy every album that came out since then. My favorite songs currently are Little Earthquakes, I Can’t See New York, Marys of The Sea, and Original Sinsuality. I love Icicle because I had never heard a song about a little girl discovering masturbation before and it’s so adorable, it reminds me of my childhood explorations. When my younger cousin Christopher died in an industrial accident this summer I listened to 1000 Oceans on repeat for hours and cried.

For some reason I have left Me and A Gun on my iPod, even though I can’t listen to it. It’s a great song, I’m not all “Bleh, don’t tell me your rape story, art isn’t for therapy!” I’m more like “I don’t want to think about my rape story right now.” If I listen to it I just start bawling. But I keep it, because, because I’m not sure. Sometimes I just feel better knowing I can hear it if I want, that it exists, that it’s out there.

I remember being freaked out about the possibility of one day being raped. I knew statistically it had a high probability of happening, and I was scared as hell of what it would be like to carry around that kind of trauma. And yeah, it happened. It was the fifth time I ever had anything sexual happen to me and it did fuck me up, until I met a really sweet girl who helped me heal, but I’ll get to her in a bit.

I’m not going to tell you the specific details of the event. You don’t need to know the date, the number of assailants, the genders of the assailants, the number of hours it went on for, what particular acts happened, or anything else like that. In fact if you ask me for the facts I won’t give them to you, even if you’re my best friend in the world. The only person I completely explained it to was a friend who also had a fairly similar assault and we were both supporting each other in the aftermath. I told very few people, partially because a lot of acquaintances knew the assailants and I didn’t feel safe disclosing the event. I did not go to the police and file a report, because I know that as an Aboriginal woman my charges would be dropped and I’ll just have told some white guy about the worst night of my life for no reason.

I will tell you what happened after. I went back to my apartment in the early early morning, I think I walked home from downtown, or maybe I waited somewhere until the first buses started running again. I felt exhausted and dirty and I just wanted to sleep. I got into my apartment and it was like jamais vu. I didn’t feel like it belonged to me anymore, this apartment belonged to someone more innocent, someone who hadn’t been through that night, someone who puttered around learning to be a grownup and only worrying about trying to find storage space in a 300sq ft apartment. I went into the bathroom and had a bath, the longest hottest bath of my life. I used a ridiculous amount of soap and I probably shampooed and conditioned about four times. And after all that I still didn’t feel clean. Any sexual assault survivor will tell you this part of the story too, it’s just this automatic response we have immediately after.

It was morning but it just felt like the second half of a really long day. I crawled into bed and curled up in a ball and went to sleep. I don’t think I cried, but I might have. The sun coming through the windows was beautiful, but it didn’t make me feel anything. I was just numb.

I was celibate for a year after wards until my next lover, who turned out to be abusive and fucked me up more about my sexuality.

I was celibate for another year after that until I met the sweet girl who I’ll now tell you about. I’d actually met her when I first moved to Vancouver and I always had my eye on her, she was a super cutie and a Vancougar celebrity. It made sense for us to be together because I was a Vancougar celebrity too, at least in our particular subculture. We had a sweet summer romance. She was the kind of femme who thought nothing of necking in broad daylight at Scotiabank cashstops. Thinking back on it now I think we also clicked because we hurt the same way. We were both stone sometimes, I was really stone in the beginning actually, but she was safe enough to get silly and sexy and slappy. We said I love you a lot, because it was true.

What totally impressed me was that she took it in stride that I still had a fairly limited sexual history. She was patient and made sure I knew what she needed or wanted. She had fun doing things to me no one else had. She liked cuddling and being sweet and adorable and sometimes she would be bouncing up and down on the bed giggling in the morning yet could still do the bossy scary persona for those particular games perverts play. She’s still the only one I did breath play with, which shows you how much I trusted her.

Anyway, one day we were lounging around in bed and I don’t remember what we were talking about but I disclosed what happened. She said “oh,” in this way, I don’t know how to explain it. It was this one little word that had so much meaning in it. And she just held me and I cried and there was so much going on in this exchange of wordless communication about it. I healed so much in that one moment. I think because I finally told someone who was intimately involved with me. It wouldn’t have been the same at all if she was a friend or other platonic individual, it had to be someone I felt safe enough to be sexual with for that moment to happen. She was the best lover to disclose to. She just handled it so perfectly.

It was really nice to spend a few years after that cathartic moment with my girlfriend to be freed of rape trauma. It didn’t bother me as much, it still made me sad to think about but it wasn’t interfering with my sexuality anymore. And then I got traumatized about it again, only in a much more intense way. I spent six weeks in a Montreal psych ward, yes we all know this, I talk about it a lot, I rage about it a lot, but people don’t know the number one reason I hated the experience, hated the hospital, hated the people who sent me there, and spent three years after wards wanting to die.

It was a mixed ward. I was really pissed about this fact, because during my time there I spent every single day in the company of a patient who kept wanting to rape me. I tried to talk to staff about this problem only to be brushed off all the time as a silly paranoid loon. He got moved to another ward and I was relieved, until I was moved to the same ward, a tiny yellow affair for people who are dangerous or wanting to snuff it. (I was the latter) I think the only way I survived was by attaching myself to tough dudes who basically protected me. I had some female friends too, but I mostly spent time around guys who were benevolent and protective of me. They kept falling in love with me, but whatever.

There was one other triggering event which totally shocked me. It was my first night there, well, the first night I wasn’t handcuffed, restrained, and in chemical restraints. I was falling asleep when suddenly two orderlies just walked into my room with a flashlight and made me take a pill which turned out to be a meltable Zyprexa (because you can’t tongue it if it melts immediately). I was appalled that they would disregard something so obviously triggering to sexual assault survivors, especially for those people who were abused as children.

And then there was the four point restraints trigger, yeah, that was fucked too.

So essentially I still carry a lot of rape trauma with me. And ironically now it’s because I was put in a place that was supposed to “heal” me. I’m pretty sure I’m healing from the “healing” now, I’m doing a lot better than the first year After The Psych Ward. It’s bizarre, people expected me to come out of there and be cheery and grateful and “fixed”, and then were confused when I walked around like an angry zombie and screamed every time someone grabbed my wrist or suddenly touched or grabbed me.

But I still remember the lover who was there for me when I disclosed, I never really got to thank her. She probably was the main reason I have a healthy happy attitude about sex again.

The last time she and I had sex we listened to a Tori Amos album, From The Choirgirl Hotel. She was a boy, and it was really great. I didn’t know it would be the last time, I doubt she did either, but it was a nice note to go out on.

Tori Amos inspires me, and probably a lot of other survivors, because she’s spoken about her experience and yet has not let it define who she is. She shows survivors that there is life after rape, that people can heal, and that they can still find/create and be beauty afterwards.

She cofounded RAINN, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. She is also the inspiration for the survivor run site Welcome To Barbados.

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m talking about this here. I guess I’m just tired of feeling secretive about it, because that implies shame and I don’t want to feel ashamed of myself. Those other fuckers can feel ashamed. I also recently read someone accused of rape who reclassified it as a grey area misunderstanding, and as someone who was a victim of what some might try to call a “grey area misunderstanding” I can honestly tell you rape has no fucking grey area.

I was going to post a video of Me and A Gun or Little Earthquakes, but Hey Jupiter seemed to fit better.