24 years old. Queer. Indiana/New York. BA in Gender Studies. Counseling student. Germanophile, writer, reader (see my books here), feminist, runner, writer, lover, nerd. More about me :) In recovery from an eating disorder & PTSD, living with depression. Trigger warnings always apply, please take gentle care. What's up, babycakes?
[general trigger warning: rape, sexual abuse, child abuse]
I finished reading Naoki Urasawa’s manga, Monster, today. We don’t really need to go too much into details, but a simple summary is that it’s a story about abusers and survivors.
One of the survivors is named Grimmer, a former spy. Throughout the story, he struggles with not feeling the way he is “supposed to” feel, such as feeling nothing at all when his son dies. He makes it clear to the people around him that his smile is fake, that he only does it because he needed to for his work. But his smile is so positive, so infectious and real— and even though the reader knows that he is simply acting, his behavior (helping children, saving people’s lives) speaks happiness. He was one of my favorite characters, and the only one I cried for (and if you’ve read it, you know that the story is full of people to cry for).
The other day, a friend posted something on Facebook about how I give the best hugs, and how he now gives other people hugs because of me. Someone else replied with “I agree. That man is pure sunshine”. It was…too much for me. There is this dissonance here, because although I put up this front of being happy and bright, the way I feel inside is usually the opposite. It is hard to explain to other people how abuse changes you. Yes, you can live in the moment and enjoy what’s going on around you, but there is still something hovering over you all the time. It’s always there.
This is why I don’t understand how people can see me as someone who is so happy and positive. It’s like they are seeing this part of me that doesn’t exist. Or maybe it does exist, but I can’t accept it. When happiness happens, it’s an abnormality— it’s not what is usually there. When I was much younger, still in those years of being abused, I had trouble smiling or laughing. I went the first twelve years of my life not being able to smile or laugh; I had to learn how to from the people around me, because I was never taught how to by my family. I know that concept might seem unreal, but that’s how it was for me.
At the end of Monster, as Grimmer is dying, he starts to laugh and cry at the same time. He says that the feelings he had for his son’s death were there, they were just hidden away for a long time, and he had finally found them. He laughs and he cries. Maybe there is no difference. Recently, in the face of terrible things, like knowing that other people hurt, or knowing that I am hurting, I have felt this need to laugh at the same time that I need to cry. It’s like they both come out of the same place.
Tears— I was raped and abused.
Laughter— I’m still here, I am alive.
Tears— There are many people who didn’t survive.
Laughter— I have to enjoy this for everyone who can’t.
Maybe this is just my own subjective opinion, but I’ve noticed that survivors always have the best smiles. They laugh the hardest and they make other people laugh, too. I met Dorothy Allison a few weeks ago and even as she talked about revenge and hurting the people who hurt her, she laughed. I have met lots of survivors— survivors of abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, near death— and they are always brighter somehow.
Survivors are innately more capable of enjoying life. It’s not that other people can’t. We just…see things differently. We have the biggest smiles because we had to pretend, sometimes for years, or just in that moment, that everything was okay. Maybe, as much as I hate being noticed, as much as I hate being loved, people see that in me. Maybe people see that in you, too.
It’s okay to have feelings now. They might not all be “appropriate”, but they’re you’re feelings, and so they are.
It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to hurt a lot. But it’s also good to celebrate.
Oh thank you for this. Oh thank you. Thank you.
Tomorrow (okay, later today): Clean. Find camera charger. Laundry. Run. Cook. Clean. Cook. Clean. Cook. Clean. (Repeat) C. 6 pm: PARTY*!
* - What this means: catching up with a group of girlfriends I’ve had since I was two. Sharing photos, talking about boys, and drinking a shitton of mulled wine and (if I pull it off) eggnog. And then the Two Big Traditions: watching the video montage of our nursery school class & being photographed by our teary parents sitting on my staircase.
|Me:||Any suggestions for dealing with the neediness thing?|
|Josh:||Be patient. And just remember that you are growing and working on being more yourself and less tied to (stupid) lessons of the past.|
|Josh:||And I have more faith in you than a vatican full of priests have in their god.|
reminder to self: I am more than what they did to me. I am more than what happened to me.
I think I forgot. Remind me? I have to remember.
You are absolutely more than what they did to you. So am I. So are all survivors. You are an amazing and incredible person and I am so. ridiculously. blessed. to have you in my life. We all need reminding sometimes. YOU ARE MORE THAN WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU my love.
Thank you love. I miss you so so so much. Eep.
A calm jar. I need one of these. You fill the jar with colored water and glitter. When you are upset you shake the jar and have to watch it until the glitter completely settles. The time it takes is enough time for you to settle your emotions.
(or, more calmly: want)
this week (or weekend) I am making myself one of these and doing some of my “therapy homework” which is to make a “travel kit” for after flashbacks/dissociation:
1. a wee bag containing interestingly-textured objects. She wants me to get a drawstring bag that is opaque and then put things in it like tiny stuffed animals and like, I don’t know, a slinky and a stress ball and whatnot, and then either by myself or with help from whomever is with me when I’m upset I am to put my hand into it and identify the objects from touch alone (then I can take them out and go through the other senses).
2. a typed-up paper with comforting quotes/poems etc.
3. a typed-up paper with grounding ideas, tips, etc.
4. a Sharpie with which to draw on myself
5. a post-flashback/dissociation CD