Another #MeToo Story….

I’ve been struggling with intimacy more in the past three years than at any other point in my life. I’ve spoken and written and shared about my past experiences of trauma and abuse, but I haven’t really spoken or considered the last time I had sex and how traumatic it was. It’s such an experience I feel I need to share it. Trigger warning–rape, sex, dissociation, oppression, heteronormative fantasies, #metoo.

I met a guy on OKC who seemed really nice and kind. He came from a family that seemed chill, had a diverse past that he seemed unashamed to speak about, and seemed pretty well awakened to some things he’d been through. We had a lot in common. He brought me to Cafe Gratitude for the first time.
The first few dates we went on were very innocent. He was kind and understanding, he was interesting and interested. He took things slow and seemed like a good guy.
He stopped acting like such a good guy after we had sex for the first time though.

The date after our first sexual encounter I let him take me somewhere–a surprise location. I was a vegan at the time and he decided to take me to the San Pedro Fish Market. When we got there, I was peeved. Like–who brings a vegan to a place that hella glorifies and smells of meat? (Not the first time a date had done such a thing btw) But, I went along with it and got some fried veggies–which I didn’t eat because they were definitely fried with the fish and tasted like fish oil and made me wanna puke because I hadn’t had meat in over a year.
I let this all slide, thinking I was just over-reacting or being selfish or too dramatic. I let him take me back to his place for the second time, which was a huge, disgusting mess. The understanding and helpful person I often am (to a fault in the past), I suggested that I could help him clean some things before we hung out and watched a movie.

I was washing his dishes as he picked up some stuff. He came up behind me and started touching me. I was flattered, but also annoyed like–we’re doing something here dude. Can’t you be a little more patient? He would go do some other things and then come back and mess with me–but not ME the brain in the body, the person with cognitive decision skills and autonomy… just the body. I was boobs and ass and curves and vag.
At one point, without warning, he started undressing me. It wasn’t sexy, or cute. It wasn’t slow, or kind. There was no kissing or admiration or care for whether I enjoyed it at all. It was aggressive, forceful. (It should be noted this guy was about 6’4″ and built very muscularly and big. He was easily twice my size.) He pulled my shirt off of me even though I was standing right in front of a window, at night, that was open and overlooking a street. He pinned me against the counter and laughed that I couldn’t escape him. I asked him to stop, he continued. He’d successfully undressed my top half and was working on getting my skirt off. I got more pissed off and told him to stop–which seemed to excite him more. I didn’t have the ability to be more outwardly pissed off. Patriarchal conditioning told me men didn’t like mouthy girls, and I needed a man to survive in this world.
I was seething inside, but also telling myself I’d brought this on, it was somehow sexy, it was a part of some fantasy, I just needed to learn to enjoy it, sex was always uncomfortable when it was new, this was somehow totally normal and fine and I was the one making it seem not fine. (Rape culture, internalized, at its fucking finest.)

He ended up getting my skirt off, making me stand there in his kitchen–naked and powerless, exposed by bright lights and an open window. He picked me up and brought me to his room, there was hardly any kissing. He entered me without permission or a condom or foreplay–making it very painful, dry and unwelcome. It wasn’t even slow or gentle, not even a little–it was quick and forced. I was powerless.
After, I told him it hurt and that I was pissed off and I wanted to leave. He acted sorry for a second, then brought up some girl on his facebook that he had a crush on and started talking about her in front of me. I left, saw him one more time, then cut him off entirely. He reached out once to “explain” but didn’t actually say anything. I refused to see him in person, telling him he could say what he needed to say in text, and he only wanted to see me in person to say what he needed to say. So I never heard his explanation. This was my first real point of empowerment. I didn’t want his explanation. It was an excuse, and what he’d done shouldn’t, couldn’t, be excused.

After this, I decided I was not interested in sexual pursuits unless they were with people I knew very well and trusted–but then I began the journey through my mental health and wellness that I’ve been on for the past few years so sex has been the last of my priorities. My intimacy between now and then has been very limited. I am lonely often, and I wish I could develop sexual intimacy, but I do not trust myself or others in that context so I keep pretty much everyone at a physical distance. This is hard… as a human being I need physical connection and yet I am so traumatized by it that I often reject it and deflect it from even the most platonic of friends.

The thing that was the most disturbing about this last major encounter was that it was like being in a porn or some romantic film. I was living in someone else’s fantasy. Like, I know I’d seen this all somewhere before. I’d seen someone romantically pulling the clothes off of a woman as she is doing chores and lead her to the bedroom–but to live it with someone as if he is trying to recreate something he’d seen on TV… with no warning, communication, or boundaries… it was absolutely horrific–scarring. I felt out of control. I think I completely detached, dissociated and derealized the situation before it even happened. It’s taken me years to see that this was rape, and that my silence was accepted as consent, my struggle was seen as a part of the role play he was living out with me though he hadn’t asked me, and my words were completely overlooked. I was literally an object to his fantasy. I could have been any woman. He just needed a warm and compliant body.

I don’t see the point in sex in this manner. It’s a grotesque misuse of human connection. It’s a disrespect of who we both are as individuals. However, I know there are women who might have been totally down–hell I might have if situation had been completely different. But he treated me like we were on the same page–he assumed it and acted out of that assumption. Role play is totally cool and some people like it but it must be spoken about out loud. There must be rules and boundaries established FIRST. If you can’t have the conversation, you’re not emotionally mature enough to participate in it safely, and *you’re going to hurt someone*. Period. Same with S&M, and power play, and polyamory or ethical non-monogamy. These things are all awesome–beautiful even! I am super sex positive in the means of supporting what people want for themselves. I see it working for individuals and they love their sexual lives! I know its all valid and good when done with proper consent.
But you can’t, in any situation, ASSUME that someone else is on board just because they are present. You can’t assume based on body language. You MUST have the conversation out loud. Most of the women you know, if not every one of them, have been gaslit to believe that we have no authority over our own bodies. Even politics reenforce this in our minds. If you make the assumption that someone is interested in the same sexual things as you and act on that without a conversation, you’re taking advantage of that person’s oppression. You’re abusing your own power and privilege. You are a fucking rapist and you deserve to be punished–locked the fuck up and put through extensive therapy.

I am not brave enough to reveal the names of those who have sexually assaulted me–and I don’t even remember his name honestly. It’s been years and I’ve ignored it. Maybe I’ll gain that empowerment someday in a call for justice but I know now that the world would and could do nothing for me. The law is against me in this story. The timing is against me. The patriarchal forces that be are too strong.
Still, I share this in gruesome detail because it has the ability to open some people’s eyes to the importance of verbal consent–especially (but definitely not exclusively) in heterosexual encounters. I say that because these are the encounters that we see most on TV, movies, and in real life playing out these kinds of scenarios and making the lack of verbal consent seem like some kind of romantic connection. That’s not real. You may read body language, but you read it based on who you are and how you might react. You may think you know this person, but it doesn’t mean you actually do know them as anything more than a projection of yourself. The normativity of hetero sexual abuse is so harmful.

Frankly, if you can’t talk about sex, consent, etc… you’re not mature enough to have it. You’re not mature enough to act consensually, and I guarantee you will assault someone and think it’s ok and fine because you assumed you knew them well enough and there’s no evidence to hold you accountable. You’d still be fucking rapist piece of shit though.

I know that it’s really difficult and embarrassing to talk about sex sometimes–but it is infinitely harder to recover from rape and go on with a positive or hopeful attitude about sex and intimacy. The damage you could potentially do is not worth sparing your embarrassment for a couple of seconds. Also, if your hard-on depends on the lack of consent and asking consent is going to somehow ruin the mood, you’re turned on by some fucked up rapey shit and you need mental and emotional help so you don’t act on that in a way that will hurt others. It’s fine if you’re turned on by that, some of us can’t help what turns us on. But what you can help is how you know yourself and the tendencies you have to harm others so you can be conscious and outspoken in a way that keeps others from being harmed by you. We need to protect others from our darkness sometimes too, not just ourselves. Our traumas gone unchecked, our fears gone unspoken, these things project themselves out into the world and they harm us and others. The only way we keep others from being caught in our darkness is by bringing light to it ourselves and exposing ourselves for exactly who we are. Secret secrets are no fun. Secret secrets hurt someone–and this is how.

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Mental Illness from Within

I feel like mental illness is really difficult for people to grasp if they’ve never experienced it or if they’ve only experienced something slightly, or in a moment of grief or high stress or situational dis-ease, but not chronic mental illness. Many people will try to see it through their own understanding instead of admit its something beyond their experience or comprehension. Many people will see the expression of my emotion and they’ll relate it to their own and project their history on me, like I am simply making a mistake they’ve made and the answer is so simple.

If the answer was simple, it wouldn’t be an epidemic. If the answer was simple, we’d be fine. If the answer was simple there probably wouldn’t be an entire profession, including diagnosis, treatment and research, for us.

If the answer to mental illness was simple, I wouldn’t be sick.

But it isn’t simple.

We’re talking about the most complex organ of the body, the most mysterious, the most adaptive and ever changing. Not to mention, we are being diagnosed based on OUTSIDE appearances and behaviors, though the thing that’s wrong is INSIDE our minds, which can only be accessed through talking to us, and even then you’re not getting the whole story because a therapist who sees me one hour every two weeks couldn’t possibly get the whole story.

Its ok that you might not understand what people with mental illness go through. It’s ok if you can’t handle it, and it’s ok if you don’t learn about it. What’s not ok is that you put your own stories, assumptions, projections, and expectations on those of us who are suffering BECAUSE you can’t or won’t understand it.

The truth, though, from inside the mind of a mentally ill person, is that if I think of myself as a mentally ILL person, and hang out with people who only treat me like that, I will self destruct. I don’t want to be treated like I can’t handle “the truth” or like I’m some loose canon. I’m not and I know I’m not. But when I am in emotional distress, and very aware of it and reaching out for help, I really don’t need to be further isolated by someone who wants to speak to my illness and not to me. I am the person, human being, Rachel–not the illness. Talk to ME. I have BIG emotions sometimes, and those emotions are super tough and a lot of people don’t experience them or have a mind that can shut them down or out. I do not.

I spent much of my life going through periods of suicidal thoughts, grief, big emotions–grief, insignificance, existential worthlessness, constant failure, misunderstood, isolation, dissociation, derealization, terror, suffering…alone for most of it. Its the route of communication that my mind has accepted very readily because its the route of communication that was establishing while my mind was growing and developing.
I will continue to have suicidal thoughts and episodes. It’s a fact. If you’re close to me, you should know that, and let me know if you can’t be there for me in those moments. I can only get better one moment at a time. Yesterday, and this week, I fought my ass off against my illness–and I won. I am alive, and my feelings have passed, and the residue left over is being cleared with this post and a lot of journaling that will follow. But either way, a fierce competitor met me in battle yesterday and the wager was my safety–and I fucking won. So this is a day I should be celebrating and instead I am riddled with shame and afraid I’m messing everything up by being vulnerable, by having emotions, by needing help every once in a while, by being the person I am. I feel ashamed for having fought and won.

Thing is, these emotions I feel aren’t so different than the one’s everyone else feels. And for me they manifest in physical pain, which is also not unique. But they also come with great cognitive awareness–meaning when they happen they affect my mood, and my physical body, and my mind talk. Not everyone lets these emotions be more than a mood, and that’s great they have that capacity. I do not.

Truly, as much of a burden as my illness is, I think it is a godsend to some extent–maybe because thinking of it any other way makes me miserable, maybe because it really is. The fact that I can’t commit to either one as a definite reality is another curse/blessing. Either way, my illness is made easier through vulnerable expression of its thoughts and processing as it happens, unfortunately. But ever since I started being vulnerable I’ve had so many people tell me they were helped by or inspired by what I share. If I can help others through the knowledge I gain from suffering from this illness then it somehow makes the illness more bearable, less of a life sentence and more of a thing of purpose.

Because be assured, this emotional/mental awareness is a life sentence, an absolute prison, if another perspective on it isn’t sought and continuously reminded and affirmed.

I’m not crazy, stupid, unaware, self-centered, or unworthy of compassion and understanding. My perspective is not inherently wrong simply because it is different or seen through the eyes of my experience. I am not a drama queen for feeling the things I feel, I’m not seeking attention, I’m not on a drug bender. I’m not lazy because I can’t get out of the house some days. I’m not a stain on society because I can’t work full time.
I’m really annoyed by people second guessing me simply because they lack the full capacity to understand me or have run out of patience and don’t know how to just say it. Someone told me its not other people’s job to understand me. I guess they’re right. But I take that “job” as a simple piece of connecting with other members of humanity. So if it’s really work that you can’t do, I guess that’s fine for you. I on the other hand empathize with my own abusers to my own demise sometimes, without trying. Perhaps that’s what makes me miserable. Perhaps not. Frankly, that’s between me and my therapist anyway.

Point is, I’m not just reliving the projection of YOUR worst moment in life. If you see me through your eyes and you don’t suffer what I suffer, you’ll always be disappointed. This isn’t even my rock bottom. My rock bottom was way worse than where I’m at now. I am not you at your rock bottom and just missing the simple solution you found to get better. I am actually doing well, for me, whether you can see it or not.

So please, just stop with the assumptions and stigma.

Compassionate Support for Children

Today, I watched an incredible interaction between parent and child.

The child came into our music school for his music lesson– crying uncontrollably. His mom told his music teacher he was in a little bit of a mood, then she turned back to him and spoke to him very calm and reasonably. She asked if he was taking deep breaths, and told him he knew what he had to do to calm down. He started breathing bigger. She encouraged him, reminding him that music lessons are only 30 minutes, and he could make it through. He listened to her and asked for water. She asked him to say “please”. Kindly, and through tears, he did. She got him water, she talked to him until he was ok (though not done crying), and she left him deal with his emotions. He proceeded calmly to him lesson and made it through the half hour without another tear.

Here’s what amazed me about this interaction:
His mother wasn’t upset that he was upset. She wasn’t shaming him, she wasn’t embarrassed by him, she wasn’t taking his mood personally. She didn’t tell him to shut down his emotions, or speak to him like he didn’t have the capacity to manage them or that they were something out of line or burdensome. She didn’t tell him they were ridiculous or that he was being dramatic. She didn’t shame him for being male and crying–she didn’t tell him he should buck up or that boys don’t cry or to be “strong”. He was not in defense mode. His ego was not triggered. He was able to help himself with her guidance, patience, and calm support. She did not compromise her role as his teacher, nor did she take a disciplinary route I’ve seen so often.

I don’t see this kindness between parent and child often. I mean, in general I don’t see too many kids crying in public since I stopped teaching in the elementary classroom, but when I do usually the parent is trying their best, but they’re also tired and worn out and so I see emotion reacting off of emotion.
Often you’ll see a child’s emotions shut down, or a parent trying to help their kid but not totally understanding how, and so growing impatient. When a vulnerable and hurting emotional self is met with ego (defense or offense) the self will harden up and get more resistant to help or helping one’s self. Ego triggers ego, especially with children. When we can be mirrors for those we love in crisis instead of judge or fixer, we give others the safety and the support to help themselves.

I don’t mean to make judgments of parents who would react any other way. This mother has her privileges, some mothers don’t and that can affect their patience. I am just pleased to see this kind of enlightened parenting happening around me, to children I care about. This woman is clearly psychologically aware, and sees her child as able to comprehend his own mind and mental awareness. This is the kind of awareness that will lift the stigma off of those suffering from mental illness, as well as those of us who just have a lot of emotions.

To Be or not to Be…art is the answer.

 

Being an artist has nothing to do with your level of education or your ability to be paid for your work. Being an artist is about how you think, how you feel, how you express. It has to do with the way you see the world, the way a sunset or the glimmer in a child’s eye, or disaster or the tragic death of a young person can make you feel the infinite extremes of opposing emotions. It has to do with your willingness to create, to discover, to mold, learn, grow and change. It has to do with a survival need to create.

For me–art is about a constant need to find the good in the world, to find beauty where there is pain and to see possibility where there is no hope. I seek these things through my vision and expression because half of my mind wants to die and the other half desperately wants to show it there’s a reason to live. For me–art is literally my life. It is how I think and feel and exist. It has never not been present. It has always been around me in the form of my interpretation of the world in which I live. It’s hard to recognize it sometimes but it is always there. Art is something I need for ME. Any sharing of that expression with others may be beneficial for them, but even that is for me. I need art. I need it in my life and I need it in my mind. I can’t breathe when I deny myself the opportunity to see the entire world as an active work of artistic creation and expression which is constantly being molded and changed by everything in existence.

We are all artists and creators–making an impact and an expressive change to everything we come in contact with. I think it’s just that many people are afraid to recognize themselves as an artist or a creator. But art is not about any one medium–painting, singing, Crochet–making you money. It is about your willingness to see that you, too, are a creator of worlds simply because you exist in this one.

Choosing to recognize this in myself has been very difficult–and continues to be. But with it comes direction and purpose. It’s not an easy path for sure–but I couldn’t deny it if I wanted to. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

To be an artist in practice is to be a constant student of the universe. Always seeking a deeper understanding of your medium or purpose or expression. Always becoming a little better, and never putting your discovery on a timeline. I do not wish to master anything, per se, but to continue the spiral of learning, finding more and deeper ways to express the miracles of existence within certain mediums. There’s no hurry. The discoveries are infinite. Being an artist isn’t a mountain you suddenly reach the top of and know you’re there and never leaving. Being an artist is 100% about the process of creation. The process is more important than the end–for us. And by focusing on the process and creating for the sake of creation, you assure there is no end to what you can learn to express.

Being an artist has nothing to do with your level of education or your ability to be paid for your work. Being an artist is about how you think, how you feel, how you express. It has to do with the way you see the world, the way a sunset or the glimmer in a child’s eye, or disaster or the tragic death of a young person can make you feel the infinite extremes of opposing emotions. It has to do with your willingness to create, to discover, to mold, learn, grow and change. It has to do with a survival need to create.

For me–art is about a constant need to find the good in the world, to find beauty where there is pain and to see possibility where there is no hope. I seek these things through my vision and expression because half of my mind wants to die and the other half desperately wants to show it there’s a reason to live. For me–art is literally my life. It is how I think and feel and exist. It has never not been present. It has always been around me in the form of my interpretation of the world in which I live. It’s hard to recognize it sometimes but it is always there. Art is something I need for ME. Any sharing of that expression with others may be beneficial for them, but even that is for me. I need art. I need it in my life and I need it in my mind. I can’t breathe when I deny myself the opportunity to see the entire world as an active work of artistic creation and expression which is constantly being molded and changed by everything in existence.

We are all artists and creators–making an impact and an expressive change to everything we come in contact with. I think it’s just that many people are afraid to recognize themselves as an artist or a creator. But art is not about any one medium–painting, singing, Crochet–making you money. It is about your willingness to see that you, too, are a creator of worlds simply because you exist in this one.

Choosing to recognize this in myself has been very difficult–and continues to be. But with it comes direction and purpose. It’s not an easy path for sure–but I couldn’t deny it if I wanted to. Trust me, I’ve tried. I don’t have a choice. The severity of my need for creation combined with my great aversion to people, drama, and responsibility over other human lives makes it so my only coping means of creation is self expression onto inanimate mediums. There is no question for me of whether or not I can live this life without art. I live this life as an artist or not at all. To be or not to be may be the question, but for me the answer is art and creation.

To be an artist, in practice, is to be a constant student of the universe. Always seeking a deeper understanding of your medium or purpose or expression. Always becoming a little better, and never putting your discovery on a timeline. I do not wish to master anything, per se, but to continue the spiral of learning, finding more and deeper ways to express the miracles of existence within certain mediums. The mediums are a projection of my inner experience. Truly–I am art and through my expression I am creating myself.

There’s no hurry. The discoveries are infinite. The more I discover about myself and the universe, the more I have to discover. Being an artist isn’t a mountain you suddenly reach the top of and know you’re there and never leaving. Being an artist is 100% about the process of creation. The process is more important than the end–for us. And by focusing on the process and creating for the sake of creation, you assure there is no end to what you can learn to express.