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there is no should

the reality is, it’s hard to write or talk about this sanely and cogently. the reality is, they booby-trapped everything pertaining to abuse, and the closer it is to mind control the more heavily laden it is.

i was talking with my partner about things that trigger us. they have different triggers, and it’s interesting to see the differences and the overlap.

on twitter, the only social network i use, i follow any ritual abuse survivor i can find, providing they don’t trigger me too badly. and talking about abuse, by itself, isn’t the kind of trigger that makes me avoid. there is a certain way of talking about this stuff that i get suspicious of, because i think it is serving our abusers’ needs as much as it is ours. i hesitate to judge others publicly, but privately i do try to be careful about a certain way of talking about this stuff. it’s easier to know it when i see it than it is to describe. usually the focus is on the abusers, the crimes committed, and certain key words tend to be warning flags for me – “sex trafficking”, mention of government code-names for programming projects (don’t particularly feel like making myself searchable by mentioning them by name), “pedophile ring”, stuff like that. and yet, shouldn’t i be proud of people for talking about the stuff that happens? after all, i believe all of it. i don’t think any of it is crazy or kooky or too out there. certain things that i may not believe are possible, such as alien probing, i understand as being traumatic events manipulated by abusers to seem impossible or crazy in order to discredit us. so why don’t i follow people who talk about that stuff?

one part of it is simply my triggers. sometimes i do go read that stuff almost on purpose and i get dazed and strange-feeling. i did that today. i feel closer and farther away, from the world, from my memories. i feel decidedly fake, and i feel strangely attracted, like i want to start getting flooded, like i want to know. i sometimes start having flashes or floods of bits of memories, but i can’t process information well in this state so i don’t think the memories that do come necessarily help our system much. if it were just this, i probably wouldn’t avoid these accounts. in a weird way i like it. and who knows, maybe it does get me closer to things. i don’t know. anyway, it’s part of life. if i avoided this kind of trigger i feel like i’d be avoiding everything.

no, the reason i avoid is that i get this strong sense from inside that these types of diatribes are carefully promoted by our abusers. this isn’t to say i think every survivor that writes in this way is still being controlled by their abusers – in fact, i think it’s never so simple as controlled or not-controlled, and i believe these are genuine survivors that mean well. but my intuition is that the effect of talking about things in this way is primarily to marginalize ourselves in the eyes of the mainstream, to sound like nuts, to sound like conspiracy theorists. the funny thing is that i mostly believe conspiracy theories. not all of them, but certainly most all that i hear about abuses of vulnerable people by those in power. but i know that most people feel a certain way about stuff when things sound too conspiracy-theory. i think that more people who encounter these types of articles will go away not believing in ritual abuse than believing. i don’t mean to say it’s our responsibility to be believable or that we should have to toe any kind of line that is set by the mainstream. but i do think our abusers want us to talk about stuff this way. in fact i think our programmers program us to talk about stuff this way, some of us, or some parts of us. i have compassion for these survivors. but my red flags go off, so i stay away.

my partner was telling me that conspiracy theorists make them feel comfortable and warm, and so they never avoid them like i do. i was telling them that what gets me more than anything is how evil it feels to me to discredit while pretending to support. again, i don’t mean to say it’s only pretense; but i guess when i see it as us being programmed to share certain details in certain ways to discredit ourselves and other survivors, that feels like evil to me. at least on the part of those who program us to do it.

and my partner responded that they think it’s purely evil to conversationally talk about programming techniques to someone in an attempt to perform programming on them. i agreed, and checked with my inside to see how i felt about that; and i realized that i can’t seem to avoid that kind of thing the same way, because it’s so twisted and wrong and just sexy. one person trying to pervert another’s mind, especially in a one-on-one basis, especially for some purpose that has to do with immediate, personal power-over… i just respond to that by getting turned on; and the more evil it is the better. of course that doesn’t mean i go running off to get programmed, it is something i have to deal with and take care of myself about, and i avoid the person in my past that we were both thinking of. but instinctively… i don’t have the same knee-jerk avoidance response, instead i have to fight an attraction. it’s so much easier to avoid the conspiracy theorists because there’s no hook for me there. there’s no feeling of sexiness or comfort, so all i end up reacting to is the evil. the same kind of evil, i think, that characterizes a company like disney, though not as conscious as disney or maybe as egregious.

but anyway, my partner had a very good point, and i was thinking about that today. and i realized that the end result of all the stupid layers and layers and layers of stupid fucking programs they put on us is just that it’s fucking hard to talk about abuse. it’s impossible to talk about it without triggering each other; and it might be impossible to talk about it in ways that don’t serve our abusers. we’re all set up like finely tuned networks to talk about this stuff in ways that trips ourselves and others up. and i do believe that the closer it gets to the mind control and most egregious abuse, the more tripwires. and we all have slightly different ones and slightly different reactions, so that we won’t have a shared language. (maybe this is another reason i react badly to trigger warnings?)

it’s not fair. i want to talk about it without serving their ends. how much i wish it were as easy as breaking the silence. but it’s not. so i mostly compromise by not going into too many details about the aspects of my experience that are specific to being programmed and ritually abused. i talk about my mental illness, but i keep it mostly to talking about stuff that people who were abused in non-organized ways or people that weren’t abused but have mental health problems might relate to. if i just talk about feeling suicidal, and not about the program that got set off that has some part of my system suddenly fantasizing nonstop about a very specific suicide method, i don’t have to perform the same feats of navigation.

there is no way to talk about this stuff without setting each other off; and i don’t even know if there’s a way to talk about it without serving the ends of our abusers. i don’t know what to do with that except say it. i feel angry. i feel futile. i’ll lapse back into silence after saying this most likely; and i haven’t even decided where or if to post it, yet, because i’m scared of repercussions. i’m scared of attracting attention to myself. and i’m scared of unknowingly undermining myself and other survivors.

so i don’t know. maybe i guess i just have to try to cut us all a little slack. i still need to be careful about how i manage my triggers; but even talking about this stuff in ways we are programmed to, at least we’re talking about it? i really don’t know. i have no conclusion. i am just frustrated.

i am thinking this morning about the recovery narrative. i came across an article about it here and it was very timely for me, as yesterday some insiders were telling me i had to be willing to be more broken. “be broken to be whole” was the line running through my head this morning, from the ursula k. leguin translation of the daodejing. even the framing of healing as a “journey” can be problematic, i think.

or, in some ways, the word “healing”, although i have a lot of good associations with that word.

for every kind of trauma disorder, i have only ever encountered professionals who say that a full recovery is possible. i think often they don’t get into the details of what that means. in books for survivors some first-person accounts acknowledge that there will always be triggers, there may never be an end to some things – but the emphasis is generally on the things that do get easier. i don’t think this is completely wrong or completely bad. i have been working to recover for my adult life, and many, many tensions have eased. many symptoms have waned and waned until they are rare. i don’t think it’s wrong to try to make things easier when you can.

but i do think we get trapped in this frame. one thing i love about taoism and buddhism is the emphasis i’ve found on accepting things as they are. there’s a way that feels profoundly right to me, although often that acceptance for me has to take the form of accepting that i can’t accept things. meeting myselves where i am. but the idea of healing can be relentless when wrongly applied. and i think, as a front of the system, i wrongly apply it almost all the time. (of course, i can accept that too. i have reasons for being hard on myself. reasons for thinking i have to measure up.)

there is nothing wrong or flawed about us as survivors, no matter what we are going through, what ways we are suffering and showing our suffering. even when we do hard work in therapy, we can remember that we are enough already. we don’t owe the world our health or functionality. some wounds never heal, some things are just unrealistic to expect, and regardless, it’s not our job. if we can and want to ease our own pain, great, if we can’t but want to ease our pain, have compassion for us, if we don’t want to ease our pain, have compassion for that too. there can be a deep truth in that.

when i was little, i always envied people who got hurt, even if it was only scraping their knee. i never got enough sympathy. i wished something bad would happen to me that would show, that would be understood, that would be accounted for. my mom once accused me of pity being the only thing i wanted in life. in a way she wasn’t far wrong. i think often wanting to be in pain points to the need for a deep pain that is already there to have room to breathe, to have validation.

i don’t have a big destination in mind with this post. it’s a rambling trip, for me, and it’s a constant tension, because things do change, and i do want things to get easier. but it’s all too easy to hold on only to progress, to motion, to goals and ends, and let go the deep deep truth that it’s okay. it’s okay now. it’s okay to not be okay.

and what isn’t okay is to exclude, invalidate, or shame people for being where they are, or making people feel there is a standard they have to measure up to in order to be worthy. even if you allow that standard to exist in the distant future. and we need so very badly to hear that our lives can still be worth living even if this pain persists forever. because in all likelihood, it will.

here’s a thought: what makes a subject you should trigger warn? no really, what makes you decide?

twice i’ve seen people explicitly mention things they didn’t expect a trigger warning for: teddy bears and oranges. they were both people who were in favor of trigger warnings, and both said something like, “don’t be ridiculous. no one expects this to be warned about. that would be going too far.”

why on earth is THAT going too far? why is it okay to warn people that rape might be mentioned but not teddy bears? or oranges? or patronizing? or an angry tone? or flame wars? or paperclips? or yelling? or manipulation? or framing the discourse? or erasure? or spirituality? or hypnotism? or pets?

i know it seems like common sense, beyond dispute. but really, think about it. what makes you say that? what exactly makes you draw that line? in fact, what makes you feel like it’s common sense, like it’s easy to determine?

i think it’s about which forms of violence are comfortable. i think it’s about society’s understanding of safety, violence, and power. i think the power structure will always have the most say over what gets warned about and what doesn’t. and i think that the more marginalized a group of people are, the less likely their triggers are to be warned about.

many, if not most, people believe that ritual abuse doesn’t happen. and only in communities specifically created for multiples or ritual abuse survivors have i ever heard it suggested that religion be trigger warned.

i think some people will say that some triggers are more universal – that it’s pretty uncommon to be triggered by oranges or green peppers (both things i’ve heard of that actually are very difficult triggers for a couple of folks). and i agree it’s probably true. but i also think that some common things are just hidden, not talked about, and regardless i think it’s unfair and impossible to draw a line. why is it more valid to be warned about something because it would trigger other people as well? some things don’t work well with majority rule. i think this is one of them. think about how other-izing it is to know that your most difficult issues are not seen as worth tiptoeing around, when others’ do get the tiptoe treatment. we already feel outside, worthless, alone, abandoned a million times a day.

i also think it’s worth thinking about what categories of triggers seem worth a warning. why is it only concepts and not rhetorical devices? for instance, why does it make sense to warn someone you’re going to mention feeling suicidal, but not warn someone that you’re going to chew a person out? why is one called tone policing and the other called helping survivors?

to be clear, i don’t believe tone policing is a good idea, and i don’t think that certain tones should have to be warned about. but i’m confused why it’s somehow more okay to condemn someone to suffering because they are triggered by anger or criticism than because they are triggered by rape.

trigger warnings have become more and more widespread recently, i’ve noticed. i find myself so conflicted over this issue. people i highly respect are adamantly in favor of them; to them it is an accessibility issue. the idea being that people with PTSD deserve to occupy public space without getting triggered without warning, since being triggered can be a huge, rotten deal.

i guess i should start with what a trigger warning is? basically, it’s a warning to be put on links to articles, articles themselves, or mentions of media, that could potentially be triggering to some people. so saying that something contains mention of rape, for example. so that people can, in theory, choose whether or not to expose themselves to something that could exacerbate their PTSD symptoms. and many people feel it discriminates against people with conditions like PTSD (or DID? i only ever hear PTSD mentioned, but presume it has to do with that general umbrella of trauma-caused stuff.)

i do understand the impulse here. getting triggered can be devastating, can ruin an hour or a day or a week, can make it impossible to avoid a harmful coping mechanism. i have certainly had all these ill-effects from being triggered. at worst, being triggered can make it much harder to avoid suicide. i mean, it’s tough for me to define “trigger”, because my conditioning and programming and responses thereof are certainly what have caused me to cut, to try to die, to seek self-harm-by-proxy, and i could go on. but for me there has never been a “would have been” – i could never tease out how getting drawn into flashbacks or triggers on an individual occasion might have affected anything, because i exist in a constant state of varying levels of “being triggered”. relationships trigger me, interactions trigger me, waking up in the morning triggers me, and yes, sometimes encountering certain stories or opinions triggers me. (a big trigger is encountering trigger warnings, actually.)

and i can see how easy it is to conflate the triggerer with the trigger – after all, the state of mind we are unwillingly sent into is distraught, young, fragmented, and may be incapable of perceiving complexities. our inside kids typically think that someone who triggered us “hates” us – just because they lack the capacity to discern what is from outside and what is from inside, what is from the past and what is from the present, if that were even possible to tell apart. and it feels so real. it feels like the person who triggered us must have done so intentionally, must want us to feel that way – must either not understand the hell we are experiencing, or want us to experience it. it can feel like they lack compassion.

but the reality of trigger warnings for me are that i feel erased, silenced, ignored, irrelevant, and futile when i encounter them or rules about using them. i’ve been trying for months to think of a way to articulate my feelings about them. i want to be open to the needs of others, clear about my emotional reality, own my feelings rather than ascribing them to others, and also not minimize the ways i am being silenced. i’ll never write a perfect post, one that marshals all my arguments neatly and does honor to my and others’ pain at the same time. maybe i can only do passes at it, maybe i can only keep talking and trying over and over.

i could talk about the value i’ve found in getting triggered. and i have. but really that’s irrelevant, because the virtue in getting triggered is not a chosen one. i don’t have the luxury of avoiding my triggers. i have never been able to choose to keep my functionality or tranquility or peace of mind; i do not go through a day where i am not battered through logjams of triggers. my abuse was extreme, took my entire childhood, fucked with all my attachments, and on top of that was deliberately woven in to the fabric of everyday life.  so if “common” triggers such as sexual or physical violence are warned about, nothing changes for me. i’m still likely to be launched into flashbacks, body memories, programmed urges, and sudden emotional storms. it doesn’t really matter whether getting triggered makes me stronger or not.  and i certainly don’t think that we all should try to be as strong as possible at every opportunity. my vision of healing doesn’t involve that kind of harshness. i don’t think there’s anything shameful or lesser about avoiding our issues sometimes, when we can. but i do wish it was acknowledged that not everyone can have that choice.

my deepest concern about trigger warnings lies in the tension between what can be warned against and what can’t, i think. i think people may not realize how much it shapes our discourse, our thoughts, our stigmas, and what we’re tolerant of, when we say that some triggers deserve a warning and some don’t. people say that even though we can’t warn against every possible trigger, we can help survivors by using a sort of wide net to catch as many of them as we can. that it’s better than nothing, that it hurts no one.  but to me, this is still a way of saying that some people deserve to be more comfortable than others, because their issues are more normal, sane, or predictable. it says: you deserve to be taken care of, to be treated gently, to be accommodated, if you react to things that we all understand. it says that it’s more okay to react to situations than less tangible things; for example, certain emotions.  i think it would be very helpful for me to know in advance when people were going to be angry, exclusionary, or judgmental. but i can’t imagine these same social justice activist say “warning: people or their behaviors are harshly criticized in this post.”   and i don’t, realistically, think they should have to. to me, asking for trigger warnings for some of my triggers would amount to tone policing of a kind, and i don’t want to be a part of that. but it would certainly make things easier if i could be forewarned about that kind of thing.

when i was in the hospital, we weren’t allowed to talk about trauma or other triggering topics except alone with staff; we were not allowed to share our experience with the people who could relate to it. and it was very much about who felt comfortable asking for their triggers to be avoided – we weren’t allowed to mention mothers in one particular stay, because another patient asked for that. during a group that was for sharing positive affirmations or something like that, another patient said “god put me here for a reason.” i was immensely triggered; it was something that had been said to me by my abusers. the reason they said i was put on this earth was to be traumatized by them. religion is generally not something that people use trigger warnings for, in mainstream environments. some people may be willing to, but i don’t think it will ever be as mainstream as using a trigger warning for sexual abuse or self-harm. and i think that is exactly in proportion to the degree the different kinds of trauma are invalidated by society.

i’ve seen a criticism that trigger warnings amount to censorship; i don’t think it’s that simple. but i do think it’s naive to think that trigger warnings never change the landscape of what is said, and what has a platform. for many survivors, it’s very hard to talk about our experiences even in the most supportive of environments. having to warn that our stories and our realities may trigger others is often enough to shut down the little courage we were able to muster. it’s saying that our stories are harmful to others; our abusers certainly told us that no one would want to listen to us. and it does reduce the amount of people who might hear our story, even if only driving away the people who can relate, but don’t want to be triggered. but i think it drives away more than that. i think it controls what venues you get. i think if you only ever say things that are considered “triggering” (which has everything to do with what triggers are normalized), then you’re much less likely to be able to build or reach an audience. i’ve never had much of an audience to begin with, so maybe i don’t know the ins and outs of this. but it certainly is related to my triggers and issues and the things i would have to say, that i don’t get a chance to build an audience. i’m scared even of normal interactions, but when i think that what i have to say might hurt people, that’s enough to make me not speak up.

and i know that trigger warnings aren’t supposed to be associated with words being bad, or not worth reading, or harmful. but i don’t think that’s realistic, to think that they won’t define the landscape in those ways, that connotations won’t start to creep in. there’s a movie rating system already, and to me trigger warnings aren’t that different. and there’s a history of marginalized ideas being given more adult ratings and therefore not having as much of a reach. our story is marginalized, and certainly we could never tell much about our life without encountering subject matter that would need to be trigger warned. i think it’s disingenuous to say there’s no value judgments at play here.

i’m losing track of some of my thoughts, and i know i won’t be able to make all the points i need to. but that’s okay; i can come back to it. i want to say that there is a reason the only people who speak out against trigger warnings and get much of a voice about it tend to not be people who are actually harmed by trigger warnings.

when i encounter a trigger warning, it’s another little reminder that my experience is other, is something other people will protect themselves from; if i can relate to a story that is trigger warned, i feel a little more hopelessness or depression or loneliness on top of my other reactions to the story.

when i take the time to think deeply about this issue, i can’t help but think that something truly revolutionary and accommodating would be to make space for survivors to be triggered. space to talk about being triggered. to offer us empathy and respect and support when we are stuck. can you imagine if someone breaking down in public were treated gently and kindly? if it was acceptable to be emotional and to talk about our emotions without being shamed and stigmatized for it? if someone being triggered into a younger self, or a self who can’t talk, or an angry self, were accepted and normalized? i like to think about ways that could work. i think they’d involve a lot more, and more healing, changes to society than the non-change of quarantining certain realities that make most people uncomfortable (not just survivors.)

trigger warnings are not value neutral. they are not easy for everyone to use, and they are not always painless to encounter. i understand, and try to have compassion for, the impulse behind them; i even use them because i am scared to hurt people (more often, i keep silent; but if i do summon up the courage to tell a hard story and want to share it to my twitter, i will put a warning on the link because i am scared to do the wrong thing and know that some people who may follow me expect  to see these used, though i never do so without conflict; hence the usual silence.)

survivors deserve to be accommodated, to be cared about, to be treated with care and support. we deserve to matter. there’s no one answer for what can help us, and i can respect that in some spaces trigger warnings can do more good than harm or may be the most practical PTSD accommdation (after all, they don’t involve changing much). i just want to challenge the voices i hear all over the place that say that trigger warnings are easy, painless, help and do not harm survivors, and that only privilege could make someone object to trigger warnings.

there is so much more about this than i can say.

note: violence employed for rhetoric effect


So I was talking to someone about my anxiety, and how it makes it so I often can’t sleep, or think clearly, or leave my apartment, or pay bills on time or any number of things that make my life difficult.  and he said “I get anxious too.  I just get past it and do all those things anyway”.  So I thought “Great!” and that night I broke into his apartment with a huge fake knife and woke him up with it inches from his face, after having slipped something in his drink to make him hallucinate.  and he freaks out and calls the police and says I’m crazy and I scared him half to death. and it wasn’t even his real dead cat I was holding it was just a fake I made so I don’t know what all the fuss is about.  Then he got a new security system, even though I explained the blade wasn’t real and the “blood” was just sugar water, so he wasn’t even in any real danger.  But now he says he can’t even go near me, and he won’t let his cat near me, even without a knife.  Which was weird, because it wasn’t half as scary as the stuff inside my head everyday.  I guess maybe I did it wrong.  Because he didn’t get past it at all, especially if this note from his attorney is real.  So I’m thinking next time I’ll leap out from behind his desk when he gets to work with a chainsaw and a replica of his boss’ head.  Unless the note is real, then I’ll have to get someone else to do it for me.

wow, an update is overdue, because not only has my life undergone significant changes, but they have so many implications that would be perfect for this blog. i’m going to muddle through talking about them. i have a feeling i’ll either not make points clearly or leave stuff out, so i’m going to go with not making points clearly, since i want to talk about everything that has happened. i can go into more detail later.

so, in june i was laid off. turned out i didn’t need to worry about using up too much of that health benefit, because they only employed me four months after that happened. so i would have many other problems long before i ran out of health care.

i was upset. there was no notice, and a little severance. but i could frugally live for a couple of months on unemployment if i needed to (my rent is almost above my means, for reasons i won’t go into but aren’t my fault. not that i think anything should be about fault). so i was freaked out, like anyone would be. but i tried to deal. as i tried to live in the between time, circumstances brewed and thickened and got messy. as they will do.

unemployment wants you to contact three employers a week. that probably feels conservative to many people, although as it drags on i know it becomes difficult to turn up jobs to apply for or new companies to ask. my field is narrow, so i did have that problem somewhat. but i did apply to some places right away. i’m lucky enough to have a resume that seemed interesting enough to respond to (graduate degree and two years of experience and one internship. a little narrow, but acceptable). and it was hard, forcing myself every week to contact people i didn’t know. my social anxiety had become more or less manageable at my old job, but it was dealing with people i was used to, the same people every week. contacting new people put an unevenly large burden on me, because of my disability. and it was weird – should i even be on unemployment? i’m marginally employable. i was technically certifying that i was able to work full-time in order to get my benefits (which were a percentage of what i had earned being part-time, so… confusing.) i hadn’t worked full-time. was i even allowed to claim it? and all the jobs in my industry were full-time jobs.

so that was the first crack i had to struggle out of falling into. being employable part-time, you’re not truly eligible for unemployment or disability. technically i’m disabled, but in order to get anything to live on, even a percent, i’d have to be completely incapable of any sort of work at all. and i did ok at my old job! it wasn’t perfect, but i liked it!

i started to get responses. phone interviews. phone screen interviews, actually, where i had to answer technical questions that were tangentially related to my field. my field is interdisciplinary, so we can say it consists of field a and field b. i have lots of confidence and experience with field b, which makes me quite an asset. field a, i’m decent in, but i’m no rock star; i tend to warm up to my duties. the interview process for these interdisciplinary jobs were exclusively for field a, even though the jobs were absolutely in the interdisciplinary area i trained in. with only one exception. so, i have performance anxiety, social anxiety, and a host of other fears and hurdles clamoring at me when i even scheduled the phone screens. after the first one, i immediately became suicidal. i self-harmed. i got through to my therapist and talked for forty-five minutes.

and that was the first of two phone interviews, for that job alone.

so, here’s another crack i was falling through. i’m pretty good on the job, but interviews don’t actually produce a fair assessment of me. i can barely think because of my panic; it’s a pressure situation. even non-disabled people get panic at interviews – actually, because of that, i don’t know that many people understood what i was actually going through. because people think “oh; this i get; i’ve been there. if i could get through it, so could they.” no! actually, this stress means that i have to deal with spike in anxiety that are damn near prohibitive. i hide it pretty well; i seem to be nervous about an average amount. but inside, i cannot really begin to describe the depths of the reactions i am going through.

i got through all the phone screens i did. i got some in-person interviews. mostly they were for many hours. i thought about asking for an accommodation to break them up into different days, so i would have to try to be on for five hours at a time, but i didn’t want to risk disclosure. i also didn’t want to be freaking out and having to psych myself up for days in a row. plus, they would think that i certainly couldn’t do a full-time job if i couldn’t do an all-day interview. despite the fact that an interview presents all kind of stress not normally present in a job.

i’m going on longer than i meant to. i guess it’s a little therapeutic to rant a bit.

in the end, i faked it ok (spending hundreds of dollars i didn’t have because i was unemployed on extra therapy to help me get through it. i’m talking four, six hours a week, which isn’t counting the phone calls and emails that my therapists were kind enough to give me without charge.) for some at least. i didn’t get offered a job at any of the major companies, but i did get offered two jobs. there was a really stressful period of waiting to find out about three jobs at once, which was hard, but manageable. then there was having to choose between two quite different jobs, and feeling terrified of making the wrong choice. you can’t change your mind. you can’t start and say “oops this isn’t working out i want to do the other one.”

through this whole process, i kept thinking: my life will settle down once i have the job. i know i am competent. it’s a step up to work full-time, but if i don’t i really have no options. i’ll be all right. i just have to get there. i just have to get the job.

and it’s a damn good thing, because if i had really been cognizant of what it would be like when i started, i don’t think i would have been able to get the job. it was enough, more than enough, too much, just to focus on getting a job. especially at the breakneck pace required by unemployment.

i chose a job. i chose it partly because the commute would be much less, and i was definitely worried about my stress levels. i started the job.

well, it would be difficult to convey how much worse my mental status got. it was definitely a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. for many reasons. some of them are adjustments and will get easier. some of them have to do with working full-time when i have pain, fatigue, and stamina trouble from my fibromyalgia as well as my anxiety. and because of a trigger related to childhood abuse, i’m also breaking a rule drilled into me: don’t be a success. so i got flung into the worst depressive episode i’ve had in years.

and i’m residing in the third crack now. i’m not really coping. i need many accommodations (some of which i was finally able to ask for. and to their credit, my work has been really great about it.) i spend hours when i’m “on the clock” feeling guilty, trying to concentrate, trying to talk myself out of constant panic. there are a ton of factors in play and i’m working on them aggressively in therapy. i have to, because otherwise i would fall through the cracks. i work feverishly when i can because i feel bad about not being able to some of the time. i even spend more than eight hours trying to work, because i feel guilty for having trouble concentrating. i feel indebted, like i have to provide a good value for my employer. and i think i am, because in the brief moments of productivity, i get a lot more done than the average person. but it is absolute hell.

the simple reality is i’m not actually well enough to do this job. it’s taking a toll on my health.  if the extra therapy doesn’t help, i’ll eventually lose my job, although it would probably take a long time and i’d probably wind up in the hospital or dead before i actually lost it. because i do get some done, and i hide well, and for the most part i’m faking my way through and paying with constant misery.

i’m writing this at work, in a fog of guilt, checking back on my projects that are running through calculations in the meantime.

i’m still one of the lucky ones, because i faked it enough to secure stability. it’s entirely contingent on me doing something that it doesn’t feel like i can do, but i don’t really have options, so i’m banking on it getting easier and me getting better at dealing with it. i’m scared to spend the new money i’m making, because i’m scared this will go away. and i’m really fucking lucky. because i have a roof and a job and a dishwasher and a status. if i hadn’t struggled past the cracks i tried to fall into, i would have been flung in a probably slow, torturous decline to the point of homelessness, at which point the stress might have made me crazy enough to actually get disability benefits – though i don’t know, it’s notoriously hard to get when you have an advanced degree, and they declared me fit to work a few years ago – after which i eventually did work. so i’d probably have to have multiple involuntary hospitalizations for them to even consider it. it would be hell. i’m still terrified of that happening, even though i’ll probably be ok. but i never forget that many, many others do not have the resources and support to struggle into something the way i did.

i think i’ve miss Blogging Against Disablism Day for the past two (three?) years, due to being overwhelmed or just not realizing. but perhaps i could chime in this year.

there’s a lot i could talk about, both wins and frustrations. i managed to get my degree two springs ago, and found a part-time job shortly after that. i’ve been fortunate enough to remain with this company for both years, though it has been a struggle at times. i went to the hospital for a few weeks during the first year i was working, but had to cut my visit short when my work threatened to let me go if i did not return. the FMLA, which would have covered me for several more weeks, doesn’t kick in within the first year of employment. i’ve managed to get a few accommodations, like setting my own hours within certain parameters, and working from home three days a week – not easy to negotiate for someone with severe social anxiety. i know i am one of the lucky ones. but i also know that i shouldn’t have to consider myself lucky. the accommodations i have gotten, the bare minimum to allow me to pour far more energy and effort into work than my co-workers, for far less compensation, should be – well – a minimum for everyone. to feel “fortunate”, i should be able to get a lot more.

i think probably the most important issue i could write about right now would be how to treat part-time workers fairly. no industry is super-great to part-time workers, but the software industry is notorious for requiring very, very long hours out of its employees. i have pain, fatigue, anxiety, and depression that make full-time work impossible. it requires many hours of prep for me to get a short workday under my belt. i am exhausted by the end of my six hours – really, i start to get exhausted after three hours (and that is more than i used to have.) but i have to push through, because even if my company would allow me to work even fewer hours, i wouldn’t be able to afford my massive student loans (so high in part from so many medical withdrawals when i was in school) and health care costs. i spend hundreds of dollars a month on health care, on top of my $300 insurance premium. and i am most definitely one of the lucky ones.

when my company told me they wanted to hire me as a permanent employee, i told them i could only work 30 hours per week and negotiated salary and benefits. about a year and a half later, their lawyers and them suddenly decided they couldn’t provide benefits to a part-time employee. they were afraid that if they hired other part-time workers, they’d have to provide them insurance. covering their butt became more important than providing an extremely valuable employee with the benefits that every other employee enjoys. i tried hard to negotiate benefits, but was given no options. because our company was undergoing reorganization and actually i was technically fired by the first company and re-hired by a split-off smaller company, i was able to get access to COBRA, which is a program designed to provide people with continued health care coverage in the event of  termination or disability.

in order to have health care coverage, i have to use a program that was really not designed for my situation. it was designed to be a safety net if something happened that caused me to not be able to work. and given my disability, that’s a very real possibility. but if that does happen, i’ll just be screwed. and i’ll be screwed in 15 months when my COBRA benefits end, anyway.

i did tell my employer that in order to minimize the possibility of me becoming disabled again, i’d have to have more accommodations – an extra day a week working from home, and being allowed to work during times when others aren’t working – both helpful for my social anxiety. due to my early-morning insomnia, i now work from 5 am to 11 or 12 pm most days. (i just have to keep working until everyone else goes to lunch.) it has helped enormously and my stress is lower than it has been in a long time. i’m using the extra energy to devote extra time to therapy, because the clock is ticking down… if i can’t manage to start working full-time in the next 15 months, i will have no health care. which, of course, i need due to my disabilities, and use far more than my co-workers, i’m sure. oh, and another bombshell revealed during the negotiations? my company considers full-time to be 45 hours. this is what they are basing my salary on. and it’s all completely legal for them, even with the ADA.

and i have no options. it’s doubtful i could even find another job in my subfield of a subfield that would take on someone who needs to work part-time. i see a lot of positions, all full-time. there are enough applicants that it would be pretty easy to weed someone out who couldn’t even work all hours, even if that isn’t legal to do.

i also know that i have slim-to-none chances of promotion. i’ve been on the team longer than some others, and know our codebase intimately, but i am still considered the most junior member of the team – because i’m part-time.

i’m one of the lucky ones. but i shouldn’t be. this story shouldn’t say i am lucky. it should be the exception to be treated so poorly. if only the corporate world realized how much they were missing out on by shafting their part-time employees (or refusing to take them on at all.) by being just flexible enough, my company is getting a great deal on an extremely effective employee. and they have more security with me because there are so few places that would hire me. the other companies are missing out. imagine the creative, interesting, and thoughtful work that could be produced if people with stamina limitations could have full and equal access to the workplace.

it’s their loss. but we are the ones who really have to pay for it.

us vs. them enables abuse.

every time the idea is rejected that so-and-so could abuse someone, the environment of abuse is nurtured and helped along. even if that person is you. even if that person is me. even if that person has never harmed a hair on any head or any insect or bacteria. every time we decide that we are fundamentally different, that we are better, we deny the chance for a path from abuser to non-abuser. every time we deny community to someone based on this line in the sand, we help build the walls that keep children trapped.

i wish i could find a way to really articulate the difference between personal safety, personal integrity, personal boundaries; and the lumping of people into groups. i think the reason we have to have a “them” is so that we can have boundaries and protect ourselves from others. by doing that, we are accepting the idea that we are not allowed to have boundaries. by saying we allow ourselves boundaries because person x has done something unforgivable, we are saying that we would not be allowed to have boundaries if person x had done nothing.

words feel stubborn, my anger feels headachey. i want to articulate that i am on your side, that there is no side, that i believe you should be able to experience fulfillment and growth and personal integrity and space and peace. i believe that you have a right to choose who you spend time with, who you spend your energy on, who you extend your arms to. and your gut should matter. my gut has steered me away from people before.

i don’t think the protection of us vs them is a protection at all. i think that every time we draw that line, we are trapping ourselves in with those who would do us harm. if we decided to rest in an in-group, to open only among those who were qualifying members, to define the in-group as those who have not done harm, then what do we do when harm is done? do we kick them out? but then are we all one mis-step away from total exclusion? or do we pretend that harm wasn’t done, that this harm is different, that we can tolerate it and that the harmer is to be protected? i think it almost always falls the second way.

i was abused by people who were abused. we are all trapped in a culture that supports and glorifies abuse. we are trapped in a system oiled by power-over and harm to others and ill will. none of us have escaped harming others. by drawing lines, we support this culture that has hurt us all so horribly.

and by saying that i don’t want to draw a line, i am not saying that you don’t get to be angry. that you don’t get to defend yourself. that you don’t get to have space and that your heart doesn’t deserve to flower. i am saying it is my fervent wish and belief that all that can happen without a line. that we are allowed to feel hurt, full stop. that we are allowed to be.

Our body is in so much pain yesterday and today. We are trying to accept that it is where we are, and not judge ourselves harshly for it. We are trying to remember that it doesn’t change our worth or qualities.

What it does mean is that we are forced to slow down and take care of ourselves. Sometimes we don’t do a very good job at that.

But that’s okay. It’s all a journey. It’s all about learning what works for us and what doesn’t. As long as we accept and have compassion for ourselves, that is. If we fight against it, it just gets worse.

So we are in pain. And our activist contribution is to let that be okay. Hopefully, that in turn will inspire others to let wherever they are be okay. Hopefully.

well, this blog hasn’t had a whole lot of updates, especially from me, mainly because we get stressed out trying to write. and i’m overwhelmed now, too. but hey, maybe if i close my eyes and click my heels it’ll all go away:

ignore your stress says lifehacker. or someone.

i come across these kinds of articles on a daily basis. someone in my system is attracted to productivity porn, and sometimes we do learn something… very little, though. mostly we wade through ableist crap with catchy titles, day in and day out, of people accepting the status quo and thinking that makes them any kind of “hacker”. i could offer a handful of similar links.

these articles about stress or mind or emotions or anything like that always seem to manage to miss the point entirely. i guess they are trying to stay true to their mission of “hacking” life, but honestly, there are a lot of lifehacks i use relating to emotions that aren’t so ridiculous. for example, when i am having trouble of any sort, feeling irritation, have any inkling of pressure, i stop and check inside to see if anyone is upset or resisting. usually (ok always) there is, and sometimes there’s something simple i can do for them. like stop reading an article or book. or telling twitter that i’m having a hard time. or any number of things.

but seeing stress as a positive thing is not a hack. it is a way to run out of adrenaline. it is a way to compound problems by allowing them to thrive and breed while you look the other way. and the people who ignore their own problems self-report that they have less problems! so it’s win-win!

i could go on. if i had the energy and the coherency. but i don’t.