A sprinkling of Grace

in the eye of the storm she sits 

Doubt threatens to steal her breath

What if your dreams never come to pass 

What if the light you had grows dimmer by the day shaded from hurt

What if all the things you thought you were are but mere fantasy

What if builds a prison keeping her trapped there in the eye. 

She closes her eyes and tears fall. 

Reaching out her hands looking for another to hold, but no comfort is found in their touch 

So she holds herself. Which is what she was always meant to do in this moment. 

She wraps her arms around herself and cries as she begins to sing. 

She sings a broken song through sobs and salt water. A song she only just now knows the words to. 

And she rocks herself to the place that feels better than sleep: contentment. 

Laying on her right side she curls into herself and makes a promise 

Everything is going to be alright. 

And she believes it with her whole heart. 

It is the pillow she rests her head on while the madness continues to swirl around her. 

She may only have it for a moment, a breath or two, but while she has it 

She is thankful for even just a sprinkling of grace. 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I’ve googled the words. I’ve read articles and looked at Pinterest pins to see how other sexual assault survivors with PTSD were managing. I found a bit of solace when I realized my nervousness, panic attacks, fear, startle response, aversion to loud noises and long periods of social engagement were par for the course. It does not, however, help any of these symptoms subside. 

The last three days my next door neighbors have been tearing their place apart. At least that’s what it sounds like. Banging and knocking from morning to night as they remodeled or cleaned or whatever it is they are doing. And with each loud and unexpected clang I bit my jaw until it was sore. Scars on my arms and legs from nervous scratching. A growling stomach from hunger I’m too anxious to attend to. Decision after decision to have to make when all I want is the noise to stop and to feel safe. But nothing helps. 

I sleep right in front of my fan bundled up in blankets and surrounded by pillows to swaddle myself. It works until I wake up sweating and shaking. In need of medication to ease the panic I always try to wait it out a bit. My medicine is non habit forming yet I’m aware of drug dependencies. I stretch the time until I can’t take it anymore and I succumb to my daily dosage of semi peace. 

To deal with the banging, to keep from jumping out of my skin and to get out of my bed, I get high. It calms me. Perhaps not the best solution. But it’s all I can do to just make it through the moments. I’ve cried so much I could drown in my tears had they not evaporated first. Skin hot. Right. My muscles always ache. Feeling as though I’ve run a marathon. Constantly tired as my body expends copious amounts of energy preparing for and fumbling through the one socially engaging activity I give myself a day just to feel normal. Only to come home exhausted and bundle myself in the heavy weight of the only comfort I can offer myself. 

I’m sad. I’m becoming more bitter. I’m lonely. And a loneliness that can’t simply be solved with company. It’s a loneliness that just feels like I’ve lost my way home because home isn’t there anymore. Have you ever just wanted to feel good but no matter what you try nothing helps? So you setting for feeling nothing. I’d rather be numb than kayaking through my bedroom River of sadness as I draw blood from my jaw each time a clang or bang shakes my wall.

Trying so badly to stay present but that’s where it hurts the worst. I just wish and pray pray and wish for comfort. Please God? 

Onward

I had a dream I lost my car keys. Retracing my steps to find where they were I was still unable to locate the original set, but I did find my spare. Frustrated about losing my keyless entry, I griped on how difficult using my spare would be. Then I woke up. When I looked up the dream it said keys were about power and car keys were about moving forward and making progress. I took that to mean I’d lost my power and my ability to move forward. I had a spare so I could still access my power and be mobile it was just going to be more difficult than it would have been previously. 

Which is exactly what I discussed in therapy this week. That and the idea of yet again having to appraise myself. Let me back up a bit…so obviously the loss of power alludes to the rape, but my therapist helped me to reframe it a bit. I explained to him that I’d just watched Orange Is The New Black and watched Pensatucky “accept” her assault quietly with just chilling stillness and a single tear. Watching the scene, I told him, was like watching me. I cried about that for two hours. One hour before therapy and all throughout. I told him about my feeling like an air nomad: all defense no offense, not one to anger, and anything to keep peace. He reminded me that even in my choice to remain still and remain silent it was still a choice and not to let myself believe I was powerless or weak. It was a decision I actively made about my survival in that moment. Which may seem like the same problem I’ve been struggling with for a while, but it was a shift for me…he then asked me if I felt betrayed by my fire side (the opposite of air). 

Sidebar, I love that my therapist has seen and can allude to Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. I told him he’s my tribe. 

I told him no at the time. But after thinking about it, I did access my fire. That is actually what ended the assault. My temperament changed and I fought him off of me and put myself in a corner ready to defend myself if needed. I spoke firmly and assertively telling him I was done. He listened. Dr. D says that rape is often described as happening both fast and slow at the same time. I can agree to that. Perhaps I can have a bit of grace with myself knowing that when I needed my fire, it was there. 
Next to the appraisal…I explained that it went back to my father. Constantly trying to be in his favor and repeatedly falling short. He says he loves me. Loved me. I never felt it. What I felt was not good enough for his attention. Real attention. Not just money, not just a quick fix to a problem, not sending me shopping with a step mom but for him to take real interest in my life. What I used to feel was that I wasn’t worth it. I worked for years to tell myself a different story until it finally stuck that I was full of value and he was simply missing out. Then I was sexually assaulted. It came after a year of sexual trysts triggered by the ending of a very significant relationship (P2AD). All that year I just wanted to feel wanted because I’d felt so discarded by him. Once again questioning my value as a woman I looked to other men to help me assess my worth. Of course that did not work and ultimately the behavior led to me meeting my rapist and being sexually assaulted by him. 

All the things I prided myself on being: intelligent, creative, a good friend, a great listener, pretty, sexually liberated, hell and Southern, I lost them all. Or I felt I did. My inability to perform at work and at school made me question my worth. My poor choices with men made me wonder if my sexual liberation was really just a desperate girl seeking validation, anxiety stole my ability to listen and focus and many of my friendships were affected by my new need to focus more on me. And the southern thing…having to file for FMLA meant no more Georgia residence, I’m officially a Californian. 

What I’m working towards reconciling is that all the things I thought/think I lost are not gone forever. Some are temporary, like those things affected by my panic attacks. Some, like my Southern identity, cannot be taken away. And some, like my sexual freedom, are still in flux. What I can say is that I am working my ass off to be better the right way. Acknowledging that “right” is simply the way that feels most authentic for me. I am crying when I need to. I am presently in a ball, muscles tight and in pain from an attack that I’m just trying to breathe through. I am falling apart daily and finding ways to put myself together again enough to get to tomorrow. 

I know I have power. I know I have value. I know that right now I’m relearning how to make sense of both. What are the things that make me strong? What are the things that make me priceless? What are the things that make me Me? Dr. D said after the roughest patch with my dad I defined myself in specific ways and that the rape attacked that foundation. It was an accurate summary of how I felt. How I feel. But what he urged me to consider was how much of that foundation was actually lost? 

I am still writing. I am still sharing. I may not be a friend in the way I was before, but I am still compassionate, fun, a good listener, and accepting. I am still intelligent. I am still creative. In fact I have new perspective on so much now, especially things that relate to the feminine. I am still me. Even when I don’t feel like me. I patiently await the day when I don’t feel so all over the place. When I integrate. Until then…Onward. 

Mental

When I was working as a counselor, my favorite clients were the ones who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder and  schizophrenia because they were always the most expressive and artistic clients I had, especially when they were going through medicine transitions or changes with their psychiatrists. The description of mental or physiological states of being were described in poems or through song lyrics. As I reflect on them I can see that much of why I enjoyed working with them is because they spoke my language. 
Similarly, my work with these clients catalyzed my disdain with psychotropic medication. Why were we suppressing the creators of such beautiful artistic expression? What could we be getting from them if we were not sedating them into such flat affects? I recognize that is not the point of their medication, however it is what I would see happen sometimes once their meds were stabilized. Selfishly I wanted them back in raw form, never mind the fact that in such a state they might be a danger to themselves. The Shiva in me was okay with risking destruction for the possibility of beautiful creation. 

When I talked to my psychiatrist about my own medication, it was a fear I had. That I would lose the true voice in my writing if I were not clean of the pills. I suffered through the sweats and nervous shaking, constant doubt, crying and flashbacks just to be able to write my dissertation from my familiar headspace. On the day of my defense, I didn’t take my “in case of emergency” pill which had been added to my daily regiment. I wanted a sense of true presence even if it meant I fell apart. I did end up crying three times that day. 

Now as I work with my doctors to lower my dosages and lower my anxiety, I feel trapped in the limbo of having deep beautiful thoughts and being too anxious to do anything with them. The paradox upsets me. It is such a tourment to feel glimpses of beauty yet have no real way to step into it fully. To embody it. The dance exhausts me and makes me cry, longing for just a few months ago when creativity was my resting place. 

Art is my freedom. And lately even with writing, the cost is so high to produce it I question the value of the entire process. But somewhere deep down at the core of me I can hear my Brahma assuring me that words written through shakes and tears are still worth writing. 

I worry constantly about over exposure. Am I saying too much? Being too open, as if there was such a thing. I try to tell myself to listen to my intuition and trust myself. It’s harder to do when you feel so scattered. Like a deck of cards thrown up in the air scattering the floor one at a time. I’m a full deck but I’m a mess. 

What does pain look like? 

Reading about the formation of pearls, an irritant gets in between the mantle–the organ which produces growth of the shell–and the shell itself. It is akin to getting a splinter, something has gotten under your skin. And the oyster basically begins to grow a new shell around the irritant resulting a pearl. Something beautiful from something painful. 

After breakfast with my mentor I was left pondering my own splinter. It was offered that while open and vulnerable and expressive via this medium, I was not always as receptive to such connection in person. It was something I’d heard before. People expressing to me that after reading my blog(s) and meeting me, that I was much different in person. One persons even called me cold. It bothered me then, but perhaps I was not so ripe to begin the process of pearl making at those times. 

I’ve found myself being more open than ever with my life and life experiences, and yet if anyone were to ever approach me to have a conversation about something I’ve written, I would be terribly apprehensive. I though that maybe it was because when I was a kid I was constantly called too sensitive and learned to lock my emotions up tightly. But the truth is I’m just scared. 

I’m afraid of crying in front of people who may or may not offer me comfort. I’m afraid of reaching out my hand for connection to be met with nothing in return. I’m afraid of becoming too dependent on someone who may leave. I’m afraid of losing me in we. I’m afraid that I’m not as good as I’ve written myself out to be and that I’ll be a disappointment. I’m afraid that even after bearing my soul someone will look at it and realize I’m not what they wanted after all. That’s what naked honesty gets you. That’s what vulnerability gets you. 

And I can say logically, what if the oyster so feared sand irritants that he never opened his mouth? We would have no pearls, but also the oyster would die. He would not grow, and he would starve. So I mustn’t be like the scared oyster and I have to take a chance on exposing myself! 

Easier said than done. 

I take my mentors offering as my grain of sand. Right now it’s just irritating the shit out of me. But deep down I recognize that as an artist, I want to be congruent with my art. And as someone who wants to help others step into their best selves, I have to be willing to do the same. 

My 2015 word is love. And in the first six months of the year I thought it would be about finding love in things and people. What I now accept is that perhaps solely, but definitely simultaneously, it is also about loving me. Loving me enough to be bare and hold my head high so as to say, This is me. Pain, I think, is what it looks like when we are too afraid to do that. Too caught up in what would have been, could have been, allegedly should have been…pain is the emotive manifestation of non acceptance. But pain can also be our splinter, and it can be our opportunity to make something beautiful from something that hurts. 

I posted the following photo and caption on Instagram: 

One of the things that happens when you experience #sexualassault is #victimblaming. You ask yourself what you could have done differently? Better? Then, if you report it, cops, detectives, even some friends and family will ask you the same thing. Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you run? Why didn’t you fight? And in your lack of answers you begin to make deposits in the bank of self-depreciation. Never owning all the while that your #silence or your #stillness was really your #bravery and how you saw best to #survive in that moment. I say this to the part of me that hurts the most, “You are doing the best you can. And my darling, that is more than #enough. You are more than enough.” Your body is not a cavern of misfortune or mishandled reaction. Your body is a testament to your #resilience. Your body is the keeper of your #light. You cannot be dimmed. You cannot be shut out. You survived. And you must make the choice to do so again and again always until your work is done. #Onward

I struggled with the idea of sharing it on Facebook. Not because people would see, because my Instagram is not private nor is my tumblr, but because on Facebook those are the people in my life who would speak out to me. Family. Good friends. Professors. Mentors. Colleagues. That’s who might reach out to me. Who would seek connection. And I had to admit to myself that I was terrified of that. I also had to admit that daring to love myself in such a bold way was pretty brave. And that I was proud of both the photo and the caption. I had to own that this was me. It really really was. Nothing I’ve ever posted has ever felt more like me. 

It was or it is a marked change in the way I interact with my work. I did not want to just express and expell, I want my work and my writing to be tangible in me through me as me in person as well. Because it was me. And perhaps I was just tired of wearing the mask to protect myself. Pain, I realize, can be the first step in a shift towards authenticity towards acceptance. 

I used to crave comments on my blog. I used to want shares and reblogs and people tagging friends to my work… And now I wonder if I could hold having those same people at dinner discussing whatever topic at length with real depth? I am working towards that place. I imagine falling deeply in love with my own being, so much so, that masks and walls just block my light and I much prefer to stand nude in front of the world risking ridicule for the sake of artistic freedom and personal happiness. I crave the day when I maybe think twice, but do not allow the possible opinions of others stop me from living in my truth. I want people to read and see and talk to me and feel each of the interactions was a rich as the other. I want to be congruent. Not at war with my hurt, but owning it as part of me. Not fighting with shame but exposing it. Not fearful of vulnerablity, but using it as a tool for connection. 

Anything other than that is a life less than the one I am capable of living. 

A certain certainty 

I am giving up on love. Not in a cynical sad way, but in the way where you finally donate those pair of jeans that you bought as “goal pants” that just mock you and take up hanger space. Further, by love I mean this idea that I’ve subscribed to that this one human being is going to come into your life and fit in a way that everything else shines brighter. That somehow the world you already have created for yourself somehow is enhanced. 

I still believe in companionship. I even still believe in the sacred vows of marriage. What I no longer believe in is that without those things my life is dull or somehow incomplete. 

It’s somewhat of a big revelation for a romantic like me. But as I’ve grown up and down–rooted deeper into myself I had to ask myself why I was holding this reservoir of love for a “maybe” rather than pouring love on the people who mean the most to me who are currently in my life. Further, I’d started to make a habit of dating men who couldn’t give me what I needed or deserved and wanting to “love them into commitment”. It didn’t make any sense, they didn’t want it and if I were being honest with myself, I didn’t want it either. Too afraid then to call a spade a spade, I can say it now: I was preparing to settle. 

And that is never ever where I wanted to be with love. I’ve asked myself if what I want is unreasonable. But then I see it reflected in my friendships, most notably with Jennie, Annie, and Ted. Circumstance and sexual orientation aside, I could live rich and happy love-filled lives with either of them. So it lets me know it’s possible. 

I’m not sure what happens in the future for me relationship wise. But I’m no longer subscribing to the idea that my life is incomplete or lacking because I’m single. And frankly, it’s a good thing to make that declaration I think. To be a whole person living a full life…that’s the dream! 

My life is up and down. I’m battling through anxiety and PTSD, I’m figuring out who this new me is, I’m trying to set intention for my professional future and do the work that will get me there. I am in progress, but I’m here. I feel the sun on my skin and the air in my lungs. God is within me. My heart beats and laughter still escapes my lips daily. I am blessed. No man could give me that kind of soul satisfying, gratitude soaked peace. No anyone could have. 

  

Humpty Dumpty 

Over and over again throughout this healing and recovery process I keep hearing how time is the best salve. Just give it time. I know it’s true but it doesn’t make it any less patronizing to hear. I want to scream, “Bitch, but what about right now?!” Just being honest. 

I met with my mental health care team this week and we all decided that for the sake of my overall health I needed to step away from everything for a while. So I’m actually taking a medical leave from work. I was worried at first for multiple reasons and I know I’d mentioned how I really would just quit my job to deal…but now I don’t have to. Which in an of itself is a huge relief. Part of my anxiety around work was underperforming, and been seen as taking advantage of my supervisors patience with my healing process. It’s irrational considering I work for and with trained counselors, therapists, and psychologists, but in case you’re just now tuning in: I’m irrational right now. I feel at total piece with the decision. Or at least my capital ‘S’ self does. I won’t give too much merit to the ego side that considers this quitting or weakness or a failure. I am taking a breath, in the grand scheme of my life. I’m pausing now to really work and process and heal a bit more so that when I do go back full throttle, it’s not from a place of suppress, ignore, persist but from somewhere much healthier. 

Similarly yet in a different vein, I met a guy. It is very very new and I don’t want to say too much. Other than the theme of time is one threaded throughout my life right now, even with him. It is like when you first begin to practice mindful living and you chew your food slower so that in that moment you’re actually tasting all the flavors. Or the swirl of wine around your mouth and against your tongue before you swallow. It’s a savoring, an appreciation. Slowing down allows you to catch more of the detail and the nuance. 

I’m excited by the idea that for a few weeks I don’t have to wear the mask. That I can be how I feel without questions or glares or that antagonizing awful question “How are you doing?” I’m a hot fucking mess, how are you? I always want to answer that way and maybe now I will. Likely not, but maybe now I can have the time to consider a thoughtful honest answer without being flippant. 

And on a final note, I have to say I’m so blessed by the people in my life who have been so patient with me. Jennie and Annie and Ted and Nick and Rox and Tara and Mari and Dom and Ne, my supervisor my dissertation committee my family especially my mom. I’m blessed beyond words for the time they’ve allowed me to fall apart and the support they’ve offered in various forms as I work to put myself back together. You know, the poem never explicitly said that Humpty Dumpty was an egg…maybe he, too, was just going through some shit. 

The piece of me that hates the whole of me 

I write this from a place of semi-sobriety and complete honesty. It may contain triggers for those of you who have been affected by sexual violence. My hope is that through my sharing I gain some peace and that maybe am able to connect to others, helping them move closer to their own serenity. 

There is a piece of me that hates the whole of me for that night. I just laid there. After saying “no” repeatedly he told me to stop telling him no. That I was not to ever tell him “no”. So I was compliant. I didn’t know then that my complicit silence would be the grey area making it difficult to charge him with rape. Why didn’t I fight? It was a question the detective asked me. It was a question I’ve repeatedly asked myself. And perhaps it’s a question that those who know me who have never experienced rape have wondered. The truth is, I always figured myself for a fighter. To be assertive and aggressive and clear about consent and my own discomfort. But in that moment being held down so forcefully I would have bruises on my back for days after, silence was my only weapon. 

When the detective for sex crimes asked me to describe the event I did, in explicit detail. There were, it seems, many times where I could have gotten away or fought back or stressed “No” beyond the initial iteration. Why didn’t I seize those opportunities? They asked me waiting for an answer I didn’t have to give them. I wish I knew. Beholden to a man who’s grip would leave scars while tears streamed down my face and a mantra echoing through my head, “just don’t make him mad.” Jennie says it was self-preservation. But I have not yet come to the place where I can forgive myself for my weakness, my silence, my presumed compliance in that moment. I am not sure I ever will. 

And then in the aftermath. The grasps for control. The breakdowns. Five of which I’ve had today alone. The ocean of tears I’ve cried. The deep desire I have to quit my job because it physically wears me out to have to perform the act of normalcy. But knowing if I do I lose access to my mental health care. It is a pressure that feels like the weight of him on top of me. One that I can’t seem to get out from under. 

My biggest plight right now is not knowing how to find relief. I hate the question are you okay? No. I’m not. And I’m afraid I don’t know when I will be. It scares me more than anything else in this world right now. I want my mom but I don’t want her to see me this way. Broken and unable to be fixed, even by her love. It’s an impossible feeling to not know what you need. To be told that time is your serum for healing but time is the noose around your neck and the sand in your lungs. 

I hurt and all I can do is cry out through my fingertips. Because for anyone who asks, I don’t have any words. Just like that night I guess. Which makes me cry even more. Where was my voice when I needed it? Where is it now? Can I be brave enough to speak even if it’s through tears and short sharp breaths? I hate the part of me who thinks I can’t. She was born that night. 

Eye of the storm

right now I’m having an anxiety attack. I’m crying. My palms are sweating. My entire body is shaking and tense. My breath is shallow. And all I can think about is how much I want to scratch my arms and legs which are both covered in open scars from previously failing to resist the urge. I’m sitting right in the eye of the storm. All I want or need is comfort but I don’t know how to get it. Who to ask for it. Depression, that old patient cunt tells me that I’m alone in my struggle. That people are over it. I was raped months ago. I seemed just fine in Jamaica. I was smiling on Instagram the other day. I can’t seem to hold on to peace. It keeps getting ripped away in the swirling vortex around me. I knew this would happen. I planned for this to happen. In June you will fall apart. 

I think my medicine just kicked in. My breath is deepening. Body still hot and tight I keep my…phone rings. Therapist had to cancel. I can feel my lungs constrict and my eyes well up. I can’t do this another day. But I have to. Ten seconds at a time. 

Always Bet on Yourself 

I have huge lofty dreams for myself. I do not and have never intended on living a typical life working a typical 9-5 (which is really more like an 8-7) with two weeks vacation and minimal job satisfaction. I never intended on paying student loans until I was sixty seven. I never worried about how I was going to afford to buy a home or finally travel to Europe or Africa or Australia. I long since convinced myself that I would be living an extraordinary life and that how I lived would be my meal ticket. Not like a reality star, but as a person who is open about her struggle, her success, her dreams and her deferments, her manifestations and her intentions. I know that my purpose is to inspire people and the best way I’ve been able to do that is through being vulnerable enough to share my own life. 

I’ve wanted to be a writer most of my life. And it is still a dream of mine, though it is not the only one. I’ve awakened to all the vast possibilities that exist in terms of sharing ones creativity and connecting with others. Many artists these days cannot thrive without social media. And many who have mastered the art of social media influence have become stars in their own right (read: The Kardashians). 

When I consider how to “stay in my creative lane” while also taking full advantage of the multitude of social media options available to me it becomes overwhelming. Until I really sit and consider what it is that I want. I’ve done this for a few months now and come to the following conclusions:

  1. I want to be able to empower women to define themselves for themselves. 
  2. I want each woman that I work with to learn what is special about her and how to tap into her talent. 
  3. I want to help people find, cultivate, and flourish themselves through change and transition. 
  4. I believe strongly in the power vision plays in manifestation and want to use expression as a medium for the aforementioned. 

It feels so simple in my head. While I still do not consider myself entrepreneurial, I am extremely decisive. I know exactly what I want and if not I typically know what I don’t want. Which is a start. 

So, as I’ve decided to take a month off from my dissertation I’ve been contemplating a part-time job. One for financial reasons, I literally do not make enough money to live on my paycheck–another gripe for another day. And the other to get involved in something that will fuel my post-grad professional aspirations. However, what is becoming more and more evident to me is that the job I want isn’t going to be on a job board or posted on LinkedIn. I am going to have to create it. 

I seriously considered quitting my part time job, which I enjoy, to dedicate myself fully to my creative processes and the rest of the time to my research. The idea still lingers…the biggest pro is stability. Although there is only so much foundation such an abysmal living wage provides. I also considered getting a full time job just to pay the bills and to begin to save money for next year…but at this point in my research, time is much more valuable a commodity than money. I don’t want anything delaying graduation. So I arrived at a crossroads of sorts.

What I’ve decided for the moment was to keep my job but for everyday I’m not working, where normally I would write, I will dedicate to my website or business to some capacity. I have no idea what I’m getting myself into, but I don’t feel afraid. Excited, yes. Maybe even a bit nervous,but nothing I couldn’t shake off.   Can’t shake off. Won’t shake off. All before asking for even advice from others 

Why? Because I think  you have to be the first person to invest in yourself.