This CW is so important it should be in neon flashing lights. This is a serious post. Serious like: mentions of 9th Circle of Hell current systemic abuse, mentions of the same kind of systemic abuse on another blog, and mentions of past suicidal feelings and coercive control. I really meant it when I said the lights were off this month, so please please be careful when reading this blog post. There is no date on this “past” post because it’s not truly a post written in the past. It’s a memory, from a time when I would never have written anything down, that has been bothering me. I think I need to write to exorcize that old ghost and thus fight my new demons more effectively. Be safe.
“The Bright Side”
“The Bright Side Who?”
“The Bright Side Who Doesn’t Actually Exist”
“Oh. Then I guess this is just another dissociative conversation with the bully-in-my-brain, then?”
“You catch on not quickly at all, don’t you? Also, your joke sucks.”
I’m fairly sure the first rule of building a blog audience is “own your domain name so you can engage in SEO and promote yourself across social media.” I failed that rule the moment I set up my account because I was too afraid to pay for an anonymous blog with a non-anonymous credit card. I also do not have the spoons to maintain more than one social media site, period.
I maintain a free site even though my lack of spoons has gradually led me to dial back on the other paranoid hoops I used to jump through to maintain anonymity. Part of my expression of a PTSD sense of foreshortened future is a fear that, if I did dare to make that all-of-$36-dollar annual investment in a domain name, I’d immediately go broke. I would be inviting the wrong kind of irony magnet. Then, my audience accustomed to something simple like “lavenderandlevity.com” would all abandon me as soon as continuing to follow me required the modicum of effort to bookmark “lavenderandlevity.wordpress.com” again. If you follow me while I use the free version, I suppose you’ll probably follow me on a paid version. But, would those who would only follow a paid version ever bother to reverse course? Do I really even want followers for whom I have to write witty, engaging content all the time? C-PTSD says just stick with free: I’ll never have to fear inevitable future rejection from potential future financial disaster. C-PTSD is dark.
Which sucks because…
First, I want to say thank you to everyone who talked me through the past two days. I made it out of that Sheraton break room eventually, and I did manage to give my presentation the next day. I know some people asked what I was presenting on, but in the world of research – startup, policy, or academia – your research is probably the most tell-tale marker of your identity. If I told you about my presentation, I’d be telling you who I was, who my bully-of-a-boss was, and – by extension – who my sibling and all the various systemic abusers in the 9th Circle of Hell were all in one easy Google search. I’m sorry, that doesn’t feel safe. Hopefully, the grad students and professional researchers among you understand.
The bedbug place lost its license, albeit not for the reasons I originally expected. I still don’t know the reason. They also appear to have chosen not to undergo the appeals process they – as providers – are entitled to in the 9th Circle of Hell. (The 9th Circle of Hell, of course, has no corresponding client appeals process or any independent way to determine the outcomes of license inspections. Yes, this is technically a violation of federal law, for those few of you in the know who are wondering, but it has been ignored by the feds for at least two years.) They packed up, fired their employees, and for hours it seemed like they were prepared to dump several facilities worth of patients on the street.
CW: Panic attacks in progress and the reasons for them.
So, this is not the type of post I normally write. I’m not even sure it qualifies as a true post. If this were Facebook, I’d be vaguebooking to the point of parody. However, I will explain more later, when I feel able to and when I know more. So, I ask you all to stick with me for the moment.
I’m currently sitting in the staff break area at a hotel. I’m on my second week back to work and attending a conference.
And – because my life is a perfect shit storm – I just got a call about the 9th Circle of Hell. The situation at the bedbug place didn’t resolve after all, despite what it seemed. And – because I am apparently cursed – it fell apart even more while I was traveling, instead of safely working remotely where I could at least claim the dignity of falling apart in private.
I’m supposed to be presenting tomorrow, damn it! Yet, before that I have to somehow get from hiding with the cup of tea handed to me by a kind hotel staff member, trying to keep myself from completely shutting down by writing incoherent blog posts, to having a voice strong enough to give a presentation on data.
I need some serious help to get there. The chasm between those two states of Lavender existence seems insurmountable at the moment. And, the bully-in-my-brain, using the time-worn tool of the trade of the panic spiral, thinks I’ll crash and burn if I try to do anything about either the presentation or the 9th Circle of Hell.
Could you all just tell me that:
1) You believe me that I don’t want all the bad things that have happened this year to keep happening. You believe me that if I knew how to escape this systemic trap, I would. (I fear my colleagues probably won’t understand if this situation somehow impacts my ability to present tomorrow. I’m not sure I can handle them not.)
2) You believe that I can somehow pull myself together and make it through this. I can’t reach my Partner. I’ve called him multiple times. I’m in a city I don’t know. I’m here with coworkers who will likely follow my boss’s lead on how to treat personal situations to protect themselves from his wrath even though he himself isn’t onsite. I’m feeling like I just can’t anymore. It’s too much. I’m overwhelmed and frozen and probably way more dissociated than I should safely be in public. The idea of leaving this breakroom seems thoroughly impossible right now, though objectively I know that three hours ago I was feeling pretty competent and in control, and technically I’m still the same Lavender who felt that way not so long ago.
I need some serious “buffering the effects of trauma through witnessing and not shaming” right now, if it’s not too much to ask…
*In the 9th Circle of Hell, bed bugs warrant a CW. Respect your mental health when reading.*
I have a standard caveat on my blog that I will change minor details or abstract timelines for the sake of maintaining anonymity. Despite that claim – sensible though it probably would be to actually do that – to my knowledge, I have only actually changed two tiny details about my life for my blog. Both have been about the specifics of what my workplace produces and to whom it markets it, which are probably sensible precautions given my bully-of-a-boss’s penchant for firing people. The 9th Circle of Hell seems to think themselves so far above the law I probably could call out the abusers by name and they’d just laugh that they were still invincible, but my boss might just be the kind to fire a person on suspicion alone because he thinks a random anonymous blog with less than 1,000 followers could possibly be about him.
I’ve not changed any details about the 9th Circle of Hell. All the crap I’ve written about it – past and present – is true. It really is that bad. In fact, if anything, what I’ve written to date on my blog remains only a sanitized version that leaves off a lot of the nitty-gritty everyday horrible things I’ve experienced dealing with that state in favor of sharing the biggest atrocities. I’ll stay anonymous forever for my own and others’ veil of pretended protection, but it turns out I can’t actually alter details of my life when talking about the 9th Circle of Hell. I can’t even always be as vague as my PTSD hypervigilance thinks would be prudent. My PTSD brain simultaneously wants to protect itself by maintaining a veil of “generic everyman-ness” to my story, yet also keeps demanding I share details that are very specific to my story. It can no longer contain all of the things that have happened within and because of that state without the refuse overflowing, and my blog seems the safest place to dump the trauma wastewater.
CW: Anonymity is so inconvenient sometimes. I can’t, for instance, tell you the actual state motto of the 9th Circle of Hell. “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here,” while appropriate, is actually not nearly as morbidly satisfying as the true state motto. If I ever write a memoir of my experiences in Hell – or, better yet, find a way to channel its traumas into some kind of a black-comedy stand-up – the title will simply be the unadulterated state motto. Some things are just too darkly ironic in and of themselves to be able to be embellished by even the most skilled satirist.
That said, the aforementioned “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here” is appropriate enough as a placeholder that any post I write about the 9th Circle of Hell from now until eternity probably warrants a content warning. Keep that in mind. This post is a darkly ironic reminder that trauma really does affect everyone, whether they grew up in Hell or married into the family.
CW: Don’t read this if you are in any sort of a bad place. I’m physically safe. I’m mentally shattered. You don’t need to do anything. There’s nothing anyone can do anyway unless they had serious political connections. I am not a danger to myself or others. No, the danger, as always, is from others, and this post is more about trying to survive their latest devastation. This post is about how it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to try to survive. It just never ends. It’s a dark post – even though I promise I’m safe – so please read with caution. I’m the scant protection someone else has from the 9th Circle of Hell. I won’t ever abandon that responsibility to ease my own pain. I’ve been on the other end of that type of abandonment and still feel the hurt and weight of the responsibility it left me with. I will survive this and keep fighting as best I can. I just wish deeply right now that I didn’t have to.
As told by Eckhart Tolle, a Buddhist master named Ram Dass once stated, “If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents.” I’ll be honest, I wasn’t super enthused with Eckhart Tolle’s books in general, but I did like that quote.
It appears to be a common enough occurrence that we can never fully escape who we were in childhood when we return to the place we lived while growing up. That…sort of sucks massively when who you were growing up was a traumatized kid with no safe space to create her own identity without it being used as a weapon to bludgeon her with, a system that tore her family apart and claimed lives literally and figurately, and a pesky habit of using dissociation and time loss to hide from it all.
For many, the smartest thing to do would just be to never return to the Gods-forsaken places of their youth at all. Enlightenment is overrated in the face of basic safety. It sucks more if, as a thirty-something adult, you are repeatedly stuck returning to that place because the damn system only got worse even after you left, the black hole of bureaucracy won’t let you yet get an innocent family member out to another state (gods-damned waiting lists), and your version of “regression to childhood” not only seems to be too often to feel like that same helpless kid again in the face of the system that made you that way but also to regress to the same coping skills: dissociation, time loss, and misplaced sense of any adult competence, oh boy!
*CW: oblique references to intense subject matter, but without details.
The human brain – especially the ADHD brain – has a way of latching on to the most inane of details. It dutifully encodes what the original package writing was on the box of records carried into the courtroom itself. It encodes the original sticker price of the random hardcopy book purchased in a vain attempt at “distraction” from it all.
It immediately calls to mind the two right shoes accidentally brought by the Partner instead of one complete set, necessitating a last minute scramble to find a replacement pair, and it recites the same lame attempts at humor that at least he was doubly in the right instead of the wrong without missing a beat.
It recalls every minute of the three-hour wait for pizza the night before – really, does the whole of the 9th Circle of Hell have to order pizza at the same time on the same random night? – and the raiding of the hotel’s snack bar during the wait. It readily embraces the fact that cheez whiz is a thing in the Midwest and that it might actually be a dysautonomiac’s perfect food. (Four crackers with cheez whiz can literally top salt pills for raw salt content. The brain won’t soon forget that…)
The human brain can also dutifully remember all the relevant facts of the situation that brought it to Hell and where the injustices lie. It can never forget them, in fact, as even in sleep it will remember the things it’s experienced these past few months. It can remember clever lines from our counsel – though only with the help of its owner’s honed skill of taking accurate notes even while feeling thoroughly numbed out or overwhelmed by the enormity of what this state permits in ignoring their own regulations and allowing things to get this bad. It can remember the specific beaded bracelet it directed its owner to chose for the day and why it chose it, and the flavor of the Gatorade it instructed the arms to raise up to the mouth to drink before it signaled that same mouth to open up and speak.
It can remember being told its owner did a good job in her testimony afterward: that the raw anger she displayed (contained within court-appropriate voice and following proper protocols, of course) as she spit out the rights violations both in the original situation and in the posthoc cover-ups was probably more convincing than anything she specifically articulated. It can remember that it supposedly conveyed “wronged” in a tone that bald facts alone, sadly, could never hope to match, because facts don’t really matter in these situations. Appearances matter far more.
The human brain can even remember that it did actually prevail that day. (Though, it would immediately remember not to get too congratulatory about one “victory.” It remembers this is a complex situation, and there is more yet to address before all is said and done. And, sadly, it remembers from long experience that even if everything were to go “doubly right” the entire rest of the way, it would still only be addressing prior wrongs. It wouldn’t be making a dent in the larger system that sustains these kinds of wrongs with immutable indifference and laxity. The human brain can remember what it is like to know it has only put another band-aid on a gaping wound.)
The human brain can remember many things, and it can imagine and plan for so many more. It’s funny, then, that it can’t seem to be bothered to allow its owner to truly remember much of her actual testimony itself, even while it remembers the preparation and the debriefing. Oh, and her dinner.
The human brain, it turns out, is equally great at filtering out as it is at taking in. It has a mind of its own, and it wields that power with the conviction that it knows better than its owner what she is strong enough to remember and what is better for it to quietly disperse into vague impressions.
Oh, an owner might argue that her own testimony should rank a bit higher in the priority list than cold pizza, but that’s the frustrating thing about the human brain’s algorithm. Cold pizza? Frustrating, yes, but it’s logical and vaguely predictable and fits within an ordered world. The brain likes safe, predictable worlds, even when they are predictably frustrating. That can make the cut.
Testifying? Well, that requires not just reliving all the fear and horror that went into experiencing the situation originally, but adding some new on top, because “justice” is not a word the brain ever associated with the 9th Circle of Hell. Testifying is confronting the illogical, the inexplicable and the disordered. Testifying is confronting that the world isn’t safe, and the logical brain thinks it is most logical to shield its owner from that world as best it can.
The human brain is, admittedly, a bit confused as to why there isn’t a surgeon general’s warning “for those with diagnosed autonomic nervous system dysfunction only” printed on every can of cheez whiz, but it can choose to remember cheez whiz without needing to understand or, frankly care why. It can’t choose to let its owner remember her testimony without risking her caring too much – or worse, numbing to the point of not caring and risking becoming no better than those she fights against. So, rather than trust her coping skills it filters those bits right out. It files such things away in a special category called “trauma memories” for her own protection.
The human brain is the most biologically intricate piece of machinery on the planet, and all those millions of years of evolution have led it to an algorithmically optimal solution for handling trauma. Until the world becomes a much safer and saner place than it is today, the safest bet, it believes, is to offer its owner only cheez whiz for brains.