Messages in a Bottle #9: The Archivist

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.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #9: The Archivist”

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Where Would the NHS Rank Trauma on the Pain Scale?

Hi everyone,

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.

Continue reading “Where Would the NHS Rank Trauma on the Pain Scale?”

Tools of the Trade Show

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.)

and

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…

Triggersplaining

TW: Talking potentially triggeringly about someone else talking definitively triggeringly about the Kavanaugh hearings.

I talk very loudly at times. It’s an occupational hazard of ADHD. In hindsight, I’m sure that I have said things about things that have happened in my life loudly enough into cell phones in various public places and on various forms of public transportation – possibly even this summer – such that my coastal co-commuters have formed firm impressions that the 9th Circle of Hell is not the sort of place they should put on their tourism bucket list. On a few occasions, they may even have had to awkwardly share a train home with their crying stranger.

I’m thoroughly oblivious to the volume of my voice, especially when I’m upset. To the best of my knowledge, though, those unwitting unease-droppers only learn that the 9th Circle of Hell is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad place. They don’t know the details of why it is so horrible, both for my safety and for theirs. I don’t share any specific details of lived traumatic events over cell phones. 1) Who would I be talking to on a cell phone that I trust that much? The only person I share those things with – besides the entire Internet, of course – is my Partner. If I’m on a train, he’s probably no more than an hour away from hearing more detail than he ever wished to have seared into his brain about the most recent horrible thing inflicted by that place for the next three hours, so a tearful warning to brace himself is probably sufficient for the phone call. 2) It’s hard to be anonymous when I yell a lot. ADHD. It’s not just for interrupting. It’s for interrupting obnoxiously enough that the whole room takes notice. 3) Most importantly, I may be fairly oblivious, but I have learned what triggers are and why overly detailed accounts of trauma shared in unexpected spaces might inflict on others the kinds of PTSD episodes my boss so charmingly calls the marker of a “difficult working style.” I’m still uncertain if PTSD or some other spoon-sucking diagnosis will eventually cost me my job, but taking someone else down at the same time seems like forfeiting to the 9th Circle of Hell without so much as a fight.

Given that I am generally as oblivious and audible as they come, I find it – surprising – that I still have more subconscious self-decorum then the presumably neurotypical know-it-all I shared an evening train ride home with tonight. The guy – dressed in what I presume still qualifies as generic early 20s hipster while proudly manspreading across three seats – was boasting loudly to his cell phone partner about how sensitive he was for recognizing that sexual assault survivors might be re-traumatized by what they had heard during the hearings today, how he had taken up the mantle of explaining to his less-enlightened male friends exactly how prevalent sexual assault was, how there are many reasons why women might not come forward, and how he considers himself an ally. Good on him and all –

–  except for that bit where he explained all of these things by shouting them into his cell in a train car populated enough to be carrying at least a couple of survivors, based on his own quoted statistics?! He then illustrated his point about how certain words and phrases that don’t register to men can trigger women by offering a play-by-play of the Kavanaugh hearings today in the same booming voice.

Continue reading “Triggersplaining”

Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite

*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.

Continue reading “Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite”

Messages in a Bottle #8: The Right to Say “I’m Sorry”

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Image: Lyrics from The Animals “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Full song playable on Youtube here.

On three separate occasions recently, I have found myself writing about apologies. I wrote about how my Partner always apologizes for hurting me in an argument – even when we have both said hurtful things – because he knows that wasn’t something I ever heard growing up. Then I wrote in another post how abusers never truly apologize. (Saying “I’m sorry you took it that way” doesn’t count!) Never receiving a true apology – even when I begged for anyone to understand just how badly I was hurting – is part of my personal abuse history. Heck, it’s part of my abuse present. I haven’t yet met an official from the 9th Circle of Hell who gives a damn about the hurt that has been done to my sibling and to those of us who have to deal with the guilt of not having been able to stop it. I’ve only met abusers, bullies, and officials who wanted to sweep the issue under the rug as quickly as possible.

But, there’s another side to talking about apologies that I haven’t written about until now. I haven’t written about how I was never allowed to truly apologize. I made mistakes as a kid – of course, I was a lonely, neurodiverse, traumatized kid – and I learned early on to respond to others using all my weak spots against me by trying to do the same to them before they could hurt me first. If someone had shown they’d go for my jugular, I tried to go for theirs first. (Spoiler alert: it’s actually virtually impossible to truly hurt those who are willing to do that to you, so it never did much good.) I’ve also said stupid, impulsive things just because I have ADHD, I’m hyperactive, and rejection sensitivity hurts like Hell. I’ve responded to my Partner like he was part of my past because arguing itself made me forget my present.

My current therapist would say that I didn’t really need to blame myself for the hurtful things I said to people who had a history of saying hurtful things to me, especially when there were rather large age differences and power dynamic differences. But, when I truly decided I did not want to recapitulate my own family dynamics in another generation, it felt like I had to at least try to reach out my hands. It felt like maybe the first one to show vulnerability could make the change. We were a family broken by The System, and, thus, maybe – since we hurt each other because outsiders had hurt us first – we could find our way to healing once we understood trauma dynamics.

Another spoiler alert: showing vulnerability just made going for my jugular easier. It just opened me up to another long list of all the ways I’d screwed up over the years – dating back to age 6 at least – and how all of my failings justified anything that “might” ever have happened to me. Maybe vulnerability might have worked with one family member who is no longer with us (or maybe not) – I’ll never know – but it didn’t work with one with whom I tried it.

I’ve never received a genuine apology while growing up, but I also was never given the chance to offer one, either. I wrote in a previous post about how I was upset and triggered by some things another blogger wrote about ADHD. It hit me in a lot of the “it’s okay to hurt you because you should be normal but aren’t and it’s your choice” abuse buttons. That blogger apologized. She broke the cycle. She saw that I was upset, and she cared enough to write. That really was enough for me.

I also know the legacy of my past is that – even if I try to no longer allow others to hold past mistakes for which I’ve attempted to make amends over me – I’ll hold mistakes over myself forever anyway.

I’ve written a lot about fighting internal stigma within the chronic physical, mental, or developmental illness communities, but I initially forgot to include the most important caveat when we do so:

It’s important to call out internal stigma, but it’s equally important that we forgive mistakes within a community of people for whom just communicating at all is often fraught with fear and memories of years of failed attempts. Point out mistakes, then welcome their makers back into the community with open arms immediately as soon as they make a genuine attempt to correct them. If we continue ostracizing our own internally long after they have apologized, then we risk becoming abusers in yet another way. 

That’s ironic, given that the very earliest journal entry I ever wrote was about the right to be forgiven. It’s likely naive and dangerous to forgive those who hurt us intentionally – they’ll take it as permission to keep doing it – but it’s cruel not to forgive those who hurt us unintentionally. It risks making us into the voice of the bully-in-someone-else’s brain. I wrote in my earliest journal entry how I didn’t want to ever be that again. My subconscious thus thinks that I should post that earliest entry to make sure that I’m always truly keeping myself honest to advocating for calling out stigma in a way that opens arms, not closes fists, since I know too well how easy it is to wield a litany of past mistakes against yourself for years.

The Messages in a Bottle blog post below is the very first homework I ever completed in my leather-bound journal in my very first twelve-week CBT course at student mental health services. It is the earliest Messages in a Bottle I will ever post unless, by some miracle, I find something buried on Dropbox that has survived transfer across literally every external hard drive in every state in which I have ever lived.

The song is by The Animals. There are a couple of their songs that hold personal meaning for me. Maybe I’ll write about the others eventually, but, per my notes, this is the one I was listening to when I wrote this first entry that I have never actually shown anyone until now.

Continue reading “Messages in a Bottle #8: The Right to Say “I’m Sorry””

For Better or Worse

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.

Continue reading “For Better or Worse”

Frozen in Time

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.

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Balanced Scorecard

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!

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RE: Your Brains

Zombie_Apocalypse_Playlist
Source: Pinterest

CW: Indirect descriptions of PTSD symptoms, the aftermath of trauma, and workplace bullying.

Have you ever wondered what a zombie with an office job would look like? If you’ve heard Jonathan Coulton’s excellent “RE: Your Brains,” you don’t have to ask. If you haven’t, I do suggest you listen to it eventually, but there’s no rush.

After all, you’re talking to one right now. That last trip to the 9th Circle of Hell – and the circumstances that sent me there – have liquified my last functioning synapse. Depression, anxiety and the more visible (and thus problematic in an open office) symptoms on the PTSD laundry list have finally cracked my normally fairly impenetrable walls of gallows humor, coffee, goth opera rock music, comfort food, fluffy urban fantasy escapism,  and even my devotion to appearing fine as a survival instinct. My last subconscious defense against collapsing into a puddle at work? Zombification, aka dissociation.

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