laying on the bus to korat, i feel more alone than i have in a while. i miss, perhaps more than ever, my community of survivors and allies, and so, this is a shout-out to them…
there are moments i feel so separated from the people around me. in a split second, words and actions can send me tail-spinning into a flashback or into the all-too-familiar feelings of trauma, degradation, objectification, worthlessness, dehumanization, despair, numbness, loneliness, or the kind of anger that momentarily renders me incapable of polite conversation.
i wrongly assume that others see, and perhaps cherish, the value and importance of just language—especially if they are aware of how it has the potential to harm those they claim to love and care for. when the people in my life use the language of my traumas flippantly or when they turn a blind eye when others do, they show me how little i matter. i am reminded how little i deserve love and protection, and i immediately feel that if i express these feelings that i will be deemed oversensitive, overemotional, or the dreaded, “too much.” i feel like my reality is unwanted, that i, therefore, am unwanted. you know what? sometimes, i don’t want my reality either. sometimes, i wish i could leave it at home for the evening, get a babysitter, unload it on someone else, just for a fucking break, but even when i pretend that this is possible, i can still feel it living inside. it is part of me, and while i have learned that bits and pieces of my reality may be ugly, they are in fact my reality. i don’t have a choice. that choice, among other things, was taken from me. forcibly.
I didn’t choose to be haunted by violently vivid flashbacks both in my dreams and in my waking. I didn’t choose to struggle constantly with whether or not to “come out” as a survivor to every new person I meet. I don’t choose how their perceptions of me might change once I share my story. I didn’t choose to be hit in the stomach just because he was in a bad mood or had a bad day. I didn’t choose to be offered a gun and told by my own flesh and blood that he hopes i kill myself. i didn’t choose that others, who claim to love me, would turn a blind eye to my abuse, affirming his message that i in fact don’t deserve the love, protection, or care that I believe we all deserve. I didn’t choose for some kid to feel me up as we sat watching a high school musical in tenth grade, telling me that he couldn’t control himself because I was “too” attractive. I didn’t choose to be attacked by someone I considered a friend during my freshman year of college. I didn’t choose, less than four years later, to wake up to a stranger removing my clothes, shown once more how little worth i possess. i didn’t choose to be silenced, his hand pressing down over my mouth, as he forced himself on me. i didn’t choose to spend years of my life looking in the mirror and wondering what others saw that made all the abuse okay, what they saw that made harming me and disposing of me acceptable. i didn’t choose to be so affected by my trauma that I have spent years punishing, staring, and harming this body—my body—which I so often hate. I didn’t choose to become so disgusted by my own flesh that I could only think about what it would be like to rip it off and be granted a new body—one untouched and unharmed. i don’t choose to be told that i am unwanted because of what has happened to me. I don’t get to choose when the flashbacks happen, how long they last, or what they force me to relive. i don’t choose the way that physical interactions sometimes terrify me because i know too well how violent they can become. i didn’t choose to spiral into depression. i don’t choose the at times uncontrollable thoughts of suicide. i didn’t choose any of it, but i, like too many others, live with these realities every day of my life.
i know some of the consequences of a culture that commodifies sex and degrades women. i didn’t choose the culture and i didn’t choose to be affected by it, to feel the sting of these ills, but wanna know what i do choose? i choose to remember that i’m not alone, to reflect on my life, and to make sure, to the best of my ability, that i am not participating in the harm of others. i choose to give of myself so that others might know, too, that they are not alone, to learn self-love, to heal, to climb out of depression, to liberate myself from my fears. i choose to value both myself and others, to devote my time and energy to finding a solution. i choose to love as fearlessly as i can in order that the people around me might feel cherished. i choose to learn generosity, forgiveness, and compassion. i choose to see perpetrators not as monsters, but as people affected by the sickness of our culture. i choose to learn self-care and self-acceptance. i choose to nourish all the aspects of my being that were damaged. i choose to remind myself all that is worth living for. i choose to find the courage to speak out, to open my eyes, head, and heart to others’ pain, to pray, to follow my calling, to be honest, and to live. i choose to survive. i choose to try to be better and better every day. i choose to face my reality even when it’s hard. i choose to never tell another that his or her reality is too much for me to bear alongside them.
in my eyes, using just language comes down to two things: awareness and priorities. first we must realize how our language might affect others. then, in this knowledge, we must choose whether or not we want our words to cause harm. for me, people are more important than perhaps anything else. people are my priority. there is no question; i would rather use my words, my voice, my expression to love. in case you haven’t noticed, we need a bit more love in this world. let’s give it.