Trigger warning – graphic assault, PTSD flashbacks, highly abusive and controlling dynamics, mention of spiritual abuse
It came to a point where I had to forgive myself for the fact that words weren’t falling out of me anymore as quickly as I liked. I felt like before I was tapping into this deep inner channel and it was a waterfall of words rushing over and through me that my fingers could barely do justice. I mused at computer screens and felt the ideas circling around inside me endlessly.
I’ll still get the momentary burst of ideas but I’ll hesitate now fearing that they are tainted. I found that while I couldn’t write my novel as much right now I could write about other things.
I loathed the question: “Hows your novel coming? Hows your writing?”
Writing had stopped being this thing I did for fun. It was no longer an easy musing flowing out of me. My talent had been refocused into something else:
What happens to our gifts when they go from an unburdened place to necessary to our existence. Probably the same thing that happens when we unsuccessfully turn a hobby to a job or when we’re scrapping by to survive; the fear of non-survival takes all the fun out of it.
I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that no one but me understands the gravity of this shift in my abilities; no one else is even capable of understanding.
For a time I stopped working on my novel; at first I slowed down because my characters weren’t gay enough (a funny inclination from someone who then thought they were cis and straight)
But then the incident happened. It feels weird to write about after having it abstractified by the police. Sitting in a room with my ex’s email confession: He admits to forcing me to tell a story; just says that I consented to that. He admits to stripping me and tying me to a chair in the closet, slapping me whenever I moved, just says that I consented to that. It’s “he said, she said” they told me. He denies ever chocking me.
I reach for my neck, wondering if I’ve gone crazy, feeling for a moment the weight of his denial, at a loss that my “proof” isn’t good enough.
In the time since my assault, I found I couldn’t write when I was in the same room as him. I went for privacy on the balcony, and like a lost puppy he followed me and laid beside me while I struggled to write from the moonlight. My sentences weaving into swells of nothingness; I was so angry and I didn’t know why. He turned my desire to be alone into a “we’re not sectioning off parts of the condo into places you can be and I can be; the balcony isn’t yours; none of this is yours really”
What just happened, I cried, my pen hit the paper and my ability to weave universes was altered.
Before he dragged me to the closet there was a time we were laying in bed together, he, sucking on his eCig muttered “tell me about Jennifer”
“No-” -I’m not a puppet on a string, a spout of story-telling
“You don’t talk about your novel anymore-” – I was more concerned about my survival, myself, as I stared in the mirror, bought myself a penis with no functionality outside the bedroom and cried.
“I’ll love you even if you are a guy- no matter what gender you are- your soul is beautiful” – it felt like no one else would be willing to do that, that maybe everyone’s hands would cup my breasts while we made love and would not want to make love to me if I was anything
– – – my characters weren’t gay enough – – I was taking a break to focus on myself, understand myself more so I could improve my characters; there was obviously this longing inside me to be something else and I needed to understand it, myself – – the novel had been a catalyst to my healing, unlike anything else everyone had told me
Naked, tied to a closet chair, half awake, the words
“Tell me a story”
I went to my safe place, a tree I grew next to a place, a place I used to hide from the sun and the wind in, a tree fort. There was a girl in the tree, she fell, she died.
“That’s a sad story”
The scarf went around my neck and I remember wanting, needing to say no, wanting my oxygen, I was disjointed, broken in this moment, it wasn’t a little deprivation, it was a lot. When I came back to my body it was like I was in a slow orbit around the earth, the way astronauts move in space, falling backward, not moving at all.
I was still. One by one each shackle was undone and I fell up into his arms. I didn’t realize it then, but this was how he owned me, all of me now. Ever part of me I thought was mine wasn’t anymore and so anywhere he was, I couldn’t write.
I got out, moved in to a community-arts-home space, I wrote some more, but my hands would always shake around 500 words at a time and I soon found the obstacle of my gender. Mutterings from a diversity of people as they all but a few called me she despite me communicating otherwise.
“What was in your vibration that attracted that situation”
“Wow you have some darkness in you, you need to sort that out.”
“Trans healthcare shouldn’t be funded because people need to be really serious about that”
The world spun around me and I didn’t have my voice. My soul still two steps behind my body, still falling in that closet.
Laying in bed uncertain if I’ll be able to get up I start chanting poetry to myself; I get to my feet, lock eyes with the mirror and it is literally only my words keeping me alive, of course, I can’t channel that energy into my creations anymore, only my survival, now, tainted by his voice, his hands and the sounds of his eCig.
I try to write but I feel like my perspective has been distorted by how he’ll receive it, I think about him reading it, how every word of mine belonged to him and how every part of me belonged to him because I thought I had no where else safe to go.
He used to beg for me to leave the bathroom door open, telling me every sound my body was beautiful; I was no longer allowed private moments, and soon he was also getting rid of his private moments, forcing me to hear or see everything he did, as if I was obligated to love him in the same he wanted to love me. That wasn’t love: telling me that “it was passive aggressive” for me to close the door when I didn’t want to see him masturbate or hear him take a shit.
It’s – really uncomfortable. Of course pooping loudly isn’t a tangible crime. Me being locked in a room with a bucket, me waking up to being locked in a room with a bucket. Him falling asleep while I was tied up. Him choking me. Those are just things I “said” happened.
And so sometimes I write, falling back into my own skin. It was hard to create new after that, a jolt in creation of universes, relating my gift to my own survival. Needing words to not be this beautiful thing I can share with other people, a gift I want to give; not a gift that was forced out of me and taken; struggling to make it my own again always. It’s like learning to write all over again: starting simple with smaller bits of poetry, I have a different style now maybe, my abilities altered.
It’s like when I was 16 and I had double knee surgery. I forgot how to move certain muscles until one day my body just remembered; I had been building my strength. I went from not being able to lift my leg at all to being able to lifted it 80 degrees off the table. The doctor cautioned me not to strain myself and I was gentle, learning how to walk again through trauma, stalling, healing.
So maybe I’m not writing as fast as I could be, that I write one sentence and call that a success; a paragraph, yes. But when I was with him my thoughts turned into run-on sentences that went into nothingness; a void, a black hole; so every time I tell my words to weave around me again is a success, my mind still recovering, my ability being retained.
Anyone who tries to rush this process, risks being a person who is trying to spin the stars in my galaxy around them; twirl my words for their benefit. Just making my words serve me again is triumph, be it through poetry or any other means; regardless of if I’m working on my novel, I’m working on my ability to write my novel. Maybe it’ll come back like a kick or me lifting my leg off the table so fast and high no one else can handle it; but when I feel peoples expectation of it, that aches, like his expectation as he inhaled the crisp nicotine and said
“tell me about Jennifer”
I’m getting frustrated and angry about this victim vs. survivor narrative people will spin around me. Either, I need to “stop being a victim” or “obviously I will survive” and they take that survival for granted, that I’ll get through this, that I’ll recover for sure; and there you are, rushing that process, the same way he puffed on eCig so eager to consume my universe that he swallowed it’s deepest most intimate spots as opposed to just letting me write; trusting that I will write.
Do not take my survival for granted, or my returned ability to write as a given. We don’t know for sure, we certainly would like it to be; but there are days I forget I need poetry to get out of bed; that my body still hurts so much I feel like I am falling over; that I can’t do as much as I would like; that really, my mind is still healing from my psychosis, from my lifetime of smothering my gender (which I’ve discovered, is a lot of things, not he or she, I prefer people use they), and that this trauma, and the retrauma when it is negated is still something I am living through; it’s honestly been getting harder in some ways, this expectation that I will get over it, all these things, make it harder.
I don’t want to admit how much I am struggling, that I ponder over the practicality of being hospitalized again, wondering if that will help.
Don’t rush my process. I am a victim, I was victimized, that’s a fact. It’s not a complex or a role, that’s a thing that happened, that actually happened; anytime you try to take that word away from me you are telling me that didn’t happen.
I am not a survivor, I have not yet survived; I am still surviving. Anytime you force that word on me you are implying that I no longer need help; that it should be over with and done. You are negating that this is still something that I struggle with; that this is not a force I’m still fighting for my life against. It may not look like I am fighting for my life, but I am, every day I get up and say to myself I know who I am and walk into a world of non-believers (about my gender, about my victimhood).
I am still suffering. I’m not doing any of this to make other people uncomfortable, I am just being honest about what happened, how it’s affected me and how it will continue to affect me.
I am not seeking advice, guidance or spiritual whims; I have enough of that on my own and I am struggling to always hear my own inner voice after being subjected to spiritual abuse in my youth; I am always simply seeking solidarity and permission to be whole around you.
I am surviving, but it is still too soon to call me a survivor.
Do not steal my ability to tell my own story like he did.