Trigger up: “‘May you live in interesting times’…that’s a curse, isn’t it?”

08/11/2011

Hello reader, this is potentially triggering for discussion of the aftermath of assault. It’s potentially a very triggering subject, so please take care of yourself. But do know–this post ends on a hopeful note. Love, RD

a year ago (almost to the day) I was assaulted by a friend, a co-conspirator, a political comrade, a lover.

Since then, it has been near impossible to feel like any of my relationships are healthy or safe–even my relationship with my self.

The thing that happened didn’t physically injure me in any way other than a couple of small bruises and aggravating a pre-existing injury in my shoulder, but it fucked up my life in so many ways that would be impossible to quantify. I left my home (and with it my chosen family) because while they were supportive, I couldn’t find safe space there–every corner held a new piece of my trauma. I struck out in search of a new space and new friendships, both of which have had their own strengths and follies. I’m still re-building relationships that broke down under the stress, and praising my fucking lucky stars for those that strengthened in the fire. I am grateful for my collective, who rallied round me immediately and supported and backed up the boundaries that I set, despite the fact that _____ had far more experience in the work that we do, as well as a longer history (and more ties) within the radical community. I don’t know if I would have survived that period of time if not for the safe haven of my then-lover’s couch, who put up with me crying myself to sleep on it more times than I could possibly count. Although I have often felt very isolated through this experience, my network of support is incredibly strong. My friends and other community members agreed to hold ___ accountable for his behavior, rather than brushing it off as another drunken “incident”. But they also didn’t abandon ___, he has had access to the support that he needs to address his behavior and make real changes in his life. And he has respected the boundaries that I set after the assault, without question, something many abusers do not do.

Experiencing relationship violence within the radical community has strengthened my convictions both as an anti-authoritarian and a feminist. I recognize that the criminal justice system works for some people*, but it would not have worked in my situation–and instead it probably would have made things worse. So. I am most grateful for folks who are doing work around transformative justice and somatics today, because without their work I would not be sitting here, writing, feeling anxious but hopeful. Slightly stuffy from crying, exhausted from emotional turmoil, but grateful for the communities that surround me.

***

If I were to summarize my way of relating to the world it would be this: caretaker, martyr, clown. I have a lot of bad habits when it comes to self-care and boundary setting. I was never good at setting boundaries with people close to me, in large part due to the weird codependent/abusive dynamics at work in my childhood, but when I am experiencing emotional turbulence it’s even worse. I would work my hands to the bone for someone else before I would take care of my own needs, it’s true. Because I do care-taking work in the radical community, it’s extremely important for me to be aware of this at all times lest I burn out and not be there when I am needed most. Care-taking/martyr behaviour is  a way of being in control when other elements of my life (usually the painful ones) are not under my control. I am working on learning to cede control sometimes. BDSM is a healthy part of that, although sometimes it can be very triggering–I have used my safeword to end almost every scene as of late. I miss topping immensely, but I don’t have the emotional energy for it the way I used to. Hopefully that will return.

Medical texts will tell you that bipolar people do not get anxiety, but I do (and fuck medical texts, this is my lived experience!). My manic highs are replaced with anxiousness when I am unsupported/triggered/not practicing good self-care. My mind and heart race. Every phrase of a conversation triggers some new worry.

The face of a friend whose companionship I had to bail on last night in order to practice better self-care swirls around my brain, circling like a shark fin. I’m hunted by their disappointment, even as I recall that they’ve told me to take care of myself first. Bad brains, take care of me first and the rest will follow.

I take care of myself by writing. I take care of myself by documenting this transformation, from trauma to hope. I will make time for this. I will make time for my self.

-RD

*and fails so many others.

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