Tag Archives: Life

Life Sentence : Life After Sexual Trauma

Life Sentence Life After Sexual Trauma headerI usually try to limit my exposure to things about sexual trauma and assault because it just makes me relive my own. But trying to avoid rape culture is like trying to avoid the wind– it’s impossible. Articles, even when they are trying to be empathetic to the survivor, generally frame everything around the aggressor. Their narrative is the narrative because they haven’t been shamed into silence. Funny how that works.

I tried to avoid reading too much about the Stanford case. It didn’t stray far from the usual:  man rapes woman, woman is revictimized in court, he might get convicted but probably not justly, we forget about it until another case comes up by the end of the year, rinse, and repeat.  But when I saw that she wrote something in HER words I knew I had to read it. It was hard not to cry, hard not to want to go and hold her and tell her she was not alone, hard to reconcile the flood of emotions about my own experience but it was worth reading. It made me realize that in most of our conversations about rape, it’s on the act itself. We talk about the 20 minutes, but what about the 20 years after it? What about the life sentences we are resigned to? Where is our justice?

I was sexually assaulted by another student in elementary school. I was ten. I didn’t tell anyone until I was 21. I remember sitting my dad down to tell him first. I waited for him to yell at me, that’s how scared I was, but he just listened. He asked me what I needed. I needed the nightmares and flashbacks to stop. I needed the cramps I’d get after a flashback in my thighs and lower abdomen to go away .  I needed my desire to end it to stop. I needed to want to live. I needed to heal.

I’ve made great strides but even still there’s a lot to unpack in the fifteen years since it happened. It changed everything.

  • The way I automatically distrust men until they prove otherwise. Even my own father was put under the same scrutiny. I don’t just look at a man and see a man, I see someone who could do me harm.
  • The anxiety I have not just about being seen but about people seeing the shame of victimhood. It’s not the fear of others’ knowing I was molested, it’s the fear of the look of pity they’ll give me when they do. That look has killed parts of me, knocked the wind right out of my lungs, and made curl up in bed for days.
  • The constant blame I carried for not wondering why at 10 years-old I didn’t realize he was grooming me, didn’t tell someone I felt uncomfortable, and wasn’t strong enough to defend myself.
  • The hate I feel for him because I even had to struggle with the mental acrobatics of believing any of it was my fault.
  • The fear I have of being in a functional relationship because at some point I’ll have to sit him down and tell him why I’m not ready, why it doesn’t just hurt it terrifies me, why I cried, why I need the lights on so I can clearly see his face, why I need him to tell me what he’s doing so I can mentally prepare for it. The fear that he’ll leave when he realizes he was to work to show me he won’t hurt me like I expect him to.
  • The quiet rage that sits just below the surface, waiting to erupt because I will never forget him , his face, or his hands, while he probably doesn’t even remember my name. He was an indelible experience I never elected to have.
  • The resentment of living with undeserved shame. Knowing that you did nothing wrong but knowing that no matter my age, disposition, or honesty, as a woman someone will always see me at fault.
  • The sadness I feel when I still flinch at hugs from loved ones not because I don’t love them but because sometimes being touched literally hurts.
  • The uncontrollable emotion I feel when suddenly my amazing day is interrupted by the memory of what happened to me. My mind doesn’t just relive it, my entire body does as well.
  • The exhaustion that comes from trying to just get to the end of the day while forcing smiles, conversations, and tasks all while knowing NONE of it can make you who you were the moment before it happened.
  • The downward spiral you can take at any point in time when depression, anxiety, and flashbacks overwhelm you.
  • The fatigue of fighting all of them while clawing your way back to the light.
  • The isolation of suffering silently so you don’t disrupt the lives of the people you care about most.
  • The desperation to cling to anything that can take you away: church, alcohol, sex, drugs, cutting, anything for those few seconds that you are not constantly bombarded with the mental image of you being helpless.
  • The times I feel the urge to run out into the street and scream because it’s just too much. Because I just want the scared little girl inside of me to feel safe and the 25-year-old woman to believe that can ever be an option again.
  • The constant terror I carry that it might happen again.

It isn’t something I get to forget so it’s not something I will ever be silent about again. I know not everyone is at the place or will ever be at the place where they can speak about their own sexual trauma. Many of our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers never did. They never thought they had the option to but we do. We don’t just have to survive trauma, we can live again. You WILL live again.

I’m always here if you need to talk lovelies.

Life Sentence Sincerely Miss

Sabotage Rehab: Unlearning Self-Doubt

Sabotage Rehab

Sabotage’s Sweet Relief

I remember the first day I decided to fail. I just stopped. The anxiety and pressure that nearly sent me spiraling into a panic attack just…went away. I didn’t have to be stretched and find new muscles. I didn’t have to develop or be embarrassed. I could just be. It was comforting at first. But then I began to get restless. Not growing is dying. It’s slow asphyxiation. It’s creative immolation disguised as comfort. I felt like I was being left behind because I was. But the comfort of doing something where I never could possibly make a mistake was too inviting. That’s sabotage’s allure. You feel safe if you never step outside of the small box you lock yourself in. Sabotage is comfort and fear whispering in your ear. It is the enemy of effort. Sabotage is something we learn as children and carry as adults. But with some effort, anything can be unlearned.

Your Anti 

How did I get there? I listened to my anti. My anti-me, hates myself. My anti-me will always tell me that I look worthless. That I’m ugly. My anti-me will remind me that no one wants me. My anti-me will tell me that I need give up and die.

We all have one unfortunately. It usually takes on the voices of the people who were most critical of us at some point in our lives. These can be parents, church figures, teachers, bullies, you name it. We start confusing their voices for our own and start believing the shit that they tell us. An unchecked anti is deadly. It means you very often feel inadequate, incapable, and unchangeable. You begin to sink into a pit of your own self-doubt.

Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

As a preacher’s kid I became obsessed with perfection at a very early age. If I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t anything. I had to be on because it wasn’t just my reputation at stake. I hid in that. Eventually though, I would have to be my own person. How can you go through the growing pains of developing as a person when you’re too afraid to even make a mistake? Anxiety interpreted criticism as a death wish. I was paralyzed by my fear to succeed and crippled by my ability to constantly feel the need to sabotage everything. I could hide in that too. When you’re not known, people won’t bother you, and they definitely won’t criticize you.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck there are two mindsets. A growth mindset is that of a person who knows failure is just a learning opportunity. A fixed mindset is when they believe you have a fixed amount of talent and that’s it. Nothing can be acquired or learned. That’s me. Or at least it has been. I’ve made talent the ultimate metric when it means very little in reality.

When I first came to college I was used to being the big fish in a small pond. But my school was huge and I started to feel average. I never felt less capable in my life an often times I would give up before ever beginning. When you’re praised to often, it can feel like pressure. I didn’t have a working knowledge of what failure actually meant. I just knew how to keep up airs and play the part. I pretended until the pretending got exhausting. I would have panic attacks in parking lots, two minutes into my walk to class, late at night in my room. I thought that is was a sign that I couldn’t be better, I just was what I was. If my mind was fertile soil I had just added poison to it. I started to believe that there was nothing more that I could be, not without ridicule, not with criticism. I would rather go on silently, isolated from others than try, fail, and learn. I completely quit on myself.

Are You Addicted?

Have you ever “gotten sick” before an event that could help you in order to not be seen? Ever not entered a contest because you didn’t believe you could win? Procrastinate so badly on something for fear of producing something terrible? Been there, living it. In fact, last month I waited until the very last minute to apply to a venture challenge contest. I mean that too. I submitted it at 11:59 pm. It got accepted. Then I found out about the challenges we had a month to submit. So much of the terminology went far over my head. I felt uneasy, inadequate, and embarrassed in the company of my competitors. I had no fucking clue what I was doing. My brain went straight to panic. I told myself that my idea was silly. I told myself that I just didn’t have what it took this year. Let’s try next year (which means never again). My insecurities kicked into hyper-drive. I looked at what my other competitors were doing. I felt stupid,  foolish even. I started at the last possible minute because I needed an excuse for not finishing…because I couldn’t live with the idea that I wasn’t enough or didn’t have what it takes.

Then the deadline got extended.

I had to turn it in now. So again I waited til the last minute, hoping I could bank on not finishing as an excuse for not trying. But no, I got it in exactly at midnight. Damnit. Then came the announcement of the finalists. I was in. The joy came first. I hadn’t given my best effort but still exceeded their expectations. It made me feel good. Then the sinking realization came to mind. I couldn’t just give up. I had told people. I had to go in front of an audience. I needed to actually prepare. Wtf. WTF? WTF?!

For years I’ve allowed that saboteur to raid my brain and spirit. I even had a professor tell me that he couldn’t understand how someone so talented could be so afraid of themselves. “Don’t let this immobilize you.” I always hear him say that right before something does. I’ve convinced myself that I’m ok with living in this tension of knowing what I can be and being unhappy with who I am now but I know better. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.

So What Now? 

How do you reconcile yourself? How do you usurp the narrative in your brain with a new one? It’s not easy. It took 15 years for these ideas to get cemented in my brain. It’s going to take some time to chisel them out. I try to remind myself everyday that I’m making steps. Even the smallest one counts for something. Here are the two  things that have helped me the most:

Journaling

I’m sure you hear it all the time but trust me it works. It’s a mind dump. All the little unconscious things I tried to hide come to light. All the small moments of my day that I thought meant nothing start to mean a lot more. I’m able to express myself fully without fear of judgment and look at my life objectively at the same time. It gets my emotions out in a healthy way and let’s me let go of them.  I really like writing at the end of the day. It helps me sleep so much better. Seriously grab one. This is the one I use. 

Meditation

If you know anything about me, you know my ass is loud as hell. GIRL. I’m always talking, always thinking, and if you think it’s exhausting to hear me, it’s worse to have a constant flood of words come out ALL.THE.TIME. Meditating is not fun for me. I fidget. My mind flies to one thing and then the next. It’s difficult.  I never realized just how much. But each day I try to get in just five minutes of listening to my breath. If a thought comes up (and it does), I let it go. I just focus on my breathing. The days where I can do this are usually the most productive and calm days of the month. When I don’t…eh.

These are stupid simple steps that are feasible for anyone. Life change doesn’t require a $200 purchase of a book or course (although I’m sure one day I might be asking y’all to check mine out lol), it ends and begins with you. You don’t have to be held hostage to your shadow. You control it, not the other way around.

So how do you handle your saboteurs? Leave your comment and don’t forget to share and subscribe!

Life Sucks (for now)

life sucksThis time last year I was closing a chapter of my life. After the summer, things got a little dark. I got reckless. I got scared. I got lost. Life sucked and feeling like Dorothy, I clicked my heels together, and drove my happy ass home.

Home was home. It was like pulling on a cozy sweater –extremely comfortable. There’s a reason every great adventure starts when the heroine leaves. Frodo couldn’t destroy the ring from his couch. Harry wouldn’t have become a wizard from underneath the stairs. Katniss couldn’t protect her sister by staying home. I’m a bit tiffed that my point of reference for adventure is overwhelmingly male but you get the point. Change doesn’t happen when you’re comfortable. It’s not a convenience but an inconvenience to the patterns we’ve created. Comfort and change can’t coexist and at some point in your life you’re going to have to choose which one you want. I understand the importance and need for comfort, trust me I do, but if you want to grow, if you want more, if your dreams are too big for the house comfort has afforded you, you’re going to have to get up and create the momentum for change to come into your life.

I was comfortable at home and it was what I needed at the time.  I’m not ungrateful that I have a place to stay, virtually no bills, and awesome parents who care about me. Not at all. It’s a frustration mainly with where I am or perceive myself to be. I’m surrounded by comfort but desperate for change. How do you fix that?

Discomfort isn’t something we should always hide from. Sometimes at the precise moment we feel most uncomfortable is exactly when we need to lean in and dig a little deeper. Sometimes feeling stuck is the exact thing we need to get moving.

I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. We’ve all been through shet and all of it leaves its mark . That’s why I did three things. I wrote “Life Sucks (for now),” a free ebook, designed Life Support, a bi-monthly newsletter, and created the Life Support Forum for y’all. We all need direction, motivation, and support to make the changes we need to live the lives we want. I’m hoping this will help you because it helped me. Sign up for the Life Support newsletter in the upper left bar and get the ebook for free ninety-nine. That’s literally all you gotta do! Who knew the first step to making a change could be so easy?!

MM-Sincerely

Super Tuesday with Neighbors

MM-Super Tuesday with NeighborsI was surprised by the turnout. The Super Tuesday voting line was extending down the street. I knew I had to get out of my car but I didn’t want to. I was scared. The small town I live in is majority conservative and majority white. It’s not like I was advertising who I was voting for but if the last few years have been testimony enough I know by  simply existing I could incite that crowd to violence. But I had to vote. Too many people paid for that right with their blood, sweat, and tears. I had to go.

I walked cautiously towards the end of the line and kept to myself. There was a black woman in front of me and a black man behind me. For a while we were the only ones there. The line slowly started to grow and I kept checking on my car…just in case I had to make a run for it. The strangest thing happened though. I watched as this elderly black couple left the building to get to their car and as they tried to back out, an older white man helped guide them out of the parking spot. Now you might not think this is a monumental deal but they had a Hillary sticker on the back of their van and I had overheard him talking about his admiration of Ted Cruz. He was helpful and the two parties exchanged a wave and a smile as the van sped off. He didn’t return to the line and start spewing hateful grumbles to the other similarly aged white men standing with him. They just talked about their grandkids as the line moved.

The couple two people in front of me took turns holding their newborn and talking about car payments. The dad in front of the woman in front of me was playing with his son. All of the vitriol and hate I had seen on television and social media wasn’t present. These were neighbors who I’m sure I didn’t agree with on everything but neighbors nontheless. I got stopped and complimented on my outfit by older white women who thought I was the cutest thing. One woman asked me to come to her Mary Kay party. A few highschoolers showed up in the lettermen jackets trying to pretend that they were cool, calm, and collected but were obviously excited that they had a chance to vote. I became less concerned with who the people standing around me were voting for and more interested in who they were.

We talked about shows, our families, our vocations, our travels, and more. We all shared and we all laughed. When the volunteers announced that they were doing a periodic count we collectively grumbled to ourselves but the weather was nice and we could feel the air conditioning. All the anxiety I had felt in the beginning had all but dissipated. But that changed as soon as we got inside the building. It was a meeting room used for small functions and baby showers. The little boy in front with his dad was asking him about dinner and going home.

“Why are we here? Are you going to vote for Barack Nobama?”

The energy dimmed and the father quickly shushed his son. He never turned around  to talk to anyone after that. The couple with the baby couldn’t stand in line because she was getting antsy.  When it was the mother’s turn,  one of the volunteers asked her what party she was voting for and she tried to whisper but was too far away.

“Republican,” she said audibly but she turned her back almost as soon as she said it. The woman in front of me went next and had the same reaction when she answered, “Democrat.” It was such an odd thing to witness, minutes beforehand we were all laughing with one another. As judgmental as it seems we could all tell who was voting for who but it didn’t seem to matter when we were sharing our lives. We stood, quite literally, as a community but we left scattered and divided.

It was my turn. When asked, I answered. I didn’t turn to see a response or reaction. My feet were too tired from standing in heels for over an hour. I didn’t feel fear the way I did when I got in line but this weird sense of disappointment. I went off to cast my ballot and then I walked out. The line was longer but people were still doing the same thing. They were talking to one another and they were listening. They were laughing. The were sharing. They were opening themselves up.  They were coexisting.

I walked across the street so I could discretely slip into my flats but an older couple saw me anyways. “Smart girls always have a plan b!” The sweet woman who said this was helped into the Ford-150 by her husband, a stern looking man with a Vietnam Vet cap on his head. He tilted his cap and went to the other side. As they pulled off she waved at me. It wasn’t til they turned the corner that I saw the Carson bumper sticker.

I went home with that still odd feeling. I let it sit overnight but I think I know what it was that I felt yesterday. It was optimism. Brilliant, unrelenting optimism. I don’t for a second think that Donald Trump is some benign force that we can laugh off or that his followers are to be taken lightly. We are living in dangerous and terrifying times. But so did our parents and our grandparents and their grandparents. They laid the foundation for the steps we are on now and it’s every generation’s duty to do the same. Go a little further and push a little harder in hopes that our future children and their children can look back in relief that they don’t have to live what we lived.

There have been many pieces written by much better writers than me with much better insight than me on the problems we face as a nation. We are approaching a time that was some of our ancestors’ dream and others’ a nightmare. We are all scared but for different reasons. For people of color, for the lgbt community, for immigrants, for the poor, we are in fear of our lives. We are in fear of our rights being stripped away. We are in fear of being further erased and silenced. I think the conservative white base would like to think they’re afraid of the same thing but without admitting one fatal thing. Their intangible fear is based on the very tangible actions their parents, grandparents, and millenia of ancestry profited from.  They’re afraid of receiving instead of delegating. They’re afraid of being us; of having to reap what generations have sowed. They’re afraid of being erased, of their privileges being stripped away, of their bigoted voices being silenced, without realizing there’s a good reason for those things to be left behind.

We are in a deep shift. Possibly the biggest our young country has ever experienced. The headlines that have come up in the news, the hashtags, the discussion of the history of racism in this country, these are not new things. These are all conversations that we overheard in our kitchens or at church. These sentiments aren’t new but our ability to publicly speak about them without getting dragged off and lynched is. So our voices are much louder but the very people who should be listening only seem to plunge their fingers farther into their ears. How can we change people’s minds if they aren’t willing to listen to ours?

It may be naive, hell I know it’s naive but I don’t believe you change a person’s mind without first changing their heart. People are hardly moved by data or facts, they’re moved by feelings. Effect always follows affect.  There are always going to be opportunists and hate-mongers. They are usually too far gone for anyone to effectively reach them. But the large majority of this country does not live in that world. Prejudice is inherited, it is taught but the only way it’s allowed to grow is with ignorance. The only solution is interaction. Every terribly ignorant thing I got taught in rigidly southern baptist bible studies got dismantled by my interactions with people. It starts with a question that needs answering, a question that sits in opposition to your idea, a question that will not move until you sit with and confront it. Truth always requires confrontation because along with being obvious, it’s also extremely difficult to accept. It’s a challenge but it’s always worth taking.

We are at that confrontation stage now. We’ve watched on in horror at people’s attempts to suppress it, to even kill it. But the truth always prevails. The truth always wins. Change is inevitable. The only option is to navigate how we get there.

We are a nation at war with ourselves because we are a nation in fear of one another. We are paranoid (some of us not without reason). We are reclusive and now more than ever we need to reach out. We can’t wait for it to be right, for someone to say what we want to hear, even for others to listen. We have to reach now, without inhibition and with love, simply because we must. Is it annoying to have to carry the burden of righting a wrong you didn’t create? Of course it is. Is it fair? Hell no. But if not us, who? If not now, when? 

MM-JonStewartQuote

 

The Jumpoff Purge: Why 2016 Will Be Dateless

MM-jumpoffpurge11416 (1)Much like my winged eyeliner application, dating did not happen for me until it was way past being fashionable. There are acceptable behaviors one exhibits in the beginning. Dickstractions are common. Flawed decision skills are on display. Low standards are unfortunately at play often without you recognizing it because of aforementioned dickstractions. It’s ok. We’ve all been there. But at some point you wise up. Your standards become higher, your self-esteem soars, and you see your needs with perfect clarity.

It’s a peculiar realization to see that you have more dicks in your gallery after eighteen months of dating than happy experiences.

grumpy-fuck-cat
I literally have dick to show for it.

Not for lack of trying. I tried just about every venue (even reddit…shutup) just to see what was out there and funnily enough it was the same across the board. I’d hear the words, “I’d kill to have a girl like you,” followed by actions that proved they didn’t. For every, “I wish I had a smart woman in my life,” there was a dick pic to match. At some point I went from sad to jaded and succumbed to the pressure of the dating game. Might as well join them, right? But why? Being complimented or denigrated for the way you look eventually falters into meaninglessness when what you truly want is for someone to see you in complete, flawed totality.  I wanted more. I want more…but I just wasn’t getting it. How is a list of someone’s favorite movies going to prove someone’s long-term compatibility? How will favorite quotes prove if he can handle my demons? How can I tell if he’ll see everything I have to offer if all that he offers are memes and filters? I want more but I feel like modern dating has developed into a game where you accept less. Why?

giphy
Kissing all the boys leads to cooties and more bullshit.

When you’re a pudgy nerd in highschool (basically Tina Belcher), sex and physical intimacy are these romanticized, far off things. They seem exciting and beautiful and they can be. But so often we trade the time spent on pursuing someone worth it for low-hanging fruit. To be frank, fuckin’ ain’t hard.  It takes little to no effort to find, procure, and maintain bootycalls. Sexploration is fun and I encourage it if you’re going to do so safely but it’s not everything. We have to stop acting like in order to be relevant or happy or even successful we must run the “app race.” Every time I talk to friends it becomes less of a conversation about successful matches and more a party of commiseration. If it sucks so much why do we torture ourselves?

I’ve been asking myself that for the past year. Is it worth it to be tired, jaded, and burnt out for the chance of a few fun dates? Is it worth my time and energy to go through countless interactions that I hate in order to find a few good ones that might pan out? The romantic in me wants to believe so but the realist knows I need to take care of myself. I’m giving myself and yielding no returns. It’s easy to find an interested party but I also want someone who will challenge me. I want to grow with someone. Do you really need to have  your phone flooded with random numbers or do you just need one person who matters to call you? Do you want a shit ton of first dates or just quality ones?

When every conversation devolves into a, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” situation it becomes more of a transaction than a relation.  I’m not looking for some noble Galahad to come and save me, I’d just like for someone to talk to me who isn’t blatantly staring at my chest or looking at his phone or calling his mom to tell her he met her future daughter-in-law…did I mention I’ve been on some bad dates?

Even though I came to the game late, I often wonder if I even showed up to the right one. Dating has changed drastically over the last five years. Like bad sex, it seems more aggressive, less focused, and based in mimicry. Instead of a quest to find the right one it’s become a f*ckfest for all the “ones” along the way. People care less about pursuing mature relationships but maintaining bachelorettehood into perpetuity.  How many people can you get? How much attention can you maintain? How many compliments can you leverage? How many hilariously bad dates can you go on? It’s flighty. Instead of buying into a person and committing to them we window shop. We walk from display to display, we try them on, we walk around the store with them, we test them out and when they no longer hold our attention we move on to the next one.  But you know how you shouldn’t go shopping on credit because you’ll spend what you don’t have? The same applies to dating. You can’t date on credit. You can’t give what you don’t have. 

That’s why this year is dedicated to a cutie named moi. Dating can be fun but it hasn’t been for a while. I love love so I often get lost in it. It’ll come around or I’ll find it when it’s time but for now I’d just like to enjoy being 25. I know what I want. Genuine connection. Conversation instead of gimmicks, understanding instead of histrionics, calm instead of calamity, plans instead of whims, commitment instead of emotional detachment. I know these things are not hard to find because I see them in so many  of my loved ones’ relationships. But I’m not going to force a timeline or drive myself crazy over it. I deleted every irrelevant out of my phone. I took down all my dating profiles. I’m sticking to my guns but  I’ll need y’all to hold me accountable because THE.THIRST.IS.REAL. When it gets rough, like tall, lumberjackesque ginger rough, I’ll remind myself of this year’s mantra:

So what about y’all? Are you taking a dating fast? Waiting? Or skipping in line? Let me know in the comments! As always, feel better, do better, and be better!

MM-Sincerely