Tag Archives: Women

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!

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?

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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

 

Girl in the Mirror: Battling Self-Loathing

Girl in the Mirror: Self-Loathing I traced the long pink trail down my arms with my finger. The welted skin etched it’s way down my arm. It was about an inch long. I thought it was a curse for being fat. I thought it was penance for imperfection. Never mind that I saw my tall, lanky friends with them. Mine was a mark, a brand that something was wrong with me.  I always wore sweaters after that.


We take the messages that we hear and we carry them on our backs and shoulders, in our purses, on our minds, and in our dreams. We let them permeate every aspect of ourselves and never question why we welcomed them in the first place. Why? Why have we been conditioned to believe that any and all critiques should be accepted? Why have we been raised to believe that how we know ourselves is not the truth at all, that it has no permanence compared to the words of a passing stranger? If our bodies are temples why are the words of those who don’t know us treated as sacrosanct before our own?

I’ve always had this eerie sense of self.  A comfortable understanding of who I was. Some call it being an old soul. Maybe it is. But the fact remained that growing up I never quite felt like this old soul had a place to rest. I was the odd kid who had too much against her. I was chubby, I was curly haired, I was too light for some and simultaneously too dark for others, I read too much, I spoke too much, the list goes on. I began to understand that I was too much and yet, still not enough. I figured that if I couldn’t get people’s acceptance I for damn sure could get their attention. I learned how to make people laugh and how to get them to notice me. Their attention replaced the affection I was actually looking for. But because I fed off the validation of others, I left myself vulnerable to their disdain.

Have you ever played those games that ask you what doesn’t fit or what is out of place? My whole life I felt like that was me.  I so wanted to fit. I wanted to blend. I hated sticking out. I so desperately wanted to be the blonde white girl who fit. Who just made sense in her environment. In fourth grade my skin started to change. My lips were covered in black, crusted over blisters for an entire summer. I could barely open my mouth. Doctors looked at me with wonder and people looked at me like a sideshow. Stares and reactions ran the spectrum from sympathetic to disgusted. I didn’t like going out. The cocktail of medications made me stick out more as I ballooned in weight and the pigment in my skin blanched. I stuck out. No matter where I went, I stuck out. As I got older and the condition all but vanished I still carried that anxiety of standing out. I always saw that little girl in the mirror and knew others saw her too. I criticized everything about myself and continued what my bullies had started. I became my own bully. In high school, there were plenty of kids entering into a period of sexual development but I felt stunted in my own growth. I still feel that way to this day. I always feel like I’m alone and behind. Alone and behind. Purposefully separated and abandoned. It’s a hard cycle to break when you’ve become accustomed to only making yourself accessible to yourself. I give people slivers and glimpses into who I am but I never let them see the core. I never let them see me. I find it difficult to connect to people. I have friends, dear friends, but even from them I hide. My family jokes about my inconsistent communication and I laugh around them.  They don’t know that I am that way because that little girl finds it difficult for anyone to find her life worth communicating about. She’s still battling her sense of inferiority. She’s still trying to unlearn hating herself.


Self- loathing isn’t something that we’re born with but something we’ll likely deal with for the majority of our lives. Hate exists in the spaces that we do because we allow it to. It breeds in those dark places that we are unwilling to confront and slowly starts to take over our minds. It captivates us in the worse way. We submit to something we’ve created. The irony is almost too much. How does it begin? Usually with a question. Most of our agony and torment happens to us within our childhoods. It’s the proverbial toolbox of pain. Unformed, unshaped, undeveloped, we aren’t usually confronted with the idea of self. We’re not worried about who we are but what’s around us. So when people insult us, we absorb it.

“You’re fat!”

Well I never considered it before.

“You’re fat!”

Hmmm…that person seems to think the same thing.

“You’re fat!”

Well they can’t all be wrong. Maybe I am…Am I fat?

The question begs for an answer and the answer is usually supplied with the insults that were already provided. The scenario works the same for any situation, being weird, being gay, being a nerd, being anything that’s deemed different. It doesn’t have to be true because it’s not the words themselves that hurt — it’s what they carry. We go on to carry them for the rest of our lives.

I wore fat and weird as reminders that I was less than. I crowded my mind with the opinions of others and it completely covered what I knew to be true. I was different, yes, but I was not inferior. It can take a long time to untangle those wires. I’m still trying to untangle mine.

When I get dressed it takes me about an hour to find an outfit I feel comfortable in. It’s not my criteria I’m using to judge said comfort. I hear my mother’s innocently-intended comment about my dark skinned knees and pull down my dress. I’m reminded of my chubby  thighs and reconsider lengths and hems of skirts. I worry that a cut may reveal too much of my chest. I search for a coordinated cardigan to cover the stretchmarks on by arms. I do all this for who exactly? I do it to put people at ease. I do it because that same little girl is trying to protect herself from being another target of another round of insults and taunts. I do it because deep down I still believe that others know what’s best for me better than myself.

This mentality obviously extends beyond the superficial. It can’t take root in anywhere but your mind so of course it affects other parts of your self-image. I’ve questioned my abilities more than a few times even when all I’ve received are compliments. I’ve been called brilliant, funny, a great writer, a good singer, and so on and so forth. For whatever reason my brain is only ever able to absorb the bad and completely disregard the good.

But there are also things you can’t blur the line on either. You very well may be fat, but that doesn’t make you worthless. You may be a nerd, but that doesn’t make you less than. You may be weird, but that doesn’t make you inferior. I’ve adopted the voices of my bullies for myself. I let that voice stop me from writing, from singing, from moving, from living really. I tell myself that this box is safe for me, to step outside of it would be suicide. To be unafraid would be suicide. I convince myself that I need this box and the voices that tell me stay within it. I convince myself that somehow not breathing is a better alternative to letting in the air. I convince myself that being miserable is the best option for me. It’s safe but it sure ain’t the best.

So how do you change it? If this way has become as insufferable as it’s become for me, how do you change your mind? It’s not easy and to be perfectly honest it’s not something I’m sure of yet. I just know that with every, “You’re going to wear that?!” I hear in my head, I counter with a “I sure the fuck am.” For every, “You’re worthless and your work is worthless,” I counter with a ”I am not and neither is my work.” For every, “you can’t” I tell myself that I can and I will.

So what about you loves? I know this is a heavy topic but a necessary one for all of us to talk about. How do you deal with self-loathing?

Remember, feel better, do better, and be better!

MM-Signature

Special thanks to Doyin for inspiring me with her Bustle article, “17 Women Discuss The Physical Traits They’ve Grown to Embrace.”  Follow her on twitter and check out her and Evelyn’s  amazing project Austin While Black

Thank You For Being A Friend: A Series on Adult Friends

MM-ThankYouForBeingAFriendSeriesCertain events have put a lot of things in perspective for me in the past five weeks. Over the last eight months I’ve spent more time talking about finding love and not nearly enough about my true loves—my friends.  This series is dedicated to adult friends, friendships, and the ups and downs that come with it.

Check back for these upcoming posts:

Time to Say Goodbye: When Friends Breakup

Toxic Trick: Identifying Rotten Friendships

Don’t Spend Time, Invest It

Make New Friends But Keep The Old