We are people too.

TW: suicidal ideation, brain wonky things spoons low beware

I had a no people half day, yesterday. It didn’t help – apparently no people day means ‘everyone message at once’ and I’m very tempted to flat out block people who only contact me once every six months and apparently plan it at the exact time I do not want.

 

I basically put my foot down the other week with the psychiatrist. He wants to send me off to this doctor and that doctor and this specialist. He’d just come back from leave, and had no idea what I was actually up to or anything that happened, and didn’t read the notes I took in saying that. It was a waste of an appointment, essentially, because nothing got done. But I did manage to stop the incessant, endless appointments. Fighting the IUD left me with no energy, and I’m sick of not being treated like a person.

Also, it’s been obvious for a year now that I need to get into a pain clinic. He said, last September, that he would refer me off to one. The gynaecologist, after telling me that physio would fix my brain so I would magically love having IUD-induced anxiety, and telling the psychiatrist that the IUD would fix the ten weeks of bleeding that it was there to manage (even though until then I had not had any for five years and I was literally at the point where if it did not stop I would kill myself), told him she would refer me to, guess what, a pain clinic. But one that only deals with one kind of pain.

I do not trust anyone she sends me to. Until then, though, I was under the impression that I’d been referred off last year, and I was just, you know, on a waiting list. Apparently, I’m not. And the psychiatrist wants me to go to this other person because it’s faster – never mind that I can’t get there because there are no trains to that part of the city – than waiting two years on a waiting list I was meant to be on a year ago.

“But you trusted her to operate on you!” is his excuse for all this, never mind how that actually went down and how I tried to, you know, stop it.

 

Amid all of this we have the neurologist. The neurologist is responsible for getting me to the psychiatrist, but I only got that far because I was on a waiting list for him for five years, i.e. for an issue which predates this one. (Or not – I’ve had this since I was eight, at least; it’s just more obvious now. But I wasn’t referred for it, so.)

The neurologist, when I finally got to see him, very obviously shut off when it came up that I had work stress. His entire body changed. He won’t give me a copy of my MRI results, either, probably because I’ll be able to point to them and show that my brain has, indeed, changed since the last one, and have a weapon to fight with (I know this because I saw it over the psychiatrist’s shoulder, but without it on paper I can’t, you know, prove it). The only option he gave me was Botox, because nothing else is “real”. Apparently, the part where the right side of my body gets weak and clumsy after short intense pain on the side of my head is “stress”. He also won’t let me type to him, because it “makes him feel small”. I did try Botox, but it made my back pain significantly worse – I still can’t shower or lean on anything without feeling static electricity run up to the base of my neck. I was unable to vocalise at all for a month after, because my face wouldn’t move.

I was not one of the 50% of people who have no side effects.

In the appointment, he wouldn’t let me type to him, either. He had me sit, unsupported, on a bed, and he came up behind me and started poking me. I jumped, because, you know a man crept up behind me and was touching me and hadn’t let me know he was there. He had somehow managed to get back in the room and come up behind me without me seeing him.

“It’s not a needle! It’s just me,” he said. The damage was done, though.

 

He kept scheduling appointments for me to “follow up”. They were always at the same time as speech therapy. To move them, I had to go into the hospital with a note and be told I should just cancel speech therapy. That is the only time he sees current patients. One admin made an earlier time for me and he went off at her and cancelled it.

I tried to call them with the relay to change the new time, and had two days of the relay operators texting me to yell at me for not texting them back. Apparently, this was due to an outage, and they kept receiving my message “no thank you end the call” and opening a new call just to send me abusive text messages for not responding to provide a number and message and then not responding. I haven’t been able to use the relay since; I freeze up and start crying. I am crying now just typing about it.

I ended up lodging a complaint with the hospital, and sending a separate letter to the clinic admin to cancel the appointment, because I wasn’t able to get there. I got a letter back which said “YOU DID NOT ATTEND YOUR APPOINTMENT BECAUSE YOU DID NOT ATTEND YOU HAVE TO CALL US OR WE WILL TAKE YOU OFF OUR CLIENT LIST.”

 

My psychiatrist agreed with me, at the time, that I shouldn’t jeopardise speech therapy. (At the time, he had somehow formed the impression that I only had to deal with one person in my lessons, not in a school, and when he worked out that I had to deal with a receptionist and other students and other teachers, he put the idea of quitting in my head; as you know, this has caused a lot of heartache.) He had his receptionist call the neurologist’s receptionist – I was offered a new Botox appointment. Botox for migraines is meant to be every three months – at this point, it had been eight. Clearly, that didn’t make sense. The psychiatrist sent a letter instead, requesting a consultation, and asking that I be notified by letter. He included my address, which had just changed. (Did I tell y’all about that? Some lady started taking my mail at the post office and when I tried to stop her the post office staff took my mail away and said they wouldn’t give it to me unless they could call my parents. And let the other lady take more of my mail. While I was screaming and shaking my head and physically trying to stop her without touching her. My mum said it was my fault and that I was being stupid.)

 

I have not received a letter. Instead, I checked my phone before bed, because I suck at no people days, and I had a message. “YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT ON [DATE] SMS Y TO CONFIRM PLS ARRIVE 5 MINS EARLY”.

I cried myself to sleep, unable to breathe because I was so scared. And pissed, because I don’t know where I’m meant to go, I don’t have a letter to show to say I have an appointment and I can’t risk my phone being taken from me again.

In case I was being irrational, I found my mum on Skype and asked her what she thought. Instead of being, you know, thoughtful, she gave me the third degree. “Does it give a time?” “Do you know what the appointment is for?” “Have you been to him before?” “Do you know why you need to see him?” “You had a scan a while ago have you seen him since then?” “Can you remember why the psychiatrist wanted you to go back to him?”

I snapped at her. The content of my appointments is none of her business, really. She just wants to know, because I am not entitled to privacy, at all.

“The problem is that it is a week’s notice, I do not know where, and I am not being treated like a person.”

She just changed the subject. Thanks, Mum. No, really.

 

(My parents are part of the problem, not the solution. That is an issue for another time.)

 

Again, I don’t know what to do. I can just not go, not confirm, because they did not send me a letter, and on a week’s notice I can’t arrange anyone to come with me, not that I would ask my mum, who is the only person who could. In theory. I was open with the psychiatrist about needing a break. I can even pretend to not have received the message; just block everything for a while.  I can guess where it is from Google, maybe, but I would still have to, you know, miss speech therapy (and I would have to pay for missing speech therapy, and be harassed about it, and I would be upset, and cry a lot, and), and if I got it wrong I would be in trouble. If I don’t go, there’s a chance I will have to pay a cancellation fee, which I can’t afford; I don’t even know if there is a fee, which I can’t afford. After the Botox, which I was told was covered by Medicare, I received a bill, so it’s not like I can trust them if they do say it is Medicare.

 

The fact is, though, that the concept of having an appointment with him, where he has already shown disrespect for my time and ability by not sending me a letter with the place and fee and time with enough notice to arrange a support person, when he treated me so terribly before (you don’t creep up behind someone and laugh at them when they are startled). I can feel him touching me. I haven’t stopped crying since I woke up, and before I went to bed I was disjointed and unable to focus; I stumbled to my bed, tried to read because my eyes were too sore for anything else, and couldn’t understand what I was reading even more than normal (normally it’s hard, but I can flip back and forth and reread things a thousand times and make it work, and I don’t read dense worldbuildy things anymore).

 

Maybe I need to see him. Maybe I’m right, and the little voice in the back of my head pushing for me to fight hard enough to get MS ruled out is right, and when the psychiatrist (it took me twelve tries to make that look right) said “but you’ve been seen by a neurologist, if it was anything he would have seen it” he was just trying to be reassuring and loyal to someone he works with a lot.

But it’s not good for me to see him. Just a text message from his office, wherever it is, has made me cry for hours, which means I’m going to be throwing up later, that my head will hurt more, which is possible even though even ice isn’t working and my temperature is elevated. I am shaking and rocking, and all the good from turning off the computer and having a Twilight knit-in is gone. Arguably, I’m worse now than I was before, when I told myself I needed that. This isn’t a good thing.

 

My psychiatrist is big on the “you have to do things that make you feel uncomfortable because that’s how you get better and learn that they’re okay!”

I tried to explain to him that it’s the other way around – that I need to be able to take these feelings and understand that they are a warning sign that this is not good for me, and trust that, act on that, without being punished for it. The core reason I have this thing, that makes the other thing present in the way it is, is because I spent eighteen months being told that every time I complained that something wasn’t normal and it wasn’t something I could fix by myself, it was my fault, that I wasn’t good enough, that I was just making it up. Even when they realised how bad and dangerous things really were, it was my job to fix it, with no support, no backup. And then, they told me that while I still had to deal with all that, what I needed was to be around a man who’d spent all that time telling me I wasn’t doing my religion right and felt it was appropriate to call to me by whistling as one calls a dog. I had to apologise to everyone for having a panic attack because it was disruptive. I was told off for having a panic attack because it’s not a big deal. I was told I should let her touch me and tell me what to eat and follow me into the toilet because “it’s important I emailed you two seconds ago why haven’t you done it yet” I was throwing up because you ate a ham and cheese croissant in order to make yourself sick enough to get out of work, because I was told that I had to stay. Over and over.

But if I listen to my instincts here, the way my brain is choosing to tell me that this is not safe remember what he did to you, he doesn’t listen you can’t make him listen, you need to save your spoons, I get punished – I am denied medical treatment, I have to pay to be denied medical treatment, and I get yelled at by the psychiatrist even if he lets me explain. If I ignore my instincts, this gets worse. I get auditory flashbacks. I dissociate. I lose progress I’ve made on making a regular sleep schedule and eating and taking meds and being functional – things I can’t afford right now. If I continue to be punished for listening to my emotions and my instincts and my body, then they’re not going to see anything they call “progress”, because it’s perpetuating the cycle that brought me here. My instincts are saying that he is not the right neurologist for me. I have to respect that, because I’m the only one who can make informed decisions about my health care. But I will be punished for making that decision, and it will not be progress; it will reinforce the existing pattern, and I can’t just tell my brain that it’s different, because it’s not. It’s still other people telling me that my opinions and what I feel is best for me is not valid.

“That’s the trigger. That’s a bit awkward,” the psychiatrist said. That’s a bit useless, isn’t it?

 

Same with speech therapy. If I go, I get harassed. I don’t feel safe quitting, because there are consequences. If I go, there are consequences. I can’t make a decision on that because my instincts and feelings are being ignored, on both sides. Neither option is empowering. If I don’t go, though, it feels like my soul is being ripped out through my mouth, and so I have to make everything else easier, calmer, so I can get through attending and feeling objectified and threatened. I used to avoid going near there, because I used to have to go there a lot and there were very good odds of running into someone who was very bad for me in ways that I can’t describe in public. I have to deal with that every week now. I have to put up with people ignoring me and talking over my head, the same way they did at dance, because someone decided that not talking meant not being included. It’s not. They were talking about the differences in guitar strings, the other day. I have opinions, but when one of the people involved in the conversation was happy to chat with me on Facebook and then walked into the building, obviously ignoring me and abruptly ending the conversation, only to pick it up hours later, pretending it had never happened…

“He knows the situation; he’s just trying to be nice,” apparently. Nice is signing ‘hello’ back instead of greeting everyone but me. For a moment I doubted myself – it mustn’t have really been him, right? But it was.

I dissociate in order to attend. They think it’s progress. Instead I deliberately put myself back into survival mode – do whatever it takes to not be bad, so they don’t have to yell at me. They encourage it because it makes me better. I’ve been in that situation before; it doesn’t end well.

But if I don’t go, I have nothing of my own. I will have no friends. (I just blocked half my Facebook list because it’s not actually a coincidence that everyone messages me as soon as they change their status to ‘single’ and I cannot have another ‘I can’t have sex with you because you’re asexual and that feels like rape and I am not a rapist’ conversation). Not that they’re friends, but it’s a nice fiction. It feels worse not to go than to go.

 

That said, my parents are coming to visit, and I’m taking a week off. My parents will be angry and threaten to kick me out because I’m not meant to interrupt my life when they come to visit despite the fact that having them sleep in front of my television cuts me off from my coping mechanism, that I end up drained and exhausted and in pain from having to cook because otherwise my mum complains she never gets a break, that I end up losing dishes and sometimes entire appliances to cross-contamination and then I get yelled at because “what happened I don’t understaaaaaaaaaaaand” when I throw it out. Apparently, me not being able to talk makes it really hard for them and it’s my fault they can’t cope with their kid having a brain disorder. Or something. But I have that to deal with too.

 

So I cannot do this. I do not have enough spoons, I won’t be able to self care, and if I am anything less than perfect, because my parents refuse to learn any kind of sign because they’re too old to learn new things, I will be punished and criticised and told off, and I cannot, literally, cope with everything.

 

So, since the neurologist can’t do anything as simple as telling me where the appointment is, and I do not feel safe going to him, nor do I feel it’s the right match for me, I won’t go. I will not confirm the appointment. I do not wish to reschedule.

I will skip one week of speech therapy, tell my parents that if they don’t like it they can stay in a hotel like I asked them to and they refuse to do because it’s too hard/expensive/they won’t see me/whatever the hell their problem is, and if they kick me out then I’m homeless and disabled and eligible for emergency housing and if I don’t get it then I’ll just kill myself and save everyone the trouble of dealing with me. I will take in two weeks payment next week and make sure they can’t harass me for it. This means I get no time to myself while my parents are here, and that’s okay, because if they get too much, again, I’ll just kill myself and save them the trouble of dealing with me, which is not ideal but it’s better than having my dad go “what are they teaching you it has to be classical you can only train classical” and leaving them unattended to “help” by screwing up my kitchen with food that makes me sick. And they’re coming up for a show on Wednesday, and they refuse to go to night showings so it’s a matinee and if I go to class I can’t walk to go to the matinee, so they’re just going to have to suck it up, for once. If not, well.

 

I can still feel the IUD in me, making my brain feel things that aren’t me. A lot of this feels unnatural, like it’s outside me, but every time I say that I’m told I’m being stupid. Just like how it’s stupid that one side of my body doesn’t work when I get a specific kind of head pain. Apparently.

 

I seem to have lost the ability to put things in order.

 

The fact still is that there is only one person in the entire world who, although he gets a lot of things terribly wrong (“um, so your receptionist just came in here and threatened to take away my ability to consent so she could break a hard limit” =/= “oh, she’s just like that, don’t worry about it”!!!!), treats me like a person and not a science experiment or a doll. Obviously, I’m not referring to the neurologist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quick follow up

Follows from I know myself and I am a mess., warnings still apply (yes, it’s long, I talk a lot).

 

First, I have two letters from the chemist – they’re really sorry and hope I go back so they can give me better service. I got my meds without being questioned at other locations, thank you but no.

 

I sent a letter to the security firm (again), which will go about as well as last time. Fortunately, I have one more ticket for a thing there, and I will never have to go again because rumour is they’re shutting down, which I can see why – I also saw a staff member smoking an actual cigarette inside the venue before they opened, and the sound is terrible. It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t hear, apparently. It wasn’t even my brain – the mix was that bad, and the speaker set up is not conducive to standing people.

 

But the real thing is that a combination of further events have reinforced the This Is Not The Best Environment.

I have a pattern of staying until things become irretrievable. Somehow, I have to either fix this, or extract myself without being exposed to consequences (either the forced therapy or the hurt-feelings-not-ex-ex routine). I don’t know how to do that.

 

What happened yesterday was that I was in the waiting area and a loud person came in. It was loud. He knows me, and he greeted everyone else but not me. He’s done this before. Apparently, not being able to talk means I am not allowed to participate in conversation or other social niceties like a high-five or waving hello.

I raised this, because he brought it up. “I didn’t know how you would cope,” he said. I don’t know what that means. Five people talking at the top of normal speaking volume is nothing compared to a metal gig.

I told him what happened. “You should have a little light that you flash to get my attention. If I saw that, I would have come to help.”

He saw me crying and did nothing.

 

I did a small revengeful thing. I took in songs from musicals, because he hates musicals. Apparently my technique is almost perfect, but instead of working on that, I get to take in more songs from musicals, because he likes when I do musicals, just not, you know, musicals.

 

I want things to be better, but I don’t know how. I don’t know if longer lessons would help, so there’s time for that. I’ve tried to get in elsewhere, but they’ve been worse.

 

I’ve already decided to stop going to his shows. If I deliberatly skip a lesson, I’m afraid I won’t go back. If I don’t go back, I have to go to speech therapy, which I do not want.

 

I feel trapped. There is no good outcome. I am heartsick, but this cannot continue.

 

I still don’t know what to do.

 

 

 

 

I know myself and I am a mess.

TW: ableism, disordered eating, rape survival, harassment, BDSM dynamics

 

So Saturday was not a good day for me. You already knew that. I already knew that. I should have stayed home, perhaps, but (also, as you know) concerts are the goals that keep me from straying to other paths, and I was needed there. That’s right. At least, I thought so.

 

So, last November I started voice lessons. I arranged them entirely on my own, and it was a thing that was mine. Nobody else had a say in it, nobody else knew about it, it was my thing. I had some silly idea that I would go in, sing, come home, and that would be that.

In my second week, the owner made me listen to a Youtube video of my teacher’s band. It’s not that I was unfamiliar with them, but the way they were presented to me then was that it was expected I would be both interested and that I would enjoy it. (I don’t, actually, but that’s a technical rant which doesn’t really belong at this point of this post). I dutifully went and purchased their EPs, only to be told off a few weeks later. Apparently, I should have just asked and gotten them for free, which is the only time ever a musician has decided to tell me not to pay for their music. (Weird, huh?)

Accidentally, I ended up at their next show – I’d bought my ticket before they were announced, because having a concert meant my parents would go home so that I wouldn’t be getting in at 1am and waking them up. (I’m devious like that, sometimes). In the next lesson, my teacher thanked me for going and told me how much it meant to everyone. Then he asked me if I was going to their next one.

 

This turned into a thing. I’ve been to all their shows since, and apparently I’m the only person who’s done so. It’s at the point where, last week, at the end of class, he asked me straight out if I had a ticket because he had a few spare if I still needed it, and he said he would see me there. Thus, I was expected. Needed, because he has social anxiety, and I have been getting the impression that having me there helps.

That’s not all. I took in a batch of muffins as a Christmas gift, and then leftover cake from a birthday, and now he has his own container and if I make something, he gets a third. The container comes back washed. He thanks me, because otherwise he wouldn’t have eaten that day. I’m needed; I take care of him.

 

A few times, because pretty much every male-identified person I ever meet does this at some point, he’s been open with me about personal problems. These are things that are not entirely, shall we say, public knowledge. He trusts me with these things. He wants me to know these things.

A few times, and lately, every week, he tells me how sad he would be if I left. He tells me he looks forward to my lesson. It’s the highlight of his week. No matter how down he is, seeing me makes him instantly happy.

 

Clearly, this is not a student/teacher relationship. There are no boundaries, except that he asks before he touches me, and I don’t ask him about personal things. (That is because I am terrible at reading physical cues, and the one time I asked him flat out what was wrong, because he looked like he’d spent three hours crying and hadn’t showered in a week, he said he’d just been busy. If I don’t ask, he talks more, apparently.) I only share with him what he needs to know, on my end, because unlike me, he doesn’t have a sense of confidentiality.

I know this because I was waiting in line at a concert, and some dude was harassing me. I tend to ignore that sort of harassment, because that’s the easiest way to shut it down – it’s the kind where a guy thinks he can just keep talking and eventually, the object of his intended affections will give in just to shut him up. Instead, someone else told him to shut up, then explained my medical condition, finishing with “she wants to talk to you but she can’t”, leading me to be harassed by this guy until I ended up leaving early, because he decided that I wanted to deal with him, just couldn’t express it, and it was his duty to look after me. Or something. When I got home, there was a Facebook friend request from the mansplainer and a message. “Don’t worry, he only told me because we’re friends outside of class, and he finds you interesting.” … I doubt that extended to him being able to recognise me, nor him being able to find me on Facebook.

I also know this because one time I knew he would ask me what I thought of a new album, so I wrote a review rather than try to find the words on the spot. He took it home and shared it with his housemates. In the review, I confessed to how some aspects of the storyline and lyrics made me uncomfortable, due to having being raped and that particular song being somewhat triggery.

So there’s that, too.

 

I didn’t tell anyone I’d started classes for a month – not even my psychiatrist. When I told him, he was happy, and eased up on the pressure to get me into a speech pathologist (the one I was referred to was not behaving very well at the time anyway, so it was partly just giving up, I think – any speech pathologist who gets a client’s email from somewhere not the client or the referral and harasses them for days about not being able to talk because it makes scheduling appointments too hard probably should take a minute to think about their clientele). But now, every appointment, he wants to know how “the singing” is going. There’s an unspoken pressure – why can’t you talk yet? – in these questions. Apparently, I’m meant to just flick a switch and be able to go from singing to talking, by speaking on note. He was very glad, however, that out of everything, there was someone who I felt safe with, amid all the doctors being rude (pulling my hair, performing surgery without permission, lying to me, ignoring me, you know, how doctors are with chronic pain patients) and what I have to put up with from my family. But there is also another kind of pressure – if I quit, then I am doing nothing to reclaim my voice (a thing which he thinks is important and I do not – he also likes to think that “work took [my] voice away” as if this hasn’t been happening since I was eight) and he will force me into speech therapy.

I didn’t tell my parents until they came to visit and I had to find a way to be out of the house. I tried to handle it simply – I told my mum, alone, and asked her not to make a big deal of it. Within days, my dad wanted to be involved and dictate what I learned and how classes were conducted. I burst into tears and walked out. Mum yelled at him, so he hasn’t tried it since. After running very late a few times, I said I would not be Skyping with them on the same day as class. Except, I remember one time, my brother hadn’t emailed for three days, and my mum was two days into a panic attack, and so that turned into letting them know I got home out of the storm, and that turned into being on Skype after class, meaning I didn’t get my recovery time. I’m working on it. But. One of the reasons I had to quit dance was that I was expected home within half an hour, and every week, my mum expected me to tell her how class went, what we did, and it became an obligation. It wasn’t a space of my own. My mum started calling the school, leaving messages for me. And that was the least of my worries there, if you can believe that.

With shows, I just say I am expected. My dad doesn’t get it; he thinks it’s an excuse for them to get more money from me. My mum does get it – in society, in order to make things easier on ourselves, we participate in social things we do not want to in order to maintain social links. It is a nice thing to do. It is the socially expected thing to do – no matter what the personal cost.

 

There have been a few incidents at the school. The owner, acting as receptionist, thought it was helpful to make me talk before class. If I ignored him, he got other students to harass me until I acknowledged him, including letting them hit me. If I said I needed to just sit and meditate, he would go on about how he would turn the music down and get out of my way and why did I need to do that, instead of letting me just sit down, put my headphones back on, and knit. If I knit, I have to say what I’m making, and explain why I’m not making money from it. If I don’t knit, I scratch through my hand. I missed class because of the flat tyre incident, and I went in the next week with two weeks’ fees, and there was a new receptionist, who told me that the owner was taking a break and I only needed to pay the one week. The next week, she stopped me leaving and asked me to pay, but my teacher told me not to because it was an accident, and he had been told I wouldn’t be charged. The week after, I got home to find the owner had messaged me on Facebook (we’re not friends) asking me to pay. I blocked him, paid, and mentioned that it made me uncomfortable. My teacher laughed, and said he hated Facebook too, and how it makes people have to be available all the time. I told him I was afraid to miss class again, in case the owner came to my house. “He probably would, actually.” Well, that’s not very helpful, is it? So now if I wake up on Tuesday, or I don’t sleep at all, or I have a bad migraine or a cold, I tell myself I have to go, because I’m paying anyway, and I don’t want the owner to find another way to harass me.

Given that I essentially fired my neurologist over his insistence on scheduling appointments on Tuesday afternoon, a fact which he will not negotiate and I can’t budge on, because missing a week would open me up to harassment (which I would be paying for, despite paying a deposit to cover emergency absences), and which my psychiatrist supports in not budging on, that’s a pretty big thing.

 

So there’s a new receptionist, right? She is also a vocal teacher, and she hangs out in the lobby with one of her students, and they talk, loudly. I am very good at hearing things I am not meant to when people assume that not speaking means I am Deaf.

The week before the incident, my teacher asked me to sing in the school’s yearly showcase. I agreed, and spent the week picking songs to go through with him, with notes about how I could adapt them for a solo performance. I am primarily a dancer, then an organist, then a singer, so it would have been easy to combine those to create a solo performance. I have all the equipment I would need for that.

The week after the incident, the new receptionist told her student, also a solo performer, that she couldn’t be in the show, because it was for bands only and the cut off was the week before. I expected, as I had already indicated that I was interested, that that wouldn’t affect me, but it did. The next I heard about the show was seeing rehearsal pictures on Facebook. One of my friends commented on the post, asking why I wasn’t included in the gallery – the owner ‘liked’ the comment. That was it.

I admit to being devastated. I haven’t shown it to anyone at the school, of course, though I have discussed it on Facebook, vaguely. When my teacher raised it with me, he expressed worry that I couldn’t handle it, because they do things differently. I have performed on stage at a 2,000-seat theatre, in a show of 400 people, with my condition. It was hard, because the other people in my sets harassed me about needing a proper corset instead of a fashion corset (they couldn’t breathe in their badly tied acrylic-boned corsets, so of course, wearing a steel-boned movement corset for 14 hours must be bad, right? Wrong. If not for corsets I couldn’t leave the house, because I can’t stand properly, carry anything, or walk more than two metres without one). They excluded me from rehearsals because not being able to talk was apparently me being rude, and they were generally shit people, of the yelling at me for having a panic attack variety. In a solo performance, that wouldn’t be an issue. I can arrange things around the show date to have requisite rest and recovery, and there is nothing (nothing!) more intensive than two performances in a day. A piddly little one song in a student showcase? I can do that. That choice was taken from me, though, and I don’t know why. I haven’t asked, because I don’t want to hear that they decided for me that I couldn’t – that would be discrimination, much more solid than what I’ve been through there, and I wouldn’t not be able to take action.

Of course, all this was compounded when tickets went on sale. The very first day they were available, I went to class, and the owner was there. I paid, was halfway to sitting down, and he held out a ticket to me. “Buy a ticket for our show!” he said.

I didn’t feel I could get out of it. I ended up using my emergency cash from my lyric folder to buy it, considering it an investment in not being harassed. That was the first time I found out for sure when the show was.

Funnily enough, in the midst of all this, I auditioned for and was cast in a dance production. They explicitly asked for diverse applicants, and I was up front about my limitations, and they cast me. It’s at the limit of what I can do, and I am very excited. (We will not talk about the other audition I attended, where the choreographer assaulted me and they took me out of the cast when I spoke up.) But I have a rigorous audition schedule, for which I had to give my availability months in advance, and naturally, I have ended up with rehearsal the day after the show. If I was in the show, or knew the day (for sure – I don’t count seeing the promotional materials in mock-up by accident as actual notification), I could have said I wasn’t available that day, but I didn’t know, so… I’m not going, no matter how many people invite me on Facebook. If I have to give an excuse, I intend to just say “I have to prioritise the show I am in”, and by the time I have to do that, I will have practiced it in my head enough that it might even come out.

 

See, after going to a show, I need a few days to recover. On Sunday, I could barely walk. I spent most of the day in bed, and even so, I managed to spill a drink I wasn’t even holding. My back is still sore, because while I did my best with the corset and I spent the last hour lying down on the floor, the fact that the IUD incident changed my body shape means that the corsets I have don’t fit as well, and offer me less support.

And that’s without the incidents which occurred at the show. The floor was dirty and slippery, so naturally, I sprained my ankle. I know from experience there’s no point trying to get treatment for it at a venue like that, so I just left my boot on, took the weight off, and hoped I caught it before it got worse. Currently, it’s bruised but not swollen, because I put ice gel on it when I got home and it’s been in a pressure bandage since. I am used to my ankles doing weird things – a ligament tear in high school healed badly, and one ankle won’t actually straighten, so I have my exercises and arnica gel, and I deal. Like most things, I deal.

What I do not deal with is being harassed about it. I’m sure that this is going to sound perfectly minor to everyone, but. The show ended at 12:04. I know this, because when they said it was the last song, I tried to sit up and I couldn’t. This kind of paralysis passes, but I need to be careful, because it comes with clumsiness. By the time the song ended (remember this is not just metal, it is prog metal – minimum song length, 6:30), I had worked to sitting up. I was taking notes on my phone for a review (potentially, anyway), so I put that away (how I know the time!) and I got out my “May I please have a Coke?” note, put my purse in my pocket, made my keys easily accessible for the short limp back to the car (safety first, and a knife is much more conspicuous). This all took about a minute. A security man came and stood about ten centimetres from me and made a big sweeping ‘after you’ gesture. I couldn’t see his face, and by this time I had no comprehension of words, but I didn’t hear him talking.

I will not let you rush me, I thought. I put my knitting in my bag. I had taken an inside jacket, in case it was too hot for my rain jacket, but with him standing over me, I didn’t feel safe taking it off. He was very close. He leaned down and started waving his hand in my face. I still couldn’t see his face, or make out any words. I closed my eyes, and prayed for him to go away.

He went away. I used the wall to push myself up, and by that time, the blinds between the performance area and the bar area were almost down – instead of leaning on the wall to get out, I had to cross the floor, my knee buckling and my ankle twisting with each step. Then, I had to dodge people to get out the door. I saw my teacher at the merch table, he saw me, and I decided to go outside. I was afraid that if I didn’t leave, I would be in trouble. I had run out of the drink I had sneaked in, and I really needed one so I could have my meds, but I wasn’t even game enough to take my note to the bar and ask. Instead, I got outside, flopped onto the stairs, in the same spot I’d been for two hours before the show, and started to cry.

The time was 12:09. It was roughly six minutes after the show had ended. There are signs on the door: ‘no re-entry after 3am’.

My teacher came out a few minutes later. I wasn’t consciously waiting for him, but I had to decided to wait until he left to leave. He stopped in front of me, looked at me, and in a voice that sounded far away, said “I’ll talk to you on Tuesday?”

I nodded, and he went off to his friends. I sat for a bit longer, but I left after someone started patting my shoulder. I don’t know why – they were behind me. But it wasn’t safe to stay. I went to go the normal way to the car, around the back of the building and under the overpass to the pedestrian crossing, but my teacher was there, smoking and watching me. I didn’t want to go near them; I felt like I would interfere, somehow, so I went the other way. My tax return had come in that morning, and I had promised myself chips, so I drove up to an all-night fish and chip shop, where they know me because my brother used to live near there, and they make sure my food is safe. I had my treat, and I had food that I didn’t have to cook, for the first time in weeks. But, I was alone, and I’d dragged myself to the show, put myself through that, because I’d felt like I was expected, needed there.

It hurt, that I was crying and he didn’t even ask if I was okay.

 

I saw my psychiatrist last Monday. He is very insistent about me seeing a pain specialist. I am very insistent about not seeing a particular pain specialist, specifically, the one recommended by the gynaecologist who told me physio would cure my brain and that the IUD would fix all my problems because she had one. He has been talking about referring me for a year, and I honestly thought he’d sent off a referral last September, so I don’t know what’s going on. But I need a break from having to be at places and expected to do things and having nothing of my own. When I told him that, he asked what I would do if I had it. I told him I couldn’t have it – I had class, and my parents were coming to visit.

He asked what class.

I told him it was singing.

He hadn’t realised I was talking about vocal class, because apparently I’m normally excited and enthusiastic about it, and last week I wasn’t, and not just because I was flat and dissociated.

“Why haven’t you quit?” he said.

“Because it would make my teacher sad,” I typed. Until then it hadn’t occurred to me that I even could quit. The last time I was in a situation where I was so unhappy it was hurting me, everyone told me it was my fault anyway (dance), and that I should think of the money and just deal with it because I wouldn’t get another job and because it was just women’s problems and I was just being too sensitive (old work, and that is barely scratching the surface). I missed a lesson and I was harassed about it on Facebook. The next lesson, my teacher told me he missed me so much and it was the longest he’d gone without seeing me and it was hard.

“What changed?” my psychiatrist asked.

There was a specific incident – I can’t remember if I talked about it here, so I’mma go over it in case I haven’t. A few weeks ago, my teacher let me into the classroom early so I could sit in private (he’s good about letting me have space, unlike everyone else), while he had a break. The new receptionist ran in and started gushing about my hair.

“How long is it? It must be so long and nice for you to have a ponytail like that. I want hair like that but my hair won’t grow like that. How long have you been growing it? I know what we have to do. We have to get drunk so I can play with your hair.” And she ran back out.

I told my teacher when he came back. “Oh, that’s just her. She’s like that,” he said.

I keep going over it in my head. Until then, nobody else had come into the room with me in there – one of the other teachers occasionally needs to borrow a guitar, but he knocks, and my teacher hands it to him at the door. Basically, she said she wants to put me in a position where my ability to consent is compromised so that she can touch me in a way she clearly knows I wouldn’t allow if I was in a position to withhold consent. Basically, my teacher said that’s okay. My teacher knows I do not like being touched, because he has prevented people touching me in the past. He knows I have been raped and that I have issues with boundaries and consent.

But until my psychiatrist asked me, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could quit. There are consequences for me if I quit – harassment over fees, speech therapy, my parents (and my mum still goes on about whether I’m sure I wanted to quit dance and then does it up as ‘just making sure you’re sure!’ um, no. I quit and then you paid for lessons and made me go. I definitely want to quit, thank you).

I’ve been conditioned not to quit, because when things are harming me I am repeatedly told it is my fault and that I should just deal with it.

 

The entire point of writing things out in here is to expressly put the fault back where it belongs – with the people who cause these external things that affect me.

 

But here, there is an internal pattern as well, and it’s much more disturbing to me, and it’s something that doesn’t come under the range of things my psychiatrist is equipped to deal with, or that I can safely raise with my conservative Catholic parents, who still don’t believe that I am not a girl and neither is my brother (another issue entirely, that one).

Back when I had both time and spoons, I had a string of one-to-two month long relationships. They always ended badly, either with obsession on their part, discomfort on their part, inability to reach compromise about preferences, or just petering out because I don’t enjoy or desire sex. Or I actively cut them off because they only wanted sex. There was a pattern within these – there was always one around March/April, always one around October. For a few weeks, I would eat better, and then start binging, because comfort food is a thing after the way I was raised. Everything else would come second, even if I didn’t want it to. My mum would be telling me off, because she never likes anyone I’m involved with, and her voice would be in my head (another reason to keep her well away from things now). “I don’t like him, he seems like dinner and dessert between the sheets.” “I don’t like him, he sounds mean.” “You shouldn’t offer to cook for him, he’ll want it all the time.” Inevitably, the main reason I would choose to end things, if they got to that point, would be to shut her up, because being financially dependent on my parents means I can’t afford to alienate them. That’s not the pattern, that’s just a thing that happened independent of the pattern, that I was not equipped to deal with because of the pattern. I identify strongly as a submissive (which is possible while being asexual, and anyone who tells you otherwise is talking shit and should be re-educated), and in a relationship that manifests as putting their needs before mine. I tolerate vanilla sexual interaction because it is the only way they accept physical intimacy. I cook to make sure they eat and because it’s a way I can express affection non-sexually. I rearrange things to make myself available, because often it’s weird times. Weird food, too – it took years to wean myself of McDonalds after having a date there. I have to be a counsellor, a receptacle for everything they can’t share with anyone else, because while that tends to happen with everyone around me at some point, in relationships it is much more intense – I have had to talk someone through trauma from child abuse, help someone get through a depressive bipolar episode after he punched a hole in my house and sliced my collarbone open (then of course I had to lie about the scars). I helped one of the men who raped me through an insurance claim so that he would leave me alone. It stops being about me, and everything revolves around what I can give.

It’s been so long (the last one fizzled because of the work situation, and because he wouldn’t negotiate pain play) that I didn’t even notice it happening. I took cake in, because I made a cake so that I would have food to eat after surgery without having to cook, and it was too much for me to eat it al. He liked it, so he got some of my mum’s birthday cake and some of my brother’s birthday cake and some of my dad’s birthday cake, and half the banana loaf from when I was anxiety baking…

He likes it when I dress up a certain way, and because to get out of the house and go into the mall, where so many bad things have happened to me, I have to dress up anyway, it’s no trouble to just emphasise certain things. It’s not like I plan outfits weeks in advance and match them to the songs we’re doing… oh wait, I do. He always comments on my clothes, even knowing that it causes flashbacks for me, and I keep hoping he won’t, but I dress up for him anyway.

He likes it when I pick songs in a theme. I did it once and now I spend hours on it every week, picking songs, arranging them in a sensible order, learning the words and practicing them so that the words come out. Because he likes it. He looks forward to it.

It’s been pretty obvious since the first lesson, where he talked at me about what I wanted from lessons and finally he just asked me to sing something and I broke down and belted out Skybird, that there wasn’t actually anything I could learn from him. Apparently, my technique is perfect, even though sometimes I can’t even make sounds and I don’t have enough spoons to practice because all my energy, all my talking spoons, go into one half an hour a week. For him. Everyone agrees it’s because my brain doesn’t have anything else to do, so everything is focused on making perfect pitch and musicality. “Are you interested in learning to scream?” he said. The next week, I took in a song, and I screamed, and he jumped, and he stopped asking if I wanted to learn, because that was perfect too.

There exist professional singers who still have lessons after ten, twenty years of performing; I don’t know if they go to classes just to be told “you’re perfect”. Probably not. But, he said if I switched to another teacher, he would be said. “Cut” he said, making me think of how it would feel if he cut me, and I said I wouldn’t ever do that.

It would hurt you too much.

It would hurt me too much.

Somehow, in all of this, I’ve ended up submissive to someone who doesn’t want a relationship, apparently doesn’t know how to react if he sees me crying, is too busy to see me outside class despite professing that he wants to, and can’t even follow through on a promise to message me with a song he wanted me to learn. From what I’ve been able to glean, his only relationship was with another man, so chances are he’s not interested in an afab genderfluid ace personthing.

 

The safest way for me, to look after myself, is to quit. Stop going to his shows, stop going to class, let them keep the deposit in exchange for not harassing me, take him and his friends off Facebook, and move on. I will probably be forced into speech therapy, because class is the only reason the psychiatrist stopped pushing it, and apparently this is the one thing that “conversion disorder patients tend to know what they need and it’s best just to let it heal on its own” doesn’t apply to. I would be happy not talking. Talking is overrated. Talking is hard. Talking takes so much energy it prevents me from doing other things. I don’t need classes on how to talk again. I feel like everyone’s obsessed with talking over the other things going on, like how I have had a migraine for six weeks and I can’t sleep longer than it takes for the pain meds to wear off.

But I’m submissive to him, so I can’t hurt him, and if I left it would hurt him, to the point where he would hurt himself.

 

I don’t know what to do with that. I feel like right now my entire life revolves around class, because I have to ration my energy just so to be able to perform in there, and I know that means he doesn’t see how bad things really are, or how much being there hurts me. It would be good for me to be rid of it, but I can’t hurt him.

Someone might say, well, if he knew it was hurting me, he would understand. Except he saw me hurting, and went off to smoke with his friends, and they went to a diner after. Either he thinks I can take care of myself and he doesn’t need to ask (but he decided not to put me in the show because he thought I couldn’t handle it), or he doesn’t care (but he asks every week how I am and if there’s anything I want to talk about) , or he didn’t notice (or didnt know what to do when he noticed, and he meant he’ll ask me on Tuesday where his mother isn’t there and his friends aren’t watching).

 

I don’t know what to do. My brain is blank. I’ve typed all this out and it’s still blank.

I don’t know what to do.

But I can’t hurt him.

Apparently, the thought of hurting him is the only thing that isn’t extreme physical pain that makes me cry.

But I still don’t know what to do.

 

 

 

BSOM

TW: ableism, discrimination

 

Today was meant to be simple. Go to the post office, go to bed, get ready, go to chemist, go to concert. I am expected at the concert, even though I have a migraine and for the last few days an invisible, intangible knife has been lodged in my groin. (It’s one of those heat-crafted plastic ones, poorly sharpened. It’s black. I haven’t named it yet.)

 

First thing, I passed out in front of the tv, so didn’t go to the post office before bed. Rather, I was woken up by my neighbour parking in the no-parking zone by my house (no parking because, you know, it wakes me up, and I’m meant to be sleeping a lot, except I haven’t slept longer than three hours for a few weeks now, because that’s how long it takes for the meds to wear off), and was like, right, okay, doing this now. I went to the chemist, because the timing screw up with being asleep then awake rather than awake then asleep meant I would need pain meds before leaving for the concert.

 

I meant to come home and go back to bed, get a few more hours sleep before the hell that is a metal concert with a migraine, but I’m honestly still in shock about how this went down, and even destroying digital monsters didn’t help.

See, I went to the chemist next to the post office, because it was there and like, that meant I could be home within twenty minutes. Easy, right? But no.

Today I have a migraine. It’s a hemiplegic one, the worst kind, that feels like a big round object in behind the front right of my forehead. It started as stabbing pains from the back of my head on Monday. It won’t go away for at least a few weeks – I’ve had this one last for three months, before, so I don’t really have any hope that it will stop. But! Because it is hemiplegic, not only do triptans make it worse instead of better (experience, believe me, walking around with an aura for two weeks is not fun), it’s really obvious that I have it. My right leg won’t work – my knee buckles, my hands are numb and tingly, but my right hand won’t even straighten. The right side of my face doesn’t work. And, any hope I had with language is gone. That’s how it went in the first place – right side head pain, no talking.

So I, like the musical nerd I am, am always prepared. I have notes stashed in each wallet, in my handbag, in my music bag – they all say ‘may I please have meds’, there’s a ‘may I please have a glass of Coke’, a ‘may I please have medium chips’, and so on. Today I placed a $20 note and the ‘may I please have meds’ note  on the counter and waited. It was fine, right? The assistant got the all-clear from the pharmacist, so it was fine, right?

The pharmacist was talking to me from behind the back counter. You know how they keep the prescription meds behind another counter, so you can’t see them all? Yeah. Way back there. The assistant shoved a pen and paper at me. I kept signing. He didn’t come out, so it’s not like I could type to him, if I understood his questions. The meds were right there. He said I could have them. I literally had no clue what the holdup was. Surely, if he needed to talk to me, he wouldn’t have given her the meds to give to me. Surely, if he needed to talk to me, he would come out to where I could, you know, see him. But no, he didn’t, so I had no way of answering whatever the question was, and the words I could catch were troubling me. ‘Ambulance’ was one of them. I mean, clearly not talking is a thing, because I have a note, right? And I’m signing. I would have hoped most reasonable people would realise that’s a sign of a long-term thing and not a short-term emergency sign. I know I don’t look so great today, what with you know having a migraine, hence needing the medication.

I gave up, took my note and my money, and I started to walk out, and my knee buckled. Because, you know, migraine. And, since I wasn’t allowed to talk to him, no meds for it.

 

Except, you know, until I went down the road, and purchased it without a pharmacist even being involved.

 

The other thing I heard that was disturbing to me was that he thought it was actually a law that my meds can only be dispensed after recording ID. Which, is, you know, somewhat fabricated.

 

I actually used to teach in a nursing school, and I was instructed to mark things correct that weren’t. For example, the common law exception to negligence that allows for a person with medical knowledge to provide first aid within their experience to use that as a defence in a tort claim? I was instructed to mark ‘The Good Samaritan Act’ as a correct answer to questions about it, even though there’s no such thing, and it’s barely codified beyond case law. So it really, really irks me, knowing that not only are these people not understanding things when they’re informed of them, but that they are then encouraged to go around repeating it because they’re told it’s right. It’s like the nurse at the hospital telling me my ACD only applied if I was dying, but she didn’t think I was mentally fit to decide to leave. The hospital responded by promising that she would be given communication training. Apparently, communication = legal knowledge.

 

So, I went down the road, got my meds, and came home, and I sent a complaint. Nothing will come of it, of course, since he was the pharmacist in charge and, naturally, was told he was right, when he was not.

 

But I can’t comprehend how these things go together:

  • My condition on presenting at the pharmacy, asking for medication which I need and am under medical instructions to keep taking because there is nothing else I can take as safely, justified calling an ambulance
  • Refusing to dispense medication being requested by a person clearly in need of it
  • Refusing to allow someone with a communication impairment to communicate

To me, it looks like he decided to call an ambulance after not letting me type to him. which, as evidenced by my ability to prepare in advance and ability to sign (still only six signs, but still), is not an acute symptom. If he had come out from behind the counter and spoken to my face, I could have typed to let him know that. But, he didn’t. Instead, he called an ambulance basically because I have a brain disorder that makes talking impossible.

 

Yeah, that’s discrimination.

 

“So why don’t you just talk again?” some smartarse will say, eventually. I don’t want to. It’s too hard, and I need my spoons for actually functioning, like say, cooking and cleaning and purchasing meds. “But you have speech therapy?” Yes, but it doesn’t help. I only still go because my teacher would probably kill himself if I left. It’s not exactly a helpful thing.

But equitable access to medication shouldn’t depend on me passing as abled. That should be obvious.

 

Anyway, if I do hear back from corporate, expect another rant. I don’t know if this is a rant. I don’t know if it makes sense, either; I’m just stuck on what the hell even happened.

Activist 101: Corporate Responsibility

TW: STI stigma, discussion of gendered/domestic violence

 

The following is a letter that a friend of mine (name removed) sent to Fox Sports.

 

Greetings,

I am writing about an issue with the team abbreviations for the NRL scores.

The abbreviation for St George-Illawarra Dragons is currently ‘STI’ which is also a common abbreviation for ‘Sexually Transmitted Infection’. I realise that this is obviously not an intended inference to draw, but quite frankly it makes me uncomfortable to see a team abbreviation sharing such connotations, especially given the NRL’s push to be more inclusive and aware of issues in which this could be relevant – for example, people who have their diagnoses of STIs made public are often shamed or shunned, and particularly women are considered to be promiscuous and somehow deserving of their diagnosis, which flies in the face of the message the NRL is trying to get across by having Women in League and White Ribbon events, and punishing players who have been accused or convicted of sexual violence.

I would like to suggest that the abbreviation be changed to ‘SGI’, which has no unintended sexual connotations that I am aware of or was able to find.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

My brain is like ‘wait, it was necessary for someone to tell them that?’ I mean, this is the thing that’s on the website and the television, on the scoreboard. Everyone sees it. Nobody thought it was a bad idea?

 

The NRL recently suspended someone for the rest of the season, superseding their club contract, for making a sex tape (among other things), and earlier this year did the same when a player made a video, while drunk, which I’m told involved a dog. This week, St George-Illawarra play Canterbury-Bankstown, in what is being marketed as White Ribbon Night In, to support the charity especially designed to raise awareness for domestic violence, which we all know is popularly gendered and sexualised. White Ribbon merchandise is being sold, and there are special pre-match activities for awareness and, of course, to solicit donations.

All of this will be commented on on live television, with CBY vs STI emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. It’s also on the website… in the header:

foxsports290716

 

 

It isn’t as funny as it looks. Not when an entire part of the “reason” for that type of violence is that having an STI is stigmatised, to the point where they are considered dirty and useless, and some people feel that justifies the violence. Not when people are afraid to seek treatment, because of that stigma, or because they know that their diagnosis will be recorded and anonymous letters sent to their partners.

 

Yet, despite everything the NRL is doing, and says is working – they gave the broadcast contract to a network that thinks this is okay. Actively, and repeatedly, they think this is okay.

 

The only acceptable outcome is that they change it – obviously, not to STD. I don’t mind if they don’t say why. I don’t mind if they do. But you know, somewhere, in a pub, at someone’s house, someone’s already made a joke about it. An entire team, reduced to a punchline, perhaps in a drunken haze, or perhaps someone was entirely sober and thought it was funny anyway. The very thing that the game tonight is meant to stand against is, instead, being perpetuated – using sexual slurs to diminish someone and treat them as lesser, a punchline, a punching bag. Somewhere, a Dragons supporter has been told their team is a venereal disease and that applies to them, too. Somewhere, someone’s tearfully admitted to their partner that they have thrush and been beaten for it. Somewhere, that person was a Dragons supporter, and subconsciously, that choice of acronym validated their thoughts. Perhaps the person doing the beating was in turn harassed about their team, and is only passing on learned behaviour.

 

Perhaps, a tiny change, costing a few thousand dollars in the graphics budget, would not cause that default to be subtly, insidiously, reinforced. After all, Fox Sports have the NRL in its entirety, live and ad free (except when they say that and advertise themselves, and the logos on the ground, and the naming rights to the stadium, and the commentary mentions of sponsors and other programs, and the ads in the pre- and post-match, and…), and are getting the subscription money to match. Surely, you would think, if they wanted to foster a positive environment, align their values with the ones the NRL are fighting to espouse and instil in their audience, they would make that change.

 

Or perhaps, they wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

 

 

 

Not Depressed!

TW: depression, ptsd, gendered reproductive medical stuffs, disordered eating.

 

A funny thing happened yesterday. As usual, because I went to bed at like 9pm on Monday, I was bright-eyed awake at 4am, ready for the alarm that hasn’t gone off at that time in over three years. As usual, I got my meds, switched my bottle of drink for a cold one, put my (ever wonderful Skyla) heat pack back on the charger (no wheat, no rash!), and crawled back into bed with my game, until I napped a few more hours. My sleep schedule is still twisted from preparing for the disability interview that wasn’t, so on top of everything was a not-quite-rested right fog.

 

Tuesdays are a weird animal, because I have to factor in an hour for panic attacks, in between warming up, outside-dressing, planning how to get new meds with minimum judgment (I have so many doctors’ appointments that I have a scheduled day for them, and someone always goes “you should see a doctor!” no, really?), where to park and can I afford to pay for parking, what else could possibly happen…

I already know that if I’ve had a few days of silence and then music happens it’s a rather significant improvement. This wasn’t that. This was like, as if, a cloud had gone.

 

Today, I had to drag myself out of bed, because I was expected to participate in an RL ritual involving opening gifts only when the person who gave them to you is right there.

But then, I had to have a shower, because it’s easier to throw up in the shower with water right in that one spot on my back where it doesn’t echo and send electricity spiking up to my head. The dreaded pad, which I have not been without for three months, was clean. IT WAS CLEAN!

 

No wonder it just magically stopped, like a wall had come down between that and this. Nothing else has changed; I’m still carrying a few kilograms of bloaty tender water weight, there’s a lot of discharge where there shouldn’t be, I still have a constant migraine instead of a partial one, I’m still back in the weird eating thing with comfort food that corresponds with aforementioned throwing up. But yesterday I bought organic corn! Organic cauliflower!

 

This had better never happen again. Ever. Ever.  Technically, there should only be one more time, when it all comes out and I never have to go through this again. Ever.

 

But, you know, “it’s not in [my] best interest because [I] might get osteoporosis in thirty years”. I don’t know how much more in my best interest it can be if there’s a direct physical link to uncharacteristic depressive episodes, brutal migraines, abdominal pain, and dysphoria.

 

That’s all for today. Apparently, I’m also required to have cake. Ew.

Normal

TW: workplace harassment, anxiety, ptsd, exposure therapy, rape survival

 

That last post was not the one I was meant to write. I meant to put all that off until Monday, and take the weekend to myself, and self-care and be strong and handle everything well. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.

 

One of the things that was asked of me in the appointment was about exposure therapy. It’s pretty much the only thing that’s definitively known to work, and it’s highly specific, because it involves being exposed to something triggering and/or the exact trauma, and dealing with it, in order to re-learn that it’s safe. It worked the first time I was raped, and I kind of instituted it myself – I had to live in the room where it happened, I had to see people who were involved, I had to go to places where he was. I didn’t get over it, but I coped until I no longer had to do those things. Now I can go into the mall, but it’s a crapshoot as to whether I’ll be assaulted for how I look, so that bugs me more than the prospect of running into him, which I did every week for two years as I cut through to class from the bus stop, no matter what route I took.

Specifically, he wanted to know if I did it in the office or if I was given tasks to do outside the office. The idea that I do it outside the office was a bit weird to him, because most times it’s done in the office because that’s a controlled environment.

 

The thing is, with being assaulted because of how I look, and being treated the way I am because of my condition, it’s not meant to be a thing I get used to, and exposure therapy is very limited, because it’s supposed to register as Not Okay that someone comes up to me while I’m sitting on a bench, texting my mum to say I bought her a thing, and they pat my clothes and tell me they had to interrupt me to tell me how good I look. If I ignore them, they’re meant to take that as a sign I don’t want to interact, not assume I’m deaf and forcefully make me look at them to lip read. That particular lady then got hit by a bicycle. I’m assuming she learned from that.

But with my condition, things like going outside, dealing with people, that is exposure therapy, because for 18 months the only people I interacted with harassed me. There was the one who trapped me at my desk to tell me that having crystals on my wall was against my religion, the one who would dictate over my shoulder while stroking my back, the one who showed pictures of someone’s mangled genitals around because they were disgusting, and of course, the people I actually worked for, who don’t deserve mentioning. I can’t do that in an office, because it’s the whole concept of having an uncontrolled environment that’s the problem.

 

The thing that triggered that post was simple. I discovered, I forget how, a website, where a lady takes questions about workplace issues, gives her answer, and then people in the comments go on about how great she is. I frequently disagree with her answers, but it’s only recently I’ve started to comment, because I keep going to it out of some desire to torture myself, and of course, exposure therapy. It makes me upset, and if I am upset because of something else, I can transfer the upset to that. Until now, my comments have been so late they’ve been ignored.

 

Today, in between being a terrible person because I wondered if the coup in Turkey meant Greece got Konstantinoupoli back, I wandered in to check whether anyone had replied to what I said yesterday, and apparently, I replied early enough to not only get dogpiled, but the lady herself had replied! Some of the commenters literally take her word as something akin to the Gospel, so I’m not sure that I was meant to be upset by what she said, but it was, and I actually cried for like a second.

The topic in question was the use of work email for personal reasons. People apparently think that’s okay. My comment was that in some workplaces I had seen, it was not, and was considered stealing company resources (the fact that it is an extraordinarily low cost aside), and it was common here for personal use to be covered by a social media policy (with some real life examples), and that having such a policy could be a tool to discipline people whose work is affected by an imbalance of personal use, but that I viewed some allowance as a good morale boost/retention strategy. Even commenting on this site triggers a shift in my brain, back to that old not-me, and I’m convinced it’s part of why I’m backsliding, the same way as I immediately felt better once I stopped mainlining Phoenix Wright games, even though those are a vastly different field to mine.

Today, apparently using work resources for personal use is perfectly acceptable, policies are infantilising, and the kicker is that she thinks my perception of workplace norms has been warped because they were weird.

Of course, everyone agreed with her, hence the dogpile. I was like

I responded, because I’m stupid, and pointed out that I’m aware my work history isn’t normal, but in my area, this is not. I gave a bit more detail, an analogy, and deleted a thing about misrepresenting the company as it was long, although I should add that back in. She holds fast that it is not, actually, you know, dodgy to use work resources for personal stuff, and that’s why she thinks it’s not normal.

I’m aware that where I have worked and the environments I have worked in are not normal. This is why I got out even though nobody actually agreed with me until after I got out and they saw the damage and had proof in the form of a successful workers’ comp claim. I don’t need some lady on the internet telling me that it’s normal to send personal emails from a work address with work stationery and that places that don’t let you are bad and that one workplace skewed my perception of normal, or people saying “but it was her first job and she didn’t know better”, because it wasn’t my first job I used in the example, and they’re talking about a workers’ rights organisation, i.e., the people who are like ‘you got fired for being on Facebook at work? no probs, we’ll sue and fix that right up for you for free!’. I’m extremely aware of what normal is.

But having a policy that said “limited personal use, during lunch, no torrenting, no social media” isn’t infantilising. Here it is normal. That’s a pretty standard thing. To say that isn’t normal is basically saying all the other stuff that happened is normal. I flat out stated that I know some of the things I went through are nor normal; this is considered normal, here, in this particular climate, where at-will is not a thing, 457s are overused and undermanaged, casual workers have more security and yet can’t rely on hours, and every position must have a contract. It’s different. Here, it is normal. I drafted a hundred of them. There are other posts on this site, that are like “an employer can do that, it’s not illegal, it might be weird, but it’s allowed”. Why is this thing so abnormal? If it was pens and paper, and someone took a pen and a ream of paper home every week, that would be theft, right? Or putting personal mail through the franking machine? Small, but not right.

 

By saying that is the abnormal thing about everything I’ve been through? That hurt me.

I’m terrified about speaking up for myself because if I said “hey, this thing wasn’t done on time because I wasn’t told to do it and when I asked about it I was told not to do it”, I got told “but you should have known to do it anyway”. I complained about being dragged into an office for three hours to have everything explained to me because I said that receiving instructions in text speak was Not Okay, and I got told that “it’s the only way I can make you understand things”. I had to stay late, because I lost that time while it was decided what to do, and changed, and every abbreviation was explained to me because she was incapable of writing full words. I couldn’t manage my own workload because I worked for three people and if I was seen doing something for someone else I would get confronted = “Why haven’t you done my work yet? It’s urgent, I just emailed you.” Doesn’t matter that I’m half in a cupboard, doing other urgent work, and the email was sent while she saw me in the cupboard specifically so she could complain that I hadn’t read it yet. I made myself sick and was throwing up, so she followed me to the toilet and told me off for not being at my desk and how she had to follow me to tell me the thing she’d already told me. I never got lunch. I had a panic attack and I was told to get back to work, and when I refused I was given the silent treatment.

Work only realised how bad it was when the partner couldn’t find her on her work from home day – her work from home day was her day off, you see, and of course she couldn’t be found when her client complained. They made her stay at work longer, meaning I had to work longer, because I couldn’t get anything done if she was there, because I had to physically find every document in the files for her, in her personal filing system, where there were four copies of everything because she needed a new file to take to each meeting (this was one of the things I should have known to do, even though she told me she already had the last one and that was fine), because she couldn’t find it, and I would know where it was. I closed the door behind me and she complained that I slammed it and I received a warning for being impersonable. Clients, other people, both internal and external, would call me instead of her, and she encouraged it. The internal people said it was just faster and they didn’t want to deal with her. The external people put up with it, because she would just hand them back and say I could deal with it, never mind that I shouldn’t have been doing so, and chances are they would have called me back to explain it to them anyway. I received blank files and it was expected that I would know to have everything ready for court, because I knew what to do and she didn’t want to give instructions. It was expected that I would spend twenty minutes on the phone screening new clients, because she didn’t like to be surprised and if a client didn’t want to discuss it with me, I got in trouble, because that wasn’t my job. The time I put a call through without asking her first, because it was a new phone system, an urgent call, and she was waiting for it, she gave me a warning because she hadn’t been able to emotionally prepare for the call. Nobody else expected to rock up to work and have the day’s files laid out with a printed timetable on top. She arrived to work early and was annoyed that it wasn’t there, yelling at me in front of everyone, because she was early and I should have magically known to have it there even though I was working solidly through until 8pm the day before and it was one of two times she was in the office before me, so I wasn’t actually, you know, there to update the file with her emails from overnight, and put it on her desk. She wouldn’t check her email for months at a time, so I often received work when it was too late, making everything urgent. (She didn’t know I was off sick for over a week. I got back to over three hundred emails, because she sent me all the work anyway. Meanwhile, I’d been receiving emails at home from the court, because they knew they received an incomplete application, and I hadn’t done it.) When I was given emergency access to her inbox when she was off sick (and then away for no reason for a month with no warning), she got back and stopped giving me instructions because she decided I could just check her email for her and do it all without her being involved. I had to spend an hour every morning fixing accounts, and both the only accounts person who would touch her accounts and I were told off for being social during work time. Then, because she wouldn’t manage her accounts herself, that became my job too, and I had the accounts manager calling me all the time, demanding that I drop everything because a bill hadn’t been paid and to follow it up and answer all her questions right then.

When I had a panic attack that left me unable to move or talk, I was told it was important so get back to work. She gave me the silent treatment, because “I think of you as my daughter, so if you’re going to act like a child I will treat you like one”. Her actual daughter got appendicitis at school, and the school called me instead of her. I had to explain what appendicitis was, how it felt, how it was treated, and whether I thought her daughter was making it up. I wasn’t allowed to say no. Another time I had a panic attack I was forced to go around the office apologising for being disruptive because it was decided it would make me feel better.

 

Using the work email to be like ‘hey, I won’t be home, can you cook tea?’ or ‘you need to get on a plane, your mum is dying’? That’s downright normal compared to all that.

 

The two kickers – workload was reassigned. We were meant to have input. I explicitly asked to be moved and to not work with the man who repeatedly wandered out of his office to talk to me and put me down for whatever he felt like, as well as advising me on my career without actally being asked to do that. I was stuck with him on top of what I was already doing, because “it’ll be good for you”. I walked out after a week or two weeks; I can’t remember now, and I stopped journalling because I didn’t have the energy to go through it all a third time, because I had to ring my parents when I got home every day and tell them everything that happened, and if I did not they would ring me and not hang up until I did, and then email me until I picked back up, so I don’t have a reference. What I was already doing was being yelled at for having a panic attack because work was given to me for Monday at 4:30pm on Friday with the statement “it’s okay! You can just do it when she’s not here! You’re just being stupid!”

 

The only way I got a day off to go to the doctor was because I had booked it months in advance. I hadn’t been able to take a day to go to my surgical followup, and I’d had to go in on my previous two days off, and I’d been told off one of those times for having plans on my day off. I went to the doctor, who sent me to the psychologist, who told me that he would support a workers’ comp claim.

 

My claim was only accepted when she resigned under mysterious circumstances, and instead of me taking her job as planned, they gave it to someone else, who knew her. Everyone knew her. I imagine the conversation went like this:

“So, we have an outstanding workers’ comp claim, what do you think we should do? We’re due in court next week.”

“Are you kidding me? You have no grounds to contest this. You’re lucky she isn’t suing you in the civil system! Withdraw, now, before this goes public and destroys your reputation.”

I think, anyway. They didn’t even ask me for the keys back, so someone must have told them that the only thing they could do was to leave me alone.

 

And not being allowed to use company things for personal stuff is the thing that isn’t normal? And you’re giving advice on workplace issues?

What the hell?

 

It took me a year to re-learn how to dress myself, because that was something that was also policed. “Your neckline is too low. Nobody will like you like that. Your necklace is twisted.”

“Don’t touch me,” I said, and I pushed her away.

“What’s wrong with you?” she said.

 

I am never going back to work. I know this. You just don’t get over being systemically harassed. No amount of exposure therapy makes that not be a thing that reaches in and pulls it out.

Naturally, there are a bunch of comments that are calling me stupid, what I said stupid, and nobody is going to accept that a thing is not okay, because they want my normal to be just like theirs, and won’t listen to anything else, just saying the same thing over and over. They can’t differentiate an example from being an exclusive solution – citing that a thing worked and in this office here is how it worked = “but we don’t have admins so we can’t do that so it’s bad”. They think my example means I was disciplined for it and are mocking me, when they haven’t even been able to read it properly = “but her grandmother was sick, any decent person would make an exception once or twice”. They all say she, because she is the default there, something about feminist representation. That hurts too.

 

I have been through a lot of not normal shit. Someone saying “please don’t send personal emails from our work account” isn’t that. At all. Dismissing me by saying that it is? Dismisses my entire experience.

 

I suspect this is the catalyst for breaking up with the site. It will be a positive change, I think, to not get caught going through links being like “other people had this happen to them to and wait she said it’s okay? At least other people know how it feels. Wait, do not just go apologise to make you feel better, that’s stupid, apologies don’t work like that…” for hours at a time, until the flashbacks are so strong that I can’t see the screen and the air is stale and the lights are bright, the walls are red, and I hear her voice in my head.