Broken is broken

Contains SPOILERS for the BBC show ‘Broken’

I’m going to cut all of this, because seriously, this show has so many triggers in like, four hours (so far), that like, it’s hit the red exit button for everyone I know. Everyone. And in my view, some of it was entirely unnecessary or unnecessarily explicit. But! So under the jump there will be the TW, because apparently some people got past the first five minutes without putting all the pieces together and I do know at least one person who hasn’t even watched those.

Continue reading Broken is broken

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Deconstructing ‘Kindness’

TW: discussion of ableism, advocacy, harassment

 

I’m pretty sure that most people who would find me here are the kind of people who understand that a lot of people try to get out of accepting their somethingsomething*ism by saying they’re ‘nice’ or ‘kind’ or ‘accepting’ or, even, ‘my best friend is’ or ‘I grew up with and..’.

 

I’m also pretty sure that a lot of people I deal with out there are the kind of people who see me as an unusually attractive female teenager in need of damsel-in-distress-type assistance (which you all know I’m not any of). Accordingly, when I do this thing called ‘advocating for myself’, for example, in demanding my contractual rights or in pointing out that something that happened to me was not okay and needs to be looked at, they get stunned and react defensively, using the ‘but we’re not like that’ excuses.

 

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Externalisation

TW: discussion of externalisation therapy, discussion of and description of treatment of personal/sexual violence victims, rape and rape aftermath, references to paedophilia

 

I think someone was trying to be helpful when they said that all my entries are about how other people did things to me and I should accept responsibility for it instead.

Accepting responsibility for things is how I got here. Half the point of this is to recognise when things come from other people, and that I am not responsible for that. Sure, I notice more of the people who behave that way, but it’s not like I make them that way, right? I don’t, so I won’t take responsibility for it.

 

Like, say, the psychiatrist is completely off down a track which is not right for me, which comes right after he says “people with your condition instinctively know what they need” and then refuses to listen to what I want, because he has decided that this other thing being fixed will make everything else all go away. I have another appointment with him, because the power went out halfway through and it was faster to make a new one and get out than try to explain that he wasn’t hearing me (reading me? understanding?). That’s not my fault for not being able to make him understand – that’s his fault for not listening, for making up diagnoses and holding information back from me (like, you know, test results), for dismissing me when I tried to ask him for help.

 

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Being Too Visible

TW: disordered eating, medical professionals being sucky, gender biases, religious discrimination, workplace harassment, self harm

So, the reason I knew I could no longer stay at oldwork wasn’t that I was sick of every day being assessed on what I wore – how conservative-professional-female it was, how many times I had worn that dress before (there was a spreadsheet involved, I believe), are you sure you should be wearing those heels – or that I went from being overworked by doing my supervisor’s job (illegal) as well as mine and half of the department’s, to being the receptionist and assigned more work “because that’s what you need”… as if working for the man who actively prevented me getting the work I already had done so that he could harass me about being spiritual and Catholic, or whatever else was on his mind that day, and who whistled at me when he wanted my attention, is what I needed. Or anyone needs. Ever. It wasn’t that the one time I went in on my day off, dressed as myself, that the level supervisor followed me around, measuring my skirt and going “is that really professional”… on a public holiday, when the office was closed.

“I am here on my day off, and I had plans already;” I said. “I’m dressing comfortably today.”

Comfortably being a minidress and boots and enough chains to secure a trailer. But still.

 

Continue reading Being Too Visible

It’s not just an overlocker

TW: self harm, emotional abuse

 

My parents are coming back in a month. Mum made it very clear they can’t afford to stay in a hotel. I was very lucky to be cast in a movement piece that could be customised for my particular braind of disability. Under the guise of “coming up to see your show” they are ensuring that I will have to quit, because it is very clear that having them here will prevent me from being able to participate.

 

I have DSPS. They have to be in bed by 11pm. I normally go to bed at 6am. That’s eight or nine hours, by the time they sit around drinking, fold out the bed, sit around drinking, that I can’t use my television, my kitchen, my laundry… I am stuck in my sleep room or my room, and I can’t put on music (I need music). I can’t sleep when they’re here, because if I do, I get up to find things have been rearranged and occasionally that strangers have been in the house. The day/night/day before they come is invariably spent curled up somewhere, bawling my eyes out and reminding myself of all the reasons why barricading the door is bad and I have to be good.

 

Naturally, the house wasn’t clean when they got here. “I will help,” Mum said, and I tried to stop her. Instead, she rearranged my kitchen, making things harder. Then she walked out. She came up again a few hours later, asked what she could do, and then walked out. I didn’t finish doing the dishes until well after I had also had to cook tea.

“I’m sorry I didn’t help, I feel bad.” Mum said. Dad took half the recycling down. Two days later they asked about the rest.

“Don’t bother,” I typed. Because, really, what does it matter if I’ve already spent half the time walking on empty PET bottles if they have a neat room to live in. I sure as hell don’t want them in here, where I stash everything I don’t want coated in nicotine and passes as objectionable.

 

Naturally, Mum ‘forgot’ that she’d promised to let me get takeout. She started planning meals, then complained that she’s “not this organised at home” when I pointed out, again, the meal plan stuck on the front of the fridge. I’ve been making a meal plan every time they come for two years now, since Mum chucked a fit about cooking because she “never gets a break”. Now I don’t, and I don’t even have an oven, and I went two visits without any food at all because I wasn’t included in her meals. She decided on having lunch out before the show, bought meat and complained that the cheese wasn’t nice. Then she shoved the meat in the fridge, then watched me running around the house trying to find it. “Obviously you’re looking for something,” she said.

She didn’t think, she said, after confessing she put it in the fridge without it even being wrapped. I’m vegan. I am vegan because meat makes me violently ill, I’m anaphylactic to dairy (so of course she brings her own dairy milk from home, as well), and when I started cutting things out (after being forced to eat them until I moved out), I started reacting to everything else. They can’t even keep the dishes separate, so I have to wash their dishes in disinfectant to keep contamination to a minimum.

“It’s very nice,” she said about tofu scramble, entirely forgetting that she’s had it before. Not like I asked.

 

Same like every time I was dressed in outside clothes. “That looks nice.” I didn’t ask. My outfit is not up for comment.

 

Tuesday we went into the mall. Mum kept running off. Dad had to chase her once. Another time I did, and I had to grab her jumper and pull her back. She says it’s because she can’t hear. Instead of staying with me, she can be 20 or 30 metres away while I’m waiting outside a store. I tried to take them back to the car and they wouldn’t get in the lift. “I thought you didn’t want to go,” she said. Then they told me they got lost trying to find the car on their own, because I hadn’t shown them the lift.

We went for fish and chips, and I was so grateful that the fish and chip shop people know me, because we ate there and they brought out two plates of chips, so that I could have chips which weren’t served with their fish. I nearly cried.

“How do they know you, though?” they kept asking. Never mind that we’ve been going there for twenty years.

 

Wednesday we had the show. I had prepared as best I could. I managed to convince them to prebook parking and explained how it worked. We took a picnic instead of eating at home first, so it was very rushed, as I had booked the carpark later to accommodate, knowing it would be very busy there and that the earliest I would be able to leave, given that I had actual work to do prior, was 11am. Eat lunch, go in, park, go to show, sneak in snacks.

Except I went to put the serviettes, cutlery, and bags for the snacks in the bag, and the bag was gone. We ended up in the city, only able to eat half of lunch, because there was no way to cut the apple and no serviettes for the blueberry danish. The bags had been snatched from me when we got out of the car, too, so I had to arrange them as I limped, one starletto stuck on the bottom of the car, my wallet left on the back seat, while I was being yelled at for limping and being in pain. I ended up taking my shoes off to walk, because without the starlettos the heels got caught in each gap in the footpath.

“We need to eat now; we don’t have time,” I tried to say.

“Let’s go eat on the river! It’s so nice today!” And so, I had to sit outside, the sunlight stabbing my head.

When we got inside, finally, Mum ran off again. I found the very last seat and tried to arrange everything. Every time I put something on the floor, my Dad grabbed it and put it on the chair or on the table.

“No, Dad, I’m sorting, I need them down here.”

It took Mum half an hour to get a coffee. “I didn’t think it would be so busy,” she said. “I’m going to complain.”

You wanted to go to a matinee because you thought it would be less stressful.

 

Then I got yelled at in the show. Turns out, unsurprisingly, that a show that spends ten minutes establishing that people don’t like to be called by a whistle is rather triggering for someone who had to walk out of their previous employment, in part, because one of their direct supervisors used to call them by whistling.

“Stop moving,” I was told. Never mind that I’d already scratched through the skin on my hand, and I couldn’t have my snacks because the picnic meant I’d had to make a show of eating, while in my corset, and Mum had staked mine out for her own anyway. We were in the front row, so I couldn’t do anything else with my hands or I’d distract the performers.

 

“Oh, you left your wallet in the car too!” Mum said, when we finally got back to the car, after we’d stood around waiting for her to finish smoking. Despite it being illegal to smoke within three metres of a covered bus stop, you know. “We could have come back!”

We didn’t have time, because you wanted a picnic. And Dad had decided to have someone come inspect the garage door, and broke it, because he decided I (despite being perfectly capable for the four months they refused to have it fixed) wasn’t able to put it up myself. Also, that it didn’t need to be unlocked first.

But you know. I looked nice, whatever.

Then I had to remind then that they’d promised takeout. “That was so nice! That was so easy!” they said after. But I was exhausted from reminding them, again, of how to order, that it was possible to order… I put on a miniseries, and fell asleep on the floor, having argued about where I would get to lie down, because Dad now also refuses to sit on the couch, and won’t move his chair to see the TV. It was the only peaceful sleep I got all week, and only because somehow my brain sees Sean Bean as safe and I always sleep through everything he does.  We were going to finish it the next day.

 

I made the mistake of showing Dad the overlocker I’d bought. He promised, when my handbags all broke, months ago, that he would bring up his overlocker and fix them. I bought one on sale, so he wouldn’t have to bring it, and then he could FINALLY show me how to thread it and I could line things properly rather than spend three hours hand-sewing lining on everything. So when I got up on Thursday, after getting an hour more sleep, he’d taken it outside, unpacked it, and set it up on the picnic table.  Outside, you know, where there’s sun. He took my fabric, a 1m remnant meant for lining glasses cases, and started making corset bags. Without me. And he finished two, entirely too large and along the wrong grain, without the ribbon channel, before he tried to interrupt me cooking lunch to ask if they were what I wanted.

wanted to spend time with him, like when I was little, and he would make one half to show me and then I would make the other half. I wanted him to show me how to thread the machine instead of teaching myself from YouTube and the instruction book (which is now missing, thank you). I was going to set up the table inside and put on Sean Bean and it was going to be a Good Day.

Ended up my day off was an emergency trip to Spotlight, because he needed the sewing machine as well, and in getting it out, managed to lose half my thread and my special red buttons, which magically, I needed, because Mum wanted a gift for my uncle. And, because I had asked and before Dad started, he had not cut me a square for lining the glasses case I was making, I needed new lining as well.

 

When I got back, the overlocker was packed up, and Mum and Dad were fixing the toilet, because Dad finally noticed it was broken, and Mum had finally snapped and made him do it. Or something. So much for Sean Bean; I ended up chucking on an anime just to make sound, and that’s when everyone sat down to watch it – except it was yaoi. Yeah.

 

Then Mum got upset because my favourite player was injured and dropped from the team since she’d come up especially to watch him, and then that we lost. I was upset that I’d spent half the day making a blueberry bread pudding, soaking it in rice milk and everything, only for Mum to refuse to eat it because it was “too hard” and that they’d decided to eat their very not vegan pizza off plates rather than paper towelling, so I had to run around washing up as well. I would get them their own plates and cutlery, but they’d either not use it, or wash it all together anyway.

 

They left on Friday. Mum started crying, because she didn’t want to leave. I hadn’t been able to sleep. I kept hearing them in my head. I was hallucinating them, little versions of them walking on my desk as I tried to write. It is still so cold in here, because I had to have all the windows open for the smoke. Mum had yelled at me for that too; I had one window a little bit open and she had trouble closing it. She couldn’t find Dad, and wouldn’t ask me, even though she saw me open it.

 

The absolute most hurtful thing from Mum was when she was complaining about Dad. I’m in the middle of whatever domestic they have going, all the time.

“He’s like you,” she said. “He can’t adjust to losing his job. He won’t even talk to anyone from work, even to be polite.”

Because my brain disorder, disproportionately presenting because of PTSD from being systemically bullied, a situation which she repeatedly told me was my fault and she wouldn’t help me leave, is comparable to whatever my dad’s got going on? It’s not even hereditary. She says she can’t cope with him either, but refuses to leave.

 

I have a very tiny amount left in savings, enough for food for two months. If they can’t afford a hotel, if that’s their excuse, I will book them a room and go without food. They won’t take it, though.

 

Meanwhile, I’m being sent for a psych eval for disability. I need to prove my PTSD is bad, so they’re sending me to a psychologist, who probably has no idea how my brain is actually broken. They sent me a letter about it. I hid the letter before my parents came, so they wouldn’t find out and insist on staying “to be supportive”. (They’ve done that before actually. I had a psych eval for workers comp, the psychologist yelled at me for not being able to talk, then was very contrite when he realised that I wasn’t just faking it, and suddenly, the next time I had an appointment they were here. To be supportive. And they were rather pissed when I chose not to attend. Or rather, their presence made attending need more spoons than I had. Like performing will.) Now, of course, because I hid it while I was having a massive breakdown, I don’t know where it is, so I don’t know where the appointment is. Funnily enough, all the searches I have tried have no record of the psychologist. It’s not in my online services account as a mandatory appointment. But, the letter was very carefully vaguely threatening – if I don’t go, I don’t get disability. If I don’t get disability, I’m not eligible for priority government housing. I can’t access emergency housing because to do that I have to call them using a paid phone number, which I can only do with the relay, who yell at me for not being fast enough and then harass me all night if I end the call.

 

When I was making food today I saw the corset bags and started crying. I tried to unpick them, but I ended up having to cut the seaming off. The fabric is now useless for anything, because it’s cut to such a weird size. I tried to get the overlocker out, but it’s stuck in the foam, the book is missing, and I have to remind myself that I went without food for two weeks to buy it so that I don’t smash it. I don’t want it in the house, because it’s a ball of dark negative energy. I tried to put it outside, but then I kept thinking ‘what if it rains it’s too expensive to get rained on’. I was keeping it in the garage, but I have to put the bin out, and it was on top of the bin.

 

But I don’t want it in the house. I don’t want to look at it. It’s contaminated, for me, because it was meant to be mine and instead my dad was just like ‘oh shiny! i want to play!’ and took it and now it’s set up for him, the same way I can’t use the sewing machine because ‘there’s a trick to it’ because instead of threading it, the thread has to be pulled in some arcane way that puts more tension on it. I suppose I should be grateful he left it threaded, except the threads are so tangled from the spindles being removed and shoved in a box under foam and then thrown around when I tried to get it out, that it needs to be rethreaded.

 

And now that the book is gone, I literally have no way of working out how to fix it.

 

Except, you know, waiting a month for them to come back and mess things up some more. Which is, obviously, the very last thing I need.

 

Now, of course, I have to go to the psychiatrist tomorrow. He will tell me it’s not so bad, express confusion that I’m not getting better because I’m not at work anymore, even though the actual situation is ongoing. He will offer to have his secretary call to find out the psych eval appointment for me, because he doesn’t know that she hates me and is a rather insensitive person (she yelled at me for forgetting my glasses, after making me drop everything to sign the forms, while I was picking up my bag first because trying to put a broken bag over your shoulder is ten times harder when you’re holding two pairs of glasses, an mp3 player, and a teddy bear – literally less than a minute after I put them down in the first place, after not being able to sit for one minute to put anything even in my pocket. And! She yelled at me for arriving while she wasn’t there. Seriously.) or understand that the problem is that it’s at 11am and that I had to hide the letter in the first place. He will also yell at me for not going to the neurologist appointment, which I was never informed about in the first place.

Then, on Tuesday, I have to go to class, put up with my teacher complaining about other students, and asking how everything went.

 

And of course, being here isn’t as comforting when I go to get something and it’s not there because I had to hide it/put it away/it was moved for me because “it was in the way”/they were just here.

 

Mum broke my blocking board which I made especially for the blanket she demanded – a 160cm x 160cm monstrosity I’ve been working on for a year already. I finished another square to put on it, after I spent half an hour fixing it and sliding the squares on the new needles.

“You finished another one!”

Yes, Dad, it’s so obvious you don’t even need to comment on it.

 

I have been crying for four hours straight now. I don’t know what else I can do. I’m sure it all seems so little to everyone else. It all adds up, though. My brother moved to Germany to get away from it. I had plans for London. Unfortunately, they make you pass a medical exam and have employment and a ton of savings before you move there, to prove that you won’t need any assistance. My brain means I will need the NHS. Bye bye London.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.