When I was 19 this guy I worked with came close to destroying me. I don't know if that's what he meant to do. He made me do some stuff and I didn't have the time or sobriety to decide what I wanted to do. That sounds like such a small thing to do to someone. If you have the right people saying the right things to you afterwards maybe it can remain such a small thing. But I kept it a secret, and lied about it to the people I was closest to, and so it turned into a secret between him and me. That gave him a lot of power. He told me a joke two weeks later about how cheap I would be if I was a prostitute. This guy who knew a secret about me I was hiding. When he told me the joke I got the same feeling as when the incident he was referencing was happening- like I was in a box stuffed with cotton balls. Like I had retreated into a pin point so deep inside of myself that I'd have to walk miles and miles to be able to operate my body. He told me this joke at work, at the beginning of my shift, then he left, and I worked as a cashier for 8 hours.
Being in that box is not so bad. Not being able to move is not so bad. I've felt that way a lot since then. I have dreams of not being to move.
The problem is that I can move, and am moving even when it seems I'm not. The problem is sometimes I can look at how I'm moving and it's like my intentions have nothing to do with it. Like my body and me are only connected unexpectedly sometimes, like a newspaper's headlines and it's horoscopes. That's what I cry about, frustration at not being able to move the way I want to.
I started calling it a rape in my head many years later, when I was in a criminal law class. At first it was this funny thought experiment. "Huh, according to the laws of many states, that time with that guy was a rape. Huh. What a funny thing."
That doesn't mean I didn't think about it almost every day. But before the criminal law class I thought how I could argue that what he said wasn't true, and I could never find a way it wasn't true.
Then after the class I thought about whether it was a rape or not, and I could never decide.
You can fit so many thoughts into a second. Our brains perform so many calculations so quickly. Still there is a chunk of my brain set aside for that incident, always turning it over, trying to remember something that would make it one thing or the other, trying to find the definitive thing that would make him wrong. I'm never convinced.
I cycle through intense depressive episodes that have lasted 2 months to 2 years. During these episodes I cry a lot. When I'm not crying I'm in my box of cotton balls.
This is why I can't believe that psychiatric drugs are a bad thing. Getting to go weeks and months without being in the box is amazing. It's such a gift. I'd rather something besides a prescription had gotten me out of the box, but who cares? It's so wonderful to be moving with intention, to feel that my body and I are the same thing.
I called a rape crisis line after I had written a suicide crisis email service. I had been having intrusive thoughts about ways to kill myself for several weeks. That was new. I had never thought of that seriously. It's not something I'm ever going to do.
I kept coming up with conditions I would arrange before killing myself. I would get on food stamps before killing myself. I would see a doctor for antidepressants before killing myself. I would move back home before killing myself. I would be drunk or high all the time before killing myself.
Then I made a chart of when my depressive cycles started, and my first one was immediately after that incident. So the new condition was that I would call it a rape before killing myself. Even if it wasn't a rape, if that kept me from killing myself it would be worth it.
I called and got a referral, and got counseling, and attended a support group, and told some family members, and told my best friends. I wasn't sure it was the truth. I am not sure even now what the truth is. I wish there was a lesser word I could call it. I don't want to use the same word that people use when there are guns involved, when horror stories happen. I don't want to lie. Maybe other people who are saner would not be as affected as I was. Maybe this happens all the time and other people are not so sensitive. I believe that is the case. This is more for the other sensitive souls that I don't want killing themselves. Or living in the cotton ball box.
Before this, when I was getting closer to coming up with convincing arguments for why it was a rape, or at least why it was traumatic, I was catching some hype doing comedy. And the knot in my brain where I was arguing about the incident was growing and pressing on the rest of my brain. When I'd hear a rape joke, or actually, more than that a slut joke, my whole body would have a reaction. Like the cotton ball box but also like my skin was on fire. Like I couldn't move but my whole body was screaming at me to move. This sounds like a terrible cheesy joke, but I had bad dreams about comedian friends raping me. I'm not gonna defend the part of my brain that came up with that dream, it's ham-fisted and obvious and cliched. I guess the part of my brain that came up with the dream didn't believe I could handle any subtlety about this.
I used to strongly believe rape and slut jokes were not ok to make. I don't feel as strongly about it now, maybe because I've lost that argument so many times. Maybe because I have to concede I have individual specific reasons why they bother me. Comedians are just repeating themes when they tell jokes like that. They aren't creating the culture. They're trying to get laughs and audiences will probably give those in response to those jokes, because it's a paradigm we're all comfortable with.
I want to do standup about this. Because standup is the way my ruminating thoughts create something good. Thinking about how to make this into standup is a better way to use that part of my brain that's been taken over by this.
It's a really hard thing to figure out how to do. I can't figure out an angle into it. That's why I'm just writing this post instead. It's not as dramatic of a triumph. I'm trying to let some air out of the task. And I have to seriously consider the possibility I'll never figure out how to create standup out of it.
It's a story I want to tell, onstage, but I don't like the character I am in it. I feel sorry for her. And it's ridiculous to feel sorry for me- I am one of the luckiest people on this whole planet. I've had more lucky breaks than anyone I know. I had this one thing happen to me. I got the opportunity to deal with it and get support for it. I've had the opportunity to think deeply about it, in an intellectual way, in an emotional way, in a spiritual way. I have gotten to think deeply about this because otherwise my life has been very secure and blessed.
This journey I'm on is the one I would choose to be on. This is the life I would choose for myself. The dark parts have been integral. It's a journey I am on with so many people who have experienced the same thing, and they are amazing people to get to go through this with. I believe we're changing the world at an incredibly fast clip. I don't believe we'll ever end rape. I do think we'll stop culturally supporting and enabling rapists and start limiting the harm they do. I think someday soon a rape will be about as traumatic as getting mugged- because the crime will be regarded as clear cut and there will be no shame attached to the victim. There won't be people parsing the crime committed against them for 10 years. I do think in the future the word "slut" will be meaningless, a concept everyone will be befuddled by.
I think someday soon calling yourself a rape survivor will make about the impression calling yourself a cancer survivor does- it'll be a way to build community and pride, but it won't be like dropping a silence bomb on a dinner party.
That's all I got for now folks. I do appreciate your audience for my thoughts, as always.
Labels: depression, don't know much (but I know I love you), luck, radical, rape