So, you said something racist. Or, someone told you that you said something racist.
Or, someone you really like & admire said or did something racist, or is getting told on for saying something racist.
And now you feel uncomfortable. You feel guilty, maybe, or ashamed. Whatever it is, it’s weird and you don’t like it.
What I need you to do when this happens is stop, drop, and be quiet for a minute. You are not Racism Columbo, your job is not to interrogate the situation for whether it is actually, “objectively” racist. Your job is not to find the motive, to drill down to whether it was intended to be racist. Your job is not to revert to High School Debate Club mode and split hairs looking for plausible deniability. Your job is not to defend your fave from the racist stuff they said!
Your first job…
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TW/CN: Mentions of abuse, childhood abuse, gaslighting, rape, sexual assault
I’ve been contemplating things like why I am not working and researching and writing, even though I know I could at least research and write (the working part is often more doubtful, depending on type of job and how my body is feeling at any given time).
And, due to recent events with a now-not metamour, I’ve been thinking about belief, and why people believing me is so important.
This is different from believing in me. My partners believe in me. They believe I can do whatever I want to do, and that’s a wonderful thing.
But I specifically mean people believing me when I say things–like, “I need XYZ” or “Please give me some time” or “I am an honest and direct person.” I don’t lie. I don’t think I would make a very good liar–I would trip over myself, because I have been gaslit so often that I have difficulty believing myself. It is much easier on me if I tell things straight from the beginning. And if I get details confused, I do my best to own up to that and recognize that my fragmented brain has reflected things at weird angles.
The ex-metamour didn’t believe me–not about anything I had to say about myself over a period of almost two months. Hence, my reflecting now.
That lack of belief cut deeply–right to the quick of how I was abused as a child. My parents didn’t allow me to be a person, not a real, whole person, as a child. Everything about me was confined to narrow parameters that they made up and changed while my eyes were closed, and if I bumped into those parameters, everything went to chaos and terribleness. So it was with the ex-metamour. And the core of that? The core is lack of belief. It is very easy to unmake a person if one chooses not to believe anything said person says. That was my childhood. My parents didn’t believe I’d broken my arm; that I had mono; that I had pneumonia; that I’d torn my knee–all physical, easily proven ailments. I almost died from both the mono and the pneumonia–the former when I was in 8th grade, the latter when I was 4 years old. I have lived in the United States my entire life, and at both those points in my life–and for both the broken arm and the torn knee–I had decent health care under a not-as-bad-as-now economic system. I suffered with the torn knee for days before being seen by a doctor, all while being yelled at and told how I was making it up to ruin the family vacation; the broken arm? So many people stopped by our house that never randomly stopped by and made offers to watch other children in the house, to take me to the doctor, to drive (even though my mom could drive). Mom made me wait until after my step-dad came home, and by then, it didn’t even hurt anymore. Shock, I guess.
Anyway, the point isn’t about the injuries and etc. The point is that even with easily provable, physical ailments–and things that were pretty easy fixes under the then-existing medical and economic systems–I wasn’t believed. So anything non-physical? Anything I couldn’t ‘prove’? That definitely wouldn’t be believed. It is no wonder I didn’t ever tell anyone when I was sexually assaulted and later when I was raped.
And now, later in my life, I find myself at this place where I know I am a fantastic researcher and writer. I know I can do these things. But then, saying that–writing it–gives me anxiety. Because I feel like someone will come along to tell me I’m full of it, that I’m bragging, that I’m making it up. Impostor syndrome (not uncommon, I know). And it’s pretty easy to see where it comes from, given the lack of belief. And I also find myself not researching and writing unless I am in a setting where I am surrounded by people who believe me. I am motivated and I do well when I am in an academic setting–seminary, undergrad. And then, once I’m out, I stop. I don’t have a community of support out here, and I don’t know how to find one.
And also, it is a little terrifying. Because, sure, I could try to do it all alone, by myself, without that community of support. But I don’t know if I’m strong enough to withstand the voices in my head–the brain weasels–let alone anyone else who might be an abusive jerk. And by that, I don’t mean people who have valid criticisms of my work–that’s how academia works, by critiquing and building upon work. But people who seek to tear down? I don’t know. Without a community to tell me whether what I’m doing is valid or helpful?
Plus, without that community, what’s the point? I don’t particularly want to shout into a void.
Anyway–I think I’m supposed to be writing and researching. I think I know the things I want to research and write about, even. But I lack the funding to get into another academic setting–especially with 45 and etc taking down students–and I lack a support community, and I don’t know how to find one outside of a formal academic setting, and I don’t even know if such a thing exists.
TW/CN: rape, sexual assault
I’ll put this behind a cut, just in case.
I’m going to be talking about my own struggles with disability, brokeness, unemployment, white guilt, and social justice work–especially as it concerns moving finances from white people to POC.
I believe deeply in reallocating resources from white people to POC. I believe in reparations–that they must be made, that we have so far to go, that wealth gaps are real, that disparities in pay and wealth exist along racial and gender lines and that these disparities intersect and shift depending on the combination of race and sex/gender in question. And moreover, it’s not just that I *believe* in these things, but that I know them to be fact.
I am also struggling with being disabled–with how much I can do, and the fact that I am unemployed and have been for 3 years (more if we discount my TA year, which didn’t actually net that much income–not enough to be taxed). Both my wife and I have a lot of medical bills (not as many as some people, but still–she has a minor brain tumor, and I have…whatever is wrong with my body. No one knows. It doesn’t make it better not to know, because I can’t quantify or explain it more than “hurt/pain/nausea”). I deal with a lot of guilt already from not contributing financially to our household in any significant sense. I’ve started selling some virtual goods, but that’s not really much income–so far, it’s maybe $1 in total income. And I’ve started doing some work for a friend, but it’s more of a trade–she’s doing a thing for me because I’m doing a thing for her. So, that’s not really income, either. So–I’m still not generating income.
And at the same time, we are broke. I’d say we’re poor, but I’m trying to reserve that term for people who are low-income, like we used to be. Technically, we’re not. My wife’s job pays well, insofar as these things go. But those medical bills? They eat up a lot. Plus, we’ve had a lot of other expenses related to life in the past few years–from me caretaking my grandma and the associated travel throughout her terminal cancer over three years’ time, to our beloved cat taking suddenly ill and then passing away, to my other grandmother passing away, to needing to move for health reasons for both myself and my wife. We try so hard not to spend extraneously–not on eating out, or even small games from app stores, or anything. We don’t have cable or a landline. We buy groceries from the cheapest store we can, and as few as we can manage for each week. And we’re still going negative, slowly but surely. We don’t qualify for food stamps, either. I’ve tried. So…?
Anyway, the white guilt comes in because I see some POC post on Facebook, when they are fundraising, that white people need to open their pocketbooks and fund this and that and abc and xyz project. There are a lot of them. And I would *love* to be able to give to all of them. I used to, before I left my abusive ex. I would just give $5 here, $10 there–because we couldn’t afford much then, but we could afford that. And now…we can’t. And some of these posts are using guilting tactics: things like ‘if you don’t donate to my project, I see you and I will delete you from my page,’ or ‘oh, everyone can afford $1 or $3.’ But that’s not true–not if giving means not eating, or not having medications we need.
And also, I don’t want anyone else to be without necessary things. And I so definitely want to eradicate racism together with all of these people. Which is just this huge project. And sometimes…sometimes, even though I know we can’t afford it, if there’s a stupendously huge need, like bailing people out of the horrendous jail conditions here in StL, I will still put $10 on a credit card…even though we can’t really afford to make those monthly payments go up. Even though I don’t want to put more money into those big white banks.
I just…I don’t know how to feel, I think. Because it feels on the one hand like, well, if I’m going to be deleted because I can’t afford it…well, I need to just do what I can. I can’t pay into everything. And on the other hand, I really want to work with these people in whatever ways I can to overthrow white supremacy–because it takes relationship with one another to do that, and because this isn’t a loner project, and because it takes everyone from the wealthiest to the lowest-income, of all races, of all genders and all sexes to do this.
I think maybe I’m stinging in that place where I feel responsible for all the things, where I feel like I’m supposed to take care of everyone, and also, I know I can’t, so I feel helpless. I want to say something, and also, it feels a little fruitless, because no matter what I say or what I do, it might not be good enough. And I have to be able to let go of that instead of trying to get someone else’s approval. I just have to do my best, and be at peace knowing I’m doing my best, even if others can’t see it. And even if it doesn’t always feel like it because I am terrible to myself.
I am exhausted.
It’s 2 a.m., so that’s maybe not a surprise?
But also, I’ve been sleeping a lot. I don’t know if this is still shingles-related, or depression-related, or just my-body-hurts-related. It’s hard to tell. I’m still on the retroviral, at a lowered dose, to fight off PHN. Every time my eyelid swells or I see a bump above my eye or my right side of my head itches, I get a little tense and worried that it’s coming back. I don’t know if it’s possible? That soon, anyway? I know that it is possible for people to get shingles 2-3x, though rare, but also people aren’t supposed to get shingles until they’re over 60…and I’m 35. So.
I meant to write about what my days are like, because I keep beating myself up for not doing enough. And also, I’m not really sure that I’m actually able to do much. At least, I don’t think I’m able to do much consistently.
So, most days, I wake up around 9:30 a.m. for my morning pills. On a *really* good day, I’m awake before then. On a *good* day, I’m awake with little to no struggle at 9:30, and one of my partners has made me either a small bowl of cereal or some scrambled eggs and apple juice, and I have little to no morning nausea and little to no pain. Sometimes I make breakfast myself, and these are really good days, too.
I eat and take my morning pills. I stretch and try to move out of bed for at least half an hour–to the bathroom, to the kitchen, to the living room or study or just another room, period. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t.
On a *neutral* day, I struggle to wake up. Sometimes someone has made me breakfast, sometimes I ask someone, sometimes I make it myself. This makes the day a little better. I still do the checks for pain and nausea, and usually if I’m struggling awake, these are a little worse. I’m more likely to have more pain, though sometimes nausea just likes to show up. And I still try to move around after I eat and take my pills.
On a *bad* day, I struggle to wake up, and sometimes I don’t manage to wake up until 10 or 10:30 a.m. I usually try to call for someone to help me in this case, and usually, I have a lot of pain and/or nausea. If there’s no one to help me, I slowly make it to the kitchen for food and water, and I usually don’t get my pills in me until about 11:30 a.m. And I usually stay in bed, because the pain is really difficult to manage, and/or there’s dizziness associated with moving around, and/or I’m super-tired as well–whether I got enough sleep or not.
((Note: this is already exhausting to write about, because there are so many different types of day to write about, and I’ve only written about the morning, and I don’t do a lot with my days.))
After breakfast, on the really good/good days, if I have a plan to go out, I will do so. It will take me a little bit to get ready, because I still move slowly, but I will make it anyway. It’s a lot easier now than it used to be, because I’m living on the ground floor. Before, just the idea of the stairs–both up and down–was so daunting that it would exhausting me a little to think of them. But now I can go in and out the sliding door, and I don’t have to worry about the slippery patch in the entry way at the foot of the stairs, nor navigating the steepness and the railings and the trapped heat and the echo-y noise…..
Anyway, if I don’t have a plan to go out on a really good/good day, I will occupy myself: housework, organizing, drawing, reading, etc. Occasionally I get really enterprising and try to find a job I think I could manage, though that quickly gets depressing. I have options out on Fiverr and Moonlighting, but no one is biting on either. I am doing some side work for a friend, but it is not enough to make a dent in our bills. Still, every little bit helps! So, I work on my virtual marketplace, do the work for my friend, and so on. And I organize our group for protests in our area currently (because the Stockley protests are happening now).
On a neutral day, I’ll usually try to do those types of things, too. I’m more reluctant to stay out of bed, though, and I might take a nap if tiredness is winning. But I try to stay awake and keep myself going through the day. I am less likely to job-hunt or organize around the house, but I will try to do at least one housework thing and, if there’s a protest thing to organize, I will try to stay on top of that–mostly because I know if I don’t do it, no one else will in our group. And I know that if my white self shows up, I bring at least 2, and up to 4, other white people with me. If my white self doesn’t show up, none of them will go. And that’s just…it’s a lot of responsibility, which is a little unfair on me. I do wish that, because I deal with so much pain and nausea, they would at least take turns with me–or be more willing to go when I cannot. But, this is what it is right now.
On a bad day, I am pretty likely to stay in bed and take a nap. Depending on how bad things are, ‘nap’ might be a stretch for the sleeping that happens. I sometimes just need to be covered in blankets for pressure and heat, even though I love to be cold, because my joints ache so badly. And my migraines often cannot be quelled by anything other than sleep and time.
On a really good or good day, I will get decent sleep and probably be able to fall asleep somewhat easily at night–although this isn’t always the case. Sometimes I’m so happy from having a good day that I want to keep going or I’m just excited about it, and that makes falling asleep a little difficult.
On a neutral day, sleeping is difficult. My brain just doesn’t want to shut down, and sometimes I can quiet it to fall asleep and other times I can’t.
On a bad day, sleeping is nearly impossible when I actually want to be sleeping. My brain weasels just will not let me sleep. Every time I drift off, something jumps or jolts me awake–a sound, a movement, a flash of a memory through my brain. And sometimes this ‘bad’ combines with the rest of the bad, and sometimes not. Sometimes it combines with the neutral or the good–especially if I’ve gone out somewhere, and then come home from seeing someone.
Hanging out with people is a special kind of torture for me, because I love people. I miss hanging out with people, and I want to see them and know how they are doing. And also, I torture myself over ever single thing I say and do when I see people I don’t normally see. I do it some with the people I do see on a day-to-day basis, but I know I can ask them about it and they will help me understand or lay my fears to rest. But those I don’t see regularly–it’s a little bit different. So, sometimes, even though it’s a ‘good’ day, it’s a ‘bad’ night because my brain is just so difficult with me. And then I go into a weird good/bad day the next day, and so on.
So, this is basically what things are like for me. It’s not a perfect run-down, because sometimes I’m having a good day and then a migraine strikes out of the blue, or my knee pops out, or something–but it’s a close approximation. I try to remember to eat food and drink water throughout my days. And take my pills. And when I hurt a lot in specific places, I use patches or heating pads, or ask for massage from my partners. And I mostly feel very exhausted and in pain of varying levels.