Belief

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.

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TW/CN: Abuse/IPV/manipulation

I’m letting the title stand as my trigger warning here because I’m going to be writing about some things that have happened over the past month and years. I was in an abusive relationship. It didn’t get physically abusive, but toward the end I was afraid that it might. I need to write about it. It might come out disjointed. I’ll probably talk about my remaining partners’ experiences and feelings as I know them, too. Mostly, I just want anyone who reads this to know and have really fair warning that I’m going to be talking about this experience–for my own health and sanity if nothing else. And I’m a little afraid that said partner will actually come read this and say things or .. I don’t know. I have fears I don’t want to give expression to, I guess.

Anyway.

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Spoons

In speaking with my Dominant this week, Spoon Theory came up. Briefly, the idea is that everyone has spoons–healthy people have an unlimited number of spoons and never/rarely have to think about how many spoons/how much energy they have in a given day to do things; chronically ill/mentally ill people have a more limited supply of spoons (and the number can vary slightly, depending on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days), and so we have to plan accordingly.

My Sir hadn’t heard of Spoon Theory. After reading the article, he came back and asked, “My sweet sub, is your life like this?!”

I tend not to talk overly much with my loved ones–or anyone–about what my experience with chronic illness is like. Partially, I don’t want to be seen as complaining; partially, I don’t want to be a pity case; partially, I want to figure things out on my own.

So, though I’d told him I have migraines and etc, I laid it out for him then: that I have not been able to get out of bed for most of the last year. That leaving my room, let alone my apartment, has been a huge undertaking–I need someone to stand in the bathroom with me when I’m showering in case I fall (my ankle and knee joints are bad), so I have to wait until wife or Zyn are available and plan accordingly, as well as plan around dishes and laundry doing. And I can’t do the laundry with the arthritis in my neck, or put dishes away from the dishwasher, and so often I can’t do either the dishes or the laundry during the day while they’re at work to get them out of the way. And then the actual actions of showering are difficult as well–I usually skip shaving unless there’s a special event. My partners love me as I am, and I’m fortunate to have them.

And I told him that I’d had, until recently, a migraine pretty much every day–and that even now, the preventative does not prevent a migraine due to arthritis, just due to barometric pressure and other triggers. The blood pressure medication is helping, too, but it’s also tiring me out because of when I take it–I have an appointment soon to talk about changing that, but I have to wait, because the medication is tricky to change around.

And the migraine preventative hogs my body’s water supply. I’m a crier, always have been. I’m one of those people who tears up at long distance commercials and sappy movies I’ve seen a dozen times. But now, my tears are thick and difficult. Crying makes my face hurt. I drink lots of extra water, and it helps some–but there’s only so much water a person can drink in a day.

My energy is still low. I’m still trying to reclaim it. Emotional stress takes a huge toll on me and makes me physically hurt. Every stressor adds up. It amazes me to think there are people…that most people don’t hurt every day. To me, hurting is so normal that I feel like I should just be powering through it, even though I often can’t. And of course, that’s a toxic thought pattern that adds a layer of stress that erodes at my spoons.

I don’t ‘look’ sick. I look fat and lazy. I know that. I’m not a lazy person, though I am fat. It’s hard not to be fat with my combination of genetics and illness. It’s harder to get people to understand that if I’m sitting up, or even if I’m walking, I’m not necessarily ‘okay.’ I may just be pushing myself to get the thing done that needs done, because it has to be done.

Often times, I’m found sitting in my computer chair, reading. I have a very active brain, and I read a lot. This has confused some people–even my partners–into thinking that I must be just fine if my brain is processing information. But for me, this is a marker of recovery. Most of the time I spend in bed has been spent with My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic–because it’s so non-threatening, so friendly, so pastel. Even that has been–as I explained to my Sir–analyzed by my foggy brain. I’m an academic at heart, and I need to engage my brain to feel alive. Reading alone, solitary, in quiet, can help recharge me and get me ready to deal with other things in my life and in my love ones’ lives.

Spoons work a little differently for all of us, I think–but this is what it’s like for me. The more pain I’m in, the fewer spoons I have. And though I’m slowly getting better with my new medications, I’m not fully ‘recovered’ yet–and may never be. I am probably always going to be counting my spoons, and being glad when my loved ones understand that I must allot myself carefully.

A look at 50 Shades

Fifty Shades has a lot of elements to it that I want to explore. Most of those are external cultural elements.

On the one hand, there’s the ‘porn’ aspect of it–that it’s just trashy entertainment that ultimately doesn’t harm anyone. For a certain part of the population, this can hold true. Those lucky enough never to have been through rape, sexual assault, and stalking at the hands of a partner or prospective partner probably aren’t terribly triggered by a trilogy that is, at its best, poorly-written porn.

As well, because of its quick rise to popularity and the ease of getting it in digital format early on, it has been and continues to be an introduction to BDSM–which can be good, as long as it serves as only an introduction and not the complete manual on What It Is We Do (not that there is any one complete manual–but this would be a pretty poor one). For those who get turned on by some of the sexier play bits in the books and movies–awesome.

But on another hand, I think it’s irresponsible to ignore the massive culture into which these trilogies come, as well as those things they enable in their wake. Not only are the books and movies heteronormative and cisnormative both in characters and in the roles they take on, but they promote rape and stalking and ignoring safe words as sexy. They equate Dominance with stalking and rape (not rape play, not consensual nonconsent, but actual rape), equate submission/submissiveness with being vapid/devoid of self, and sensationalizethe violent aspects of BDSM without giving any nuance or context to the types of play we consensually desire and do.

I can’t see these books and movies as ‘harmless entertainment,’ because too many of us, across gender lines, have experienced stalking, rape, sexual assault, harassment, and more. Too many of our communities still protect predators at the expense of victims and survivors. Too many are disbelieved when we try to report our rapists and assailants, and few of us ever see any support or justice for experiences of domestic violence, assault, rape, stalking, and harassment. These books and movies play into a culture that prefers to see BDSM as harmful and the stuff of severely damaged people, rather than something that is a play preference that may lead to better mental health. They play into the cultural stereotypes that men know women’s bodies better than women, that female Dominants are evil, that female submissives are lost vessels just waiting to be broken and remade in the male Dominant’s image (and heaven forbid there be same-sex or same-gender pairings, or pairings involving sexes and genders other than binary genders and sexes), that BDSM is the same as sexual assault/rape/harassment/stalking, that ignoring safewords is just fine, that ‘the rules’ set in advance don’t apply to one half of the slash, that rape isn’t rape if it doesn’t fit a certain mold….

So, sure. On the one hand, there’s trashy entertainment that will probably help some people broaden their sexual horizons. But on the other, far weightier hand, there are huge issues with these books and movies that we cannot safely ignore. We need to be ready to have these conversations with people just as much as the ‘Hi, welcome, come on in!’ types of conversations, or the ‘What’s your kink?’ conversations, the comparisons of marks and paddles and costumes and collars. We need to see the harm in these ‘entertainment’ pieces and look to our own communities to make them better, to roust out predators and support survivors, to work to make it as difficult as possible for abusers to hide behind the mask of kink.


Edited to add: This made me laugh a bit. What a reimagining.

Previously posted on my FetLife profile.