I am a human being who:
–survived long-term, complex, relational and developmental trauma, much of that trauma being sexual and relational in nature and involving neglect and serious emotional abuse in childhood at the hands of both of my parents, other family members and other adults. I am someone who never experienced parenting in any real nor meaningful way and so spent much of my childhood taking care of others and fending for myself. I continue to be what I refer to as an “orphan of the living” to this day, as someone without roots and the anchoring that can come from having at least some measure of viable family connection and support.
–was also deeply traumatized by involvement in organized religion in the form of evangelical Christianity in my teens and early adulthood, mainly in the forms of exploitation and saviorism. I was further indoctrinated into my role as a perpetual caretaker, exploited for my dramatic story and convinced of my need for redemption and saving within this environment. Saviorism then became something I participated in and inflicted on others in the form of my career as a social worker and later as a foster and adoptive parent.
–only three and a half years ago, at 41 years old, began, in earnest, the work of searching for, locating and claiming the many fragmented pieces of myself that were lost, trapped in places and in time, abandoned and buried by myself for safekeeping and in the name of survival, shattered and shredded by those who harmed me and further obscured by existing within the violent culture of whiteness and colonization, patriarchy and capitalism.
–at various times, has referred to my own work around my trauma as a “journey,” as “recovery,” as “healing” but who struggles deeply with that kind of languaging for this work and with much of the very loaded and often gaslighting languaging around psychology, self-help, self-improvement, personal growth and trauma “recovery” culture. The closest I can come to naming the personal work that I choose to be engaged in is as the work of seeking to reclaim and restore ALL of mySELF for mySELF that I am able to locate among the wreckage of the landscape of my childhood and my continuous marginalized existence. The words I refer to above, in particular, are problematic to me because of what they imply: that there is a destination – a place at which to ultimately arrive, that there is such a thing as being completely recovered or healed which also implies a sort redemption and being unaffected that echoes much of what I was taught while immersed in Christianity and now fully reject and name as a form of violence.
–struggles with and rejects binaries, such as good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, right/wrong, dirty/clean, survivor/abuser, healed/unhealed, positive/negative, love/hate, etc. that are so much a part of our culture and who views my own experience of being here, human, as much more complex, nuanced, ever evolving and fluid spectrum of experiences, emotions and stories that are ever changing as I locate the pieces of myself that were once lost to the destruction of traumatic experiences, connect them and begin the work of integration. I am someone who most often relates to the world from not an either/or orientation but rather one of both/and of being fully immersed in the complexity of what it means to be human.
–has experienced mainstream trauma culture (MTC), part of the greater psychological industrial complex (PIC), as a system that demands conformity to social norms as evidence of “good mental health”. I am someone whose experiences with therapy, coaching, groups and other healing modalities, though not entirely void of valuable tools and learning, as a form of interference rather than “help”, and therapeutic spaces/containers as limiting and oppressive rather than inclusive and expansive. I have experienced them as mainly pathologizing, further fragmenting and contributing to the lack of trust I have historically had in the languaging of my own stories for myself, as well as my own intelligence, intuition, strength and capacities. I have experienced most therapeutic relationships as ones in which I have been forced to edit my stories and lived experiences into ones that remain fixed despite my evolution and shifts in my own awareness and fit into the small boxes of narrative scripts that are “allowed” into the collective conversation around trauma, violence and abuse. I have therefore, almost always found myself, eventually, in the role of taking care of my “helpers” by protecting them from my reality and the reality of what I am able to see and discern about our culture and/or being pathologized and rejected for my honesty.
–currently and has always lived with several marginalizing identities, the intersections of which greatly complicate and affect my daily life and mean that I am often, still, and always living with and surviving ongoing trauma.
–believes we live within a system of not only financial, but social/emotional/relational capitalism. One in which those who have or who are already receiving the most love and care in our society (those who are born into loving or at least “good enough” families and communities of care, those who are white, those who are thin and perceived as conventionally attractive, those who are straight/cis presenting or passing, coupled and monogamous and parenting only within that context, perceived as intelligent or educated, positive, brightsided, optimistic, grateful, witty, charming or engaging, conforming to conventional and Christian values, able bodied and perceived as mentally healthy and in possession of good social/relational skills and those who are self-sufficient/supporting and perceived as contributing to society in the form of the financial economy, etc.) are deemed worthy and perpetually receive more and those who haven’t, historically, and who don’t, currently, become more and more impoverished over time, often having what little resources they have extracted, drained and depleted in service to those who already have so much.
–believes that we exist within a culture that tells us that we all need, desire, experience and have access to the same things in life. And that this is perhaps the most violent, gaslighting and insidious lie of them all. It is a lie that ultimately serves the purpose of production and the maintenance of the status quo. And any naming of this, deviating from the scripts and the relentless striving and struggle and the performance is labeled as pathological in our culture and punished unless it can be used and extracted from in some form.
–identifies as queer, not solely in the sense of gender or sexual orientation, but in many ways across the whole of my personhood, and has chosen to opt out of many of what are mainstream, normative social values and the performance of being a “good” human. I also recognize that there is a type of privilege that is inherent in choosing to opt out of mainstream culture in certain ways, however it is my belief that much of that privilege does not exist for me due to marginalizing factors, my lack of social capital and of access to mitigating factors that lessen the blows of social risk involved in living an alternative lifestyle. Choosing to live this way comes at an enormous social cost to me and my children and means that we have been almost completely abandoned and rejected by society and are now perceived as is need of “help” in the form of interference and saviorism rather than as a family that simply holds different values than the culture-at-large and can name for ourselves what it is that we need. This is something that is evolving for me, though, and that I continue to interrogate, examine and explore within myself as it often also feels like a form of personal protest and a calling attention to, a naming of the culture as pathological and not the ways in which I have needed and chosen to survive and to manage to stay here, human, despite what I can only describe as my own experience of abjection.
–has struggled to stay here, in this life, since my early adolescence. I have been both passively and actively suicidal for the bulk of my life. I never expected to live into adulthood nor to have any kind of real future and experience moments, over and over again of being continuously surprised that I am still here and many times, wishing I wasn’t. I believe that these feelings are entirely reasonable given the experiences I have had and my reality and though I do not romanticize the notion of suicide, suicidal gestures and suicidal ideation, neither do I romanticize the notion that life for life’s sake, with no consideration for quality of life, is the goal nor the ideal. My experience of suicidiality is not what it is often made out to be in the very gaslighting popular psychological discourse and I refuse to pathologize it. Understanding that this life, which has not afforded me much in the way of love, belonging, ease, access, nor care, is finite and will not, though at times it feels relentless, last forever, is one of the few comforts of my existence. And perhaps the knowledge that I can make the choice to end it is also a comfort and a matter of dignity, sovereignty and bodily autonomy. Ironically, these comforts, mainly the knowledge of the finite nature of life, are what often make it possible for me to stay here, human, for now.
–believes there are many forms of violence that can be experienced as part of being human. And that it is perhaps the less physical and tangible, more insidious forms of social and emotional violence that have the most traumatic impact. I am someone who has experienced a great deal of physical and sexual violence from almost the very beginning of my life, however the less acknowledged, less outright and obvious forms of violence that I have known (neglect, exploitation, betrayal, gaslighting, emotional abuse, relational abuse, forced and coerced caretaking, exclusion, oppression, the imposing of purpose and meaning around my life and life experiences, spiritual/emotional bypass, saviorism, etc) have clearly had the most devastating impact across the entirety of my experience in this life.
–is not non violent and I will never claim to be. I have been, am and likely will be again, violent. I am someone who believes that to exist in this world as human is to do some measure of harm, and that even more to exist within a white, colonialist and capitalist culture in which resources are hoarded, the nuclear family is one of the only ways to access love, care and belonging and those without one are essentially abandoned, replaces community with formalized systems of care and that enforces a hierarchy of human value that then forces us to be violent in ways we are so often unaware of just to get basic needs met, means that we are, all of us, violent. I believe that survival itself is inherently violent and I experience it as such. I believe that it is impossible to “do no harm” and so the goal is awareness and the lessening and mitigation of harm and not the impossible eradication of it altogether. I believe that most people in our society are wholly or at least, in part, in denial of their own violence in their desperate need to see themselves as well-intentioned, “good” people above all else.
–for much of my life, was forced to use my intellectual energy to constantly formulate and strategize ways of surviving and getting my needs met. This required that I sacrifice the actual learning and acquisition of knowledge and the brain capacity to store what I was being taught and led me to develop the deeply held belief that I was stupid and unintelligent. Though I do still experience the very real and enduring effects of trauma on my brain, I no longer believe that I am stupid and can see the evidence that quite the opposite is true. And though I still wrestle with grief over time and potential capacity lost, and with the fear of knowing that nothing is for certain after a lifetime of chaos and being unable to count on anything, it is important to me to take up residence in a space of perpetual learning, curiosity, questioning and evolution – and of allowing myself to be affected, impacted and changed by what I learn.
–is, above all, complex, messy and broken, and full of contradictions, none of which needs fixing. I am someone who is attempting to become as decolonized as possible and to free myself from internalized oppression while recognizing that I still have to exist within a deeply colonizing and oppressive society. I am someone who is perpetually somewhere in the process of coming together and falling apart, of figuring things out and knowing nothing for certain, of becoming and unbecoming, of failing and falling and coming undone while existing in a world that demands absolutes and consistency and purity and that constantly demands that I contain myself and all that I am holding in its stead.
–has spent a lot of time in spaces created with the intention of providing safe community and support for those who have survived trauma, however, I have never experienced a feeling of safety nor community in any of those spaces but have instead experienced “safety” as being rules and tightly controlled restrictions around conversation that belie the core belief that those who have survived trauma are fragile and cannot be trusted to name things for themselves or are “triggered” by complexity and being in reality. And “community” and those worthy of “support” as the expectation of sameness and universality of experience and adherence to the sanitized narratives and scripts of MTC.
–then seeks to create something different and to occupy and take up space in full reality, dropping the performance, naming things for what they are shedding binaries and loaded language and the belief that I am required to “fix” or to do anything about me or my trauma.
[Photo by Jean Skeels @jmskeels]