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KjerstiNeT

Just a real-life girl living in a virtual world

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Interscetional Feminism

Taking Back My Voice

An addition: When I first started drafting this, I hated Trump. I didn’t think that there was much he could do to push my opinion of him any lower. And then the “locker room” talk came out. I’ve been hiding from the media, refraining from talking about why what he said is problematic. Hell, I even debated not posting this blog because of the current climate. Then I realized – this blog is more important that it ever was. Trump’s comments about women are not only disgusting, but they are proof of the culture we live in. Trump’s absolute ignorance about how to treat fellow human beings (especially women) has made it all the more important for women like me to speak up and out. I was raped repetedly as a child. I was assaulted as a college freshman. I’ve been groped, pinched, smacked, and pretty much everything else that happens to women on the street. My list of attacks against me and my body is too long to tweet at  Kelly Oxford (though I think her idea is brilliant).


This past week on my campus was Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Awareness Week. I usually make a point to participate in a few of the events. I can’t do it this year. I can’t bring myself to visit the Clothesline Project. I can’t bring myself to walk in the Take Back the Night Rally. A year ago, I gave them my shirt, but this year I don’t think it would be healthy for me to step into the role of “healed” survivor.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Clothesline Project exists to “[bear] witness to violence against women…” To learn more about them and their amazing, powerful work, check out their website here. It took me 20 years, but last year, I finally made and gave my shirt (you can read about that experience here).

My completed shirt

I wasn’t ready before that, even though I knew the project existed. Seeing the volunteer march off with clothespins in hand to hang my representation of my story is probably one of the most healing moments I’ve yet experienced. Though I do believe that the kinds of abuse that I and so many (too many) others have faced never fully fade, I do think it is possible to reach a level where the scars no longer inhibit actions and choices. This place of healing is not a place easily reached – it requires hard, consistent work and a level of honesty that can only be experienced to be understood. Further, once you reach this spot of “healed,” there is no guarantee that you’ll stay there. Hit the right trigger and everything can collapse around you as if the years of work were no more than a house of cards made on a windy day.

I’ve healed – a LOT. I look back at where I was a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago, and the changes I see are amazing. I can’t help but be a little proud of myself and the strength that I’ve displayed in fighting back against my demons. But this year, I can’t face it. I can’t bring myself face to face with the vulnerability that came with announcing my rape to the world. Sure, I went “public” with my story years ago, but that was to spread awareness, to use my story to help others. Now, seeing my shirt would be as if my rapist were to show up where I’m typing this – massively triggering and disturbing.

The design of the shirt, though simple and, let’s be honest, not terribly beautifully executed, is the visual representation of the holes he tore through me when I was a kid. The wound still bleeds and still hurts. Each year, it gets a little smaller as I heal and begin to replace the feelings of rape with the feelings of sex and intimacy (when rape is all you know, sex becomes trigger Russian Roulette). Being touched (with consent) is okay. Enjoying that feeling is okay. I’m not dirty, I’m not “ruined,” I’m not broken, I’m not guilty, and I am not to blame.

But as I think of the exhibit, the people seeing my shirt, the visual representation of all that he did to me, I feel sick. I want to hide in a closet until the feeling passes or throw up or take a scalding hot shower to get him off of me. I haven’t seen this man in twenty years, yet he’s still with me everyday, whispering in the back of my mind, telling me I’m not worthy of love, that those who I care about will be hurt because of me. It’s a quiet voice, but it is silencing at the same time.

One day, I’ll march with the Take Back the Night Rally. One day, I’ll be able to be the much needed shoulder for other survivors to lean on. Today is not that day, and that’s okay. Sometimes, we need to take care of ourselves first.

Part of the route for the Take Back the Night Rally (during the daytime, obviously). Each bag has a candle inside and a message of support for survivors written on the outside. It must have been a beautiful and powerful sight after dark.

So, to all of you who have been support through my life and my journey to healing, I thank you. I know it hasn’t been easy for you – the irrationality of some of my fears are just plain annoying sometimes. I especially want to thank those of you who are survivors and still helped me. You are some of the strongest people I’ve ever met.

And, last, to my rapist: you didn’t win. I may have had a rough week in terms of triggers, but you didn’t win. You have no power over me anymore. You are nothing but snow that melted years ago – gone, though the grass may be a little different because of it. You will never see court, let alone a jail cell, but you will also never have me again. Your name will not go down in history – rather, it will simply be forgotten. You are no longer in control, and that will bother you until the day you die. I’ve taken my agency back; if you somehow happen to be reading this, that is the sweetest revenge that I could ever serve you.

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“This is a Sad Surgery”

Time for the truth. I’m sad. I’m scared witless. I only made one of my two classes today and could barely concentrate. In a phone call with my father (a professor at a different university) I decided to take tomorrow completely off after he said he’d find it a reasonable request from a student in my position.

I think the worst part of it all is that I feel guilty for feeling sad and scared and whatever else is going on in my mosh pit of emotions.

I’m pretty sure all but these two have vacated headquarters, so it’s a small mosh pit.

I’ve been in…let’s call it a state of mild denial about this surgery. Alluding to a previous post, yes. It IS serious. This is life-changing on so many levels. I’ll never get pregnant on accident (says the 25-year old virgin). I’ll never have to buy tampons again. Birth control would only be used to regulate hormones, rather than worrying about the occasional side-eyes from the conservative community I’m in.

But on the flip side, family planning has become all the more complicated. Sure, I’ve “always wanted” to adopt, but the fact that I can still have biological children via IVF has added a pressure that I didn’t expect. Since I’ll be able to have kids, shouldn’t I want to?Yes, this points to a huge flaw in our culture, but (as I’m always saying) that’s for another blog post.

I think what’s taking me most by surprise is the fact that I’m not ready for surgery in the most literal sense. My apartment isn’t clean. I need to get groceries still. I need to make sure my cats’ litter box is sparkling. I need an overnight bag should they have me stay a night at the hospital. I need to wash sheets and clothes so that I can be as sterile as possible in the hours leading up to the snooze and yank. My “to-do” list is growing at an alarming rate.

I’ve been treating this surgery in almost a blase manner, which is fine for coping and all, but not so much when the actual emotions start to hit. I’m not losing my tonsils (actually, they were snipped when I was six) or appendix; I’m losing all but a bit of my vagina and two little white grape-like things. I’m losing what, arguably, defines me as biologically woman.

Breasts – not just for those with a uterus

When it comes to “down there,” everything will look the same unless you come at me with a speculum (and if you do and aren’t my doctor, prepared to get punched). My stomach, as you’ll see in the next couple of days, is covered in stretch marks (no babies, but I’ve got stretchmarks to rival mother Duggar) so scars aren’t that big of a concern to me. From the outside, after I heal, I’ll look just like I did pre-op. If someone who was transitioning told me she was a woman, I’d believe her without even thinking about her uterus once, no matter what part of the transition she’s in.

But will I still be me? Will something have changed? Will I become “non-woman”? What’s in a uterus anyway? If I weren’t cis-gendered, I don’t want to even know how much harder these questions would hit.

To everyone with endo, not just those who identify as “female”

But it’s time for me to come completely clean – this is a loss. I’m going to grieve (yes, over an organ), or at least that’s what everyone is telling me. My gyno said as I was signing the consent form that this is a sad surgery. I didn’t know what he really meant at the time. I thought it might be because I’m so young and he loves babies so much (seriously, he has pictures from what I’m pretty sure is every birth he’s ever done all over his office walls). Now, I don’t think that’s the case.

We, my doctors and I, tried so hard to avoid this. Though I’ve been for the surgery for years, I’m glad I tried other routes first.

Back in spring 2011, my birth control was denied me at student health (I won’t go into details as they’re irrelevant). This meant that I was going to have a month from HELL rather than a month of just a lot of pain. They also referred me out to a gynecologist (NOT the one I have today) who told me I’d probably never conceive (though there was no way should could have known that). This news came at the worst possible time. I had a major chemistry exam that night (I failed it, no surprise). I was triple majoring and the stress was starting to show. I got back to my dorm room (I had a single room, so no roommate to worry about) and collapsed in the middle of my floor and wept.

I’m not choosing the word “wept” because it’s dramatic or romantic, but because it was what happened. I didn’t bawl – there was no screaming, no tantrum. I didn’t cry either – there were far more than a few tears. This was the day that I decided to adopt. I didn’t want to put any child through this, but my dreams of motherhood came tumbling down. I was on my knees, hands on my thighs, sitting in the middle of a dorm room, face up to the sky, and the tears that ran from my eyes wouldn’t stop.

I’m not sure how long I sat there alone, it was afternoon when I had sat, but by the time a dormmate knocked, the sun was down. I didn’t hear the knock and she had a habit of just letting herself in anyway. She found me there, in the middle of my room, weeping. Without a word, she knelt beside me and pulled me into a hug. She held me for I don’t know how long; to be honest I don’t even remember her leaving or me going to bed or anything else that day besides skipping the test (thus why I failed). She and I grew apart after that year. I hope she’s happy.

The online community of women with chronic illness/pain and/or fellow hysterectomy-havers, have been amazing while I’ve been blogging about this. Each of us has our own story and each write for a different reason. Knowing that I’m not alone out there, knowing I’m not the only one who is trying to shed light on what can be considered very personal, is empowering and comforting. I can’t thank you all enough for your support and the sharing of your own stories (they’ve helped me and I hope they’ve helped others too 🙂 ).

So, I’m taking tomorrow off. I’m doing it to prepare. I’m doing it to mourn. I’m doing it to write. I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it for my classmates who don’t want a half-there zombie to ask the teacher to repeat things every five minutes. I am so glad to have won this war. I’m getting the surgery that should improve my quality of life exponentially after years of fighting for it. But winning this war didn’t come without its casualties, and therein lies the sorrow.

Losing is not an option.

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