The Summer I Went Crazy

Serious content warning for this post. I talk about childhood abuse, trauma, suicide, and sexual assault.


There’s a video making the rounds on social media. I haven’t watched it. I don’t want to watch it. But I’ve seen the comments and I know, basically, what it’s about: a child having a tantrum on a train.

Comments have ranged from “this kid is probably autistic” to “this kid needs to be disciplined” and it strikes me this is just yet another way for people without kids to judge parents for not doing a good enough job; or people with kids to feel superior because THEIR child never had a meltdown on the subway.

It also strikes me how very lucky I am to have been born in 1986 and become a teenager in the 90s. Because I grew up without ubiquitous cellphone video cameras and the ability to post video of strangers online. I grew up without the danger that my one bad day would have meant worldwide shaming of my mother, and custody being ripped away from her.

Before we moved to Hawai’i my summers were split between my parents. (After moving there, I spent them with my bio-sire, for what was called “access” because he required access to his child and I was supposed to have access to my tormentors.)

After the first half of the summer being spent with my bio-sire and his new girlfriend, a woman we dubbed Wife #5 (he’s on #7 now), and her band of ill-mannered, horrific monsters of children, I got to spend time with my mom. This particular summer we went to Hawai’i to visit with people, including my new friend who became my best friend and still is (she was my maid of honor at my wedding).

I’m not really sure why she stuck with me for so many years, because that was the second year we knew each other and it was the summer I went insane.

I was a monster. I screamed and cried and kicked. I lashed out at everyone, including my best friend. I threw tantrums on a regular basis. I said cruel, hurtful things. I tried to kill myself. I wielded sharp weapons and was a danger to myself and others.

No one knew what was going on. My mother was at a complete loss, trying to manage a child who had never acted out on this scale before. She was inches from putting me into an institution, and had the threat of my bio-sire taking custody not loomed, she may have done so.

And I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t have words for it and I blamed myself.

Continue reading The Summer I Went Crazy

An Open Letter to the Man Who Called Me A “Retard” Today

Dear Sir, whomever you may be,

I hope you feel good. I hope that you are sitting in satisfaction at never having made a mistake in your entire human life. I hope that you know that you must be perfect, that the gods shine love down upon you and bless you in ways they do not bless other mortals.

This must be the case. I can’t fathom any other reason you would feel it necessary to scream “Nice fucking parking job, retard. Next time stay in your own fucking lane!” at me for a parking job that, yes, while not perfect, wasn’t as bad as you describe.

I’m tired, you see. It exhausts me to leave the house. But I did so with some excitement today, heading to the post office to pick up what I hoped was my wedding dress (it was). I parked in the only spot available — one between a tiny red sports car (yours) and an empty handicap spot.

The parking lot of this particular post office, located in a Pharmasave, is kind of shitty. It’s rather hard to do a good parking job there, and to be honest I’m still getting used to my minivan. It doesn’t handle the way my old car used to and it’s much bigger. So I parked, and got out, and saw that it wasn’t the best parking job. My rear right tire was on the line, yes. But there was still plenty of room between my car and the little red sports car — perhaps not enough room for someone sized like my fiance, Mr. Katje, but then he wouldn’t be able to fit in a car that size anyway. So I felt safe assuming that whoever was driving that car had enough room to get into it. And I was so tired. So, so tired I didn’t get back into my car and spend several minutes reparking, trying to get it perfect.

Besides, I figured, I’d only be a few minutes inside picking up my dress and then I’d be gone. Probably before you even came back to your car.

Obviously I was wrong on that count. Dress in hand, allowing myself to feel happy today despite the crushing weight of depression an anxiety on me, I headed back to my car and saw the space beside me empty once again. I hope they didn’t have any trouble getting back into their car, I thought, and yes, I felt a little guilty for not fixing the parking. It was a mistake on my part.

I make lots of mistakes, being human. I guess you don’t have that trouble. You must not.

It wasn’t until I got back into my car and, sitting still with the door open, arranged my things on the seat next to me that I realized you hadn’t left at all. I guess you had circled in your little red sports car, waiting for me to come back so you could shout obscenities at me.

Don’t mistake my slack-jawed face as I stared at you for a lack of thought (though I’m sure you did, considering the slur you flung at me). I was simply in shock.

I get road rage. I do. I understand feeling that people in other cars are idiots. I understand rage over shitty parking.

I do not understand what would drive someone to lie in wait, hidden, just so they could scream at another human being and call them a “retard”.

I guess I don’t understand because I’m human, with human empathy, and you’re obviously so much higher above me, on your cloud of never making mistakes, not fettered by annoying things like caring about other people.

So, Mr. Red Sports Car, I hope that you felt better after calling me a retard. I hope that, if you have kids, they never get put into Special Education for having learning disabilities and spend their school years being called a retard not only by their fellow classmates but by their teachers as well. Trust me, that sucks. I know from personal experience.

I hope you had a better day than I did, as I got to drive home holding back tears and thinking that I was so worthless I should just go kill myself. I hope you didn’t have to feel terror that an angry stranger might follow you home and attack you for one mistake that you made — as I did, because I honestly never know what angry men will do to me. I hope you find joy in berating a stranger for one mistake that they made. I hope that ruining my day made yours a little better.

I hope you’re still able to leave the house for reasons other than necessity, because after today I don’t think I can even make it to the library to pick up that book I wanted to read. After today, it will take all my strength to go to work, and come home. I don’t know how I’ll complete any wedding-related errands this week, seeing as the first one was such a fiasco. I can’t even open the package my dress is in to look at it. I feel too awful. I feel sick to my stomach.

Mostly, I hope that red sports car does its job of bolstering your self-confidence, so that maybe you don’t also feel the need to scream obscenities at strangers to prop up your manhood.

And I hope that this letter reaches you, so you know exactly what kind of impact you had on this stranger’s day. You’ll know it’s about you when you see it — after all, you saw my face, which is all over this blog.

Cordially,

-Katje

PS: Comments are disabled for this post because I don’t have the spoons necessary to moderate them.

Your Diet is Boring and Sad (and triggering)

ETA, September 17th: Comments are off for this post for the foreseeable future.

Trigger warning for eating disorders, diet culture, child abuse, emetophobia, and fatphobia.

I don’t know how to start this post, aside from the trigger warning. I know it will need it; I’m talking about things that are hard for me to even think about, let alone speak about. But I don’t know where to begin.

Do I begin at the beginning (for me) — when I was 2 and encountered severe trauma related to food? When I was screamed at for getting dessert on Christmas, when I was so upset I threw up all my food?

That is where it started for me, my rocky relationship with food. Imagine, being told by your loving mother you can have a fancy eclair because you ate enough of your Christmas dinner and it is, after all, bloody Christmas, and then having the other parent in your life unleash a torrent of his abuse on you both until your little body can’t take the stress and you just lose it, everywhere.

That wasn’t the only time my biological sire made me vomit with his anger, either (or his reckless driving). To this day, strong negative emotions and, especially, angry men make me sick to my stomach.

I suppose it’s strange I never developed bulimia, not really. There was a period of time when I was vomiting after every meal, like clockwork, and sometimes it was induced, but it wasn’t bulimia. It was me feeling physically sick all the time, and needing some relief. As suddenly as it appeared in my life, it disappeared.

No, instead, I developed binge eating disorder and, much later, anorexia.

My father didn’t stop when I was two, you see. He continued to abuse me in many ways throughout my childhood and adolescence, including at the dinner table, in restaurants — really, anywhere food was involved, he made sure to give me a complex about eating.

His excuse? I was being spoiled rotten by my mom and Oma, he said. Or I was getting too fat, or eating too much sugar. Or any other reason he could come up with to abuse me for daring to want food.

Abusers always find it easy to justify their actions. It’s for your own good. Always for your own good. It was for my own good when he took me to get a treat at Dairy Queen, said I could order whatever I wanted, and then took that food away from me when I had it and ate it in front of me, saying I couldn’t have it because I was ‘getting fat.’ It was for my own good when he screamed at me at the dinner table because I was ‘too fat’, making me cry and feel too sick to my stomach to eat — which he then yelled at me some more about, because I was a wimp who was crying and why wasn’t I eating? He’d slaved over the stove to make that food so I better eat it or he’d give me something to cry about.

It was for my own good when he made me sit at the dinner table until I finished my food, even though I told him I didn’t like squash, not at all, not a little bit, I had to eat it because it was good for me. And when my step-siblings came in from their after-dinner swim at the pool and saw me sitting there — I was determined to sit there all night, and hoped I peed on the chair, hoped for that small revenge — they told me to take the food and just throw it in the compost, and lie about eating it! I said no — he’d know, he always knew, nothing was safe — but they took it and did it for my anyway, and then dad came back into the room and pulled out squash covered in coffee grinds and other organic waste and force fed it to me, holding my mouth shut until I swallowed it.

It was for my own good when he force-fed me salmon and called me a wimp and weakling for not liking it. To this day, the smell of salmon makes me want to vomit and cry.

He was convinced that every time he put another landmine in my brain with his actions, he was doing it for my own good. He swore up and down that someday, I’d thank him.

Well, he was wrong about most things, so add that to the list.

The for your own good narrative doesn’t stop with my father, though. It continues on every day I am forced to interact with people who have bought into the propaganda of our fat hating culture. Shaming me for my food choices is for my own good. Constantly talking about diets is for my own good. Maybe, if they make me feel enough shame, I will magically lose weight. That’s the belief, so it’s easy to justify with for your own good.

This is all true, and it’s probably important background for this tale. But is that where I start? Is this the best place to begin for this particular story?

Let’s start again, maybe.

Google+ has a function that shows you things from people you haven’t circled. Other people you have circled click the plus button on shares, and those things might show up in your feed. You can’t turn this off, to my knowledge, though I have posted asking people for help finding out if you can.

Continue reading Your Diet is Boring and Sad (and triggering)

Minimizing Mental Illness: a message to allies

TW: discussion of depression, thoughts of self-harm and suicide

I’ve been in the midst of a severe depressive episode for the past month. I have barely been able to keep house and home together, and not very well at that. Beyond that I’ve had no get up and go to do much of anything else.

I’ve kept my brain and hands busy, for the most part, by watching TV shows, knitting, and playing video games. This is because during this particular depressive episode if I get too much inside my own head, if I’m too still, I start thinking about hurting myself again. I start thinking about all the ways I’m terrible and I deserve this depression, and it becomes a sneaky spiral of doom and death that I get locked in and have a lot of trouble getting out of.

Driving has been the most dangerous activity for me, because I start to think while I’m driving, and I start thinking about what a horrible person I am, and how I should just put everyone else out of their misery by offing myself. Driving is the most “inside my own head” activity in my life, so I’ve been avoiding it as much as I can this month.

This means I’ve mostly been inside the house. I have a lot to do inside the house and I’ve tried to be productive as possible. Of course, because I have impossibly high standards for myself and I am incredibly hard on myself all the time, this has only added to the depression as I’ve been unable to complete as much work as I want to, and that is, my brain tells me, my fault because I am lazy and horrible.

This is a sneaky way the depression and anxiety manifest themselves: make me have impossibly high standards so when I inevitably fail them I can hate myself more. Huzzah! Ale and whores for everyone, except Katje, because screw zir.

I haven’t really been able to talk to people about this, because some of the conversations I’ve had about it have gone like this:

Me: My fish are dead.
Other person: Have you tried feeding them?
Me: They’re dead.
Other person: I’ll help you look for them!
Me: My fish. are. dead.
Other person: Do you know why they’re missing?
Me: Why can’t anyone see how dead these fish are?

(Analogy courtesy Allie Brosh.)

And it becomes exhausting trying to figure out who will see my fish are dead and who won’t, so I just don’t talk about it with anyone. I’m tired of people asking about the reasons behind my depression, as if 20 years of mental illness has a fucking reason. I’m sick. I have a disease. It flares up. There’s no reason except that’s what happens and I’m stuck dealing with it.

Continue reading Minimizing Mental Illness: a message to allies

Bell Let’s Talk day and Mental Illness

I have depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD. On any given day you might think I’m doing just fine by looking at my outside — but inside, I’m telling myself it’s okay, I deserve to eat food. I’m telling myself I’m worthy of love. I’m trying to calm the rising storm of panic, at least long enough so I can get to my closet to hide. I’m screaming against the noise of my illness, trying to be as loud as the ocean, trying to drown the voices once and for all.

I ended up blogging about this on my profile at Google+ — it’s public, so anyone can read it. I figured I’d quote a bit from it, and if you want you can read the whole thing.

Vlog: Kat’s back, and zie shares how zie deals with a bad day.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjVfbPt_DBY]

I’m back after several months away! In this vlog I talk about a lot of stuff, including how I deal with a bad day, in response to Jenny Trout’s Roadhouse video from May 3rd.

And, you know, I swear like a sailor, assuming sailors swear a fuck of a lot.

2013, so far

TRIGGER WARNING: depression, suicide, self-harm, university and student loan bullshit, anxiety

This has not been a good year.

I’m not wallowing in drama; I’m stating a fact. This year started out with a week of depression, anxiety attacks, and severe suicidal thoughts. It’s gotten a bit better, but I’ve still be battling the mother of all depressive episodes for the past 3 weeks.

I’ve wanted to cut again. I’ve thought about taking up smoking. I’ve pictured hanging myself or blowing my brains out. I’ve even considered od’ing on my antidepressants, which I haven’t been able to take since December because my body suddenly decided to add them to the food allergies list that is mercurial and ever growing larger.

I have no idea what od’ing on zoloft might do, but I considered it, because honestly the results seemed better than dealing with the shit that’s been going down this month.

And all this, mind you, is after my brush with death that made me realize I wanted, truly, very desperately wanted, to live.

January 1st I went 500 dollars into the red, because Student Loans took money out of my account. No warning. Two days later, I get a note from VIU: I’m not graduating at the end of January, because I’m missing 6 credits.

Did they tell me this six fucking months ago when I applied to graduate? No. They wait until 2 days into the new year. A few weeks before convocation.

This, of course, means that I can no longer go to SFU this semester, after I’ve already worked so hard to get accepted. They were accepting me based on me receiving my degree from VIU this month. Without that, I am no longer enrolled; if I want to enroll not as a second bachelors’ student, but as a transfer student, I can do that — for Fall 2013. After going through the registration process again.

And this — this suddenly blowing in the wind, not being a student when I was supposed to be — this of course now means that I cannot have my loans or interest-free status this semester. So what my immediate course of action was going to be — finishing my application for Student Loans for this semester — to resolve the money issue can no longer happen.

I called Student Loans this morning about my issue. Basically, it is sort of fixable — I have to fill out a bunch of forms in triplicate proving I’m as poor as I say I am, and then I’ll probably qualify for reduced payments, perhaps even to zero. I’ll know within 4 days of sending back the form, which should arrive by the end of this week? Possibly?

I also discovered that the reason Student Loans was under the impression that I owed them money as of November was because VIU told them I withdrew from courses as of April. Which I didn’t. I withdrew from courses in June, when I was informed that I didn’t need the other two courses I was enrolled in that summer.

At any rate, I was supposed to be starting classes again this month — so really, there should only have been 2 weeks in the period of ok, you’ve been out of class long enough, pay up.

The too long; didn’t read version of all this? My life is fucking shambles and right now I am very seriously questioning whether I want my degree from VIU at all. VIU is a school that has repeatedly proven it cares little to nothing about its students. They have completely screwed me in the past year — TWICE now — and their lack of communication skills is LEGENDARY.

I have been tearing my hair out for weeks; studiously trying to solve my problems via avoidance and escapism because my brain cannot deal with the level of suckage going on without going into complete shut-down, depressive/suicidal episode mode; sleeping far too much or far too little as my body goes into emergency coping mode. I am wandering, an errant leaf on the wind, wondering what the fuck am I going to do with my life now?

I’ve now been working at my first degree, my first, four-year, Bachelor’s Degree, for 10 years. A decade of my life that I’m not getting back. And furthermore, most of the credits for my degree at VIU are non-transferable.

So now I face the question: do I suck it up, move back to Nanaimo in summer time (which means, inevitably, living out of my car and being basically homeless for four months, and this is what I was facing at the beginning of this month, for this semester) and do these last two courses (when I’m not even 100% sure that they’ll be offered this summer, or that I can get any funding)? Or do I say fuck it, transfer what can be transferred to SFU, and start from scratch?

Alternatively, I suddenly sell millions of copies of my book/win the lotto and quit school forever.

Wherein Katje rattles about in uncertainty and possibly some despair, though mostly just numbness at this point, for the rest of zir life.

I suppose, however, I can count my blessings — at least this huge fucking fiasco, this shambles that is my life, has given me plot bunnies for new stories. “Hooray,” zie said exactly as Archer would.

This is Rape Culture — addendum to my Amanda Todd post

Trigger warning: description of rape, rape culture, misogyny, bullying, suicide

Something I didn’t really get into in my last post about Amanda Todd’s suicide is the misogyny, sexism, and clear and present rape culture apparent in the details of the case. I did originally write about it in my post, but decided I wanted to focus on suicide and not misogyny in that post, and that I could write a follow-up post later.

This is that follow-up post.

Most of the posts about Amanda attribute her suicide to bullying and tend to ignore the fact that it was more than bullying. It was sexual harassment. It was assault based on slut-shaming.

She was convinced to flash a guy on webcam. We don’t know if she was coerced or not, but it’s likely. Regardless, she regretted doing it.

Then she was stalked and harassed by a guy who had gotten a hold of a screenshot of that flash, who told her to “give him a show” or he’d distribute the picture to all her friends.

That’s rape culture.

The idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies, and that if they don’t get what they want they can force the issue — that’s rape culture. The idea that stalking and harassing a girl because she flashed someone once online is acceptable — that’s rape culture. The idea that she got what she deserved because she slept with someone who was involved with another person — that’s rape culture. The framing of the story by certain news agencies to moralize about how girls shouldn’t show their breasts on webcam because, oh, look what happens — that’s rape culture. The fact that no one is really talking about the misogyny, sexism, and slut-shaming present in her case — that’s rape culture. The comments on various sites by “trolls” — rape culture.

And social media has made rape culture more pervasive and more dangerous.
Continue reading This is Rape Culture — addendum to my Amanda Todd post

Bullying and Suicide — Justice for Amanda Todd

Trigger warning.

A teenager local to me committed suicide this week.

She’d been bullied and stalked and harassed for a few years, and it got to be too much to take. All over one innocuous action, what some may deem a screw-up, that just happened to happen on the internet.

You know, kids screw up. They do. When I was 13 I was not being safe on the internet. I wasn’t. I was cyber-sexing with random strangers and telling them…well, not super-personal details, but probably too much. I was also looking at porn and getting malware downloaded to our home computer. I was a kid and I was dumb. You’re supposed to be at that age. It’s supposed to be allowed. It’s supposed to be safe.

You’re not supposed to be stalked and harassed because you flashed someone online on a whim.

You’re not supposed to be stalked and harassed because you flashed someone online on a whim regardless your age. (Flashing people in the street? Whole other kettle of fish.)

And you know, people always start in with the “Well that’s what she gets for being on the internet,” as if being on the internet suddenly signs away your right to a private, happy, healthy life free from harassment. News flash: it fucking doesn’t.

A light has gone out in the world, and it’s because people are cruel. No one deserves to be stalked and harassed, and especially not to the point of suicide.

 

My heart goes out to Amanda’s family, and my thoughts and prayers are with them. No one should lose a child like this.

My heart swells up with love for Amanda, and it is that love that pushes me to action. Love is always what pushes me to action, because “justice is what love looks like in public” (Cornel West).

And maybe right now my only way of trying to find justice is to write a blog post. To let other kids out there like Amanda Todd know they are not alone.

Please — if you are being stalked and harassed to the point of wanting to end it, reach out for help. I’ve blogged about depression and suicide before, and how my ask box on tumblr is always open. It is. Don’t hesitate to shoot me a message if you feel you need someone to talk to, because I have been there.

I’m not going to tell you that things magically get better, but things can get better if we put in the effort to make them better. But we have to be around to do that.

Nil illegitimi carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Because you are amazing, and worthy of love, and they are not worth that. They are not worth you leaving like this.

Call someone. Please.

Hotlines to Call

Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433

LifeLine: 1-800-273-8255

Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

Sexuality Support: 1-800-246-7743

Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438

Rape and Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673

Grief Support: 1-650-321-5272

Runaway: 1-800-843-5200, 1-800-843-5678, 1-800-621-4000

Exhale: After Abortion Hotline/Pro-Voice: 1-866-439-4253

The master list of suicide hotlines is here: Suicide.org.

Depression (trigger warning: suicide, self-harm, ableism)

There’s something quite insidious about depression. It prevents me from doing anything I want to quite often. In fact, it is only by forcing myself quite strenuously that I am writing this at all, and the fact that I misspelled strenuously and had to use the spell-check in Firefox to fix it made me almost upset enough to want to stop writing altogether, curl up into a little ball, and die.

Depression has no reason. I should be friggin ecstatic right now, but instead about 2 hours ago my boyfriend had to talk me down from a pill overdose.

I don’t say this for attention. I don’t normally tell people these things at all. But something occurred to me, in the murky depths of how shitty I’m feeling at the moment, and it’s this: there are other people in the same state out there. Other people who may read my blog. Who may not talk about it either. And who may, like I have tried to do so many times, finally succeed at leaving this boa constrictor we call the mortal coil.

Please don’t.

Continue reading Depression (trigger warning: suicide, self-harm, ableism)