This post is firmly in the spirit of "the personal is political."
This has given me a problem for a long time. When I sit down to write, I start thinking, and thinking is never good for me. It always starts as a niggling suspicion: "You don't have anything important to say." This branches out into the more destructive, "Since you have nothing to say, why don't you read what other people have written? They have good things to say."
I'm finding this to be particularly poisonous to the process of writing about my past. Again, I think that I have a history with experiences that fill a wide spectrum of emotions, and I think that I have the ability to frame these events in ways that will make them interesting to a reader. I don't think that my stories are uniquely fascinating (I think that most people have fascinating lives when you get down to it), but I think that I have the ability to express that people who have been through similar things are not alone, even if they feel as if they are. That is why I want to write.
The problem is, a lot of what I want to write about happened to me when I was a teenager. Now, I don't know if I agree entirely with Twisty Faster when she says that, "Teenage girls are the most despised people on the planet," but it's certainly close, and I see these own prejudices in my own thoughts about teenagers, particularly girls, and very particularly my former self.
A few months ago I went through the terrible poetry I slaved over as a teenager in order to post some of it for mockery, and, after looking at the vast majority of it, was stunned. I wasn't stunned over how terrible it was (although it was pretty terrible for the most part, and there was certainly comedy fodder).
I was stunned at how ungodly fucking depressed I was. I mean, it's one thing to look back and say, "Yeah, I struggled with some depression issues as a teenager. No big deal." It's another to look back at poem after poem talking about a sense of worthlessness, about blood and death and shit that no teenager should be obsessed with, period. It took me, for a moment, out of my smug sense of adulthood and placed me firmly back in the shoes of the honestly troubled teenager that I used to be, and it made me cringe, because she deserves better than to be mocked by adults, even if that adult is the person she grew to be.
See, I want to minimize that girl's experiences. Her earnest morbidity is embarrassing to me; I don't want to identify with her, with her reducing everything to blood, with her bizarre fascination with death. I want to identify her as privileged and spoiled and stupid, and I want to say that her problems were entirely of her own making. (Again, to be fair, these things are true, to a degree.)
But I can't do that while giving an honest recounting of abuse. I can't do that while giving an honest recounting of how incredibly heavy the world felt at the time. I can't do that while reaching out and saying, "You're not alone." It's not funny that I was so depressed. It's not funny that I put up with abuse. None of that shit is funny, and, if I keep on laughing at myself as a teenager, I'm doing a disservice to teenagers who are now going through some of what I went through. In minimizing my own struggles, I minimize those of people who struggle now.
I don't know. I mean, on the one hand, it really has been a decent coping tool: it's easy not to feel keenly the memories of isolation, of mild physical abuse, of self-loathing, of rape, if I shrug them off as normal, stupid bullshit that all teenagers go through. "Oh, yeah, I was a dumbass melodramatic kid. You know teenagers." However, on the other hand, it's easy for me to mock it: I'm here to do it. If I had actually succeeded in my suicide attempt my freshman year, or if I had tried again later in greater earnest, and if I had died, that simply would not be funny. And there are kids who do this.
I can't point a finger in the mirror and laugh without doing damage to my perception of people who hurt.
The thing is, I never went to therapy for real. I never went through therapy for the abuse that I went through because my parents weren't even aware of it until long after it had been over and done. I ended up making a lot of immensely stupid decisions because of a lack of awareness of the motivations for my decisions, but I came out on the other side. And I've laughed, because part of me really does find melodrama morbidly hilarious, but it's partially because, when I really sit down and think about how I felt then, I want to curl up into a ball. It was truly horrible. No, it wasn't as bad as what a lot of people go through, but what mattered was how I felt at the time. No, I don't carry the feelings with me, but it is very hard to think about them without laughing hysterically at the sheer absurdity of how goddamn heavy everything seemed at the time. I never sat down and thought honestly about how awful it was, and I'm having to actually do this if I want to write. It's hard to think about a time when you were miserable when you're genuinely happy. It's like throwing off a warm blanket and stepping into the howling cold. You don't have to do it, so why would you?
Part of what has me thinking about this is the death of Mrs. G*. See, she didn't really care if it was melodrama. What she cared about was that there was this kid who had tried to hurt herself. What she cared about was that she had a teenager who turned into a nervous wreck in the middle of rehearsal and had to be guided out in order to pull herself together. She cared what my reasons were, sure, but she wouldn't have judged me on them. She had the time and the care for a sixteen-year-old who had been raped the day before, whose world had fallen apart, and she wasn't laughing. She was the only person to take that teenage-me and say, "You matter," even though she was at least somewhat aware of how incredibly fucked up I was at the time. I haven't even done that to myself, because, when I wasn't completely falling apart, I was bitterly mocking my own hurt. I thought it was absurd, even then, because I was a teenage girl, because my problems didn't matter. She told me that my problems were real and deserved to be addressed when I wasn't even willing to tell myself that.
I want to work in a rape crisis center. The thing is, I don't know how I can do that, how I can do what she did and go to other people and tell them, "You matter; your stories matter," if I don't even do that to myself.
So, here goes.
*I have no idea what her politics were, no idea of her position on feminism, and don't want to attribute any views to her that didn't exist. My point isn't that she was an explicit advocate for victims of abuse, sexual or otherwise, although she certainly played the part by being a generous, attentive person. My point is that I would like to take that healing care and apply it in areas of interest to me, and I am passionate about advocacy for rape survivors.