Guest Post by Kendalle Aubra (Baby Trauma Llama)
I didn’t even know I was angry until I was screaming “FUCK YOU!” I screamed it, birds a-flipped, stomped an earthquake to the door//////jump cut\\\\\\I’m seething in the Arizona sun, panting with asthmatic rage. I quake with it. I’m so removed from my instincts and feelings, I don’t even know I’m angry until I’m approaching the edge of the “window of tolerance,” exhibiting raging behaviors, and then, of course, dissociating.
Even assuming the seated version of the traditional fetus-position, knees to face, cape of conspicuous rainbow hair; I’m sure I intimidate the orderlies who were sent to prevent me from venting privately ever, ever, ever on this prison colony, this eternal karmic staircase I have been shoved down called C-PTSD and major depression and trauma therapy.
WHO IS THIS FOR?!?!?!?!
But really who is this to the detriment of, and who is it to benefit? I am not the sociopath! I am not the one running around raping and beating women! Why am I the one deemed unfit for society? Why am I being asked what I need to change about myself not to get raped and beaten next time?!?!! How can I trust these people? I am a full magazine-clip, and they want to melt me down and make me into a trophy wife. I mean, don’t they?
This is a recurring motif in my recovery struggle. I know deeply, that in my gasping, gaping, existential wound—the one right where my aura should be—I am suffering so profoundly that I am sabotaging relationships of all sorts all around me in between bouts of suicide attempts, self-harm, and attempts to get effective help. I’m not really sold on life, but I made a commitment to it when I checked myself into inpatient treatment in Arizona.
Yes, that low. I hit the ground below, so low, solo, so low, so, lo:
These are my Three Biggest Fears:
- Spiders, especially tarantulas
- Flying/the possibility of being in a plane crash
- Dying a Freudian cliché
In flying on that tiny, shuddering plane from the incredible perceived safety of my father’s gorgeous San Francisco fortress to a tiny desert city where tremulous tarantulae and their heinous mutant chelicerate cousins run shamelessly amok, uglying hardcore and moving way too fast—and all in order to see just how fucked up I really, truly, pathologically am—I faced all three of those fears at once in a commitment to give life one last shot. It was Alien meets Girl, Interrupted.
This is so hard to remember. It is hard to remember, sometimes, that I sought help because my life was no longer sustainable at all; I was out of options, destroyed, literally obliterated, from the Latin “ob” for “against” and “literare” for “words” or “letters.” Beyond words and letters. My relationships were dying. Many turned their backs on me early on; they revealed themselves thus to have never been my friends after all. Others lasted as long as they could before I inevitably exhausted their emotional resources and resiliency because I felt So. Very. Broken. I became a black hole, encased in the meaty shell owned by the public, according to the Brooklyn Justice Department’s Chief of Domestic Violence, Michelle Kaminsky. Just a traumatized and vengeful ghost anchored to a body of narratives, choices, and un-choices: tattoos and scars. A body I was deemed not to own.
It’s true: I am not the sociopath running around raping, beating, and terrorizing women, nor the sociopath who said she believed me but then lied about my answers and threw my trial because she didn’t want to do her homework. I am extremely hurt and traumatized. I’m slamming the accelerator and the brakes at the same time for months and months on end, lashing out at people who do and don’t deserve it. Supplementing human interaction with Facebook. Acting out, didactic and incendiary, as I always shall be when the matter comes to abuse and/or intersectional trans-inclusive feminism, egalitarianism, et cetera. That is the true me.
I am suffering in trauma treatment because I chose life. I can always change my mind later. But I’m here, suffering because I chose life. I died that night, you see. Hell has such terrible dreams! I want to come back to life. But I don’t want to be okay, on the other hand, because it seems to validate those evil fuckfaces who destroyed my life and chased me out of my home. What they did is not okay. It will never, ever be okay. I have zero capacity for forgiving them and zero interest in developing that capacity.
So, how do I do both? How do I both live, not entirely defined by that infinite regress of institutionalized abuse I have seen all my life through, everywhere—and not betray my narrative? I want revenge. I deserve justice. I want revenge so badly, it burns, bilious, through my belly. I want a public apology, the resignation of Kaminsky, and Klopping in jail. I am fucking entitled to that. I don’t want all this hate and anger to just disappear. I want to, at the very least, channel it to make art designed to dethrone them. Maybe this will count toward that end.
In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), we learn about how two seemingly conflicting truths can coexist in harmony. In Hegel’s terms, we identify the thesis (emotion mind), the antithesis (rational mind), and then, most importantly, the synthesis (wise mind). One usually sees a Venn diagram where one circle represents the emotion mind, and the other circle the rational mind. If we stray too far in either circle, we alienate the people around us. We aim to locate and stay in the wise mind, the shaded synthesis where the two circles overlap, both self-validating in our emotions and clear-headed in action. It is pretty tricky and sometimes excruciating. I believe my strong visceral reaction to DBT actually does indicate that it’s something I might need, like when I do hip-opening exercises. I hate it and get super emotional, but afterward, something has clicked and I’m a little better than I was before. I hope.
But that’s the thing—whose idea of “better” is this? So, I’m easier to deal with—but what about my duty to hold a life-long vigil of suffering in defiance of Kaminsky referring to my near-death experience as “a case of murky consent” even though I had said “I don’t want to,” “no,” “stop,” “please stop,” “you’re hurting me,” and even cried and lost consciousness? It’s almost like I need to oppose the vast wrong with an equal volume of suffering in order to feel like I’m living in line with my values as a feminist and political activist. Because no matter how many advocacy groups I reached out to, none of them ever got back to me. This is America. That was 2016. Nobody with any power cares. There will be no political movement about this wrong, even though I was one of two victims. Nobody cares but the other survivor and me—and I have to compensate for that, I guess. I wish I was dead. But I’m not. I committed to life at the inpatient treatment center. Let’s not finish the brute’s job for him. I’d rather suffer on, specifically to spite him.
I believe the concept of universal forgiveness was developed for and by the patriarchy. I believe in revenge. I know it’s not trendy, and it is still my personal moral code to exact revenge whenever possible toward someone so systematically destructive. There’s an idea!—Revenge art. I mean, I already started a sculpture from stone that would fit into it.
I now sit and type to you, gentle reader, from the “safety” of my “home” nearly a year out of inpatient treatment. I spent several months in an intensive outpatient center. I am not ashamed; many people are “crazy,” and I’m the kind of benign crazy that suffers like a demon sizzling on the cross in order to restore my nervous system and heal my deep, dark, life-ache. Ultimately, I hope to suddenly wake up a young Tura Satana, but more realistically, I want to have healthy, lasting relationships again, and to transmute all this shit into gold in the post-modern alchemy we like to call “art.” Art is what I loved; art was what I was good at. But art also got me raped—twice, two months apART—and beaten. And, consequently, incredibly fucking alienated. Maybe that’s why I moved onto music before entering a major depressive freeze mode with no art really at all.
Now, I hope to convey that the goal here in sharing this very personal essay consists of using the authority of my experience—one I know to be despairingly common and normalized—to reach out to anyone else festering in a pestilent cesspool of posttraumatic stress. Anyone else caught at the crossroads between superego and id, convinced that one of them is the devil and unsure which one to trust. Trust both, and neither. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking at all costs to maintain sanity and stay in wise mind. Maybe you need to write it out to process it, like I just did here, almost exactly two years after the Blue Velvet night that I died and went to hell’s waiting room. Remember how much we tend to regret it when we let our emotions drive.
The work is not meant to be fun. The work is not meant to be easy. I am doing the work out of a commitment to my values rather than where I’m coming from emotionally, which is an echoing, looping desire to disintegrate into nothingness or be reborn someone else entirely. I work toward forgiving myself for all sorts of ancient wounds that went unaddressed for a while and still do. It is a daily process. I often don’t mean it. But I’m learning the habit. And I hope you, empathic survivor, will do the same.