Polyamorous Fairytales Are the Best Fairytales

A very clever writer named Natalie Zina Walschots is putting together a collection of Polyamorous Fairytales that I’m pretty stoked about, and selfishly I’d like you to help support that project so that I can read them (because happy poly fairies are awesome).

The project is in the pre-Kickstarter stage at the moment, with a super-cool Christmas sweater (and t-shirt… and sweatshirt) fundraiser. Now’s your chance to buy one of these original-design shirts (which feature four different triple-stag poly-friendly motifs) and get in with the cool kids.

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Visit the Hearts On Our Sleeve page at Teespring to see all the designs, styles and prices. But do it fast! They’re only available for a limited time.

Here’s a how Natalie describes the project: “Everyone is looking for their fairytale ending, and everyone’s perfect happily-ever-after is beautifully, gloriously different. Love is big and strange, plentiful and ever-changing. It unlocks new rooms in our hearts–rooms we had no idea were waiting. Fairytales are similarly strange narratives, full of peril and transformation, and it’s no wonder we turn to them as the template for our own love stories. More than anything else, fairytales have been my guide through my own arduous quests, monstrous riddles, and magic spells to be broken.

But fairytales, for all their curiosity and subversiveness, still often end with a neat pair: a prince and a princess, a queen and a king. A rescue and a marriage and a tidy coupling. However, there are so many kinds of happy endings, so many love stories, that end in other wonderful configurations. Princesses who walk off hand in hand instead of competing for the prince. Companies of knights who lovingly adventure together for the rest of their days. Magicians and nymphs who love liminal space snap moving between them. Witches with wonderful friends who shoo away all their suitors and are thrilled on their own. Kings and queens who delightedly look forward to the occasional visit from the dashing duke two kingdoms over. There aren’t enough of those stories in the world.”

For more info about the project you can visit the Facebook page.

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What’s You is Mine

I used to steal things.

It was wrong, certainly, and I felt a tremendous guilt over it at the time, but largely because I didn’t understand why it was only directed towards the people I cared about. I think people take things for a lot of different reasons, and while kleptomania is the clinical label we put on it when people do it compulsively, trying to paint every person who has this compulsion with the same brush ends up dismissing the very real dysfunctional thought processes which underly it.

I didn’t steal things very often, but it occurred enough times as a child that I was convinced that I was a ‘very bad person.’ I took a swan-shaped perfume bottle from my best friend (and forever added water to it, trying to get it to last for as long as possible). I took a tiny drummer boy pin from my grade two teacher’s desk at Christmas time. I occasionally took tiny mementos from my mother’s desk or jewellery drawer.

I didn’t do these things because I was angry or wanted to hurt them. I did it because I loved them. But I cannot deny that these acts must have hurt them, and would have hurt them even more to know that I was the one that did these things, because you (especially) don’t steal things from people you love.

I think to understand why I did these things, you need to look at the behaviour that accompanied the theft.

stealingI was an anxious child (who grew into an anxious adult). I didn’t have any outlet for that anxiety, so it was up to me to develop my own self-calming techniques (calling them techniques suggests way more self-awareness than I had at the time — it’s taken me years to recognize these patterns for what they were). One of these strategies was (what I thought of as) treasure-hunting. If the opportunity presented itself, I would go through hidden spaces and look for little treasures: items that made me happy and calmed me through tactile stimulation. It started with my own things — it was always possible in my messy room of hoarded things to dig through my piles and find things that I had forgotten about. Finding those things anew and touching them, rubbing them between my fingers, putting them in my pocket or even touching them to my lips (or putting them in my mouth) would calm me.

But sometimes my own things weren’t enough. The older I got, the better my memory was and the more that I needed novelty, and I needed to branch out. I would sneak into my mother’s room and go through her drawers or her closets. On her upper shelves she had some collectible dolls — I would take them down carefully and look at them, touch them, but never remove them from their case. I wasn’t allowed to play with them and I although I did gently handle them, I never risked damaging them by taking them out of their boxes. For the most part, I’d just dig about and put things right back where I found them. It wasn’t until later, when my anxiety was no longer satiated by looking that I took things.

I didn’t take a lot. Usually just one thing would be enough. Somehow having something of my mother’s (and later my best friends or favourite teachers) was enough to bring me comfort when I was anxious. Those items held extra power because they belonged to the people that I loved. It helped when I was scared, and certainly helped when I was apart from them.

I didn’t steal from strangers. I didn’t steal from my brother or father — the idea of doing so never even crossed my mind.

I think I recognized after taking the perfume bottle from my best friend and the pin from my teacher that it was wrong to take anything that they would miss or that was too precious. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, I just had this need that I couldn’t suppress. I tried to only take things from my mother that seemed lost or forgotten to her already.

I don’t remember exactly when the habit passed — somehow I graduated from being a child to a teen and I wasn’t stealing any more (other than borrowing clothes from my mother, but that wasn’t something I hid).

I thought it was past me until all of a sudden in my late thirties, I found myself at my mother’s house one day while she was at work, going through drawers and cupboards. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was in the upswing of a manic phase (the one that ended up defining my bipolar disorder). I had been sleepless for weeks at this point. I had gone over to my mother’s house to pick something up and ended up pacing room to room, looking for nothing that I could verbalize.

I ended up finding some paintings that had been tucked away to the side of her dresser and just knew that I had to rescue them and they needed to be in my house. Suddenly the only thing that mattered to me was that these beautiful paintings were being ignored, unhung and forgotten.

A week or two later, when my mother came over and saw one of the paintings hanging at the top of my staircase, she was furious and (not surprisingly) hurt. She demanded them back and when I got upset and tried to point out that she hadn’t even noticed they were gone, she took them and left. I tried to plead with her and explain that I was trying to save them, but we were both hurt and angry and not really listening to each other. I cannot deny that what I did was an aggressive act (or that it seemed so to her), but my defensiveness was in part out of confusion that she thought I did it to hurt her, which in my delusional mind, I hadn’t.

It wasn’t until later, long after the incident (and after drug therapy had treated the manic episode) that I began to question why I had done it and how it related to a larger pattern of behaviours.

Any person who experiences anxiety (or any other mental illness) will tend to develop calming strategies, many of which are potentially self-destructive (like smoking, alcohol or drugs). Unfortunately, with something like kleptomania or drug abuse, the symptoms of anxiety can mask the underlying cause, which will inevitably go untreated. More clinicians are recognizing this fact, which is why there are more dual diagnosis treatment centres opening, thankfully.

For myself, I’ve tried to learn to identify which of my behaviours are related to my anxiety, and which are acceptable and helpful outlets for those feelings (this list is only mine, and the things that I call risky or bad are simply that for me):

RISKY

  • alcohol
  • drugs (some, potentially)
  • stealing
  • violating other people’s personal boundaries (going through their things)
  • lists
  • exercise
  • looking at the scale

SAFER

  • window shopping
  • walking
  • magazines
  • flowers
  • looking at bright, pretty things

The top list will confuse some people, I know, because it has lists and exercise on it. For me, the problem is that besides anxiety, I am prone to obsession and compulsion. If I keep things light and not too focused, I’m okay, but unfortunately that’s not how things tend to unfold. Things with numbers or lists or goals tend to push me into overdrive and I compete with myself. In the past that has resulted in compulsive exercise and anorexia.

Sometimes though, colour and design are enough mental stimulation to calm me. If I can walk through a HomeSense or Ikea, walk the aisles one at a time and pick up each little knick knack, turn it around in my hands and put it back, that’s enough to settle those feelings in the back of my brain. Without realizing it, I’ve had this habit since I was a child — first at the toy store and then at any store at the mall. kIt’s such a simple thing and it doesn’t hurt anyone. The challenge in the past has usually been that I haven’t been able to express why I needed to do it. This has led to whoever I’m with growing impatient with me and rushing me through the process, leaving me feeling unfulfilled and even more stressed out.

One of the constants of living with bipolar is the lack of psychological or psychotherapeutic counselling. With drug therapy as a catch-all for treatment, we as patients are forced to be explorers of our own psyche, trying to dissect each little action or behaviour and figure out how it relates to the whole. With each new realization I feel like I take a step closer to being a whole person, but I am also filled with growing regret over the time I’ve lost and the people I’ve hurt because there was no one to step forward and guide me through this process years ago.

/rk

New Book!

I’m pleased to announce the soft launch of my latest book, “I’Mmoral: Poems for Unrepentant Sinners and Free Thinkers.” For the time being, the eBook is available only on lulu.com, but is being rolled out for distribution through Amazon, Kobo, NOOK, and more. Once I have approved the proofs of the paperback version, I will advise where those can be purchased as well.

cropped-immoral-image.jpegSummary: What would the war cry of a mostly introverted, mentally ill, autistic, genderqueer, physically disabled, feminist, atheist, polyamorous woman sound like? A lot like this. Using a combination of essay and free-form poetry, R.K. confronts the status quo and dissects it, inspecting its parts and discarding the bad bits. In spite of tackling some obviously serious and controversial topics, such as abortion and the anti-vaccination movement, she approaches her subjects with humour and then slaughters them with equal parts derision and kindness.

Price (eBook): $2.99 / Click here to view/buy

Thanks very much for your support!

/rk

I Dub Thee XYZ

IMG_0057To say I have never felt the need to define my identity would not be fair or accurate. It has simply never seemed to me to be a thing that is static or definable. At any point in time I may present a certain way, or think of myself in certain terms, but these labels always feel transient and insufficient. I resist being pinned down. I fear being labeled one thing forever.

It might be an easier prospect if any one label had ever possessed any sense of ‘rightness’. Instead I’ve spent a lifetime feeling like an enigma even to myself, and that’s a lot less sexy and mysterious than it sounds. While labels may not be important to everyone, they are useful tools in explaining what you’re (at least superficially) about to the outside world. More important than the labels themselves is what they represent — a clear sense of self — which I don’t have. Or is it that I am just afraid of saying the words out loud and committing to being unchangeable from this point on? What if the thing I think I am today is wrong and what I really am doesn’t even exist yet?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My earliest identity was pretty typically defined by my relationships: I was a child to my parents and a sister to my brother. That I was a sister and inherently female didn’t actually establish itself as a thought process for me back then as much as that we were different from each other. I was older and he was younger. I was not him and he was not me, and therefore his role was brother and son and mine was sister and daughter. There was a certain logic and balance to that and it didn’t feel overly clouded by sex or gender, especially given that we dressed pretty similarly most of the time (hand-me-downs in the 70s meant a lot of plaid shirts and cords or overalls for both of us).

Beginning daycare and school brought new and confusing questions about my identity. Suddenly gender roles became an unavoidable part of my existence, and my less-than-skillful ability to decipher and mirror them led to alienation from my peers. Nothing felt natural or right. I knew I wasn’t like the boys (all the boys I knew were either athletic and confident or cruel and violent). But I also didn’t feel like I was one of the girls. Kids (male and female) would tell me I wasn’t pretty enough to be a girl and that my freckles made my face look dirty. I was simultaneously fascinated and terrified by the other girls in my class; they could also be cruel, but usually through emotional manipulation or shunning. I would try to fit in with them by mirroring behaviours, or giving them gifts, or dressing the same, but that just ended up painting me as the weird stalker girl. So I switched from trying too hard to not trying at all.

For a long time after that, my identity was… nothing. Invisibility. Most of this was self-preservation. Being invisible protected me from bullying at school. It protected me from abuse at daycare (It was a sickly mixture of pride and relief that I felt when one abuser said, as he repeatedly whipped my brother and I across the legs with a wet towel, “Why can’t you be more like her, you don’t hear her crying, do you?”). Being able to be quiet and disappear into myself saved me from what I was sure would only be worse abuse. It made me a boring target. I got very good at stifling my emotions and not reacting. No jumping at sudden noises. No flinching. No me. Being no person and having no identity seemed like the safest identity, even if it wasn’t a real identity at all.

Obviously I couldn’t stay invisible forever, and I made various attempts throughout my childhood and teens to reach out and form connections. Even though I feared the inevitable rejection when I was bound to screw something up and alienate them, I still ran into the occasional person who lit up my senses and made me want to know them more than my fear warned me against it. This meant locking down my gender identity. Well, sort of. It was more by a process of default than anything else. Heteronormativity was what presented itself, and so that’s what I was, at least on the surface: A girl attracted to boys. It was the only option that seemed viable in the environment I was in (or so I thought at the time: naivety might be responsible for my narrow view of the world at that time). If I wanted my friendships with girls to thrive, I needed to be straight. I’d already learned in the past that coming on too strong would put them off. I sure as hell wasn’t going to risk crossing any lines and losing my one friend (There was always only one friend. It might have been a different one friend at different times through the years, but I have always been a best friend kind of person. And that’s not necessarily a good thing: I tend to put all my expectations and desires in one pot, and that’s a lot to live up to.) Being ‘normal’ (at least on the outside) felt safe and reassuring. Spending my time with girls while mooning over the occasional guy felt right. I liked girls and boys in different ways. I just wasn’t sure if the different ways were the same as my girlfriends. I did know that I didn’t seem to be attracted to the same kinds of guys that everyone else I knew was.

IMG_0162Looking back, it feels a lot like I just put thinking about my identity on hold. I just assumed I was cis-gendered. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I assumed that cis-gendered was how I was going to live and that no other option was really viable. Not being female didn’t feel like an option. I also knew I wasn’t gay because I liked guys (well, some of them, anyway). But in my private explorations and masturbatory fantasies, I knew that I fantasized about both men and women sexually.

It wasn’t until my 20s when suddenly I was very strongly attracted to a friend of my best friend that I came out as bisexual to her (the best friend, that is). After that point I felt no qualms about sharing this fact with boyfriends or anyone who would ask, but it didn’t actually yield much in terms of relationships with women other than being invited into a few foursomes in college.

Once I married for the first time, I felt like any chance at being anything other than an outwardly straight woman was completely gone. Having a child left me feeling even more locked in. In a similar way to when I was a child, my identity was once again defined by my relationships, except now there was an added burden. I felt I needed to be those things out of responsibility to them. It didn’t feel possible to change who I was without causing irreparable harm to the people around me.

When that marriage fell apart, and the one after that as well, I still felt confused and dissatisfied with the image I was projecting to the world. An unfortunate choice of treatment with anti-depressants for what turned out to be anxiety due to bipolar ended up pushing me into hypomania (and inevitably full-blown mania and delusions, followed by a horrible crash of severe depression). During this period I started chasing the numbers on the scale (and on my clothes) downward. I became obsessed with the number zero, or even better, less than zero. I got my weight down to 103, sure that I could crack the lower side of the 100-mark. I made it to zero in clothing sizes and counted it as a victory when I fit into my first piece of clothing in the 00 size (and then even a pair of jeans in the juniors department). It was more complicated than anorexia or body dysmorphia. I was experiencing a recurrence of my childhood identity crisis and my desire to disappear, but with a new twist. I couldn’t be me unless I could see my bones. The only way to truly get to the truth of who I was inside would be to bring the inside out. The flesh was getting in the way of my real self. For so many years I had avoided cameras and reflections of myself because what I saw looking back at me didn’t match the image in my mind. Suddenly I could see the real me peeking through. I didn’t shy away from cameras anymore (Although ironically, there are almost no pictures of this period of time because when you develop a reputation for not wanting your picture taken, people start to take you at your word).

In spite of being a fundamentally unhealthy thought process, it was the first time in my life that I felt like I was finally coming close to understanding who and what I was, and what I was meant to become. As the pounds fell away and I lost the more obvious characteristics of being ‘feminine’, like breasts and curves (and having regular periods), and could see what lay underneath, I felt more comfortable in my body. I still didn’t feel like I knew what I was, gender-wise, but I no longer felt so locked into decisions that had been made for me before birth. My body wasn’t forcing me to be a woman.

Of course, delusions (and there were many more than just those tied into my body) generally can’t be allowed to continue unchecked, and I eventually had to be treated for my mental illness, a process that involved a cocktail of drugs that fortunately/unfortunately caused me to gain all the weight back (and much, much more). I wouldn’t say I was healthy physically or mentally (I mostly felt emotionally and sexually castrated). I felt trapped by my body again, and thanks to my crazy-person shenanigans, I had no job and anything approaching any sense of personal identity had been obliterated.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is getting to be an awfully long story of personal discovery for it to have no personal discovery at the culmination of it.

I’d like to say that seven years from my breakdown I’ve had a revelation and finally have my shit together as far as my sexual and gender identity are concerned. In terms of sexuality, I finally became part of a community where being bisexual or gender non-conforming is accepted, but it hasn’t yielded any serious relationships with women. I did fall in love again and marry a man; although I confess that what initially attracted me to him was the fact that he didn’t entirely fit a 100% masculine mold (he’s definitely cis-male, but the first man I’ve been with who is more heteroflexible than heteronormative).

For a while, I thought I was beginning to grasp my sexuality and labeled it pansexual, outwardly explaining it as being attracted to people without regards to gender, but inwardly being pretty sure that what attracted me most was both of those things in one person, especially gender-fluid people and specifically persons with both male and female sex organs/characteristics. This set off a whole series of confused shame feelings while I tried to parse whether what I was doing was simply fetishizing transwomen. I don’t think there is a simple answer to that; ultimately I think that fantasies are fine (and private), as long as you treat real people with respect.

This revelation didn’t interfere with my relationship with my husband, since we are polyamorous and thankfully I could be open about it. But it still didn’t entirely answer questions I still had about my own gender identity. I didn’t feel male or female, but as usual I just let people assume I was female because not only did I not want to have to explain how I felt, I also didn’t have the words to explain how I felt.

Then my sexuality up and slipped away.

I know that this is not unique. There are people all over the world that experience sexual dysfunction, and while I know that technically this is what I am experiencing, it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like transformation. Whether it’s from the drugs I take or from nerve damage from my diabetes, I started losing sensitivity; gradually at first, until one day I realized it was just gone. But it’s more than that: I don’t feel any sexual attraction at all anymore. I have zero interest in sex. I am still romantically attracted to people (I think? When you go from a hypersexual being to no longer having any sexual feelings, it can be a bit tough to separate sex and romance for the first time in your life). At first this terrified me, not because I missed sex, but because I didn’t. And that hurt, because I didn’t know how to explain that to my husband. I felt a bit like I had committed fraud in marrying him and then turning around and completely changing the deal.

Claiming an asexual identity also feels like a betrayal. Coming out as asexual means more than just claiming something for myself, it is a reflection upon him and on our marriage. It also turns us into a cliché: the couple who is poly because the wife is frigid.

I’m still not even addressing my gender identity, am I? I put it off and put it off because I always have this sense that anything I lay claim to and change later on then becomes a lie. When I say I don’t have the words or terms to express who I am, that also isn’t as true as it once was: we’re smack in the middle of a gender revolution and treating my own situation like I’m some special snowflake only hurts me, because my struggle is invisible. No one knows that they mis-gender me, because I don’t correct them. Stewing over things other people say because they don’t understand me makes me sound like some emo teenager pouting in my room. But I spend a lot of time feeling “what’s the point” of coming out when it will just increase the pressures and expectations upon me to conform to a new ideal. Being cis is easy. It’s a cop out and you shouldn’t be a thing just because it’s the easy thing to do, but that it is easier no one can deny.

I don’t want to be male or female. Or at least, I don’t feel like I am either of those things. I joked to my husband that “I’m male in the winter and female in the summer,” but that was really a simplification and doesn’t suffice as an explanation. I think gender-fluid or agender feels more correct, but even those words don’t cover it properly. Maybe I’m just androgynous and it isn’t a gender thing at all, but I don’t think so. Certainly I present as mostly femme, but I can’t figure out how much of that is down to socialization: I don’t fully have the confidence to let myself not be female and explore what that might look like. Much like being openly asexual, I feel scared about what the implications are to my husband and son if I explore my complicated relationship with gender openly. It should be stated, clearly, that my husband, rather than freaking out at my revelations, has been very supportive. But it’s one of those things that you don’t really know how it will go until you’re in the middle of it, you know?

There are no great revelations here. It feels a bit like running internal diagnostics. All I can do is rule out what I’m not and work closer to the truth. I’m not straight. I’m not male or female. I don’t think I’m trans (although the trans* umbrella feels closest to correct). Asexual agender polyamorous panromantic feels something like close to right in this moment, but that might change an hour from now.

I just want to be allowed the same freedom granted to every new age hippie to ‘find myself’, at my own pace, and by my own terms.

/rk

You Probably Think This Memoir’s About You

Writing memoir doesn’t come without fallout of one kind or another. I write about myself and my feelings and experiences. And I get a lot of good feedback from objective sources for doing so. People relate to it and thank me for putting into words the things they’ve held back or buried over time. Because it’s easier, sometimes, recognizing yourself in someone else’s story when giving voice to your own can be so painful and feel so risky.

Why risky? Because when you write about your life, other people are featured in the story, and our instinct is to keep private things private.

Well, let’s not be disingenuous here — for those of us among the emotionally wounded, the PTSD sufferers, the mentally ill — privacy has usually been drilled into us from a young age. It’s that stifling environment, where expressions of discord or discussions of fears or ‘working on relationships’, were either not the status quo or were entirely verboten that helped to pack up all that emotional baggage and lock it away.

IMG_0553Memoir writing is cathartic. I mean, that’s the appeal, right? That’s what drives the writer to write; to un-cork the bottle and spill out its contents, while hopefully painting them with a careful brush into something that inspires or resonates with the audience.

But it takes courage to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. Not so much because of the fear of letting people inside, or because you open yourself up to judgement — strangers knowing your business is actually less intimidating than you might expect — but because the ghosts from your past often aren’t content to stay ghosts.

“Men’s memoirs are about answers; women’s memoirs are about questions. Most male authors want to look good in their memoirs and have a place in posterity, while most women know that posterity is what happens when you no longer care. Women want to connect with others here and now; they couldn’t care less about legacy!” — Isabel Allende

Memoir writing tends to be (for me) a lot about emotional processing. Certainly at its root, a memoir needs to contain an event or series of events, whether unique or uniquely told, but it’s the emotional connection that differentiates memoir from autobiography. Which is not to say that memoirs aren’t based in fact; but those facts are tempered by perspective. Does this make the author an unreliable narrator? Maybe. But I would argue that reliability of the facts isn’t the most important goal: honesty of intent is.

My mantras for memoir writing are as follows:

  1. Make it YOUR story.
  2. Be honest.
  3. Be fair.

That’s it. As for as making it your story, it’s crucial to remember that the other players are really there to serve a purpose: as tools to tell your story. As such, the basis for their inclusion should always be as a means to move the story forward and/or to allow the reader to learn more about you.

“I think most memoirs, though they purport to be about this particular time or this person you met, are really about the effect that person or time had on you.” — Rosemary Mahoney

That’s not to say they don’t have value as human beings! Of course they do; but we’re talking about story-writing here, and these people probably didn’t consent or want to be written about. But I believe fundamentally that as long as I stick to the rules/mantras, I have a right to re-tell my life. Because who else has a right to tell my story if not me?

Honesty is one of those things you will undoubtedly be challenged on. In disseminating life events for my readers I ultimately let them decide for themselves: When I have objective facts or markers, I say so; when I am making assumptions or interpretations, I say so; and I temper everything with reminders that my recollections are subjective at best. That’s the nature of the beast. My reality may not be the reality, but it is mine. About that there is no deception.

As for fairness, the things above are part of that, but it’s also about representing all the players in a balanced way. I try to keep #1 in mind in the retelling of every interaction. I keep it about me. And I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, but rather that the goal isn’t to tell anyone else’s truth — it’s about telling your own. And doing that fairly means a) being honest about what you know, b) being truthful about what actually happened, c) being honest about what you don’t know, d) being honest about perspective and how that influences your recollection, and e) acknowledging that the people around you are human and are going through their own shit.

That last one is pretty important. If you feel it’s necessary to represent someone else on paper in order to tell your story, you have a responsibility to treat them like a multi-faceted, fallible human being. You need to cut them some slack. Even if they hurt you or did a crummy thing, you need to avoid crucifying them. For one thing, it’s pretty doubtful that anyone is 100% evil.  Or even evil at all. I’m damaged and I’ve hurt people because of that. Ergo the people who’ve hurt me were probably hurt themselves.

If you’re going to tell about the bad things a person did to you, you have to also tell about the good things. If you don’t, you’re a shitty person; because that’s not fair. You’re also a shitty writer; because this isn’t a fairy tale where  you’re the hero and everyone else is the bad guy. Which is why, to be fair, you need to lay out your demons as well. Because what is the point of writing memoir over fiction if you’re not going to at least try to be honest?

Unfortunately, whether you’re ethical about it or not, people probably aren’t going to thank you for writing about them. So why do it? Why put yourself out there and open yourself up to criticism or recrimination from the people from your past?

For me, there are a few different motivations. Firstly I should point out that writing about my relationships was a last resort. When you try for years to mend fences (or at least try to figure out why they’re broken) and you continually run up against a brick wall, it’s not very satisfying emotionally. Those feelings need to go somewhere. I needed resolution and I wasn’t getting any. Also, it was about breaking unhealthy patterns: I grew up in a family where a) we didn’t talk about our emotions and b) because I was mentally ill, a lot of the conflict was blamed on my mental instability. Those two in combination do a number on your self-esteem.

Memoir isn’t the only writing I’ve done. I’ve written a novel and a book of poetry, and there are other books in progress. But it’s the stories of my past that keep forcing their way to the surface. I can’t move on until those are dealt with and filed away.

Which explains my need to write and to process, but why make things public?

Well… I’m a writer, not a diarist. It’s what I do and has always felt essential to my existence (emo but also true), and a crucial part of being a writer is the interaction between writer and reader. I also really truly believe that I have a responsibility to speak up and out because not everyone feels similarly able. For those who for whatever reason, be it personal or professional, can’t face the risk of exposing themselves, it’s important that there are beacons of light that shine in the darkness to let them know that they’re not alone. When you’ve suffered abuse or neglect, when you’ve suffered depression or loneliness, it helps to know that you’re not alone.

Sharing stories has long been society’s collective coping mechanism. We feel an inherent need to connect and understand. Sharing experiences helps us heal emotionally, and when we read about the experiences of others, it gives us insight into our own.

So I’ll keep writing about my life, even if it risks alienating the people from my past. Because the reality is that those people removed themselves from my life long before I started writing, and holding up the writing as the reason is dishonest and re-writing history.

Re-writing history isn’t what I intend to do. I want to write about it, attempt to understand it, and then tuck it away where it can’t hurt me anymore.

/rk

#DyingnotDying

I’m dying.  I mean, faster than some and slower than others, but it’s not going to happen in the next 10 minutes.  Probably.  But we’re all dying, aren’t we?  So how exactly, if you are occasionally prone to morbid delusion, do you reconcile that?

I’ve had a few actual brushes with death, which doesn’t help dismiss the notion.  When your body is in a real and actual degenerative state with various organs telling you to go fuck yourself, it’s hard to ignore the steady decline towards what seems like an inevitable conclusion.  And migraines — sweet Jesus — when it feels like your eyeball is going to explode out of your head it is easy to imagine that a stroke is not only possible, but imminent.

IMG_0146I’m not sure where this started.  It pre-dates my actually being sick, I think.  As a child I suffered two things:  chronic nosebleeds and headaches.  (I say headaches, because I don’t think they were migraines back then, but getting regular headaches were still a bit of an anomaly, in that other kids didn’t seem to get them except when they were sick.)  The nosebleeds were presumably benign, but blood is scary.  Even more scary was the fact that I’d often get them in my sleep, so I’d wake up to a bloody pillowcase.  If that doesn’t convince a six-year-old with an active imagination that she’s dying, I don’t know what would.

Fast forward several years and there was more blood, this time in the toilet.  Yes, gross.  Yes, embarrassing.  Yes, I didn’t tell anyone about it for years out of said embarrassing grossness and instead just waited to silently die from a bowel perforation.

Thankfully I did eventually seek treatment, but not before my fatalistic (although at this point not entirely unjustified) delusion was fully entrenched.

This is where you will tell me that imagining that I am dying is what makes me sick.

Ok.

Now I’m imagining that I am dying because I am imagining that I am dying.

So thanks for that added layer of guilt.

See, this is the problem with delusion and obsessive thoughts.  If I could stop myself from ruminating, I wouldn’t be mentally ill.  It’s not that I don’t know much of it is nonsense — or at least that it serves no purpose to obsess over my mortality other than to further harm myself.  I know that.  But the thoughts continue to niggle at my brain, and the fact that I continue to get sicker reinforces it.

The definition of hypochondria is excessive preoccupancy or worry about having a serious illness. This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition.”  But that’s not me, exactly.  I do have medical conditions.  Real, quantifiable, testable conditions.  

When we were kids, my brother said to me “you don’t fake being sick, you really make yourself sick.”

Did I make myself sick?  I don’t know.  Maybe?  Sometimes when I’m feeling especially self-destructive, I do blame myself for that.  The illnesses that I have genetically come from both sides of my family.  I just seem to be a repository for all of them, all at once.  I am either very unlucky, or there is something about my mental and physical makeup that has made me prone to triggering them.

Ultimately though, does it matter?  If somehow I ‘talked myself into disease’ with my negative attitude, they’re here now, and real, and have to be dealt with.

Conversely, what if I didn’t cause them?  What if my frustrating paranoia has helped me.  Most of my illnesses were detected very early (including my skin cancer), and were diagnosed after initially being dismissed by doctors because I was too young, or the wrong sex, or they had doubts.  But I wasn’t wrong.

So maybe being paranoid and overly sensitive to every change in my body has served me well.

It would be a strange sort of irony if my conviction that I am dying is inadvertently responsible for the prolongation of my life.

/rk

Good and Evil

mother gooseNo formal blog post today — I’m a mom and I get the weekend off for Mother’s Day (since my boss – me – says so). But I do have a kind of neat photo essay I created over at Medium.com to share, entitled:  In the Eye of the Beholder: Good and Evil.  It’s the first of my experiments with the format; although I hope to do more.

Have a great weekend!

/rk