on harm reduction as a survivor

things I am trying to remember as a survivor of abuse:

– my hurt is real and true AND I don’t want to project this hurt onto others

– I have a tendency to use controlling behaviours to hurt others, using my history as a justification, which is abusive

– my desire for punitive measures against others is understandable based on the hurt AND does not work towards the kinds of community I desire

– somewhere in my body I believe that people can grow and change and while it might not be my role to support this in people who have perpetrated against me, i don’t want to prevent them from having these supports and connections

-while it scares me, I value when people call me out/in for my abusive and controlling behaviours, many which emerge from my experiences of violence, as it helps me work towards healing and reclaiming my actions from trauma.

In all this I want to recognize that survivorship is a really complex and diverse experience. These are important rememberances for me and won’t apply to everyone who is navigating trauma and survivorship

on harm reduction as a survivor

the condition(ing) of my heart

I needed to take a break from writing. I have been really enjoying learning to write about my trauma, my grief and pain and I am starting to understand it as another important tool for healing, coping, sharing and connecting with others. And it’s fucking hard.

I took to last week to care for myself in the other ways I have learnt  over the last few years. Taking myself for walks, spending time with people who see all of me, solitude, physical activity, treats like Sour Soup and hi-chews.

Today is the first time I have sat down to write in almost a week. The prompt that caught my attention was “What condition is my heart in?” Here is some of what came out.

– – –

My heart is hurting. It throbs with a perpetual longing for connection, for healing, for safety. Safety in ourselves, in others, in community. Hurting heart.

My heart is bitter. In protecting itself, it has become judgmental, mean. From all the times I thought I would get what I needed, that I was going to have connection, care, community. Bitter heart.

We are tired of thinking there are places for us. Places for broken hearts. Places for hurting hearts. Places for bitter hearts. We can sense we aren’t the only bleeding heart in this room, in this community. But like us, those hearts are guarded by sharp-beaked, short-fused egos. By frontal lobes, brains of great dominance, our survivor super organ. It gets us through, protecting our hearts, keeping us moving. We’re mean. We’re insecure. We’re defensive. We’re protective. We’re malice. We’re insecure. We’re heartbroken.

I am a fine connoisseur of over-developed ego. I am the president of the Protective Brains for Feeling Eradication Association. And I am hurting. I am heartbroken. Broken hearts let egos run rampant. Big brained. Broken hearted. Dangerous. Reactive. Unpredictable. Hurting. Lonely. Trauma-bodied, Survivor-brained.

– – –

My heart is an exile. Rejected by community, by relationship, by self. We don’t survive when we hurt. We don’t survive when we feel. Just need to think, to plan, to get in control. My heart lives under the reign of the fascist powers of logic and reason; subject to the judgement, the violence of my brain, my ego’s internalizations of your expectations.

Think. Act. Do.
Reason. Logic. Explain.
No feel. No affect. No flow.
Surviving is “one step at a time”
One calculated, logical step at a time
In the Right direction
Progress.
Move forward.
Not sideways
God forbid backwards.
Integrate.
Don’t disintegrate
ONE self.
Only one self
One brain, no heart
Tin Man ideals
Hold yourself together.
Put yourself back together
Like there was a before

Be the best cog you can be
Functioning means thinking
Means going to work
Means paying your rent
Integrate into society
Not with yourself
Segregate your pain
Eliminate your hurt
Eliminate yourself
Think. Act. Do.
Strategize.
Play the game.
Make your mother proud.

– – –

I have a stronger relationship with my heart than I used to. A direct relationship. Before, I would speak my heart with my brain, know my heart with my ego. Ego knows nothing but itself. Like a politician speaking “for the people” ego only truly speaks for itself.

Me.
I.
Survive.
No Us
just me
just I
Singular.
Logical.
In control.

My body is much better at speaking my heart. My body has always been speaking my heart, even before I understood what it was saying. In anxiety. In panic. In chronic pain. In nausea. If I pay attention, body is always speaking heart. Swollen fingers, swollen heart. Nerve pain, heart pain. Nauseous stomach, nauseous heart.

I have been working hard to learn to listen to my body, to understand the messages my exiled heart is sending through this embodied morse code. I have been learning to decipher the code. And learning to send messages back, learning this body code so that I can care for my heart even when I cannot connect with it directly. This secret code has kept my ego out of it, protected my heart from the violence I enact on it when it directly shows itself.

Panic.
Put your feet on the floor
Anxiety.
Take these bones for a walk
Nausea.
Listen to your inner voice
Nerve pain.
Soak these muscles

Panic.
Put your feet on the floor
Touch the ground, look to the sky
Dirt between your toes
Anxiety.
Take these bones for a walk
To the library
Touch every book you desire
Nausea.
Listen to your inner voice
What aren’t you saying?
Write it down, yell it out
Nerve pain.
Soak these muscles
Stretch them out
Open up the channels again

– – –

My heart knows when people are hurting. We can register another broken heart from a miraculous distance, across mountains, across oceans, across conflict, across isolation. We can perceive this hurt, this intensity with such complexity, with such reverence for the pain, the trauma, for those things ego could never speak. My heart always believes you. My heart always knows it’s true.

Sit with it
Be with it
We see you
all of you
all truth
all legitimate
all honest
Your strength
to feel
to hurt
to struggle
Your exhaustion
at surviving
getting through
If you stopped right now
you would be enough
Sublime
Absolute
True

 

the condition(ing) of my heart

things for others to know about grief and survivorship

today’s prompt was about what you would tell others about grief, something they cannot know if they aren’t in your shoes. here’s what came out:

 

This one is tricky for me. I feel like I have tried to be honest with people in my communities about pain, trauma, grief and they have not been able to deal with it. I know that in part it is because in some ways they also feel these things. And I wish we would build the spaces and skills to be able to wade in, to exist in a place of hurt and sadness and darkness and still exist in relation to others in healthy consensual ways.

I feel caution about speaking my pain, my experiences and my feelings. It often comes out as prescriptive, controlling and defensive. “you need to do this”, “you don’t get it and that hurts me”. I find it hard to just speak my truths and not to demand something of others or to project my pain onto others. I feel like when you have spent most of your life searching for the words, for an understanding of where all your pain comes from, it can be really hard to not blame others for how hard it was to find those words and understandings. This feels particularly acute when you are supposedly part of a community that wants to talk about pain, struggle and hurt but in actuality isn’t in a place to go there, to be in the thick of it together.

I don’t want to judge others for not being able to be in it with me. And I also want to be honest that we aren’t there, and that if we want to be, there is so much work to be done.

– – –

It feels like a lie when you say that you get it, when you say its ok to not be ok but cannot actually hold the space for others to be messy, to fall apart, to fuck up. This lie, though I know it’s unintentional, can be triggering, especially for those of us who are already dealing with the mistrust that trauma fosters.

– – –

Don’t deny my truth. Don’t pretend to understand. Don’t say you have space for me, for my pain, for my messy coping if you don’t. Know your own boundaries and be honest with me about them. My pain is not a learning tool for you, and we can grow together but its going to be fucking hard work.

When you are dishonest with yourself about what you need and pretend that you are there for me, and then reject me, talk shit about me, villianize me, thats fucked up. I want you to have boundaries. I want you to know what those boundaries are. I want you to feel that you can communicate those boundaries with me. When you don’t communicate them I flounder around trying to know how to be with you, what you need to be near me, what I need to do to be seen and accepted, doubting my ability to respect you and care for you. And to be honest, I already have enough self-doubt; I already feel lost and confused from all this pain in my chest. I don’t want to take on more.

– – –

Trauma make me so lonely. It hurts on this level I cannot articulate. I feel it in every cell of my body. There are days when it fully eclipses me and I cannot find a moment of myself. I am imploding. I become a black hole: all the energy, all the light gets sucked out and I collapse in and over myself. And it hurts; it hurts so fucking much.

Imploding is a lonely state of being. I have no idea how to reach out when i am turning in on myself. I have no idea how to connect with others when I cannot find myself.

I worry that I will pull you in, that I will suck the light out of you. I have done this before. I have hurt people I love when I am imploding.

How do you be a black hole and live in community?

 

– – –

It’s not your responsibility to make it better. You will never know my experiences just as I won’t know yours. It’s not helpful for you to be prescriptive about what “getting better” means. Maybe better means not getting worse. Maybe better means getting worse, being open to sinking below the surface. Maybe better means embracing coping behaviours that are self-destructive. Maybe better means momentary acceptance that I am going to be fucked up forever.

Better for me definitely does not mean getting over it, moving past it. It doesn’t mean letting other people tell me what is best for me. It doesn’t mean hiding parts of myself so that people can find me manageable.

If you want to support, sit with me.
If you want to support, deal with your own shit.
If you want to support, be honest about how much you want to give.
If you want to support, be honest about how much you can give.
If you want to support, be honest about what you don’t want to give.
If you want to support, communicate your boundaries with me.
If you want to support, recognize that support for me is reciprocal. If you aren’t in place to receive support (totally legit place to be) this isn’t going to work for me.
If you want to support, be willing to call me in when I fuck up.
If you want to support, realize it’s going to be an ongoing process of negotiation and communication.

 

 

things for others to know about grief and survivorship