KEEPSAKES

The saltwater stung my lips as I sped down the highway, edgy from the bitter gas station coffee I’d pounded throughout the ride, rushing to meet the body of a man who was already dead. My mother beat me to the coroner’s office.

“You don’t want to see that,” she told me. “His body looked so small. It didn’t even look like him,” she said.

His apartment was littered with sentimentalities: a box of old photos scattered across the dining table; a hideous porcelain lamp with a base shaped like a bowl of fruit that had once graced the apartment he shared with my mother; the dishes from my parents’ marriage, an institution that had been abandoned fifteen years prior. I took a three tiered black metal basket and the black bear statue I gave him for Father’s Day when I was six.

As we drove the cat to the shelter, I sat in silence. My mother tried to comfort me with all the reasons that this was the best decision, but we both knew that this dusty drive to the shelter was a funeral march. The old tortoiseshell, weary and violent after being neglected and abused by a decaying alcoholic, was not likely to be adopted. Her name was Stripe. She was my seventh birthday gift from him, and twelve years later, we were dropping her at her execution.

That evening, we returned to our cheap motel. As we pushed the door open, the radio played a song in Spanish–the lyrics were about loving the dead.

The first night in the motel, some men were ogling my mother and I as we moved our things into the room, and the anger inside of me flared something fierce. I nearly started a fight when I asked if they had something better to do than stare at us.

“Honey, I can’t protect you,” she told me, as if it was news.

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Sorry, The Establishment: Rape Is Not A “Complicated Issue” – [UPDATED]

Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault, non-consent, victim blaming, et al.

Tell me, reader, what does this sound like to you?

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THE SNAKES AND THE DOGS

Ah, yes. Another day on the internet, where a clickbaity hot piece-o-garbage has us all running to our thinkpiece machines to churn out an adequate response! WHAT A GLORIOUS DAY!

Recently, essayist and seemingly professional troll Amanda Lauren published an article entitled, “My Former Friend’s Death Was a Blessing,” on xoJane, which detailed her relationship to a former friend–or rather, detailed said former friend’s social media activity after their fall out, and that friend’s unexpected death.

Lauren’s perspective was that her former friend’s mental health issues made her death an ultimately good thing:

I felt like Leah’s death was inevitable. Every box for being a danger to yourself or someone else was checked. A few weeks later I got another Facebook message from a different friend, saying that Leah passed away. She supposedly hit her head and drowned in a bathtub. Sadly, I really believe knowing who Leah used to be, that she would have wanted to die that way. Big and dramatic with an obit in the New York Times. Her better self would have been strangely proud. She would have laughed. Then again, it doesn’t really matter how Leah died. She might have drowned, but schizoaffective disorder was the hand that kept her head below water.

It sounds horrible to say, but her death wasn’t a tragedy, her life was. Her sister died when she was in college. Schizoaffective disorder robbed her of reaching her potential. There were some other things along the way. She was alone and terribly unhappy when died. Leah with the big heart didn’t deserve that. Judging Facebook pages, we all compare ourselves to other people, what they have, what they don’t, and their accomplishments. This girl had nothing to live for.

Naturally, the piece (and lack of empathy or perspective within it) inspired a new fashioned internet shitstorm, leading to the initial byline being deleted, and then eventually the article being replaced by an apology from xoJane founding editor Jane Pratt.

Lauren is not unfamiliar with being the cause of angry internet flurries; she has written a variety of other controversial and downright vapid pieces that have drawn a lot of attention to her. In an interview with Gawker about her most recent bid for Most Disliked Confessional Writer, she stated that her article was an attempt to draw attention to mental health issues and the lack of support for those who have them. Seems like a clumsy attempt at backpedaling to me, but what do I know about what lives in her head?

When I read Lauren’s article, it reminded me of a conversation I had not too long ago, during the second worst mental health crisis of my life. Someone I had considered a close friend outrightly accused me of lying about the state of distress I was in, amongst a slew of other insults about how selfish and “narcissistic” I was for trying to seek a space to calm down before having further conversation with her about it. During that time, I was having crippling panic attacks every day, seeing several doctors, and frantically trying to receive care to bring myself back down to a calm state.

See, I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). It looks a lot like PTSD, but with other long term side effects. PTSD is caused by a singular traumatic event, and CPTSD is usually the result of sustained, long-term trauma, and/or a series of traumatic events, which means the impact of it looks slightly different over time. Rather than a singular source, it has multiple, and creates a higher level of activation that expresses itself as anxiety and hypervigilance. CPTSD is most well-known amongst veterans who have been in long-term, sustained combat, but they aren’t the only ones who are capable of falling prey to it.

As one of my doctors described it, I exist in a state of “hyperactivation.” Her analogy for it: If she was in a room, and a snake entered, she would become activated. That would be a present threat, and her body and mind would respond accordingly. If something else happened, even something small, that caused stress, the combination of things would cause her to respond even more intensely than she might if the snake wasn’t with her in that room.

For me, the snake is always in the room.

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