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a new memory (maybe)

Genocide and abuse are so much the same. I went to work in it because no one was there for me about abuse and I never wanted anyone to feel the way I felt.
Recognising these connections is what I think recovery looks like for me. I have been abused and so have the people I worked for. I tried to be for others what no one was for me. And as a result- I know so much. I can educate others. I know this subject inside out and am writing about it. And that is a very meaningful life. The kind of meaningful life I've always wanted actually. To be firmly acting on the right side of history. To be undoing oppression and so firm and clear and determined about it. To be my ancestors wildest dreams. To show other people who don't have it yet what freedom looks like and to try to free others.

It's anger that gets me here and I need that anger. It's going to be anger that allows me to ask hard questions of my mom. Like why she stayed with him? Why didn't she protect me? Can she protect me from him now? I couldn't conceive of asking these things, even to myself when I had too much compassion for everyone else and none for me.

As hard as it is to handle, I think anger will help me to get a lot done.
things I'm grateful for:

  • i don't have to sleep in his house every night (i have my own home to go to)
  • the water that comes from the tap is free
  • how green and beautiful everything is these days
  • that i can learn to fix my own bike
  • that i have a kitchen at home and can make my own food
  • for my housemate who always makes me laugh
  • that my housemate enjoys my cooking (she said yesterday it was the best thing she ate in her life 😮)
  • my friend in another city wants to see me
  • i can go to the sea whenever i want to
  • i can cross the border whenever i want to and i feel comfortable in both countries
  • life and people are so interesting
  • being a lesbian and my ethnicity (and at the same time) is so interesting because it exposes you to so much truth and so many inspiring people
  • i know how to forage so if i run out of food i can do that
  • i can grow flowers at home and other food
  • i can protect people and am always willing to jump in and do that

I remember this one day last year I went home to the city I come from, which is where I had to see the psychiatrist. The day before I went to a support group in the city and I wanted to see if anyone had a story like mine about the mental health system sending the police to interview you at the abusers house, without asking you or telling you that any of that would happen. Once I started telling the story people in the group took the side of the police and said maybe it was for the best. i felt terrible afterwards and like the country I come from would never see me as an adult because that happened to me. That my consent would never matter.

so then i was feeling terrible, on my bike on the way home to my parents house. and on one of the dark abandoned roads i passed a girl at a sheltered bus stop weeping and saying what i think was 'i can't do this anymore, i can't do this anymore' over and over again. she was speaking a language which is close to one i speak but not the one we speak in my city, so i think a lot of people who passed would not understand her. also, it was dark and late and no one was passing. so i stopped to ask her if she was ok. it turned out that she was in therapy on the phone and chose a quiet place to talk (even though it is not really safe there). so, it was ok. but that moment reminded me that i am useful and willing to help. that i will always help someone if i can because i have been in a lot of bad situations. i've been exploited, i've been homeless, i've been abused, i've been sexually harrassed at work, i've been broke, i've been shot at and chased by soldiers, i feel like my lungs are basically made of tear gas at this point and so many other things. it's really meaningful to me to help other people suffering those things. even if i can't make the system treat me like an adult or like my consent or autonomy matters and even if i can't make my family or girlfriend respect me or not want me to suffer.
Ugh flashbacks ugh.

So vivid the uniforms, the orange and white. The stretcher. The very limp boy, lying still, like a sacrifice. I remember saying that the soldiers might try to take his body so we needed to be there to fight with them so his family can bury him. We hadn't even seen him when I said that but I already knew someone was dead because of how slow everyone was moving. I knew that from before. I had the chanting from before stuck in my head. How the young people repeated 'you died for no reason, you died for no reason' over and over again as the army trucks drove towards them over the fields.

I have seen so many people die. So many people fall from living bodies into corpses. How can I deal with the guilt of being alive?
God, I feel terrible.

I am chasing jobs and no one wants to hire me.

My girlfriend wants to go back to normal with me and I can't. I'm just waiting for her to do all the usual stuff again. I don't know how I'm going to sleep in the same house as her, worrying that she is just going to kick me out. She keeps making plans for both of us and now we have so many social arrangements together. I feel like I want to get out of them because we haven't had the important conversations yet.

I haven't stood up for how I feel before. I haven't made any consequences for when she doesn't listen to me.

But no one listens to me. She's not really that different from other people. That hurts.

I need to apply for so many jobs today. At least I figured out what my budget needs to be so I can pay rent next month.
Ugh flashbacks again. And it's everything. The beauty and the brutality too.

The smell of the road. The smell of the flowers and the smell of the air. Eating 24 kinds of figs while that lovely man showed us a video of himself being run over by the usual suspects. The tents on the side of the road where people said they were willing to live below the bare minimum of life. The basement. All the different times in that basement.

Again, their faces. Rows of enormous eyes looking at me. Id never seen them have that expression of hope before. Their faces asking me, every one of them- what it's like to be free?

Will they be here tomorrow? I don't know if they are all here today. Everyone said we would find them slaughtered or on trucks and they were not wrong about that. I know some have survived but not all.

I don't know how to handle this survivors guilt. I love so many people who are captive and just waiting for the death that is coming.

And the world is not tearing it's hair out for them. I hate the world for that.
Am I also thinking about breaking up so that I don't have to have sex and I'm scared to explain that?

Im so scared of crying during sex. It's been over a year maybe since I had it at all but when I've tried to reassure myself this year (and today) it gives me the worst flashbacks to being a child with my dad. How could I ask another person to handle me like this? I don't want to feel this way at all, but at least alone it doesn't feel like such a catastrophe. I'm so scared of being too much.

And I'm so scared of flashbacks, however they happen. I feel so colonized by abuse.

I'm in the city I grew up in today and it's nice to be here. Last night I saw my sister. We talked about her friend having a homophobic boyfriend who would not enter a gay bar with them. It was so strange for me because she was exactly that way with me until someone in her circle of friends came out. I remember her not wanting to hear about my life at all, refusing to come to gay bars too, trying to set me up with her male friends even though she knew I had a girlfriend she never wanted to hear about. It made me basically give up on being friends with her before she suddenly changed. It feels weird that she can change her mind because of a friend of hers but couldn't do it for me.
I saw my mom today and she immediately started telling me to come and eat and talk with her and my dad. This makes it every single time I've spoken with her since December. She also said she wasn't sure the past few months if I was dead or just avoiding her.

She asked so many questions about my health, what I'm working at, and what I've been up to.

I really am going to have to talk to her and ask her to stop pressuring me into contact with her husband.

I understand now that it really is reasonable to not want to be close and friendly with a man who abused you and I'm allowed to need that boundary I've put up to not be undermined. I really will have to say this to her.
But I'm not sure exactly what I'll say.

I don't feel safe around him but I wonder if it is worth saying that to her. Because she'll probably tell me I have no reason to feel that way, and that could make me emotional and not great at having the rest of the conversation. Once when we had a conversation like this I told her the ways he acted were abuse and she responded, 'but you are not afraid of him.' I told her that I was and it was the kind of hard, frustrating and pointless conversation I really don't want to have with her again. Her denial is so hard to handle because it's so painful for me to listen to her explaining away things that if they happened to her, I don't think she would. It's easier to not believe me and to not listen to anything I am saying, so that's what she does.

The point of having this conversation I suppose is to be clear about what I need from her. In general, I need to be allowed not be in the same room with my dad, not talk to him and not be alone with him. It would be great if she could show me support for this instead of trying to undermine it. Right now she is actively trying to make this happen and it's why I am around her less. I guess I need to say that. Say that each time I have been with her, she was been trying to pressure me repeatedly and that I don't appreciate it and it won't work. It won't get her the outcome she wants.

I may need to lay out the situation again and that's what's really tricky. How to do that without being drawn into how traumatic his violence at 21 was for me and being retraumatised by her denial of either the facts or their effect on me.

Just to say, I still don't want to be in any contact with him? I still need space and feel justified in asking for that given what happened? That he does not in fact have the entitlement to a certain type of acting from me (acting like he's in charge and l love him, and that nothing ever happened and something that never happened did instead- pretending he was a father and not just a bully).

Should I say that the older I grow the more sure I am of my convictions about this? That I should never have had to experience that, that it's an injustice that I had to. That I don't really understand why I didn't receive her support about it? Why didn't she stand up for me? That as I get older I don't understand that more and more (I do understand, I just don't believe it's justified).

It's going to be a hard conversation but also a necessary one.
I can ask her if she has ever been punched in the face and what she would want if that happened? I doubt she would be happy if someone told her that never happened an hour later. It might actually be worth pointing out her inconsistencies. It only hit me recently why a story she tells annoys me so much. She will often bring up a time when I was going to meet her for coffee. Before we met, she witnessed a man hitting his wife on the street. She insists I was there for this and I always insist I wasn't (and it has always really annoyed me without knowing why). She and others called the police and the violent man was very annoyed about this and shouting 'that's my wife!' The main point of the story for my mom is that he was shouting that and she thinks it's a shocking justification to try to make. But she thinks that type of violence is absolutely fine from her husband to her daughter. I guess I'm allowed to say that. Holding all of this in, always, is making me so unwell.

I just really need to deeply consider exactly what to say and how I'll respond to things she might say.
Despite all of this chaos lately, I do feel like there is something calmer in me.

I'm noticing that I'm scared to look at my dad's face and actively don't want to. I'm also willing to protect myself and aware that I should have been protected all the other times and wasn't- so I am giving myself something that is a non-negotiable need. I feel stuck in this room because he's walking all around the house and I thought I would be able to leave before he got here. At the same time, I know I will get out of the house in the morning when he goes to work. And am capable of blocking the door with furniture in case anything happens. I'm also noticing that I really don't want to be looked at, by either of my parents.

My mom knows there's something up with me. It's better that we talk about it. The book 'Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents' is helping me to figure some things out.

What do I want from talking to her?

  • I want to say clearly that I will keep myself from being forced to talk to or interact with my dad, and if she keeps doing that I will not visit and not phone (and that I really mean that and hold firm on it)
  • I want some sense of being emotionally lighter- that I've talked about it and the burden of managing and hiding it has reduced
  • I want to tell her that I am angry at her for putting him in the centre of all our interactions us and not supporting me, and for expecting things of me that are not fair (instant forgiveness, not to have any feelings or needs at all)
  • I want to tell her that her doing this has damaged my relationship with her and ask her to actively try to build one with me from now on that pays some attention to listening to me and understanding I have a right to my own perspective, that talks about subjects that don't relate to my dad and facilitates having a relationship with her but not with him.
The likelihood of the above things not happening is extremely high. But I guess at least I'll have asked? And I was avoiding her anyway so at least now she knows why

  • I don't want to talk to her about vulnerable subjects but she feels entitled to this information. So I will try to sidestep any discussion about my health, education or work and refocus on what we need to talk about. I think I successfully did this earlier by saying that everything was fine no matter what she asked about (and this is not true that everything is fine)
What are some things that could happen?

  • She could start crying and expect me to comfort her (this is likely to happen because it has before in this context)
  • She could get defensive and start saying that I am spoiled/have too high expectations/there's something wrong with me
  • She could immediately go to my dad and try to get him to act as her bodyguard or encourage him to intimidate me (thus putting me in actual, physical danger of violence)
  • She is likely to blame me for being too affected by what happened
  • She is likely to minimize any information I might give her
How will I handle that?

  • If she starts crying I will let her cry, without comforting her. Then as soon as she stops, I'll direct us back to the topic that started the tears
  • If she gets defensive, ask her why she would defend that behaviour? Say I've had a lot of time to reflect about this and I don't believe that's true (maybe here is a good time to talk about the woman on the street if necessary)
  • If she does that, I will make sure I go home and contact the authorities if necessary. I will also tell my friends that this is happening
  • If she minimises it, I will ask her why she has a double standard and mention the woman on the street. I will also say that my feelings do matter, can she really tell me they don't? If I accept her feelings matter, why can't she accept mine?
  • If she blames me, disagree with her and remind her that violence can never be justified
I'm happy that I got offered counselling again. It's a man, which will be a lot harder than if it was a woman. And from the place where there's a danger of him being reported to police if I give away who it is. So those are two factors which will make it harder. But it still will be so helpful I think to have somewhere to talk about things again.

I've been thinking that so much of why I've struggled with activism sometimes has been the fear of being harmed and not supported by others. I have so many skills that come from being involved with projects before, but I've really experienced myself as not valued by other people in general and and not supported when something harmful happens to me (starts in my family but doesn't stop happening). Not being as involved as I feel I should be has made me feel really guilty and made me prone to more PTSD. I hope that having treatment for that will give me the confidence and self belief that can help with that and also having a career. Because I do want one of those. I want to affect the world around me and other people instead of trying to hide from them and it. To work collectively with other people towards a common goal. It has been really hard for me to sustain doing that so far.

I haven't spoken to my mom yet and I don't know if I will. We talked about other things, which is nice. She did say last night, 'I would like us to be closer to be honest. Maybe the 4 of us need to go on a trip together' and looked at me for a really long time. I didn't say yes, ok, even though I sort of agreed the last time we were together. I always say yes because I feel under pressure, and then I want to die, and then I have to walk back what I agreed to so I can get my mental stability back.

It's a new feeling to remember this whole situation is not my fault. I didn't create this situation, he did. And he's not sorry about it. And no one other than me has ever had my back. I've felt so much guilt and shame for the small acts of not capitulating and I'm doing my best to let go of these.