After The Storm

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For perhaps the first time in my life, I have zero desire to write about my feelings, or post them on the internet. I also have zero desire to go to class, or leave my flat, or leave my bed. If I’m so scared of writing blogs, why am I writing this one? Because avoiding my fears will only make them stronger. So here I am, fighting the voice in my head that is currently screaming at me to keep my mouth shut until the end of time.

On Saturday night, I wrote the most raw and vulnerable blog of my life, and the aftermath has shaken me up in different ways than I expected. I don’t know what I thought would happen. I suppose I presumed everyone would turn against me and think I was a terrible person/liar/attention seeker, and I would turn into the social pariah that a part of me always suspects I’ll become. That didn’t happen. Instead, I was overwhelmed with support. I received so many kind comments and messages, all of which made me cry with gratitude. In fact, I only received one negative response, and that person had every right to feel that way. Yet in spite of all the people who believed me, the comments I have internalised are the ones from this person who said I shouldn’t conflate my bad mental health with emotional abuse.

I almost deleted the blog within five hours of uploading it. I felt like an awful person. But the cat was already out the bag, there was no point deleting it at that point. I removed a few lines because I could see how they were an invasion of his privacy without explicitly adding to the story I needed to tell. A few hours later, a couple of girls messaged me telling me they/people they know had had the same/similar experiences with the person I had written about. By this point I was glad I hadn’t deleted the blog. Some stories need to be told, even if they do unleash a massive shitstorm.  But there is a part of me that wonders what the hell is wrong with me. Why did I dig up parts of the past that have been buried for years, and cause myself and others unnecessary stress?

I haven’t seen the person I wrote about since writing it. I know I will have to see him in class later in the week, and there is every chance I could run into him around campus before that point. I don’t know what will happen then, and this makes me panic every time I go outside. I have had what feels like a continuous panic attack since Saturday night, with little respite. I’m scared of being persecuted. In theory, there is little evidence that this will happen. The only person who’s given me grief about that blog post was someone it reflected badly on. But that’s not to say I won’t be hated by all these people’s friends.

One of the things I was told was “I don’t think you have any idea how many people read your blog.” I do. I can see the viewer stats, I know how many people read it, which posts they read, and what country they’re in. But I don’t know who is reading it. I don’t know if people in my classes have read it, therefore I am terrified of going to class.

I know that, in theory, no one gives a shit about my personal life, and even if they did read the blog they’re not going to be thinking about it 24/7. But I’m used to school, where I was the constant subject of gossip and ridicule. When you’re used to being a pariah, you begin to believe you’ll always be one. In short, I’m maybe slightly paranoid.

As well as my paranoia, I have a whole lot of internalised victim blaming going on. You see, I was no saint. First Year Eliza was a difficult person to be friends with. I was codependent and clingy, and I didn’t always respect people’s boundaries. My mental health was in a terrible place, and I was an all-round mess of a human. It’s easy to blame myself for what happened, to think it’s my fault because I let it happen, I didn’t say no, I didn’t set strong boundaries. Not only do I blame myself for what happened two years ago, I blame myself for any backlash I have faced/will face for writing that blog. It would have been so much easier and safer to keep my mouth shut like the good compliant girl I have always been. But I’m not a good girl anymore, I’m an angry woman. I have finally seen my own power, and I am a force to be reckoned with.

Loving a person with mental health issues isn’t easy. I have mental health issues, the majority of my friends have varying levels of mental health issues. Love is seeing the light and dark in someone and accepting it when it’s hard to deal with. Because I have been on both sides of loving people with mental illnesses, I can tell you with a hundred percent clarity that I would never conflate my poor mental health with emotional abuse. All my friendships are healthy. We have our ups and downs, we fight about the most stupid things, but I would never describe them as abusive or toxic.

Abusive relationships make mental illness worse. Furthermore, codependency is usually a two-way street. After being called clingy for seven months, I walked away and saw I was not the only clingy one there. At the end of the day, I was the one who cut the ties and walked away, I wasn’t the one who couldn’t let go.

I wasn’t an easy person to be friends with at that point in my life, but the situation I was in amped up the worse parts of my nature, until I was a complete wreck. This is not me justifying anything I did wrong, I am simply explaining the context. I was accused of telling a one-sided story in my last blog. I didn’t mean to do that, it was simply that the blog was almost 6,000 words long, and I had to stop somewhere. So here is the rest of the story: I was a clingy, codependent shell of a human being, I didn’t say no when I should have, I wasn’t clear in setting my boundaries, I said things which could be interpreted as “leading someone on” because I’ve never quite learnt the connection between words and the actions they initiate, and I didn’t respect someone’s boundaries in regards to public displays of affection, etc. There were times where I was a shitty person. But guess what? That doesn’t mean I deserved to be abused, it doesn’t discredit what happened to me, and it doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to tell this story. Furthermore, in the wake of that blog post, I heard from other girls that he did the same to them. This is no longer me versus him.

To anyone who read my last blog and is blaming me for writing it: believe me, I’m blaming myself a whole lot more. I can barely go outside, I skipped one of my classes today because I was so scared of being anywhere public. I have almost no desire to eat, my heart hasn’t stopped racing in days, and my mental health is in a worse place than it’s been in years. I want to scream my head off, but I live in a city and there’s nowhere private to scream. My best friend always tells me I should scream into a pillow, but that defeats the purpose. I don’t want to scream silently, I want to scream at the top of my lungs and be heard. I have kept quiet for years of my life, and now I want to scream and shout and yell, I want people to listen to me, I want to take up space in this world, because I deserve to.

I’ve barely stopped crying in days. Yes, I could blame that on hormones, or the moon being in Cancer, but it’s more than that. I have finally released the emotions I suppressed for years, and now they won’t stop coming out. There is so much to cry about, and so much more I wish I could yell about, but right now crying is all I can do.

I feel like I’ve ruined my life. As usual, I am blowing things out of proportion. People probably don’t hate me, and if they do, it wouldn’t be a large enough number to have any impact on me. But all I can think is that the world is against me and I’m all alone. This is my mental health being a bitch. I know I’m not alone, I’m surrounded by people who love me. But my brain is like “no, you’re being persecuted, stay in bed and cry.” I’m not being persecuted. One person bombarding me with angry messages for four hours is not persecution. In her defence, she will suffer a lot more from me writing that blog post than I ever will, and I didn’t think of that when I wrote it.

I feel like I’m in permanent fight or flight mode. I walk home down the quietest streets, because I’m scared of bumping into people I know. Today I took a different route, and I saw this house that was being demolished. It was like it had been torn in half, and you could see directly inside the rooms that should have been hidden by exterior walls. Beside it lay vast piles of beams that had been wrenched from the structure they once held up. I feel like that house. My innermost soul is in full view, my heart is gaping open, I am surrounded by the garbage of my guts. I am broken, and on full display.

I walked a little further up the road, and stood on the footpath next to this park, looking down the steep hill of Gardner street. I watched the cars driving up the street, directly towards me, mesmerised. I knew they wouldn’t hit me, because I was on the footpath, but it seemed like they would. I stared them down, watching car after car zoom towards me, before turning either left or right. I was paralysed in this bizarre reverie. The part of my brain that is still functioning was like “what the fuck, Eliza? This isn’t normal behaviour” and the rest of my brain continued screaming, like it’s been doing for days.

A few weeks ago, there was a storm in Glasgow. As I was walking home one day, I saw a whole tree, lying splat across the road. The storm was over, the air was calm, but the damage had been done. The tree lay there for days before it was dealt with. I guess that’s what I’m experiencing now. I’m lying in the rubble, watching the destruction I caused, and praying for the day things go back to normal.

What is normal? I don’t know. For the past two years, my “normal” has been suppressing fear and anger and shame. My normal has been having an unhealthy relationship with my body and my emotions. My “normal” has been a constant cry for help that even I couldn’t hear. I don’t want to go back to normal, I want to be reborn out of this destruction and create a new world, a better world.

There’s a particular type of panic I’ve felt on several occasions in my life, and astrologically I associate it with the destructive energy of Scorpio, and the shocking energy of Uranus. When I wrote that blog, Uranus in Taurus was opposition Venus retrograde in Scorpio. If that combination couldn’t bring secrets out of the woodwork, nothing could. I don’t use astrology to make predictions, because I prefer to focus on what it says about the people we already are, rather than those we will become, but even if I had predicted something, it wouldn’t have been this. The most transformative parts of your life are always the ones you don’t see coming.

This has been the most gut-wrenching experience I’ve had in years. It’s rare that I tell the full story. When I told my friends, I told it in a spiral, going into more detail each time. This was the first time I told it chronologically, in a straight line. I almost couldn’t bear to write it. It’s one thing to tell the story in snippets, but to tell the whole thing — and tell it publicly — means I have to own the fact I was a victim (a label I despise to use). I can’t deny it happened anymore, and that scares me. I don’t want it to change the way people look at me. I don’t want people to pity me, and I don’t want them to hate me. When I write about my life in this blog, there is distance between me and my audience. I am intensely aware that what I wrote about means people may approach me in person, try to talk to me one-on-one about something I only want to speak of at a distance. I guess that’s the risk you have to take when you write stuff like this. I can’t exactly put a “please don’t talk to me about this in real life” disclaimer on my blogs.

I don’t know how to stop the panic. I don’t know how I go on from this. I know I don’t want to stare nihilistically at cars driving towards me, or become paralysed in the middle of Morrison’s chocolate aisle because my brain can’t function enough to make a basic decision. I know I don’t want to skip class out of fear of what my classmates may think of me. I have almost two years left till I graduate, and I can’t hide from the person I wrote about for that whole time. Telling the truth comes with consequences, and unfortunately this fear is one of them. I don’t want to wish away the next two years, praying for freedom. I have to get on with my life as best I can.

As much as this week feels like the apocalypse, my world hasn’t ended, and I have so much to look forward to this year. In my immediate future I have a wealth of essay deadlines to keep me busy. Next month I’m volunteering at Glasgow Feminist Arts Festival, which is run by one of the women I admire most in the world. In the next month-and-a-half I’ll have two improv shows to perform in, a novel to finish editing, a life to live. In forty-eight days from now I’ll go travelling, another pilgrimage to Estonia.I hope I’ll come back a stronger woman.

I don’t even know what strength means to me anymore. Everyone keeps telling me I’m brave, but I don’t feel it. I feel reckless, maybe a little bit stupid. I live a life of openness in an effort to live a life of bravery. But this is something else. I’m used to my bravery causing rejection, but not destruction. I keep talking about destruction and I don’t even know what has been destroyed. I feel like this whole blog is a weird transcript of my looping thoughts and it all makes zero sense. But if I don’t write now, I’ll never write again.

There were so many blogs I wanted to write as a sequel to the last one. I planned to write something along the lines of “Ode To All The People Who Haven’t Screwed Me Over” but with a slightly less tongue-in-cheek title. I wanted to write about all the good in my life, all the people I’m grateful for. Maybe I will write it at some point. But this blog is my space to be open and honest, and I owe it to you to tell the truth. The truth is I feel broken, I feel like everything is my fault, and I’m worried I might develop agoraphobia. All I can think is “I brought this on myself,” and that the world is a terrifying and horrible place.

The thing about being an overly sensitive person is that I hate hurting people, even people who have hurt me. Even though I know speaking up was the right thing, and even though I have appeased my inner bitch by casting aside my care for other people’s reputations, I still feel terrible for writing that blog. I can’t remember the last time I felt this guilty. I am consumed by horror at the power of my words.

When you’re used to thinking your voice doesn’t matter, it is earth shattering to see the impact it can have.  I didn’t know the power of my own voice, and now I do. Perhaps that’s why I’m scared to go outside, because I’m scared of the damage I am capable of doing. I feel like everything I speak of I destroy. At the same time, now I’ve had a taste for that power, I crave it. I want to be heard, and I want to scream at the top of my lungs and bring the world to its knees.

There’s a difference between writing my words and screaming them. I want to be vocal, to shout from my mouth, rather than my fingertips. For now, writing has to do. I was born to be a writer, and a powerful one at that. I know my purpose, and I know my destiny.

I have carried a hell of a lot of pain inside me for the past few years, and I must try to channel that pain into my novel, and my poetry, rather than just this blog. I feel like fiction is the healthiest way to explore the issues I am still addressing. I’m glad I wrote that blog, and I’m glad I wrote this one, but I don’t want to keep rehashing it over and over. I have sucked the venom out of the wound, I don’t want to ruin that by rubbing salt in it. It’s time to move on with my life, and focus on the blessings rather than the trauma. I have a beautiful life, I have amazing friends, I have a supportive family, and I have a bright, bright future.

I need to be careful with my words. I know I am a good writer, I know I am a powerful writer. But I am a reckless person, and I don’t always think about the consequences of the stories I tell. I wrote about my experiences with one person, but there were three people in that story, and I never meant to make the third person collateral damage. I was so caught up in telling the tale that I momentarily forgot they were all real people, not just characters in my story. People still have feelings, even if they hurt mine, and I will be more careful what I write about in the future. I needed to tell my side of the story, but I could have done it in a less harmful way.

We have all learnt lessons here, and I don’t know how many of those lessons were justified. Perhaps it wasn’t my place to dole out “justice” to begin with. I have a lot of soul searching to do, and a lot of questioning about where I draw the line when it comes to being open on the internet.

I am normally careful about other people’s privacy. I don’t name names, I keep things vague. I write about myself openly, but I try to protect others. This time I didn’t, and it was a selfish thing to do. 

Freedom of speech is a tricky one. Do I have an ethical duty to protect the people I write about? Usually I would say yes without question, but I got so caught up in my pain that I forgot my own moral code, and I am ashamed of that. Regardless of what was done to me in the past, I should be more careful in how I tell stories, at least so I can do it in a way that doesn’t harm more people than necessary. 

I try hard to be a good person, and right now I feel like I failed at that. All I can do now is hope to be better in the future.

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