Why I'm Retiring From Advocacy as a Queer, Disabled Survivor of Abuse
If you’ve experienced domestic violence, sexual abuse or assault or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering.
You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
I have been immersed in survivor advocacy for over a decade, focused primarily on unpacking the residual impacts of childhood trauma on the survivor body. I created a body of written work that was deeply informed by my own lived experience as a person with trauma, with every intention of “doing great things” with my afforded privilege of surviving the unsurvivable that was my childhood.
Personally, I have endured nearly two decades of torture, incest and sex trafficking abuse. I am also queer and severely chronically ill. The latter of which I have been navigating for 14 years, but only recently have I become officially, permanently housebound and 95% bedbound.
For the past four years, every waking and sleeping moment has been directly determined by the status of multiple chronic illnesses. All which are inadequately supported, as doctors take one look at my history and blame my progressive, terrifying health decline off on my aforementioned complex abuse. No offers of support, no further responses or answers, only a semi-sympathetic suggestion of: “You should probably apply for disability.”
One moment I am severely sick, but coherent enough to try and consider how I could still be “of use” to the world. The next, I am spasming violently, unable to form a cognitive sentence, and all I can do is beg for death. From there, it’s a quick spiral downward, as my barely functioning brain tries to determine if all this is some drug-ridden mirage I’ve dreamt up as I wait till the next assault from my father or another one of his friends who paid to rape me as a kid. It’s taken months to surrender and accept that every, single form of concentrated energy takes something from me that I desperately need to survive in the next. I no longer have it in me to do advocacy work.
I live off student loans and food stamps. I am privileged to be in a secure, safe home that does not require me to work for more. However, I am forced to continue my education part-time until I wait to see if the so-called state agrees with my doctor’s suggestion of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Each day, my sick body informs me of my capacity to engage in life and learning, but it is ableism itself that quantifies my access (or lack thereof) to either.
“Slow down, slow down, slow the fuck down,” my sick body screams at me until all I can do is gurgle back vomit and sob on the bathroom floor.
Over these brutal past few years of survival and sickness, I’ve learned just how costly, ableist and anti-reparative urgency is on all of us. The sole concern of urgency is rooted in funneling an unsustainable amount of energy into an outcome without pausing to consider cause and effect of how we get there. Urgency has demanded I neglect the reality of my body for over four years, to prove my worth as a survivor.
In my foundational stages of healing, I was privileged to access a life-saving psychologist who held a secure container for me to learn how to slow down and establish a new baseline from which to operate. Well, at least mentally speaking. Though I still (and often) need to employ my urgency-based survival skills, I have also rewired my brain to find a familiarity in accessing states of calm through autonomously developed tools as much it does dissociation.
Wanting to claim whole healing is harmful and extremely ableist. Yearning to prove my worth as a survivor, show the world I am healed enough to help, is harmful to me and my body. The message it perpetuates is one that shames victims for their inability to not be forever impacted by abuse, and tells sick/disabled folks our lives are innately lesser. My cries for relief from my illnesses and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) are not rooted in a need for either to be reversed or erased (yes, even my states of self-soothing with suicidal ideation). For as much as they demand of my full attention each day, they also educate me so much on my responsibility to myself and my communities that internalized privilege and ableism once shielded me from.
In this dark and quiet hibernation, with the privilege that my decades of grief work have provided me, I recognize my cries for death as cries for resources, for help, for sustainable access to support. Resources that offer me options of comfort and care and accessibility, even in the unrelenting agony of sickness. All which have been taken from me, not solely due to a sick and traumatized body, but because of ableism and non-trauma informed care.
I am permanently sick, I am permanently navigating the residual impacts of nearly two decades of incest, torture and sex trafficking assaults to my person, but I am also harmed in new ways every fucking day by ableism.
My grief is holy. The oceans of tears I have cried these past few months have continued to foster and encourage my unlearning. To bolster and refine the energy I extend to fighting to live less painfully in a sick and traumatized body and fighting to not take my own life in the stark reality of so much continued loss.
My grief is unapologetically lifelong. My grief is a daily partner, confidant and friend in this messy, fucked-up life.
Each day I am forced to learn how to honor that, and all others who live sick and traumatized alongside me.
My experience in a severely sick body demands a reversal and reclamation of all I have known and never questioned. For that, I will be forever grateful, but that does not mean I am glad to be sick or traumatized. I am not inspiring; I am not well and I am tired.
Yeah, it would be nice to become a professor and continue to be at the forefront of fighting for my sick, queer, traumatized communities. However, the reality is my body has spoken and my body has officially retired — just like my ability to drive or leave the house or orgasm without pain.
I’m permanently sick, severely traumatized and I am learning how simply existing through each horrible day is holy enough.
My website will exist until December 2020. My entire body of work will slowly be archived on my Patreon. Eventually, when I am more stable, I may return to Instagram. For the time being, however, it’s far too stimulating and I cannot handle multiple platforms.
I will always do what I can for my communities, but I am tired and I have done enough.
My own healing is my greatest life’s work. I don’t owe the world anything more. I have fucking done enough.
Someone learning to forgive themselves again.
P.S. This essay no longer makes sense to my brain. I’ve typed and retyped it too many times through tears and sweat and bile. So, I’ve dubbed it good enough, sorry not sorry for the lack of further editing. I’ve done enough. I’ve done enough.
P.P.S. The nuances and complexities within survival and access are distinct. Please be sure you are choosing to unlearn from, amplify and compensate queer, trans, Black, Indigenous and people of color (TBIPOC) disabled folks.
Getty image by LanaStock