TW: allusions to anti-gay violence (both my own assault and Rebecca Wight’s), depression, PTSD
The anniversary of the day I was attacked is coming up. It’s February 5.
I hadn’t thought about it, to be honest. Or at least, I hadn’t thought about it consciously, though I had wondered why I started to feel depressed and lethargic a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been dreaming about hate crimes. I’ve been dreaming about hate crime victims. I’ve been dreaming about violence, both experiencing it and watching in terror as it unfolds in front of me. I’ve been dreaming about Michaux – though one could argue I never stopped dreaming about Michaux since I visited this past summer. It’s so strange. It’s like even when I’m not thinking about it, my body knows. My internal clock starts sounding the alarm – it’s time, it’s time, it’s that time of year. It knows. And it reacts.
How could I describe the sensation of dread that accompanies a particular date, a particular time of year with bad connotations? It’s like there’s a seed, a seed that is full of toxins, that’s sitting there in the middle of my gut, in the back of my brain. It gnaws. It growls. It becomes a lump. It changes form – it bubbles, it grows solid. It gets bigger. It’s ready to expand its reach. It’s kind of like a ruptured appendix. It hasn’t burst yet, but I feel those toxins slowly seeping out and infecting other parts of my body. It’s waiting for the day it can explode and send all the poisonous emotions that have been building up in it – fear, anger, depression, restlessness – through my bloodstream. It’s there and once it’s made itself a home, I can’t will it away. All I can do is wait for it to burst and then ride it out once it does.
I have kind of an interesting relationship with another date, May 13. I have never been a huge fan of it for a multitude of reasons, not the least among them being that while the Week of Action ran over it, I used it as a sort of “cover.” In 2012 and 2013, the first two years I tried to run the event, I had a severe visceral and emotional reaction to that date, way more than would be appropriate if I were really just upset for someone else like I claimed. As the truth would have it, I wasn’t just crying for the person whose date it was. I couldn’t remember the date I was attacked – it was a major gap in my memory of that event until a young woman I knew was murdered in my hometown a few days prior to it in 2014. I also had undiagnosed and untreated PTSD until 2014, at which time I received a professional diagnosis and began treatment (which not coincidentally made May 13 a lot easier to deal with that year). In the years prior, May 13 was the only date I had to react to – I couldn’t remember my own, I hadn’t yet come forward about what I’d experienced, and it seemed more acceptable at the time to hide behind the cover of crying for Rebecca instead of my own loss of safety and security in the world.
For those reasons, it used to be that I felt this way in the weeks leading up to May 13. In a way, I think my brain came to associate that date with my own assault and I reacted accordingly, even though it was neither the right date nor time of year. Now that I know when I was attacked, and now that I don’t feel the need to hide behind Rebecca’s story any more, it seems my brain and body have finally reclaimed “our” date. It sucks – believe me, it absolutely sucks – though I am glad I figured out that this was the cause of my slump. PTSD is an interesting disorder in that I’ve had to learn how to work with my brain enough to navigate this new existence with this new perspective, but I’ve also had to learn how to work against my brain enough that I don’t become paralyzed by its inability to move beyond what happened. Now that I know it’s the date and time of year that are triggering this reaction, I can do something about it.
So what am I doing with the awareness that I’m approaching the dawn of my own “anniversary date,” as I call them, besides writing a thought piece about it?
Alice and I are making plans for the Week of Action 2015. As part of our commitment to amplify the voices of those with stories different than our own, we will be shaking it up a little this year and have spoken with some people who have expressed interest in guest posting. We have a tentative blogging schedule and a rough outline of the topics we are going to cover, with a different person writing about a topic of their choice each day of the week. Right now, the lineup looks like this:
Monday, May 4 – Theme: “Remembering Our Dead,” Author: Alice
Tuesday, May 5 – Theme: “Those Who Survive,” Author: Meg
Wednesday, May 6 – Theme: “Making It Better Now,” Author: Khadija
Thursday, May 7 – Theme: “The Dangers of a Movement that Excludes the Women Who Created It,” Author: Jazmin
Friday, May 8 – Theme: “More Than a Martyr: Stunning Stories of Success from the LGBT Community,” Author: Rebecca
Saturday, May 9 – Theme: “United We Stand (in Solidarity),” Author: Aviva
Sunday, May 10 – Theme: TBA, Authors: Alice, Meg, Khadija, Jazmin, Rebecca, Aviva
Nothing is set in stone as of yet, but we have been discussing a multitude of ideas. We’re currently working on the list of specific stories to highlight, which has led us to questioning if we actually need or want to have a list this year or if there’s a different / better way we could recognize and bring awareness to the lives we’ve lost while still also remembering there are living LGBT people who need our attention.
We are also talking about returning to Michaux State Forest, possibly as early as next summer (2016). For those of you who were with me when I visited that place the first time and know how intense and difficult it was, I imagine you’re thinking, “She wants to go back there? God, why?” The idea was Alice’s – to get a bunch of women to get back on the trails and reclaim them while remembering what happened there. If that comes to fruition or we start talking seriously about it, I’ll definitely post more about it. I really don’t know how to feel about that place – I ran from the site when I went there in June and said I didn’t think I’d ever go back, but I’m wildly idealistic that perhaps it would be easier the second time around. Or perhaps not. It’s something I would do if Alice or someone else wanted to. Something we’re considering, anyway.
So that’s what I’m doing with the knowledge that my own date is coming up and my body and brain are already trying their damnedest to incapacitate me in response. I’m doing what I do best: making it mean something. Channeling it into work that’s productive and constructive. I don’t pretend to believe I can willpower my way through trauma. I won’t pretend that I’m Superwoman or that the impacts of violence against me have been finite. Over the course of the next two weeks, I might panic. I might freeze. I might cry. I might shut down. I might remember and be reminded of things that are awful and shouldn’t happen. But I know something this year that I didn’t know last year, or the years before that:
I know that this date will pass and when it does, I’ll be able to pick up the pieces and make them meaningful.