I spoke to my sister for the first time in, I don't know, what almost feels like a year. We're very different people. She would read this and say "why am I in some weird public journal called Abnormal Pulse, what is wrong with you, you're so desensitised to abnormality," etc. I wouldn't say we're friends, and I wouldn't say we've exactly been emotional support systems for one another, but I will say we're sisters, which means she's been there when it mattered the most. Most of the time. She will always be that one person who was there for all those integral years of my life growing up when things weren't as complicated, and we were innocent, and so young, and my biggest concern in life was getting good grades. Now, many years, and highs and lows later, we're continents apart, and we don't speak much at all - but since it was my birthday recently, we began messaging on WhatsApp, and then magically, we actually spoke on the phone.
I told her I was Bipolar, she told me she thought I had been Bipolar for the last four years, and then finally she said, "you're trauma dumping." I denied it, but I do kind of get her point. Sharing, or oversharing, distressing details of one's life - is it helpful? What does it do? Does it do anything? Am I isolating you from myself further? Is this behaviour manipulative? I don't mean for it to be. What was the purpose? I became derailed and now I'm telling the truth - over and over again - it's exhausting. And yes, sadly, the act of what could be described as trauma dumping, telling the truth, has re-traumatised me even further and made me angrier because it's awful that you have to be traumatised because of trauma. It's like it never ends. How do I go about seeing it as anything other than trauma dumping? I hate the word. I hate writing it, I hate reading it, I hate saying it, and I hate thinking about it. But I have needed to understand it because of who I am today - and where my life is headed, and how, and why. I had to make sense of it all.
If I lost my sight I would become a very different person. Same if I lost any other ability, like being able to walk or talk. But what happens when you lose your mind? When you can't be real with anyone? When your inability is tied to trauma and your only response in life is hiding behind masks and saying nothing? I don't think it is just trauma dumping. I don't think that's a fair assessment of what I'm trying to achieve here.
My sister, and many people similar to her, don't get it because they haven't seen it up close. It's terrifying, which is why it's hidden. That's one reason. The fact that recovery takes so long, the fact that it is so severe and so painful, the fact that it's life-threatening, and the fact that it is so beyond anyone's control is hard to comprehend - for everyone. She said to me that if my aim is normalise conversations about mental health then it can't be the only thing I ever talk about. I won't bore you with intimate details of my relationship with my sister - instead, I'll say this: let's just say she lives with a lot of denial like we all do, she isn't always a bundle of sensitivity and empathy, neither am I, and she has issues of her own - like we all do - I clearly do. What's my point? This whole idea of sharing information, of de-stigmatising, of repeating myself over and over again - the same way I keep taking pills every day - it's all confusing, messy, non-linear, and there can be no defined goal or end result. We have to continue learning and make a collective effort as best as we can. Being honest, and speaking my truth, is my contribution to this effort that I believe can make all the difference.
Sharing personal information about yourself makes you vulnerable, but I see that as a strength, even if I'm put down for it. I'm vulnerable - yes. It hurts - yes. But it didn't hurt as much when I tore myself apart thinking that I caused the trauma to myself, which is why I withdrew, which is what I've been doing still, as I am still processing this trauma, and re-traumatisation, combined with so much more - for example, letting my brain heal - which makes me so intensely vulnerable. My brain was damaged by this illness. It is healing. It just takes a long time. And that makes me incredibly vulnerable. I don't deny anyone else's vulnerability, but when you're in clinical pain, sometimes you behave in ways, which are absurd, cold, standoffish, or even just absent, which can seem rude, uninterested, uncaring - none of which I wish to be. It can be incredibly exhausting and hard to justify. Why do you complain so much? I'm not complaining. Why are you going on about this? I don't mean to. Then what are you doing? I'm trying to shift this conversation into an area where I am no longer ashamed. Into an area where I can once again breathe, look people in the eye, and smile without feeling overwhelmed by pain. I can't live carrying around this burden when no one else sees the need to, and when no one else sees how hard it is for me to let it go. After all, I'm able to write this, aren't I?
It's so convenient to be able to brush something off and say, look, you have to keep going, and this is irrelevant now. It's not a question of relevant. I am sick. I am unwell. I can't connect with you or anyone else or even life itself until I process this. Until I really process it, and heal. Don't you get that? I am telling you so you know that I will come back, and give, and share, and be there for you, too, just right now - it's so hard for me to be there for myself.
I have professional help, and I know the dangers of being open on social media and in life about all these issues - GOD THESE ISSUES! Yes. But I don't want your validation, sympathy, or dare I say empathy. Well, I do, but I want much more than that: I also want you to extend that validation, sympathy, and empathy to other parts of your life, and to not set a deadline on it for me or anyone else. Too much? Maybe. The thing is, I'll just never forget what it's like to walk around alive but dead. To have actually died. I couldn't speak, talk, see or think clearly. Why? What if I had just broken down then instead of delaying it for years, and then years, and more years, until now I am Bipolar at last - as if that's a conclusion. It isn't. It's an answer. It's a reality. But, who cares? Like everything else in life, I understand it is my problem. Am I trauma dumping to make it your problem? I'm not being sarcastic here. I am genuinely asking myself these questions and I am genuinely trying to answer them here because if this is what I have engaged in for so long as an artist, then I have to see it for what it truly is.
It's not just all about removing stigma and hoping my story helps others. Sure, I do want those things. But what I really want, and what I've been trying to come to terms with for years, is the person I now am, everything that's happened, all the things I've done to get to this point. I don't actually need you to care or know about it is the truth. I need myself to just make peace with it and I'm being so loud because it's taking so long and I keep being told that it's just something I have to push past, and I'm like, hello - PLEASE MAKE THE THROBBING PAIN STOP and I'll just get up and get going, then, shall I? No? You can't do that for me? Ok then. Back to the chalk board. Back to recovery. And that's when you really learn what manic creative overdrive feels like - what I referred to in Procrastination Princess - because, basically, synesthesia takes over and I am hearing purple and tasting blue. Everything seems connected, and suddenly I'm on the phone filing a police report against someone who I don't even know about something that happened somewhere I wasn't even present, and it's so confusing, because, why can't anyone else tell me that this is true? And why are the mind games necessary? I'm sorry, was my trauma dumping causing you to feel that you needed to lash out? Am I making you uncomfortable?
Right, because being violated and abused in any form is always so nice and comfortable, that talking - writing - about it is obviously just whining, unnecessary, weak, and boring.
And then you wake up and wonder why we live in the world we live in. And you repeat yourself. Let me, for the sake of actually ending this piece and taking a break from this journal for a while - let me bring this to a close. I need the courage to pursue my dreams once again and this obstacle is a huge one that I have to overcome. These words are for me. If they reach you, I hope you'll make something good of them, but other than that - I don't need or want anything other than exactly what I really, really, really, have always wanted for years: to create art. If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree then you are cruel, and people are cruel, our society is fucked. Everything prestigious feels so pointless when the truth is I'm not complaining about being attractive, I'm not mad about having privilege, I am not afraid to admit I want all the good things in life - I am not one, but many - and I am more comfortable living with that truth than the one that asks me to remain as one idea of who I was, because that hurt me more than anything else. It's like the person who robbed you turns around and asks you: how did you get robbed? I don't know. That's not to enshrine myself in everlasting victimhood, again, NO. I just want what I want.
Synesthesia - there it is, everything connects - I'm hearing colours, and tasting words - and I want to be desired, and I desire you, but fuck me if I don't want that to be my defining characteristic because it is tied to deep rooted trauma. I've survived multiple forms of violence since I was young: emotional, physical, sexual, psychological - and if that's me trauma dumping, then fine. Yes. I am. Because I want you to understand why it makes me so uncomfortable when what I want to give - my art, my expression, my intelligence, my intellect - when that all gets obscured by the fact that I am or am not fuckable. I worked too hard and dreamt too hard and too many people have made too many sacrifices in life for me to accept a reality based on archaic, patriarchal, sexist norms, which take away from the real credit and respect I deserve for my dreams and ambitions. Women can do whatever they want with their bodies. If someone wants to use their body directly to make a living, then that is their prerogative, and I respect them like any other person - but it is also my right to say I can't and won't ever be able and willing to do that because I find it deeply uncomfortable, triggering, and demeaning, given my past. It's tough when you say that in a highly visual industry, that relies heavily on often unattainable beauty standards and extreme superficiality. It's ironic I've chosen it. But what is so hard to understand about me finding my sex appeal to be an uncomfortable assessment of my abilities given that it directly impeded me from reaching my full potential in several stages of my life? And again - no I am not claiming ultimate victimhood. NO. I am saying, for the billionth time, that I just need to know that I am getting what I am getting based on merit, and not some obscure criteria for which both men and women, deeply unfairly, assume the right to rip me apart - because, well of course, I love attention! Who doesn't want to be sexy? Do I not want or find anyone else attractive? Am I a nun?
Well, since this is about trauma dumping, I think if you've read everything up until this point you will know I am most definitely not a nun. At least I don't think I qualify to be one.
But I am a girl living with, or recovering from, Bipolar Disorder, processing trauma, I have big dreams and goals, and I really just need to be both seen and understood. I need someone to reach in and take a look at my heart and then give me the opportunity to create art that will make me come alive.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
And what I need is to be given what I want without the condition of me having to give things that I am not prepared to give. I want what I want on merit not coercion. I don't want the abuse to carry on when its roots go so far back, and I know now it wasn't my fault. It doesn't matter what rules I broke or didn't break, what age I was or wasn't - abuse is abuse. And again, no it was not my fault.
And I don't want my sexuality and sex appeal to define me, even though I know this industry relies on it heavily, because to me it feels like I'm losing a battle I've been trying to fight for a long time - to be seen as something more. It sounds cliché but you'd have to step into my shoes and live the experience of being so scared and voiceless that you inflict punishment on yourself, without having committed any crime. Guilty Without Trial. There was no trial. No way for me to prove that me breaking any laws does not excuse or automatically justify the criminal actions of another. You want proof? Here it is. I'm still writing about it because I'm still in pain, and this is the most I can do right now.
I want to get better. Be healthy once more. And I want what I want because I've earned it. Not because someone thought - yes, she's hot enough for this job - and I know that'll always be a factor in an industry like this, and in life, but I wonder if we might be able to see a bit beyond that through craft, effort, and genuine talent. I'm not saying no one looks for these things - or goes through a fair process - I guess I've just had the misfortune of meeting many people who didn't want to give me anything without taking something from me in return, and aside from academia, where I mostly feel safe and valued, the transactions have never been pleasant.
I'll say it one last time - Give me what I want, and don't tell me I can only get it if I give you what you want.
That is not, and will never be, fair. And if you tell me life's not fair - I'll say, really? I didn't know that. Now, fuck off.