August 20, 2007

Survivors: Vulnerability

Posted in animal advocacy, animal rights, survivors, veganism at 1:57 pm by nevavegan

I have not been posting the survivors writing exercises lately. Many are just too close to the bone, so to speak, and putting them out there into the ether seems strange.

So it was somewhat coincidental that the most recent writing exercise was on vulnerability. Do we avoid the appearance of vulnerability? Do we fear vulnerability so much that we can’t even admit to ourselves when we need help?

To put this stuff out on my blog is in itself an admission of vulnerability. I know that there are people in the world who like to probe others for a sore spot, the slightest bit of weakness and then exploit that. There are others who respond to an admission of vulnerability with their own flood of emotion, relieved that someone else expressed fear or weakness or pain, because now they feel they have permission to express their own emotions.

I’ve been reading Pattrice Jone’s Aftershock recently and I have to admit it’s very interesting and also very reassuring. So I’m sure many ideas I’ll cover here can be traced back to her.

One thing that keeps striking me over and over is how our very denial of own vulnerability can lead us down a path where we stop seeing the pain of others. If we need to believe we are always right (in other words we are not vulnerable to making mistakes) then it is hard to admit that we’ve hurt other people or hurt animals. If we need to be right all of the time, then we can’t allow ourselves to reconsider our past actions, including the harm we may have done to animals by eating them or the products from their bodies or wearing their skins.

If we can’t admit that we ourselves hurt, then it is difficult to understand the pain of others. This might mean turning a blind eye to humans that are being exploited and it might mean telling ourselves that animals don’t mind their confinement, enslavement and eventual deaths for our purposes.

If we can’t allow ourselves to understand that we sometimes need help, how can we comprehend a world out there full of others, human and non-human who are suffering and can’t protect themselves, who are dying and can’t defend themselves, who live only to satisfy the capricious needs of their captors? We can’t admit that this happens because to empathize with that total lack of control means understanding that we ourselves could, if only for a few different turns in our lives, be reduced to a position of zero control.

I am so grateful for everyone who has offered me a helping hand through life. I like to feel that I’m pretty tough and I can take care of myself, but there are definitely days when the only things keeping me sane are going home to a husband who loves me unconditionally and all those furry faces who live for my return. None of us can do this on our own, but sometimes we’re forced to realize that and other times we manage to pull on the blinders and power through believing ourselves untouchable.

Thank you survivor community for letting me ponder these issues again in a safe space. Thank you to everyone working to make the world better.

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June 8, 2007

When You Find the Need to Survive

Posted in animal advocacy, recovery, rescue, survivors, veganism at 1:13 pm by nevavegan

There is a danger in being too emotional sometimes, that we can lose sight of logic, or trust or gut instinct against all reason. So when I get really emotional I try to find some way I can do a sanity check. I used to joke that somebody should invent a mental thermometer, so I can do decisive home sanity check for myself. Like I’d look at it and say “Ok, in the green, I’m fine.” Or “Ooops, it’s in the red, I’d better take a step back, calm down, and rethink this.”

Wouldn’t that be great? Of course we’d all be taking them to work to secretly sanity-check our bosses!

So, with that disclaimer at the opening, prepare for an over the top emotional blog entry that’s so emo your computer monitor might start sweating huge bloody tears or something.

The thing I wanted to write about is why life is important, not just suffering or protection from suffering. I mentioned this before in my entry on feral cats; the idea was that I can’t be sure I won’t die tomorrow, I can’t be sure that death won’t be horrible and gruesome. But I’d still prefer to take my chances with that than to get a painless lethal injection today.

Taking this a step further, as much as I deplore the conditions on factory farms or in slaughterhouses, and as much as I’d like to see those conditions improved, I still stick to the basic idea that no matter how humanely it’s done, it’s wrong for me to kill an animal because I like how he tastes, or I want to wear her skin, or for sport or entertainment. Just as it would be wrong for someone to kill me because they enjoy the act of killing, or because they want what I have, or they want my body, or any other perceived benefit to eliminating me. Even if my death were sudden, without fear or pain, a single gunshot to the head before I even knew what was happening, even so it would be wrong.

Like many people, I also had a moment where time seemed to slow for me and my very life hung in the balance. With the kind of crystal clarity that sometimes comes in a moment of extreme crisis I suddenly knew that it was a very real possibility I wasn’t going to live through this. My whole being cried out that this was not right. I HAD to live. I wasn’t able to consider the finer points of whether my life was worthwhile. Some people have told me that in moments like that they thought of their loved ones and how missed they would be, or the good they wouldn’t be able to do. I can’t claim anything so noble. Something much more basic kicked in for me, a desperate survival instinct that NEEDED to survive above all else. If I was badly hurt, ok. If I was disabled, ok. But I couldn’t give up, I wanted and needed to live and it wasn’t even a choice it was something felt in every molecule of my body.

Before this I had had some minor experience with those I knew making peace with death and accepting it. I always assumed that when it was the right time for me, I would make my peace. I had a cat named Bernard with advanced cancer when I was only 14 or so. Right before we had him euthanized he wasn’t able to do much but lie on his soft blanket. When I said goodbye to him, he looked back at me with this look of exhaustion, but also love, and also extreme calm. Shortly after that happened, my family had a party and there was a great big gooey cake. My great uncle James was sitting on the couch and asked me to get him a piece and said “be sure it’s an end piece with lots of frosting, a corner is best. If you can get a frosting flower on it, I’d like that.” When I brought him his cake I leaned over him and our eyes met and I was struck by a single thought “that’s the look Bernard gave me right before he died.” Within days my great uncle died, quite unexpectedly, but I just knew. When my grandfather died, it was a shock to all of us, but I was struck by the memory of how he’d looked at me the last time I’d seen him. I’d thought that look of peace and calm had been happy memories as he talked, but I began to see a pattern. And I could only hope that when my life was at an end the calm and love and peace would descend on me too and I’d let go with grace.

But in those moments where I felt my own death coming, there was no peace, just the monumental will to live. Perhaps we could say it simply wasn’t my time, I don’t know.

When I began to rescue animals in earnest I started to notice sometimes when an animal seemed to have given up completely and when they hadn’t. Around this time I took a very ill cat, Q, into my home, only to get a death sentence from the vet a couple days later. She tested positive for FIP and her liver was failing. The vet advised me to say goodbye and then bring her in.

Q was so sick; she was lying on a cat bed, thin in all the wrong places, swollen in the opposite and still wrong places, weak and feverish. And she lifted her head and looked at me, and the look was not peace or acceptance, but overwhelmingly “I want to live.”

Some people think I anthropomorphize too much, but in this one I really don’t doubt myself. I had a very sick cat who wanted more than anything to survive, which should be a no-brainer. Most of us want to live. Some give up after horrible illness; some live a long life and give up in old age… But most living things want to continue to live. We all know this, don’t we?

The end of this story is that Q went through crisis and it was terrible, and then slowly she improved (with a holistic vet, not the original vet). Then later she had a relapse and was very ill again, but managed to pull through again, and has now been with me for 6 ½ happy years. We don’t know eventually what will happen, but it was certainly worth the effort.

I bring up Q’s story because sometimes in all the debating about animals and how smart they are or what they need or notice, we somehow miss this common sense thing: they want to live.

Sometimes when advocates of humane farming talk about killing animals they say things like this: “Since the animal make the ultimate sacrifice for us, we have an obligation to treat them well.” Aside from just the weirdness of the word sacrifice, which makes me think of ancient, obscure religious rituals, this way of speaking glosses over an important fact. The animals aren’t sacrificing themselves, they aren’t lying down their tired heads and going to sleep, they are being violently killed and they want to live. They want to live so badly that sometimes they manage to escape slaughterhouses, which are designed after all, almost more secure than prisons, to prevent escape.

I wonder how intelligent people sometimes manage to twist their brains into knots and think silly things like animals only care about whether or not they are in pain, not if they live or die.

Recently the creek near where I live overflowed its banks during a bad storm. The next day while walking my dogs I noticed puddles that looked like they were boiling. On closer inspection I found that about 100 fish and crayfish and miscellaneous water creatures (I counted as I saved them so I’m pretty sure of the number) were writhing and suffocating in rapidly drying puddles about 20 feet from the creek. I got to work, grabbing out the fish and rushing them to the creek. Even though they were in agony in the puddles, in desperate straights they resisted all my attempts to grab them. They preferred to stay in a stagnant, warm, drying up, oxygen-deprived puddle to being caught by me, who might eat them. And these were small fish and animals we’re talking about. I was finally forced to run home with the dogs, and return by myself with a Tupperware, spoon, and other implements to scoop out the fish and get them into the creek. Their struggle for survival, in an animal so different from us is instructive. They would rather be in pain than die, they feared and avoided death. There’s no other explanation to me at least.

I felt something like recognition in me. I’ve been where you are, I told them. Not that they could hear or understand me. I just saw myself in that moment.

One more note. I wrote this yesterday, but revised today. So imagine my surprise when I discovered another blogger wrote something similar yesterday. For a more straight-forward and logical examination of the topic check out this entry on Abolitionist Animal Rights.

April 29, 2007

Survivors: Does Recovery Change How We Communicate

Posted in abuse, recovery, survivors at 3:07 pm by nevavegan

I was late with last week’s writing assignment from Survivors and hopefully I’m early with this one.

This week’s topic is language and how our perspective on it has changed.

The first part asks if I’ve noticed a change in the language I use. To some extent this is true. I don’t like to use certain words except in their correct context, and when I use analogies I like to be certain they carry enough weight for me. I’m uncomfortable when someone uses the word rape for purposes other than to describe rape, as evidenced in prior entries. I also, though this might not be related, really hate to see terrorism used out of context. It irks me to see it applied to anything except, well, violent terrorists. I recall an acquaintance saying his ex was an “emotional terrorist” because she dumped him, refused to tell him why, and immediately started seeing someone else. No, she hurt you, but she doesn’t appear to killing people and spreading mass panic, so back off the T-word already.

But more than casual use of the language, the thing that really bothers me are the assumptions and misinformation that so often underlie this careless speech. When the office manager screams that he’s being raped because the paper supplier is raising the prices again, you get the impression that he actually has no idea what rape is, or the long-term effects of violent crime. Even with rising paper prices I think he’ll probably get to sleep tonight.

Specific words aside I think the biggest change in me that I notice when it comes to words and communication is that I’m a lot less tolerant of the little word games people play. Because abusers use word games to both abuse and discredit their victims at the same time. The prime example of a stupid word game is that whole Clinton thing with “I did not have sex with that woman,” etc. though I don’t mean to classify that in with verbal abuse. It’s just an example of someone trying to pick apart and manipulate speech to his advantage despite the clarity with which anyone, even a 10 year old, would be able to tell you exactly what that statement meant.

The abuse aspect of word games comes in when the person appears to be “gaslighting” you. You know what you heard, you’re pretty sure you know what was meant, but the other person denies it. I’m wondering how wise it is to give out too many personal details here, but I can’t think of any other way to illustrate this point. When I was growing up my mother was frequently extremely critical of my weight and general appearance. At the same time she would reminisce about her glory days, when she was in college and her nickname was “Miss Petite” (even though she was tall, at least two inches taller than I am, it was in reference to her very low weight), when she did some modeling, when people kept asking her to do more modeling but she turned them down to concentrate on school, when all the boys were so enamored of her beauty that they brought her present after present. Then one day when I was washing dishes she came into the kitchen and made a face like she was smelling something really distasteful and said “Sometimes I just can’t believe that someone who looks like I do could have a daughter that looks like you.”

Now I was pretty sure I knew exactly what she meant by that, with the tone of voice, the look on her face everything. But when I got upset she denied any ill intent. “I’m not being critical of how you look,” she insisted, “I’m just saying that sometimes I can’t believe that MY daughter looks the way you look.”

And then the onus is pushed back on the listener—“It’s not that I said anything wrong, it’s that you listened wrong.”

As I came to realize just how often in my childhood and adolescence these kinds of word games were played at my expense, I now come to a point in my life where I don’t want to play word games anymore. I lose my patience. I want people to say what they mean. I’m probably overly sensitive at this point to any attempt to manipulate me through words.

This brings us to the next aspect of the Survivors writing assignment. Does this new view of words change the way I communicate with others?

Maybe. My tendency is to keep certain things to myself, and while I definitely would prefer to keep damaging, insulting, or hurtful comments to myself, there are times where I should speak up. I’m trying to learn to do that more and to do it more effectively.

Writing about my issues with the rape analogies was part of that. I don’t really know how relevant or valuable my own thoughts are on that issue, but I give myself permission to express my concerns so long as I try to do it in a respectful way. Communicating more doesn’t have to mean just unloading emotions onto other people, but trusting my instincts to the point that I can say something simply because I want to. I don’t need to wait for the perfect opportunity, I don’t need to worry so much that someone will misinterpret what I say, because I can and should communicate.

This also means that I can try to call people on their word games. Sometimes people do things like that without any real clue they’re doing it, it’s just a habit they’ve fallen into. But that doesn’t mean I need to be intimidated or silenced by word games. If I’m dealing with someone who is otherwise well-intentioned, sometimes all it takes to end a word game is to ask “What are you actually trying to say to me?” Because that pushes the other person to be mindful of their words and if they must rephrase their statement sometimes the manipulative aspect of it will necessarily fall away. But if I’m dealing with a pro-manipulator/abuser, the answer to that question will always be an attempt to put the blame back on me. This is still a positive though, because at least the intent is more in the open and I have a better idea of just what I’m dealing with.

And this leads me to some tips on being mindful of our own speech and how to derail manipulative speech from others.

Mindful Speech:
*Say what you mean. This is very difficult for most of us, because we’re really socialized to not say what we mean. A lot of psychological studies show that people will say they agree with statements they clearly know are false (such as calling a red car green or agreeing with a wrong answer on a simple math equation) if everyone else in the room is agreeing with the false statement. We’re smarter than this. We know that speaking with integrity is always the right answer, it’s just some deep instinctive fear in us that urges us to go along with the pack, even when we know the pack is wrong. Say it politely, say it kindly, but say what you mean.
*Try to stick to “I” statements rather than accusing other people
*Be mindful of your mood and try not to push your mood onto others through harsh or loaded words.
*Sometimes mindful speech does mean just walking away from a non-productive discussion.

Stop Playing Games You Don’t Want to Play
*If someone says something inappropriate to you try to call their attention to that without escalating the battle (often people say inappropriate things because they are hoping for a fight). *Examples of this include “Why would you say/ask something like that?” “I think I must be misunderstanding you. What are you really trying to say?” or even “I’m sensing some hostility here, so I have to go now.”
*Don’t take the bait. Sometimes people want to avoid addressing the real issues at hand, so they change the topic to something about you, or just engage in insults. Don’t fall for it. Try to bring the topic back to the appropriate topic and if that fails, simply remove yourself from the situation.
*Don’t always assume. Sometimes people say things that sound loaded, but that wasn’t their intent. Give them a chance to clarify and correct any misstatements.

April 2, 2007

Do you need to fire your therapist?

Posted in emotional healing, recovery, survivors, therapy at 4:23 pm by nevavegan

I know, I’ve got other stuff to write and then a conversation with a friend brought this topic to mind and I’ve just got to write it all out.

I believe in therapy. I believe in feeling better. I don’t think that anyone should be miserable and unhappy every day. I believe if you or I or your cousin are in a really dark place and can’t find the way out, then the bravest, strongest thing to do is for us to ask for and find a way to get the help we need.

However, that doesn’t mean that we’re always going to find the help we need the first time at bat. It might be necessary to try a couple different therapists before we find one that works for us.

In my opinion it’s vital that therapists challenge us at times. They might have something to say, that needs to be said, that isn’t flattering or coddling to us. In the process of therapy we might uncover memories or issues that are extremely upsetting. We aren’t likely to leave every single session feeling happy. However, if we leave every single session feeling worse than when we went it, then the therapy, in my unprofessional opinion, isn’t doing what it was supposed to.

I mean, I’m not paying someone to drive me further into depression, I was doing that well enough all on my own.

When I first started thinking I needed some help, I was facing both depression and a pretty crippling case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At the same time I was largely functional by many of the measures we’re taught to pay attention to, for example I wasn’t suicidal, I didn’t sleep all day, etc. I thought I’d just call up a therapist, have a few chats and everything would be better. Sure, denial is a great place to live, too bad we can’t all stay there forever.

The first therapist I saw really didn’t get animal issues at a fundamental level. I hadn’t anticipated that being a problem, because I wanted to work through issues relating to a physical attack. However, that therapist kept somehow bringing everything back to his idea that my being vegan and rescuing cats and rabbits was an expression of my unresolved trauma. He felt that I had some pathological need to rescue rabbits in particular because I was identifying with the rabbits and expressing my feelings that I needed a rescue that never came. Um, sure. You know, I have no idea. I like to think one is not related to the other, but even if it is, I’m so not interested in being “fixed” to the point that I only care about myself. So I stopped going to that therapist. He might be helpful to dozens of other people, but he couldn’t deal with the animal issues, so I needed to find someone who did.

The next therapist was very sweet and totally got animal issues (she should have—after the first experience I asked some fellow rescuers for a referral of a therapist who loved animals). I did feel much better when I was seeing her, but she followed a pretty standard psychotherapy format, which was I talked and talked and talked without much input. It was beneficial in improving my mood, but we somehow never got to dealing with the trauma, and I continued to do what I’d done all along which was bury it until intrusive memories and flashbacks caused me to freak out, and then I’d bury it again.

Next therapist I asked my doctor for a referral of someone with more experience in handling sexual assault survivors. She recommended a very highly qualified female counselor, but ultimately this was not a good personality match for me. I really tried, and it took me a while to come to the conclusion that as wonderful as this therapist might be for others, she wasn’t really helping me. This was one of those situations where I’d leave therapy every time feeling far worse than when I went in. We rehashed traumatic events and yet I never found closure on them. This therapist also had this habit of raising an eyebrow at me and asking “Why would you do/say/think that?” I think the point was to challenge me to confront some poor thinking patterns that had put me in bad situations in the past and could continue to place me in danger. However, one of my main issues was that I really felt worse than I can describe in thinking over my own behavior, and tended to place labels of “stupid,” “naïve,” “crazy” or whatever to myself and my own culpability in what happened. Ultimately, her style of questioning and this internal tendency in myself was just pushing me further into despair.

So, I had to fire my therapist. It doesn’t mean she’s a bad person, or even a bad therapist. It just meant her particular style wasn’t helpful to me.

So in the end I found a therapist who was able to help me sort through all the stuff and start feeling better, though of course it’s always a process and there are worse days and better days. For me in particular I found it helpful to do a very structured specific type of therapy that is designed just for PTSD, although we also talked about other things. I also felt better about learning coping tools and techniques for getting through difficult situations, as opposed to just endless talk therapy. Another thing that this therapist was able to do for me was to put a more positive spin on some of my negative self-assessment. So where I’d be blaming myself and thinking “how could I be so overly trusting, so naïve, so stupid…” The therapist simply said to me “You have an incredible ability to love and care about people who are really not lovable, but the downside of that is that you might have to work harder to protect yourself than others have to.” Which really sounds a lot nicer, don’t you think?

But these might not be the solution for everyone. Nobody should feel that a type of therapy has to work for them just because it has worked for others. I believe in giving it a chance, opening up to the therapy and really trying, but ultimately if it doesn’t work, that’s no condemnation. It doesn’t mean you can’t be helped. It doesn’t mean no therapy will ever work. To me it’s more like you’ve been trying to use the Philips head screw driver and you really needed a standard screw driver. You set aside the tool that isn’t working and look for one that will.

February 22, 2007

I’m myself, not an example

Posted in stereotypes, survivors, violence at 2:43 pm by nevavegan

A discussion in the survivors forum got me thinking yesterday about both good and bad experiences I’ve had when sharing stories of my past with others.

I’ve done a lot of that sharing in a lot of settings, the scariest type of sharing is in my “real life” where people know my face and might run into me at the store and interact with me at work, or activities or social settings.

One of the main benefits of opening up about being the victim of abuse and violence has been that it helped me bounce my thoughts off others who’d had similar experiences. It helped me figure out patterns, make sense out of things. By turning to others I’ve found tremendous emotional support.

There have also been cases where the reaction has been less positive for a variety of reasons. I’ve suffered in the past from blurt-ism, which means that someone asks me a question that they probably don’t want a real answer to and I blurt out the whole truthful, ugly answer. And then the other person is just left there, not knowing what to do with this negative information. I’m trying to get that under control, although it’s such a weird balance. I need to understand that while I don’t need to be ashamed of things that have happened in the past, most people don’t need to know.

The sad truth is that though sometimes I can isolate myself to interacting with thoughtful, intelligent, well-read, liberal people, there is a whole different population set out there too. There are a lot of people who don’t get violence, domestic violence, abuse issues, sexual violence and so on. Such people can make very harsh judgments about the victims of violence.

For example, when I was living in New York, a young woman was raped on a subway platform in my neighborhood. Apparently a man with a gun grabbed her, showed her the gun, told her to be quiet, and dragged her to an isolated area away from the crowd and raped her. Many people I knew had a very negative reaction to this story, saying that there were so many people around, why didn’t she just run, why didn’t she scream, why didn’t she try to grab the gun away from him… Of course they were all missing the point of what absolute terror does to a human being. Similarly, at a job a co-worker remarked on a domestic violence news story “Well, apparently it’s not the first time he hurt her, so she must have liked it to stick around.” What can someone like me even say to something like that? The gap of experience and understanding seems huge and unbridgeable.

Given these prevailing attitudes in society it’s very difficult for those of us with past issues to open up, because most of us have played this game in our own heads for years. “Why didn’t I tell someone?” “Why didn’t I try to get help?” “Why did I always believe that it wouldn’t happen again?” And so on. We’re so full of the recriminations of ourselves that to get any such reaction from another person feels like it could totally crush us.

There’s a whole different weirdness that enters this tricky arena as well–an idealization that doesn’t fit and can be equally crushing. I’ve gone (in the past) to a lot of feminist groups and working groups to address violence. In such an environment there are still risks to sharing my story/stories, but there’s also encouragement to share. So many people there have been victimized themselves, so there’s typically a lot of support. And then there’s this: “You’re so brave.” “You’re so strong.” and so on. It’s nice to get compliments, but there’s a point for me where this crosses some line and makes me nervous.

How do I put this? I feel that I have experiences that inform my view on these issues. I feel that experiences that come from real life have a value and immediacy that needs to be present in a discussion on violence and related issues. However, it’s not just real life experience that shapes my views, I’ve also read a lot on these issues, I’ve gone to therapy, I’ve done some hard work. Also, I’m not necessarily right. I have no doubt that what I say and what I believe on these issues is the best view I can come up with for me at the moment, and it was not one easily reached, it’s not coming from a point of ignorance. But should new information become available, I’m totally willing to revise my views, because that’s what learning more is about. So it makes me uncomfortable if someone seems to be setting me up on a pedestal as if my experience gives me the final word.

And that pedestal doesn’t just make me the “resident expert,” a role I don’t think I can fill. It also objectifies me, because it implies that I’m nothing more than the sum of my experience. And because I’m articulate, in those settings, I hate to feel set aside as some kind of example of “the person we want to help.” This is so tricky, but the point is that all victims of violence are different. Some victims of violence are violent themselves actually, and then it is the culture of violence we need to address. Some victims of violence repeatedly put themselves in bad situations and tend to refuse help, but that doesn’t mean they’re less deserving. Some victims of violence are mentally disabled, physically disabled, elderly, or very young, or whatever other conditions limits their ability to help themselves. Some victims of violence don’t do well testifying in court because they aren’t very nice or likable people, but they still deserve help. Some victims of violence are men, and people feel they should be able to defend themselves, but they also don’t deserve to be mistreated.

But to go back to the idealization: I’m not here to necessarily save others. I want to help people, I care about people. But I’m still a person, with other interests and hobbies and my own beliefs. I have a different background and culture from some of the others present as well. I’m not a poster child. I’m not going to like every other survivor I ever meet–sometimes my personality and theirs just won’t mesh. I don’t represent someone else’s goals or illustrate their points.

I’m just me, navigating a difficult existence and trying to find answers and if an answer seems to work for me, I’ll pass it along. It has frightened me in the past, in such group settings, that the leaders often hold some foregone conclusions and then work backwards from those conclusions, looking in the group for examples. To me, I don’t think we have all the answers yet regarding either the roots of violence, the solutions to stopping violence, or on recovery either. I found that some of the accepted “wisdom” didn’t work for me and could actually be damaging or limiting to me. I’m interested in what works, not what tops the best seller list.

Another trap is the feeling that if I share too much information people judge all my ideas and actions subsequently on the basis of that information. I’m not sure what to say on that one. I don’t want to put myself in a position where people have a reason to think less of me and dismiss my ideas. But I also don’t want to hide a huge part of my experience because I’m afraid of ignorance. I have personally had some negative experiences in that regard, where people have claimed that I’m “single issue” because of my background, or that I’m so emotional on topics of violence that I can’t hold a rational view. But there’s a more insidious thing where someone can be very sympathetic, but the stereotype they hold in their mind of what a victim is, makes them underestimate my abilities and input in the future.

The stupidest part of this whole thing for me has actually been, after going through therapy, realizing there are a lot of people out there who don’t handle stress, emotions, conflict, etc. very well. In many cases this isn’t a result of abuse or some kind of traumatic injury; it’s more about growing up without ever being taught good cooperative skills for working with others. So when I consider that, it makes it seem all the ludicrous to me that someone could be thought less of for having had a troubled past, as opposed to being judged on ongoing performance. But it’s always a risk to those of us who open up to others.