Body Baggage: Chronic Pain, Trauma, Aging, and Asexuality

This post is for the March 2018 Carnival of Aces on the topic of “Physical Health and/or Our Bodies.”

I don’t talk about my body much. I tend to think that people don’t want to hear it, and that the world needs more body positivity rather than contagious insecurity, especially coming from someone of average weight and relative privilege. But not talking about these things doesn’t make them go away, so for this one little post, since it’s on-topic, I’m going to try to stop ignoring my discomfort and examine it for a little while.

Fair warning: it’s mostly trauma and aging-related stuff, with some mention of racism. I’m not getting into weight or diets or anything like that, though.

Feel free to tune out now, but listen in if you want. Maybe a few people will find this relatable. Continue reading

2017: Reflecting, Revising, Restructuring, Recovering (Part 1)

Let’s be real: 2017 was a bullet-hellscape full of dumpster fires orchestrated by a cartoonishly evil rich white predator, surrounded by a bunch of rampaging swamp monsters spewing corrosive acid at the foundations of democracy and decency. This state of affairs is not normal.

We all know this. But this post is not about politics. I’m not going to let the bitter, caustic acid of hatred and bigotry we’ve had to endure all year be the focus of this post.

Instead, as the year draws to a close, I’m looking back on it intentionally with an eye towards what progress I’ve made, in my own personal life, so that I can take from it what lessons I’ve learned and apply those toward the future. Because I’m definitely going to need them. There’s a long, hard road ahead and many more battles to fight.

[Content note: So this is a pretty personal post and usually, I would put some content warnings right here, but honestly, I’m not really sure what to warn for in this one. It’s mostly a very general discussion of PTSD/trauma symptoms, with mentions of abuse, and some discussion of lack of access to medical treatments and med-shaming. But I’m actively avoiding getting specific. If you see something else I should warn for, please let me know.]

Continue reading

I’m Not Okay

I was hoping the nightmare would be over today, but it’s not. It’s just beginning.

I’m not giving up yet, but honestly? I don’t know how I’m going to continue to survive. I don’t know how many of my friends will make it. I am terrified for all of our safety, especially the most marginalized among us.

I am from the southern border, and I have lived, literally, right on the site of a historic battlefield. I’m genuinely concerned that kind of violence will happen again. I’m terrified for my Mexican-American nieces and nephews (by pretty-close-to-marriage) growing up in this kind of environment, and all my Latinx friends.

I’m scared for my Muslim friends, my Native friends, my Black friends, my Asian friends. It will undoubtedly be much worse for all of you, and I will do whatever I can to support you. It may not be much, but at least know that I care about you, and I hope you are safe.

As a queer woman, as a (highly visible) survivor already struggling with PTSD… I just don’t know. My country has just told me how much they hate people like me, shown how utterly unconcerned they are about electing a person who openly brags about sexually assaulting women. I have to go on, but I don’t know how. I truly thought we were better than this.

I have no survival plan, because how can you possibly prepare for something like this? I will figure it out day-by-day. I have no idea how this is going to play out long term. For the moment, I’m staying put, I’m laying low. I’m grasping at whatever comfort I can. In nine days, Pokemon Sun & Moon will come out, and that is the only thing I can look forward to right now. It isn’t much, but it’s enough.

I’m not okay, and I don’t know how to be okay, but maybe one day I’ll get there.

I hope that you will manage, too. Reach out. Do whatever you can.

List of Suicide/Crisis supports in the USA:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Online Chat
  • Crisis Text Line: Text START to 741-741
  • The Trevor Project (LBGT+):  1-866-488-7386 (also available by chat and text)
  • Trans Lifeline:  (877) 565-8860
  • RAINN provides both an online hotline and a national telephone hotline 1.800.656.HOPE (also available in Spanish)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
  • List of Warm Lines by state
  • Resources for Ace Survivors offers a peer support network, here’s the FAQ. Please keep in mind that this is not nearly as immediate as the options listed above, so if you need urgent help, try one of those first.
  • We also have some local affiliated organizations, including a new one (in Iowa this time), but this got out ahead of our announcement. It may take us some time to get our bearings, because I think we are all pretty overwhelmed, and most of us have been for a while now. I will work on getting some of this sorted out soon, but right now I desperately need to go take a nap.

Also, here’s a list of calming sites/activities in case you’re looking for something like that.

Comments are closed on this post because I am not opening myself up to gloating trolls, but there are other places you can reach me.

 

Components of Resilience: Tenacity

In June 2015, for the Carnival of Aces I hosted on mental health, I wrote about resilience.  This year’s June Carnival of Aces is about Resiliency. I find it pretty awesome that discussion of mental health and wellness has not only not faded into the background, but that we’re officially returning to spotlight this topic one year later.

Note: This post briefly mentions transphobic bigotry, hate crimes, the mass murders in Orlando, using survivors as rhetorical devices, and abuse. These are mostly contained in a single paragraph (you’ll spot it), and I don’t go into detail.

Introduction

In my post last year, I gave an overview of a working concept of resiliency passed on to my by my therapist. Because, while “ability to bounce back” is a good nutshell definition, it’s not very practical when it comes to actually attempting to build up your own resilience. For that, you need to break it down into smaller components—and then from there, into concrete steps you can take to work on strengthening yourself in those areas.

Personally, I like to think of it in terms of video games, but that can potentially be confusing because some games use “resilience” as a simple, single stat. It’s actually more like a meta-stat, like how in Diablo III, Toughness is a calculation of your combined Vitality & Life (HP), Armor, Resistances, and any passive damage reduction you have to estimate the average amount of damage the player would have to take in one hit to go from full health to zero. There are lots of variables that this doesn’t take into account, but it’s just there to give players a basic idea of where they’re at. Continue reading

June 2015 Carnival of Aces Round-Up: Mental Health

This past month we’ve had a lot of really important conversations about mental health. It is my hope that these will serve as a point to ground future attempts to educate therapists in the actual lived experiences of the aces who most desperately need their care. Too often, in their haste to de-pathologize asexuality, asexual activists say “We’re not broken!” and forget about those of us who really might be. No effort to educate health care professionals will be acceptable if in doing so we continue to minimize and stigmatize aces who do face mental illness.

We should neither have to pretend to feel happy and never distressed or confused about asexuality in order to convince the world it’s okay to be ace, nor play up our problems or say they are all because of asexuality in order to gain “oppressed enough” status.

So please read these entries with that in mind. I’ve organized them into three categories based on theme. Personal narratives and discussion of the asexual community were so often paired that I found it easier to combine them. The second most frequent theme was about therapy and barriers to treatment. Finally, we had some discussion of how we can cope and support one another.

Personal Narratives and Asexual Community Discourse

Laura (hella-non-mono edit: now [Purr]ple [L]ace, link updatedwrote about having Binge Eating Disorder. This post spawned a lot of good conversations (check out the notes), and then an entirely new blog specifically for the intersection of asexuality and eating disorders (as well as other body image-related issues).

Thicketofcomplication shared her story [tw: sexual assault mention, hypersexuality, mention of sex, self-harm, dissociation, drinking].

Laura P. wrote about how isolation, erasure, and invalidation have affected her mental health.

Jon wrote about the complicated tangle of asexuality, neurodivergence, and bipolar illness. [tw: abuse, suicide ideation, compulsory sexuality]

Aqua wrote about asexuality and codependency. [tw: sexual coercion, emotional abuse, invalidation]

Queenie wrote about what having PTSD is like. [tw: sexual assault mention]

Sara at Flying While Falling Down wrote about deciding not to talk about sexual assault anymore. [strong TW for rape, abuse, not being believed, self-harm, eating disorder, suicide attempts, pregnancy]

The Anonymous Asexual wrote about how assertions that “asexuals aren’t broken” hurt. [tw: gaslighting, ableism related to mental illness, brief mentions of trauma]

Tristefere wrote about the way that the asexual community’s respectability politics harm, and how the simplistic narrative around mental illness needs to change. [tw: depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, Oppression Olympics]

Soodalgwayeou wrote about identity crisis, self-questioning, and invalidation. [tw: brief mention of childhood abuse, corrective therapy]

Kria wrote about sexual self-harm, and a delayed realization of asexuality because of it. [tw: self-harm, sex discussion, depression, some abuse mentions—nothing graphic, however]

Maris wrote about neurodivergence, anxiety, and doubting their asexuality. [tw: mentions of abuse, sexual trauma, homophobia, suicidal implications]

Demisexual and Proud hosted a series of responses: 1, 23, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 [tw: Number 8 mentions sexual assault and victim-blaming.]

Morgaine has won wrote about how difficult it is to figure out whether or not identities were caused by trauma. [tw: emotional abuse mention, sexual abuse mention, grooming mention, emotional numbness, dissociation]

 

Therapy and Barriers to Treatment

An anonymous person offered a South Korean perspective on asexuality and mental health. [tw: erasure, invalidation, abuse, suicidal ideation]

Laura P.’s second submission dealt with obstacles to therapy as an asexual Muslim convert.

Stormy wrote about why it’s okay to refuse therapy. [tw: medical abuse, therapist abuse, rape mention]

Epochryphal wrote about CBT and the sneakiness of therapeutic abuse. [tw: gaslighting, abuse, self-blame, invalidation]

Alice wrote about relationship status and sexual orientation as gatekeeping for transition, and the importance of ace affirmative therapy.

Nicola wrote about difficulties finding competent treatmenttherapy that works and doesn’t work [tw: invalidation, ableism]

Writer Ace wrote about the need for therapists and schools to make spaces explicitly safe for asexuals.

Coping and Support

Elaine wrote about her mental health leaving her with few options other than marriage for financial security, and the bind that would put her in due to asexuality and Islam. [tw: compulsory sexuality, some discussion of marriage as prostitution]

I wrote an overview of components of resilience, which helps me to identify how I can fortify my own ability to cope. (Cross-posted to RFAS, where I will likely write a further breakdown in the future.)

Nicola’s third and fourth submissions were about community and coping, and support.

Hope for Aces, a “dedicated space for asexual spectrum, aromantic spectrum, and sex-/romance-repulsed people to discuss eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or other body-image or food-related issues,” was created. There have been a lot of good posts geared towards coping and supporting one another there!

 

July 2015

The next carnival will be held at Next Step: Cake, and the topic is “Asexual History.” If you’d like to volunteer to host a future carnival, please do so at the Carnival of Aces Masterpost.

You can still submit late entries until the end of July, and I will edit this post to add them in. After that, please continue discussing! You can send in links from before or after the carnival to Resources for Ace Survivors, and we will feature them on our Asexuality and Mental Health page. This blog and RFAS are both still open to hosting guest posts.

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything! Thank you all so much for participating. :)

Guest Post: A South Korean Perspective on Asexuality and Mental Health

This is a submission to the June 2015 Carnival of Aces on Asexuality and Mental Health by a South Korean person who wishes to remain anonymous. It has been very lightly edited and formatted for easier reading. I would like to thank the writer very much for sharing! It is not often that the English-speaking ace community gets to hear a perspective like this.

Additionally, if anyone knows of any Korean-language resources or communities for ace-spectrum, aromantic, or genderqueer people, please let us know about them in the comments!


[note: depression, OCD, forced outing, erasure/invalidation]

Hello, nice to meet you all. This is the first time I ever joined any Ace-related events. It is truly blissful that I found this event. Please pardon me if I make any syntactic, semantic, or lexical error, and if I ramble too much. English is not my mother tongue. What I want to tell you is that there are people like me in South Korea. My opinion does not and will not represent the general consensus about every Ace, Aro, and genderqueer issue debated in South Korea, but it might shed some light on it. Continue reading

Trigger warnings: when to use them and why they help

The following is a comment I posted here about trigger warnings—proceed with caution, the link includes some pointed barbs and many commenters who really miss the point.  The post was specifically about whether or not authors should use trigger/content warnings for books.

Here are my thoughts:

As a person with PTSD, I think that generally, people really, really don’t understand why trigger warnings are important, and in what situations they are helpful.

A trigger warning is there for those of us with such psychological disabilities (and yes, it is that severe that many of us have to go get declared as having a disability in order to participate in things like university classes—especially when sometimes, being enrolled at a university is the only way to get access to treatment). It’s there because CONTROLLED EXPOSURE to triggering material is important in mitigating the impact that PTSD has on one’s life. That’s not to say that we don’t ever read triggering materials. We do, and sometimes it’s actually *helpful* to read them. Engaging with triggering materials can sometimes be GOOD—but only when we’re in the frame of mind to be able to do that. Only when it’s NOT likely to completely take over and make it so that we can’t complete the other tasks that we are supposed to do. If I had adequate warnings, I wouldn’t engage with triggering materials right before I have some sort of deadline, for example.

But most of the time, you don’t get any sort of warning. And saying “oh, well you have a responsibility to research it beforehand” isn’t really helpful, because while I do try to do that, it’s not always something that’s actually possible. For example, say I watch a TV show regularly, and in general I’ve found it to be completely fine, with no triggers. But suddenly, there’s a plot twist which now DOES involve a triggering subject. This is the first time the episode has aired, so I wouldn’t be able to rely on other people to tell me before that comes up. So the plot twist happens and now I’m already triggered, but I have a choice: keep watching, or stop? If this is a show I’m watching as it airs, then I’m pretty invested in the show, so most likely I’ll keep going unless it’s really, really bad. But I’ll start to get more wary of the show, and treat it with greater caution in the future.

And there are of course triggers which are personal, and it’s totally unreasonable for me to expect anyone to know about, or warn me of. I would suggest that the only triggers we should reasonably expect others to care about enough to warn people about are the ones that are very common—especially various types of violence and abuse.

But all of those unexpected triggers ADD UP. And they’re pretty frequent, even if they’re minor. It’s a death-by-a-thousand-cuts type of scenario.

So while you’re not *required* to use trigger warnings, you really should be advertising what sort of content your book includes in SOME way (good blurbs don’t require trigger warnings, because they’re descriptive enough that it becomes redundant information). If you don’t, I’m gonna think you’re either bad at blurbs or kind of a dick (being too scared of “spoiling” your work to adequately advertise what kind of content it contains is kind of narcissistic, in a way—it assumes that everyone reads books for the same reasons, or the same reasons every time), or possibly both. (And btw, I should note that I’m using a general “you,” not talking about you specifically—the blurb for Atlanta Burns was fine as far as I could tell without reading it.)

The situation is different when it comes to blogging and assigning books in a classroom setting.

People blog because they are having discussions within their communities. Not using trigger warnings–or making fun of them–is a passive-aggressive way to marginalize people with PTSD, and edge them out of their own communities. It reduces trust, and makes talking about trauma with the community harder.

Teachers at universities have a responsibility to keep in mind the needs of disabled students, including those with PTSD (who again, may only be still enrolled because they need to stay there in order to get treated at all). That means being flexible enough to have alternative assignments available, allowing students with issues like PTSD to turn in assignments late, having ground rules about content warnings in creative writing workshops, and yes, providing warnings when the assigned material is especially likely to be triggering to students with histories of trauma. I’ve had many teachers not only fail at accommodation in that way, but also create a hostile environment by perpetuating rape myths and making other very inappropriate comments (these not just from literature teachers but also from things like Human Sexuality 101 teachers, who should *really* know better). Being in a hostile environment that you really can’t escape like that REALLY marginalizes people who have ALREADY been victimized. Many bright students just have to drop out because of this.

So… yeah. Trigger warnings are most appropriate for discussion settings like blogs, and especially important for classroom settings. Smart writers can certainly get by without resorting to using them if they’re good enough at blurbs, but the content SHOULD be advertised in some way—or else you’ll just marginalize readers who shouldn’t have been your target audience anyway, and probably get some bad reviews.

Some further thoughts:

  • Trigger warnings have nothing to do with censorship, and they shouldn’t be used to censor.
  • They aren’t about things that people merely find uncomfortable. They are about showing care and concern for those with serious mental illnesses—trauma, eating disorders, things like that. It’s about actively including instead of marginalizing those readers/community members.
  • And it’s SUCH bullshit to call someone “weak” for having any mental illness, and make fun of them for wanting to manage it better, and have the support of their communities in doing so. Also bullshit: centering an author’s goal to “challenge” readers at the expense of those who would re-experience their trauma by reading the material. Challenging material is not automatically better than other material. That’s just elitism. Personally, I like to have a variety of material available.
  • Again, this is especially important in communities and discussion settings, like blogs and panels. And we’re aware that you may not know all of our personal triggers—we don’t expect you to. But there are some things that are pretty widely known to be triggering, and that’s what we want others to try their best to warn us about.
  • It is worth being more specific than just whether or not sexual violence is discussed. That is a broad topic, and can contain many different triggers of varying degrees. Is it just a discussion, or is there actually a rape scene? It can be hard to tell.
  • It’s worth mentioning things that could be triggering to some readers in book reviews—or if you are the author, making spoiler-tagged statements about what sort of triggering material readers might come across.

So what are your thoughts? Are there any specific trigger warnings that would be helpful, but you find often go unmentioned? I’d like to compile a list of trigger warnings for others to consult before publishing blog posts, to make it easier for those with no experience with trauma or other mental illnesses to actively include and show support for us.