My Heart Is A Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones

I’m on the first quarter of this novel and again and as always, SGJ is a master, a genius… and a snack, which is neither here nor there, but still. He is packing not just big guns, he has all of the arsenal, claws, teeth, even spatulas, kitchen knives, a medieval mace, thumbscrews, gun powder, melon scoop, and all possible implements of mayhem you can imagine. He is armed and dangerous. CROMCH. 15/10 always recommend.

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Short Take: I have lost the ability to even.

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

(*I voluntarily read and reviewed an advance copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*)

Y’all, it is hot as Hades out there, and I can’t seem to muster the energy to do much more than suck up the A/C and watch scary stuff on Netflix. Speaking of which….

I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to hear that I’ve read and watched a lot of slashers in my day. (Freddy is my personal favorite, just FYI.) But my knowledge on the subject pales beside that of our story’s heroine, Jade Daniels. She is flat-out OBSESSED, and has watched-slash (heh)-memorized pretty much every slasher movie for the last few decades.

To seventeen-year-old Jade, these movies are so much more than scary masks and skewered campers. Obviously, they are an escape from her life, which is, well… awful. Her father…

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LESSONS IN GRATITUDE

Some people cannot ever be or feel loved. They are born into a toxic family and develop an attachment disorder before they learn language. They are neglected, rejected, or bullied by every person they allow themselves to depend on or need throughout their lives. All they ever want is love, but it’s never freely given to them. Not by their parents, their siblings, their lovers, their spouses, their children. They are alone in this world.

Because the words “I love you,” are meaningless and have no context for them they cannot be internalized. Because they can only try to guess what it might feel like and act accordingly to seek it out-they fail to find it or, if they do find it, they destroy it and only realize the truth too late. They have no concept of what love really feels like and can never learn it, no matter how much trauma processing, emotional regulation therapy, mindfulness, and radical acceptance they practice. No matter how many pills they take. Love cannot exist inside a vacuum.

Affection is painful. When they feel it, it lights up their pain receptors brighter than it does their pleasure receptors. All love they see or experience vicariously hurts them. So they begin to love the pain. They have no other choice. They can’t even make themselves numb, not even when they are unconscious in sleep. All of the distractions, addictions, and obsessions in the universe can only ever take the edge off for a second at a time.

If this is not you, recalibrate your sense of self awareness to acknowledge more gratitude every day you wake up alive. Thank your uncrossed stars. Every. Single. Fucking. One. Worship your sun on dark cloudy days and your night sky during the sickle moon. Your life is unimaginably prosperous.

© Rana Kelly 2021

it can’t rain all the time

This photo, taken by a Brian Dale Fall and posted on Facebook today, made me break down and cry. Nearly twelve years ago, a dear friend lost his fight with depression. This was his favorite film and comic. They were Sacred and Hallowed to him. He didn’t dress up as Eric Draven only on Halloween, but pretty much every single day, not even joking! Over the years, on the anniversary of his loss or his birthday, the remaining group of friends-those of us who still miss him dreadfully will occasionally all synchronize and watch the film to remember him. His name was Ed. But I called him Edders. I wish so very much he could have hung on long enough to see this moment of serendipity, melancholic or not. The peanut on the headstone for corvid tax makes it even better- because every Crow that ever lived on this planet to ferry messages to the dead and remind the living that there is justice even in the afterlife demands tribute, and I accept that. It can’t rain all the time. I wrote a memorial poem for him shortly after he killed himself that I will add below the photo.

BOY 

six months 
till December again, boy… 
did you know- 
your face flashes 
across my eyes 
every day 
and on that one, that day… 
30th December- 
one year 
since you ran from me 
it will rain. 
i’ll curl up 
in a blanket 
and let again your loss overtake me… 
you could have just died, you know. 
accident, murder, ill. 
but you knew me too well, boy 
you wear the outskirts 
as do i. 
our own personal 
hand 
me 
down. 
you decided 
to keep my secret 
without telling me. 
you took it to the 
place 
you know 
very well, boy 
you know 
very well i 
want to look 
you know 
that 
you and me 
we have 
that 
skeleton key 
to all of the doors 
that all of those 
are afraid to walk 
through. 
the thresholds 
are dusted 
with snow 
and everyone 
turns away 
after they 
lay the flowers 
there 
beneath 
your name… 
they don’t have 
the grip 
the strength 
to shoulder 
the pain 
and push past 
the latch 
on your heart 
and mine. 
and that’s why, boy 
that’s why 
they call it 
winter 

© Rana Kelly 2010

Night; and once again

Night; and once again
The while I wait for you, cold wind
Turns into rain.
-Masaoka Shiki

Asian voices have been speaking out with dignity, respect, and stoicism from every continent on the globe for eons, and are as yet, still ignored. White people, we must decenter ourselves from this conversation and how it affects us because our feelings are fucking irrelevant. We must sit in our discomfort and allow these festering wounds we’ve created to drain and cleanse or nothing will ever change. And only when we listen and HEAR what they are asking of us, should we use our privilege to take action.

I’m so tired of white supremacy. I’m so tired of terroristic misogyny. I’m so tired of rape culture. I’m so tired of evil white men getting treated with kid gloves after they mow down multiple bodies because they had a “bad day.” I’m so tired of guns. I’m so tired. But, I have the privilege of birthright and beigeness in a blinding, cruel society that punishes any color that shines too brightly in dark spaces. So, I don’t get to be tired. Not while bodies are still dropping on the daily.

Lang Leav:

Lang has several publications available for purchase and she can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and her personal website at:

https://www.langleav.com/septemberlove


Bryan Thao Worra:

I tell you, this is the last word for this war.

This little side war we were the center of.

There is no justice from poetry-

Any veteran can tell you that.

They want their land, their lives

Their livestock back.

Grenade fishing in the aftermath of Phou Pha Thi

Has lost its novelty

To the man with a bullet fragment rattling

In his body, slowly tearing him apart.

Write, they tell me. Write what?

We lost, we were forgotten, we are ghosts.

We are victims of fat tigers and foreign policy.

There is no Valhalla, only memories of Spectre gunships

There is no Elysium, only pleas for asylum.

This jungle was filthy.

There was shit. There was blood.

There were refugees

Who to this day cannot explain why they were the enemy

When the war came.

Their sons fought. Their brothers died.

Their uncles, maimed, were hauled screaming into the shadows of the

Plain of Jars.

Write, they tell me, so people won’t forget.

So someone will know.

Lift the broken bodies with my words, bring them out

And say ‘we did not die in vain’.

For every lost limb let there be a sonnet to stitch the truth back together.

For every eye gone blind, let there be something to take its place.

Something. Anything.

How can you not have words for the war of whispers?

How can you not shout, now that the whispering is done?

And I swear, each time I break this promise, that the next time

Will be the last word I write about this damn war.

-Bryan Thao Worra

This poem and many others by Bryan are available to read for free at:

https://issuu.com/bryanthaoworra

He can be followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and booked for a range of amazing projects and sponsored on Patreon at:

http://thaoworra.wordpress.com

http://www.patreon.com/thaoworra

BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE.

FOR SALE!

VINTAGE MUSCLE CAR

ONE OF A KIND

COLLECTOR’S ITEM!

ALL OFFERS CONSIDERED.

I had this muscle car for fifteen years or so. She’s my girl. She reminds me of the ’67 black Impala. You know the one. Baby. Yeah! But even more pristine. She was a dream. Super Sporty. Sexy. COOL AF! Gorgeous and tough. But I need her gone as she’s a guzzler to extreme.

Years ago, when I found her, I thought I could handle the cost. But ever since It’s been a Night. Mare. Breaks my heart. I can’t afford her and have enough to live. What can I do? I’m no grease monkey. She needs the kind of love I can’t give. I can’t fix shit. I hate the part of me-I’m so hard on things. And she needs work. Popular Mechanics took a peek and broke it down.

It would cost a small fortune if I wanted to keep her. And if I didn’t have it STAT- I need to put her up on blocks… The word they used: indefinitely. She wasn’t safe to drive. And I could get hurt. Or so much worse. Without airbags, dash cam, OnStar, GPS. Not even a decent seatbelt.

Total. Death. Trap.

And I would never know what might happen next.

Whiplash was the easiest. I’ve seen her turnover by herself and roar to life to run me down. I must be fucking crazy, right? Seriously, though. She backed me over. A couple too many times. And when I could walk again, I took her in to have them check her out. And they broke the news that changed my views on what I’m willing to do for such an old friend.

Beautiful but damaged, perhaps beyond repair. I thought we were a perfect team. For so many years, I saw her parked in places where I wanted to end up one day. The good times were great. But broken bones and empty homes are habits I gotta shake. Moving. On. High maintenance cars-not my expertise. And besides, I’ve got kids. Responsibilities. There’s not enough room in her to hold everything that comes with family. Not by half. She’s bad-ass for the world, I think. Fossil fuels. Rubber trees. She’s got carbon shit kickers for footprints. Kids need a future. Gotta go green. You get the drill. So, here’s the deal.

You can have her for free, if you’re a good fit. I’ll even cough up all the fees. Tax, title, registration, accessories. All the bullshit. Because I’m done. She needs a lot of paint and polish to keep her growl and sheen. Strip her weekly. Wax her more. In layers. She hates sunlight for a reason. The custom paint fades faster than you’d think. She likes to get dressed up how she must have looked like off the lot. It helps if you only drive at least three hours after dusk. I like to think it’s The Misfits and Maiden that spawns her burnouts and all the smoke, blood… the too tough love. But for whatever reason, the factory radio won’t even turn on.

Anyway- here’s the key. I’m late and need to run. But just one more thing. Kind of cool story, actually. You can tell your friends she’s notorious. And maybe Demon Speed. The night before I found her by a power stroke of luck, I had the craziest dream. An odd guy, older, glasses- I think he was from Maine? He came out of nowhere. Just sort of appeared from fog. With her. Threw me the keys. Yes, the night before. Same damn car. I swear to god. He said his car was a gift. But there was a trick-I could never lift the hood-especially in the dark. No tire kicks. No road rages. Never DUI.

His words were: “Careful. The racing stripes are actually mean streaks.”

I know, right? Funny. I asked him what that meant.

“I couldn’t really say,” he said. “But Vegas is only six hours of desert, and this ride will take you where you need to go. You should fill up before you leave, though. Just in case. There aren’t enough rest stops along the way.”

Still gives me chills to this day. He didn’t say his name. He gave me hers, though. I think he said Kimberly. Or maybe Christine. I couldn’t quite remember when I woke up from the dream. So, I used both. I just called her KC.

© Rana Kelly, 2021

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.” Hunter S. Thompson

When people who gaslight you about true nature and intentions (yours and theirs) in order to use you to make themselves feel superior, they will promise you they love you more than everyone else in your life because they are your “tough love friend” while everyone else is enabling your terrible behavior.

They need you to believe they are the only ones who can show you how wrong and flawed you are and how great they are in comparison, so that they can continue to delude themselves into believing that nothing is wrong with them, they’re wonderful people who deserve applause and accolades and whatever they steal from everyone else so they can set aside their own cracks, decay, and toxic waste without having to attempt to change their ways or lose anything they truly care about.

When they finally get bored and walk away, they would do well not to look over their shoulder to see if you’re still crying over their departure-especially if you know their darkest shame and secrets. Inevitably, their mask slips, the paint job, no matter how pretty, washes away, and you can see the monster with distilled clarity and you realize how lucky you are that you forced them to give up and run.

Watch out for long-term peroxide blondes who seem to have everything together and everything they could ever want. I had two in my life for a very long time. They need that hair that they don’t have naturally pretty damn bad… to hide something sinister and get their foot in the door to places they don’t belong in.

for KIAH, on his 18th birthday

Kiah

On your second Christmas Day,

There was a rare

Arizona snow.

The sun had only just risen

And your wisps of yellow hair

Fuzzed and stuck up

Everywhere.

I opened the heavy wooden front door

You ran outside

In your footy pajamas.

You squealed in delight

Dancing and stomping in the melt

On the stoop

Until your

Tiny feet were soaking and cold

And I forced you back indoors.

You’d never seen such a thing.

And my heart broke wide open,

Like it did on the first day we met.

My own dark eyes staring back at me

Wide, quiet, and confused.

There were grim days ahead

For me And for you.

More than I hope you remember.

More than I ever want to know.

I only have tiny distillations of you.

Tucked into stolen moments

I unfold and fathom

Every day.

Time and Love were torn away

Bit by bit

Plucked plumage from

My heart,

One blood-tipped feather

At a time.

I’ve lost my flight

Collecting feathers.

Words I couldn’t say.

Bones I couldn’t hold.

Times I couldn’t stay.

Now it’s been

Eighteen years

Almost to the day.

I have all of these old Feathers.

They were torn out

And locked away.

I have counted them

With care

Your inheritance.

The one

you never asked for

Or maybe even wanted.

Maybe

You didn’t even know it was there.

But it’s yours now,

Anyway.

If I could give you

A word or two

To take with you

The rest of the way…

Don’t do what I did.

Don’t pull them.

Don’t pluck them.

Don’t rip them away.

Braid them into your

Heartstrings.

Unfurl your wings

My brave, beautiful

Fledgling.

My Soft and Shining boy.

My Falcon. My Raven. My Robin.

My Perfect Souled Son.

Open your Heart and

Catch air.

© 2019 Rana Kelly

WOLVES

There are tiers of darkness inside me.

My demons are men,

Tertiary evil, set aside for me to make small meals of

Sweating, banded, gnashing slaves of Narcissus,

Pour poison in my ears,

Hang dew drop pearls from the lobes

Of my liver

And like magic, their white flower clusters

sprout from my womb,

spewing pollen

sticky from tear ducts

and well-worn tributaries that reflect

the moon.

Sidestage are my Second Ladies

Porcelain dolls cracked in two.

Filigreed eyelash-

broken bow lips

In shades of Plague.

Delicate dancers that sew

Down my doors of sound and touch

And stick the pins in to pick at my seams.

Pluck pluck

A feather from my down.

A honeyed thread from my crown

Until I’m skin stretched over flesh

Pulp and Pulse

bleeding on my dress.

But first in my dead heart are not the hell hounds

you’d expect.

Baying for scent. No.

Dogs do as they’re told,

mine are wolves.

Ragged breath bitches.

I suck on silver bullets like lozenges

I swallow them whole.

But a gunshot never goes far.

I wake to them howling

And scrabbling against my rib cage

If I dare let loose of their leashes

I’m lost. The muzzles don’t hold.

I’m just fair strapped

to keep them back

And so I bring them to my bed

I feed them rabbits and foxes and teeny tiny birds.

Diamonds dripping daylight; fairy dust and myrrh.

And beg them think I only betray me.

When I stroke their fur.

Anything to console them into slumber.

The day they wake wide and bright

They’ll be on fire and hollow bellied

And that day my throat is done for.

FOR WOMEN WHO ARE DIFFICULT TO LOVE

Just meditating on my favorite poem by my favorite living poet… because it’s the only comfort I can find when I again, as always, lose someone and they tell me I am a curse. I am a drain. I have too much scar tissue and too much rage, and it exhausts them because of my illness (CPTSD) and how it affects my overwhelming emotions and reactions. I cannot be softer. Not for long. I cannot be pretty for long. I cannot hide my fierce feelings. I can’t crush them either. I can’t suffer a bridle or gag. And so I just keep losing people. Warsan speaks here of intimate relationships with men… but for me, it’s everyone. You get to a point, if you have this diagnosis, where you feel like maybe the monsters that stored their trauma in your body and gave you this rotting all-corrupting albatross have turned you into a monster too and everything you touch gets broken. Everything turns to ashes in your mouth. If not today, then eventually.

you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
prettier
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.

Warsan Shire

Be A Lady They Said

Be a lady they said. Your skirt is too short. Your shirt is too low. Your pants are too tight. Don’t show so much skin. Don’t show your thighs. Don’t show your breasts. Don’t show your midriff. Don’t show your cleavage. Don’t show your underwear. Don’t show your shoulders. Cover up. Leave something to the imagination. Dress modestly. Don’t be a temptress. Men can’t control themselves. Men have needs. You look frumpy. Loosen up. Show some skin. Look sexy. Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. You’re asking for it. Wear black. Wear heels. You’re too dressed up. You’re too dressed down. Don’t wear those sweatpants; you look like you’ve let yourself go.

Be a lady they said. Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Don’t be too large. Don’t be too small. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat carbs. Skip dessert. You need to lose weight. Fit into that dress. Go on a diet. Watch what you eat. Eat celery. Chew gum. Drink lots of water. You have to fit into those jeans. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don’t you just eat? You look emaciated. You look sick. Eat a burger. Men like women with some meat on their bones. Be small. Be light. Be little. Be petite. Be feminine. Be a size zero. Be a double zero. Be nothing. Be less than nothing.

Be a lady they said. Remove your body hair. Shave your legs. Shave your armpits. Shave your bikini line. Wax your face. Wax your arms. Wax your eyebrows. Get rid of your mustache. Bleach this. Bleach that. Lighten your skin. Tan your skin. Eradicate your scars. Cover your stretch marks. Tighten your abs. Plump your lips. Botox your wrinkles. Lift your face. Tuck your tummy. Thin your thighs. Tone your calves. Perk up your boobs. Look natural. Be yourself. Be genuine. Be confident. You’re trying too hard. You look overdone. Men don’t like girls who try too hard.

Be a lady they said. Wear makeup. Prime your face. Conceal your blemishes. Contour your nose. Highlight your cheekbones. Line your lids. Fill in your brows. Lengthen your lashes. Color your lips. Powder, blush, bronze, highlight. Your hair is too short. Your hair is too long. Your ends are split. Highlight your hair. Your roots are showing. Dye your hair. Not blue, that looks unnatural. You’re going grey. You look so old. Look young. Look youthful. Look ageless. Don’t get old. Women don’t get old. Old is ugly. Men don’t like ugly.

Be a lady they said. Save yourself. Be pure. Be virginal. Don’t talk about sex. Don’t flirt. Don’t be a skank. Don’t be a whore. Don’t sleep around. Don’t lose your dignity. Don’t have sex with too many men. Don’t give yourself away. Men don’t like sluts. Don’t be a prude. Don’t be so up tight. Have a little fun. Smile more. Pleasure men. Be experienced. Be sexual. Be innocent. Be dirty. Be virginal. Be sexy. Be the cool girl. Don’t be like the other girls.

Be a lady they said. Don’t talk too loud. Don’t talk too much. Don’t take up space. Don’t sit like that. Don’t stand like that. Don’t be intimidating. Why are you so miserable? Don’t be a bitch. Don’t be so bossy. Don’t be assertive. Don’t overact. Don’t be so emotional. Don’t cry. Don’t yell. Don’t swear. Be passive. Be obedient. Endure the pain. Be pleasing. Don’t complain. Let him down easy. Boost his ego. Make him fall for you. Men want what they can’t have. Don’t give yourself away. Make him work for it. Men love the chase. Fold his clothes. Cook his dinner. Keep him happy. That’s a woman’s job. You’ll make a good wife some day. Take his last name. You hyphenated your name? Crazy feminist. Give him children. You don’t want children? You will some day. You’ll change your mind.

Be a lady they said. Don’t get raped. Protect yourself. Don’t drink too much. Don’t walk alone. Don’t go out too late. Don’t dress like that. Don’t show too much. Don’t get drunk. Don’t leave your drink. Have a buddy. Walk where it is well lit. Stay in the safe neighborhoods. Tell someone where you’re going. Bring pepper spray. Buy a rape whistle. Hold your keys like a weapon. Take a self-defense course. Check your trunk. Lock your doors. Don’t go out alone. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t bat your eyelashes. Don’t look easy. Don’t attract attention. Don’t work late. Don’t crack dirty jokes. Don’t smile at strangers. Don’t go out at night. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t say yes. Don’t say no.

Just “be a lady” they said.

-Writings of a Furious Woman

UNDERWATER BRIDE: LIVING WITH COMPLEX TRAUMA DISORDER AND POST TRAUMATIC STRESS

“From the depths of the water I cried out to you, and from the depths of the earth I will call to those who pass by me. Watch for me. See me. And if you find another who is like me, I will give him the morning star.”

From the Aurora Consurgens manuscript, 15th century

I have spent my entire life suffering casualties of war. Not just during my teen and adult years, but honestly, my entire life. Since the day I was born; when Hitler was a corporal. Before I learned to walk, before I could utter human language, I’ve been a soldier of misfortune in an involuntary vanguard; engaged in nuclear hostilities and napalm death. And I have always been Awkward Squad.

When it comes to interpersonal relationships in a family dynamic, complete honesty is not something merely excruciatingly hard won with intensive and empathetic therapy and learning proper communication skills. No. “Oh, my sweet summer child.” 2 The probability of its existence is Pluto-remote, if not out of the orbit of possibility altogether. Cognitive dissonance “is a helluva drug.”3

Calling for accountability from people in your personal life on a public platform is never, ever, ever a canny idea; particularly on a space wide open to anonymous invasion from strangers’ eyes staring out from the darkest depths of the internet and beyond. Especially if the people you are playing j’accuse with are always the last ones to see themselves for what they really are. On the contrary, they are in fact overly obsessed with their social standing and what people think of them. They won’t tolerate anything from anyone, no matter how close, not even if blood related, if it jiggles or scratches at the flawless and enviable Jungian personas they purport to the world.

Their worst fear isn’t losing loved ones to death or suicide, their worst fear is what their peers might think of them if the truth came out. At forty-three, I’m still not sure what this “truth” is, really. I suppose everyone has their truth; the truth they don’t want anyone else to see. I’ve only caught glimpses of their truths, enough to know that I couldn’t emotionally compensate if their personas disappeared. I have a shuddering suspicion their full Monty is something akin to a Lovecraftian nightmare.

So, I’m not interested in crucifying guilty parties, here. Or trying to hold anyone besides myself to account for the tatty suitcases full of damage and agony that I drag around with me every day. Pursuing that goal is without merit for me at this point. I’ve established beyond all doubt that it’s utterly pointless and offers me no emotional probate or sentimental assuagement, anyway.

I will say that if you have one narcissist or superiority complex in your immediate family, you are pretty well in a state. If that narcissist is personally responsible for your emotional and physical wellbeing and development, well, you live a life on the tenterhooks. But if you’re like me, those comparisons aren’t quite even or just so. Seriously. Not even a little bit. I had three parents. Two are surviving. One, who died in 2012, was highly likely suffering from an illness or illnesses like what I deal with; caused by the pain and invisible keloid scars from layers of trauma and family violence. I’ll never know now. She never accepted that she had a problem. She drank herself to death instead. That was the most comforting and nurturing parental relationship I had, and she could be a real waspish, spiteful shrew when she wanted to be, let me tell you.

The other two are more of a sinister nature. I had not one suspected narcissist in my immediate family responsible for my care, but two. Two. In all things, despite the rarity of narcissistic personalities partnering with others of the same sick bent for a long-term relationship, they were always a united front against not just the world outside our family, but also against me personally. And to this very day, they still readily (and not without glee) embody the title I gave them: The Best Heavyweight Gaslighting Tag Team Champions in the World.

My background was a perfectly diabolical Agatha Christie set up. I never had a chance. Not even an atheist’s prayer of a hope to avoid disaster and catastrophe. So, when I moved to Arizona in the year 1999 after giving birth to my first child, my life took an even darker road. I stumbled through a self-perpetuating series of victimizations in abusive and exploitative intimate relationships full of vicious psychological ill-use, physical battery, pathological control, repeated rape and sodomy, physical torture, and accumulated and compounded near miss almost murderings.

Then, every relationship after, apart from one, was abusive too. I walked away from my last abusive relationship in 2018, and it took a widowmaker heart attack to get me to do it. All these mentioned events were also punctuated and stricken through in every part with multiple attempts to end my own suffering full stop. Even that widowmaker heart attack was self-induced.

The end results? Fifteen years of looking into a clouded, warped mirror and sorting through the DSM-5 searching for shadow answers that never fully clicked. A chronic struggle with the toxic side effects and exacerbation of symptom severity because of the countless number of psychotropic medications that were casually thrown at me in massive doses by ethically questionable psychiatric professionals with compassion fatigue, using almost pure guesswork and random experimentation to see what, if anything, might stick.

Until finally, in utter desperation and total defeat, I reached out to a trusted friend and PhD Childhood Trauma Specialist. She knew me very well from our long-time connection on social media, and she told me exactly what was broken in me and why; that it was not my fault at all and never had been. And as I sobbed in relief, she then said to me emphatically that despite me being told to my face by a licensed therapist (during a session) in the past that there was no hope at all for “people like me,” full remission was not just possible, but even probable and highly likely.

I accepted her diagnosis of Complex Trauma Disorder, or CPTSD, and fully committed to one-on-one therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy groups twice a week, every week. And I will go on with these self-improvement pursuits forever and a thousand years, or so long as I live, like that abhorrent Celine Dion “Titanic” song, if that’s what it takes.

After just ten weeks of treatment, I now have some real perspective. And hope. And faith. And trust. And I love myself, I think. Maybe. Since starting therapy, I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts at all. Not even for a moment. Astounding. For the very first time in my entire life of over four decades, I believe I’m going to be okay and that being okay is positive and life affirming and feeds itself and will eventually grow. Like Boston ivy, maybe. But even so, CPTSD is no uncomplicated thing. If you want to know what it’s like living in the headspace of someone like me, someone who has an Italian Timpano di Paste of Trauma inside of their body, scarring their psyche, and a very haunted, aching, throbbing heart, I have a finespun metaphor that’s straight from the legends, myths, and lore of the fathomless sea.

People like us, people like me, we’re all drama school alumni; our first starring roles after graduation are the titular characters in the 2003 film “Open Water.” The film follows the true story of a couple on vacation who get on a boat to go scuba dive and explore a local reef. But they swim too far out and are gone too long, and the boat captain doesn’t count heads as swimmers return to the boat.  The rest of the scuba divers and crew don’t notice anyone is missing, so the boat calls it a fun day and goes back to shore, leaving this couple all alone in the middle of the ocean to tread water until they exhaust themselves to death, are eaten by predators, die of exposure, or drown, whatever comes first. Supposedly, they lasted three days. No trace of the divers was ever found. And we cast mates, who took these parts as our first gig, are on location at this deep-water set doing our very best, but we are all method acting in spite of ourselves and our would-be lofty duty to craft, because we all have extreme and unrelenting thalassophobia.

And if it’s not bad enough to tread water that stretches as far as the eye can see without rescue or even a second of rest, we’re constantly all too aware of the inexorable: that at all times, we await The Kraken and the other monsters too colossal to see. They live in the pitch black of the Mariana Trench and wait for us. And when we come, they rise from the belly of the deep blue to swallow us whole and drag us down to Davy Jones’ Locker for all eternity.

To further season our character and for the amusement of a capricious and cruel Poseidon, there are also incessant Category 5 hurricanes, fetid red tides that stretch for miles, Fukushima disasters that come bearing freakish tidings and Minamata disease, tsunamis, and perfect storms that swallow any and all would-be friends and empathetic rescuers, just like the Andrea Gail, in one single gulp.

We are all of these water elements, and more, all of the time. Rampageous squalls, waterspouts, maelstroms, doldrums that induce primeval and fatal ennui, and finally, just to add more salt to the water in our mouths and lungs, we also get Megalodons and Moby Dicks. And no one can save us from ourselves. No one can rescue me.

Oh, and, if you have someone you dearly love with CPTSD and you’re thinking you’ll just wriggle a couple of floaties on your biceps and jump for it, fucking don’t. You cannot. The first rule of life guarding is when a drowning swimmer jumps on top of you, you must push them the hell away or risk your own death. I also need to point out here: we do not come from the factory with any lifesaving accoutrement. No rafts, no floatation devices, no wooden dinghy with a hole in the stern and a handy bucket, not a one. Not one solitary inflatable boat to be had aboard this vessel, mateys. Sorry. It might be best for you to go ahead and start tuning your violins for “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”5 I only hope you can someday forgive me. If it brings you any comfort, you are not the first casualty, and you won’t be the last. And every single one breaks my heart to pieces and forever after, I will grieve. I must live every single day with that too.

You will hear thunder and remember me and think: she wanted storms. The rim of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson and your heart, as it was then, will be on fire. ~Anna Akmatova

All these woes aren’t even personal crucibles that we can collect and count off as triumphs as they accumulate. They merely test our spiritual resolve and emotional fortitude: Sink or swim, dude. This is fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim. Swim.”6

When faced with all of this emotional intensity and the giving of my flesh and blood in personal efforts over my life just to continue to breathe, all I really know about myself, the very core of me, is one thing: Mystery. Writers and poets (me included) seem to throw out the term “mercurial” a lot in their work, too many times, in a very blasé manner. I’m here to tell you: that word and this shit is not a fucking game. Having mercury in your veins is not pretty, fascinating, romantic, or alluring at all. It’s toxic. It poisons absolutely everything.

It’s not a melodramatic, intensely hued dream full of introspective journaling, intellectual repartee with attractive people, emotional ecstasy in film noir, spine-tingling poetry, and inexplicable crying fits after fantastic sex. It’s not Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre. It’s a living nightmare. I am nothing if not a force of nature, right down to my mitochondria, platelets, and white blood cells. And what is striking in that is the word force, because it distinctly lacks the essence of both choice and consent. And nobody, nobody, ever finds that “good times,” margaritas, and smooth sailing with Jimmy Buffett tunes playing in the background.

And although I can create beauty and charm and crease people up, I also love harder than love has ever loved, and it comes with an extortionate price. It’s a supple love, yes. Strong-boned. Hard wired. Nearly impossible to dissuade once it entrenches itself in my emotional folds. It can heal and levitate and overjoy and endear. And yet, in the very same strokes of over-saturated passion, it can cripple, eviscerate, maim, and kill. It has before. And will again, no matter that my heart might desire otherwise. No matter how I feel. 

I’m not a source of light. I’m a vessel. I’m a vacuum. I’m a conduit for the elements. I’m a chasm hellmouth of need. The love I bear comes with it an equal measure of malevolence that I cannot fully control, because the malevolence was carved into me by those that were supposed to love me unconditionally but intentionally chose not to do so. And no matter what I want or intend, or what preparations, disclaimers, and reparations I might make in hope of avoidance or remaining need for recompense, I don’t just devastate… At my heart, even after all the skin, gore, scar tissue, and necrosis are surgically excised and pulled out of the way to fully expose me as an open wound that hemorrhages sensitivity, empathy, need, and vulnerability (often fatally), I am still elementally and utterly annihilating.

“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.

You leave the same impression

Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”

-Sylvia. Fucking. Plath.

References


  1. “Underwater Bride” is a song by the Brighton-based folk artist Passenger AKA Mike Rosenberg, off his 2009 album Wide Eyes, Blind Love.
  2. Quote by character Old Nan from the book A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. HarperCollins. 1996.
  3. Quote by musician Rick James referencing his personal cocaine abuse. Interviewed on The Chappelle Show on Comedy Central. 2004
  4. Quote by character Dory from the film Finding Nemo. Disney Animation Studios. 2003.
  5. Alleged (by A first-class Canadian passenger, Vera Dick, and several other passengers) to be the very last song played by the doomed band on the sinking Titanic.

Featured Cover Photo: Artist: Toni Frissell, Title: Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida, Year: 1947

Writing, Healing Complex Trauma, Self Discovery, Leaving Neveragainland