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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Hard post about hard thing 
19th-Jul-2012 01:47 pm
B5: G'Kar: Born in pain
So cucumberseed gave me a Tarot reading Saturday night at Readercon, and I didn't cry, but it was a near thing, man. A very near thing. Because I didn't know what the reading would be about - I just jump at the chance to get readings from him! - but it turned out to be about the hardest thing in my life lately, a thing that I haven't been talking about or thinking about. But even without being spoken of, it.... it bends things around it. It has its own gravity well.

It's my decision to take leave from BARCC, and my reasons why.

I mean, on the surface, "I am taking leave to write my novel" is a perfectly fine reason. "I am taking leave from my rape crisis center volunteering to write my novel about child sexual abuse because otherwise I don't have time in my life for anything that's not about rape" is an even better reason. Really pretty inarguable. People say "Well, of course you're taking leave. That makes perfect sense."

But of course there's more.

What it is is that it broke me.

I joined BARCC pretty much first thing when I moved here, because I wanted to Do Something About Sexual Violence and public education and survivor speaking are in my skillset. I redefined myself as an activist; that became the primary force in my life. So when I had to stop working at BARCC, then had to take leave, it wasn't just that I needed and was taking a break, it was a radical redefinition of my Self. It was me leaving a thing I had become, and not knowing who I am now other than the absence of what I was.

I regret nothing other than not seeing what was happening sooner, not taking a break sooner. And I hasten to say that this wasn't BARCC's fault for not monitoring their volunteers adequately! I am really good at faking cope. It's my reflex - like a cat, I won't let you see I'm hurting until it's time for the thousand-dollar vet bill. I am generally not even aware that I'm doing it.

And BARCC wasn't prepared for me because, well, I am a victim of my own success. It's not the workshops and speeches that broke me; it's the community mobilization work. It's being so deeply embedded and intertwined in my community that the work became truly inescapable - and that is a problem that is unique to me, due to my place within my community, due to various stuff - but no other volunteers have been as entwined. I mean, for example, no other volunteers have been asked to set down and mediate with perpetrators. (Which was a bad idea. Don't do that.)

Which is how I got to the point where I'd have panic about leaving the house at all, and many times didn't attend gatherings. And when I'm standing by the door with my purse on my shoulder and my keys in hand and I just cannot take another step towards the door for the litany of "I can't", well. Time to take a break.

So in the two months I've been on leave - well, until those few weeks that I started selling things again and won a thing, those months have been uniformly horrible. I knew I had trauma from doing the work, but I didn't know I'd have trauma from leaving the work.

I have been so angry. Hair-trigger irrationally angry. It's been better these last two weeks, but prior to that, tiny rage machine all the time. And it was all internal, which is awful because how do you fix that? I didn't understand, and I hated it, and I felt completely helpless and powerless against it. When, below my conscious thoughts, parts of me were working out what was really going on - the self-blame for not being superhuman, the realization that my immersion was unprecedented and so I couldn't have been prepared for the effects of it, et cetera.

And the most infuriating upsetting realization: that I can't go back to doing this work the way I was. I can't just punch in at the end of six months and get back to work.

I can't, because the way I was going about it broke me, and it will again.

So. Gradually, in the back of my head, hopefully not while I'm screaming at myself in the front of my head, over the course of the next four months however long it takes, I need to figure out how to do the work that is so important to me in very different ways. And I will probably be doing a lot less of it. But I need to take care of myself so I can do it effectively.

Which is hard when all of my impulses are to throw everything I have into it every single day.

Which I should save for my writing.

And speaking of which, this weekend helped. A lot. It helps to know that I'm not writing in a vacuum, and that my activism isn't the only thing that has an effect on the world. If you were part of that, thank you. It gives me a lifeline, a new way to begin to self-define. Seriously. Thank you.
19th-Jul-2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
19th-Jul-2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
19th-Jul-2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
Mediate with perpetrators?

'Song, I love you, you have a spot in my heart, and I'm glad you're working on what you need to do for yourself. I'm going to go a little off-topic: no rape crisis organization should have a volunteer who is not also a licensed therapist sit down and mediate with a perpetrator of abuse, let alone more than one - I noticed you said plural, which makes me even less happy with them. I sincerely hope you shut that down as soon as you could; just because a person can do something doesn't mean they should, and someone on staff there should have realized that. You should not have had to go through that.

19th-Jul-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
No, BARCC didn't ask me to; this was community-driven.
19th-Jul-2012 06:26 pm (UTC) - Ahh, okay.
Sorry, I misunderstood.
19th-Jul-2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
..... I side with the STILL NOT OK here.

I am glad that you are realizing all these things, and taking care of yourself, and making sure that you *can* take care of yourself in the future.

And honestly, I really hope that you do find the right balance, when you are ready to come back, that lets you still be healthy and sane and work on your writing.

Because I want to read what you write. All of it. Not just the activist stuff. I love your writing style, I love the way you use language, the way you convey not only thoughts but images and feelings and colors and that is why I'm so excited at the prospect of WTD happening in a form that isn't your LJ (because much as I love reading your work, the LJ format of reading things drives me bonkers).

And I know self identity is its own thing, and no one can redefine you for you, but in my mind you've always been this awesome writer-person with great ideas and book suggestions who, oh yeah, also does this activist stuff that I'm excited about too.
23rd-Jul-2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah, still not okay, but forgiveable because it's never been tried before, and it might've worked.

And thank you. :)

The WTD e-book isn't going to happen because there's too much in there that I'm dissatisfied with, and I don't have time and energy right now to completely revamp it! But hopefully some nice publisher will want to bring out a collection someday.

(Deleted comment)
23rd-Jul-2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
19th-Jul-2012 07:06 pm (UTC)
19th-Jul-2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
I knew I had trauma from doing the work, but I didn't know I'd have trauma from leaving the work.

I have been so angry. Hair-trigger irrationally angry. It's been better these last two weeks, but prior to that, tiny rage machine all the time. And it was all internal, which is awful because how do you fix that?

This makes a great deal of sense to me.

I am glad Readercon helped.
20th-Jul-2012 12:43 am (UTC)
*hug offered*
20th-Jul-2012 02:21 am (UTC) - Oy!
That was not ok for the community to ask you to do that especially when there are licensed providers in the community that should have been asked or someone brought in from the outside.

If I may, the thing I'm hearing, the theme, is boundaries. Immersion in a vocation, especially a helping vocation, is the road to quick burnout. You are right, you have to be able to leave the work at the door and go someplace to be off duty. However, a writer's life, in part, is experiential and that is how information is gathered for the work.

I don't know if I ever told you about my breakdown. I did the immersion helping when I lived in CO but it was with run-aways. I was very big into the helping, and even had taken kids in. I learned from that experience that there is a reason for professional boundaries. When I started doing outpatient therapy, I learned another level of boundaries, which was HOW to leave work at work and not take my clients home with me in my head and heart. By the end of my first year I had learned another level, and that was who was responsible for change. I say this because, from what I have seen of you, you attempt to be the voice and the motivator for change, and when it doesn't happen you push harder and speak louder. What that means in that the onus for change rests with you, not with the agency that needs to change.

I could see you going back into this but with a different set of boundaries and a different understanding for what is your responsibility vs the "agency's" (and I include community in that) you are trying to help change.

I'm sorry this lesson was learned in a way that hurt you (as many of us have learned the hard way.) You are not alone in this and you have our empathy.
20th-Jul-2012 12:59 pm (UTC)
Whoa. Lots of whoa.

I always kinda wondered how you could do all that you did. Now I know. The cat analogy is perfect.

*hugs* when you want them. Oh, and maybe silly dancing. Silly dancing is always good, and fun, and healing, when it's time for it.
23rd-Jul-2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Silly dancing yes please!
24th-Jul-2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you are continuing to do some good, but hard, work with yourself and you needed time and space away to do that work. I maintain that if it ends up being that you can't go back to BARCC or activism in general that it's still okay. It's still okay and you are still making a positive influence on the world around you just by being who you are. It's okay if you suddenly figured shit out and realized you could go back tomorrow, and it's okay if you never ever ever go back. It really is. You really are.
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