Really I should have done this last year; I should've taken leave when I quit the day job. I couldn't bring myself to, though, because so much of my identity is wrapped up in my BARCC volunteering at this point. I've been volunteering at BARCC since I moved to Boston. I've only really had a few months of living here without being a BARCC volunteer. In addition to it being psychologically important, it's part of the structure of my world.
I'm on leave because I'm having issues with vicarious trauma. This may be part of why I've been having sleep issues; it's definitely why my social anxiety has ramped up, and why my PTSD has been on a hair trigger. For the past few months, I've had trouble leaving the house for anything; I've had the most trouble leaving for BARCC things, which helped me make that connection, but really for anything. Judah has been very patient about me changing my mind on social engagements and cocooning instead. It was only last night, when I was talking about the difficulty of being on leave in my everyday life, that something clicked there. "You'll notice that at every party we go to, the first person we talk to will be asking me something about rape. ...oh. That is why I have that panicky resistance to going to parties. HI."
This is a normal thing for trauma workers. It has a Wikipedia entry and everything. Yet I still feel some level of shame about it, about not being Strong Enough. And that's ridiculous. Again, as I was saying last night, "I hold myself to ridiculous, unmeetable standards. I would never hold anyone else to those standards; they aren't fair. If anyone else came to me with this issue, I would be encouraging them to take leave now and ask how I can help - but I've been punishing myself for even considering the very thing I'd exhort anyone else to do." Ridiculous. I know. I'm angry at myself about this! But I'm aware that I'm being ridiculous. I've been a survivor speaker and a community awareness volunteer for five years, I've racked up hundreds of hours of services, I've led panels at cons and done workshops with con staff about sexual violence, I've led initiatives, I get dragged into conversations about this not just at every party, but every time I go out for coffee for crying out loud - and I'm writing a visceral grueling book about childhood sexual abuse. This has been a constant huge thing in my life. I have been cocooning here because to leave the house is to be on duty. (Hell, to check my e-mail is to be on duty. But I can decide when I'm up to answering my e-mail, whereas I can't do that for in-person interactions.)
*sigh* I am allowed to take leave.
I'm entitled to nine months; I took six. Because I think I can finish Cicatrix in six. That's been the tipping point, really - I can't do everything else I do and write Cicatrix. I need to blast through that. I need to have better balance in my life, because 80% of my daily life being about sexual violence is not okay.
I did not want to take leave. I spent months making excuses - April is sexual assault awareness month; they'll need me. New volunteers are coming in and need to shadow existing volunteers in February, June, and August, they'll need me. But no. They can do without me, and I need to pry myself away.
This is the how-you-can-help part.
* Please try to not drag me into conversations about sexual violence. There are other people we know who can deliver education on rape culture; please ask them!
* If you're local and need assistance, please contact BARCC; if you're not, contact your local RCC.
* If you find yourself starting a conversation about rape with me and I safeword out of it, please respect that. (I won't be mad at you for accidentally starting a rape conversation! I know you're used to that with me. Just don't keep going if I tell you I can't right now.)
I don't know, y'all. This is a big part of my identity. I cried before and after yesterday's meeting. (I've been at least close to crying pretty much anytime I've had to go anywhere. So awesome except not.) I hope that's the tail end of that. I hope that I'll be able to blast through Cicatrix and take some time and return to volunteering all refreshed and excited again.
This is the tale of the broken pot. Reck it well.