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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
So I am on leave. 
24th-Apr-2012 10:48 am
Circus Girl without a safety net
As of now, I'm on a six-month leave from BARCC.

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.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Apr-2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad, so respectful, that you've made this decision.

It was so hard. I think you get how hard it was.

I like that gesture idea.
24th-Apr-2012 03:04 pm (UTC)
I think that the ridiculous, unmeetable standards are a secondary or tertiary consequence of sexual assault; they are a way we punish ourselves for being raped. If we can be good enough, damn it, we can erase away what happened and take its power away. And it's true enough to work, kind of: it's a subtle poison that kills by inches instead of great galloping miles. We don't notice, usually, until it's such a comfortable familiar pain that we think it defines us. But that is not true, we are not our pain and our pain alone.

You are not entitled to nine months; you are entitled to your WHOLE LIFE.

You can not save them all, 'song, and you won't be able to save any if you do not first save yourself. You have told me this is your war; I am telling you that smart generals retreat as well as advance. Broken troops are useless troops.

This I read today, and it may be pertinent to your healing time: http://www.shakesville.com/2009/05/badd-out-of-my-closet.html

You are in a transitional time. Little one is off to school soon; this is a fundamental shift in your experience. You are writing deep and raw. You have just moved house. You have a relatively new life partner. This is a lot of stuff to process all at once. If it's going to work, you need to be kind to yourself and protect yourself and I am glad to see you are moving in that direction.

I am sorry I sound so bossy; it is the morning for that. You have my respect and love.

24th-Apr-2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
If we can be good enough, damn it, we can erase away what happened and take its power away.

Yes. And this is why I fight like hell against people calling me An Inspiration, because that word puts me on a pedestal, and I know what happens on pedestals - not just that we fall off, but that we damage ourselves to stay on, gripping that pedestal with fingers gone white, because people are depending on us to be there.

You are not entitled to nine months; you are entitled to your WHOLE LIFE.

*nods* I know. I do! But when this isn't swallowing me whole, it's work I love with people I love. So I'll be back, but only when I can be back in a healthy way.

You have told me this is your war; I am telling you that smart generals retreat as well as advance. Broken troops are useless troops.

The epic poem I'm writing that is totally about this is called "The War is Never Over". *wry smile*

Bossy is okay; I know it comes from a good place. Thank you.
24th-Apr-2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
I've been trying to respect this ever since Arisia, actually. So yes, certainly, I'll make your limits official.

26th-Apr-2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
*big hugs* Miss you. See you next month, though!
24th-Apr-2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
You have my cooperation and my respect.
24th-Apr-2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
I recall you talking about going dancing. If that sounds like good respite, I know I could sure use it.
26th-Apr-2012 09:38 pm (UTC)
Very yes!
24th-Apr-2012 04:05 pm (UTC)
Peace to you, and strength. It sounds like a monumental task--not finishing the novel, hard enough on its own, but the task of steering your conversations for six months.

Years ago, I remember going off to graduate school, and wondering how long I could go without talking about poetry (which was, at least, a welcome intruder on my thoughts) or outing myself as a writer, just because I had been so defined by that, for so long. Even among strangers, it was a challenge. And I know it doesn't compare to what you've got going on--and wouldn't, even if I had volunteered at a Poetry Crisis Center.

Good luck. And, again, peace to you, and strength.
24th-Apr-2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
If there are a series of actions that during your leave of absence it would be appropriate to funneled to others, now is when you should consider implementing those changes. </p>

I'm thinking specifically of handing out the buttons that you have done at so many cons. If that mechanism were already in place and functioning before you arrived at a Con you wouldn't be hounded by people coming up and going "can I get a button, can I get a button, can I get a button?!!!?"

You and I cross at cons infrequently, but it would seem that the people who are here on this list, the people who (either in real life or virtually) adore you, could make quite a network to help implement such changes.

I would also encourage you to look at your internal dialogue and instead of thinking of moving away from BRACC for a period of time not as an "abandonment" rather as a "change in focus". I would adore seeing you finish a novels (or three) and returning to more creative works that could be both emotionally and financially rewarding.

If you were here, and did permit, you'd get bear hugs. Take the virtual comfort instead… and heal.

(Deleted comment)
24th-Apr-2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, this.
24th-Apr-2012 05:42 pm (UTC)
This is only a break... not a leaving... heal your soul, return stronger!

Got any plans for something earthy and fun?
Cooking lessons?

Absolutely do something to feed your soul!
26th-Apr-2012 09:39 pm (UTC)
I am just beginning to try to find my way with gardening! I look forward to it.
24th-Apr-2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
As someone who a) has trouble with *any* discussion of sexual violence, and b) who sometimes feels like she's taking care of people every second of every day (health care worker, with both SOs recently losing parents), I really really really Get It. I'm really glad that you're able to take the break for yourself.
25th-Apr-2012 02:03 am (UTC)
" And this is why I fight like hell against people calling me An Inspiration, because that word puts me on a pedestal, and I know what happens on pedestals - not just that we fall off, but that we damage ourselves to stay on, gripping that pedestal with fingers gone white, because people are depending on us to be there."

So, I am one of the guilty ones who has stuck you on a pedestal. HOWEVER! You taking leave when you need, and having healthy balanced life, and making this boundary for you -- this is one of those things that makes that true. Because you do all these awesome things, *and* you take care of yourself.

And BARCC can and will continue to function and train new people without you, and there'll be a place for you when you come back, and in the meanwhile, we're carrying the banner for you so you can relax.

Let me know if there is something I can do to help. ~nods~ And good luck with Cicatrix!
25th-Apr-2012 02:39 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're taking the time you need to take care of yourself. *hug*
25th-Apr-2012 03:36 am (UTC)
Good for you. Sometimes it takes particular fortitude to say "I've had enough for now". I will happily talk with you about other things to fill in the rest of your life. Gardens are great for this. [grin] So, what have you done so far? I was talking with kythryne over dinner about some advice I'd have for starting gardening in your area. What do you want to have besides strawberries? Edibles, pretty things, or both? What are your favorite colors/favorite flowers?
26th-Apr-2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
I have done exactly nothing! >.< Except bought books on emilytheslayer's recommendation, and created a project board with prospective plants of interest.

I'm primarily interested in edibles, with the exception of passionflowers. I'm particularly interested in beets, garlic, carrots, parsnips, onions, and suchlike. Also herbs. And blackberries and raspberries.
25th-Apr-2012 11:51 am (UTC)
Mama, if you don't go back to BARCC, that's ok too. If you feel like you can, then you are certainly able to do so, but if you don't ever feel like you're up for it again, that is ok too.

You don't have to be a super hero all the time. Even Superman has a day job. You go do your day job, and when you're ready for super heroics again, put on that spandex and rock it. Or not, as you need.

<3 <3 <3 <3
25th-Apr-2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
i'm really glad you're making this decision. self-care is important and obviously you are aware of that.

i'm engaging with a similar thing right now, about not holding myself to impossible standards, and even holding myself only to the standards i hold other people to. it's definitely an experience.
26th-Apr-2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
We'll have each others' backs. :)
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