Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong (shadesong) wrote,
Magical Truthsaying Bastard Shadesong

Hard post about hard thing

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.
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