Posts tagged ‘PTSD’

stop and start again

CN: PTSD, ‘domestic’ violence to women, hearing voices

Lots of ways to read that – one meaning is that the internet wifi has gone down irretrievably and my one hour callback from the tech dept arranged by customer services after the first fail [tsk tsk] still hasn’t come 9 days later.. my new router from a different company should arrive sooner than that though 😉 meanwhile a 5m ethernet cable from the £shop is making internet access possible, though not comfortable.

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I’ve had an emotional break-apart/through too, I have had a painful experience in taking on too much and having to excuse myself… I was tagged to The Women’s Quilt, a very brave endeavour, where there will be a square for each of the 589 women in Britain known to have been killed by a violent partner, father, other male relative during the period 2009 – 2015. That’s 2 a week, in a relatively small country. I volunteered to make some squares, though finding out we had to do the research ourselves on the women was where I should have dropped out. I assumed there would have been a collaboration with the friends or next of kin over what they would like a woman remembered for. Having to read up about 8 women and a 16 year old girl’s horribly violent deaths and try and find any source of information about the woman other than as the victim was very difficult.. every newspaper covered the number of stabwounds etc very few said ANYTHING about the woman. The Facebook page became filled with heart rending stories as more people making squares shared how terrible the deaths were but also how horrible the gaps are… The admins were careful to tell people to protect themselves and only take on what they could, but the constant reminders via Fbk notifications were upsetting – yes I turned off the notifications, it takes a couple of days to take effect… I managed to make 4 squares, two of which are very plain because there just wasn’t any personal information. One woman was about to go swimming so I made her a mermaid

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another was the concert pianist Natalia Strelchenko, so I found some music printed on fabric for her [ it’s The Holly and the Ivy, but needs must..]

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I was really surprised how much this experience shook me… I think to be fair if I wasn’t already upset by my brother-in-law dying [the oldest and last of the three brothers, my poor mother- and sister-in-law] and his wife now being seriously ill in hospital, my therapist of the last 11/12 years having suddenly being diagnosed with cancer again and having to stop work, a friend being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma… then it might have been less upsetting. Combined with my personal griefs, the Trumpland woes and Brexit suicidal xenophobia… I just felt very ‘precarious’, a word I use when I feel the PTSDs are running amok and I can barely hang on to the wild horse of survival… I’ve made it, and learnt – yet again – that pacing is some tricky shit.

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I feel I need to withdraw from Facebook and use it much more carefully. I signed up as an artist and then Facebook made me have a personal account and a ‘business’ account. It’s a useful tool and a tyrannical master… my friends have a broad range of politics, so my home/feed is full of bad news with the occasional positive…no one means to be negative, but that’s a lot to hold your self and daily purpose against. While I was feeling ‘haunted’ by the details of the deaths, mixed in with life stories of others and my own experiences of violence and helplessness, I felt bombarded by all the bad news in the world, how the right are rising and fascism may overtake Europe and the US… and as the feelings of uselessness rose, I was rescued by the reminder [yes, voices in my head 😉 ] that you can only do your OWN work, that in the face of death and destruction, all I can and must do is make art, however I can. It was amazingly reassuring…

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I can’t only make art of course, but if I accept the loving reminders of politically aware friends like Uditi Shane and Jennifer Moore, then my art IS enough of a protest to make… and the rest of the time I need more mental space, I need to have more space to experiment and be playful. Because life sends enough challenges without the constant flood of negativity the news etc brings. In my own words, “I am one 7 billionth of the problem – sometimes it’s ok to only be one 7 millionth of the solution”. I usually laugh as I say it, because it can be very easy today to feel we aren’t doing enough, and putting that perspective on it changes everything. I’m pretty sure even on a bad day I manage to do my share, because my ingrained habits of thrift, recycling, buying fairtrade, vegetarianism and giving to the foodbanks etc do that… During my internet hiccups, I didn’t miss Facebook very much at all – because I could connect for long enough to message friends but not long enough for general browsing or reading the feed, which I had come to dread. I read books, sewed towards the Empire piece, caught up with some dyeing projects, slept off the adrenalin rushes… and now I’m starting again, trying to follow Olitski’s excellent advice 🙂

 

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saying thank you

CONTENT WARNING: PTSD, STATE VIOLENCE, FLASHBACKS ETC

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Like most of you, I have been following the news from Calais and Lesvos with great gratitude to those brave volunteers who are out there helping. They know what they are giving up in the moment, but I find myself worried at what they may be storing up… PTSD is horrible, and I’ve been suffering with it for over 30 years now. I saw activists being kicked down a spiral staircase to the cellars at a blockaded conference centre by the West German police and 2 other women joined me in smashing the double glazed window, showering glass all over the stairs. I’m a follower of NVDA, non-violent direct action and even careful about property, so it had actually been an accident, we were beating a rhythm on the window, saw the glass moving and stopped – which caused it to shatter…Later the [activist] guy on the stairs told me how scary it had been facing being kicked down and how after the glass showered down the police had to pick their own way…and stopped beating the guys up until they were in the cellar 😦 A week later he was still seeing the stairs in flashes and nursing a broken thumb, nose, and 2 broken ribs. 10 years later I was still seeing and ‘feeling’ the policemen with guns pressing us in on each other in our human chain. I still can’t cope with loud shouting, crowds, and men with guns.. I have a lot of other reasons to have PTSD, but this is the closest to what I fear for the brave volunteers, doing good but acquiring unwanted memories which will haunt for years, helping people, but also pulling dead bodies from the water, burying babies..seeing French police teargas people already traumatized before they even set off on the escape to ‘safety’ as they’d hoped and deserved…

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Last week Worldwide Tribe  https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/theworldwidetribe mentioned on their Facebook page how useful sewing machines would be. Now I have a midarm /semi-industrial sewing machine that I got in a sale, got a donation towards from a friend making a professional commission and have used for a couple of quilts, see the Lakelight Quilt slideshow [button on top right] and then haven’t even been able to lift, never mind use it for 2 years… So I’ve contacted the Tribe and luckily they can collect it 🙂 I’m so happy about this!

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And then it struck me, ooh, a chance to get a quilt to the volunteers without diverting from refugee support… so this last weekend I have been working hard and got the quilt top pinned to a fleece back by a friend [thanks Onni!] so now I can take the quilting slowly – hopefully!

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Thinking about what has comforted me most in my journey with PTSD, being outside in nature, by the sea or moving water for choice, gardening, colour and art, spring have all played their part, knowing that someone cares, and wants to help… So I got out the spring/ crocus coloured fabrics I won on eBay a couple of weeks ago, and set to 🙂 My corners don’t meet cos my squares turned into oblongs somewhere along the way, but I doubt this will be a problem…being washable does, so a fleece backing and no wadding means it’s cosy without being too heavy for a machine.

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Comfort quilts are traditionally given to victims of crime, the bereaved.. but I think the same principle applies, a sense of how the world works, that it ought to be more fair than it is, is what gets broken when trauma is induced. When there isn’t enough acknowledgement of how one has been affected and feelings are pushed down to keep going… that’s when trauma becomes PTSD… so that someone cared enough to make a quilt for the volunteers may strike them as odd, it’s the refugees who need help…but maybe somewhere that seed of care and love has been sown, that their needs should be acknowledged too, that I am grateful for what they are giving, and hundreds more send love with it…

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Heart truths

“The root of the word courage  is cor – the Latin word for heart.  In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.” -Dr. Brene Brown

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Discussion of hate speech, hate acts, internet abuse, bullying and oppression, sexual abuse, violence of most kinds.

Apology to dyslexics, I hardly ever post this many words with no photos, and the backdrop gets really hard for this much reading 😦

I was on BBC Radio Nottingham on National protest against ATOS and the WCA [work capability assessment] Day (Feb 19th). After being taunted by a Tory MP that I was “to be congratulated on my ability to organize the local protest and perhaps I had a future in Events Planning?” I responded by explaining what an experienced organizer I had been before becoming ill and now doubly disabled, and then I heard myself say: “This is a shadow of what I’ve done, I’m a shadow of who I used to be.”

And that went very deep for me.

In so many ways I am more than I used to be, so many less too…but this expression that all the colour had drained out of me…ouch! That hurt!

Since becoming interested in being part of the Nottingham protest I have had to endure a lot of trolling, betrayal, backstabbing and mean-mindedness. I find hate speech ineffective and alienating, and some levels of it are triggering for me, and I know, many others. As I choose my facebook contacts pretty carefully, I’d always been able to avoid a lot. Now I am able to ‘unfriend’ people and pages I have been struggling with, I can feel the relief.

I find it disturbing how demeaning speech is insidiously becoming acceptable in campaigning, and is promoted by many anarchist groups. I have become a target to be discredited because I objected to swastikas and Nazi imagery on posters, gory images and what I consider to be sexualising  and rape culture speech – I really can’t figure out how to tell you the terms I mean without saying them and risking triggering lots of other survivors, and I don’t want to do that…

Suffice it to say that when I was accused of “playing the victim” and needed to pull myself together, stop being offended by words and be a survivor who tackled the ‘real thing’…I found myself furious, as an ex-campaigner who has done a ton of awareness raising work, and also deeply sad.

This was from a survivor saying they were fine with the term and so was everyone else. Where is their connection to their authentic self? Where is the permission to be vulnerable AND effective?

Don’t worry, I did point out I existed despite them trying to negate me! And I know, even if I was the only one, it would be wrong. I have done that work. I can be vulnerable AND effective. But how is it to be around people who lack respect for that? Triggering, wounding, unsafe, draining. Greyness. Shadowed.

Language matters. Language opens and closes doors. I write how I like on my blog, but I use ‘crystal mark/simple English as much as I can when campaigning. Language creates permission and gives presence and frames of reference within which we examine what we want to build and how we want to build it. How does a person who has been abused rebuild and keep their respect when terms of abuse are used to humiliate? Non-physical but pointed insults attacking the right to acceptance and pride in sexuality, race, gender self-definition, difference of ability, choice of work, whatever the bully chooses to demean, these all create spaces where respect for the person is blurred. And once that has gone, then abuse is possible and condoned, and protected from reporting by the targeted individual or groups.

Thus the rise in use of terms relating to sexual abuse is very worrying, survivors of violence (whether random or targeted) and sexual abuse, bullying, hate crimes and hate speech are definitely a majority in industrialised countries. And yet survivors of abuse are not respected the way we need to be.

Remembering intersectionality, these circles of oppression overlap and isolate, with vocational and financial opportunity offsetting for some, but further disadvantaging others. Class is now becoming a really tangled issue  with the complication of working and unemployed members of each class holding very different experiences of how these systems oppress them : a wealthy Hindu family who work in skilled manual trades, but who have no idea how desperate a sanctioned disabled but originally middle class white person in dispute with the Department of Work and Pensions might be…And a victim of abuse in the wealthy family might still be at greater suicide risk than the person enduring sanctions, if they are very sure they will win their appeal (eg ex solicitor, knows the loophole to argue).

It’s so complex – but so simple: anyone, anywhere deserves to be treated with respect. And if they are being oppressive, their mind will not be changed by being insulted, it will have to relax to let new information in.

The great Audre Lorde said it best:

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”

My response to all that has happened and all I feel is to create a space where inclusive, creative, compassionate campaigning can take place without hate speech.

So I have! 😉

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An unfortunate truth  is I have to be prepared to check out every contact seeking to join the new group, and proofread every post/comment for at least the first month. I know from friends how draining being an admin of a Facebook group is, I now know how grey I feel after reading pages of hate pretending to be effective invitations to people to change their minds, hearts and actions. I want to be colourful again! I don’t want arguments! Spits dummy on floor!

But I have to honour my hurt, and the truth that if I want a disabled- friendly, non ‘hating’ group where anyone can rely on finding a peaceful, positive, constructive place to create small acts of protest, kindness and change…then it will take that. The shadow will shorten as a particular group of activists loses interest, the burden is already lightened by finding so many amazing things to post, my personal page has long been a relay point for loads of inspiration 🙂 Any of you who read Sustainable Man will know how many brilliant initiatives are out there.

I have called it anyone everywhere inspired by this wonderful quote from Martin Luther King:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

and also to reinforce the reasoning behind my refusal to bow down to the bullies: as a disabled person, I have the right to be allowed safe space at a protest about disability benefits. Many people require safe spaces to be able to make our positive and valuable contributions. We are not weak, we are strong when we declare we will work in positive ways, refusing to be divided against the others oppressed by the systems in power. Being inclusive matters, honouring ourselves, staying focused on being the change we want to see matters … speaking our heart truths… being vulnerable AND effective

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1394938094103956/