That Thing Where We are Expected to Suffer in Inspirational Silence

There is an attitude in our dominant colonizer culture that struggling in silence is both a sign of moral superiority and open suffering is either embarassing or infuriating for those viewing and consuming that pain. This no doubt serves to weaken and divide people, communicate to them/us how little value their/our lives hold for those that would judge that perceived worth. 

If I(and others) suffer in socially accepted and enforced silence* I’m told that I am sooo brave just for living, that they couldn’t fathom living my life which they perceive as terrible beyond measure,  then fundamentally patted dismissively and sent on my way to continue not bothering them with my hardships. 

If i have the temerity to speak up for myself or others, if I have the audacity to name my pains and pressures, I am called a complainer, faker, overly sensitive, mean, fanatical, angry, dramatic, or a liar. All labels meant to take away my value, to render my feelings and humanity meaningless and empty. 

This process is even more dangerous, insidious, and pervasive for IBPOC who are less likely to be believed, empathized with, supported,  or given the benefit of the doubt by white people. Black women and enbies particularly carry intersections of oppression that leaves them most vulnerable to this slow social death in “nice” comfortable middle America. 

My whiteness, my ability to speak in a way socially acceptable to middle-class white America, and my relative stability all protect me from broader and larger social violence no matter what other ways I am harmed by my culture and my people. That is not anything that I can or should ignore. I have much relative and literal privilege and protection.

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Even with those protections, if I am silent I am a sweet nonthreatening paragon of virtue dismissed and held as example to guilt and control others. 
If I speak the shape of what harms me, speak my reality, I am an embarrassment, something to be avoided and ignored, something to be shamed, blamed, and silenced. 

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What does it say about our culture that we have so little ability to sincerely empathize with people who have experienced different things than us? What does it say about us that we would rather ignore those around us that are hurt in different ways than we are or were, than acknowledge that we are part of that harm, or that it indeed exists at all? What does it say about us that we protect abusers and ignore the abused?*

It’s been said that existing is a radical act when society wants to peel you away from the world. I think speaking in the face of that crushing pressure is radical as well, even when that speaking is to simply say, this shit is terrible, I’m tired, I’m hurting, I’m not sure I can take this anymore. It matters. You matter. Your life and feelings matter. 

Today I am struggling with financial anxiety, deep painful and abiding dysphoria, physical pain and fatigue, acute asthma, months of autistic burnout,  executive dysfunction that makes everything ten times more complex or impossible, depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and isolation. I refuse to carry shame for saying that outloud. 

I am a person not an inspirational video, you are too. 
Name your pain, struggle, your despair. 

Taste the shape of it without shame.
Share here if you feel comfortable

You are allowed to live, not just exist for others benefit, for others sense of self. 

Please also support, pay, and share writers, activists, and articles that have inspired you to be less ashamed or helped you feel less broken if you would like. Let’s give credit where it is due, spread some of that empowerment around. 

*Rhizome speaks often and with great artistry about the social pressures applied to oppressed people, especially multiply oppressed IBPOC in both wider society and numerous superficially socially liberal microcommunities, to keep them quiet and unobtrusive to the majority. I strongly suggest you check out X’s body of work. 

*Michon created the term abuse culture to describe this phenomenon, it is quite apt. Michon is involved in multiple endeavors to dismantle abuse culture including Cuil Press  and Postmodern Woman. Michon is doing important work that you should definitely check out. 

If you learn something or appreciate their work (and other IBPOC writers, thinkers, activists, and advocates) share resources and funds with them. 

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Moderately Fucked Avenue

My Dysphoria has been very bad lately. Winding it’s fingers around my every word and thought and shaking until everything is mash and muddle. 

I am getting to a place again where I really need low dose T and top surgery or a nonbinary radical reduction to function in this sick and broken flesh house emotionally. Unfortunately those things are inaccessible to me due to finances, executive dysfunction/neurodiversity, and disability. 

So I’m stuck not passing at all. To be clear I know my body is a transmasculine body because it is my body and I am transmasculine, buuuuutttttt very few people can see *me* underneath how they interpret my gender presentation, even other queer and trans people, honestly even other nonbinary people, myself included, often struggle with separating our understanding of gender now from the concept of immutable gender/sex/gender presentation that we were raised with. 

As a culture we just aren’t quite there yet. It takes a lot of work and bandwidth even for nonbinary trans people to do the internal work we need to do, to avoid ascribing gender roles to secondary sex characteristics and gender presentations.

 Which unfortunately in my case, for a lot of reasons, including but not limited to disability,chronic illness,  age, and body shape means most people see me as 85% middle aged (girlwoman) mom and 15% might be a lesbian or something™. It forces me into a socially isolated space in which I have to step into these wrong assumptions about me to exist at all. 

Not existing isn’t really an option. 

Being forced to exist twisted into someone else’s shape is harmful in the short or long term. My mind and body rail, twist, and wail at the constant indignity and implied gaslighting. it’s an exhausting cycle that sometimes I am able to navigate and sometimes I am really not. 

Right now is one of those times of not, I’m sure I will get there eventually. I’m sure eventually the words will loosen up, unstick from their mire and play willingly for me. I hope. I try to stay patient and positive or something. 

ha! 
…Or something. 

A Brief Repose

just let me breath this night air a moment

let me remember how to feel joy in my heart

cool night air whispers 

whisking away a year and a life of pain

I remember what it means to relish life 

to be thankful for the little things

I remember what it means to love you. 
I do love you 

with every grain of my being
tomorrow we go back to a life worth living

tomorrow we go back to the fight

but just for this brief and shining moment
we rest

Telescoping

The fatigue is never ending 

bone deep silent screaming

can exhaustion scream? 
the weather shifts and my body crumples

falling.tumbling.stumbling 

weakness like hard cold hands pull me back into this place again

realigned and readjusting

trying not to curse my own name
can you believe I have value with so little productivity? 

Question heart

hands shake from medication and determination

pushing through or laying still

eyes slide over me unseeing

invisible 

I press my flesh into unreasonable contortions

sticky sweating slow implosion
persevere or something

it’s all the same

Fatigue

​I am tapped out. Exhausted. deep exhausted. The kind that rattles your bones and slithers beneath your skin, weighing you down. soul heavy.

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Still I knit. knit. knit. gotta earn that grocery money. medicine money. dentist money. Gotta earn my right to live. 

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I want pizza, a gallon of coffee, to not have to worry about groceries so much, to not feel so guilty about everything. 

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I want to feel not quite so tired, I want my muscles not to burn all the time. 

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But I am here in this life, at this time,and this is what life is, so I will watch this show, close my eyes a bit, and keep going. 

Knit. knit. knit. 

Doing ‘Well’ when You are Chronically Ill

My health has been doing relatively well lately. That is to say, I am not in an illness or pain flare currently. But what does that even mean for me and others with chronic health or pain conditions? 

For me, it means I may feel “ok” as long as I am sitting and doing quiet non physical things. It also means that simple activities like sitting up from laying down, standing up, or walking from one room to another doesn’t give me an asthma attack. 

However even when my baseline health is slightly improved I still have to be careful. Just because I can walk slowly doesn’t mean that cleaning sprees or even small organizational tasks won’t cause me asthma attacks and pain flares. I know at this point that keeping a decent base line of health, that allows me any sort of quality of life requires I not push myself. Pushing myself only results in my ending up overextended, which in turn could result in a days, weeks, or even months long flare. 

What this usually means is that I have more emotional energy to worry and plan but not enough physical energy to do even one quarter of the things that need doing. Things that need doing because of my health. 

I day dream, worry, and plan a lot during these times, about things like getting a part time job (how long could i keep it before i got sick again? could i even get hired? could i find a job where I was sitting all day and not talking on the phone? what hours could I work? how would i avoid smokers and perfume wearers? how much worse would it make my next flare? would it cause a flare in a few months? weeks? days?), cleaning house in ways i haven’t been able to contribute in recent years, and making unrealistic lists of things i need to do now that I might have energy.

 I’m never able to get as much done as I had wanted. Even when I am feeling ok, my stamina and health just aren’t what they used to be. I try to balance guilt for not being able to do more and realistic expectations given my limitations. Ideally I would prefer not sliding into a pit of internalized ableism and self loathing because I am not doing more. So I work hard to maintain the best balance I can, no matter how exhausting it is.

Sometimes it even works. 

A Different Sort of Debilitating

I have anxiety. 

Often my anxiety is situational, because of concerns about money or lack thereof, my health, the kids, the world, the well-being and safety of my partners and friends, my ptsd being triggered, or one of a million other things in response to real life stress. Sometimes it seems likely to be hormonal and/or dysphoria related, and sometimes it is from sensory overload or Autistic burn out. 

When I was younger I was ashamed of and overwhelmed by my anxiety, as it resulted in my being afraid of anything and everything. Truly everything as far as I could understand it. As I have gotten older I have gotten more self confident, more emotionally stable, and more content with who I am as a person. Anxiety doesn’t cause me to shame spiral anymore but it is still pretty debilitating pretty often. 

During times that my anxiety takes hold, no matter the reason, my fight or flight fear response flares so hard I am frozen. Any sort of activity would usually help me break free, but literally any choice sends me down an anxiety loop of what ifs and escalated fear so deep even my brain freezes up. 

knock knock

who’s there? 

nobody.nothing.despair.


So here I sit, trying to soothe away the hammering of my heart,the adrenaline burn in my joints. Reminding myself that everything is currently as ok as it ever is, and there isn’t actually a saber tooth tiger over that next ridge waiting to pounce on me. 

everything is fine. everything is fine. 
I force one foot in front of the other if I am able, or rest if that is all that is possible, ride the storm out so that I may survive as intact as possible, to move freely on another day, maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. I remind myself it is ok to conserve my energy if it is needed, that I can rest before I am pulverized, that I don’t have to be bleeding to be worthy of rest, help, or healing. 

You don’t have to be bleeding to deserve rest, help, or healing either. Your struggle is real. Your hardship isn’t imagined just because it isn’t the narrative of the easy majority. 

We are both real, both valid, you and I. 

ground to the bone but existing. 

I am always learning to love me better, more sincerely. To embrace myself and let this flow over and around me in honesty and acceptance. Whatever that means on that day, in that moment.

 I love you too my friend, I can’t promise that it will all be ok, but I can promise I am here to listen if you need an ear. I am here to support you if you need a familiar hand to hold. 

Someday I will be able to breathe again