On broken records

I want to be acknowledged as myself instead of as what’s projected onto me.

I want to be a subject, not just an object.

I want to exist in living colors, not in black and white rules.

From a New York Times article by Christine Smallwood on Greta Gerwig‘s latest film: “Gerwig wrote “Lady Bird” partly as a response to films about boys growing up. At the New York Film Festival, she asked the crowd: “What is ‘Boyhood,’ but for a girl? What is ‘The 400 Blows,’ but for a girl? What is personhood for young women?” In most films, girls exist to be looked at. […] Gerwig makes Lady Bird the one who looks: at boys but also houses, magazines, books, clothes and at the city […]”

What is personhood for women? What is looking instead of being looked at? These are simple questions containing a world of personal and cultural revolutions.

Still exploring my internal tug of war about Pornhub, I see the madonna/whore paradigm in action. A woman who’s sexuality is aligned with societal norms is a good woman, a good girl, a good wife, a good mother. A woman who’s sexuality colors outside the lines is a bad woman, a slut, a victim, a perpetrator. And there’s only two camps, so you’re either with us, or you’re against us.

No one is actually saying those words out loud to me. And yet they live inside me, imprinted in every cell. I hear them whispered, I hear them shrieked. They make me shy away from wanting what I want, they wake me up in the middle of the night, they make me fear who I am.

It’s impossible to know what everyone’s actual perspective on the subject is. Sometimes it seems we are archaically condemned. Sometimes I stumble into an echo chamber of deliverance. Blurred lines, out of line, fall into line, forgotten lines…

What is sexual freedom? What is sexual empowerment? What does the world look like when we don’t hate ourselves?

Ongoing struggles, never ending conversations. 10,000 years of civilization and who the fuck knows what was before. I may feel like a broken record about this, but I already know, I won’t have enough of a lifetime to ever make enough sense of it.

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On post releasing crash

Burning through the chokehold of stifled freedoms. The epigenetic smell of charred flesh, the sound of neck bones. The inheritance of absolutes, deadweight in my gut. Nature recalcitrated, culture asphyxiated. I come in through the cracks, my purpose ciphered, like trying to hold on to the fog. How could there be an answer to the questions that don’t want to be asked? There is the tenderness of bruises inside the flush of my fever. What following the rules is meant to prevent. But there is no such game for me, I do not know how to play. Buried in the sand under the sea, to be resurrected by the waters. The wish of fallen eye lashes. Like the wish of fallen angels. Nothing plain to see, nothing evident to grasp. Liquid eyes and frozen hands. No more form than fervor.

On porn is in the eye of the beholder 

I have decided to accept that I am on Pornhub.

I’ve spent so much time debating and questioning and arguing about my presence on a pornography platform. Searching for an alternative, hoping for an elegant exit. Facing the fact that explicitness has no other place to live on the internet. Feeling slapped in the face when I load one of my videos and see myself next to ‘Try Not To Cum’ games and ‘Milf Who Want To Fuck’ ads. Wondering if I am being reckless. Enjoying getting new subscribers everyday, yet not changing the setting that sends every email announcing that to the Junk folder. Not knowing how to answer the comments I’m getting there, all positive but definitely of a different nature than the ones on Vimeo. Basically, being completely and utterly ambivalent about the whole thing.

But the truth is, this is what’s real right now. The split is what’s real. There’s no other place for me to have this conversation, and trying to build a safer space equivalent would require resources I do not have. So, if I am to move forward, I need to start with where I am. And right now, I am on Pornhub.

To tell the whole story, I have to talk about an essay I encountered this summer that has radically changed my mind on the question of pornography. “Some Harms to Women of Restrictions on Sexually Related Expression”, by Leonore Tiefer, from her book Sex is Not a Natural Act (Westview Press, 2004). Tiefer is a sexuality expert known for speaking against the medicalization of sexual dysfunction. Her book is a collection of essays challenging the consensus reality of sexuality. Essentially, she posits that sex is a potential and a construct, something more human than just a biological drive. She’s not always easy to read but she certainly takes sex positivity to the next level by removing the mandatory aspects from it. In this particular essay, she makes several amazing points, such as the fact that pornography is best understood not through literal interpretation, that the morality of masturbation is a huge subtext behind the argument against porn, and that repressing sexually explicit material actually robs women of the opportunity to make up their own minds about it. Her perspective resonates so much with me, I’m so grateful to have found someone who dares step out of the classical debate about porn. Having highlighted every second sentence, I wish I could post the entire essay here, but I’m a big believer in copyright, so instead I’m going to encourage anyone interested to go find her book. I will permit myself one quote though, as I feel it speaks to me directly: “Shame and ignorance make cowards of us all, but now is no time for cowardice about women’s sexual practices and imaginings. Censorship harms women because women need sexual empowerment, not sexual protection. Antiporn campaigns say that porn gives men power. But in fact, men already have power. Explicit sexual materials and performances can contribute to women’s sexual power. People who do not like certain types of pornography can avoid them. Or better yet, they can create something completely new.” Like music to my heart…

That being said, I’m not sure I’m ready to call what I do porn per say. I still claim the subtle but fundamental distinction between material that aims to depict arousal versus material that aims to create arousal. This to me is the essential difference between my art and porn, the difference between showing you what I see and showing you what you want to see. Well, come to think of it, it’s not like this dichotomy doesn’t exist in every other art and entertainment form.

Also, and this is an important point, I don’t mean to say that it’s all peachy now, that I don’t think the pornography industry has any issues. I’m still very much aware and afraid of its potential for exploitation. But, looking at the news these days, it should be clear to everyone that you don’t need to be in porn to be subjected to predatory behaviors. The power imbalances that enable abuse need to be addressed everywhere.

My art comes from a place within me that is conscious of the shame my sexuality is entangled with and yet still believes in the transformational beauty of sexual expression. I have had to keep myself safe through many dark nights of fear, yet hope rises in the morning light, asking to be embraced. Sunrise Orgasm is from almost exactly a year ago, the last full orgasm video I made before Vimeo closed my account for the second time. I held on to it because I kept hoping I could release it on a different platform, and because I needed time to remember how to be more courageous than ashamed.

Watching it again now brings up an enormity of feelings. Wondering what the hell I was thinking but being proud of myself. All my beauty and all my flaws exposed as one. Moments of grace next to moments I wish I could cut out. Everything I would do differently but how this experience can never be relived. The way this is both boring and mesmerizing, so private and political. How my entire story is written on my body. How pleasure and awkwardness, confusion and surrender rise and fall like waves. The reality of orgasm, the time that it takes. How slow pace leaves so much room for the uncomfortable. The desire to see and feel myself, the struggle to show up, to exist as myself. All laid bare to judge or to celebrate.

I can’t know for sure that I’m doing the right thing in sharing this. I’m still terrified that my work raises so many questions for which I do not have answers. But there is something about this that’s asking not to be denied. If that makes me a pornographer then fine, so be it. Call it porn or call it art, I don’t care anymore, they are your eyes, you decide what you see.

Sunrise Orgasm, on Pornhub

On hoarding

I’ve been holding on to all this writing… It’s a funny thing, to hoard thoughts like that. I think there’s a fear that I can’t say them out loud unless I know they make sense. But it’s not my job to make sense. It’s my job to be myself. So here they are, in no particular order, so that I can make room for what’s next…

*

It’s day 30 of my menstrual cycle. I seem to have regained the capacity to express myself. That usually means my period is about to start. The more I observe myself in my cycle, the more fascinated I become by how it influences me.

I can’t help but feel like rest is a dirty word. When I need to rest, how I need to rest… It always ends up making me feel like I’m scoring high on the mess-o-meter. But why is there a meter in the first place? What the fuck am I trying to measure?

I do this thing where I have imaginary conversations with people in my head. I came up with this line a while back: When they ask you what the hell I’m doing, tell them I’m trying to be alive before I die.

Always looking for the meaning of things, it’s a lot to ask for. It’s just that, free floating in the void of everything and nothing, I need something strong enough to keep me in orbit.

I don’t remember a single day of my life where I haven’t thought about death. Most days it’s only fleeting. Some days it’s compulsive. I think that’s why sex is at the heart of my art. Sex is one of the few things strong enough to keep me in orbit. To balance out death and loss, to take me back to life. And to take me back to love. Love is the only thing meaningful enough to stick. Everything else always seems to slide off after a while…

*

All the ways that I am torn

I want to be earnest
I think I’m coming off cheap
I want to free myself
I might just be needy
I want to mean something
I’m trapped by my inadequacies

I am by no means the only woman exploring her image. Some days that makes me feel like I belong, like I am one of my generation. Part of something bigger, part of something human. Most days though that just makes me feel insecure, like I’m being redundant, unimaginative, fake.

How can every opposite coexist inside my head? How much ping ponging can a mind handle without hurting its integrity?

I am not one to believe that cutting anything away is ever the solution. I would rather learn how to cool off the flames of contradictions, how to make peace out of enemies. I think learning to breathe with everything is the way to start.

I guess the question is, how do I feed more oxygen into my sense of self? Ha, and I’m right back to breathing! Maybe breathing is the answer to everything. I do know for a fact that it’s the only way I have of influencing my nervous system (cardiac coherence, check it out if you need a quick non-pharmaceutical fix). And I guess a lot of people have been talking about breathing for a lot of centuries…

The thing about breath is, it’s one thing that includes two poles. It’s not like you can skip one or prefer the other. There is no inhaling without exhaling, like there is no eating without shitting, no waking without sleeping, no living without dying.

Maybe that’s why even when I’m doing well, I’m still torn. Because that one way momentum I so wish for, that got-it-all-figured-out consistency I’m told to seek is actually unachievable. And undesirable. Because the light and the darkness, the void and the matter, the in and the out don’t exist without each other.

*

Something is coming into focus for me. One of the reasons I keep falling off track all the time is because of how involved I get with everything. I think I just can’t keep up with myself. It’s like I don’t know how to regulate my own volume, how to maintain sustainable levels.

I extract so much meaning, I engage so deeply with what I encounter… It turns almost everything into an all encompassing high. Of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing, that’s kind of a great thing actually. It just takes its toll in ways that make me need to retreat, give myself a chance to digest, come up for air, regain my footing. From letting so much light in, you end up with extra long processing times.

It’s probably one of the reasons I so often resist engaging with new things. Because I know that once I allow something in, it will seep in fast and deep. It’s also why I am most afraid of the things I actually want. I want them so much, and yet I wait and wait, taking my time, avoiding, a bit of both. Trying to make sure I am ready before I open myself. You don’t open the floodgates if you’re not sure you can handle it. Especially when you want to ride the rushing waters and not just be swept away by them.

A long time ago, I used to wonder if I was bipolar. I was worried for a while, but I honestly don’t think so anymore. Most of it is the flow of my menstrual cycle, something that should be normal, acceptable, and why not even enviable. Then the rest of it is just one of the many ways that I am me. One of my evil re-christened as what is best in me. I am an extra sensitive spirit with a fast revolving mind and a heart that somehow keeps expanding… My my, won’t you listen to that. I’m starting to sound like someone who likes herself!

*

Got herpes on my lip again. It appeared for the first time in a decade three months ago, then it took weeks to get under control while never seeming to completely heal, and now it’s back.

I feel like my body is a battleground. The forces of good and evil, the past and the future, all that I don’t want and all that I do want. Everything clink clonking like the sound of swords and axes hashing it out.

The herpes isn’t the only thing my body is struggling with. My menstrual cycle, my gut, my mood, my weight, my fitness… Everything keeps going up and down. I even have a cold and ear pain coming on and off. I’m working on it all, but I go from motivated to frustrated. The past few years, I’ve had big stretches of time where I was ruthless in my management of myself. These days I seem to have as much counter will as iron will. Honestly, I’m not convinced that being overly controlling is the way to go anymore. I was doing better to some extent because I was limiting myself. It may be easier if you don’t allow certain experiences, but then you’re not having those experiences. And I think, at this point in my life, I am starving for experiences. Whatever consequences they might bring can’t be worse than the pain of missing out.

*

I’ve been watching Margaret Atwood’s stories on the screen, and thinking about how different it is from reading her on the page. It’s late and it’s raining now, and this thought is stirring in my head… The page can be a woman’s refuge in ways that the screen cannot be, because the screen can be a woman’s dungeon in ways that the page cannot be.

Because of how our sexuality gets turned against us, we have to divorce it, or fear being participants in the hurt that happens to us. And/or the only other choice, the one that’s rarely a choice at all, to learn the way that we are wanted to be sexual, a way that can be used, sold, controlled. Either case, it makes us walk around life like our hearts have been cut out of our chests. Seeking in vain, in other places and other people, our own stolen power.

Unwhole. How can anyone who feels unwhole not be utterly sad, angry, despaired, depressed? Hysterical. From the Greek hystera, uterus. The origins of the world. Now not so doctor kosher a term, and yet I can’t help but feel it might very well be the perfect word to describe the state of this world.

When I write, do I hear the sound of my own voice? What do I see when I look at myself on the screen? Can I see the hollowed out parts? Can I hear the secrets I keep? Are all the reflections and artifacts adding up to a whole or are they patching up the holes?

I want to think that I am being clever. That I am an artist. That at least I’m trying. There is so much to be unearthed. There is so much noise and so much silence. What does it take to break through? What does it take to mend the broken seams?

On (a)shamed

Still Sisyphus-ing.

The thing about what happens when you’re growing up is that subject and object cannot be separated. What happens to you gets processed as who you are. Being shamed becomes being ashamed. It becomes a matrix that rules over how you see everything, trickling down into your behavior, so you can keep proving to yourself that this is the reality. This is how early circumstances become conditioning. This is how we don’t leave the room, even after the doors have been unlocked.

My shame matrix is multi-layered. Like a wall with coat of paint over coat of paint. I work on freeing myself from it, each round feeling like I’m taking off another pair of stained glasses. Life looks brighter for a while, until something else happens and I get triggered. Becoming aware again of the feeling of weight on my nose. I thought I was seeing only through my own eyes, but no, there’s another pair of glasses on there, distorting what I see, what I feel like I can do, or can’t do. So it’s back to the shedding work, the remembering, the crying, the trying, the yearning, the waiting. Then one day I notice I don’t react quite the same, I feel lighter. And I realize I’ve taken off yet another pair of glasses.

I’m still thinking about how much my Vimeo account saga acted as a trigger playground. The first time, positively, because I fought for myself and won. That’s such a rare experience for me. That’s what gave me bounds of fresh energy. A feeling of earned freedom, like I was jailbreaking straight out of the shame room. This is how I was able to work on my project the way I did, in such a driven and direct way. Then the second time, negatively, because I tried but it didn’t work. The fact that Vimeo shut me down so completely made me feel like I couldn’t be heard anymore. It made me feel like I was back in the locked hospital room, back in my childhood bedroom, back in the shame room. Back where you truly belong, whispers the distortion venom in my ear… I know that’s just another pair of fucking glasses, but now I’m back in the matrix, ruled again by the old conditioning. And the thing is, it may not be, but it feels real. It feels like the doors really are locked.

I believe that everything exists for a reason, but that without balance, proportions go out of whack and you end up with corrupted files. Shame exists for a reason. It can be an appropriate adaptive behavior. But living your life inside the shame matrix, living your life as an ashamed person, that’s a fucked up proportion. It’s like chronic inflammation. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for anyone.

Being ashamed really is like being in locked room. It keeps me isolated even in the middle of a crowd, even in front of someone who loves me. Like I’m locked away in a box inside my head. It keeps me away from what nurtures me. Making my videos freed me, and I made them because I felt free, but I feel so out of step from that loop now. Vicious cycle versus virtuous cycle. It’s pretty clear how Vimeo restoring my account the first time acted like a permission slip for me. But now I don’t have the luxury of an outside party giving me what I want. I can’t make Vimeo embrace me again. But honestly, that would be a shortcut anyway, and it would rob me of what I really need. I need to learn to empower myself. No outside permission necessary. It sounds so easy written down. I wish it was as easy to get to.

So I’m back to the shedding process. Being aware that I’ve got a big pair of stained glasses on my nose. That that’s why I wake up in the middle of the night like my head is on fire, feeling like anything I do is wrong, because I am wrong. Knowing that it’s not real even though it feels like it. Knowing that it’s ok, because I’ve taken the red pill, and I’m on track to take off yet another layer, yet another filter, so that life can be that much brighter again.

On me

The desire to be accepted whole, all parts known and included. That is what I want.

When I speak. When I stay silent. When I reveal myself. When I hide.

My good girl. My not good enough girl. My wanting to be seen. My wanting to be left alone.

My own voice. My head under the covers trying to hear it. My days long food and tv binges. My hating myself for it and my wanting more of it. My art making. My todo lists crushing. My endless thinking.

My exhaustions. My elations. My turnarounds, my breakthroughs, my breakdowns.

My moaning and bitching and cussing. My sweet sound seeking. My awakening. My sleeping.

My crazy creatrix. My wild sex goddess. My monkey mind. My inner child.

My inauthentic habitual self. My fearful victim self. My shy vulnerable codependent self. My impatient rushing destructive self. My old tired grumpy self. My mothering caring empathetic self. My spongy no boundary self.

My softness. My hardcoreness. My prettiness. My prickliness.

All me. All of it is me.

On continuing 

I feel like I keep writing the same post over and over again… Go Sisyphus Go.

I just finished updating my website. All the videos have been reconnected. I cleaned up the phantom leftovers from the original Vimeo account. I linked back all the deleted pieces to their new home on Pornhub. I even got my Tumblr feed back in order.

I choose not to be ashamed of myself.
I choose to reframe failures as experiences.
I choose to accept that I am no better, and no worse, than anyone else.

I can’t even describe how much mental effort it took to do so little actual work. Sharing my videos is the opposite of straightforward. I keep reminding myself that the fact that this is so complicated is exactly why I need to keep doing it. But that does not make it any easier.

If I have harmed or offended anyone by uploading material on Vimeo that was too explicit, then I earnestly apologize. I know why I thought it was ok, and I understand why others did not think it was. I also acknowledge how essential this step was for me. The positive reactions I received opened up an entire world of feeling relevant. The rejection that followed revealed an entire layer of shame that’s asking to be healed.

I want to move on so damn much. I guess it’s taking me as long as it’s going to take to learn the deeper lessons, the ones you can’t even know you’re going to learn while going through the process. Life is like playing in a jungle gym. If you think going up is good and going down is bad, you’re not gonna have fun. It’s moving through it all, ups and downs and sideways, that makes it magic.

Looking at my work again for the first time in months, I am reminded that my art is mine. Sure, it raises a lot of questions. Am I just asking for attention? Am I too much? Am I cheap? Gremlins rolling around my head. But then I sit up straighter, chin up, and allow myself to say, what I do is odd and original and evocative and raw. And worth continuing.

This project is a crazy ride. Going from feeling like I have nothing to offer, to feeling like I have a voice, to feeling like I am doing it all wrong, to making peace with myself, to wanting more again… Tumble tumble, following the white rabbit, not sure of anything… There is no courage without fear, and no trust without surrendering.

 

Let           Light           Touch           Pine Love

 

 

On courage

The great epochs of life come when we gain the courage to re-christen our evil as what is best in us. Friedrich Nietzsche

Reading these words hits my heart with such a sense of recognition.

It’s a challenging quote for a world so intent on knowing where the line between good and bad is, so intent on being on the right side of the distinction.

My heart doesn’t know what’s good or bad. My heart just knows how tired it is of all this fighting. It knows that I have been at war with myself for as long as I can remember. It bears the scars that prove it. My heart isn’t concerned with questions of morality. My heart just feels.

Now that it is coming to an end, I’m realizing that I have spent this entire summer on a quest to make peace with myself. Going into it, my goal was to be selfish, in search of self-reliance. But in trying to think of only myself, I was forced to face the enormity of my internal battle. To face how much I seek the gold stars and brownie points that count towards my “good person membership card”. To face that as much as I want to be my own north star, I am in fact keeping my ear to the ground for the sound of the approaching rectitude police.

I got to spend some time alone this summer. Truly by myself kind of alone, not just avoiding others kind of alone. It’s not something I have a lot of experience with. Making every decisions for myself, not having to think of anyone else. Being in that space is what allowed me to open my eyes to the truth of my constant chastising, my constant berating of myself. It’s kind of like opening your eyes under water. It’s not easy, it feels like it would be better to keep them closed. But you keep blinking until things come into focus. And then you see. You see the water. Like Foster Wallace’s older fish passing by young ones: morning boys, how’s the water? The kids looking at each other all puzzled, what the hell is water? My weeks of solitude have opened my eyes and I cannot not see the water anymore.

Let me tell you, turns out it ain’t pretty the way I’m used to relating to myself. And it’s not like I haven’t been on an intense healing path for years, or that I don’t use concepts of non-violent communication diligently, or that I don’t already believe in the importance of trumping hate with love. That’s what really got me. The realization that trying to feel good about myself by doing the right thing is actually the very thing that hurts me. Cause it sounds great, doesn’t it, doing the right thing, being the good person. But when I look under the hood of that, I see how much fear, pressure and shame lives in the pursuit of goodness. It’s like a tension line, propping you up, but it comes at the high price that it might be cut, and that you might fall down, right into hell. Plop.

For whatever reason, I’ve always had the compassion that makes me look at people who have done bad things and still see their humanity. Murderers, rapists, dictators aren’t a different breed, a different race, a different species. They’re just as human as I am. Thinking like this makes me feel like a spiritual hotshot, but it never occurred to me before that by judging my own worth against some sort of goodness template, I’m not being very consequent with myself. Like not at all. You can’t truly opt out of the stigma of bad while still holding on to the doctrine of good. If I really believe that a murderer is a fully worthy human being despite having committed an act of murder, than why the hell am I constantly holding the threat of losing my worth over my own head? And how is that threat not an act of war actively killing my inner peace?

What is my evil? All the ways that I have failed. All the ways that I am different. All the ways that I am difficult. All the ways that I am me. Me. Not the imagined best me that I will be happy with when I finally get to be it. No, me, the me that I am right now. I could make a long list of all the things I wish to change about this me that I am, and I used to believe that working through this list was called living, and succeeding. But isn’t all this saint seeking really not evil avoiding? And isn’t all this evil avoiding really not self avoiding?

This realization has felt like being slapped in the face, hard. The only reason it didn’t topple me over is because it comes with the recognition that I am wholly worthy just as I am in this exact moment. That holds me up like strong roots going deep into the earth. Nevertheless, feeling bad about myself is not just a belief, it’s also a habit. So, predictably, the habit still kicks in, everyday, but now I have a choice. I can remind myself that I don’t believe I am bad because I don’t do good and bad anymore. I choose to opt out, return my membership cards, thank you but no thank you.

It’s funny, it even says it right there in the phrase: I feel bad about myself. Yeah you do, because you feel that you are bad. If I don’t feel that I am bad, I stop feeling bad about myself. It’s deceptively easy. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to see. But my heart has always known, it didn’t need to see it to feel it. It’s been trying to tell me all along, by letting me feel it. But I was all confused, thinking that feeling bad was the proof something was wrong with me, making me feel even worse, leaving me no choice but to work endlessly at making me good, or else give up from exhaustion, making me bad. But good person cards, bad person cards, it’s all just paper. The worth of anyone, of everyone, is not an arithmetic game of good and bad. We are all 100% worthy, 100% ourselves, 100% human.

Oh and about courage, I’m repeating myself here but the root of courage comes from the word heart. What is courage? It’s love. Loving ourselves as we are is how we come to the great epochs of our lives.

On letting it go

It’s not as easy as I thought it would be to follow up my last post. I feel a bit like when you want to say too many things at once and end up saying nothing.

I’m going through something big, and I’m having trouble finding the language to talk about it. It’s turning out to be a long transition, but who’s to say how long anything is supposed to take? Our time measures are mostly constructed, matrixes we impose over processes that really have their own innate logic.

There’s a voice that’s been whispering in my head all summer: I am here to let things go. It’s ok, I can put it all down and nothing will be broken. This obliterating pressure I feel to keep up, it’s optional, it’s a membership I can cancel. I can opt out of constantly feeling bad about myself. Because good and bad is in itself another constructed matrix. I can continue to participate in it blindly, seeking gold stars on my report card, or I can dig deeper, all the way to the place where all humans have an intrinsic immutable value, no matter what they’ve done that’s either good or bad. I can let myself feel everyone’s wholeness, including my own.

It’s an acquired reflex that’s telling me I am failing when I’m not being productive. Where’s my value if I’m not creating anything consumable? Fuck that reflex. I have taken true pride and joy at making and sharing my videos. And I can’t wait for when this outward flow returns. But for now I am involved with an inward flow, which is just as immensely valuable.

It’s kind of a funny thing to say in a blog, but these days I want everything and everyone to leave me the fuck alone. Isn’t that the contradictory thing about being human. Part of me is so isolated and wants so badly to connect and belong and yet another part needs to feel that I have time and space to exist for myself, by myself. It’s not easy to conciliate but I know that my artistic capacity is dependent on both. So I have to find a way to rise beyond the idea that I am better when I publish a post or release a video every x amount of time. I have to believe in my life more than I believe in the life I should be living based on the interferences of every other rationale out there.

I guess it’s pretty easy to see how this all fits in the context of my story. I’m still recovering from the habit of putting other people’s needs before my own. I’m always searching for the feeling that I belong to myself. This is why I end up spending so much time alone, why I am so wary to participate in anything. It explains why being engaged with this project is such an extraordinary success for me. And why Vimeo’s censorship triggered me back into feeling so ashamed and interrupted. Crazy how everything always cycles back around.

At the end of the day, this really is just a call to peel back another layer of the healing that I need for myself. That’s what repetitions are for. Getting confronted with what still seeks resolution.

On my story

Storytime.

This is the most difficult thing I have ever written. It feels gigantically important.

Warning: it’s by far my longest post. It takes me about half an hour to read.

Also, the side notes I wrote a while back still very much apply.

So, where to start… I guess at the beginning there were my parents. When they met in their late twenties, they both thought they didn’t want children. They both had horrible childhoods, something they bonded over. But their love changed their minds, and so they decided to start a family and have a baby. Me.

Can one ever describe how they were in their first years? I look at pictures, I listen to anecdotes, and from that I piece together the kid that I think I was. I would never sit straight in high chairs, always had a leg swinging on the side. My parents took me to all kinds of places children don’t usually get to go. I remember being aware of music, and I imagine I must have been highly sensitive from the get-go.

It’s extremely difficult to find the words to talk about what happened next, which makes what happened before seem irrelevant. When I was three years old, my sister was born. Everything seemed normal until her birth, when it became clear that, well, she wasn’t normal. No one knew exactly what she had until she was seven years old, when by chance one of her doctors saw a case with a kid that looked just like her. Only then did we get the actual diagnosis of her syndrome. Like with Down syndrome, except it’s a different rarer syndrome, a spontaneous mutation on one specific gene created a ripple of consequences all over her development.

I’m used to describing my sister’s story in a detached clinical tone, because I’ve learned that sick children is one of the most heart wrenching subject. The events of her early life were very dramatic. She spent the first six months of her life in intensive care. She almost died, couldn’t eat on her own, and had a bunch of other problems. When she finally came home, she had to be forced fed at night. So our room became the ICU. It took two adults to set up, my parents having to become expert nurses overnight. She had to be restrained with special orthotics so she wouldn’t pull on the tube that went down her nose to her stomach. Later she would make herself vomit to have it come out. Can’t reason with a baby that feels tortured by what is keeping her alive. Every single night, all night long. For three years.

I remember nothing from this time, I blanked it all out. If it isn’t clear already, this is the first source of my post-traumatic stress disorder, though I didn’t understand that until a few years ago. I was told that after my sister was hospitalized, I became the perfect child. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I do know that my subsequent struggles are related. In the work that I have done on myself since, I’ve uncovered some of the agreements I made with myself back then. One of them was, if my sister dies, so will I. Completely irrational of course, but it’s the kind of thing a three year old would come up with. Bargaining with magical thinking. I use a lot of psych jargon by now, but it all boils down to one thing. What was happening was overwhelming and I did not have the resources to make sense of it.

Those early years were the worse, but that’s not to say that the following ones were easy. Her physical, intellectual and emotional health were, and still are, a rollercoaster of challenges. She’s doing pretty great these days, but it’s been a hard road getting there. And as for normal, she never was nor ever will be. But normal is overrated, and I can say that from actual experience. My parents and I became a tight knit team around her, bonding over everything she had to overcome. As can be imagined, I got to grow up too fast and never again was quite the normal kid either.

How to continue… I guess school years. That’s a tale of extremes, highly tainted with the misunderstood context of what was happening to me through what was happening to my sister. At first I went to my neighborhood school, which turned out to be quite rough. I always had a lot of ease with academics, something that was due to my parents encouragements and to being kind of gifted. During the three years that I was there, I remained the kid no one could relate to. I never once made a friend. I was either bullied or ignored. At times I was bullied by parents. I was too different to ever fit in. Teachers had no idea what to do with me, and as the weird quiet ultra mature kid, I certainly wasn’t their priority.

The principal ended up summoning my parents to plead with them to take me to a different school. That’s when my fortune turned around. Because of my sister, I got sibling privilege to attend an alternative school. It had barely a hundred kids, the classes were integrated with different ages and different disabilities. It was based on a self taught, project-based pedagogy. I can honestly say that this school changed my life. I immediately made a bunch of friends, my family life became integrated with my school life, and I found my voice. We would make our own schedules and create our own projects. We never had normal exams, but instead had evaluations that focused on how we felt. How do you feel about yourself? Oh my god. Those questions opened up my soul. I got to know me, everyone got to know me, and I felt like I belonged.

Then this dream time, which is still the model for what I believe life can be, ended. Sadly, there were no alternative options in my city for the next grades up. So I got hit by puberty at the same time as I re-entered the nightmare of conventional schooling. I switched schools four times in five years, and never found continuity in any community. That’s when my psychological health unraveled. Out of paradise, out of latency, most aspects of life stopped making sense to me, and the pains that had been repressed inside blossomed into a big time mess.

The one redeeming element was that I started seeing a psychiatrist. I had been asking for one for years, ever since having been once to the therapist that was following my parents after my sister’s birth. Whenever I asked though, my parents would say that I should just talk to them. But I couldn’t. One day when I was eleven, I heard that my sister was going to see someone and I lost it. I said it was unfair that she could get one but not me. That seemed to do it. I got very lucky when the senior child psychiatrist who was supposed to refer me to someone else decided to keep me. I started seeing him once a week exactly a year before I was officially diagnosed with depression. And I remained in therapy with him for exactly a decade.

My first break down was all about my sense of having no control over my life. It started slowly, mostly over issues surrounding school. I started seeing my psychiatrist multiple times a week. He would have my parents over at sessions to explain that I needed to be given some slack. He told them that it would help for me to have my own room, which I ended up getting. He gave me permission to pick one day a week when I didn’t have to go to school if I didn’t want to. I realized later that he was trying to create a safe space for me to to find myself but also to fall apart, because that was just bound to happen.

I got lucky again the following year when I could enroll in a special school that used to be reserved for ballerinas. It was module-based, and you could complete it at your own pace, wherever you wanted. I finished most of my classes in the first two months. Then I focused the rest of my time on myself. This period turned out to be both alienating and fascinating. How else could you describe the experience of a fourteen year old, walking the streets of her city alone, journaling in coffee shops and hanging out in cinemas, feeling herself slowly reach rock bottom? I remember the exact moment I reached this bottom. Strangely, it felt good even though it felt painful. Like I knew, even back then, that this wasn’t the beginning of the end, it was the beginning of the real.

I paid for my unusual lifestyle myself. I started earning money when I was nine years old, recording radio jingles. My career as a talent ended quickly though, because they wanted older kids who could sound young, not young kids who could sound older. But I kept on working jobs throughout my entire adolescence, babysitting then being employed in a business owned by an extended family member.

That’s also when I started taking anti-depressants, which I took for five years straight. I still don’t know for sure whether that helped me or fucked me up even worse. Probably both. I do know that the SSRIs I took are not recommended anymore for people under 18. But based on the information we had back then, I guess it was the right call. There were legitimate questions about my staying alive, and I think my psychiatrist wanted to use all the tools at his disposal to make sure I would. And I did, so that’s that.

The following year I started again at this same special school. By then word had spread and a few more alternative souls had joined. During one of the first weeks, I wrote an essay about my experience with depression. Somehow almost everyone got to read it. A bunch of people flocked to me afterwards, sharing similar or different experiences. And just like that I found myself in a tribe again. I would still spend most of my time in coffee shops, but I wasn’t alone anymore. I started getting better and better, envisioning a future for myself. I thought this was it, my ticket to real life. Then right after Christmas, they announced that the school was closing, and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Had to take a break from writing here, to let the tears flow. This is the second source of my post-traumatic stress disorder. And that’s another time of my life I don’t remember very well. I know that the day my mom went to her first surgery, I was wondering if there was anything in the house I could take to make it all go away. I know that while my friends were making plans to land in the same school, I was busy taking care of my sister while my mom would undergo chemotherapy. I know that for some obtuse reason, I ended up enrolling in a far away school that no one else I knew was going to be at. I know that I started going everywhere with my mom, became her nurse, and even her assistant as she started a business to try to keep herself attached to life. But all I could really register was the feeling of being hit on the head by a hammer as you’re in the middle of getting up. Surefire way to get knocked back down.

My mom got better and the worse was over when I had to start school again. I had spent the summer working for her and taking care of my family. I felt chewed up by life. I felt old. And I must have looked it, because everyone at this new school thought I was a new teacher. Students and teachers alike. I was fifteen years old going on forty. This was a traditional huge high school, and my presence there was the epitome of surreal. I lasted two weeks. Then I started skipping school again. But this wasn’t the type of place where that was allowed. So I would lie, even though of course I would get found out. I didn’t know how else to manage. When I look at it now, I see how exhausted I was. I had stayed strong for as long as I could and it left me burned out. My psychiatrist started advocating for me again, recommending that I should be allowed to stay home. I got appointed a home school teacher, which turned out to be an extremely awkward experience.

That’s when my familial situation reached a breaking point. I was falling apart at exactly the time when my mom needed things to get back to normal. We were all still reeling from the stress of almost losing her. Struck by some sort of temporary insanity. My parents started questioning my psychiatrist’s choices and decided they wanted a second opinion. He had to agree so he took us to a colleague of his, who was the head of the psychiatric unit at a youth hospital. We all went there on a Monday at 10 am. I have a journal entry that says what I had for breakfast that morning and that I had planned on doing yoga that afternoon. No one had anticipated what happened next. After hearing my case, this other doctor said that if I was too sick to go to school, then I should be kept for observation to confirm that. Somehow everyone agreed, and when it was my turn, I didn’t know how to disagree. My parents left and my mom came back with some clothes so I could spend the next 72 hours there. At that point, alone with her, I begged her to take me home. I cried and cried and she cried but it felt out of our hands. So she left and left me behind.

Now tears are just pouring down my cheeks as I write, because this experience still breaks my heart. It was completely the wrong call. I was actually re-traumatized in having to be in a hospital and in having my consent taken away. I would like to write more about how I felt while in there, but the whole thing is a blur despite feeling so cutting. The lockdown came to an end and I was switched to an outpatient status. My mom would drive me every morning to make sure I would go. That lasted a month. I don’t know exactly when but at some point my soul retreated deep within me, into a hidden place. Out of harm but also out of reach. Everything became grey, and I stopped trusting everyone. My parents. My new psychiatrist. My old psychiatrist. Myself. The world.

The painfully ironic thing is, their official diagnosis for me was that there was nothing wrong with me. I was depressed, sure, but I wasn’t anorexic, I wasn’t bulimic, I hadn’t actually tried to commit suicide, so my not going to school was just me being temperamental. Which is why they kept me as an outpatient. I was told that I could either go back to school, or stay there. Blackmail by any other name. I dreaded the school so much but I couldn’t take the hospital anymore, so I went back. I finished the year a ghost of myself, eating lunch in bathroom stalls, pretending to be alive. I know that no one intended to harm me, and that everyone had good intentions. But no one actually helped me, and at the end, everyone seemed satisfied with my faking it. No one ever acknowledged how deeply I had been broken. I am still trying to get over this. I’m terrified of losing control like that again. And yeah, this is the third source of my post-traumatic stress disorder.

Everything that happened afterwards is tainted by how locked out of myself I remained after my hospitalization. That’s really the worse thing about it. Once I was out, we never talked about it again. My relationship with my family became fake. I remained in therapy with my old psychiatrist but it was never the same. I would walk through life, doing what was expected of me, feeling dead inside. I switched to a school for dropouts in order to finish my high school degree and even went on to get a college degree but I went through all of it feeling like a fraud. I pushed my truth so deep within me that I lost touch with it.

Admittedly, my time in college almost felt like the real deal. I just wish I hadn’t been plagued with deep feelings of shame and dissociation. And that my entanglement with my family didn’t always take priority over my social life. I did have a few amazing experiences despite my constant struggle with myself. When I was eighteen, I went to an extended language course in another country. For three weeks, I got to be a carefree fun young person. I made friends with a bunch of other misfits and we went out every single night. I ended up having my first romantic sexual experience there. I’m so grateful I got to have a healthy first time. The following year I continued experimenting, but ended up only having affairs with older men. Back in my everyday life, I didn’t really have the context for any usual form of relationships.

When I graduated college, instead of feeling successful, I felt cheated. I was involved in a big project with my mom that became a nightmare to manage. I didn’t know how to navigate it while respecting my own integrity. That summer I went on a long trip by myself and that’s when something in me started becoming unhinged again. I spent three weeks in a big European capital, but slept through most of it. I had a complicated affair that revealed just how desperate I was underneath my facade. When that ended, I traveled aimlessly for a few weeks, feeling how truly lost I was.

Then I went to visit the brother of a family friend. We had met in person the year before, had corresponded, and I knew I liked him. He was older but healthier and kinder than anyone I had ever met. I got to his place and somehow the stars aligned for us. We spent an entire month together. I let him take charge of everything and just dropped into being taken cared of. I told him everything that had ever happened to me. Talking to him is how I learned to talk to myself again. He became my safe place. We’ve actually been together ever since.

The following years were a cacophony of trips and moves that were all about the challenge of individuating from my family so I could have a life of my own. I moved in with my partner, who had relocated in a different city on my side of the ocean. I spent a year there, traveling back and forth, battling the pull of my co-dependency. Every single time I left one place, my fear of loss and my separation anxiety would get triggered. Each goodbye on either side felt like tearing a psychological muscle. I ended up moving back to my hometown for a year, living with roommates but working for my mom again. Then a year later I moved back with my partner so we could move to Europe together. So far away from my old life, I thought maybe I would be free to create something new. But my past kept haunting me, and I felt trapped in old patterns. I became depressed again, unable to participate in life, unable to really function.

We moved back to our American city, renting a room that felt like living at the Chelsea Hotel. The walls were painted bright yellow with a shiny gold fish pattern that looked like wallpaper. It became the jar for the darkest phase of my transformation. That’s when I discovered complex post-traumatic stress disorder and self-diagnosed myself with it. Learning to manage PTSD made the pieces of the puzzle come together. I was supposed to be in that yellow room for three months, but I stayed for three years. The first one disintegrating into my rawest state, the second one incapable of leaving it by myself, and the final one slowly rebuilding myself like a soft shell crab.

And then I moved back to my hometown. Yes, again. I did it completely earnestly, thinking this was my destiny. I needed to be there for my family, for my sister. After a month, I was at the lowest point I have ever been. I wanted to die so badly, the only thing that would calm me down was imagining myself dying. My partner didn’t want to leave me alone for more than a few minutes. I couldn’t ignore the signs that this was absolutely not the right place for me to be. And I had to tell my family. That brought up a pain that felt excruciating. The night before I was set to talk to them, I had the worse panic attack of my life. Funnily enough, when I did tell them, they knew, and they understood. There’s no helping others in denying yourself.

So I left again for my other city, where I still am. It’s been a few years now. I’ve been slowly but surely creating a life for myself there. This process got a booster shot a couple of years ago, when something I have dreaded all my life almost happened. My sister needed to get a pacemaker for her heart and during the procedure the anesthesia needle pierced one of her lungs. They didn’t realize it right away, so she went home but became very ill as her lung collapsed. It all happened very quickly. I knew her surgery had gone well and yet the next day I woke up with a terrible feeling. A few hours later my dad called, my sister was in the emergency room. I traveled the many hours that separate us in a night bus, sleepless. A strange feeling came over me as I watched the landscape pass me by. I have spent my entire life getting ready for this. Most people who have my sister’s syndrome die as kids and none are older than fifty. I have worked my ass off to develop the maturity to be able to live with this reality. And here I was, this was it, I was going to have to say goodbye to her. That’s the moment I realized, if she dies, I am not going to die. That’s the moment I realized that I can be ok with that. I have found enough reasons to live, I have become enough of my own person, that I know I will figure out a way to outlive her.

But her story isn’t over, and she didn’t die. When I got there, her lung was being restored and I watched her skin go from grey back to her beautiful mocha. My sister is extremely resilient, she’s already gone through more than most people ever will. She bounced back like a champ, walking out of the hospital on her own two feet a few days later. I followed her example and went back to my life. A week later I got sick, the stress having taken its toll. My stomach would hurt all the time, but something about it felt right. I started to feel my insides again, whereas before I couldn’t feel a thing. It was like being thawed unfrozen. I had to take care of myself and, for the first time, I actually could. So I nursed myself back to health, from what seemed like a lifetime of sickness. I lost fifty pounds in the process. I felt more like myself than ever before. I felt like I could finally love myself. That’s when my project started. And that’s where the timeline bridges to now.

So, this is it, my hero’s journey. The way I cried while writing it shows me how necessary it was for me to go there. This was the next step I needed to take. I have suffered a lot in my life from feeling like no one could understand me. Feeling trapped because I didn’t know how to show the people around me who I was. This is an attempt at rectifying that. To own my story, to reclaim my past. Now that this is out there, I feel like I can write about anything I want. And now that this is out there, I feel like I don’t have to care anymore about what anyone thinks. Everything that happened to me isn’t cause for shame, it’s cause for pride. My odyssey already has many chapters, but that’s exactly how I made it here.