Manifesto of Pain and Personal Power:
A Response to False Assumptions and the Reduction of Human Trauma to Personal Pathology and Defectiveness Or: Where the Fuck Were You When…?
M. City University of Seattle, December, 2008 (Edited, January 27, 2014)
Class in a Masters of Counselling Psychology Program; 2008. Gloria is the therapy-subject-patient in a very oppressive – in my view – psychotherapy-teaching video, by one of the old-white-boy-masters-of-psycho-therapy. I comment about my perspective of the video and how I believe Gloria has been completely shut down, patronized and invalidated by the master. A female classmate notes that it does not appear to her that Gloria is ‘the kind of woman,’ who would take any shit. The comment triggers a profound internal response for me; I think about the limited information people base this type of judgment, and other ludicrous assumptions, generalizations, and perceived knowledge(s) on, specifically, in that moment, assumptions I have heard ad-nauseum, about me, about my life experience. The Manifesto; is my immediate, and deeply hurt, internal response. Until today, I have shared it with next to no-one, and when I have, almost without fail, regretted doing so. I choose, in this moment, to let all judgment of it, me, my truth, go.
If I offend you with my reality and profanity, if you “cannot hear me because I am angry” (Lorde, 1984, p. 125), please, stop reading now.
The First Point
Your Assumptions: Cleverly Disguised as Acronyms
So, you think you know who the fuck I am? While I have been working on it for the better part of 50 years, your brilliance has deduced, in record breaking time, that I am a certain kind of woman; with negative, self and other harming behaviours and tendencies. According to you I have A.D, A.D.D, A.D.H.D, A.D.A.D, P.T.S.D, P.M.D.D, GAD, DID, and DEPS, and you want to treat me with E.M.D.R, C.B.T and R.E.B.T (MedHelp), so that I can de-sensitize, think straight, and emote rationally. Oh, I probably still have B.P as well, because you haven’t come up with a way to cure me of my obsessive-compulsive motor oil fixation. I should defer to your genius. Surely you came to your infinite wisdom in the Cracker Jack Box of Pop-Psychology; I think Dr. Phil lives there too. Do not bother saying hello; he doesn’t like me, either.
The Big Question
Where the Fuck Were You When…?
Are you ready? This is the real deal baby, the Full Monty of my life, as lived by me, M.Y.F.M (aka Kubač, aka Turjančík) live and in person, last call for those easily offended by profanity and (my)truth, to stop reading, now. Once you start you cannot stop, at least that is what Al told me as he proceeded to give me a sexuality I did not ask for, so I request that you, afford me the respect of finishing what you have started, also. Still reading? Well then, let us begin.
1961 – 1971
What the fuck do you know about who I am, where I come from, what I have survived, endured, been subjected to, and as you so quaintly put it with your patronizing pats on the head, overcome? Where the fuck were you when I was six years old, and in the name of liberation, the Soviet Union rolled their tanks into my home land, onto my street, forcing my family to flee our home under the darkness of night, and a threat of murder to my conscientiously objecting father, with his delusional hopes of democracy and a better life in this country? Where were you when I cried for my grandmothers arms? Where on earth were you when I cried because I lived in terror that they would find him; and where the fuck were you when he died, under extremely curious circumstances, 12 days before my 10th birthday?
Where were you when they came to tell my mom that he was dead, and where the fuck were you when she went down to the basement to find his hunting rifle, so that she could take us all out? So immense was her grief that it seemed possible to kill herself and her children, so immense was ours that we wouldn’t have cared. Where the fuck, were you then, hmmm? Not beside her, not with my brother and me, I did not see you, because you were not there.
Where the fuck were you when she struggled to give us a future without him, bereft of any financial or emotional support, in a culture that belittled her for not understanding their language and corrected her when she (mis)spoke it with an accent? The $8000 that the mine paid her for ‘his accident,’ barely covered a funeral, and unfortunately she could not have understood, that the conditions of payment included that we leave sleeping dogs, or rather, my dead father, lie. Where were you then? Where were you when she realized she was trapped here, for to go back meant that she would be imprisoned and her children would end up… where? Not with you, I did not see you, for you were not there.
1972 – 1981
Where the fuck were you when they taunted me for my ‘uniqueness’ at school, and the pain was so great that I had to leave the only thing I ever thought I was good at, or die? And where were you when 32-year-old Al plied 13-year-old-me with wine, and obviously lost his grasp of the words NO and STOP in the English language, proceeded to teach me a lesson by helping himself to my virginity? And where the fuck were you when 30-something Ed, upstanding attorney, fed 14-year-old-me MDA and told me as I lay paralyzed on the shag carpet, that a body like mine was made for fucking, while his drunken wife lay passed out upstairs, and I dared not scream for fear of traumatizing the children I babysat (theirs), in the fucking hell house I lived in with them, because my mom’s ex, Reg, had set our place on fire, because she booted him out for being an abusive asshole, and we were fucking homeless? And where were you that summer when the one person in my life I thought I could trust, decided to get a sex education on my body?
Where the fuck were you when 36-year-old-Jeff W., limo-driver to the stars, thought that it was a good idea to have 14-year-old-me as a girlfriend and tell everyone that he was fucking me and my mother, while he fucked every stripper at Circus-Circus? Where were you when my choices were limited to staying there or moving in with 17-year-old-Jeff L., who sold dope for a living and thought it would be a good idea if 15-year-old-me got pregnant and we could play house? And where were you when I consented to the sexual proclivities he forced upon my body and soul, by drowning it out with lethal quantities of alcohol?
Where the fuck, were you when Doug left me pregnant in Vancouver at 17 because I wasn’t the right of kind of girl to settle down with and take home to his upstanding parents in Alberta?
Where were you when 33-year-old Lu, wealthy upstanding business man and hobby-pimp, turned me out with promises of riches and eternal love, and then threw me out because now, at 18, I was dirty and all used up?
Where were you when Shane introduced me to cocaine and a needle, and where the fuck, were you when I realized, that it would save my life for a while? Where were you when his fist broke my nose because I wouldn’t sell my ass to buy his dope any-more, and where were you when I chose to sell it so that I would have a choice in the matter? Where the fuck were you when I left my home to get the fuck away from him, and where were you when I ran all the way to Switzerland so that he wouldn’t find me?
Where the fuck were you when RK, the man I married so that I wouldn’t have to go back to Canada, held me hostage with promises of eternal love, a permit to stay in the country, and by beating the remaining soul out of me for 3 years? Where were you when the police brought me, black and blue from head to toe, to my mother’s house and begged her not let me go back, and where the fuck were you when he dragged me back, again and again, because legally, financially, and emotionally I had no-where else left to go? Where were you when I escaped from my home, to have nowhere to go because he had all my money?
1982 – 1993
Where were you when I desperately needed to believe Honza, Alois, Francis, Jano, René, so many more, when they told me that they would love me forever, only to take my money, fuck me and walk away? Where the fuck, were you when Jano picked up where Shane and RK left off, because I wouldn’t provide him with refuge when he got out of jail?
Where were you when George promised that he was not like them, and then cracked my head open while our baby lay in the next room, and where were you when he broke my nose, because I stood up to him? Where the fuck were you when I was detoxing in a bug house in Switzerland because he spent our health insurance money on his friends, and where were you when I had to come home to a house full of drunks and alcohol to try and stay sober, and couldn’t? And where were you when it started to eat my body and I had to be hospitalized for the DTs so I wouldn’t die? And where on earth were you when I was so tired that I lay down on my kitchen floor to die? Where were you when the benzos and booze wore off and I awoke to the horror that I was still alive? I did not see you, for still, you were not there.
1994 – 1997
Where were you when I left my home, and brought my baby back to Canada to get away from him/them/it, to be told by the Welfare man and my own family that I need to get over it because, really, it hasn’t been so bad? Where were you when I walked into my new Dr.’s office armed with a letter from a Swiss Dr. who got it, got me, only to walk out knowing that the new one didn’t, armed with a head full of pathology, and a pocketful of prescriptions for the next phase of my healing?
Where the fuck were you when joining my old best friends alcohol and pills, food became my new best friend, and I lost any remaining vestige of identity or self-worth (my body and my looks) in 70 pounds of fat? And where the fuck were you when Bobby and his magic crack pipe seemed like a good idea because at least I wasn’t sticking it in my arm, and at least I wouldn’t be fat any-more and feel like (more) shit? Where the fuck were you when the pit of despair and self-loathing became so deep that when Dwight showed up with the needle, I welcomed my oldest, truest, best and most loyal friend, and the only question that remained, was how was I going to do this and not lose my mind and my child? Where were you when those losses became inevitable, and I was told to take care of 3 decades of violence and trauma, in 30 days or else; and a piece of shit like me chose the streets of this city over willingness to change, and my own kid?
Where were you when I walked 66 blocks in the rain, weighing 72 lbs, wanting to live, despite you, and got 6 weeks of treatment that endeavoured to cure me of my disease, and ease my pain by opening the can of worms that held decades of violence, abuse and you-inflicted self-hatred, self-doubt, shame, guilt, blame, but forgot to show me how to put the fucking lid back on, when the worms turned into snakes, which then slithered out and began to eat my soul, again.
Where the fuck were you when the people who were looking after my child while I cleaned up my mess, told me, and him, how fucked up and sick I was? And where were you when despite all of the systems that tried to help me, I got him back, to be left alone in it? I still did not see you, for still, you were not there.
1998 – Present
And where the fuck, were you when I asked for help, to be told that I’ve had enough help, and to pull up my boot-straps? And was it you that cut my boot-straps off every time I tried to pull them up, and then just took the fucking boots right off my feet? No, I didn’t think so, because still, you were not there!
Where the fuck were you when I went out barefoot to get somewhere, and the Feds decided that I can’t have student loans and the scholarship I worked my ass off for, threw nails under my bleeding feet and raped me again by cutting me off until I paid it back??? Where were you for the next two years while I waged a war against them, to win, at a personal cost beyond these pages, and very likely, your capacity for understanding?
The Next Point
Your Assumptions: Cleverly Defined as my Defectiveness
I will take your lead and assume, that by now you have surely recognized my negative, self- and other-harming pattern(s), including attraction to, unwillingness to let go of, or comfort with, abusive males. Well let me enlighten you Einstein: Not one of them, not a single one, introduced himself to me with; ‘Hey baby, come on out with me, and in a few days, weeks, months, I’m going to start tearing you down, piece by piece, very methodically, under the guise of my charm and attention, so that by the time I’ve gotten to punching your ugly fucking face in, you won’t know what hit you.’ Not one of them, not a single one, asked me how I would enjoy having my head kicked in, my nose, my jaw, my arms and ribs broken, my vagina, my anus and my throat, violated with their penis, and mostly, my spirit crushed with their love, on the day that I met them, the week after, or even a month later. No, they were very charming, attentive, charismatic, kind to my family, and full of promises for a bright and happy future. This then, is what I was attracted to. Wouldn’t you be? My mistakes were obvious, my mistakes were craving love, and believing them when they told, and showed me, that they had some to give. I am quite certain that you would have been more astute, and figured it out; because you are not ‘a woman like me,’ you do not attract losers. Back to me though, because clearly; I am the one who is fucked up and defective. You keep telling me so, it must be true.
Has it occurred to you, genius, that the so called losers are the ones who end up back in the dating pool because smart women don’t let the good ones go, or did you convince yourself that you have to explain my behaviour and responses by convincing me, and you, that I can’t handle a nice guy? That I am stuck in a comfort zone, that I am a creature of habit and patterns? Have you ever asked yourself how comfortable abuse and violence really are? I invite you to invite it into your very own living room today, and take them for a test drive; comfy? I didn’t think so.
Have you for a moment considered the options for women and children who are trying desperately to survive and/or leave abusive partners, parents, husbands, siblings, friends, room-mates, uncles, cousin, and did you know that research and statistics exist to prove that more women are murdered by their former abuser after they leave? Or do you actually give enough of a fuck to ask yourself these things, because after all, it is much simpler to hang onto your comfort zone of putting me and everyone like me, in a stereotypical box of your making, than to critically examine your culpability in our misery?
The Big Question: Part Two
My Very Own Personal War: Cleverly Disguised as Your Spectator Sport
Where the fuck, were you all of the times I tried to get out and had nowhere to go, and no money to get there? Where the fuck, were you when my choices, were welfare, minimum wage, selling my ass, selling dope, and selling my soul? I didn’t see you there when I made the silly, silly choice of staying home to raise my child, instead of pursuing a career so that I would have better choices when I finally did escape.
Were you sitting pretty on your judgment and assumption throne, condemning my survival responses to acts of deviance, self-harm, maladaptive behaviours and a host of other pathologies; an observer of my very own, personal war against violence and oppression? Were you cheering me on from the spectator seats of your world when my response was correct in your view, through the lens of your life, and did you self-righteously critique my performance, when it wasn’t?
And where the fuck are you now, that the system I have used for years to survive, in 12 easy steps, has turned on me by joining you in a refrain, which tells me that my character is defective, that I am self-centered to the core, and that I gave you my power. Let me set the record straight: I NEVER gave you, or any of them, my power, every one of them, every single one, decided they were entitled to it, as did you. Where are you now that I have no-where to go? Are you watching me flail, again?
The Revelation of Truth
I Know Where You Live
There you are; I finally found you! I see you up there in the bleachers; it must be you because I have never seen you come down to my very own, personal, front-line, to ask what happened, how I got there, to get some fucking context! Oh but forgive me, for I have forgotten that you already knew all about me, you decided who I was, and what I was all about, and all of this, based on an interaction that is comparable to buying Sushi at the Great Canadian Grocery Store, and becoming an authority on Japanese cuisine, culture, norms, customs, geography, and how these things interconnect and work together. It is apparent that you are that insightful and wise, or perhaps just smarter than the rest of us, but especially, smarter than an abuse-attracting-junkie-whore like me!
The Final Point
Me: Cleverly Disguised as a You!
There you were then, and here you are now. I see you, you’ve been circling my war zone for a long time now, and you didn’t even notice when my war zone became the life you lead: the College, the University, the work place, the grocery store, the park… The spaces inhabited by normal people like you. I’ve invaded your territory now, and you can’t point the junkie-whore finger at me without 3 fingers pointing back at you; and without a damn good fight from my corner. You cannot know me without hearing my truth, and that is worrisome for you. For it makes you part of my world, and could mean that you have a part in my suffering. This is disturbing.
So, you make the next assumption: an assertive woman like me can take your shit, so now you vacillate between shovelling it onto my back and telling me how strong I am for taking it, or subtly ingratiating me with it, through passive-aggressive sarcasm and thinly veiled as snippets of humour, cleverly designed to take me back down to where you think I really belong. After all; who the fuck am I to tell you, that who you think I am, is so far off base it left the fucking country? Are you shutting down because my anger feels unsafe, is it threatening to you, does it hurt to feel attacked?
Don’t be silly, you shouldn’t feel that way, I can’t make you feel, and you are not like me! This is worrisome, but I finally know for certain where you were, and more importantly, I know for certain where you are now. Peek-a-Boo, I see you! Know that I will keep you closer than my friends; for my hard-won victory has come from understanding, from knowing, that you do not know. I know where you live. But please do not fear me, for I aspire to live by a principle that could be foreign to you. I will continue to live by an ethic of love (hooks, 2000), and in so doing, endeavour to do you, and me, no harm.
My Victory: Cleverly Disguised as a Way to Oppress Others
I am sad, for my victory feels hollow when you use me as a poster-child for overcoming hardship and struggle, and throw me into the face of those who are where I have been, without taking their context into account, without asking yourself where was I when…, and what do I really know about what happened…, what would it be like if that happened to me?
I am not the template, I am not the norm, and though many have prevailed, too many continue to writhe in a pain that appears to be beyond you, for if you do not see the barriers that are blatantly visible, how can I ever hope to motivate you to look at the ones that are not? Too many have died, and too many will, unless you become open to the idea that what you think, don’t think, do, don’t do, say, and don’t say; matters in someone’s life. It mattered in mine, and still does, but only to the extent that I allow you in. Don’t forget, I know where you are now, because, contrary to what you have decided about whom and what I am, I know now, who I have always been. I also know your modus operandi, for it is the same as mine: survival(?). But, mine includes love, does yours?
The Last Word
For those who have in the past, continue to, or presently, love me unconditionally, those who don’t simply tolerate my uniqueness, my disparity, my tattoos, my passion, my anger, my hurt, my humanity; in the spirit of bell hooks, thank you, because it is, ‘All About Love.’
And for those who surely mean(t) well, but harm(ed) more than help(ed), I owned my part a long time ago, made my amends, continue to live in a way that does not generally require too many new ones, and have said sorry to you, too many times. I am truly sorry, that many of you, to this day, do not know who you are, that you are oblivious to the fact that my pain and that of many others, is, wrapped up in your words and actions, and yours, are wrapped up in mine. It is my sincerest hope that one day, you recognize me, in you. So; in the words of Lilla Watson; “If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting our time. But if you come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin.”
hooks, bell. (2000). All About Love, New Visions
Lilla Watson, Australian AboriginalWomen’s leader
Lorde, A. (1984). Sister Outsider: Uses of Anger. Berkeley: Crossing Press
Med Help http://www.medhelp.org/health_pages/Mental+Health/Know-Your-Code—Acronyms/show/4?cid=60 retrieved December 06, 2008