tw: mentions rape and abuse
Fergana Valley. Cross road between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan & Tajikistan.
I woke up with a headache today.
I rarely have them but today it felt throbbing, like a raging, erratic pulse against my temples. I’m about two months into a pretty horrifying experience. At first I thought complaining would be uncouth because since I was a child I always opted for the happier narrative and maybe that’s why I’m still here… because I could wield magic and mystery out of pretty shit things. Maybe that’s why I’m a storyteller, I’ve needed my own to save my life. Survival takes a wild imagination.
I’ve been two months into a legal process over Who Is Wellness For? because I name my abuser and you know… that’s defamation. Every step of this path I’ve cried, but I’ve continued with a resolve, frankly, I didn’t know I had. Yet, through it all, I’ve wondered: why the fuck am I doing this? Is this fight worth it?
I used to feel really angry that throughout my life I’ve perpetually felt let down by others. Like it’s hard for me to rely on people because when I finally do I feel like the rug is pulled out from underneath me. I’m trying to reframe this and hold the relationships that do nurture me as evidence that I’m loved… but whenever it happens again, this pattern, it takes me back to the wound. It took me 3 years to realize I didn’t fully trust my therapist, I didn’t really believe that she had any real investment in me, so though I went to every session, and even opened up and had deep experiences… I always felt like one day she’d discard me. I feel this way about a lot of people. I often get thrown under the bus because people don’t actually realize how sensitive I am and that how I cope with this big scary life that I’ve been given is by not being in the world, completely. I exist oustide of it.
On March 11th I went on my first vacation of my life (technical second, but the first one was from NY to LA, so you know it doesn’t count) because previously I didn’t have money and I couldn’t justify a holiday. Yes can you tell I’m a traumatized child of immigrants who also happens to be a Capricorn... so it all comes back to productivity and value. Guilty. Besides, I wanted a real vacation (code: I wanted fancy meals and nice sheets) so it was just never an option. Anyway, I’m finally able to afford one, the timing is just right, and on the plane minutes before takeoff I realize I have an email from my book agent. In the email it explains that my UK publisher has decided that because they don’t have sufficient evidence to protect me if I’m sued, they will no longer be publishing my book. This is after a pretty lengthy and arduous journey of being legally hazed.
The series of events are so absurd, like an Almódovar movie, that I am left feeling completely numb on a plane to a vacation I no longer want to go on. I could barely move the whole flight. I felt broken, shattered in two and ugly cried in my mask in the bathroom so I could just let out the feelings of abandonment and betrayal that were wrapped around my throat. Thankfully I was saved by the film Limbo by Ben Sharrock, and consequelty laughed and sobbed at the injustice and comedy of the world the whole plane ride. But there has been no real consolation for this pain. There has been nothing to make me feel less discarded. It’ just a reality I’ve had to accept.
One of my beloveds, Zeba, who has been a phenomal rock for me at this time, told me to watch Rising Phoenix, the Evan Rachel Wood documentary about Marilyn Manson, last week. If you didn’t know, Wood has named Manson as her abuser who tortured and raped her for years, and groomed her to be his plaything is his sick dark twisted fantasy. Men make art about hating women and then when women come out and say something… people don’t believe them. Can you imagine? I can’t believe Manson made us think he was deep when this pathetic exhibitionist only wanted fame to become the sadist he glorifies in his head. The narrative he has created of “Marilyn Manson” is clearly an avatar birthed to support the monstrosity he feels himself to be. Imagine if more men… I don’t know… sought therapy rather than create alteregos that only support the sadness they can’t feel and nor express. Also, the height of power for so many men seems to be owning others (usually women) as slaves to fuck and conquer and debase. How fucking embarassing.
It’s pretty wild, also, that this man has on camera said he’s going to kill Wood, and legions of people think she was asking for everything she experienced, even though she was just 18 when she was taken by this man. It’s pretty crazy to witness how much people hate women. Grooming is an important word and one that isn’t given enough explanation in the genesis and cultivation of violence and abuse against another. In fact I would say grooming is the most important part, because this is where you are convinced into believing (because they tell you so again and again) that you deserve exactly what’s coming for you. Grooming is the process where you are forced to believe lies about yourself, about the situation, that inevitably makes you stay in the darkness and not trust what you know your body is telling you.
A few days ago I was told that my US publisher is doubling down after the UK’s decision and that they need consent from certain members of my family that they previously didn’t. The book goes into print next week. So I’ve been given the rushed assignment (literally they gave me 4 days that was extended to a week) of breaking up my family by asking them to consent to a book they’d much rather not think about. It’s always been life or death for me, there was never any middle ground. So much has felt unsafe for so long and in order to live I can’t keep dwelling in uncertainty.
As God always does, God spoke to me, a day after I completely shut down once I received this news. I kept thinking of the Bengali lawyer who represented my UK publisher and how she kept asking, “Aren’t you afraid what the community will think?” Can you imagine? Every single person I’ve worked with in this process of making this book is either failing me or has failed me and it’s dawning on me now how little people truly care about survivors. And how little they know what to actually do with us. But God spoke to me, and reminded me that this is my path. My therapist recently reminded me that I am Diana, the goddess that protects the poor and fights for justice. My entire life has been dedicated to this end. It’s not going to stop now. I’m fighting for something so much bigger than me.
What does it mean to be believed when you won’t protect me? What the fuck do I care about being believed if you’re sticking a knife through my back and cutting off my oxygen as you tell me you believe me. The censorship, the silencing, is real and it is horrific. And here’s the gag: every single person I’ve worked with on this book has been a woman. My own abuser is a woman, so when are we actually going to talk about these things? When are we going to take accountability for ourselves, and each other? Throughout this process nobody on my team has checked in to ask me how I’m doing, almost two months of this shit… and even in the process of writing this book no-one ever checked into say, “Hey, this is heavy, are you OK?” What does it mean to believe women when you don’t even have the human decency to not treat us like commodities? I’ve never felt more dehumanized in my life. The things people will do for capitalism, the things people will defend because “It’s the way things are.”
I have been astounded, but I’m observing everything.
I’m lucid and I’m taking notes.
The care I need is so simple and I now gravitate toward the relationships that can hold all of me, all this, and just let me be. Relationships where I don’t need to decode myself. Let me disappear, let me be playful, let me be blunt. I just want to be loved for who I am, but so many people want me, need me, to be something for them without considering what I need in the equation of the friendship…. and I’m totally moving away from that kind of dynamic. The most astounding part of all of this is that my spirit is intact but I think it’s because I’m listening to my needs, first. Because this ordeal has really shown me that no-one will prioritize me, not even my own team that I pay, who make money off of me, and that what I need to do for my own self care is be conscious and cognizant of my needs at all times and name them. Now I pay attention to who has patience for my needs, because the truth is, I always have patience for other’s. Even stranger’s. I just am that person. I’m naming that as well. I’m naming all my gifts more and more, at the very least to myself, because who else will, if I don’t?
Last night I taught a spring solstice class for some of my former writing students. It was deeply intimate and I realized how extraordinary it is that amongst so much unsafety of my life, with little-to-no support, I’ve been able to create such strong and ardent connections with people who really see me, and who I really see. That there are all these extraordinary, brilliant other writers that I get to spend time with, and who all feel I have wisdom to share. I’m so used to being extracted from that healthy relationships where I’m not being fed off of is still a new and exciting thing, so it’s helped me ensure my boundaries in a way that feels safe. I’m grateful for all those who have been holding me through this and not needing anything from me. The friends that want to nourish me without any expectation because they trust we are in a symbiotic relationship. These things have been necessary.
I need so much love and the beauty is that my heart is so open and full to recieve it. That’s all I want, it’s all I’m hungry for, other people’s kindness and care. It’s incredible that I’m not shutting down against others, that I’m still seeking joy and laughter, while still naming the pain, the grief. I’m allowing myself to move through it like waves and I’m asking for what I need… and moving towards those who can give it to me, freely, without condition. I’m letting go of the people who are not showing up, or can’t, and trusting that if a relationship is meant to be it will come back around. I think that’s the biggest thing that’s changed for me in these last few months… I no longer resent the aloneness of my specific journey. I’m accepting it’s taking me exactly where I need to be and that through the process I’m becoming myself everyday.
So I watch comedy. Stand up is life—I crave stand up and comedy the most because I need to laugh. The times are dark, but there’s comedy abound. There’s something actually about being in a dark room, with others, and sharing in a moment of a laughter so full that it shakes the audience into a sputtering hysteria. Feeling emotions, being with them, like the rollercoaster that they are, has been a strange awakening. I allow myself to disassociate (this week in my writing class we were discussing the sometimes necessity of disassocation, plot twist) but I always come back to myself. I come back to myself because I am lucky to trust, and to know, that I am safe in my own body. I come back to myself because I am worth returning back to.
I would really appreciate your support by pre-ordering Who Is Wellness For? The only solace I get for this fight is the hope that this book will reach many. Please ask your local bookstores and libraries to get the book and ask your universities to bring me in so I can speak. I will not be silenced. Also please become a paid subscriber to this newsletter (the button below) it really, really helps me make the work I need to make. Thank you for your support.