A Response To Countless Online Comments

Dear stranger on the internet,

You don’t know me, but I saw what you wrote about me today.
You wrote that you believe somebody should take me from my home against my will and lock me away, solely because I have a health condition.
You weren’t writing about me personally. It was much worse than that. You were writing about an entire group of people that I happen to be a part of. This group of people is estimated to include roughly 1 out of every 5 people in the United States, if not more.
You wrote this because you read an article about a man who did something terrible, and that man may have had a mental health condition. You seem to believe that mental health conditions cause violence, but that’s not true.

I don’t have much to say to you, but I wanted you to know that I saw what you wrote. I wanted to let you know that every time you say something like this, someone like me probably hears you. I wanted you to realize that this group of people you believe should be imprisoned almost certainly includes some of your friends, coworkers, and loved ones.

I hope someday you change your belief. I hope someday people like me can live freely, without having to fear being put on lists or locked up or forcibly drugged because of your fears. I hope someday we can talk openly about our health conditions without risking the loss of friends, employment, or educational opportunity. I hope someday we can all seek and have access to any and all the healthcare we might need, without having to worry about what kind of stigma might come with it.

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Words About Nothing

Content warning: Depression, references to self injury. If you are viewing this page on a desktop, you should be able to see a little worm on a hook to the left (with the current theme, at time of posting). If you continue reading and reach content which you find distressing, clicking the worm will take you back to the top of the page.

I used to write all the time.

I’ve never really been good at it, but sometimes it feels like the only thing keeping me alive.

I feel like writing the most when my depression is at its worst, but the more depressed I am the more I hate what I write. It feels impossible to write anything about being depressed and miserable without sounding completely cliche. What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times by the hundreds upon hundreds of depressed writers who have already tried to capture this dark beast and pin it to paper?

I have to remind myself that I’m writing for myself, not an audience. I’m writing because it keeps my mind moving from one line to the next. It keeps me breathing, keeps me from falling into the pit of misery in the back of my mind, keeps me from giving in to the urge to drink myself to sleep or start cutting again. I haven’t cut myself in years, but I think about it from time to time. I’m thinking about it now, and if I’m honest with myself, I never really stopped the behavior entirely. I just replaced with more subtle ways of injuring myself. The behavior that started before the cutting – this frantic scratching, like I’m trying to claw my way out of my own skin, which leaves red oozing patches that turn into scars that look more like birth marks than old wounds – decreased in frequency but never stopped. It was never a controlled behavior; I never quite managed to take control of it enough to make it stop.

I don’t really have anything to say. I don’t have anything to write about. I’m just typing. It’s just words. I’m just moving across the screen because I don’t have the energy to move myself across the room, let alone out of the house. There are things I could be doing to help myself, I know, but I just don’t have the energy. I don’t have the will. It’s better to be writing it out than doing nothing, though. At least it’s something, some kind of thought, some sort of motion. Maybe it will help me build some kind of momentum, get me close enough to the edge of the hole I’ve fallen into to start clawing my way back out.

Depression is a pit. It’s a pit filled with nothingness. I can fill a page with words, I can spell them correctly and arrange them properly and use words that have richness and texture to them but the more substantial my writing is the less true it becomes, because depression isn’t a novel full of heaviness and misery. Depression is a book made of blank page after blank page. It’s less the presence of something awful, and more the absence of every good and beautiful thing. It’s emptiness, and filling a page with words about it isn’t as true as that empty page. It’s nothingness, and all the words for nothingness are less descriptive than no words at all.

Just imagine this is a blank screen that would take you weeks, maybe months, of scrolling to reach its end. That’s all this really is, and that would be a much better depiction of this thing I’m trying to describe. Just imagine all that nothingness, because it would be truer than all these words about nothing.

That’s all this really is. Words about nothing.

Nothing.

Depression through the year

Content warning: descriptions of depression symptoms, including references to suicidal ideation. If you are viewing this page on a desktop, you should be able to see a little worm on a hook to the left (with the current theme, at time of posting). If you continue reading and reach content which you find distressing, clicking the worm will take you back to the top of the page.

Some things are constant, especially those symptoms which are more tangential to the depression itself: the nightmares, certain anxieties, and my susceptibility to stress triggers. Some things will always bring down my mood and make my depression flare up: drinking alcohol, altering my sleep habits, neglecting to eat regularly. There’s a certain rhythm to my depression overall, though; there’s a pattern to when different symptoms are most likely to occur. It doesn’t come and go seasonally (it’s MDD, not SAD) but it does change with the seasons.

I always expect summer to be easier. I tell myself every year that the sun and the warmth will make me feel better. It’ll be easier to get out, and I’ll be more active, and it’ll be fun, and I won’t feel so depressed if I’m out doing things, right? It’s a lie and I know it, but it’s a lie I feed myself every year, and the denial rises up around me like steam as the summer gets hotter and more humid. The season carries with it the anniversaries of traumas, and as I approach them I find myself increasingly dissociated, and with increasing frequency, making the denial possible. I stop attributing things I know are symptoms to the depression, and start ignoring them – and it’s hard to practice self care when you’ve convinced you don’t need it. I become determined to feel something – anything – and it usually comes at the cost of my health. I stay up late, because it’s summer, even though I know my mood crashes if I don’t regulate my sleep habits. I drink, because it’s summer and we’re at a party, even though I know alcohol makes my depression flare up. I do any number of things I’m likely to regret,  because I’m so desperate to feel, even though I know the regret will cost me more than I can possibly gain in feel.

By the end of summer, I’m a sleep-deprived mess made up of questionable substances, poor nutrition, bad decisions and raw recklessness. I tell myself that summer wasn’t as great as I was hoping, but it’s okay; I’ll get back on track and this year will be better and I won’t make the same mistakes next summer. I realize months have gone by without my noticing so I get to work grounding myself, and as I get there I become aware of just how low my mood has really been. My physical health improves but I don’t really feel any better. If anything I actually feel how badly I felt all along; there’s a relief that I can feel at all, but at same time I feel worse. As the temperatures drop and winter creeps closer, dread because to rise up from somewhere inside that pit of feelings that I’d been avoiding. I hate winter – I hate the cold, I hate snow, I hate icy roads and frosted-over windows and frozen ground and the sounds of snow plows and cracking trees – and knowing that it’s approaching weakens my determination to fight off the depression I’d just finally stopped denying.

Then winter comes, and I stop fighting all together. I stop caring at all. The denial and desperation freeze over like the lakes and rivers around me, and all that’s left is numbness. I know the terrible feelings are still there, a little ways below the surface, but I don’t care. I can’t feel them. I can’t feel anything. The depression is always there, but winter is when I’m most prone to giving in to it. I sleep constantly, eat rarely, and have more of a struggle doing basic things like showering and laundry and dishes. I’m always depressed, but in the winter I look depressed, and in the winter I don’t care that I’m depressed. I’m frozen in place – cold, but calm. The numbness gets me through the holiday season; I want to enjoy the holidays, but being presentable is exhausting and if I’m not presentable I’m constantly reminded that I’m surrounded by people who try to love me but don’t know how to do it unconditionally. At least I don’t really feel it, no matter how it plays out.

Winter is when I look the worst, but the beginning of spring is really when my depression is really the most dangerous. When spring comes and I start thawing, feelings start bubbling up to the surface and create chaos. I start having thoughts again – most of them dark and shame filled. I realize I’ve just spent the last several months doing nothing, and the thoughts creep in. “You’re a waste of resources, a burden on the people you love and the world around you,” my depression whispers. “Your house is disgusting and you can’t even shower regularly, how do you expect to do anything with your life?” it grumbles. “It is never going to get better” becomes my depression’s catch phrase of choice, echoing in my head until I believe it – and once I start believing it, the thoughts of suicide take over. They continue until the temperature is staying steadily above freezing and the birds are back, and then they give way to strange, vaguely paranoid ideas. I think I’m being spied on, controlled, lied to. I start believing that everyone I interact with must despise me as much as I despise myself. I imagine leaving my entire life behind and starting from scratch, as if abandoning my life would somehow erase my past. The franticness of my thoughts rises with the temperatures until summer hits, when I begin dissociating from my wild thoughts and become preoccupied chasing anything that might break up the numbness.

This time of year, where fall is beginning to fade and winter is getting close, is weird for me. I still experiencing my fall bout of low mood and emotional distress, but my rapidly vanishing energy and the way household tasks are piling up tells me the numbness will be coming on soon. I’m trying to pep talk myself into doing something – anything – in the hopes that I’ll be able to build up enough momentum to get a few more things done and taken care of before winter really gets here, but it’s not really working. I’m close enough to my winter phase to lack motivation, but still enough in my fall phase to hate myself for it. I’m dreading the cold and the increasing snowfall, but in a way I’m looking forward to the numbness. Right now I’m feeling hopeless, and in many ways being hopeless is a lot more painful and more dangerous than being numb.

Reminder: It’s Not About Mental Illness.

An overwhelmingly common reaction to violent tragedies, especially mass shootings, is to blame mental illness. There is an apparent belief that mental illness causes violence, and as a result conversations about the causes of violence and ways to prevent it end up centering on mental health care. There is a very big problem with this: mental illness does not cause violence, and perpetuating the myth that it does is actively harmful to people with mental health conditions.

Many people believe it is only possible to do such a thing if you are mentally ill. Committing violence, according to them, by definition makes you “insane.” However, mental illnesses are not defined by singular actions – they are actual real illnesses. We can observe their effects on levels of biochemicals. We can see evidence of them on brain scans. They are tangibly, physically real and are not just behaviors or thoughts. Furthermore, not everyone who commits a terrible atrocity has one of these illnesses; the overwhelming majority of violent crimes are committed by people who are not mentally ill, and the overwhelming majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent and are not any more likely than anyone else to commit a violent act.

Can mental health problems play a role in things like this? Sure. Do we need better, more accessible mental health care? Absolutely. Do mental health conditions cause acts of violence? Nope.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I explain that mentally ill people are far more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators, or that the majority of people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than people without mental illnesses, or that the vast majority of people who are violent do not have a mental illness, or how much evidence I provide; many of the people I know still insist that mental illness is to blame. When I try to talk about how untrue this is and how hurtful it is to me personally, I’m often told that I’m “being too sensitive” and am generally dismissed. At times like this it often feels like people see me as less than fully human, or think that I am a violent outburst waiting to happen – just because I have an illness – and over the course of these discussions, I often hear suggestions that mentally ill people should be locked up, forcibly medicated, put on lists, or forbidden from having children (hi thereeugenics), and I find myself feeling not only emotionally wounded but deeply afraid for my own freedom.

On top of being hurt emotionally, I’m frustrated by the way blaming mental illness for violence in society seems to be somewhat disingenuous and little more than scapegoating. Assuming they were being sincere, you would expect people to follow up blaming such violence on mental illness with demands for better and more accessible mental health care – which we desperately need, and I would be thrilled to see happen – but nothing seems to happen after the finger has been pointed. While organizations and politicians are busy blaming mental illness for crime and violence, mental health care remains unafforablebudgets are often reducedclinics are often closed, and patients are often dumped – and this is hardly acknowledged when the next tragedy occurs and the finger pointing begins again. The people who are quick to blame mental illness for violence are usually nowhere to be found between tragedies and show very little interest in funding treatment or research, engaging in mental health advocacy and activism, or volunteering for mental health related organizations or treatment facilities. Honestly, they rarely seem interested in even showing care and support for the mentally ill people in their own lives.

It also disturbs me that it would be so easy for so many people to dismiss my second amendment rights while fervently defending those rights for themselves; if you are willing to say the second amendment doesn’t apply to me, what other constitutional rights and legal protections would you be willing to deny me? This especially troubles me because one of the primary arguments against gun control is the use of firearms for self defense – and mentally ill people are exponentially more likely than the general population to be the victims of crimes. The need to defend ourselves, in addition to the fear of being stigmatized or forcibly hospitalized, is another reason why mentally ill people may be further discouraged from seeking treatment by this rhetoric (and any laws based based on this premise) – especially when you consider that police often do not believe mentally ill people when they report crimes and frequently end up shooting the mentally ill people they come into contact with, especially if they are in crisis. I wholeheartedly believe it is possible to create reasonable regulations on gun ownership which may consider mental health status, but if we are going to discuss preventing mentally ill people from owning firearms we need to avoid making sweeping, stigmatizing generalizations, and we need to have this conversation with care. These other problems must be effectively addressed, we should be extremely careful about the precedents we set in the process, and we need to be aware that such restrictions will not solve the problem of gun violence in general.

Facing the reality that people who are not mentally ill, people who are largely “normal,” are capable of extreme violence can be difficult, but we need to face that truth. It can be comforting to believe that, with the exception of mental illness, humans are rational creatures – but we’re not. It can be frightening for people who do not have a mental health condition to imagine experiencing things typically associated with mental illness, like hallucinations – but many do – and those experiences do not make them dangerous or violent either.  Believing in a wall that clearly separates “crazy” from “not crazy,” and then blaming the people on the “crazy” side for violence, makes violence seem predictable and makes possible solutions to such violence seem rather simple (although often horrible), and this can restore the feeling of order and sense in the universe which extreme violence steals from us – but this is an entirely false sense of security. Tearing down that wall means giving up these inaccurate beliefs, accepting that you too may be more “crazy” than you’d like to admit, recognizing that that all people (not just mentally ill people) have some capacity for violence and that mental illness is not a sufficient explanation, and then considering new possible solutions – and that can be overwhelming, but it is the crucial first step towards truly solving the problem of widespread violence.

The fact of the matter is that there is no one single cause of violence, the underlying causes of violence are complicated, and reducing violence is going to be a long-term challenge. There is not going to be a simple solution. But the good news is there are already people working on discovering and studying the factors which can lead to violence and preparing the way for possible solutions. Some of those factors include the “frustrated entitled,” “toxic masculinity,” exposure to violence, and substance abuse. As we let go of our misconceptions about the causes of violence and improve our understanding of factors which are currently contributing to violence improves, we will get better at mitigating their effects and protecting future generations from them, and violence will continue declining.

While we’re at, hopefully we can work on reducing the stigma around mental illness by ceasing to perpetuate myths about mental illness and violence as well as improving representations of mentally ill people in media, and we can improve our mental health care system and encourage and support people in seeking treatment.


[This post is a partially a mashup/rewrite of my previous posts, Yes All Women and Why I Avoid Social Media After Tragedies.]

Why I avoid social media after tragedies

I avoid my personal social media every time a mass murder happens, because the response of many people I know (and would prefer not to remove from my life, at least for now) is to widely blame mental illness, and being a person with mental health conditions, that reaction is very upsetting to me.

Do mental health problems play a role in things like this? Sure. Do we need better, more accessible mental health care? Absolutely. Do mental health conditions cause these things?
No, they do not.

Mental illness is not defined by singular actions. Somebody who violently harms another person is probably not psychologically well, but that does not necessarily mean they have a mental illness. To say that any psychological issue = mental illness is as inaccurate as saying any tumor = cancer.
Mental illnesses are actual real illnesses, caused by biochemical and neurological complications. We still need to do a lot more research to understand them, but we know that they are real, like any other illness. We can observe them in neurochemical processes. We can see them on brain scans. They are tangibly, physically real and are not just behaviors or thoughts – and not everyone who commits a terrible atrocity has one of these illnesses, and the overwhelming majority of people with mental health conditions are not violent and are statistically not any more likely than anyone else to commit a violent act.

Words like “psychopathic,” “psychotic,” “insane,” or even “crazy” mean things and have long, ugly histories of being used (or abused) to hurt and ignore people. It is hurtful to people who experience these things to use these words thoughtlessly, casually, and inaccurately. If you are not a mental health professional, you should not be armchair diagnosing people, because you are likely contributing to common misconceptions about these words and participating in stigmatizing these people.

There are things about myself that I am afraid to admit to people I know, especially online, because of the way these words are used. Some of the words that get thrown around are applicable to me and my health conditions. It makes me wonder what you think of me. It makes me wonder if you actually care about me. It makes me wonder if you actually see me as fully human, or if you respect me less just because I have an illness.

And when I try to explain this to people, I get spoken down to. I get ignored. I get told that I’m being too sensitive. It doesn’t matter if I explain why these things are inaccurate or I provide evidence of what I’m saying – I get dismissed and told that I simply have to accept these horrible generalizations. And I wonder if I would get ignored or spoken to the same way if people didn’t know that I have mental health issues.

People with mental health conditions are often vulnerable, and we are much, MUCH more likely to the victim of a crime than a perpetrator, as well as being more likely to be the victim of a crime than people without mental illnesses (especially since predatory people are generally aware that mentally ill people are exceptionally vulnerable and are generally distrusted and disbelieved by the wider population).
Some illnesses make people more sensitive to the subtle messages society feeds us. Some illnesses cause people to feel threatened at times when they are not actually in danger. Some illnesses make it very difficult for people to control their impulses. However, illnesses are not the sole cause for behaviors. Mental health problems do not exist in a vacuum, and mentally ill people are not defined solely by their illnesses. There are reasons a mentally ill person may feel endangered, there are reasons a mentally ill person may have a particular impulse, and there are reasons that some people with a given illness may behave in particular ways while another person with the same illness may not. For the most part, it’s no different than the way you will have different reactions and impulses and behaviors from the people around you.
We have agency and make choices, just like everyone else – for some people, those choices are just influenced in a different way. If the illness were to blame, we would expect these behaviors to be the same across the board for all people with the illness – but that’s not what happens; behaviors like violence follow the same patterns in mentally ill people that they do in people without mental illnesses.

If you are worried about the way mental health problems may impact things like crime and violence, focus on funding research and widening access to care while raising awareness on the needs of mentally ill people and educating people on how to be caring and supportive so that mentally ill people don’t have to be afraid of talking about their struggles and seeking help. Encourage people to listen, and understand, instead of fear and ignore.
Blaming every mass shooting or other atrocity on “the mentally ill” (as if we were a different species – extremely dehumanizing) accomplishes the very opposite of this. We like to pretend fear will motivate people to give money to causes and pass helpful legislation, but that’s not what happens. People aren’t inclined to help the people they fear. People are inclined to hide from and ignore – or worse, eliminate – the people that they fear. History has demonstrated this quite thoroughly. So if your concern is genuinely getting help to vulnerable people, stigmatizing us further by linking our existence with horrific events is not going to help your cause. It just makes the majority of other people feel justified in hating us and wanting to remove us from society.
If it’s more important to you to be able to blame “the mentally ill” than prevent the things you’re blaming us for (which would require BOTH actually doing things to help AND examining the cultural factors that may encourage violence), then I’m inclined to think you’re just scapegoating us so that you don’t have to reflect on other things that might contribute to people doing horrible things and your own role and responsibility in preventing violence, and maybe you should go do some soul searching.

Also, fun fact: Autism spectrum and developmental disorders are not the same thing as mental illnesses. Both relate to the brain, but are distinct. Calling them the same thing is like asthma and emphysema the same thing because they both affect the lungs.

P.S. If you think all mentally ill people should be ‘on a list’ or ‘locked up’ or ‘not allowed to have kids’ – this has been tried before, and fails every time, and is rooted in eugenics – and those are awful terrible horrible things to say and believe.

For information supporting the points made here, please see the links in the related paragraph in my post on #YesAllWomen.

Fear

I’m constantly afraid of hurting people.
I’m afraid of speaking because I’m afraid what I say is going to hurt someone.
When I do speak, I feel guilty and mull on it for hours (or days), thinking I must have said something wrong, wishing I could take it back.
When I don’t speak, I’m worried that my silence will be hurtful. I feel obligated to do whatever I can to help, and I know how much it hurts to feel alone.
I fear not saying enough words. I fear saying the wrong words.
I fear, all the time.

I tell myself that nobody’s perfect, that holding myself to a standard of perfectionism will always ultimately do more harm than good. I tell myself that we all have to take care of ourselves, and that I’m not forcing anyone to listen to me or spend time with me. I tell myself that I am doing the best I can, that I am in the process of healing, that I am having to learn things now that many people learned growing up and that this isn’t my fault. I tell myself that I am getting better and I just need to be patient with myself.
I tell myself all these things, but none of it works. None of it matters. I’m still afraid

I feel guilty for existing. I feel like a parasite, sucking up resources and giving back so little. I feel guilty for feeling badly when I am aware of how easy my life has been compared to so many. I am trying so hard to be better than the person I was taught to be, but I am overwhelmed. I have so much to learn, and I feel like I am doing so much damage day by day that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to learn enough to stop it. I’m sorry for so much, and then I’m sorry for being sorry, because why am I telling anyone that I;m sorry? Why am I not just being better?

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I just want to get better. I just want to talk.

I feel hurt by the stigma I constantly run into, but it hurts the most because I’ve internalized it. I know it isn’t true, but that doesn’t make me feel better. I know that it’s largely the depression talking, making it harder to cope with and address what I’m reacting to, but it doesn’t make me feel better. It doesn’t make me any less afraid.

I know to be loving to other people, you have to be loving to yourself.
I’m trying. I’m trying.
But I don’t.

I’ve been told how strong I am, how brave I am. I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel brave.
Just afraid.

Yes All Women

A couple days ago, I made a Twitter to see how I was getting traffic here from Twitter (thank you for your support, Homeschoolers Anonymous; it genuinely made me feel like my voice actually matters, and I deeply appreciate it).
I had no idea I would be actually using Twitter, let alone that I would be using it so much, so soon, while crying my eyes out the whole time.

I’m not very good at this limited character thing, so I figured I’d take a break to gather my thoughts.
By now, you should have heard about the shooting in Santa Barbara.

Most of what I think needs to be said most has already been said on The Belle Jar. I’d especially like to highlight:

“We don’t know if Elliot Rodger was mentally ill. We don’t know if he was a “madman.” We do know that he was desperately lonely and unhappy, and that the Men’s Rights Movement convinced him that his loneliness and unhappiness was intentionally caused by women. Because this is what the Men’s Rights Movement does: it spreads misogyny, it spreads violence, and most of all it spreads a sense of entitlement towards women’s bodies. Pretending that this is the a rare act perpetrated by a “crazy” person is disingenuous and also does nothing to address the threat of violence that women face every day. We can’t just write this one off – we need to talk about all of the fucked up parts of our culture, especially the movements that teach men that they have the right to dominate and intimidate and violate women, that lead to this, and we need to change things. Because if we don’t, I guarantee that this will happen again. And again. And again.”

I’ve learned over the last year to avoid Facebook in the wake of these tragedies, because an overwhelming amount of people respond by immediately blaming mental illness. You see, according to some of these people, it is only possible to do such a thing if you are mentally ill. Committing violence, according to them, by definition makes you “insane.”
Look, I can’t actually explain how wrong and completely untrue that is right now. I just can’t even.  Maybe in a future post, but for now, I just want to say that it hurts. It hurts so much to see things like that and be left to wonder if these people, people I admire and people I care about and people I thought loved me, think that I am just violent outburst waiting to happen, just because I have an illness. It doesn’t matter how many times I explain that mentally ill people are far more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators, or that the majority of people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than people without mental illnesses, or that the vast majority of people who are violent do not have a mental illness. It doesn’t seem to matter how much evidence I provide; they still insist that mental illness is blame. Then they suggest that mentally ill people should be locked up, or put on lists, or forbidden from having children (eugenics much?), and I find myself feeling not only emotionally wounded but deeply afraid for my own freedom.

I had already had kind of a rough day. You see, I got these text messages – the guy said it was a “wrong number,” but then kept texting because he was “bored, waiting for a friend.” Maybe this is weird, but I’ve actually had quite a few conversations with “wrong numbers,” so I didn’t really think too much of it and kept texting. Unsurprisingly, after revealing my first name (which is an extremely common woman’s name), he asked for “pics.” Not in the mood to attempt to educate a stranger on how this sort of thing can make people extremely uncomfortable, I simply politely declined and expected the conversation to end. Instead, he asked if I “wanted to make some money” and then offered me $700 to go shopping with him.
If you’re familiar with how sex trafficking tends to go down in the U.S., this is a giant bloody red flag. My inner alarm bells were screaming. And it occurred to me that this may not have been a “wrong number” at all – he may have seen my picture somewhere and tracked down my number, or he might simply be texting random numbers until he gets a response that seems promising. I imagined a younger, less informed person getting the same messages – say, an underage girl from a low-income family who knows her parents would never allow her to meet this person, but sees the chance to go on a shopping spree like she couldn’t even imagine, and who thinks this person just sounds friendly and generous. I imagined some girl who has no idea what she’s being lured into falling for this, and ending up in this guy’s car, and never coming home.
I won’t go into all the thoughts I had, all the possible courses of action I considered, from just calling 911 to just doing nothing and praying he was just a lonely guy with a lot of cash. I don’t have the energy at the moment to explain all the reasons why this was a complicated decision for me (maybe in a future post, when I’m not writing primarily for the purpose of processing my own emotions), but in the end I decided to contact the Polaris Project.

Then I wrote a post about it on Facebook, thinking my friends and family near the person’s area code should probably know somebody near them is doing this so they’re prepared if (God forbid) one of them or their friends or family members gets a similar series of messages. So that had been my day so far – my thoughts were already fixed on the particular dangers faced by women and girls and the ways in which we are devalued by society and the complexities of trying to solve this problem, and when I returned to my news feed after posting, the news of the shooting had hit. It felt like those texts had been some sort of sick inverted sort of synchronicity, like the universe was trying to warn me that the ugliness and awfulness was surging and about to hit.
I am shaken to the core of my being by this shooting.

One of the things that got to me most was this quote: “I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up blond slut I see inside there.” When I read that, I thought of one of my best friends from high school. We were roommates for two years, and lived together for a time after graduating. She was in my wedding. When we met in high school, I was welcomed into her family’s home, spent holidays with them, and was shown genuine love and kindness by them that very few people have ever shown me. She has five younger sisters. All six of them are tall, thin, blond-haired, and blue-eyed. I tried not to picture it, I tried so hard, but in my mind’s eye they appeared, all standing in a row like they were at her wedding, and I pictured them in Santa Barbara as Rodger walked up. They are some of the kindest, loveliest people I have ever known – and I can’t bring myself to type what he likely would’ve done if they had been there, just because they were born into female bodies. I just can’t.

This is something I have been afraid was on the horizon for quite a while now, and I desperately wanted to be wrong. I am afraid that this is going to be just the first in a string of many mass shootings motivated by misogyny. I am afraid for my own safety – I will not let that fear silence me or keep me indoors or prevent me from living as I choose, because to do so would be to simply give up and give the people who would hurt me simply because of my gender what they want, and I cannot and will not do that – but I am deeply, deeply afraid. I feel like we are already living in The Handmaid’s Tale, or maybe The Screwfly Solution, or maybe both mixed together.

So I’m going back to Twitter, to read some more #YesAllWomen, because in the wake of this tragedy, in the wake of this violence which was explicitly designed to threaten and harm all of us and to destroy as many of us possible, I don’t know what else to do right now. All I know is that standing together and refusing to be silenced gives me some kind of hope. It gives me hope that we will keep fighting, and that somehow, we will find a way to survive this, and to end it. It gives me the hope that we will find a way to change this, because it must change. It must.