“You’re so lucky”

Recently, I’ve been doing quite well – even though I’ve been stressed and annoyed by a variety of things. The fact that I can even be annoyed is a good sign. It means I’m doing much better than I was a year ago.

My youngest sister has been having her own issues – mostly relating to stress, anxiety, and I think some depression too, all negatively impacting her physical health (which happens to us all – I just think it’s more obvious/prominent for some). She’s been on anxiety meds for almost a year I think.

My mother’s family is fairly Christian, fairly conservative/”traditional”. For that reason (and probably others), they know about my sister’s problems, but not mine. No one knows I was living with the lion, no one knows what happened between him and I, no one knows why I left Japan and moved back into my parents’ house in Toronto, no one knows why I haven’t worked for a year. No one knows my pain, heartache, heartbreak, mental health problems, physical health problems. No one knows, and no one can know.

Why? Because it’s not proper for a young lady to be involved with a man when they’re not married (to each other). Because sex before marriage is bad. Because co-habitation between unwed partners is bad. Because it would hurt my 94 year-old grandfather who’s beliefs are so very different from mine. Because it would raise many questions, and probably embarrass my mother.

I bite my tongue, smile, avoid, pretend, give answers that tell only a fraction of the story. I do this to keep them from knowing. To protect my mother too, I guess (if you can even call it ‘protecting’). I’ve been doing this for about 2 years and counting.

My parents have been great. They allow me to live in their house for free, and they don’t charge me for food either. I do my best to pay them back, through doing things around the house and making sure everyone is looked after as best as possible.

This entire system though, it takes a toll on me.

Neither parent knows what to do, or how, to help me out (and they never have, when it’s come to relationship stuff). I know they care, and they want what’s best for me, but it just… hasn’t worked that way.

My sister, don’t get me wrong, she’s had some tough times. But people know what her issues are. Relatives, friends, neighbours offer to help her and ask how she’s doing. People are extra kind (or try to be) to her. Doctors know what to do, what possible meds to suggest.

There’ve been times when I’m grateful no one knows, because they all leave me alone. No one knows, so no one’s nosy.

Today, she was telling us about some of the things that had happened recently (she was at home on her own for a week, during a pretty rough patch), and I heard myself saying to her in my head, “You’re so lucky people know.” I didn’t say this with compassion and patience. I was (and still am, though it’s dying down) hurt, sad, frustrated, annoyed. Everybody, including me, is so concerned, so sympathetic. The aches that this brings me leads to temporary anger. She doesn’t do it on purpose. She’s just cute and small and fragile and vulnerable, and so people want to protect and help her. It’s always been that way. She knows how to get attention (and I don’t mean that in a bad way).

When times are tough for her, she asks for help, she gets cuddly, she tells people about her meds and problems. She cries. She tells people that she cries, that she’s lonely, that she’s stressed, that she wants hugs and cuddles.

Me?

Nah, I’m just here… apparently pretending like nothing shitty happened. Hey, I haven’t worked in a year. I’ve travelled a lot. Don’t you think I’m lucky? How do you think I manage it all?

Being at home is great for some things, but sometimes it’s the least helpful thing I can do for myself. And so… on the road I go, whenever possible, where I can build confidence in myself, learn all the things I want, be free, and heal – for real. I can look after me, instead of spending my precious energy constantly making sure everyone else is well looked after.

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On the stall door. 

Not long ago, I was at an international airport in southwestern U.S. There, in the women’s washroom, I found this sign on the inside of the stall door.

Oh, nice.

Wait – what?

I wasn’t sure if I felt safer or in danger. I suppose I felt both.

Two thoughts simultaneously passed through my mind: That’s great that there’s enough awareness to warrant this. But is it really so much of a problem here that they need this?

Does human trafficking happen more often here than other places? Or are people just trying to ensure as much safety as possible? It is great though, that this service is available.

Later, I wondered if the same sign existed in the men’s washroom. Both men and women – and children, of course – can be victims of human trafficking, but it probably happens to women more than men. If the perpetrator is a man, could it be dangerous for him to see the same helpline? But then again, maybe he would already know about this resource centre.

For the helpline to really be serious, there should probably be a phone in the women’s washroom. What are the chances of a victim of human trafficking carrying their own cellphone or having access to any phone at all? Presumably the perpetrator would be aware that the victim would try to call for help and/or escape – depending on the circumstances of the victim, of course… I for one, know that I didn’t call or ask for help in my own (very different) situation.

Long after leaving the washroom, I kept thinking about the sign. I was a backpacking, female, solo traveler. Suddenly I felt less safe, and more aware of my surroundings. A familiar feeling, unfortunately.

I felt sad and angry about the need of having such a sign, and yet also optimistic that there at least seemed to be some awareness and help for those who need it.

Later, I looked it up and found out that of the calls made in 2015, 18.3% of calls were from California, and 1.4% were from Nevada, where I was, so the next question would be – Are these signs found more often in California? But that’s for another time.

Important Resources (just a few of many):

Polaris

National Human Trafficking Resource Centre, Data Breakdown, United States Report, 2015

Guardian Group

Stop the Traffik

Birthday 

Today, somewhere out there, he turns 39.

His one birthday we had together wasn’t a pleasant one – and neither were the days before and after it. They were pretty bad.

I sometimes used to sing The Carpenter’s “Top of the World” to him; although looking back, I definitely wasn’t on the top of the world.

I’m not sure if I’d be able to honestly wish him a happy birthday, but I don’t wish a miserable birthday for him either.

It’s just… his birthday.

I just entered my 30’s this year, and he’s starting his last year in his 30’s.

It’s just another day, but it is his birthday… wherever he is, whatever he’s doing.

髪を切る日

「はさみが通るたびに 思い出が落ちて行く
今朝、何気なく見たパスポートの写真だけが君を覚えてる

人は髪を切る前にきっと何かを片付ける
だからわざわざこんな日曜日を選んでしまうのだろう… 🎶」

と槇原敬之の「髪を切る日」が始まる。

この曲がもう数週間、喉に引っかかってる…
髪を切ろうかなと思ってるからだろうね

ライオンと出会った頃、私の髪はかなり短かった。
「僕は長い髪の女性が好きなんだけど、君は短くても意外と可愛い」と言ったこと
今でもはっきり覚えてる。

私は小学校4年生のときから髪を短く切って、1−2年間伸ばしては短く切ることを繰り返している。
もう20年は続けてるってことだね
高校を卒業する頃から今まで何度か30cmほどの切った髪を癌のある子供たちがカツラをつけられるようにとドネーションをして来た。

ライオンと出会った時からもうそろそろ3年になる
私の髪は腰あたりまで伸びてしまって、また短く切ろうかと迷ってます

彼のおかげで自分の長い髪を好むようになった
彼のせいで髪を短くするとこを少し怖がるようになった

長い髪に守られてるような、隠されてるような
そんな風に感じるようになった。

髪を上げることでうなじが見えた時に何度か怒られた。
色気を出していると、他の男にセクシーに見られたいからだと、誰とでもいちゃつきたいからだと言われた。特に日本の文化はうなじをセクシーだと思うから見せるなと、髪を結うなと。
彼との付き合いを真面目に考えろ、大人になれと。
恥をかかせてると。

私は髪を伸ばし続け、結わなくなった。
彼から離れても、日本を離れても、6ヶ月以上は結えなかったかな
その後も髪を結う不安が無くなるまで、恥ずかしさがなくなるまで数ヶ月はかかったな

髪をまた短く切ろうかなと一ヶ月考えても答えは出なかったから5cmだけ切ったよ。

やっぱり不安は残ってるんだ。彼の言葉が残ってるんだ。
今の私と共に生きてるんだ。

それでも良い
無理はしない。自分を好きになりたいから、自分と生きたいから
自分に優しくするんだ

「髪を切る日」を一人で歌って、苦しさと辛さを思い出すことで癒される。
いつかは切るでしょうけどまだその日は来てないね。

槇原敬之が曲を通して私に話しかけてくれる
「そろそろ前に進まなきゃ…」
そうね。でもね、自分のペースでちゃんと進んでるよ。

The Danger Assessment

You can do the training, and be qualified to use The Danger Assessment. According to the website, it’s been helpful in court proceedings.  If your area of work is related to healthcare, first response, advocacy, and/or justice, it would be useful (and important) to know.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can fill out the Danger Assessment for your own situation.

There’s even an “Escape Now” button to get you out of the site right away.

I’ve spent time on the website reading about it, and yet I still can’t get myself to actually download and open the PDF documents. Funny how time passes, healing happens, and yet there are still some things that I’m not ready for. I’ll get to it though.

“The Danger Assessment helps to determine the level of danger an abused woman has of being killed by her intimate partner. It is free and available to the public. Using the Danger Assessment requires the weighted scoring and interpretation that is provided after completing the training. The Danger Assessment is available in a variety of languages.”

The lion.

Today, a bit about the lion.

I don’t know how he’s doing, where he is, or what he does now. I don’t know how he feels about any of what happened.

I assume he’s alive, but for the sake of this post, I write about him in past tense.

He was about 8.5 years older than me. I knew a few things about him before he arrived in Japan. I knew he was French, and that one of the secretaries in the lab he would be working thought he was handsome.

I didn’t think much about him when I met him, only that he somewhat resembled Mr. Bean (I never told him that, but later found out that I wasn’t the only one who though so – and he didn’t like it).

He was a postdoc when I knew him. He had a PhD in psychology, and one of his specializations was in neuroimaging and PTSD. His thesis research had involved women who had chronic abuse-related PTSD.

(It wasn’t until a lot later that I realized how ironic this was.)

He had wanted to study the potential differences of PTSD seen in men and women. Most of the research on PTSD focuses on the combat-related PTSD in young males, and often the research subjects are from the American military. What is PTSD like for those  of a different gender? For those who experience a different type of trauma?

He’d come to Japan to study PTSD within the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. How were different age groups affected? How were men and women affected? Proximity to the disaster area? Severity of loss for individuals? Questions like these are what he wanted to answer.

For a variety of reasons, his research basically went nowhere in the 2 years he worked on it. He returned home to France at the end of his contract. As far as I know, there’s still nothing that has come out of that lab or from him, relating to this topic.

He said he wanted to be a part of groundbreaking research, that working with the abused women had been awful and painful for him (and them), and he felt guilty about it. He had good intentions. He had connections, he had potential to bring about positive change, and increase knowledge in an important  field of research. I don’t remember the exact words he used, but that was the idea.

He and I both wanted to do good – to help the disaster stricken area, and the people who had experienced it. He had a goal, a dream. He was smart, and always wanted to learn. He was playful and silly. He was strong. He loved France and French culture, but also Japanese culture. He was trying to become proficient in Japanese, and already had very good English. He had life experience that I didn’t. He had qualities and skills that I wanted in a partner. He had potential. We had potential.

So.

What could go wrong?

A lot.

The bathroom posters

It’s not always easy to access victims of intimate partner violence if you want to help them. You never really know what the abuser will do if he/she finds out.

In giving and getting information about ending the abuse, privacy and confidentiality are so, so important.

I found a pleasant surprise on the back of the door when I went to use a toilet in a hospital the other day. It’s a perfect place to display information for anyone and everyone. And those who are in an abusive situation can see it, and perhaps choose to seek assistance. He/She may not have done – or been able to do – anything about it otherwise. You never know.

Because when you have someone who uses violence, intimidation, and manipulation on you, they’re always there. They find a way. It would almost be amazing, if it weren’t so bad.

The one place, the one time you can be alone. Washroom. Bathroom. Rest room. Toilet. Whatever you want to call it. That’s one place where you may have a moment to catch a first glimpse at potentially life-altering information.

It may be the first step for someone.

For me, it was a pleasant surprise. And I stood there, looking at it, wondering if things could have been different for me, had I seen something like this three years ago.

There’s an app for that?

They say there’s an app for everything… and I’m starting to wonder if it’s true.

SmartSafe+ is an app that helps women safely collect evidence of family violence. It looks like it’s actually pretty decent. It’s disguised, it’s requires a password, and the information is stored in a cloud so the contents can’t be deleted. The app lets you take photos and audio recordings, and even tells you what kind of information is helpful to collect. And it’s free.

But.

Not everyone who experiences violence realizes that it’s violence, and that it’s wrong, that it’s not normal, that it’s not their fault. Not everyone wants to prosecute the perpetrator – or even realizes that it’s possible to do so.

Not everyone is able to stand up for themselves. (Yet, at least)

Also… wouldn’t it be hard to do an audio recording?

But.

It’s so much better to have the app than not. It’s so much better to have that choice, to have that knowledge. To have that access. To have that power.

今なら「生」を素直に選べられるよ

2016年の秋に書いたこと、考えたことを見返してみました。今なら素直に「生」を選べる。
だから今は大丈夫だよ。

今、これを読んでいるということは生きているということ
今、知ってる限りでは「生」と「死」の二つだけ。
その二つのうちの一つしか進めない。

必ずどこかで「死」を選ぶ者もいる…
でも特に考えもしないで生き続ける者も多い。
何となく時間を過ごしてただ「親にもらった命だから」と言って生き続ける
それを本当に「生」と呼べるのだろうか

ただ命があるから生きるのではなく、
いつか胸を張って
「生」を選びます
この言葉を言えるようになりたい。

今はまだ迷う。

どちらも選ばないからどちらも進めない。

誰だって死ねる。けど、誰だって生きれる訳ではない。

私は「生」を選べるようになりたい。

こう感じていた私は今なら笑って
「生」を選びます
って
そう言える、そう思えることに最近気づいた。
ちょっと嬉しいような、照れるような、新鮮な、でもちょっと違和感のあるような不思議な感じでした。

The goal is to live violence-free

I was reading about the Survivor-Centred Approach to gender-based violence intervention, and at one point, I saw that the goal of this approach is to live violence-free, not necessarily to leave the abusive relationship.

A little ray of light shone within me. The dark, heavy clouds that had been looming for at least a few hours didn’t seem quite so bad with this little bit of warmth.

I’m sure there are a number of people out there who do or did want to leave their abusive situation, who want to get away and stay away. Far away.

Some people though, don’t necessarily want to leave. They just want the harm, the violence, to stop… to go away. To… have things be different.

That had been me.

But I knew it wouldn’t end. I had tried to learn how to influence him, to calm him, but there was nothing I could to to lessen or prevent it. That was difficult, and yet also freeing. No matter what I did, he got angry, which therefore meant that it was easier for me to finally understand that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t triggering it, unless of course, he was just aggravated by my existence and hated me. But, you know…

Anyway, it didn’t matter what I wanted or how I felt. I didn’t really have much of a choice. I had to leave.

I don’t regret that choice.

I just wish things could have happened differently.