Category Archives: thoughts

thought out and often thought-provoking posts

Unreliable Narrator

I’m in the process of editing pieces for an anthology that I’m putting together with a group of other writers and editors in the Los Angeles area, and one of my accepted submissions has an author who is struggling with unreliable narrator, which is a requirement for this anthology. (More on the anthology itself in a future post, I promise.)

I am having a lot of difficulty making the narrator more unreliable. Do you have any suggestions? I am really struggling with this, it is my first time going through this process.

I wrote him a note and then thought it could be useful to share my answer here, too.


Honestly, I have had a lot of trouble writing unreliable narrators, too, so don’t be discouraged. The easiest way to make a narrator unreliable is do one of three things:

1. make him/her too young to really understand what’s going on (Huckleberry Finn and, in the case of mental youngness, Flowers for Algernon)

2. have him/her purposefully lie or not tell whole truth (The Usual Suspects and, because it had multiple conflicting narrations, Rashomon), but make it apparent to the reader that your narrator is lying

3. give the narrator a physical problem that affects his/her memory or brain (Memento and Fight Club)

A word of caution on the last one, though: having an insane and/or mentally ill narrator (or character, for that matter) does not automatically make him/her unreliable. In real life, mentally ill people tend to tell the truth more often because they know they’re unlikely to be believed anyway, and that in itself is enough of a hurdle.

Even though I dislike “it was all a dream” narratives, they’re not implicitly unreliable, either, because the narrator is telling you the story in good faith. S/he would be unreliable, however, if s/he knew it was a dream and presented it as fact anyway. The point is that, usually, in the context of the dream itself, the narration is true. Likewise, high fantasy stories (The Lord of the Rings and the King Arthur legends) are not usually unreliable because the narrators tell the truth in the context of the story. That is to say, the stories are internally consistent.

The way to make a narrator unreliable is to make what surrounds them (what’s actually happening) and what they’re saying surrounds them (what they’re saying is happening) internally inconsistent.

I hope this helps. If you need more specific suggestions, let me know.


A lot of writers have trouble with unreliable narrators (and unreliable characters more generally speaking), so I hope this helps some of you who want to tackle the unknown in your writing.

Resolutions for the New Year

Without getting into the discussion about whether or not December 31 is really any different than January 1 (hint: it’s not), I’ve come up with three resolutions for the New Year. I’ve thought about it long and hard, and I want to have resolutions that (1) I can actually accomplish, (2) help me strive but don’t overwhelm, and (3) do not necessarily involve “getting rich quick” or “shedding a few pounds”… Because honestly, everyone wants to be richer and feel good when they look in the mirror. Those are basically standing societal goals, at least where I live, and I don’t need to contribute to that by falling for any pyramid schemes or jumping on the “join a gym today!” bandwagon.

When someone says something, believe them
Dear future self: You know that guy who tells some horrendous ‘joke’ (trigger warning: “I bought a rape whistle and it’s come in handy…really helps to mask the screams.”) and then, when you tell him that was completely not funny, he says, “Aww, don’t get bent out of shape about it! Lighten up! It was only a joke; you have no sense of humor”? That guy is not joking. Don’t worry about ‘being polite’ or ‘being nice’—that guy is not your friend. Don’t be afraid to tell off that guy; don’t be afraid to not laugh; don’t be afraid to ask him to explain the joke. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend; don’t be embarrassed, and don’t be afraid to embarrass him. When someone says something, they are feeling out how you’ll take it. Don’t be afraid to not take it. Stand up for yourself; don’t be afraid.

Get a job
Preferably in my field of study, and definitely higher-paying than what I have now… which wouldn’t be difficult, sadly. I actually don’t mind the work I do now; I dislike some aspects of it, of course, but I like my coworkers and the work isn’t terribly mentally taxing. And I would like to have higher pay. (Right now, I’m living below the poverty line.) In this vein, I’ll be applying for work every couple of days or so until I land something better than coffee shop work.

Submit my writing
Or, “Receive ten rejections.” If I’m not getting rejected, I’m not submitting enough work (or, I suppose, I’m just that awesome). This way, I will ‘win’ this goal either way: either I’ll succeed by having more of my work published, or I’ll succeed by having at least ten rejection letters by the end of the year.

My family and AAA

Yes, that AAA.

Okay, so when I was first in college, I learned that if I was a member of the American Automobile Association, I could get 10% discounts on train tickets, hotel expenses, and other travel-related stuff. Since I was attending school in Pennsylvania, where Amtrak actually has a decent railroad presence, it was a great deal for me to sign up even though I didn’t have a car or motorcycle or other vehicle. Then, a couple of years later, my dad mentioned that he thought he could use some of the discounts and car-towing services AAA offered, and I put him on my account for his birthday. I was an adult, and AAA only allows two adults per “family membership”, so I wouldn’t be able to add anyone else to my “family membership” after that since by that time, my younger siblings were both adults (18+ years of age), too.

That didn’t become a problem until my sister obviously needed car service that AAA provides a while later, and when we discovered that we couldn’t add her to my “family membership” as well, she went ahead and signed up alone.

Fast forward in time again. After falling and breaking her hip living on her own, my grandma came from Texas to live with us in California. My parents moved out of the master bedroom into the living room to provide her with a two-room apartment of sorts: a bedroom and a sitting room. (Do not even get me started on how ridiculous I think this whole thing is—it’s another story entirely.) She brought her car with her, which was still registered in Texas. After ignoring the mandatory registration timing, we finally got our shit together and headed down to the local AAA to register the car in California. That involved new plates, new registration stickers, and lots of official documents that had to be signed in multiple places.

Because my grandma is super old-fashioned and likes doing things in person and refuses to pay for anything that isn’t strictly, absolutely necessary, my dad (my grandma’s son) suggested she and I go down to the nearby AAA and register the car there instead of taking her to the DMV because uuuuugh DMV. So, we did.

Except that’s where another problem popped up. It wasn’t enough, according to the AAA staff person, that I, the car’s primary driver, was a member… the car’s owner had to be a member for them to process the car’s new plates and registration. Except we’d run into this problem before, and it wasn’t as simple as just adding her name to my “family membership” because there were already two adults on that account.

But no fear! My sister had a separate membership by herself! All we needed was her permission to add our grandmother to her “family membership” and then we could proceed as planned and have the car stuff done at AAA instead of the DMV. (If you knew my grandma, you would know why I wouldn’t volunteer myself to take her to the DMV if there was any way to avoid it.) So! We called up my sister while we were standing there at AAA and she gave her verbal assent to add our grandma to her account. We processed the car stuff—which is what we’d gone there for in the first place—and went home. Crisis over.

American Automobile Association 50th Anniversary 1902-1952 U.S. postage stamp 3¢STORY
Or so we thought. Time moved along like normal until tonight, when my sister noticed that she had an overdue AAA membership bill sitting in her pile of unread mail and asked my dad why Grandma needed a membership in the first place, especially since she doesn’t drive. She wanted to take Grandma off her account and add our mother, who drives further than any of us daily and goes to see sick friends in the hospital all the time and is generally on the road more than the rest of us most days.

I was reading and not paying attention to the growing tension around me, so when my sister called me into the living room (yes, the place that is now my parents’ bedroom) to talk to her and our dad, I didn’t know what a mess I was stepping into. Already frustrated by the apparent complications the rest of us were adding to what seemed to her like a simple problem with a simple solution, my sister verbally attacked me on the spot, immediately putting me on the defensive and not making the conversation any easier for any of us.

“Why does Grandma even need AAA?” she asked angrily. “She doesn’t even drive.”

“Because the staff people at AAA wouldn’t process her car stuff without her being a member, and I already had Dad on my account, and she wouldn’t pay for her own membership, and so we asked you if it was okay to add her to your account, which you agreed was fine, so that’s what we did, and I paid for it,” I started to say, but I didn’t get so far as “…process her car stuff—” before she cut me off.

“You and Dad have and account, and I had an open space; I know all that,” she said. I frowned, my defenses up. “Grandma doesn’t need a membership and Mom does.”

We bickered back a forth for a minute or two until my dad finally said, “I wanted you [me] to come in here so that I could ask you a question, which is”—he gave us both a look and we remained silent, waiting for him to finish—“if you were a member of AAA as a driver of the car, would they process the car stuff for Grandma on your behalf?”

“No,” I said. “We tried to do that the first time.” He nodded.

“And that time that the car died in the left turn lane on Foothill? Did you use your AAA card information, or Grandma’s?”


“All right,” he said, looking back toward my sister, “so Grandma does need a membership then.”

“No, she doesn’t,” my sister argued. “She doesn’t drive. What does she even use the membership for?”

“Were you not even listening just now?” I asked, slightly incredulous.

“I just don’t want to have to pay for something that Grandma doesn’t even use when we know Mom would use it.”

“Then don’t pay for it,” I said.

Not have AAA?” she asked, and it was her turn for incredulity. “Last year, I was the one who needed it the most!”

“No,” I said, irritated, “Don’t pay for Grandma’s part; I don’t care. If you do that, though, you get to take her to the DMV to reregister her car.”

“She could do it by mail, you know.”

“Then you get to help her with the paperwork,” I said, not even missing a beat. “We can do it your way, but your way means you also have to deal with Grandma and doing shit her way. Good luck getting her to register her car by mail when she knows there’s an in person option she could use, even one at the DMV.”

My sister narrowed her eyes at me—we both know that I’m the one who’s supposed to deal with Grandma and her car when it relates to her car—but I just looked right back at her.

“Do whatever you want,” I said. “I don’t care. I deal with Grandma and the car, but I’m not going to unnecessarily deal with the DMV.”

“I don’t think—” my sister started, and I held up a hand to stop her.

“Look, you called me in here to help you, presumably, and I came in here thinking I was going to be helpful, but all you’ve done since I’ve turned the corner has been to attack me. I’m not going to put up with that, so I’m done helping and will be going back into the other room to read.”

“Mom’s the one who drives the most around here,” she said. “She should have the membership, not Grandma.”

“And Mom’s also the only person who has a driver’s license in this house who’s also never gotten a ticket. Her little guardian angels don’t work overtime like yours have to… No offense.”

“That doesn’t sound like ‘no offense’,” my sister frowned, her eyes tearing up.

“Does Mom even want a AAA membership?”

“Well, when she comes back,” my sister said, “we can ask her.”

You can ask her. This has nothing to do with me. I wasn’t even part of the conversation before you called me in here.”

“It was Dad who wanted you in on the conversation, not me!” she cried.

“Here’s what I think,” my dad finally cut in again. “Katy needs her own membership. She has her own car; she needs her own membership.” My sister opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again when it was apparent our father wasn’t finished. He continued. “In a perfect world, you”—he nodded at me—“and Grandma would have a membership together because the deal with her and the car is with you, not Katy. And your mom and I would have our own membership.”

“Fine by me,” I said to him, “but I already paid for your and my ‘family membership’ for this year, so figure it out.”

My mom walked by behind us toward the kitchen and I said, “Whatever, people. Figure your shit out and I will do that.” I looked pointedly at my sister: “Remember what I said about the DMV, though.”

I left the room. My sister, in tears, fled upstairs. My mom, standing in the kitchen pouring herself a glass of water, asked, “Everything okay?”

I shrugged. “Drama.”

“Should I go in there?”

“You can if you want; we were talking about you.” She looked alarmed, and I shook my head. “It’s stupid; it’s about AAA.” She blinked, gave me an owl stare for half a second, and then burst out laughing.

And that, my friends, is my family and AAA. /dies

(Unrelated side note: I got as much of this as what I was expecting when I typed “AAA” into Google’s image search.)

Weight and light

In the land of womanhood, there is an obstacle course of shit to deal with surrounding weight. You weigh too much, but if you diet, you’re anorexic. Love yourself, but only if you’re a size 2. Oh, and, by the way: every single manufacturer is going to have different sized clothing, but they’ll all still say “size 2”.

I intended to talk about my struggles with my weight, dieting, and the like in writing “Omg no more food for liiiiiiife“. That somehow devolved into talking about how my need for control in certain areas of my life. So I’m going to address the original intended topic here.

I have a tumblr blog, as many of you may already be aware, but I don’t post anything personal of substance there. Mostly, I reblog stuff from the other tumblr blogs I follow, sometimes with such eloquent comments like, “OMFG” and “gaaaaaaah cuuuuuuute” and “Hahaha this is totally me” and so on. Most of the reblogs are presented without comment, however, and reading through them, you’ll find themes covering misandry, anarchism, feminism, paganism, cartoons and comics, anime and manga, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, cats and cute animals, human rights, passive aggressive notes, Disney, Star Trek stuff, charts and graphs, tattoos, beautiful women and men, general geekiness, depression, making fun of men who participate in misogyny, and more.

Anyway, within the last half-year or so, I subscribed to a tumblr called Skinny Sparkles and started reblogging some of the posts, mostly ones showing women with braids and/or beautiful hair, women jumping (action shots) or holding strenuous gymnastic poses, and quotations inspiring continued weight loss and maintenance.

When I first started following the young woman’s tumblr, I was intrigued by her apparent ability to balance between good health and anorexic “thinspiration” in her personal life. She has a “before and during” image, which I’ve reblogged here in the event that she ever removes it from her own tumblr. I don’t consider the “before” image to be of a person at all over weight, but I was impressed with her decision to use how she looked as a measuring stick over how much she weighed. She told her subscribers that she never weighed herself, but simply ate very healthy foods—fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and etc.—and avoided “bad” fatty foods, drank lots of water (and no soda), and worked out every day.

I actually am overweight, as it turns out. Not horribly, but enough that I’ve begun to notice it. My “healthy” weight is somewhere in the 140-160 lb. range, and I’m at least 20 lbs. over the top of that limit right now. Skinny Sparkles inspired me to think about what kinds of foods I put into my body, and to seriously consider planning more physical activities into my daily schedule so that I can become more healthy overall. I wouldn’t mind having my current weight if I knew it was muscle and not fat—who wouldn’t? It’s not about “losing weight”, Skinny Sparkles said; it’s not about what the scale says.

It’s really about how I look and feel in the clothes I want to wear.

There are many ways to overcome that pressing anxiety, and by far the easiest—societally speaking, at least—is to adhere to a strict regimen of food intake, lots of water, and lots of exercise. I could also change what kinds of clothes I want to wear—change my expectations and perception of my body so that the clothes that better fit me now are also the ones that I pick up to look at while I’m shopping. Or, I could say, “Fuck it; patriarchy is screwing me and every other woman on the planet with it’s unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies and clothes” and then toss the whole idea out the metaphorical window. That is to say, I could train myself to give zero fucks about what other people see when they look at me on any given day.

Now, one of my friends asked about why I was reblogging some of Skinny Sparkles’ stuff, the posts of which all have the following underneath the images, and which I’ve never bothered to delete:

skinny-sparkles: CLICK HERE to join The Weight Loss Community!!🙂

I was actually already in the process of writing my “Omg no more food for liiiiiiife” entry when she (my friend) asked, but when I sat down to finish that essay, I realized how off-topic it had really become—I hadn’t mentioned Skinny Sparkles at all, and talking about my own weight loss crap had somehow segued into how much control I feel like I have versus how much control I think I need to have, etc.

Currently, I don’t look or feel good in the clothing I like. I have to do one of those three things; I have to either shape up, get clothes that fit better, or learn to give zero fucks. The second choice of the three is actually the most difficult since I’m very tall and have trouble finding (1) shirts that fit my bosom and my arm length, and (2) pants that fit my waist and leg length. Generally speaking, I can have one choice from each category, but it’s rare and unusual to find some piece of clothing that covers both choices. Finding clothing like that is like… it’s like seeing a leopard in the wild—it’s possible, but it’s so rare that it’s really impossible, practically speaking.

I’m a jeans/casual type of lady, but I’d still like to have some curves to show off when I want to, you know? I work better with something to weigh against (no pun intended), and so “just eating healthy and working out” wasn’t going to work for me. I don’t like running because I’ve been seriously harassed while out on a route in my own well-to-do suburb of Los Angeles. I don’t like lifting weights or whatever; I’m not a gym rat. I could go for some kind of cardio or dance class, but that would probably require money that I don’t have. I decided early in my weight loss plan to just cut out trying to do any kind of physical activity more than the things in which I already participate. (For example, my job requires me to be on my feet for 95% of the time I’m clocked in.)

I wasn’t expecting it to be a fast process; I had gained the extra 20+ lbs. in the three years since returning home from New York City. I was expecting it to take at least a year to lose it again. There was no rush anyway; I wasn’t trying to fit into my wedding dressing in less than a month (no, I’m not getting married). I’m not the type of gal to sit out on the beach or even swim or even wear a bathing suit with any regularity, in the summer or otherwise, so it’s not like I had to “do something” by the time beach season came around again.

I started a weight journal. Originally, I intended only to weigh myself once a week, write in my goal weight and current weight, and then write a few lines about my progress or lack thereof, if applicable. I did that for a month and discovered that I’d actually gained weight in the time I’d been recording it. I switched to weighing myself every day so as to better understand my weight fluctuations, including “water weight” and the like. I tried to eat healthier, but as I mentioned before, I’m not any kind of chef, and usually my desire to just not have to deal with food-making trumps my desire to eat something beneficial to my body.

There’s more incentive, for example, for me to do the dishes after someone else has cooked because (1) I know that leaving dirty dishes around draws pests, (2) if the dishes aren’t clean again soon, whoever makes the food won’t have anything to use to prepare or serve it, and (3) it’s a way for me to say “thanks for cooking for me; I appreciate you”… If I’m cooking for myself, I’m much more likely to just eat from an open can of SpaghettiOs with a spoon because then I’ll only have to wash the spoon and will be able to just toss the tin can when I’m done. It seems like laziness (and, to an extent, it is), but it’s also my mind over-thinking how efficient I can be with the least amount of effort necessary.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Skinny Sparkles posted an essay titled “SHOCKING Confession. PLEASE Read. This could change your life.” wherein Skinny Sparkles admits to starving herself, taking laxatives and diet pills, and weighing herself constantly. (I reblogged the confession as well, which is linked in this post, just in case the original poster decides to take her confession down.) She warns against starvation diets and tells her readers that she has only given good advice to them, but she just hasn’t been taking that advice for herself. Now, she says, “you can inspire me.”

Most of the responses she received were in the vein of “Wow, I’m so proud of you for coming clean!” and “I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling all this time!” and so on. When I read the confession, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wow, she lied this whole time. Maybe I should starve myself to get the results I want.” I was angry that someone who I considered a role model was actually just a hypocrite. I stopped weighing myself and writing about my progress. I decided that maybe giving zero fucks really was the right path to take.

But every time after that when I looked in the mirror, or picked up a fork-full of delicious food, or opened the refrigerator door, I still felt fat and loathed myself. It’s still like that; nothing has really changed, except now I’m more cynical and less hopeful about the whole thing.

I don’t (think I) have an eating disorder. I like eating. I don’t binge and purge. (Though I do simply binge sometimes, as you’ll recall.) I don’t not eat, and yet I’m still obsessed with the way I look and feel in the clothes I wear. I still want to get rid of the belly and thigh fat I’ve gained since moving home from NYC. I just… I don’t know. I had a plan, and the inspiration for that plan ended up being a hypocrite.

I don’t want to have to think about this any more, honestly. I would like to give zero fucks, but society (especially popular culture) refuses to talk about anything except dieting, staying young (or young-looking, at least), and “pleasing your man”… None of which I’m interested in at all. I’m just so done with hearing the same thing over and over; so, so done.

Breathing in an Iron Lung

A true story in six short parts.
**trigger warning**


Since the beginning of the year, I have been attending group therapy sessions for women with post-traumatic stress disorder. The group meets every other Wednesday and consists of six women, including myself, and the mediating therapist.

Last Wednesday evening, a group member said, “This is a safe space.” But, I hadn’t felt less safe in a long time; I had tried again to say something and it had so completely backfired that no one—not even Cindie, the therapist—seemed to notice or realize how shell-shocked I was. It hurts to think about it even now, and I don’t know why I can write about it and not talk about it.

It’s… it’s a compulsion to write it, but when I try to talk about it face-to-face with someone, I choke and panic and can’t even admit aloud that it was rape. I brush it off as something to deal with later, but there is no later, only putting it off and putting it off until it overwhelms me and I can’t go out or let anyone touch me or near me and the definition of a successful day narrows itself to “I got out of bed and showered before collapsing again. I think I probably ate something at some point.”

I know in my head that the other women meant no harm, but sometimes it’s the accidental blade that cuts the deepest. I can’t go back. At least, not for a while.


First, I told part of my story—the part wherein Nathan drunk-dialed me, we went to Waffle House, and on the way back he took me to see his desk in the geology department offices. I felt terrible talking about it and honestly didn’t feel any different about it afterward, except possibly more vulnerable, which Cindie said was to be expected.

I cried and it was gross with my tears and phlegm everywhere, and I didn’t even… really say anything at all. One woman said that my body language seemed more open than before I had said anything, but I just felt exhausted and all my limbs were so heavy, like I was trying to walk on the ocean floor. But, the important thing was that the other group members believed me. There was still a tiny piece in the back of my mind telling me, “They’re only saying they believe you to get close to you.” I don’t know why I’m like that—that I think everyone’s actually lying to me and being so deceitful.

Actually, yes, I do. It’s partly paranoia and partly a symptom of post-traumatic stress. Nathan broke my trust, and the paranoid tendencies I had been so strenuously trying to avoid during high school (ask me about Dave and Cassie sometime… or, y’know, don’t) came at me full force in such a great wave that I was pulled under and nearly drowned. At some point in my life between What Happened and now, I subconsciously decided that the only way to keep my head above water, so to speak, was to specifically not trust anyone at least as far as I could throw them. I had trusted Nathan—it had never occurred to me to be afraid of him before that night—and look where it had gotten me. Now, there is a rather large part of me that can’t trust. Like, can’t. I don’t even know how I’d begin to do that.


What happened next was somewhat related to the first in my mind, but in reality, neither had anything to do with the other. Still, affected me so deeply that I don’t know if I can go to another group meeting, at least not without some serious self-preparation.

Cindie said that any given person wouldn’t do something while under the influence that they wouldn’t do while sober. In my experience, however, being under the influence of alcohol or another mind-altering drug encourages people to do things they might want to do (or have, at least, thought about doing) but don’t do without a little so-called social lubrication. That is, for example, a guy works up the nerve to approach a pretty lady only after two or three drinks. It’s not called “liquid courage” for nothing, after all.

Simply put, I think that a person is more likely to do something they’ve thought of (and perhaps want to do) while under the influence rather than actually do the same while sober or not. If that even makes sense at all. I assume it’s similar with other mind-altering substances, and I tend to lump them together under one umbrella.

I had just finished telling what part of my story I could when the woman sitting directly across from me joked about the teddy bear in her lap raping the stuffed panda that the woman next to her was holding.

Everything stopped for me; my heart rate went up, I started sweating, and everything around me narrowed down to a single point in my field of vision. I wanted to bolt out of the room in that instant, but I was sitting furthest from the door (something I had done on purpose so that the urge to flee wouldn’t become too great—you can believe I cursed my foresight right then, no doubt).

To her credit, she immediately apologized, saying, “I’m so sorry; that was completely inappropriate.” And she was right.

Despite her apology, she was laughing and everyone was laughing with her and then another group member—the same woman who later told me that the group was a safe place—said the worst thing to me that anyone could’ve said to me at that moment (though her comment was not directed specifically toward me).

She said, “You have to forgive her, you guys; she’s high on three kinds of pain meds because of her migraine.” And she said it not once, but twice, as though we hadn’t heard it the first time.


Objectively speaking, she was probably right. The woman who had joked about teddy bear rape had been having serious migraines every night for weeks, and nothing seemed to help. She had tried everything she could think of, up to and including taking multiple types of pain medication at once, as she had that night.

After having explained what little I could about my situation before my words stuck in my throat, however, I wasn’t thinking logically or objectively. I wished to all the gods that I had never said anything at all. It’s one thing for someone to hurt me when they don’t know; I can forgive them because they don’t know. But when they know… I… can’t.

I know that the group members didn’t mean to offend, but what am I supposed to think about one person under the influence joking about rape when I was actually raped by a person under the influence? When that was so similar to what he said to me the next day?

“I would never do that,” he said. “You must have misunderstood. You have to forgive me; I was black out drunk! I don’t remember anything.

“It can’t be as bad as you’re telling me. Honestly, I’m not a bad person; are you sure you’re not exaggerating?

“Will you just sit down and talk to me like an adult? Why are you so jumpy? I’m not going to hurt you.”

To this day, I wish I had kicked him in the balls and then kicked him off the third-story landing outside my apartment door.

Everyone in that room but me was laughing at that moment, and I felt just like I had every other time I’ve tried to tell someone What Happened: despair. If these women were supposed to have gone through trauma, as I apparently have, how could they be laughing together about rape just after I’d given them part of my heart? It was completely inappropriate for that participant to say what she said, high or not, but I did what I’ve always done: I just went with it. I let them assume. I smiled and smoothed things over.


At the end of the meeting, the joker smiled at me warmly and said she felt trusted; she was happy I had trusted them with part of my story. My heart broke. She’s a good woman, I’m sure, and worth at least as much as the others say she is. I want so desperately to believe that, but right then I couldn’t even hold her gaze.

I tried to say I hadn’t gotten anything positive from the experience, as Cindie had said was okay to do in a previous session, but she insisted that I say something solid (and—dare I say it?—positive).

“Belief,” Cindie prompted me. “Do you feel believed?”

Honestly, yes, I did feel believed, I said. But I didn’t say what I wanted to scream: I was believed and still it seemed no one cared—how is that any better? There was no time to get into it then, anyway; the session was at its end.


Finally, when the group meeting was over, I went back up to where my best friend was waiting. He’d driven me there and had waited for me and some part of me, in some strange way, thinks that his being there was the only reason I didn’t bolt when I wanted to so much. Because I had an escape route, a safe place, I didn’t need to use it the way I might’ve if I hadn’t had that option.

I got in the car and shut the door. “You okay?” he asked.

“No. I’m not,” I said, and I couldn’t explain how betrayed I felt. Everything got stuck in my throat again, and I started sobbing. I tried to push everything back down into the abyss from which it had welled.

Through hitching gasps, I asked, “You—you believe me, don’t you? I know I’m not the most honest person—”

“I believe you,” he interrupted. “Yes, I believe you. You’re safe. You’re safe with me; I promise.”

He reminded me to breathe: “In… out,” he said gently. “In… out.”

When I had calmed a little bit, a manic laugh escaped my lips and I said, “I talked about you.”

“Good things, I hope,” he said, and there was just a bit of a question there in his voice.

“Yes,” I said. “Well. Yes, sort of.”

I explained that another woman in the group had had a completely chill and understanding boyfriend… until he’d broken up with her seemingly out of the blue.

“Oh, that’s just what you needed to hear,” he cut in sarcastically.

“Well, I mentioned that you’re that person for me… the person who is so understanding and supportive… and that’s exactly what I’m afraid of.”

My mind raced and I thought I might throw up but for all the despair already built up in my stomach. Waves crashed over me again without letting me breathe, and yet I was breathing in an iron lung—whether I wanted to or not. Everything on top of everything and I was drowning again.

A conversation with myself

Self: I hate you.
Self: You’re fat.
Self: What’s the point.
Self: It’s useless.
Self: You’re only good for one thing, and it’s exactly what you’re afraid of.
Self: You’re lack of control is appalling.
Self: I hate you.
Self: You’ll never amount to anything. You’re too old to start again.
Self: There’s no point.
Self: You’re fat.
Self: You’re not worth the time anyone spends on you.
Self: The world doesn’t want you. The world doesn’t NEED you.
Self: Just kill yourself and save everyone the trouble of dealing with you.
Self: You’re better off dead.
Self: You’re better off dead.
Self: You’re better off dead.

30 Days of Truth 30

30 Days of Truth 30

Day 30: In a letter to yourself, write everything you love about yourself.

Dear self,

I love your brain. I love that you’re an intelligent person, despite being mixed up or forgetful sometimes. Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re stupid; you’re not. You’re smarter than anyone who says that, at least.

I love that you can write and that you do.

I love your hair. I like it long, but I know sometimes you just have to cut it, and that’s okay.

I love your scars. I don’t like how you got them, but they’re there, and they tell stories. They say that you’ve survived.

I love that you value patience and thinking things over, but it’s okay not to put up with someone who’s really hurting you. That’s not patience or humility.

I love that you tell stories, but try to remember that just because a story is good, doesn’t make it okay to pretend that it’s real or that it really happened. It really is okay if it’s just a story.

I love that, despite your mixed up brain, you’ve managed to choose (at least eventually) for yourself people who really do care about you and love you.

I love that you’re working on helping yourself, even though I know all you really want to do is hide under the covers and never come out.

I’m so happy that you’ve been able to hold down a job—it’s okay not to be the perfect salesperson, and it’s okay to move on when you’re ready. (Are you ready?)

I love that you’re learning more about yourself everyday and that you’re learning it’s okay to disappoint people. The world won’t end. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re learning to take care of yourself.

I love that you read. I love that you discern.

I love your sense of humor, even if it is a bit twisted and strange.

I’m trying to love you. I’m getting there, I think.


30 Days of Truth