It’s knowing that I know that made you hate me the most.
Knowing that I know about your tail,
your carefully concealed hyenous ways,
It was seeing yourself in the mirror I raised
that made you rage and roar in your ouvert discontent,
a contrapunto for the cruel sly mock,
the daily teenage snub with a charming smile.
You hate what you see I see
You hate that I see the you that you hate
You hate you
And in seeing you
You hate me
And in knowing this I can only slow down to quietly still myself.
Watch the sacrificial pyre of your desire prepared to destroy and possess me.
Go ahead, try, give it a good go.
Destroy. Make a mess of it.
But be certain of the haunting:
For in your destruction of me my knowing only becomes truer,
more consequential, a lethal knowing.
Go ahead, indulge in all the violent splendour of your guilty fantasies.
Lose yourself a little more as you shriek, as you grind your teeth.
But with your eyes closed.
We know well you don’t want to see yourself in the thousand mirror shards you just shattered.
Now leave me dry and horrify yourself again with your habitual shame.
Are you disgusted? Or satisfied?
Did your gorging work?
Did it make you a little bit like me?
Did it soothe you?
My body vibrates all night. I’m hot and I feel danger. The person next to me clicks their jaw intermittently. I feel them emitting heat. I’m in a torpor. I float above my body.
A single laughing snake
A single laughing snake
A single laughing snake
A single laughing snake
A single laughing snake
The phrase repeats over and over.
That morning I do a google search and find an image that illustrates a Persian tale of a snake that terrorised a village by floating around and laughing hysterically. The villagers managed to get rid of it by holding up a mirror so it could see it's own reflection.
I’m hiking in Blackcap, Sussex. I have a sore hip with a throbbing bruise. My arms feel like dead weight. My head hurts. My heart too. I’m very confused about a conversation I just had. I hardly said a thing. I have no idea what’s what and I’ve been wanting to puke for hours. I would rather be in bed but there was no privacy in the house so we needed to get away.
On the path back towards the car, by the bush, I spot a small adder coiled on itself, shed skin around it. I’m taken aback and feel like crying and screaming, but instead I freeze and watch. I'm not afraid of snakes, that's not what's happening. It’s the omen.
They take pictures from different angles and I watch them document the moment methodically, until they’re satisfied.
It was May 2020, in the middle of the first pandemic lockdown. Life felt volatile, unreal. I was not home, and had no private space I could call my own. Though the daily dose of sea breeze and expanding horizon was an ongoing resource, a mitigator, this was perhaps the most confusing period in my life. Global events and personal did not make sense. Nothing was true and there was latent violence pulsing everywhere. Fear-based decisions were the order of the day, which I can now compassionately accept as an explanation for what the hell I was doing in Brighton in the most twisted situation of my relational history. I guess I was afraid to be alone in the middle of a pandemic. I accept that.
But trauma bonding in times of plague is not just a bad trip, more like a series of successive k-hole moments that disorients and exhausts you so much that all you want to do is curl up and numb yourself without even caring if it will be over. Does it even matter? —one thinks—I can get sick and die tomorrow and everyone I love is far from me, and all that’s close to me is the madness that seeps through a flimsy yet elaborate fortress of denial, with dust bunnies more like mad rats trembling under the carpet, like hungry pain so disavowed for decades it’s gone feral under the posh Persian rug a mother gifted her child.
And none of it had anything to do with me. And yet there I was, cast in the role of catalyst and screen to be projected on. Being told I have centre stage, dance for me, with me. Intoxicated by the chemicals released through the intermittent rewards of attention that followed the cruel and confusing power games. High on neurochemicals, like a little eager lab rat avidly figuring out the logic, waiting for a treat.
Confused doesn’t cut it. And no, I’m not disavowing the fact that I had agency. Yet locating agency in Spring-Summer 2020 was very difficult, and holding on to it all through 2021 was trial and error. When flooded by the effects of the passionate intensity of what presented itself as a spiritually aligned partnership, through explicit commitments consistently disregarded in practice, and with two parallel third parties in the mix, all my own trauma was activated. I froze.
It takes a lot to hold on to your sense of self and your own reality when you are this alone and out of context, more so when the world shatters from the effect of an invisible viral threat. There were moments in which I felt getting sick and dying would be a nifty way out, a concrete consequence to counteract the shape shifting vaporous poison of my everyday. And yet I couldn’t even say: I’m deeply unhappy. Instead I would say: I’m lucky I’m not alone, I’m lucky someone cares for me.
But we don’t talk about that, right? It’s embarrassing, it’s dangerous even. Somewhere in the trajectory towards empowering ourselves, we deflected oppression to systemic analysis and made feeling victimised in relationships an absolute abjection. Add queerness to the mix and we’re above it all, that’s so cishet, we are in denial that someone that’s not a man can play twisted games or not be aware of it. Or maybe that was just me?
Boundaries babe. Know your worth. Hold your own self accountable for giving your power away. What’s this situation telling you about your own unhealed patterns? Your people pleasing and your insecurities are really at blame here, look at your anxious attachment. Codependant no more and so on and on in the spiral of shame anyone that might find themselves feeling cognitive dissonance from the effect another that they wish to be close to has on them.
We all have a degree in relational psychology via social media so we can dissociate from what's going on and find ways to talk about it and understand instead. Instant transcendence of the emotional turmoil and factual reality at that: a theory. This is not cruelty, it's just their disorganised attachment and their dysregulation. I must not judge, my pain is not real, it's my anxious style and my dysregulation. We are all victims of society so let’s pass the buck to the trauma matrix in the name of compassion. But your feelings are real babe, for sure, but only you are responsible for them, ok? No one can make you feel anything right? No victim mentality. You are sovereign.
How to hold complexity when being all too aware of how quickly these things spiral into cancellation campaigns: you can’t hang out with my abusive ex or you are complicit in their abuse of me. Beware, abuser on the loose. That’s so 2015. We know better now, we don't pathologise because it's objectifying. We are trauma informed. So instead we block, we only talk about it with our therapist and our trusted friends, buy weighted blankets and book emdr for the ptsd from the cruel rage we received, go on trips with friends, redecorate. We present our aspirational healing journey as a linear trajectory and sweep the gnarly bits under the carpet, to only look at them alone in the bath as we sing Billie Eilish’s Happier than Ever on repeat to the top of our lungs.
But what of the lonely shame? And can I write about my experience because I need to and it is not about anyone else but me? And can we hold the complexity of relationships and trauma beyond one liners and judgements? And I’m not trying to cancel anyone. I know very well that someone can be lethal for one person and healing for another. But can my pain be real in the world and can I express it instead of keeping it a shameful secret? Can I say there was unspeakable harm coming at me, unwarranted, without dissecting cause or intention just the fact of harm and pain and I’m still forgiving myself first for staying so long FFS?
As a tarot reader I hold vulnerable space for many people in emotionally dangerous situations. What strikes me the most is how lonely we all feel in our confusion, our unrequited love, our shame about enduring pain when we are showing up to relate, and about having unmet needs and wanting care. How embarrassed we are about not seeing the proverbial red flags, allowing disrespect, and feeling humiliated. How we'll deny our pain because it's too abject to feel alone and responsible for it.
We are all bad bitches that have it together on the Internet. We grieve through memes and heal through aspirational quotes. And yet I’m crying in the cafe, and two weeks ago I spent days under the weighted blanket because of a horribly violent dream that uncovered another layer of pain I had not been ready to hold. And I can’t work like this and money is running out.
Relational abuse will ruin you in many tangible ways but we don’t wanna call it. As I write this FKA Twigs just released Killer and I know I’m not alone, blessed by the meta angel blowing the horn.
(A is for Abuse, B is for Bruiser, C is for Cunning, D is for Deceit…)
I’m back on the militant nervous system regulation drills, the vagal nerve toning, the cold showers, the shaking, the humming, the praying for healing and heart mending, for a thorough purge of the poison residue to allow more honey to flow through my heart as it flutters, maybe, a little, for someone new.