I don’t think a day goes by I don’t read about internalized something. Internalized homophobia. Internalized misogyny. At first it wasn’t an easy concept to get my head around – you mean, I hate me like other people hate me? How could that be when I hate them for how they hate me? But it’s not a conscious choice, really, not like someone saying “Well, the Bible says gays are bad so I guess I’ll hate gays.” It’s much more, I’ve found, about conditioning, about long years of the same behaviors and responses being reinforced until yes, I hate me just like other people hate me.
I’ve found myself down in a hole for the last couple months. Sure, it was stressful adjusting my life to help my mom out with her hip, and it also is that frustrating time of year between seasons that always gets me down. November and March/April have always been difficult for me. In November I just want winter to get on with it so I can enjoy Christmas, and by April I’ve had enough of winter. Around here, our trees are bare six months of the year. Although there’s beauty in them naked in the snow, by this time of year when the landscape is dead yellow, burnt orange and gray every single day, week after week, a person begins longing for green.
But those two factors can’t quite add up to the black wall of unhappiness I’ve felt lately. I don’t like to say “depression” because I’ve never been formally diagnosed, and I certainly don’t have anything so bad that I can’t get out of bed and do things. But it’s a low key feeling of hopelessness and despair, mixed up with irritability and a touch of anxiety, and a noticeable absence of motivation. I can do things that are scheduled without too much difficulty (though it is difficult sometimes) but this blog? I’ve had three or four ideas since January I’ve never gotten down. It’s no wonder I went grasping at trans-straws at this same time last year.
It’s been really, really frustrating, and I’m getting tired of it. Because I look back years ago and though I’ve had some ups and downs I haven’t felt this great big black wall of immobilization and fear just stopping me like this. Like this feeling I can’t go forward. I mean I gave up and let go of a lot of stuff in the past year or so, threw my hands up and said, “Welp, the world ain’t fair!” but that kind of resignation shouldn’t lead to this. One would think the world would be more accessible and more beautiful without trying so hard to make it something it’s not.
So I thought back to this cognitive behavioral therapy do-it-yourself course I went through several years ago, and the question came up, “How does this serve you? How does your depression or anxiety serve you?” How does feeling stuck in a black morass of cooling tar serve me? The answer came while outlining my book, focusing on a scene when these two reluctant lovers finally have to face their feelings. The one who has been so cautiously hands-off the entire time just blurts out, “I don’t want you to hate me.”
I don’t want you to hate me like I hate me. I don’t want you to hate me like other people hate me which has taught me to hate me. And I’m not going to give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you won’t hate me so I’m just going to sit here in my black morass and be fearful and feel sorry for myself.
That kind of rang a bell.
When I started learning about radical feminism and what it really means to be a lesbian, I started following a lot of radfem and lesfem blogs on Tumblr. And overall, it’s been an education, with highlights of touching base with some remarkable people I feel truly encouraged by. But on a daily basis, because of these blogs I follow, I read the messages over and over again: Men hate women. Everyone hates lesbians. Lesbians need to examine their sexuality. Lesbians need to consider lady dick. Someone is going to attack you in a bathroom, or someone is going to scream and have you thrown out for looking like a man. Everyone is going to fetishize you, and libfems aren’t any help at all.
I can’t say those things don’t all have a note or two of truth to them. I was asking myself why I still get emotionally caught up in reading about trans-activism when I’m no longer personally caught up in being trans. I mean yes, I care about lesbians accepting themselves as women, I care very much about young girls, but that’s what all my creative work is for. But the trans-activist discourse is still bothering me, and it’s still bothering me because through it all I still feel the pressure that I’m still wrong, that someone is going to insist I should be a man, that someone is going to tell me that loving women just as they are isn’t a real thing. No one actually is telling me these things, but I’m taking in the messages day after day after day and it keeps echoing off all this internalized shit left over from before.
I can’t begin to say how empowering it has been to learn the words to name the problems this past year. But in naming them and coming to know them, and recognizing them within myself (Why can’t I appreciate the female lead of the new Star Wars Rogue One movie? Why do I think she’s less interesting because she’s conventionally pretty?) I find I’m overwhelmed. Deep down inside I want to sit and petrify at the bottom of my nice dark tar pit and not have to deal with any of it – not all of it out there, and not all of it built up in layers upon layers in me.
So I’m going to do some touchy-subject writing here in the next few weeks. I’m putting it down like that as a promise to myself. There’s some relationships I need to get off my chest; I need to feel I have the right to stand up and describe things that have hurt me, the people who have ground all this hatred and shame into my psyche. It’s not about blame – it’s just the unfair experiences of this world, the ways we trip and fall into each other and end up a mess with ourselves. Somehow, I think – I hope – getting it all off my chest will let in a bit of daylight.
I’ve always said we can’t begin healing until we’ve found all our wounds. And maybe in order to heal, we have to name what hurt us as well. A bullet hole isn’t the cut of a knife after all, and one can hurt me more than it might hurt you. So for the sake of diagnosis and repair, it’s time to put it all out there, in the hopes the exposition alone does some good.