Living with the Unimaginable

This is about “the suffering that is too terrible to name…” and learning to live

with The Unimaginable.”

PART 1

For all of the elaborate treatments which western medicines have tried to co-opt and create to treat mental illness and suffering, I question whether there are any that truly address bereavement in all its spiritual, social, and emotional complexities.

How do you mediate the effects of bereavement? If you ruminate, then you are wrong; if you avoid your grief, you are wrong; if you turn to coping mechanisms unproven by empirical evidence, you are again likely wrong. So how many things might be deemed “right”? What can possibly fill the hollow void left behind in the wake of a lost body and soul? The pain and emptiness that- for some- simply never seem to go away?

Who can possibly decide the right way to live with those emotions, those sensations, those perceptual states? What is most ethical, purposeful, or correct, truly? Could there ever be a right answer beyond the individual level?

I’ve gotten into trouble for asking questions such as these since I was a twelve year-old child, following the death of my father. It was as though adults around me thought that by asking such things I would become a weapon, dangerous to myself and to others. I was told not to think too hard; that was surely the problem (Rumination). Focus on other things; get a hobby or two. The pain of losing loved ones- in whatever capacity- will go away with time. Emotions are temporary.

I froze my brain as best I could; I numbed myself quietly through the false persona of a shiny happy blonde teen who tried to please everyone. I picked up as many hobbies as I was able, while I grew increasingly ill. Finding purpose and meaning as an adolescent is hard for many young people, but still I was guided towards dreams and aspirations- which my reality crushed hard. Because doing anything while living with debilitating chronic pain and fatigue- no matter the origin- is not often all that dreamy.

P2

Today, I feel that my questions remains valid. What is the danger inherent in asking who decides what is right for my mind and my body after they were shattered in childhood? Who decides my narrative- or for that matter anyone else’s? Why do so many societies seek to hide and control those of us who grieve profoundly, those of us who feel this world with our whole being?

Does we hurt to look at? Is grief painful to look at? Is it so incomprehensible for those who don’t feel such indignation in their bones every day that there are some people living in this world who just might?

Or perhaps- does bereavement bring up a painful reminder of the human condition itself? Of life’s fragility, and of how we as humans simply cannot control everything? We are mortal- we are stories with beginnings and endings, some much longer and more acclaimed than others. How do we hold that knowledge?

While this world cries out in suffering and I am alive to witness, as I watch my friends suffer- some more loudly, some silently- as I watch more lives vanish from this world, I will not apologize for my grieving. I will not apologize for getting angry. I will not apologize for not always immediately ascribing some sort of reason to all the chaos. For not ACT-DBT-CBT-ing my way through life. That is not the therapy which I believe to be my solution to pain and suffering. And I know it’s not the answer for many others, either.

 

I believe in listening, first. I believe in witnessing, first. I believe in radical compassion. I believe in contextualizing the entirety of an individual’s experience and asking someone what they make of their time here on this earth. I believe, I believe, I believe.

And as for joy and awe- sometimes even magic- and the possibility of the great beyond, yes, I believe in them, too. With all I have in me. But it’s my choice, and I believe in my way. And as others find their paths through ethical egoism and modified behavioral therapies, I respect their ways- so long as they don’t diminish the pain and lived experiences of others. Everyone deserves to find their way.

Perhaps the connectivity I imagine and yearn for won’t ever be truly captured in textbooks, journals, or research papers, even as I fervently search to better analyze it in my own research and studies surrounding the human psyche. I’ll use the DSM as I am required; I’ll work earnestly for my diplomas; but I won’t ever stop trying to plant seeds of change, of thought, wherever I go and grow.

I will continue to ask: What do we do when there are no words, when there is suffering too terrible to name?

“They are working through The Unimaginable.”

P4

Photographs from 2015-2019

 

Not Just a Body, Not Yours To Take

“This is my body and you cannot have it. It is not yours to touch, to hold, to take from; it is not yours to do with as you please. I am no object.”

These words are a sentiment seared into my heart; it screams them as it pumps blood to my body, and often I wonder if the men around me can hear it beating out each word, a battle cry and a howl of sorrow. I am not theirs to take- never again.

I am more than a photograph of a girl’s body; I alone hold her female, feminine story. We have been to hell and back and we are here to share that truth, if only in fragmented pieces over much time.

My Body My Choice 1.jpg

My body and I, we are often at odds with one another in ways I cannot fully communicate to people who don’t live with embodied pain of past traumas unspoken, who don’t know what it’s like to hide away unspeakable secrets for years too many. I continue to carry that in my bones- it wasn’t mine to contain but I carry it. That pain flows through me and out of me like the blood I shed from the lining of my uterus. But then, we’re not supposed to talk about such things, right?

Pain and periods. Blood and birth, death and decaying inside out. What it is to be a woman who has seen and experienced things we don’t quite know how to make sense of… to be a human being who suffers and thinks about it. Period blood; scary, dirty, forbidden. I raise you Toxic Masculinity; the most hideous thing that has ever touched me.

I refuse to be scared away by fragile male egos who cringe at the word “period” while they wail about blue balls and the dangers of getting a girl pregnant- the violent men who shame women without birth control, the misogynists who expect transactional sex. These men who would never consider a vasectomy, or hormones that invalidate their masculinity; meanwhile, so many women are far too often trapped on hormones and painful contraceptive devices-whether to prevent pregnancy, or to control our painful bleeding, or to help us conform to societal “norms” of how women should appear, with large breasts (and nipples we must never show) and no body hair- and uteruses to be considered valid in a heteronormative, transphobic, and patriarchal society that oppresses anything that can be “othered”.

The implication that women have true choice in the matter over our reproductive healthcare is insulting; show me where the choice truly exists other than inside the shackles of abstinence. And for every vote of abstinence, I ask you how many men are also willing to hold themselves to the same standard practice of “abstinence”- and to define their criteria for the construct. If it’s a pull-out method and a heteronormative ideology of sex that puts more power to the penis, I’m not here for it. And for all the men who say that this is radical, that this is “not all men”, who claim to know and practice better- go out and be the difference. Prove it.

And there will always be a fear in me of the men who do simply just take- without consent- from female bodies when it pleases them, especially from women who are most vulnerable- because society continuously teaches men that they are allowed to do so. Our present laws and language fail to provide them with much other example. Rape culture is rampant, often in the most insidious forms. I do not feel safe; so many of us do not feel safe.

My Body My Choice BLOG

Being a virgin did not and has not kept many of us safe from rape, from assault, from abuse. Yet does the responsibility of contraception and abstinence continue to fall upon the shoulders of women, too? Must we tie our legs shut, cover ourselves in more layers of shame, hide away in our homes until it is time for us to be made whole by men?Or perhaps we initiate a radical sex strike instead, in a twisted effort to manipulate our oppressors, continuing to deny ourselves pleasure and freedom, all in the pursuit of basic safety and human rights that should have been safely granted to us long ago, without the threat of revocation? I ask, every day- will we EVER hold all men accountable and make it the STANDARD for men of the highest privilege to take responsibility for their actions, past and present? Will we insist upon a better, more equitable future where those with most power work to create and protect a reproductive healthcare system accessible to everyone?

This starts with the fight to ensure and protect basic human rights to bodily and spiritual autonomy, for all people with reproductive healthcare needs. In these times we must remember that our identities are made up of so much more than our hormones and genitals or whether or not we can reproduce- certainly there is more to womanhood, to personhood, than that. During Pride Month, more than EVER, let us not forget that key to our complex human identities.

When our female reproductive rights are weaponized and taken from us, and our bodies treated like objects to control and diminish, it’s hard to remember our worth unless we are fighting for every facet of our identities. With pride, and true allyship towards those in our community who need our support most, may we can continue to ground ourselves in our value- knowing that we deserve the right to choice and freedom.

I am more than a photograph of a woman’s body. This is my body; it will never be yours to take.

Morgan