Intro and greetings and salutations and compliments to the crowd. I’m a messed up human here in a clown nose to talk to you about all the ways I’m messed up in the hopes that one) you will laugh, and two) you might learn something. Maybe about messed up humans. Maybe about yourself even.
TW: Trigger warnings, I think they’re important and I’ll explain why later but for now let’s leave this at: You may find this talk triggering.
- If you find yourself plagued by memories that don’t usually bother you but for some reason you just can’t get them out of your head… you may be triggered.
- If you find yourself confused by why you’re SO MAD about the content of this act or just SO MAD in general after this show… you may be triggered.
- If you find yourself counting things that you are able to avoid counting because you know that you have OCD but it’s usually more manageable than this… you may be triggered.
- If you feel like you’re going to have a heart attack and die panicky… you may be triggered.
- If you find that in the coming weeks you can’t remember barely any details about this show at all other than that you were physically present and not drinking or doing drugs… this implies (to me) a level of disassociation that says you might be triggered kind of ALL THE TIME.
Disassociation is a strange term; not everyone knows it so I’ll explain it at length, but in my own words: Disassociation is when your mind leaves your body. It’s fun and dandy when we’re in traffic and we don’t want to be there so POP, mind goes elsewhere and all of a sudden you’re turning into your driveway with no real recollection of driving there. Disassociation is also a tool taught to people who have any likelihood of being tortured. But it’s all well and good to be a soldier disassociating on purpose and it’s a WHOLE NOTHER STORY when you’re a child that’s learned to continue existing by disassociating because living in your body in reality is TOO painful.
And BING BING BING. That’ll be one of our topics for the evening and is also one of our prime sponsors! This act as part of a larger act composing Mercy’s ENTIRE LIFE has been brought to you by: Flawed Coping Mechanisms. Just because you can continue existing via this tool does not make the tool useful later. In fact, it is the inverse of that.
I learned about disassociation in a second year sociology class about identities; in a section of my textbook defining people with persistent issues surrounding identity as a result of trauma. And here I am as a twenty one year old whose known since she was thirteen or so that there was something seriously wrong and I’m thinking ‘Uh oh. What does this mean if I do that?’
So if disassociation is new to you, this doesn’t mean I am telling you that you are bonafied for sure as fucked up as I am and need help before you do all kinds of crazy things… But it is (perhaps) an indicator that… maybe. Something is rotten in the state of denmark…. if you can follow the metaphor that denmark is the state of your mind and you’re hamlet. So listen to Shakespeare kids if you don’t want to end up stabbing someone’s dad through a curtain… if you can follow the metaphor that the curtain is your crazy ass rationalization of why it’s ok to stab someone.
Now I’ve heard it said; once, that wearing a red nose makes you a clown as much as wearing a tutu makes you a ballerina, so we’ll be dispensing with this- – take off clown nose- – because I don’t need no stinkin’ clown nose. The funny comes from inside, and it sure is all I can do to laugh these days because it’s all so hilarious. And because I heard it said once I shall proclaim it now: tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same theatrical coin. Things can be tragic and hilarious and things can be hilarious because if they’re not hilarious they are tragic.
It is hilarious being a person that lives with trauma. Living with trauma is HILARIOUS because it makes you do all sorts of fun and exciting things. And as a person on the inside wonder ‘why do I do all this fucked up shit…?’ (We’ll get to talking about the fucked up shit) but you start to piece it together eventually. And I spent about seven or so years actively working very hard on uncovering what in the actual fuck is wrong with me… and about fifteen or so knowing something was probably fucking wrong with me.
And only now can I accurately, with precision; and IN RETROSPECT, pinpoint just HOW a sane person could have actually gone about not doing those crazy things I did.
A huge part of this pinpointing has been learning what triggers are as a whole concept… and then learning what MY triggers are, these are two very different things. Your trigger isn’t just when the same thing happens to you. Or is referred to. Or shown. Or discussed. Your trigger is anything that brings you back to the place where your trauma feelings were made. And this is why it makes me mad to see people resistant to trigger warnings.
The trigger warning isn’t really for the traumatized person. I handle conversations about bullying very well. Know what I don’t handle well? Laughter. For years I thought if someone were laughing they were laughing at me and it took many many excursions of crazy to realize that some people laugh when they’re nervous.
The funnest part about my triggers is that they’re so complex and so weird that not only can I not predict them, I can be in situations and places and with people I thought were safe, I *KNOW* are safe because I’ve been here before and done the things… but -pow- something’s different! Situation/place/people NOT SAFE! And I do something crazy. Like quit yet another job because I’m so well acquainted with the idea that if I have a problem not only will asking for help NOT help but it will make the problem worse… like completely cut off friends and burn bridges based on patterns I haven’t talked to the pattern person about. Like swearing in a professional setting where you’ve been talked to about how swearing is not ok and you have firmly dedicated yourself to NOT SWEARING in that scenario. Overwhelmingly it has been proven to me that I can’t avoid my triggers and I can only loosely know what they are.
So if a trigger warning isn’t for me… whose it for? Why do we need more trigger warnings and not less? Well. A trigger warning is for the rest of the world. A trigger warning informs them that there’s traumatized people running about and this is one thing that traumatized people might be traumatized about. I put a trigger warning on this talk because I can’t tell what you’re going to take from this. I specifically don’t talk about the traumatizing things that made me traumatized. It was hard to edit all the personal exposition of the WHY of my crazy out of this talk about the practical business of living with the cray cray. I don’t think that removes the need for a trigger warning. I think it actually makes the trigger warning MORE necessary.
Because the human language is a fuzzy and imprecise; an over complex and too simplified thing all simultaneous and at the sametimelike. English is language fun. It’s the subjects and places and people that we feel safe in where we let down our boundaries that we end up getting triggered the worst. If I lead you into this talk with no warning it could be triggering it could be really easy to just laugh and joke about how crazy I am and end up hurting someone in their journey who isn’t in a similar spot to where I am in my journey.
Language is one of those great levelers. I can mean potato to be food that goes in one’s mouth, or I can mean potato as in I put too much food in my mouth and now look like a potato. Where we come into this being a problem is communication. “That’s a potato” is entirely defined by what you’re describing as a potato. What if you’re trying to describe a concept or feeling that isn’t tangibly present to give definition to your words?
And so there’s a process to communication: what we describe a thing that we have perceived about the world and we do so through the level of communicative skill we have; our verbology; our thesaurasaurianness, as we perceive that thing. What we communicate then lies in between you and the person you’re trying to communicate with and they perceive what you say through all the layers that make up how they perceive the world and this helps them understand what it even is you’re talking about and formulate a response which they convey to you through THEIR communication abilities.
Which all makes me surprised and grateful that we aren’t just flinging our poo at each other all the time.
Because humans perceive the world differently. It’s one thing to say this but it’s another thing to know it and one of the best ways to know this is to have a super twisted perspective. I’m weird. I know other people can be at least as weird as me but I’ve also met people who are weirder. When you’re young, you think everything that happens to you is normal and then grow up to find out that maybe your normal isn’t everyone else’s normal.
When I took a cultural anthropology class, one of my favourite professors would patiently remind her class of caucasianish, middleclassish students to ‘take off your ethnocentric glasses!’ those glasses; through which we see the world, that contain our cultural values, opinions and hang ups that we must take off if we are going to view another culture through a remotely objective lens. One of the ways that she used to analogize culture to this group of caucasianish, middleclassish students that collectively didn’t get it was the kitchen dance.
The kitchen dance is what happens when you get your whole family together for a holiday or other event of significance where food is cooked. Everyone whose in the kitchen knows what they do in the dance, everyone has their role in the kitchen and through this way that the family jives together creates our family experience. Where this becomes super apparent for us is when we go to our partner’s family gathering and we maybe don’t know what to do in the kitchen dance. Maybe your kitchen dance includes men and your partner’s family kitchen dance does not. Maybe you come in and jive super well with the kitchen dance and everyone’s cooing about how you’re already a part of the family.
What if your kitchen dance is a no holds barred; no topics sacred brawl? What if all the moves you learned at home don’t actually help you in a rational and sane dance with other humans because you’re standing there ducking and weaving and trying not to get hit when someone’s trying to give a good frame and actually dance with you.
This is how miscommunications happen. This is how we can feel like we’ve been explicitly clear to someone about something and then have them do exactly the thing that we did not want… the words we use do always not mean what we think they mean. And yet we keep using them because we’re tapped on options beyond learning another language.
So those crazy things I did. I’ve alluded to a few things that are sort of crazy but did you think I was joking about it? Let’s go through it.
I am pretty fucking crazy. I’m here on stage in a costume telling you how crazy I am. Trust me, I’m leaving somethings out.
Recently, I let my roommate eat all of a jar of honey I’d felt rather strongly about and then saved the jar for her on the off chance that she had thought it was her honey and would surely be mad at me for eating my own honey because she might think it was hers. I came clean about this when they asked if I was leaving my jar for tea to go into and explained that yes I had wanted to do that but wanted to make sure she didn’t think the honey was hers. She did not; in fact, think the honey was her honey and urged me to see honey as a communal resource. I had been viewing honey as a high expense food item and would not have used her honey and only bought my honey when I’d gotten a job (that I lost because I was crazy). Because honey is for wage earners.
Once upon a time, I threw a diaper at a teenager. And the super secret point here where a sane person would have done something different to avoid finding themselves yelling incoherently and hucking that diaper at a teenager and then having to get into a trailer park level screaming match with the teenager’s mother… what a sane person would have done is throw out the diaper that appeared in their yard randomly one fall day.
What a less sane but still working on being sane person could have done was to ask their partner to throw out the diaper that appeared in the yard.
What I did was different than that. Knowing what my problem is so that I can ask for help with the problem is hard for me. What I did was stare out at the diaper resentfully and try to figure out it’s existence as if that was going to do something about this irrational feeling of trespass to find a diaper in your yard you didn’t plant there. Eventually after ruling out my elderly busybody neighbor and the road which was about twenty feet and a hedge away… I decided it was totally the people who lived behind me who happened to have a herd of children. So over the winter I stared at the diaper of resentment and stewed.
So lo and behold one fine spring day when I was staring out resentfully to the yard I saw cloud of dust in the back corner. There was a teenager emptying their vacuum into my yard. At this point, my vision blurred and rationality stopped being a thing for me and the aforementioned crazy happened.
And this last concept in my crazy is that I’m suicidal. Suicide is and has been one of the first things I think about in response to a problem for over a decade and that’s really only since I put together the concept that if you want to… you can actually die and stop living. I was thinking about suicide before I had the concept fully down pat that living was a thing we do and its a thing we can not do if we do things to make that happen. I was clued into the idea that it may not be a super good sign about your childhood if you were thinking of all the ways you could die so that you could not live at the age of eight and nine. I only really conceptually figured out the idea of suicide at around fourteen or so.
But as an ADULT. I came to the conclusion not too many years ago that it was probably my life’s purpose to kill myself publicly and gruesomely when I was eleven years old when my personality changed and when the bullying was the worst. If I had, my crazy brain tells me, perhaps the international community might have looked at bullying before columbine. And then my crazy brain told me that not only did I miss out on my one chance to give my life meaning…. that I was probably responsible in part for school shootings.
I dealt with that. I figured it out. I rationalized that no, probably no community; not my local community and certainly not the international community, would view my young tragic death in context of anything other than itself.
Surprise surprise a few months later when I realize that maybe I still have a chance to redeem my life’s purpose if I suicide in protest of another issue. And that’s how I ended up getting rounded up by the police and trucked into the psych ward. Because we don’t tell the governmental workers on the phone explaining how something’s messed up about our paperwork and now we get to wait just how suicidal we are. Our mental health resources hard at work. You can bet those cops had me within an hour.
I will never not think about suicide. What this means for me is that taking care of myself and choosing to LIVE is an active choice every day. Simple things like self care are hard to make yourself do when you’re not one hundred percent sure that you will not end up running into traffic. I work on this.
But more than that, it means that I have a twisted perspective through which I see the world. The way that I have continued on is that I decided that you (I) don’t just get to give your life to a cause the easy way. If you (I) are dedicated to a cause you will always be able to give more to that cause with your LIFE and your actions throughout it rather than your life by dying for it. There is nothing in suicide that you can’t do better by living. If there’s thirteen reasons to off yourself and stick it to someone… you’re ALWAYS going to stick it to them better by living and reconstructing your life’s meaning for yourself.
So hey there. *Snap fingers* potentially disassociating audience. Yer awful quiet there. I know that the funny dropped off a bit at the end but this is the vital information that I want to share with you. And so I’ve told you the ways that I learned a lot of this information. And if the way YOU learned about this information is sitting here in this audience… let’s have a talk after the performance. There are resources that can help.