The Mark of a Survivor

Note: that the following entry has been one of the more difficult ones for me to write, but by simply reading it makes the effort all the more worthwhile indeed. Thank you.

Pain is a universal language.

It isn’t described in words nor can it be shared to others. As people we identify most with pain if only because it is a frightening and merciless concept. It is by far the very purpose behind built-in survival instinct. First we try to avoid, then to protect from, but in the end we learn from pain itself. The question is at what particular cost?

Physical wounds are healed easily enough, major injuries merely leaving scars or even disabilities in their wake. However, the scars within have a stronger lasting effect, most often more harmful when left buried away. Their presence arguably ties in to a person’s individual experience, shapes their personality and approach, but the memory of it lingers even if it happened long ago in the past. Sometimes, depending on the extent of those particular memories, they take root like a parasitical cancer and threatens to reemerge when similar situations are revisited.

Most scars have a story behind them. Often times these stories are personal, kept away from random acquaintances, reserved only for the closest and most trustworthy of peers. It is not the fear of ridicule or scrutiny that prohibits their retelling, rather it is the lack of desire to revisit the pain of those experiences.

There is no obligation to share them with anyone, no particular cause or design that dictates these decisions to be mandatory; instead, whether or not expected, those moments of sharing are made by personal decision alone.

It may occur first as a mild nuisance, a brief tinge of emotional change. It isn’t uncommon to dismiss them right off the bat. When the occurrence of these emotions returns, it can lead to immediate confusion and discomfort; attributed by immediate surroundings and conditions, the suddenness and unpredictable nature of these returning emotions can be immediately noticeable.

These random moments take various forms. They may manifest from a spoken sentence, even a single word; other factors include the surrounding environment, atmosphere, visual and audio sensations, even something as trivial as a particular scent or a mild bout of deja vu can change a peaceful moment into an ugly and terrifying one.

Within the BDSM scene, elsewhere outside of it, this phenomena is referred to as triggers.

These are not deliberately planned events. They are not conjured or created for any particular purpose. They are not desired or sought after by the people who experience them. These are signs of traumatic experiences, the type that is difficult to share to just anybody, and though they may come across as minor or nonsensical in the eyes of others, merely ignoring them is both insulting and highly disrespectful.

Some people have the gall to mock or downplay these events with those who experience them. I believe quite frankly that those people deserve to be shot, left alive, and be forced to endure a parallel experience by another less caring individual.

A trigger attack may seem, in the eyes of the person experiencing them, like the end of the world. Increased heart beat, blood pressure, hyperventilation and an overall panic attack are common symptoms of these events; the most common reaction is to feel overwhelmed, claustrophobic and brinking on the verge of a total emotional breakdown.

The anxiety often created leads to immediate guilt, humiliation and shame; further compounding that with unwarranted mockery merely adds to an otherwise serious situation, which suffice to say isn’t going to win you any friends from that sort of behavior. In fact, it may earn you the immediate ire of the victim and their surrounding friends and family.

These are not signs of weakness. These are the signs of a survivor. These are signs of a person who has tried too long to be strong and can no longer endure the weight of these experiences. The body may recover but the mind often does not.

There is no definitive method of helping those undergoing a trigger attack. Common sense is a necessity when dealing with these situations. Calm reassurance, paying attention to the victim’s needs, but most all being a supportive friend are all reasonable guidelines to follow. It may seem like nothing at the time but fetching a glass of water and providing a shoulder to cry on can be an immensely relieving gesture to someone experiencing such an attack.

Why is that, you may ask?

Because once, a long time ago, there wasn’t anybody there to protect or support them during these events.

Because once, a long time ago, maybe because of a poor decision or mistake, maybe because they weren’t expecting it, those injuries took place.

Because once, a very long time ago, all the pain and terror was very real indeed.

They occur often when we least expect them. The catastrophic sequence of events that takes a turn for the worst, taking place when despite all evidence pointing to the contrary still somehow manages to unfold. Immediately we prepare ourselves for the worse, shouldering that cold sinking feeling as all warmth escapes from our veins, followed by the surreal haze of confused emotions.

In the aftermath we try our best to piece together the events. It seems likely that most of the time the blame turns to ourselves in the form of meaningless questions. There is no truthful answer except the ones that we agree with the most. It seems ironic that the answers, like the questions that arise, are as openly ambiguous as the other.

***

What if I apologized sooner? Would he/she have stayed behind? What if I paid closer attention to their behavior and prevented them from injuring me? What if I didn’t do this or that, instead approaching the situation different?

What if I answered their call, spent more time with them, paid more attention to their needs? Could I have possibly foreseen their silent cries for help? What if I wasn’t busy or too tired that night and stopped them from doing something stupid?
What if I paid closer attention to their actual behavior rather than their exterior charm? Shouldn’t I be concerned more for my safety? Shouldn’t I at least tell my close friends about where I am? What if I didn’t take those pills or swallow that drink? What if I was sober and went home early?

Would my former partner have avoided a permanent injury?

Would my friend still be alive?

Would I have not been raped?

***

In life, we try our best to come up with reasons and explanations for things that occur. Every day we come up with reasons for the way we carry out our activities, each of our experiences shapes the way of our approach; the certainty of ourselves comprises of what it means to possess a unique identity and trail, but arguably when it comes to mistake a person quickly tries to find a guilty party.
It is in societal nature to find a scapegoat for anything. Cause and effect, that type of deal.  When it comes down to finding the cause of a tragedy, accident or bad experience the primary question boils down to who or what was responsible for the incident that took place?

When it boils down to it, perhaps one may argue that any one person or cause for blame would merely be based off perspective, followed by evidence for verdict. True, at best we learn to acknowledge our faults, but what if nobody decides to come clean about their errors? What if the party at fault is too much of a coward to come forward? What if their innocence is steadfast?

Rather, in some cases, what if we come to conclude that the guilty party were merely ourselves? There follows the shame of things, the guilt, if only because a simple mistake has stemmed entirely off our poor decision making. Everybody is raised, more so in the fetish culture, with the horror stories about another person’s mistakes. During a callous moment of overconfidence, be it from oneself or led astray by another, those mistakes take place.

A light hearted consolation would be to admit that error is a human condition. In reality, the price of error and the consequence of it boils down to luck, pure and simple. The fact remains that while one may escape relatively intact, injured and scarred, others are not so lucky indeed. Circumstances too may point the blame towards personal direction, the worst kind being a logical or rational explanation.

Sometimes the evidence is irrefutable. On the cold uncaring basis of things, all accountable altercations or transgressions are meant to be proven in court, but time and time again these things have proven to be flawed. Lady justice is blind for that same reason, that human emotions and sympathy be damned, merely devoting her work by evidence and textbook rulings. Criminals have walked free more often due to a lack of evidence, acquitted and left free to carry out their dark deeds again.

There too are issues beyond the courts that are tied beyond criminal activities, in this case sexual assault, but other incidents such as the suicide or loss of a loved one, injuring another person, even unknowingly committing crimes against others.

Everybody finds a reason to blame themselves.

For a person who has survived some form of traumatic experience, they are all too aware that they spend the rest of their lives underneath the shadow of those events; merely trying to argue against those issues, mocking, ignoring, even ridiculing them is to remind them of it. The effect and toll this has on any person who has experienced pain to a particular degree can be excruciating. It is also an unforgivable act to commit.

As human beings, beyond class or gender, race or culture, what right do we possess to judge others below or above ourselves? By what right do we possess to shame another individual?  Most importantly, for what purpose would that achieve?

***

Too tired. Too drunk. Too stoned. Too lazy. Too busy. Too enamored. Too zealous. Too careless. Too trusting. Should’ve done this. Could’ve done that.

An old English teacher once said to me, “The most dangerous words in the English language, any language even, is simply ‘What if?'”

It isn’t uncommon to fantasize about alternative outcomes. Often times in the absence of things, we recollect the memory of how things were, rather than focusing on the way things are. It is a place within our imagination that grants solitude and refuge, away from the reality of a waking nightmare. It replaces the agony of the present with the gentler and fonder moments of the past.

The past has no merit in the present, merely influencing the course and strive towards the future. Left unchecked, the opportune moments of the present can slip by, no longer available for interaction. Trapped in the past, time being a linear and perpetual advancing sequence, that refuge that everyone escapes to comes at a great price: neglect.

With neglect comes the fear of change, the paranoid concern of progress, and in light of those conditions people stall and no longer make an effort. It becomes much simpler merely to take things for granted, accept lower standards as modesty, fall short of accomplishing or achieving anything of merit.

Gods only know how often that has affect my friends and family, the lovers I’ve had, stuck in a place where somehow I’ve been convinced that things are perfectly fine where they are. For all the times where I could’ve listened more, paid further attention, it comes too late a realization at current.

Funny thing is, like the moments prior to some life changing disaster, its only when we lose something that we realize too late what could have simply been. Suppose you may call that part of human nature: regret.

***

Wake up.

Wake up to the sound of crying. Wake up and feel the summer afternoon warmth sticking to the leather couch, head dizzy from the jet lag, and ask in that quiet voice you had as an adolescent about why the whole family is in an uproar.

Dad’s recovered fine. He said he’d see you again.

He said, as you ate cake at the foot of the hospital bed, that everything’s going to alright.

Put on your glasses, young man. Take a good long look at the way everyone is crying and pacing in the kitchen and feel the fear that sticks at the your throat.

Now ask.

Ask what’s wrong.

Ask your Aunt because she knows what’s going on. You’ve never seen the whole family cry. Your uncles are too proud and traditional to shed a tear. Your cousins too modern, too focused on their respective school and careers to break emotion.

Dad’s not going make it.

What do you mean, that he just recovered less than a few days ago, that he’s back in the ICU again? What do you mean that he’s in a bad condition?

What do you mean he’s not going to make it?

Breathe. Feel the lump inside your throat dissolve into confusion and despair. Feel all the hormonal insanity kick in and your overactive imagination getting the best of you. Feel the summer dusk outside drain the heat from your skin and make you sick to your stomach.

Now run, young man. Get the hell out of there. Run as fast as you can to wherever your heart goes. Run as fast as you can from this horrible nightmare. Run away until your legs give out and you collapse beneath that tree, surrounded by the laughter of all the other children and teenagers playing at the park. Ignore them.

Close your eyes.

Or stare. Just stare the way you do sometimes and ignore the world around you. Just forget this is happening. Blank out. Its all a dream, just a bad dream.

My dad’s last words to me were “See you later, alligator”.

Four days later, after sitting there praying with every little fiber of strength and spirit inside myself, trying to pry open his eyelids and have him see me – just one time – merely begging, staring, hoping, that somehow he’d come back to life and everything would be okay, my father passed away.

Surrounded by family and colleagues, surrounded by strangers he never knew, lying on a bed that didn’t belong to him, the machines beeping and beeping and beeping until someone turned the fucking thing off, I held his hand and felt the warmth slip from it. I said that I’ll make him proud of me some day, but he never heard me say it and never looked at me, never held my hand back in return.

What I got to do was stare at his corpse in the morgue, felt how awfully cold it was, because traditionally and by request we put socks on their feet to keep them warm. What I got to do was watch the cremation workers have difficult trying to stuff the casket into the flame and toss the lid over it at the last minute.

What I got to do was spend more than a decade trying to follow his shadow, worry about whether or not he’d be proud of the things I did, channel rage in my teenage years into blackening faces and drawing blood, lie about everything to everyone, experiment drugs and alcohol, and hate – more than anything – everything that was left behind.

All I wanted was just for him to give me some advice.

I never even got the chance to say goodbye.

***

There is a particular observance I’ve made during the past few months of my travels.

The inherent eye contact people make when they engage in conversation speaks wonders about them. Varying anything from initial caution from the approach of a stranger to the fierce intensity behind subjects which they are passionate with, the eyes are the reflection – rather as the saying goes, the windows of the soul.

Its in the eyes, more than anything, a subtle hint of gratitude that does not and would not ever let slip that strength beneath. On a separate note, perhaps in a rather twisted fashion, it is a fiercely attractive quality to possess and behold, more so from a bottom – subjecting themselves to the whim of another.

Most of the time, at least from personal experience, my fondest interactions within the scene are with those who are strong and independent. A person, quite capable of holding their own, permitting themselves to be subject to a stranger’s skills and familiarity to all matters within the lifestyle is an act of utmost intensity.

That same strength and independence, I personally believe, reflects those who have also hurt the most.

They are the ones that have learned to heal and from that healing, learned also to live.

It isn’t that between partners one would generalize them, for that would be terribly subjective, but it is subtle when I first began to notice it. The brief hesitation, the gradual susceptance to the activities engaged, and the catharsis that follows. What I observed from time to time is that the sequence leading to that final cathardic state is slowly developed, but most of all is not from the hands of the dominant, rather the conflict that occurs from within.

Based upon the history of survivors within the fetish community, it can be said that even the most shy and seclusive of individuals, be they submissive or otherwise, reflect the caliber of their individual qualities – the survivor instinct – inherent in each and everyone. That one should experience deeply traumatic events, at times grossly semblant of the activities engaged, it is important to retain the possibility of accidentally setting off a trigger.

From that exchange alone, can it not be said that those who have endured and outlived their previous pains are all too capable of moving on? That it should not bar them from experience, let alone exploration, especially not limit their capacity to trust others because of it – can it not be said that within this culture, we in it that have survived, are capable of moving beyond the past to live within the present?

The risk of the activities within the BDSM scene, most of all the consented acts of sadomasochism, are understandably dangerous for such reasons. A great amount of responsibility between both partners, aware of the risk to both body and spirit, must therefore be acknowledged and fully realized.

Triggers, despite all form of familiarity and caution, may still occur without warning.

***

“Yellow, what’s wrong?” Someone asked.

Nothing, just play the movie.

They looked at me again. “Yellow, you’re shaking.”

I just need a cigarette.

“Okay.” They paused the movie. “I need one too. Let’s go out for a smoke.”

On second thought, can we skip this scene?

“Uh, dude, there is an important part that happens.” They added.

Please?

“Why?” They asked.

Skip. The. Fucking. Scene.

They looked at me in surprise. “Dude, chill the fuck out.”

You don’t understand. None of you understand!

“What’s wrong, Yellow?” They asked me again.

I DON’T LIKE HOSPITAL MACHINES.
I HATE THEM.
I FUCKING HATE THEM.
I HATE ALL THE FUCKING DOCTORS AND THEIR FUCKING WAY OF SAYING THAT YOU’RE GOING TO DIE, ALL CALM AND PROFESSIONAL LIKE.
I HATE ALL THE FUCKING BEEPING AND WHINING AND THAT FUCKING SMELL.
I FUCKING HATE THIS MOVIE.

***

“Hey.” I felt a pair of hands touching my shoulders. Eventually I felt them poking my face. “Hey, we’ve arrived. Grab your belongings.”

The Greyhound had pulled up into the station, late in the evening.

Instinctively my hand went to my cheek.

Up until that point only my family and former partners, not even my closest friends, had ever touched my face. Sometime before I had often ground my teeth at night, sometimes twisting and turning when I slept alone; the reaction if somebody were to wake me, touching my face, was often violent in response.

I blame the time when some other young man tried to sink his thumbs into my eyes. Maybe the other time when someone tried to choke my throat, especially that one time I was jumped unexpectedly while intoxicated. It sounds weird, I don’t mind take down scenes and breathplay on others, but I don’t trust anyone touching my throat.

It was around April, post-Portland, when this random incident occurred.
Vaguely I remember feeling rather pleasant after the event. A little bothered by it, considering the past results, but most of all relieved to a degree.

***

At a quiet clubhouse in Salt Lake City, an ultra conservative state, during the midst of a secretive private party, I inquire about the photographs hung about the walls. Within them are groups of older men and women, mostly from the leather subculture, often in formal regalia. Most if not all of them are dated to at least a few years or a decade or two.

I am accompanied by an older woman, a seasoned practitioner of more than a dozen years in the lifestyle, who carefully explains the background and history to them. Throughout my travels, particularly in Los Angeles at the Threshold event I attended once, the sight of photographs and plaques were commonplace at private locations.

Who were these men? I asked.

She explains, one by one, their names which I have forgotten. For privacy concerns, their names are further withheld. Most of them were from what the younger generation refer to as the Old Guard.

Eventually, for reasons I do not know, there came an impulse to ask a particular question.

What happened to them?

There was a pause. She replied, “Almost all of them died from the Decimation.”

As previously mentioned in another former entry, the Decimation is the name given to the time period of the AIDs pandemic, which took entire generations of the members within the leather subculture. Those that survived, former players involved in the earlier time periods, often disappeared without a trace, possibly returning to a Vanilla lifestyle. Along with their disappearance, entire histories and traditions were lost with them.

I studied their faces carefully. They did not seem unlike the older members that I occasionally met within neighboring communities and corresponding parties. In Vancouver, there were a handful of regulars who paralleled the age of the men within the photo. There were roughly fifteen of them.

How many of them are still alive? I asked.

Her response was rather unexpected.

“Only three.”

***

Not every survivor is fortunate in the wake of their past experiences.

At times their grief is so great that it inhibits even the most basic functions. For someone who has experienced sexual assault or domestic violence, the interaction with those of the opposite gender even physical contact is enough to trigger an emotional response. Others suffer from permanent physical injury, post traumatic stress disorder, even developing mental illness such as bipolar disorder or clinical depression.

For these individuals, every living day is a challenge, demanding nothing short of absolute patience and support; at times, their scars are visible in physical form such as stunted movement or disability. It is not in the eyes of these individuals that speaks of their experiences, their silent voices, but rather their very presence alone within a community.

Their stories often prove the hardest to share, admittedly I am both very fortunate to have been granted the privilege to hear them, for it is a testament of their profound resilience and courage.

The ever present fear of scrutiny for survivors, within any form of appearance, stems from that of their closest peers. Due to the activities of sadomasochism, inherently considered the most taboo of sexual practices, often these hardships are endured and overcome alone; for one example, the risk of disownment by biological family, based upon religious or political standing, is an ever present reality.

A person naturally has little choice over their own family but a very common proverb in the BDSM world is that there is a difference between a biological family and a chosen one. With our neighboring members in the LGBT culture, this term is still applied by those within it. In most fetish communities, there often exists a brother/sisterly bond between regular members involved; likewise, amongst private or polyamorous groups, such units are referred to as ‘houses’ or ‘families’, each with their own unique system of protocols and code of conduct.

However, there is a universal attitude exists within each community and group, one that is considered to be the basis or foundation behind the lifeblood of a BDSM/Fetish crowd. This belief is tied strongly to the comraderie, support, and mutual affinity for one another involved in the lifestyle.

With as much prejudice for the culture outside of the scene, those involved within it often share a close loyalty to one another. At times such loyalty is contested by interpersonal relationships, otherwise referred to as “drama”, that can be associated with smaller and less sizable crowds.

In the larger communities within the United States, numerous events have been dedicated towards outreach support and promoting risk awareness, such as grief counseling and professionally trained lifestyle-aware social workers. In San Francisco, various nights per month have been dedicated to addiction recovery, survivors of domestic violence and group therapy in response to the risk of ostracizing and victim shaming.

Smaller communities often share a stronger familiarity to its members, perhaps due to the limited number of practitioners per population. A humorous injoke that exists is that the BDSM/fetish communities are highly incestuous, provided the smaller number of members involved per organization.

The efforts and results of such outreach has been vital for those who risk being outed, the social repercussions that may follow from it, and such support has been paramount to the essence of any community – fetish or otherwise – to promote an air of tolerance and acceptance.

At times the internal conflict has destroyed that very essence and tore organizations apart, often by means of gossip or enabling personal relationships to be involved. What follows afterwards is an immediate sense of disillusionment to former members, worst of all a loss of faith towards involvement to the public fetish community. The most severe effect this creates is the added pressure for survivors unable to reach out and seek support, who must either cope in silence or risk exposure and subsequent backlash from their own family and friends.

Sometimes people are fortunate to find acceptance by sharing these experiences.

Others, as previously mentioned, are even less fortunate.

***

It is not a common occurence to encounter a practitioner living, homeless, within the depths of the urban jungle.

From past interactions with the homeless population, the collective stories consist frequently of considerable and unimaginable hardship. The modern vagrant faces constant bias based upon their physical appearance, the assumption of some fictitious addiction or ailment. Anything short of a modest and kept appearance creates an air of suspicion with the average middle class, leading them to be treated as below human regardless of racial ethnicity.

In some major cities, there exists a breed of criminal that exploits the people living in poverty, dressing up in tattered and worn out clothes, pretending to be destitute to make a quick dollar at the expense of others. Such activities further taints the already poorly received reputation of the number of homeless population in North America.

Like members of any lifestyle, political or religious group, the behavior and activities of any particular individual does not reflect the general body of their respective backgrounds.  The interactions of those I have met and spoken with are similarly subjective as well.

It costs very little, at least from my end, to provide food to an actual vagrant. Admittedly I am selective about the people I engage in conversations with, not only to avoid being scammed, but mainly for my own safety. It is not for my own personal benefit that I choose to help them, rather it is the only humane and rightful course of action in a modern culture that revolves entirely around capitalism and monetary worth.

Another more relevant explanation is occasionally encountering a fellow member of the BDSM lifestyle, even a person that identifies with the neighboring LGBT culture, who survives in the toughest and arguably most challenging conditions.
Most, if not all of them, have asked to their names to be kept private.

To date I count perhaps more than fifty to eighty individuals whom I have spoken with out on the streets, even befriended, but within that number only a handful identify with the BDSM scene. The number of those involved in the LGBT community are roughly twice or triple that respective number.

While no evidence save for personal testimony may be provided, which leaves the authenticity of their existence in question, there is a common theme involved to these fellow practitioners.

Both the LGBT and Fetish members living on the streets were ostracized, cast out by family and friends, left out on the streets to their own devices. With only the clothes on their backs, often they sought like anybody else to make a decent living; a poor turn of events, ranging anywhere between cheating roommates to loan debts, misfortune follows and renders them unable to provide themselves with a place to stay.

Briefly they find some type of solace in the form of their community friends, who provide them with a place to stay. When this often proves to be a liability, jeopardizing the welfare or living situation of their own peers, these members are cast out. It is not often based upon a dispute but rather a necessity, for in today’s climate the unstable nature of the economy forces these decisions to be made.

What follows during the months even years of prolonged vagrancy delve into a series of topics that few ever truly experience. Prostitution, drug abuse, criminal activities, even human trafficking are results of desperate measures. Ordinary men and women, shunned for their lifestyle choices or natural genetic design, are left to fend for themselves. Sometimes by choice, other times not as much; in one particular case, an anonymous male Dominant was ostracized due to a vicious false rumor, left out by the same community he once supported.

I confess that I am at times skeptical about these conversations.

However, I challenge anyone to seek out and interview these individuals while maintaining a steady eye contact.

The truth, as mentioned earlier, is often inherent within the eyes.

***

Please note, the details from the following conversatons has been changed for the sake of privacy concerns:

“It was roughly a year or so when it occurred. A regular night at another event, the same old farts that hung out in the foyer, mingling; a few scenes taking place, more in the private rooms of the dungeon.”

“I knew him for several years. He was there when i began and he had helped organize several events. One of these events I met my Mistress, who was there for the first time. We got talking, hooked up, and eventually she collared me in October. If it wasn’t for that event, I don’t think we would have wound up together.”

“Sometime in the evening there was a commotion. He was walking down this very corridor when all of a sudden he had a heart attack. Cardiac arrest, whatever you want to call it. People tried to revive him and by the time the paramedics arrived, he was pronounced dead on the scene.”

The woman I was speaking with pauses momentarily, visibly upset; her eyes have the visible presence of tears, gradually spilling down her cheeks.

“He was more than a friend to me, not in the sense that we played with each other, but because he was one of the few people that actively listened and helped everyone whenever they needed someone to talk to. He was there when nobody else was.”

“I miss him. Every single day, I miss him, but deep down inside I am comforted by the memory of him as a person. His family held a funeral for him but they refused to acknowledge who he was. They never disclosed where they spread his ashes.”

“A week later we held a memorial for him. It was a gathering of friends, acquaintances, celebrating rather than mourning his loss. People were laughing, crying and comforting one another. The whole community turned up for the event. He was one of us.”

“His funeral served him no justice. His family cremated him the way they wanted him to be. We honored him for the person he truly was.”

Unable to contain her emotions, doing the only feasible thing I could, she reached over and embraced me for the longest time, quietly remembering her beloved friend.

***

“It was not long after the miscarriage that I received the phone call,” She explains to me, smoking the menthol I provide. “He wanted to talk to me about everything that happened.”

“At first I was furious. I hated him for leaving me. I hated the amount of pain that he caused because he ran away, off into the arms of someone else. I felt superficial, low, unwanted – this entire time he had told me he would have been there every day when in reality he had not.”

“He wanted to meet in person and we did. I didn’t want to look at him. Halfway through I actually wanted to cut the meeting short and go home. I felt that he was arrogant, too proud to acknowledge his mistakes.”

“When I saw him, I wanted so badly to hurt him, to make him feel even a small portion of the amount of pain he caused. I waited for him. Once he was everything I wanted from a man, now I felt he was below even that. I screamed at him, called him names, cursed his fucking existence.”

“He just stood there, silent, watching, unable to speak. That made me angrier, I threatened to leave, file suit, and tell everyone about what he did. How dare he leave me for someone else, abandon me to experience the shame and guilt of my miscarriage.”

“He looked at me and when I gazed back, what I saw in his eyes broke my heart. He was crying, all that pride that I hated was gone, and I saw this intense loathing – not for me, but for himself. He begged me to stay, fell on his knees, and swore never to leave me again.”

“I don’t think I forgave him when I left. For a while I avoided him at all the events, spent time with various men and women, but one day – maybe a few months after that, I got another phone call.”

“This time I got the call that he committed suicide and suddenly all that rage disappeared, replaced by some raw emotion buried beneath, and I cried hysterically.”

“My ex-roommate said that I trashed my room, tossed the place upside down, and while she waited for two whole days before I came out, I never once stopped crying.”

“She finally entered the door one day. I told her to leave. I hated her for the fact that she wound up with him. She said that she wouldn’t leave. I threw things at her but in the end, she made her way over and held me.”

“We cried together for the man we both loved and for the son I never had. The same woman I hated for stealing the man I loved, the father of my child, came back to see me.”

“We’ve been friends ever since.”

***

After a second or third viewing, I came to grow very fond of the Robocop series.

***

People grieve.

It is normal to grieve. With pain, there comes the gradual process of recovery, healing, and moving on. We experience different levels of suffering, some worse than others, some less so; as people, a community, we must set aside our own grief and seek to support and protect those within our circle and outside of it. There are times a person may grieve alone but when their strength fails them, do we abandon them to it alone?

For the ones that have fought and continue to fight every day;
For the ones that have lost, hurt, and learned to live again;
For the ones that struggle, endure and grow stronger;
For the ones that lived in fear, overcame that, and found their courage;
For the ones that have protect, educate, and share their voices;
For the ones that were lost, in loving memory;
This flag flies for them.

Stat Vexillum.
The Flag Still Stands.

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4 Responses to The Mark of a Survivor

  1. dierdre1952 says:

    The fire of your journey is stripping away more and more of the dross. Powerful thoughts and words, my sweet man!

  2. Janet Nice Ice from Portland says:

    Amazing. You do justice to survivors.

  3. Lynn says:

    Well written my friend. If it was difficult for me to read I can only imagine how difficult it was to write. (( hugs )) It is inspiring and humbling. Thank you.

    Stat Vexillium.
    Maid Lynn.

  4. clairebeare says:

    “That same strength and independence, I personally believe, reflects those who have also hurt the most.

    They are the ones that have learned to heal and from that healing, learned also to live.”

    Thank you.

    Thank you for warning me of the triggers: I still cried. But thank you for Saturday, for understanding, for doing what you are doing.

    I’m so glad I was able to guest you into the club and even be a little piece of your journey.

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