Whenever metoo trends again, survivors like me relive our trauma, we want to be engaged, we also want to avoid triggers, feeling torn between showing support and keeping quiet. Especially with the added stress of the pandemic where our lives are at stake, planning for our disrupted daily functions and worrying about the future is enough to deal with. When Christine Blasey Ford's 2018 testimony rolled around, I was still recovering, my case was in 2016.
When I saw her testimony, I remember crying alone, she was familiar, she was me, that frantic panic in her eyes, the finger pointing inquisition, on a smaller yet equally painful scale, I have been there, done that. As tears fell on my keyboard, I was shivering in distress, I managed to type out a few feeble words of support for her.
Trauma is exhausting, sometimes the simplest tasks is like climbing a mountain.
Another quick comment shot off to a lady who lamented why is she using that little girl voice, it's so off putting. I typed it was normal, she is freaked out, she was literally shivering, often survivors behave like little children when they relive trauma.
It hit me then that not everyone understood because not everyone has trauma, it's a surreal untimely realisation. Duh, of course. When your trauma is so overwhelming, things like that often float over your consciousness, there actually are people who don't know what it is, there actually are people who don't know how many people have trauma, not to mention there're people who don't know how good survivors are at spotting it.
There actually are people who don't spend months googling Psychology Today articles, who don't go for therapy, who don't need to do anything extra but just live.
THERE ARE PEOPLE BLISSFULLY UNAWARE.
I wonder how many of those people think I'm more privileged than them, based on superficial ideas of me, that I'm attractive or I'm first world middle class or I have time for "frivolous art", instead of being their free therapist or life coach on demand. When being assaulted stopped my life cold, I put it on hold to try to survive through that difficult time, not so I can be enslaved to someone else after healing.
I didn't tell my story so I can be further burdened.
I didn't expect anyone to do that for me, but many expected me to do that for them, saying I'm a survivor carried no weight, yet them as a survivor did. I wonder how that works, I haven't been able to figure it out, other than do my own best and try to be satisfied with it.
That's what they said to me, frivolous art. Like as if my own trauma didn't rob me of enough, their traumas need to rob me too.
I wonder how many would experience people turning their backs on them when they needed them most, that one time you felt desperately alone, people show you their ugliness. The same people they supported through thick and thin will suddenly flip a switch when you drew boundaries and stop being a people pleaser, these are things I know and wished I didn't have to know. I wonder how many know the disillusionment of that, I wonder what it's like to be blissfully unaware.
I want to go back there, where I was also blissfully unaware, I want to be one of those untainted people, who can casually talk about trauma with emotional distance, ponder intellectually like a scientist viewing a specimen in a petri dish, a dab of selective traumatic news on a slide, to put under a microscope. To examine with no added emotions, to clinically probe with automatic detached curiosity, as part of feminist theory, as part of social justice or as people interested in the morbid.
Instead of with a heavy pit in my stomach, a clinched jaw, a worried frown on my forehead, instead of trying to selective tune into the news so no triggers appear, no shots of distress fire through their heads.
I reposted her testimony in hope others saw it and left it at that, marvelling at how harsh some people were, how they're so desensitised, they cannot decipher someone obviously afraid, savages who won't stop tearing them down.
I ponder how that was a clear sign of privilege no one talks about, invisible trauma we all hold silently into the depth of the night, no one talks about the disability that trauma causes, how it robs our finances, our health and takes over our lives. They talk about privilege all the time, so many people throw it out, this one is absent.
The privilege of being trauma free, of not being abused as a kid and not being assaulted randomly. The privilege of feeling safe, the fundamentals of living, being safe, not even protected, just safe.
To be able to criticise without putting yourself in her shoes, to not know the most basic reactions to trauma, once you know you cannot go back or perhaps they're afraid of this as well, maybe they have gone there and they don't know how to rewind like so many who tried.
You cannot reverse live, you cannot erase the incidence, you cannot escape it, until you heal, it's hell to pay and hell can take a long time to climb out of.
Hell is hard to describe when bliss is far fetched, the distance between this former and latter self is as far as can be, you either stay trapped or you rise above it, but even if you do rise above it, it comes at a price, that price is stark reality, you need to see people and things so clearly, it's really quite brutal up close.
That clarity itself can be traumatic too, no one tells you that.
My experience was the same, more people tore me down than uplifted me, way more were cruel than those few who were kind. I checked out Tara Reade's Twitter account and frankly, she got way more support than me then and way more than I would ever hope to get. Sure, there were people slamming her but then there were also people defending her as well.
Usually, it's people slamming invisible women and no one defending them at all.
If it wasn't Joe Biden, I think not many will even know about it, most cases aren't about famous politicians or celebrities, most cases are invisible women trying to move on, trying to get on with their lives as best as they can, women like me.
I spoke and wrote about metoo sporadically from 2016 until now, whenever I did I got a few people thinking I benefited from writing about it, I'm still wondering until now what that imaginary benefit was.
Are they blind to how women who speak the truth are demonised and attacked on a daily basis?
I get death threats, men gang up to warn me "not to be stupid", one man made it known to me that he tried to track me down to get me fired, that he is trying to doxx me, several others went from social media to social media platform, harassing me and disrupting my work.
I currently have a blocked list of close to 3,000 people, all abusive. This widespread backlash is also what talking about it often comes with. Another unexpected result was others eager to share their stories while dismissing yours at the same time. I get people bursting with their stories, long essays rambling on and on without an invitation, essays about people I don't know, expecting me to solve their lifelong trauma, expecting me to fix them with one comment, with one conversation. People who underestimate the healing process by so much that it's impossible for them to see how much it took for me to climb out of that as well.
I'm too exhausted, I don't want to explain.
I can't do it, it is not my job, it is a therapist's job. A job that they also assume is easy, having been on both sides, I can assure you it's not, the stress is real, listening to traumatic stories IS traumatic, no matter from who or when, it always is. It's that professionals have excellent processing abilities, they have great coping mechanisms, that's the only way to last in the mental health sector. They also usually have a support network of like-minded professionals and not lay people who don't get it.
I got a few shares since I started writing about sexism, a huge drop from my previous far larger response. When I wrote about racism, it became even worse, zero, most of it was me actively promoting.
So, what benefit? Where is it?
I didn't name my attacker in my writing, he was a random new male chiropractor I didn't have any kind of romantic, platonic or long term professional relationship with, it was after a few sessions that he did it.
I wonder how much worse it is when it's someone you have a long term relationship with, I had CPTSD from childhood abuse, so I unfortunately know that as well.
I did encounter many who compared their trauma to mine, they wanted to belittle me using their trauma, that frightened the heck out of me, how little empathy people had, even the people who go through the same things would up one on you.
Who compares trauma? It was a shock to my system then, it was lately that I found out that's people who needed to use someone else to prove how they cannot climb out of victimhood. They decided a survivor volunteer without a victim mentality was the right person. They tried to step on me to rise above, the same person helping them is often the one they also try to step on, I know I didn't do that, I don't think it will work for them either, yet they tried to pull of comparative suffering anyway.
I don't think I'm the right person at all. I don't want to be around them. I want to avoid them.
I realised even later that many have the idea that everyone who speak about it is like Christine Blasey Ford, Chanel Miller and now Tara Reade, we get national attention, we get shared and talked about, we get into the headlines, if not we have a private storage of massive hidden support, we speak about it because we're all carefree rich folks who can do volunteer work between high tea sessions and shopping sprees in our Crazy Rich Asian Ferraris, decked out in jewels.
My hard earned audience, a drop in the ocean compared to their quickly gained audience, is proof to them that somehow I'm well supported, I have a safety net unlike them, I got something significant in return, when I knew full well I was much better off not writing about these things. That effort has nothing to do with this, this effort took away from that, it was no value add at all, it was all out and no in, there is no benefit.
They have this idea we're instantly validated as courageous feminists or female sheroes, we're congratulated and platformed immediately, that people are queuing up to invite us, we derived a large amount of meaning and purpose for doing unpaid labour, that our kind heartedness means all we want is passion pay in lieu of real pay.
We don't need to eat but we need to be passionate, when it is passion and competency that becomes payment, passion is not even enough.
When it's really me tweeting away into an echo chamber, a reminder no one gives a toss, how insignificant one person's trauma is to the world, how many people gatekeep and police me even then. How many people will require me to value add, to earn my place in their community, ostracise me when I was too radical and use me as a shield for all they dare not say themselves, then throw me away as and when, with racism, sexism, any ism will do, find an excuse and get it done.
knife to the jugular
I needed to value add in a way white women do not need to, when white women who take less risks are overwhelmed themselves already. I didn't have the privilege of complaining like them even, I'm seen as the American trope of Asian Model Minority online, the elite shouldn't complain.
The reality for most people like me is suffering alone, paying for therapy out of our own pockets, that's if we can afford it, some people can't. It's the necessary but hard job of finding fellow survivors who won't assume the worst about us, fellow survivors who won't discriminate based on other things about us, by race or by sexual orientation.
Trauma doesn't erase biases, it amplifies it.
Showing up doesn't mean people stop discriminating, it means they now discriminate more during your vulnerable state.
Not just didn't I get support in my real life, I found it hard to get support in lay people manned online groups, it was constant re-victimisation instead, it was so pointless, I quit after a few posts filled with commentators coming unhinged with hostility.
I ended up being the support in the support group, not getting any myself.
I ended up being the most rational minded, with the most self control, I felt like a doctor prescribing solutions when I needed to be a patient receiving care.
I don't need that shit.
I restarted my career in writing as a 36 year old, I was paying to host and support my website, I made nothing since I didn't take paid writing gigs from major publications, I had no paid interviews, talks or anything close to it. I don't take donations, I don't earn money from Youtube ads, my website is ad free as well. This meant I was a free agent, unencumbered by mass media, I can write what I want, it also meant I relied on my own finances as well, I cannot rely on established clout to push me to feminist writer stardom.
I was a lone ranger who had to actively market and push for my story to be heard.
I was a nobody victim and my attacker was a nobody living in one corner of the universe, he owns two small local clinics in Singapore and that was it, no one cared or can be bothered. Some people don't even know Singapore is a country. Since my university days in the US, I still kept meeting people who think it was part of China, something which in recent months is a terrible association I didn't even know was going to trickle down to me so much.
Chanel Miller published her book and I know if I published one, I would never get the press she did. Of course I would rather her not be victimised in the first place, I'm happy if she can use her story to get her something in return, if that something was meaning and purpose or some book sales would be good too.
I think people who say victims shouldn't get something in return is re-victimising them, we should be compensated monetarily or otherwise. At least they won't need to fork over their own money to pay for their own therapy like I did.
While I don't think it will ever be enough, the life robbing nature of trauma isn't something unless someone goes through it will understand fully, every little bit helps.
Then Tara Reade retweeted a Twitter post by Andrea Constant, who came forward with Bill Cosby's crimes.
I understand what she was doing, because I was suspected too, I was relieved after I told my story, even if it was a small blip on the giant metoo radar. That wasn't why I said it though, I wasn't looking for validation, I was showing up for women who're afraid to tell anyone, including a therapist or a partner.
Unfortunately these stories are far too common, people have a jaded here-we-go-again attitude, one side is the suspected witch hunt, talking about excellent political timing, the other is people jealous of those who tell their stories, as if it was a competition, if she did, it meant I can't or someone else can't.
When I think we urgently need to hear more of it.
I remember a woman who private messaged me, she told me "writing is therapeutic", she meant I got something out of writing about controversial issues, she assumed it was therapy.
I journal for therapy, I write fiction for therapy, I do not write about controversial topics for therapy, it makes no sense at all. I have to be careful to not re-victimise myself in the process, yes, that's a thing too.
Another accused me of being a man hater, how horrible I am.
Another hounded me for private coaching services, services I do not provide.
Another was envious that I healed, as if I stopped her from healing, I don't even know her.
Another didn't volunteer for a day, I volunteered for 26 years, she eagerly policed my virtue instead.
I also struggle to gain any audience, even if I wanted to add to the conversation in the long run. I have a morbid envy of Tara's 32.1K followers now, she can continue this work if she wanted to, even if she didn't, anything else she chose to do will have an audience.
I have a slow crawl of 900 plus followers on Quora after about 1.5 years, where I write about domestic violence, metoo, racism, feminism and other topics.
Christine Blasey Ford didn't continue, neither did Andrea Constand, Chanel Miller did, taking into consideration she was anonymous during the trial so she could have some private time to recover. Of course they have the pressure of press hounds in their faces when they're named, they're exposed to far larger public scrutiny than me, being a nobody can also be a blessing in disguise.
The thing is I want to continue this work so I won't mind the paltry gain of followers, even if I definitely agree there's all to lose, her losses will aways be far more, I know this first hand, that is why I know their sincerity.
This is not something people who didn't do it understand, I'm just accused of preventing them from sharing their stories when I was overly worried they think it's easier than it really is.
Friends distanced themselves, relatives disapproved, dating became difficult, I was too controversial, I was a branded a betrayer tattle tale who would indiscriminately expose people's secrets, I was politically incorrect, I wasn't patriarchal enough, I didn't keep quiet.
What people don't tell you is the aftermath, I get people suddenly telling me their stories at inopportune moments in real life and online, they expected me to kick into immediate therapist mode for them. The shock of it was a burden, learning how to deal with it was a steep curve I didn't want. I was expected to be a metoo sock puppet, to be a ready receptacle for stories of horror best told to a therapist.
I was encouraged to encourage them to tell their stories, even if they have idealised ideas of what it meant, even if they can't tell it's different for everyone. As I worked hard to convince them I was a genuine volunteer, to gain their trust, when they did tell me or publicly said it, I was exhausted already and they were eventually disillusioned as some didn't hesitate to punish them for it. Feminism selling this lie that everyone must and should stand up and be counted, reality throwing it back with cruelty, some are still invisible and will always be, this cycle is sadomasochistic
There was no way around this, there was too little social support, for me and for those who told me, we're all silenced and struggling with trauma in isolation.
Knowing all this while as a new writer, I was taking boatload of risks no new writer takes, no one called me courageous or brave, because they saw the part of my life story they wanted, the thriver, the overcomer, the intelligent strong superwoman, not in it's ugly entirety.
I didn't want to have to listen to them and I felt like shit for thinking that way, I had to deal with the guilt of letting them down, deal with my disappointment in myself, when it wasn't my problem to begin with, I didn't victimise them, I didn't gain anything from them, I thought I was showing up for them, how did that script get flipped? How did I end up owing people instead?
How did it end up with me making so many often silent sacrifices, facing non-stop judgement, while some quickly virtue signal and grandstand through to a larger audience?
When I see how many are temporarily engaged when it trends then disengage after, out of the hundreds of locals and friends of all nationalities who metoo-ed with me when it started in 2017, I was the only one who continued to talk about it years later, I'm proud of myself.
I see how Alyssa Milano is getting criticised for supporting Joe Biden, I see how hungry women are for superheroes who don't wear capes, they're more than happy to not do any due diligence, including thinking about the possibility of what I consider having the greater of two evils in office. It would be perfect if all of them are persecuted, then why weren't female candidates given more support prior to this then? They didn't support female candidates then and now they groan about two male candidates with a checkered past when they're cornered, American women haven't shown up for female politicians enough, that is the primary problem.
I would completely understand if Tara Reade decide not to talk about it anymore after the election is over, I would completely understand if she decided it was too traumatic for her to do so, she has done enough.
If the whole point is for survivors to move on and thrive after, I have done that, after spending thousands on therapy, hundreds of hours working through my trauma, alone and without support. But when you're a nobody me too case and your attacker is a nobody as well, there's a limit to what you can do, that in and of itself can make someone feel helpless. It's not as if you have the heart or even the acquired skills like me, that you want the high stress that comes along with it as well. A stress that far too few know about and within those who know, far too few want to stand up for someone else.
I also started coughing recently.
So there's that, how stress affects the immune system.
I think I will just try to stay alive and think about the rest later.
Eshet chayil, God is a She.