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Monthly Archives: January 2011

Dear Some Identified Doctor, Somewhere In the Universe,

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At some point, I’m going to want my tubes tied. And at that point, I will tolerate no bullshit.

Children, for me, are a lot like apricot jam. They’re fine and all, but I don’t want a lifetime supply. And I’m not going to change my mind, and I know I’m not, and I’ll tell you why.

I’m not an easy person. I’m grouchy. I believe that Milk Duds and Red Bull constitute a balanced meal. According to the standards set by parenting magazines, I’m selfish.

I don’t want to raise myself, but I don’t want to raise anyone else either. I don’t want to raise a kid with my irritation, my secretiveness, my OCD, my ADHD, my panic attacks, my terrible eating habits, my reticence, my eyesight, my unexplained trust issues, my secret goth-girl love of clove cigarettes, my dangerous love of practically-raw hamburger, my detached ice queen demeanor, or my obsession with 90s pop-rock. But I also don’t want to raise some vaguely republican, sparkly-headbanded cheerleader who wears blue eyeshadow and dates a guy who drives a skateboard, who adopts veganism purely for the cache and thinks Semisonic kind of sucked.

Fine, so those are two extremes. The point is, I don’t know what I’m going to pop out, and I’ve never been an adrenaline junkie, so the risk just isn’t worth it.

I loved Anne of Green Gables when I was a kid, but only the first book. Because then they went on, and she got all maternal, and married Gilbert (which was, admittedly, sweet, and I sighed dreamily and all that). And then she started popping out babies. And then?—I stopped reading.

It was boring. Anne the Wife of Gilbert was fine—she seemed happy, and he was nice—but Anne the Redheaded Baby-Makin’ Machine was dull. She was dull way back then. She’s even duller now.

I could have the greatest kid in the world. That kid could be adorable, and smart, and preternaturally sweet, but I’ll tell you right now: I would bitterly resent every sacrifice I made for its adorable, smart, sweet little self. I’m not maternal. I never have been. I lack the desire to nurture or coddle, and I don’t think this is a failure on my part. We don’t usually castigate men when they claim an aversion to parenthood. I think of my womb the way I think of my appendix: it’s there, that’s fine, but if I didn’t have it, that’d be fine too.

Besides, I have a family history of bipolar disorder, ADHD, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, alcoholism, heart problems, some cancer, etc. My genes, they do not need to be passed on.

So what I’d probably get is a naturally messed-up kid who hides in forts constructed out of blankets, sullenly reads Dostoevsky, and wishes her mom were nicer. And then I would feel horribly, wretchedly guilty, and everything would suck.

I can be a sort of surrogate aunt to my friends’ children—the one with candy and weird-but-interesting stuff on the mantle, who keeps her Christmas tree up all year long and lets the kids trample through her failed garden and has a secret collection of young adult and children’s books in her study (because there are certain books I just will not give up). But a mother?—no fucking way.

I can has sterilization now please?

Love,

Paprika

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Working in America is like going from one abusive relationship to another. . .

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But it beats being unemployed amirite?

Augh.

No. Seriously. Sorry for the radio silence, I have had some big nasty health things happening which have left me kind of washed out and tired and really grateful to have health insurance for the first time in seven years.

But honestly. Lets talk about the state of the laborer. You know how I like to go on my filthy pinko rants.

 

No, those are filthy pink RATS. I said pinko RANTS. (They aren’t really filthy, they look velvety and adorbs. BUT I BET THEY LIVE OFF OF WELFARE)

 

So working– working specifically in America.

Listen workers. I hate to tell you this. I know how happy and excited you were when you got that job, how you were caught up in the whirlwind excitement of it, how you tried to be your best self, and then– when that job offered to make it permanent so soon, you said yes! Yes! Yes! Maybe it was a little fast, but that’s ok, because you love that job, and it loves you back. Sure, sometimes that job pushes you around a little, but it’s just so stressed out, what with the economy and the stocks and stuff. You know it doesn’t mean it. I mean sometimes you feel really zoned out, and you try to hide it, because that jobs just wants whats best for you. And that job would be so disappointed if you weren’t giving it 100%. And you make that job so angry sometimes– you know how stupid you get.

Well. Let me tell you, American workers. That job? Is abusive. That job that makes you work unpaid overtime just so it won’t kick you out into the street? That job that belittles and harasses you and then complains about your morale? That job that constantly threatens you with the knowledge that you could be replaced by a much hotter model at any time? That job that blames you for it’s own dysfunction? Is abusive.

If that job were a significant other, you would be well advised to get a restraining order against it. Sometimes that job is really unsafe, and is a hazard to life and limb. Sometimes that job threatens your kids (with poverty), if you don’t just shut up already.

The problem of course, is that even if you leave that job, you’ll probably just end up with another one like it, or worse. Better the devil you know!

And that job doesn’t want to hear your whining. It has all the power. It’s a fucking catch. Anyone would love to have that job. You think the other jobs will believe you when you tell them that that job is abusing you? Not a chance. That job has a good reputation, and you’re just a pathetic worker. That job has important people to please, and you just don’t understand– you’re too stupid to realize how worthless you are.

Sound familiar? It’s because workers have no power at all anymore. Unions have been dismantled, so there is no authority to which we may turn if our jobs begin abusing us. Most state labor agencies give as much of a fuck about workers rights as most state cops give about domestic violence.

A quarter of the wealth has been stuffed down the underpants of 1% of the country, and that sweet crotch scented cash is the result of abuse. And of making us buy into our own abuse. By making us believe that we don’t deserve living wages, respectful harassment free work places, benefits, security, and agency in our working lives. By telling us that we aren’t shit. By making it impossible for us to leave them, or to fight them. By making it clear (in so many words and with a quietly closed fist) that if we get together with our friends and their friends, they’ll just maybe beat us all up. And nobody (in the government) will believe us when we complain. They’ll just pat our hands and say ” well, it’s the way things are, dear. Maybe if you just tried harder, you know [buy some lingerie, cook a nice dinner] [useless “career” advice]…” They will say “Oh, but thats a such a nice job! I just can’t believe that that that job would do such a thing! And I know how you lie!”

And the other jobs will be sure to let you know that they think you provoked that job, that “it takes two” and “everyone is equally responsible.”

So here we are, American workers.

Our only option is collective action.  Much like a victim of domestic violence cannot just up and leave with any support structures, individual workers can’t change things. We have to demand accountability. We have to demand the right to unionize. We have to insist that our government treat workers like what we are– the foundation of the economy and the country. The wealthy don’t create or maintain jobs. We have ample evidence of this, historical and recent. The wealthy don’t even use their money in their own long term fucking interests, by putting it back into the system. The wealthy are stupid are stupid and short sighted, they are insulated, and believe that their wealth will protect them from the consequences of seeking short term profit. The wealthy, in short, are not qualified to run things, and they certainly don’t deserve to abuse us.

Obviously, things for workers are worse in some places and better than others. I recognize the unfortunate UScentric focus of this post, but it was inspired by my time at Big Evil Credit Card Company of Evil Did We Mention We Are Evil?

 

Did I Mention How Evil I Am?

It’s 2:27 a.m., and By God, I’ve Got Shit to Say

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I had a class with a really dumb girl once (well, woman—but a woman with girl-level dumbness). Unfortunately for everyone, the class was creative writing, so she communicated her dumbness through cop novel clichés. And in this double-spaced 15-page load of tripe—which managed to encompass two entire chapters, by the way—there was a cop whose workaholic nature she ascribed to “what doctors said was a form of OCD.”

Yeah, no.

I have OCD. Mild, controllable OCD, but OCD nonetheless. Of course, OCD manifests itself in a metric shit ton of different ways, and I would hardly try to say that my particular version of it is the gold standard by which all subsequent cases should be measured, but. That girl was full of crap.

Morons who try to create disorder-plagued characters seem to take one of two positions: either that the disorder is horrific and debilitating, and causes the sufferer to, say, mutilate live bunnies while gnawing on the bones of brave social activists, or (my favorite) that the alleged sufferer is in fact a tortured, eccentric genius with a unique and valuable view of the entire goddamn universe, a view often accompanied by some vague, new-agey sort of mysticism.

Both of these portrayals are incredibly offensive, of course, but I think the tortured genius trope pisses me off more. Because mental disorders don’t make you brilliant—they make you miserable. And not everyone who has a mental disorder is smart—sometimes they’re complete fucking morons.

Which is fine.    A mentally ill neurosurgeon has no more intrinsic value than a mentally ill c-store cashier, or a mentally ill homeless person. (Of course, I choose to believe that homeless men—and they’re always men, of course—are just drug-addled rapists who cuddle crack bulbs in their sleep. Otherwise, I might actually have to care about them.)

But my point: Anyone can have a mental disorder. Those disorders can take many forms. And every one of those forms fucking blows.

Also, every single one of them deserves to be helped.

And can I just say that it is possible, god damn it, to have OCD minus the obsessive hand-washing? My symptoms, for example, include:

Counting. Of everything, but especially of objects that are arranged in easily-discernible patterns, like tiles.

Rearranging numbers into mathematical equations. I usually do this with home addresses, zip codes, and phone numbers. Because my math skills are limited, the equations are limited to those using addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents, parentheses (for the order of operations), and occasionally, when I feel all smart and stuff, fractions.

Rhythmic clicking in the back of my throat.

Ending stairs on my left foot—which is weird, because I’m right-handed and extremely right-dominant in every area (except politics, this being Pepper and Paprika after all). I can’t even use my left hand to zip my jacket. I have memorized the number of steps on many a staircase so I know which foot to start on, because I really hate having to skip a step to finish the stairs correctly.

Fitting two steps into each sidewalk block (left foot, then right foot, so I step over the cracks with my left). I really wish sidewalks didn’t have blocks; it would make my life so much easier.

Counting the letters in words, then the syllables; dividing the number of syllables into the number of letters to see if it comes out evenly. Words that do, I remember. But words like “beautiful,” despite fulfilling that requirement, are not among my favorites, because each syllable, as pronounced, does not have three letters. It’s beau / ti / ful, not bea / uti / ful, amirite? Words like bookcase (book / case) are nice, though. And words of three or more syllables that follow this pattern are great.

Most people will never pick up on my habits. I’m good at hiding them. But, trust, I engage in them constantly, and utterly against my will.

It’s not always bad, I guess. Counting soothes me when I’m stressed. The letter/syllable thing means that I spend a lot of time observing the patterns of people’s speech, which probably improves my dialogue-writing abilities. But generally, it’s stupid, and annoying, and it distracts me from shit that actually matters.

Which is why, during the full-class critique for creative writing dumbass’s cop drama, I made a point of basically saying, look. I don’t mean to use my experience as the ultimate example of OCD—especially since my case is so manageable—but OCD is not generally something that improves your career. It fucks things up. On account of it being a disorder. On account of it sucking. On account of it being something that nobody should ever want ever.

OCD doesn’t signal an Einsteinian brain, nor is it quirky and fun. And I would venture to say that Schizophrenic hallucinations don’t allow one to commune with a higher power, either.

So what I’m trying to say here is that Monk is a good show, because it depicts a character who is both helped and hindered by his disorder. I really wish that more shows/books/movies/people would take on such a wonderfully nuanced view.

See? You can be OCD and still write a rambling, disorganized blog post. Misconceptions, I SHATTER THEM.

Satan Wants You to Eat Carbs (and other bullshit no one should believe)

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Warning: This post contains disturbing quotes related to pro-ED websites, and could be triggering for anyone who has suffered, or continues to suffer, from an eating disorder.

 

So I decided to write a paper about the religious rhetoric used on pro-anorexia websites.  I decided to do this over the holiday break, because God knows I can’t just relax with candy and bad movies. I gots to write depressing shit and stuff.

And so I probed the deep dark corners of the internet, and came up with yet more things to be pissed about. There’s Pro-thinspo, for example, a lurid, cluttered website, amatuerish in design, and purportedly run by Jodee, Queen of the Starvation Scene. Interestingly, Pro-thinspo sells a ton of dieting products, and even more interestingly, they all bear the Pro-thinspo name.

Yep. Pro-thinspo is run by a diet pill company. Sweet.

Then there’s PrettyThin, a website with which I had to create an account to access its members-only content. PrettyThin is run by James, who claims to be 30 in his bio, although his personal account with PrettyThin lists his age as 34. James cares about you. James wants you to “stay beautiful.” James will sell you a pro-Ana bracelet, which comes with a free personally-inscribed card that has some shitty ass poem of his and his signature.

Incidentally, there are a lot of minors posting semi-nude photos of themselves on the website, which is why I reported James to the FBI for hosting child porn.

Should you venture into the members-only forums (and you really shouldn’t), you’ll find an entire forum dedicated to health issues, where girls as young as fifteen report hand tremors, erratic heartbeats, and blood-laced vomit. The website claims to have real health professionals who can answer your health questions. It doesn’t. I’ve yet to find a single comment from anyone claiming to be a nurse, doctor, or health professional of any kind. I haven’t even seen a self-proclaimed med student or nutritionist on there.

Pro-Ana websites argue that they should be protected as free speech. Which is bullshit, because:

They incite their audience to self-harm.

They specifically target juveniles. (Which is evinced by the number of tips on “how to hide your ED from your parents,” “how to avoid family meals,” etc.)

They engage in hate speech against the “obese” (many of whom are well within a healthy weight) through reverse thinspiration photos and shit like:

Only fat people are attracted to fat people. Do you want pigs to like you because you are one of them?

If you eat, you’ll like those disgusting, fat, ghetto and trailer-trash hookers on Jerry Springer.

Fat people are so huge, yet people look away from them like they don’t exist.

If you slap a fat person you can see a shockwave ripple over their skin. That’s disgusting.

I could post direct links to these quotes, but I can’t trace them back to one specific source because they are everywhere. I found the Jerry Springer quote on five different sites.

And they’re disgusting quotes. They are awful and reprehensible and hateful. But they’re easy to criticize, because their awfulness is so transparent. What about the less obviously harmful? What about:

Do not give up on what you want most, for what you want at the moment.

Giving in to food shows weakness, be strong and you will be better than everyone else.

Love not what you are, but what you may become.

I’ve read and heard this kind of shit before—in self-help books, from motivational speakers, from a past boss who was batshit crazy and used to hover over me repeating mantras like “there’s no such thing as can’t. There’s will and there’s won’t.”

The point is, we have all heard this. We have all heard that only we can shape our future, that if we don’t succeed we just haven’t tried hard enough, that we can have whatever we want if we exercise our self-control and determination, if we refuse to let other people block the finish line, if we push ourselves as far as we can go.

It’s bullshit, of course. It ignores the realities of daily life, it ignores power structures, it ignores such obstacles as health, money, prejudice, and sometimes (let’s face it) natural ability. It’s an asinine approach to life, and a narcissistic one as well.

Also, it sounds fucking stupid.

But it’s constant, and pervasive, and denying its influence on the pro-Ana community would be idiotic.

The people who run and/or belong to pro-Ana sites often say that they don’t have a disorder. They’ve chosen a “lifestyle,” and while they usually admit that it’s not a healthy way to live, they insist that it is their right. On PrettyThin, for example, you’ll find this disclaimer:

Anorexia may be, and often is, harmful to your health. The lifestyle can lead to health problems that can be irreversible. Those of us that have chosen the ana lifestyle are often more knowledgable about nutrition than the average person. So we know the importance of proteins just as much as vitamins and minerals in the diet. Those that have chosen mia know the risks of esphogial damage from first hand experience. This lifestyle is not healthy…no one said it is. But that is not the point of this lifestyle. This is not something we have chosen because we want to be healthy. We have been thinspired to be beautiful, and this is what we find to be beautiful.

The lifestyle is no different than any other. It is chosen so that we can be who we want to be; to be who we know we are. This was not selected for health, nor selected to please others.

This does not mean that we feel it is the best lifestyle….we feel that it is ours.

You should never be persuaded to live any lifestyle that isn’t you, including this one. Your choices are your own, and you should not make this one just because you like the pictures or words here on this site. I would actually tell you not to select this lifestyle. Anorexia os a tough decision to make, and one that could cause you to die sooner than you would with many other lifestyles.

Be yourself…

Of course, since the majority of PrettyThin’s members seem to be juveniles, and are therefore members of a protected class, that “personal freedom to kill yourself slowly” thing doesn’t quite apply. But whatever.

My point is that, while it’s easy to assign blame, to castigate people like Predatory James and let the matter drop, the shit you’ll find on these websites isn’t new—it’s the same irresponsible, unrealistic mantras in a new package. Eating disorders are a disease, and they should be treated as such; but they are also, I would argue, the natural result of a culture that places so much emphasis on self-control and “personal success.” Food and dieting are the perfect vehicles for that obsession, especially with the added problem of ladies be delicate bird-boned petal-haired magic fairies whose nutrients come mainly from watermelon-flavored chapstick.

So in retaliation, I set a new rule for myself: every time I research this shit, I eat something sinful. Because eating is a sin, and I’m a failed Catholic. And Satan is made of congealed Mike & Ikes and half-melted Milk Duds, drizzled in a Java Monster glaze.

Sometimes, all I can do is nod along

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Second– Of Rape Culture and Us.

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So. I’m hoping that before you read this, you’ll go back and read that letter from Bill Zeller. And then maybe read it again. Because what should stand out in that letter is this:

In all his 22 years of life, Bill Zeller apparently didn’t hear often or sincerely that when someone is raped, it is not their fault. And not hearing that, in conjunction with hearing probably hundreds, if not thousands, of casual rape jokes, of skeptical head tilting eyes narrowed interrogation of victims by the media and by their friends and families, of all the ways that culture conspires to silence, to abnegate, to pretend that it doesn’t happen, made him feel like he couldn’t seek help.

And that, in combination with the way that we talk about victims as broken, as used, as damaged, as permanently fucked up, and not as courageous survivors, well. That takes away their agency and their dignity again. Victims should be allowed to feel what they feel, and if they feel broken and damaged and fucked up, that is part of their process for working through the trauma and thats ok. What is NOT ok is for us, we society, we friends and family, to pressure them to feel this by the way we talk to them and treat them.

Compassion and empathy. Not pity.

And ask yourself– when was the last time, outside of the feminist blogosphere that you heard lots of people say unequivocally and sincerely that It Is Never the Victim’s Fault.

Ever.

No matter what. No matter what they wore, what they drank, where they went, who they let in, what other sexual activity they engaged in. No matter what.

I don’t think that one person could have prevented Bill Zeller’s death. Maybe nothing could have, I don’t know. But I feel very strongly that the darkness he was carrying is the darkness of our cultural narrative about rape as much as it was his own trauma. I believe that he had good reason not to trust people. I believe that that is the most infuriating and awful and sad thing in the world.

Someone you know has been raped. If they have never told you, that is a reflection on you.

I hope that Zeller’s darkness has let him go. I believe it has. But I think that we are carrying a little bit of it, all of us.

Because we need to stand up together and say, loudly– “It’s not her fault. It’s not his fault. It’s never, ever, EVER the victims fault. The victim is not forever damaged, the rapist NEVER has that kind of power, and doesn’t deserve it.”

Some people will never believe this. Some people will continue trying to rape apologize and victim blame. Fuck them. I’m not worried about them.

I’m worried about the rest of us, the ones that are on the fence, that think that victims are maybe sometimes a little culpable in their own rape. The ones that are confused by all the hate that gets spewed from the rape apologizers. The ones that, for politeness sake, for the sake of smoothing feathers, for the sake of seeming “fair and balanced” don’t call it out. I want them to read Bill Zeller’s letter and think about what it really means to silence the suffering.

And then I want all of us to stand the fuck up and say “It’s not your fault.” If someone trusts you enough to tell you about their rape, that is what you say. You don’t question what they should have done or did or didn’t do or whether they should prosecute or if they’re telling the truth or how bad it really was. You just listen. And you say “It’s not your fault.”

And you honor and respect their request for secrecy, you honor and respect their own agency in dealing with their rape. You honor and respect that this is their trauma, and negotiating it is up to them. You don’t have to agree with what every survivor does or thinks, but it’s not up to you to decide on their behalf who should know.

If you are a man and it’s your sister/mother/daughter/wife/girlfriend/friend– don’t make her rape about you, it’s ok if you feel angry, it’s ok if you feel like hunting the rapist down, but keep it to yourself. Because you know what? Those feelings are about you, and your own perception of your role as protector, not about her. And this is her trauma. Not yours. So you just swallow it down, just shut it off and focus on being there and listening and say as many times as she needs to hear it, “It’s is not your fault.” Because I promise you, victims have internalized every fucked up bullshit rape apology you can imagine and some that you don’t want to.

So be there for them and put your own masculinity shit aside.

And for women– don’t laugh about the idea of a man being raped. It’s not funny, it’s not impossible. Understand that there is a particularly awful kind of shame built into the construction of masculinity, and that when a man or boy is raped, it comes into full play. Rape happens to women overwhelmingly more often than it happens to men. Rape happens to transpeople overwhelmingly more often than anyone else, actually. This isn’t the oppression olympics, so don’t play that game. That doesn’t mean we have to entertain bullshit derailments when women are discussing their rapes or living in a misogynist rape culture, and this isn’t a what about the menz! moment. It’s a call to compassion.

And to all of us– when someone makes a rape joke, don’t laugh. And when your friends are talking about another high profile rape case and buying into the victim blaming, you fucking remind them– “It’s not the victims fault. And this kind of talk has life or death consequences for victims.”

And mean it. God damned well mean it.

The “it gets better” campaign has been really important in reaching out LGBTIQ people who are being bullied to death. I’d like to see a similar campaign to tell rape survivors “It’s not your fault.”

Because they are being joked, and blamed, and pitied, and ignored, and disbelieved, and silenced to death.

 

 

First– Something very, very important that you should read.

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I don’t usually do trigger warnings, but I will in this case. Warning for sexual assault, and suicide.

Reposted from Gizmodo

Bill Zeller committed suicide recently. I am choosing to repost this first, and then write some things about it. This is a really hard thing to read, as it should be.

Bill Zeller

I have the urge to declare my sanity and justify my actions, but I assume I’ll never be able to convince anyone that this was the right decision. Maybe it’s true that anyone who does this is insane by definition, but I can at least explain my reasoning. I considered not writing any of this because of how personal it is, but I like tying up loose ends and don’t want people to wonder why I did this. Since I’ve never spoken to anyone about what happened to me, people would likely draw the wrong conclusions.

My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly. This has affected every aspect of my life. This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me, usually triggered by a distinct situation. In kindergarten I couldn’t use the bathroom and would stand petrified whenever I needed to, which started a trend of awkward and unexplained social behavior. The damage that was done to my body still prevents me from using the bathroom normally, but now it’s less of a physical impediment than a daily reminder of what was done to me.

This darkness followed me as I grew up. I remember spending hours playing with legos, having my world consist of me and a box of cold, plastic blocks. Just waiting for everything to end. It’s the same thing I do now, but instead of legos it’s surfing the web or reading or listening to a baseball game. Most of my life has been spent feeling dead inside, waiting for my body to catch up.

At times growing up I would feel inconsolable rage, but I never connected this to what happened until puberty. I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time by doing things that required intense concentration, but it would always come back. Programming appealed to me for this reason. I was never particularly fond of computers or mathematically inclined, but the temporary peace it would provide was like a drug. But the darkness always returned and built up something like a tolerance, because programming has become less and less of a refuge.

The darkness is with me nearly every time I wake up. I feel like a grime is covering me. I feel like I’m trapped in a contimated body that no amount of washing will clean. Whenever I think about what happened I feel manic and itchy and can’t concentrate on anything else. It manifests itself in hours of eating or staying up for days at a time or sleeping for sixteen hours straight or week long programming binges or constantly going to the gym. I’m exhausted from feeling like this every hour of every day.

Three to four nights a week I have nightmares about what happened. It makes me avoid sleep and constantly tired, because sleeping with what feels like hours of nightmares is not restful. I wake up sweaty and furious. I’m reminded every morning of what was done to me and the control it has over my life.

I’ve never been able to stop thinking about what happened to me and this hampered my social interactions. I would be angry and lost in thought and then be interrupted by someone saying “Hi” or making small talk, unable to understand why I seemed cold and distant. I walked around, viewing the outside world from a distant portal behind my eyes, unable to perform normal human niceties. I wondered what it would be like to take to other people without what happened constantly on my mind, and I wondered if other people had similar experiences that they were better able to mask.

Alcohol was also something that let me escape the darkness. It would always find me later, though, and it was always angry that I managed to escape and it made me pay. Many of the irresponsible things I did were the result of the darkness. Obviously I’m responsible for every decision and action, including this one, but there are reasons why things happen the way they do.

Alcohol and other drugs provided a way to ignore the realities of my situation. It was easy to spend the night drinking and forget that I had no future to look forward to. I never liked what alcohol did to me, but it was better than facing my existence honestly. I haven’t touched alcohol or any other drug in over seven months (and no drugs or alcohol will be involved when I do this) and this has forced me to evaluate my life in an honest and clear way. There’s no future here. The darkness will always be with me.

I used to think if I solved some problem or achieved some goal, maybe he would leave. It was comforting to identify tangible issues as the source of my problems instead of something that I’ll never be able to change. I thought that if I got into to a good college, or a good grad school, or lost weight, or went to the gym nearly every day for a year, or created programs that millions of people used, or spent a summer or California or New York or published papers that I was proud of, then maybe I would feel some peace and not be constantly haunted and unhappy. But nothing I did made a dent in how depressed I was on a daily basis and nothing was in any way fulfilling. I’m not sure why I ever thought that would change anything.

I didn’t realize how deep a hold he had on me and my life until my first relationship. I stupidly assumed that no matter how the darkness affected me personally, my romantic relationships would somehow be separated and protected. Growing up I viewed my future relationships as a possible escape from this thing that haunts me every day, but I began to realize how entangled it was with every aspect of my life and how it is never going to release me. Instead of being an escape, relationships and romantic contact with other people only intensified everything about him that I couldn’t stand. I will never be able to have a relationship in which he is not the focus, affecting every aspect of my romantic interactions.

Relationships always started out fine and I’d be able to ignore him for a few weeks. But as we got closer emotionally the darkness would return and every night it’d be me, her and the darkness in a black and gruesome threesome. He would surround me and penetrate me and the more we did the more intense it became. It made me hate being touched, because as long as we were separated I could view her like an outsider viewing something good and kind and untainted. Once we touched, the darkness would envelope her too and take her over and the evil inside me would surround her. I always felt like I was infecting anyone I was with.

Relationships didn’t work. No one I dated was the right match, and I thought that maybe if I found the right person it would overwhelm him. Part of me knew that finding the right person wouldn’t help, so I became interested in girls who obviously had no interest in me. For a while I thought I was gay. I convinced myself that it wasn’t the darkness at all, but rather my orientation, because this would give me control over why things didn’t feel “right”. The fact that the darkness affected sexual matters most intensely made this idea make some sense and I convinced myself of this for a number of years, starting in college after my first relationship ended. I told people I was gay (at Trinity, not at Princeton), even though I wasn’t attracted to men and kept finding myself interested in girls. Because if being gay wasn’t the answer, then what was? People thought I was avoiding my orientation, but I was actually avoiding the truth, which is that while I’m straight, I will never be content with anyone. I know now that the darkness will never leave.

Last spring I met someone who was unlike anyone else I’d ever met. Someone who showed me just how well two people could get along and how much I could care about another human being. Someone I know I could be with and love for the rest of my life, if I weren’t so fucked up. Amazingly, she liked me. She liked the shell of the man the darkness had left behind. But it didn’t matter because I couldn’t be alone with her. It was never just the two of us, it was always the three of us: her, me and the darkness. The closer we got, the more intensely I’d feel the darkness, like some evil mirror of my emotions. All the closeness we had and I loved was complemented by agony that I couldn’t stand, from him. I realized that I would never be able to give her, or anyone, all of me or only me. She could never have me without the darkness and evil inside me. I could never have just her, without the darkness being a part of all of our interactions. I will never be able to be at peace or content or in a healthy relationship. I realized the futility of the romantic part of my life. If I had never met her, I would have realized this as soon as I met someone else who I meshed similarly well with. It’s likely that things wouldn’t have worked out with her and we would have broken up (with our relationship ending, like the majority of relationships do) even if I didn’t have this problem, since we only dated for a short time. But I will face exactly the same problems with the darkness with anyone else. Despite my hopes, love and compatability is not enough. Nothing is enough. There’s no way I can fix this or even push the darkness down far enough to make a relationship or any type of intimacy feasible.

So I watched as things fell apart between us. I had put an explicit time limit on our relationship, since I knew it couldn’t last because of the darkness and didn’t want to hold her back, and this caused a variety of problems. She was put in an unnatural situation that she never should have been a part of. It must have been very hard for her, not knowing what was actually going on with me, but this is not something I’ve ever been able to talk about with anyone. Losing her was very hard for me as well. Not because of her (I got over our relationship relatively quickly), but because of the realization that I would never have another relationship and because it signified the last true, exclusive personal connection I could ever have. This wasn’t apparent to other people, because I could never talk about the real reasons for my sadness. I was very sad in the summer and fall, but it was not because of her, it was because I will never escape the darkness with anyone. She was so loving and kind to me and gave me everything I could have asked for under the circumstances. I’ll never forget how much happiness she brought me in those briefs moments when I could ignore the darkness. I had originally planned to kill myself last winter but never got around to it. (Parts of this letter were written over a year ago, other parts days before doing this.) It was wrong of me to involve myself in her life if this were a possibility and I should have just left her alone, even though we only dated for a few months and things ended a long time ago. She’s just one more person in a long list of people I’ve hurt.

I could spend pages talking about the other relationships I’ve had that were ruined because of my problems and my confusion related to the darkness. I’ve hurt so many great people because of who I am and my inability to experience what needs to be experienced. All I can say is that I tried to be honest with people about what I thought was true.

I’ve spent my life hurting people. Today will be the last time.

I’ve told different people a lot of things, but I’ve never told anyone about what happened to me, ever, for obvious reasons. It took me a while to realize that no matter how close you are to someone or how much they claim to love you, people simply cannot keep secrets. I learned this a few years ago when I thought I was gay and told people. The more harmful the secret, the juicier the gossip and the more likely you are to be betrayed. People don’t care about their word or what they’ve promised, they just do whatever the fuck they want and justify it later. It feels incredibly lonely to realize you can never share something with someone and have it be between just the two of you. I don’t blame anyone in particular, I guess it’s just how people are. Even if I felt like this is something I could have shared, I have no interest in being part of a friendship or relationship where the other person views me as the damaged and contaminated person that I am. So even if I were able to trust someone, I probably would not have told them about what happened to me. At this point I simply don’t care who knows.

I feel an evil inside me. An evil that makes me want to end life. I need to stop this. I need to make sure I don’t kill someone, which is not something that can be easily undone. I don’t know if this is related to what happened to me or something different. I recognize the irony of killing myself to prevent myself from killing someone else, but this decision should indicate what I’m capable of.

So I’ve realized I will never escape the darkness or misery associated with it and I have a responsibility to stop myself from physically harming others.

I’m just a broken, miserable shell of a human being. Being molested has defined me as a person and shaped me as a human being and it has made me the monster I am and there’s nothing I can do to escape it. I don’t know any other existence. I don’t know what life feels like where I’m apart from any of this. I actively despise the person I am. I just feel fundamentally broken, almost non-human. I feel like an animal that woke up one day in a human body, trying to make sense of a foreign world, living among creatures it doesn’t understand and can’t connect with.

I have accepted that the darkness will never allow me to be in a relationship. I will never go to sleep with someone in my arms, feeling the comfort of their hands around me. I will never know what uncontimated intimacy is like. I will never have an exclusive bond with someone, someone who can be the recipient of all the love I have to give. I will never have children, and I wanted to be a father so badly. I think I would have made a good dad. And even if I had fought through the darkness and married and had children all while being unable to feel intimacy, I could have never done that if suicide were a possibility. I did try to minimize pain, although I know that this decision will hurt many of you. If this hurts you, I hope that you can at least forget about me quickly.

There’s no point in identifying who molested me, so I’m just going to leave it at that. I doubt the word of a dead guy with no evidence about something that happened over twenty years ago would have much sway.

You may wonder why I didn’t just talk to a professional about this. I’ve seen a number of doctors since I was a teenager to talk about other issues and I’m positive that another doctor would not have helped. I was never given one piece of actionable advice, ever. More than a few spent a large part of the session reading their notes to remember who I was. And I have no interest in talking about being raped as a child, both because I know it wouldn’t help and because I have no confidence it would remain secret. I know the legal and practical limits of doctor/patient confidentiality, growing up in a house where we’d hear stories about the various mental illnesses of famous people, stories that were passed down through generations. All it takes is one doctor who thinks my story is interesting enough to share or a doctor who thinks it’s her right or responsibility to contact the authorities and have me identify the molestor (justifying her decision by telling herself that someone else might be in danger). All it takes is a single doctor who violates my trust, just like the “friends” who I told I was gay did, and everything would be made public and I’d be forced to live in a world where people would know how fucked up I am. And yes, I realize this indicates that I have severe trust issues, but they’re based on a large number of experiences with people who have shown a profound disrepect for their word and the privacy of others.

People say suicide is selfish. I think it’s selfish to ask people to continue living painful and miserable lives, just so you possibly won’t feel sad for a week or two. Suicide may be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it’s also a permanent solution to a ~23 year-old problem that grows more intense and overwhelming every day.

Some people are just dealt bad hands in this life. I know many people have it worse than I do, and maybe I’m just not a strong person, but I really did try to deal with this. I’ve tried to deal with this every day for the last 23 years and I just can’t fucking take it anymore.

I often wonder what life must be like for other people. People who can feel the love from others and give it back unadulterated, people who can experience sex as an intimate and joyous experience, people who can experience the colors and happenings of this world without constant misery. I wonder who I’d be if things had been different or if I were a stronger person. It sounds pretty great.

I’m prepared for death. I’m prepared for the pain and I am ready to no longer exist. Thanks to the strictness of New Jersey gun laws this will probably be much more painful than it needs to be, but what can you do. My only fear at this point is messing something up and surviving.

—-

I’d also like to address my family, if you can call them that. I despise everything they stand for and I truly hate them, in a non-emotional, dispassionate and what I believe is a healthy way. The world will be a better place when they’re dead—one with less hatred and intolerance.

If you’re unfamiliar with the situation, my parents are fundamentalist Christians who kicked me out of their house and cut me off financially when I was 19 because I refused to attend seven hours of church a week.

They live in a black and white reality they’ve constructed for themselves. They partition the world into good and evil and survive by hating everything they fear or misunderstand and calling it love. They don’t understand that good and decent people exist all around us, “saved” or not, and that evil and cruel people occupy a large percentage of their church. They take advantage of people looking for hope by teaching them to practice the same hatred they practice.

A random example:

“I am personally convinced that if a Muslim truly believes and obeys the Koran, he will be a terrorist.” – George Zeller, August 24, 2010.

If you choose to follow a religion where, for example, devout Catholics who are trying to be good people are all going to Hell but child molestors go to Heaven (as long as they were “saved” at some point), that’s your choice, but it’s fucked up. Maybe a God who operates by those rules does exist. If so, fuck Him.

Their church was always more important than the members of their family and they happily sacrificed whatever necessary in order to satisfy their contrived beliefs about who they should be.

I grew up in a house where love was proxied through a God I could never believe in. A house where the love of music with any sort of a beat was literally beaten out of me. A house full of hatred and intolerance, run by two people who were experts at appearing kind and warm when others were around. Parents who tell an eight year old that his grandmother is going to Hell because she’s Catholic. Parents who claim not to be racist but then talk about the horrors of miscegenation. I could list hundreds of other examples, but it’s tiring.

Since being kicked out, I’ve interacted with them in relatively normal ways. I talk to them on the phone like nothing happened. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like pretending I have a family. Maybe I like having people I can talk to about what’s been going on in my life. Whatever the reason, it’s not real and it feels like a sham. I should have never allowed this reconnection to happen.

I wrote the above a while ago, and I do feel like that much of the time. At other times, though, I feel less hateful. I know my parents honestly believe the crap they believe in. I know that my mom, at least, loved me very much and tried her best. One reason I put this off for so long is because I know how much pain it will cause her. She has been sad since she found out I wasn’t “saved”, since she believes I’m going to Hell, which is not a sadness for which I am responsible. That was never going to change, and presumably she believes the state of my physical body is much less important than the state of my soul. Still, I cannot intellectually justify this decision, knowing how much it will hurt her. Maybe my ability to take my own life, knowing how much pain it will cause, shows that I am a monster who doesn’t deserve to live. All I know is that I can’t deal with this pain any longer and I’m am truly sorry I couldn’t wait until my family and everyone I knew died so this could be done without hurting anyone. For years I’ve wished that I’d be hit by a bus or die while saving a baby from drowning so my death might be more acceptable, but I was never so lucky.

—-

To those of you who have shown me love, thank you for putting up with all my shittiness and moodiness and arbitrariness. I was never the person I wanted to be. Maybe without the darkness I would have been a better person, maybe not. I did try to be a good person, but I realize I never got very far.

I’m sorry for the pain this causes. I really do wish I had another option. I hope this letter explains why I needed to do this. If you can’t understand this decision, I hope you can at least forgive me.

Bill Zeller

—-

Please save this letter and repost it if gets deleted. I don’t want people to wonder why I did this. I disseminated it more widely than I might have otherwise because I’m worried that my family might try to restrict access to it. I don’t mind if this letter is made public. In fact, I’d prefer it be made public to people being unable to read it and drawing their own conclusions.

Feel free to republish this letter, but only if it is reproduced in its entirety.