Today January 23rd, marks the one year anniversary of my very first post, called Mommy Marching with PTSD, which was all about how and why I overcame my post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms to bring my elder daughter to Womxn’s March on Seattle. Read it if you haven’t yet–it’s quite raw and ranty and fun.
I wish I could commemorate the first year with a post about attending the anniversary protest, which had been the plan, but as it happens Monday was my mother’s birthday, and Saturday–when the march took place this year–was when she decided to have a birthday ge-ttogether. Which turned into a birthday linner, or dunch, or something. In any case. I didn’t go (to the protest, I did see my mom for her birthday). But I saw photos of the turnout, and many pussy hats as I met my mom for her birthday celebration so I’m glad people are still fighting. And I do pledge to keep up the good fight via articles like this and like this and blog posts like this scripts and fictions you haven’t yet read but will someday (dear magical agent just waiting for me, please materialize and also materialize me some money). And maybe a march or two as well.
I won’t keep you too long, but now that Betty’s Battleground has turned one, I’d like to share some wisdoms, or at least lessons, I’ve learned this past year.
Cherish The People Who Show You They Love You Again And Again
Almost my entire life I have felt that I have no value unless I am beloved by a man–and rarely if ever am I beloved by a man the way I want to be (I say this as a married woman). I guess people can’t control how others love them, go figure! Not the lesson though. I am a serial monogamist, who stays in unhealthy relationships far too long for no good reason. As my husband likes to sometimes point out, I stayed with a man I didn’t even remotely like–or love–for four years! Unless you know me personally, you probably don’t even know who I’m talking about; that’s how little I care about this guy. I don’t even write about him. Four years.
So here’s the lesson: romantic love comes and goes. Sometimes you can fuck a selfish, scummy ginger for four inexplicable years and then poof! It’s like he never existed. But good friends–like, the really good friends–truly mean something. This blog has helped me to understand their value. This very blog would not exist at all if it wasn’t for one of those special friend people, who literally purchased the domain for me when I expressed the desire to start a blog but didn’t have the funds to do so, and continues to host it. And that’s just the start of her kindness. Then there’s my other friend, who drove to Oregon to rescue me from my own bad decision. So, friends. They’re good. Not all of them. But when they are, value them.
Terrible Things End, Even When They Seem Like They Won’t
I started this blog after the man who abused me–a relationship that itself felt infinite and apocalyptic at the time–re-entered my life. He filed for paternity rights for my son, whose life he had been virtually uninvolved in since infancy. In fact, their last interactions had been nearly killing both of us, then trying to kidnap him. So when his biological father delivered court documents enacting custodial litigation with me, I was justifiably horrified. To put it lightly: I needed to vent.
The case dragged on and on. Each time I brought up a legitimate reason why his presence in my son’s life would be enormously painful for everyone involved, he filed another weird motion. His submissions grew odder and odder–he eventually submitted evidence that implicated him in statutory rape, apparently to remind me “how great things were.” I thought it would never end.
But it did.
Even when things are really terrible–even when the courts allow your abuser to harass you with motions–even when your moronic landlord tries to raise rent on a building that should be condemned–even when you are so poor you’re forced to live among cockroaches–even when your kids throw everything you clean on the floor and you feel endlessly tired–even then, it will, someday, somehow, end. Things don’t always get better, but they always eventually change.
Keeping Secrets Is More Harmful Than Telling Them
When you feel really, really ashamed of something, having other people find out feels like the worst thing in the world. For years, I admitted to having issues with drugs but shied away from saying “heroin.” I told half-truths about my daughters’ postnatal hospitalizations, and didn’t tell even my closest friends that I was using medication-assisted treatment.
When I sent my second-ever pitch to Vox First Person about my experiences with methadone during pregnancy, I half-expected the same thing to happen when I sent my first pitch: nothing. When I was wrong, and the editor wrote back to accept it, I was immediately elated…and then just as immediately horrified. I was being offered $500 to write in a major media outlet. It was an incredible opportunity! But accepting the job also meant telling everyone–my friends, my family, my future employers or landlords or whoever–that I was a methadone mom. It was a really tough choice.
Obviously I took the job. And then I wrote on it some more. And some more. And some more….It’s still not a conversation I love having in person. Then again, most conversations I’d prefer to do via text or hired article. Nonetheless, no longer having to misdirect the truth or mask certain elements of my past feels far better than hanging onto the shame of secrecy. Now, I not only get to be free of lies; I have become an advocate against a stigma that is literally killing people. And I can even sometimes laugh about my own embarrassing past. None of that would have happened had I not told my big secret.
Just Because You Don’t Get What You Want Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Get Something Great
When I began this blog, it was to vent about my abuser’s re-entry into my life. Unfortunately, the effects he had on me were very real, and my PTSD symptoms took over to such a degree that I had to quit my job. My very crappy telefundraising job. Don’t get me wrong: I had a really awesome, understanding female boss and several fabulous co-workers (and one not so fabulous one) but the job itself was shit. It was professional begging.
Nonetheless, it was how I paid bills, so losing it to an increase in PTSD symptoms wasn’t great. The PTSD, depression, and amount of litigation I had to partake in at the time also meant I couldn’t really do any other conventional job either. So I began trying to monetize this blog. I applied for–and was denied–google ads. I signed up for the Amazon affiliates program–of which I am still a member and have still not been able to collect my $1.60 in earnings from a kindly reader who bought some toilet paper! I joined blogger groups and created half-assed (but completely earnest) Patreon and YouCaring accounts (they’re still there if you want to donate for the one year anniversary, by the way 😉 ). I did get a few sponsored links, and recently brokered some well vetted and interesting sponsored projects. But none of those have amounted to anything that can pay bills.
And yet! I was recently invited to buy a membership of Poets & Writer’s Magazine at a professional writer’s discount. Because I am, in fact, a working, professional writer. I did not make a big profit from this blog, but it did get me into the practice of daily writing, opened me to the idea of doing non-fiction, and helped me create the samples I needed to get my first pro pitches accepted. The blog didn’t pan out how I wanted it to, but something even better came of it.
Sometimes The People You Need To Count On Fail You, But You Don’t Have To Fail Yourself
We all make bad choices when it comes to trusting people. Sometimes I think I make worse choices than others, considering my relationship track history for starters. It’s weird how I can be fairly great at securing adept sources for stories, but not that wonderful at surrounding myself with people I can trust.
Relationships are not my strong suit. And maybe they never will be. But you know who has been there for me when all my supports have failed? Me. And you know who was around to make sure my kids had a wonderful, gift and fun filled Christmas when no one else was around? Me. Other people might try to suck the life out of me, spread silly rumours about me, take advantage of me, lie to and about me, abuse me, and make my life hell–but I have finally realized it’s in my power not to let them. Even if that means unapologetically making a big fat scene.
Biggest takeaway from this experience? I might be a fuck up with a terrible temper, but I will not let you mess with me or mine.
Here’s to another year of Betty’s Battleground!
Check out the guest post info page if you want to write for the blog or be featured on the Parenting with Mental Illness Interview series that I will be bringing back this year.
Before you go: If you’re a regular reader or a new fan, please leave a comment and say hi. I’d love to hear some questions and topics from you that you’d like me to cover this year.
Til next time–happy one year!