This was one of two poems I performed at an event by Drop The Disorder: an evening of spoken word performances to challenge the culture of psychiatric diagnosis and the pathologising of emotional distress.
I wrote it recently, on a day where I felt overwhelmed and exhausted by the consequences of CSA. In the past, I would have equated this with poor mental health and considered making an appointment to see my psychiatrist. I don’t do this anymore because the psychiatric system was unable to support me with trauma. I never experienced relief with meds, there was never enough time, my trauma history was not acknowledged as the root cause and I didn’t receive the empathy or gentle care I needed to heal. On the contrary, treatment felt punitive and came with undertones of threat and a distinct loss of autonomy.
On days like these I reach out instead to the survivor community or my therapist. I ride the wave and wait for tomorrow to be better. I take steps to control my environment and reduce the likelihood of being triggered as I fear my trauma responses being misunderstood and judged by the mental health system. Because of my history I know I am more likely to be admitted, told I’m ill, perhaps even forcibly medicated. This is anxiety-inducing.
It has been a few years since I last had contact with the mental health system but the fear remains. What would I do and where would I turn if I needed more support? If tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that were no better? Where is the space to rest, reset, process and be held by professionals who understand trauma? What is the alternative to the mental health system? Retreats exist but they cost money and exclude the majority.
There is no space for survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, looking for alternative support in the system as it currently stands.
Where is the space for me to be?
For me to discuss?
For me to grieve for a childhood lost?
I want to tell you that I sat on the grass
knees to chin, tucked under purple blooms and watched the birds
dominos on the telegraph wire.
I want to say I heard their busy feet dancing in the eaves by my head when he did what he did.
How can I tell you there was only one way out? That I went deep within and shot high above?
If I say I flew with the birds in the sky
Psychosis you’ll say. Delusions. Disorder
or you’ll suggest my personality sits on the border.
The border of what?
Madness and sane?
Survival and death?
Acceptance or shame?
If I grieve too loudly for my childhood lost
you’ll call me depressed. I’m not ill. My head is a mess and it’s tangled inside
if I tell you how I cope with the pain
you’ll give me a label. You’ll give it a name
bipolar, psychosis. ADHD
you think you know myself better than me
but you don’t want to know about the weight on the bed
you don’t care to see shadows that creep into my head.
Where is the space when exhaustion hits?
It’s tiring to fight wars forever.
Where is the space for me to rage, to scream to shout at the world
that turned a blind eye
that went far away
that chose not to look
that chose not to say
what happened to you
and… are you ok?
Where is the space for me to rest? I am mad, you say.
Yes. I am.
I’m fucking enraged.