Of demons and addictions

There’s a line from Lemonade that says ‘My torturer became my remedy.’ I don’t know what Bey was talking about, not really. We all assume it’s about Hov cheating and her choice to forgive him. In my case, I feel like it summarises my current state of toxic relationships.

I seem to keep stumbling into the ‘wrong’ people and falling or them hard. It’s like I’m drawn to the poison. Like I somehow think fixing their darkness will brighten mine. Except … we only drag each other deeper. I guess Bey is stronger than me.

I recently broke up with someone I liked a lot, because he had no time for me. And in true human fashion, the second I stopped wanting his attention, he felt the strongest urge to give it. He called to ‘see how I was doing.’ I asked why. He seemed upset that I didn’t want him checking up on me. I guess he figured he was ‘being nice’ to me and that I was ‘being a bitch’ for refusing. A bit like cat-calling … when I’m supposed to just take my compliment and go.

I suppose he’d be offended to be compared to a cat-caller. He’s a nice guy after all. Smart, educated, feminist, far above ‘ordinary men’. I find those are the scariest ones. The ‘enlightened’ ones who still exhibit hotep behaviour. Because I expect them to know better, to do better, so when they turn out to be just like any other guy, it scares me. It makes me think that maybe men really are trash. I know a lot of women have made their peace with that, but I refuse to exist in a world where every second person is out to harm me. I can’t function like that.

But just because I prefer to live in my own little bubble of ignorant bliss doesn’t mean it will protect me. Bubbles are fragile like that. I guess that’s why Ex Machina fucked me up so much. I was like Jeeezus, these are the smart ones! And they’re just as problematic as the ones in the village. Like, what the actual fuck?!?

There’s someone else in my life, someone I met recently. I feel safe around him, but I also feel destructive. He is a safe space, yes, but it’s a space of drunken haze, and … and how is that a good thing? Trust is amazing. But trust that goes with hedonism … is that who I want to be?

I’ve been meeting a lot of people like that lately. People who hide and escape in booze and weed. And sometimes, I escape with them. It’s … free-ing. Except … is that kind of freedom something I should indulge? I want to do it, yes. I want to shed the weight of propriety and responsibility I’ve carried since I was three. And so I’m drawn to these people that let me be that person, these people that don’t know me and therefore don’t judge me. They have no reference point to tell them how ‘unlike me’ this new footloose drugging version of me is.

And of course, it’s an escape. It’s me not dealing with my shit. For them it might be just some fun, a normal way of life. But for me, it’s hiding. It’s taking a vacation to a place where no one knows me. And because no one knows me, I can be as ratchet as I want. No expectations, no consequences. It can get addictive.

People have told me that I’m more fun when I’m drunk or high. Because I’m less intense, more chilled out and mellow. They get more comfortable when I’m in that easy state because I’m less … me. I don’t think it’s really compliment, even though it’s always framed as one. Because it says an intrinsic part of me makes them uncomfortable. Something about me is … in their eyes … wrong.

People who have addicts in their family are often extra careful with drugs. They know a part of that shite is genetic, so they’re wary about falling into patterns. But sometimes that wariness is interpreted as judgement. In protecting myself, others feel like I’m chastising them. And it doesn’t matter how much I explain that this is really about me, they’re always going to feel like I’m looking down on them.

One of the things I learned in therapy is that I need to deal with my feelings. It was a surprising revelation, because I consider myself a really emotional person. And yet … I’m only at ease with specific forms of expression. The rest I suppress until they implode. And I feel like this new ‘social escape’ is just another form of quashing troublesome sentiment.

When I’ve had a drink, I can break down and cry. I can get on a soap box and rant. I can grunt and moan louder than before. I can let my deepest demons out to dance. And it feels good. Really good. But if I can only do it when I’m drunk, then that presents two problems. One, that I’ll drink more and more in a bid to let those demons out. Two, that I won’t deal with said demons while I’m functional and sober. Which is a problem, because I’m a fixer, so I need those demons sorted.

I realise this is me overanalysing. I always get drunk and/or high by myself, in my house, with the doors locked, where I can’t bother anyone. But twice now, I have ‘shared’ the experience and enjoyed it. Got drunk with a smart boy that has a super sexy voice. Got high with another boy that cooks a mean stew and had me purring like an engine. And while it felt good, it didn’t feel like me.

As I feel a deeper craving for that drunk and high experience, I wonder if those are new parts of me, and whether they’re parts I want to keep. The natural instinct is to get back into that space. To stop all the analysing and just get drugged again. After all, the true goth story is about dark souls swimming together in the abyss, no? Except … goth (love) stories never have happy endings.

Plus that feels like a hole I could sink into and never find my way out, so another part of me wants to take off screaming. Except … isn’t that just running away? Is that who I am now? The kind of person that just runs away?

I ran away from ice skating lessons. I’ve wanted them for years, and I finally went. But it wasn’t fun. I tried it for five hours and realised I no longer enjoyed it. Maybe it was the pressure of having to learn within a week. Maybe I’m no longer the kind if person that likes skating. Maybe I’m too tightly wound up to let myself go on the ice.

I learned the basics. I can stand on the ice without falling. I can maintain my balance. I can move in plodding half inch steps. But I couldn’t get past that, even after five hours, and I decided I didn’t even want to. That and my teacher was pretty fed up with me, so yeah.

It’s okay to sip a few drinks or smoke a few puffs to take the edge off. My fear is how much I enjoy being in that space, how free-ing it is to shed said edge. That edge that’s been so constant and so heavy that I didn’t even realise it was there until it got lifted by a drunken haze.

I’ve always described myself as having an addictive personality, and I suppose as much as I enjoy floating in that happy space everyone else seems to achieve so effortlessly, I’m genuinely concerned about picking up a new addiction. So as good as it feels to be all drunk and high, I need to find a gentler form of release.

♫ Amazing ♫ Blue October ♫

♫ What’s been up man ♫

♫ how’s your daughter? ♫

She’s good, thanks. Now for the goss. In terms of my career, June has always been big. For one thing, a lot of my work came through a childhood friend named June. She’s a really cool person, actually.

In June 2006, I interned at Kwani Trust. A few weeks later, I got a job at Oxford University Press, Tanzania. It was kind of a big deal, because I never got round to finishing my degree in Literature and Music, so I didn’t think I’d ever get a job in publishing. The experience had lots of ups and downs. I’ll write about them one day, but not today *cheeky grin*

In June 2011, I got into the advertising business with a job at Squad Digital. It was a copywriting gig, and mostly involved running Facebook and Twitter accounts for corporates, plus the odd website and online video script. Then in June 2012 I moved into ATL (That’s Above-The-Line Advertising, not – you know – Atlanta). I worked at TBWA / Flametree / Red Herring / Right Here Kenya. Same boss, different terms. Made some good money, did some cool work, met some great people, learned to smoke and drink. Advertising will do that to you.

In June 2017, I went back to full-time freelance writing. I get my jobs through upwork.com and the occasional referral from people I used to know. A few months in, I’m still enjoying it. Bills are getting paid, I get to nap more, and I’m home when the teenager’s school bus arrives. I’m not overly isolated, because it’s girls’ night every Tuesday and date night every Friday. Plus I skate most Mondays and swim some Thursday mornings so really, life is good. The only downside is with the fridge so close, I get the urge snack a lot. I’m trying to swap cookies and ice cream for carrot sticks and cucumber slices. Wish me luck with that.

… before and after …

When I first got into advertising, I thought I’d be doing stuff like this and this. It didn’t really work out that way, but it did remind me that media affects our lives. Yes, I know that’s a given, but for someone who doesn’t think the TV controls me, it’s a bit jarring. Like, for example, how Ally McBeal taught me that when you love someone, you have their heart forever, even if they fall in love with someone else and trick you into thinking it’s your fault. Because in retrospect, Billy was kind of an asshole, but scripting still makes me think he (and McDreamy) are nice guys.

Fortunately, life doesn’t always imitate art, and I finally found myself a genuinely nice guy, who just happened to be super smart, and pretty too! I guess love really does find you when you’re not looking. I had his affection for a little while, and he tried to indoctrinate me into bougie baddie, pun intended. It didn’t work out because … well … med school is hectic, and I wanted more time than he had. I learned a lot from him though. About life, about  relationships, about myself. And I really did like him. But it turns out affection isn’t nearly enough to keep people together.

At the beginning of this year, I was feeling a little lost. But somehow everything has worked itself out nicely. I still get low cycles, but I’m mostly happy. I have an amazing daughter, a nice house, a healthy pay-cheque, entertaining cats, colourful fish … and I’m blogging again, so yay! Life is good.

A few years ago, this would have been my cue to panic. Whenever things were going too well, I’d look around to see what would go wrong. And of course when you expect things to go wrong, they do. So now I’m trying something different. I’m expecting things to stay right. Because 36 is looking amazing, and life’s too short whine.

♫ Midnight decisions ♫ Sia ♫

Peace be still

Birthday gift ideas. Just saying.
This one too …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I started therapy, I wanted to fit into my skin. I wanted other things too, but that was top on my list. I’m really good at projecting confidence, but I wanted to feel how others thought I felt. Too see myself how others see me. Right now, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. The seeing-myself-through-others part, not the skin-fitting.

Because … I do feel at home in my skin now. I like who I am, how I am, what I present to the world. But I’m increasingly aware that not everyone agrees. Like they say, behind every beautiful woman is a man who is tired of her shit. So I’m seeing more and more that there are people around me that are fed up with mine.

It’s a strange thing, to be so sure of who I am … and to see other people’s visceral reaction to that. Sometimes, it makes me dig in, flaunt the ‘unpleasantness’ that triggered their sneers. But it also makes me sad. Luckily, I’m good at hiding it when I’m sad, which is a useful tool for living with depression.

Some of us are cursed blessed with the ability to analyse everything to death. Introspection can be insightful, but it can also be painful. When I review the reasons for a person’s distaste, I see their validity. I see that no matter how sorry I am – and I am sorry – it won’t undo the shit I did, and the effect it had on them. I recognise that in that moment, over that particular incident, they are right to hate me.

But part of living is forgiving myself, even as I recognise that they never will. And to accept that in my own life, they are others who have forgiven themselves for things they did to me. Things I’ll never forgive them for. I suppose it’s one of the paradoxes of being human. In some ways, we go easy on ourselves in ways we never would with others. At the other extreme, we judge ourselves far more harshly than anyone else.

In my dark moments, I remind myself that I shouldn’t be defined by my sins. Yet that’s exactly what I do to other people. I label that one good/bad thing (or two, or thirty three) they did, and put them in that box forever. Then I gift wrap the box, tie it with a bow, and place it on a high shelf. Or I douse it in paraffin and light it.

I was thinking about someone that I deeply admire and just as deeply dislike. I don’t know why I dislike this person. In the past, I tried to find things wrong with them, to justify my dislike. But maybe they’re a beetroot. Gorgeous shade of red. Full of healthy anti-oxidants. Good for me in theory. Except … I don’t like how it tastes. And that doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. It’s just a beautiful vegetable that I can’t stand.

Here’s something else that’s interesting. A lot of us chafe in our own skins. The grown ones among us just hide it better. And so, sometimes, when someone sees that you’re happy in your skin, they attack. The missiles might be driven by genuine puzzlement, concern that you’re not getting with the programme.

After all, life would be easier for you, for them, for everyone … if you’d just follow society’s bloody rules. But sometimes, it’s spite. Sometimes, the barbs come from an unhappy person that is upset with you for daring to enjoy your life. At times like that, dragging you down makes their own misery less potent.

I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. And with time and therapy, I’ve forgiven myself for a lot of them. But I respect the right of others not to forgive me, just as I protect the unforgiving parts of my own heart. It’s the way of the world. I guess what I’m saying is … be kind to yourself … allowing that not everyone else will be.

In fact, be kind to yourself knowing few other people will be. Because punishing yourself does no good, and it’s hard to be mad at the world when you’re at peace with yourself. This doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Ripple effects will spread until they dissipate, and yes, there are certain things that can never be forgiven. The world will punish you for that. Through jail, or hell, or karma. It will punish me too.

Until then, all I can do is be kind to my heart, pray that kindness will soothe my pain, hope the peace it brings will flow to those around and calm some of their troubles as well. And I can raise my child to avoid the mistakes I made, promising her that even if she does, she will always be accepted, loved, and welcome at home.

♫ Exit Wounds ♫ The Script ♫

Beyond rape: let the healing begin

I am lucky, I am blessed, and I am privileged. I don’t particularly like these words, but just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean they’re not true. Luck suggests I have no agency in my own life, that good stuff simply happens to me. A lot of times, my life feels that way. Blessed implies religion, which I’m really not down with. And privilege, well, a lot of people have accused me of being oreo, coconut, white, so yeah.

These three things have a big role to play in how my existence has turned out. You see, I was raped by the neighbourhood bully when I was six years old. I didn’t understand what rape meant. I was six years old, so this is what I understood.

I understood that there was another boy who liked me. He was kind and sweet. He was my friend. We experimented. We tried to do the things we saw in a movie. Well, I tried to do them. He just played along because he liked me. And I chose him, because I knew he liked me, and that he would never hurt me. I didn’t even know what it meant to be hurt.

It was harmless. We went into the servant’s quarters, locked the door, slipped under that powder-blue herrignbone bed-cover with the spongy patterns and the silky fringe. We kept all our clothes on. We lay down on our backs facing upwards. Then we punched and kicked  the bed-cover above us so that it made lumps that rose and fell, just like the movies. And we giggled and moaned, just like the movies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The house-help heard us. She came banging on the door and yelled at us to come out. I didn’t know why she was so upset, or why she said the boy shouldn’t come over anymore. We hadn’t done anything. But my parents liked him, and his parents liked me. So we played at his house instead. We didn’t get under the covers again, but we cuddled on the sofa in their sitting room and watched TV. His mum thought we were cute. We can’t have been more than 5 years old.

This nice, sweet boy, he wasn’t my boyfriend. He was my friend. I liked him, but I wasn’t into him, not really. I know, because I got asked all the time, by the other kids. They asked me who I had a crush on. Kids are mean, and they wanted to hurt my friend. They wanted him to hear me say I liked someone else.

I understood another boy. This one I didn’t like so much. Because he was loud, he smelled, and sometimes, he was mean. He ‘patronised’ me. I didn’t know that word – I was five years old! But he talked to me slowly, like I was stupid. I hated that. And his sisters were kind of bitchy. I think he liked me though. He’d grab my hand and kiss it, and I would hide it behind my back and wash it with lots of soap, because now it smelled like him. I never told him to stop though. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

I played with him and his sisters, because they were there, and they – at least – were willing to play with me. I remember being in his room, playing cha mama. They said I should be the mother and he should be the father. They told us to get on his double decker bed, the lower one, and put a sheet over the front so they couldn’t see us.

They told me to lie on top of him while they counted. We had our clothes on, and they counted for a long time. I didn’t like it. It felt … wrong. I didn’t want to be there. When they pulled the sheet away, I went home, and I didn’t play with them again. I still see him sometimes, as an adult. He’s considered hot now. Mature, couth, nicely put together. I smile, nod, say a few polite words, then I walk away thinking about his slow words, and the way he used to smell.

Did these incidents have something to do with the rape? Did the kids look at me and see a bad girl, the kind of girl it was okay to do bad things to? Did I bring it onto myself? Did that loud opinionated six year old ask to be raped?

When it happened, it was different. It was terrifying. I tried to scream but nothing came out. The world was spinning, I felt dizzy. I was choking. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die. And there was light. So much light. And spiral staircases, and dogs. When it was over, I ran. I ran and ran and ran. My legs hurt.

 

I don’t remember feeling any pain. All I knew was that I didn’t want it to happen, that I tried to make it not happen. That I couldn’t tell anyone because it was bad manners and I was a bad girl. And I guess I hid it well, because nobody noticed.

People say rape is about sex. I had previous incidences – innocent activities that were about sex. At least, a child-like version of sex. This wasn’t like those other ones. I wanted those other ones. I was willing. Even the mother-father game, a part of me wanted that. Not all of me, but a part of me. And I had the choice to walk away.

That’s the thing about rape. Sure, a man may have sexual interest in you, but that’s not what makes him come after you. Women don’t generally get raped in broad daylight, or in public streets. Because that’s not acceptable. Instead they get cat-called and groped and insulted, because their attackers know nobody will stop them from doing that.

A few years ago, several women got stripped in the streets, because their attackers knew nobody would stop them, not even the other women. And in some situations, like war, unrest, riots, then women do get raped in public, because in that context, their attackers know no one will stop them.

Rapists don’t rape because they are aroused.

Rapists rape because they know no one will stop them.

And rapists are not always creepy guys in dark alleys, or macho men who spike your drink, or a late night matatu full of men. Sometimes, most times, rapists are nice guys who had a bad day and took it out on you because they knew you couldn’t – or wouldn’t – stop them.

They lost face somewhere else, so they rape you to get that power back. In reality, it’s all about them. It has very little to do with you. In fact … it has nothing to do with you. You’re involved, attacked, raped because you’re … there. But the real violence is all about them.

That’s why most times, your rapist is your boyfriend or husband who got yelled at by the boss, wants sexual healing, and knows even if you say no, you won’t do anything to prevent him from forcefully fucking you. It might be your in-law who has always lusted after you, but now he’s alone with you, and he knows no one will believe you.

He could be your brother or father or uncle or cousin or nephew who is unhappy with his life and knows that forcing himself on you will boost his ego and make him feel powerful. He could be your relative’s friend – or enemy – who wants revenge against a man you love and uses you as dangerously effective collateral damage. He could be your ‘nice guy’ date who is fed up of being friend-zoned, and who ‘fucks’ you because he knows you won’t make him stop.

 

And yet … even though it was never about you … you will blame yourself.

You will carry it with you. Always.

There’s a triggering piece about a woman who – in her own words – made breakfast for her rapist. He was her date, she brought him home, he got into her bed. And when she said no, he told her she was beautiful and did it anyway. I understand that, because a few years ago, it happened with a boy I liked. I’d slept with him before. I’d told him what I liked, and what I didn’t like. I explained why I didn’t like it from the back. I’d told him over and over, both in bed and out of it. He said ‘I know you don’t like this, but …’ and then he did it anyway.

My face was in the pillow, so he didn’t see me crying while he was inside me. Afterwards, we cuddled. I told him, again, why I didn’t like it from the back. Because it hurts from my childbirth injury. Because it degrades me. Because I don’t like being fucked like a horny dog. He listened. He said he was sorry. He said we wouldn’t do it like that in future. He never called me again.

In the story about bacon and eggs, she says making him breakfast erased it. It made it a bad date instead of rape. It made him a nice guy instead of an attacker. It made her beautiful. But it scarred her just the same. After he left, she cut her hair, went goth, made herself unapproachable and unattractive, so that nobody would want her ever again. If they didn’t think she was beautiful, they wouldn’t want to hurt her.

That guy, that night, in her room, in her bed. He didn’t rape her because she was beautiful. He didn’t rape her because ‘no means yes’. He raped her because there was nobody to stop him. He raped her because even though he heard her say no, he knew she wouldn’t stop him. Just like it happened to me.

https://medium.com/the-nib/trigger-warning-breakfast-c6cdeec070e6

 

There was another boy, a nice boy. It was a different time in my life. I lived in Dar, worked in a Muslim office, and wore light flirty skirts and sleeveless tops to work because it was always so hot. We had been flirting for months before we finally went on a date, because he’d constantly ask me out and stand me up. When he finally picked me up for the date, I was surprised he’d actually shown up – and I said so. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but yeah.

It was a nice date. We bought pizza then drove to the beach, ate, talked, watched the waves. Cops came by at some point and told us we had to leave, and we giggled because we were just eating. We had barely touched. We went to his house. He had no chairs, so we sat on cushions on the floor, drinking tea and watching cartoons while his room-mate blasted loud music from the bedroom.

We started making out, and I told him to stop because we didn’t have condoms. I said we could fuck, I wanted to fuck, but only if he went for condoms. He didn’t want to, it was too cold. I said I should go home, because I needed to be up early to put my baby girl on the school bus. He said not to worry, he’d drop me home at 4.00 a.m, which would be good, seeing as I had no idea how to get from his place to mine. I suck at directions. So we cuddled on the floor and fell asleep.

The next morning I asked him to drop me home. At first, he refused, told me to go on my own. He saw the look on my face as I started to gather my things, so he grinned and said I was lucky he was such a nice guy. After all, he said, if he had really wanted to have his way the night before, I couldn’t have stopped him. I froze. He grinned. He drove me home. We dated a few more months, but I was always on edge around my ‘nice guy’ after that.

There’s a stereotypical response to rape. It follows a script that some writer distilled. You burn your clothes. You go into the shower and scrub your skin until it hurts. Then you curl up and cry. Real life isn’t always that formulaic. Real life sometimes turns out like the story above, but not always.

Sometimes, real life turns you into a nympho, because on some deep level, you feel like being ‘oversexed’ will keep you safe. After all, they can’t take your sex if you’re giving it freely. And it raises a wall of sarcasm to hide vulnerability.

Real life subconsciously turns you into a tomboy, because being a girl is ‘weak’ and if you look and act like them, they won’t want to hurt you. They won’t want you. Real life makes you a tough-talking, loud-mouthing, brash, unattractive feminist, because if they’re put off, then they won’t want you, and if they don’t want you, then they can’t hurt you.

Real life makes you consistently, unwittingly, pursue unavailable men. Because if you can’t have them, then they can’t hurt you. It makes you fall for younger guys, because you’re smarter, wiser, and stronger than they are. They can’t control you, so they can’t hurt you. Their safety makes them attractive, and you are drawn to this safety without even knowing that’s what attracted you.

Real life makes you long for the guy who wants you as a person, not just as a sexual object. But deep down, in a place you can’t willingly access, it also makes you feel you’re undeserving of this kind of interest. So when it happens, it confuses you. It jars you. I mean, why does this boy like me? There must be something wrong with him. And if there’s something wrong with him, then I’m not attracted to him.

It makes the good guys, the right guys, the safe guys … it makes them unattractive … because they are unfamiliar … and we can only like what we know. And remember, all this is unconscious, self-preserving reflex. Half the time, you don’t even know you’re doing it. All you know is that the guys that like you are ‘dull and boring’, and the ones that don’t are hot as fuck, pun intended. The genuinely ‘nice’ ones are good to you. They’re kind and sweet and generous. But you feel nothing for them.

They’re potatoes. Sweet potatoes.

That’s been my life for the last 30 years. I’m 36 now, and I’m just realising why I fall for all the wrong guys. I’m drawn to the young ones who can’t hurt me, the unavailable ones who don’t want me (and therefore can’t hurt me), the ‘just for sex ones’ because at least I understand them. They can’t steal what I’m giving willingly.

And yet my deepest desire is to be wanted for me, loved for me, not just for my body. Human psyche is stupid, because I end up dismissing the thing I want most. I’m actively working against what I want, and I didn’t even know it. It’s easier to stay within the realm of the familiar.

How did I figure this out? Age, time, growth, therapy. Mostly therapy. And I am grateful that my luck, blessing, and privilege allows me to have therapy. I finally realised that as a result of the rape, I feel unworthy of genuine affection. So I subconsciously ward it off even though I want it more than anything.

How do I fix this? Fuck if I know. I’m hoping my therapist has some ideas. Because once I can accept that I do deserve love, then maybe I can recognise, attract – and accept – the right kind of men into my life. And who knows, I might even give them a chance and let them in.

If you have experienced rape, it’s not the end. Whether is was five minutes ago, five days ago, five years ago, five decades ago … you probably have wounds you can’t see. Find someone safe. Talk to them. Recognise your hurt so you can let yourself heal. And allow – hard as it may be – that sometimes your healer might be a good man, because they’re not all trash.

♫ Deliverance ♫ The Script ♫

Spirit animals and such

She used to be a goldfish. Her name was Cleo and I got her tattooed on my arm. At that point in my life, I lived in a cocoon, content to swim around in my little cubic bubble, watching the world outside. I didn’t feel like I was missing out, because I could see everything, and it didn’t look particularly enticing.

I’m a little braver now. I have someone in my life that makes me want to try new things. The wide world isn’t as scary as it used to be. What I feel most in tune with now is a cuddly little bunny with flowers in her hair. She doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s probably Cassandra. And believe me, you don’t want to cross her…

♫ Love in this club ♫ Usher ft Young Jeezy ♫