trauma, redux

I saw him yesterday.

Not in the way I saw him when I was in Korea, where I knew he was a hallucination, a ghostly afterimage walking with me for the sole reason to torture me. Not in the way I saw him in nightmares and flashbacks, real but younger, the version of him I used to know.

No. I saw L in the flesh. Up close and personal.

Maybe I could have coped with it if I knew it was coming. If I’d, for some reason, arranged a meeting. But that’s not how it happened. Boyfriend and I were at a convention. We’d already been there for a couple of hours, and decided to do one last round of the floor before heading home. I made my way towards a booth that was offering 3D printing services, close, close enough to see the resin 3D printers moving back and forth, creating shapes out of gelatinous liquid. Close enough to see the three men working in the booth. Close enough to trace the shape of the one closest to me’s face, the lines of his jaw, the way he wore his hat, his eyes, his lips. He was tall. Taller than I remembered. I always forget how tall he’s gotten. He was my height when we were together.

It only took me a few seconds to process what I was seeing. I stopped mid-sentence, froze, the world narrowing down to the man in front of me and the man by my side, as polar opposites as I could make them. Everything faded away. “L,” I said, “L’s here, he’s here, that’s L.”

Boyfriend might have followed my gaze, or he might not have – we weren’t close enough for him to see the man I was looking at – but he grasped my arm and turned me away, breaking my line of sight. “Let’s leave,” he said firmly. “Come on. Let’s go.”

We pushed through the crowd, heading towards doors that we’d seen previously. The tears started almost immediately, the pressure in my chest building and building at such a rate I’ve never before experienced. We got out but still had a ten minute walk back to the car, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it without exploding. We made it to a nearby bench, me struggling to hold myself together, before I let go.

“Why is he here,” I wailed, digging my nails into my skin, trying to make myself hurt. “I don’t understand why, why he’s here, why is he here?”

Boyfriend could do nothing except pat my back and hold my hand.

After the worst of it, we made our way back to the carpark. That walk – passing cosplayers who all looked at me strangely while I hyperventilated and sobbed – was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

While walking through the rows upon rows of parked cars, looking for mine, I saw in front of me a black car, the same make that I know he drives. I felt faint. I thought I was about to throw up. We passed it and the numberplate made it clear it wasn’t his.

We found my car and I broke down again.

I couldn’t, and can’t, stop replaying that moment over and over in my head. The way he’d looked. How close we were. How close we were. Another two strides and I would have been able to talk to him, and what would he have said? He could have said anything, done anything, and he was there and he’s been a figment of my imagination for so long it’s so hard for me to process that he’s real, he’s really real, he’s living in the same city as me and going to university where Boyfriend works and going out to pub lunches in my suburb and going to the same conventions as me. I always wondered what would happen if I saw him in public again, but now I didn’t have to wonder.

I would fall apart, completely and utterly.


It’s been thirty-six hours since I saw him. It feels like, simultaneously, no time at all has passed, and years have passed. Every time I close my eyes I see him in that booth, see myself stopping mid-sentence, see Boyfriend’s expression change. I float behind myself and see the way I begin to shake, to implode. I watch as the fear turns me inside out. I remember how I wanted to scream, to never stop screaming until I couldn’t anymore, but I was in public and people were already staring at me because I was crying and panting and it was all too much, it was all too much, I see him. I see him there, in the booth. It repeats, over and over and over and over and over, and I remember that this is the way I felt after I was last raped.

I feel retraumatised.

I feel pathetic.

I feel… numb.

I am empty. It’s like someone has scooped out my heart and lungs and stomach, leaving a huge empty hole in my torso, a gaping hole that aches. But I can’t cry. I’ve tried. The tears won’t come. I don’t know why. Maybe I used them all up yesterday.

I thank God he didn’t see me. He probably wouldn’t have recognised me, with the haircut and how I was wearing a mask, but I’m so, so relieved I know he didn’t see me and I don’t have to wonder.

He turns, walks across the booth. My eyes flick from the printer to his face and a pang of recognition, hot as fire, flashes through me. It’s him.

This whole time – since I got back from Korea, really – I’ve been wondering what would happen if I saw him, dreading it. I’d see glimpses of his face in other men on the street and skitter away from them. I’d see his car make and my hands would clench on the steering wheel. I told myself that it was so, so unlikely. I live in a big city with millions of people. The chances are, quite literally, one in five point three million. I’d be fine; I don’t even go out that much.

And the one time I did go out – the one place I thought I might be safe, because he’s not into nerdy, convention things – is where I saw him.

He turns, walks across the booth. My eyes flick from the printer to his face and a pang of recognition, hot as fire, flashes through me. It’s him.

And now I know nowhere is safe.

He can find me anywhere. He can find me online and he can find me in real life. I can’t go to half the city because of memories and flashbacks ; now the other half that’s not tainted by him, I can’t go for fear of actually running into him. I feel so fucking helpless. Part of me is yelling at me, screaming at me, that I can’t let him ruin my hometown, which has so many more beautiful memories than it does painful ones; the rest of me shies away in fear.

He turns, walks across the booth. My eyes flick from the printer to his face and a pang of recognition, hot as fire, flashes through me. It’s him.

I’m afraid of him.

It feels stupid. I’ve written before that his MO isn’t to rape people in public, in broad daylight; he’s subtler than that. I know, that if for some stupid reason I’d approached the booth, he wouldn’t have leapt across to wrap his hands around my neck. He’d probably have insulted my haircut, made reference to the fact that I have him blocked, and close with another insult. He’d smirk at me the whole time. He’d know that seeing him made my heart race and my hands shake, not for good reasons. But he wouldn’t actually hurt me physically.

So why the fuck am I so afraid of him?

He turns, walks across the booth. My eyes flick from the printer to his face and a pang of recognition, hot as fire, flashes through me. It’s him.


I’m in a discord server for a hobby group I’m in, and in the vent channel, I posted about seeing him, my rapist. One of the others asked, ‘sorry if this is offensive, but why isn’t he in jail?’ I nearly laughed. Him, in jail! And then for a moment, in the microsecond it took me to blink, I saw us in a courtroom. I saw him glaring at me. I saw myself on the witness stand, telling a roomful of strangers what he did to me, with him sitting right there. I saw the defense lawyer rise. I saw him cross the floor and this man asked me probing questions, poking holes in my story, making me out to be a desperate slut who was still tragically in love with L, out to ruin his reputation out of revenge. I saw L walk free.

‘lol no,’ I wrote in the discord. ‘it would be his word against mine.’

But for a moment I imagined what it would be like to live in a world where I felt safe, knowing L was behind bars, and I mourned that world before I even really got to process it properly.


I don’t know where to go from here. I see him when I close my eyes, and when I open them, I stare at my hands. I’ve been dissociating for hours and nothing feels real. I keep having the most vivid, suicidal thoughts I’ve had in years – visceral images of slitting my wrists open from hand to elbow, of taking hundreds of sleeping pills and lying down to die, of slipping my head through a noose and leaning until I fell asleep. I can’t do anything. I won’t do anything. I promised Boyfriend I’d still be here when he woke up.

But I don’t want to keep seeing him anymore.


So many of my relationships—both romantic and platonic, both friends and family—have been abusive. I’ve been on the receiving end of emotional abuse and manipulation more times than I’m comfortable admitting, and probably more times than I’m even aware. The fact that this abuse has come from people who are meant to love and protect me, like parental figures, has meant I have a thoroughly warped perception of what love and affection is supposed to be.

I’m trying. I try really hard to think analytically about my thought processes and the way I react to things. I have a bit of a hair-trigger temper and get angry and frustrated easily, but it doesn’t tend to last long and when I cool down I immediately start thinking if I reacted appropriately.

The problem is that I have no idea what an ‘appropriate’ reaction is. I have never hit Boyfriend, nor have I ever called him names, or swore at him trying to hurt him. But I’m scared to death that I’m emotionally abusive anyway.

Here’s a recent example:

Boyfriend had surgery two weeks ago. It was a minor procedure and he’s healing well, but as a result of his healing, he can’t wear anything below the waist and getting up and down is hard. I’ve been doing more housework than usual because of this. I know Boyfriend is stressed—he has tons to do at his job at the moment—and didn’t expect to not be able to wear pants, and thus be unable to be in the office. He can work from home but isn’t as productive, so I think he’s frustrated at this unexpected hurdle, especially at such a busy time.

This is all to say he’s stressed, and understandably so.

Now that more time has passed since the surgery and he’s a bit more mobile, on Wednesday, the day before yesterday, I asked him via SMS if he could put the bins out and do a couple of things around the house.

me: after class is done would u mind helping me tidy up the living room and take the bins out? it doesnt need much

him: sure

me: [sends photo of to-do list, which includes ‘go through box-o-shit’, ‘tidy up living room together’, ‘take bins out’]

him: Ill have to do the box after work

me: why
me: i thought we could do it together
me: it wont take 2 hours for us to clean up the living room and shit

him: Cant it wait until this evening? I have a ton of work to do its a bit more than just taking the bins out

me: woah ok

It might seem trivial—and upon reading it back, it absolutely is—but Boyfriend rarely texts in that frustrated, abrupt manner, and I was taken aback and a bit upset. I also think I was reading more into it than was really there. I was worried Boyfriend was upset with me for asking him to resume some housework duties after his surgery, but also exhausted of doing it all solo. So I closed the door and went to sleep.

him: I’m sorry if you thought I was being harsh 😔 I’m just stressed
him: Clearly I have upset you for which I am truly sorry. I understand if you want to go to [the shops] without me.

I woke up to those texts and felt immediately guilty. I hadn’t been trying to guilt trip him into an apology, but somehow it had felt like it—by tacitly closing the door between us without saying a word, I simultaneously felt like I was removing myself from a situation that had upset me and making a petty point. I wasn’t trying to be a bitch. I didn’t slam the door shut and give him the finger through the wall. I honestly wanted to put some space between us, but at the same time, I was scared that doing so would be misconstrued into the silent treatment (which is absolutely emotional abuse) or some manipulation tactic.

We talked and made up, but it’s still nagging at my mind.

Another example is this:

Yesterday, a friend, Co, came over to help me build some Ikea furniture. We’re running out of room for my model horse collection, my books, and Boyfriend’s cookbooks and D&D miniatures. I wanted to get all this done before puppy arrives so we’re not building furniture and hammering with an eight-week-old puppy around the house. I knew building furniture would be hard on Boyfriend after his surgery, so Co came around and we started with the bookshelf that was meant to go upstairs, in the study, next to my desk.

Space constraints meant we had to build it in the hallway upstairs next to the study (where Boyfriend works), and I could tell we were annoying Boyfriend, although he was a good sport and didn’t say anything about it. When it came time to move the completed bookshelf into its spot next to the desk, we attempted to do so, only to realise it didn’t fit. Despite Boyfriend measuring the space and confirming confidently it would fit. Despite the fact it had nowhere else to go.

We eventually shoved it in on its side, so it looked awkward and out of place with the rest of the room’s furniture, and made the bottom three shelves inaccessible without climbing underneath the desk to get to them. I was annoyed. I didn’t say anything but I scrubbed my forehead and rubbed my eyes and sighed and said it was fine, even though it was not really fine—but what else was there to do? It didn’t fit, and no amount of rearranging would make it fit, so it would just have to stay there like that.

I shooed Co back downstairs and we resumed building the other shelves down there. (‘I think Boyfriend could tell I was mad,’ I whispered to him, and he shrugged. ‘You handled it well, though,’ he said.) Boyfriend pottered about but I didn’t really pay any attention to whatever he was doing until I heard power tools fire up, at which point my curiosity was piqued. After about twenty minutes he called for me to come and have a look, and I did, only to find the bookshelf in its rightful place, in the correct orientation. Boyfriend proudly announced he’d shaved a piece off the side to use the skirting board as a support, meaning it now fit. He’d also painstakingly emptied the two bookshelves of horses and books, laid the horses carefully on the sofa, unscrewed the shelves from the wall, and moved everything over a couple of centimetres before re-screwing the shelves back into the wall. The room looked great, and we now had tons of storage space.

But I was hit with a wave of guilt as I stood there looking at it. Was this my fault? Had my passive-aggressiveness, something I know I have a problem with, made Boyfriend feel so upset that he’d done all this to try and fix it? I didn’t want to say ‘I am upset that the bookshelf doesn’t fit when you told me it would’ with our friend in front of us, so instead I’d just sighed and pursed my lips and been a passive aggressive bitch, which wasn’t any better.

Am I a bad partner?

Am I emotionally abusive?

I can’t help thinking about J, my ex-best friend whom I’ve written about quite extensively on this blog. Since our friendship broke apart, in my lowest moments I’ve been turning things over in my mind, trying to see where I went wrong. I know a big part of it was the difference in our communication styles in conflict. They preferred to face things head on, the moment after they happened; I need time to decompress and let my emotions settle, otherwise I’ll say something in the heat of anger that I don’t mean. For me, it meant that after a conflict they were overbearing, and for them I was distant and emotionally cold.

Objectively one could just say we have different communication styles and they weren’t particularly suited to each other. But it doesn’t feel as simple as that. They often made me feel awful for needing time and space after a fight; they implied I was running away from my problems, and in a way I suppose I was.

I remember right after I got back from Korea, they came and stayed with me. This was a bad idea in retrospect—I desperately needed time to resettle into life in Australia—but at the time we hadn’t seen each other in months and were eager to. One night at my welcome home party, they drunk a lot more than I did, and I slowed down on the drinking. They then got angry that I didn’t want to go out clubbing afterwards when I said I would previously, but I had underestimated how exhausted talking to all those people would be, and I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. I could tell they were angry at me so I avoided them for the rest of the night, which infuriated them, and when we went to the bed we were sharing I could feel the anger radiating off them in waves. I lay in silence for a while before finally apologising, and we talked it out through there. They were angry that I changed my mind, and especially after they had already been drinking—they told me that they get really nasty hangovers and prefer not to drink if they don’t have to (something I didn’t know), and they wouldn’t have started drinking if I knew I didn’t want to go out earlier. They were angry that I avoided them. They thought I was being a coward. I don’t know if they used that exact word, but the sentiment was there. They expressed how utterly frustrating it was to them that I seemed so closed off, withdrawn. I apologised profusely and explained why I preferred to avoid them after we had a fight. I told them it wasn’t personal, that it’s just how I operated. They said they wish I had just told them instead of closing off without a word. I apologised again and promised to communicate more in the future.

That friendship ended six months ago, as you all know. Perhaps the lessons learnt from it are pointless. But that day was the first time I had articulated that this was my preferred method of communication in high-stress situations, and I was left feeling like it was wrong.

I’m not trying to make myself out as an angel, and J as an abusive friend or anything like that—they were absolutely right that I should have communicated how I was feeling towards them. My previous experiences (of being punished for telling how I feel) were not relevant with them. But I didn’t get the feeling that ‘that’s how you communicate, and that’s ok.’ It was more like ‘I don’t like the way you communicate and I think it’s wrong, but I’ll put up with it.’

I don’t know if it would make them feel any better, but it wasn’t unique to J.

Before Boyfriend, my only other relationship of any significance, length-wise, was a three-year relationship with a boy I’ll call T. T and I met online. He too came from a background of emotional abuse, also from a stepmother with a father complicit, and was a nerdy guy who got me into video games and building computers. Our relationship was… fine. It wasn’t abusive, but it wasn’t healthy. I was dealing with vaginismus—a tightening of the muscles in the pelvic floor which makes any form of vaginal penetration excruciating—and refused to get any help with it, and he made it clear that sex was very important to him. Whenever we fought, which was pretty often, I would distance myself from him. I would sleep in the study. I couldn’t stand to be around him not because I hated him, but because I needed time to let the feelings from our fight settle and mellow out. I feel like I moved into the study at least once a month.

It obviously wasn’t great. We broke up in early 2017. That that relationship is the only one of two that I would consider important to me—the other one being truly emotionally abusive, where I was raped repeatedly—before Boyfriend came along speaks volumes.

I am not proud of the way I acted with T. I was immature. I was lacking empathy, I was abrasive, I was a bitch. Maybe I was abusive. Maybe the relationship was just unhealthy on both sides. Maybe I was just a stupid seventeen year old child. I don’t think I’ll ever know.

I think part of the problem is that I don’t know how to express my emotions appropriately. Somehow saying ‘I am frustrated’ or ‘I am upset’ feels wrong, taboo—not least because I have been punished by other loved ones in the past for saying these things—so I try and say how I’m feeling without saying those words, like with the bookshelf, where I pursed my lips and sighed. But is this passive aggressiveness any better? What is wrong with me where I can’t just say what I’m feeling? I know that other people aren’t mind readers. Years of therapy and some common sense tells me so. But why do I keep doing this?

I don’t have a neat ending to this blog post, a nice way to sum everything up with the lessons that I’ve learned from writing everything out—which usually provides clarity. Instead I’m more confused than ever, and I feel like absolute ass. Intention doesn’t matter when it comes to abuse. If I hurt someone, I hurt them, regardless of whether I was trying to hurt them or not (the road to hell, etc). If I’m abusive I’m abusive, no ifs, ands, or buts.

I love Boyfriend. I love him more than I’ve ever loved anything or anyone else. I want to spend the rest of my life with him. I want to live, for him. I want to live with him. But I’m terrified that I’m bad for him, even if I don’t mean to be.

A New Chapter

In May last year I sat down with my parents and loaded up a powerpoint presentation. It was called ‘Assistance dogs and me: A presentation by Rose’ and I’d spent hours on it: researching it, writing and rewriting it, and even downloading a custom template so my factoids about Australian disability discrimination laws were supported by pictures of cute Australian Shepherds and fluffy white bunnies. I went to these extremes because I had a feeling that I would need to do so in order to convince my parents that this was something I needed—and that they wouldn’t necessarily believe me.

The presentation went well—I’m a good presenter when I’m comfortable enough to be—and at the end my mother looked at me, shrugged, and said “I think that sounds great.”

“Seriously?” I said, looking between her and my stepfather with barely-concealed disbelief. Maybe they hadn’t understood the part of the presentation where I said I wanted to take a dog everywhere with me to help me?

“Of course. As you said—it’s just another tool in your toolbox to help you. It sounds like a good idea.”

And so I’d taken the first steps along the newest path in my life.

I’d never really considered an assistance dog. Despite being mentally (and physically) ill for, well, ever, I didn’t know anything about assistance dogs beyond the basics: guide dogs helped the blind. I didn’t know that there were other kinds; in fact, my first time reading about this was in a Jodi Picoult novel about an attorney who has a seizure alert dog. But I didn’t have epilepsy, so I shrugged it off as a cool character trait and moved on. It wasn’t until I started seriously considering the prospect that I might be autistic, and joining relevant facebook groups and forums related to this, that the idea of an assistance dog resurfaced. But I still didn’t feel worthy enough. I didn’t feel disabled enough.

Two things served to change my mind: one was meeting Boyfriend’s sister, who I’ve written about before—she’s great and we get along like a house on fire. She’s also got albinism, like Boyfriend, but unlike Boyfriend (who relies on what sight he has to get around the world), she uses a cane and a guide dog. This guide dog is the sweetest, happiest yellow Labrador you’ve ever seen. It was my first time ever meeting a guide dog and when I went over to their house for the first time I anxiously asked Boyfriend if I was allowed to pat the dog when she wasn’t in harness. He said of course. I’m now one of said guide dog’s favourite people simply because of the volume of pats I bestow (but only when she’s not in harness of course!) But meeting a guide dog in the flesh and realising that yes, although they’re very well trained and help their owners a lot, they’re still just a dog at the end of the day, not something mystical—that helped break down the barrier a bit for me.

The second was a spur-of-the-moment post I fired off to one of the aforementioned disability facebook groups when I was feeling particularly disheartened. I’d gone on an internet deep dive looking at guide dogs, then moving on to other forms of assistance dogs, and had eventually stumbled across the website for Assistance Dogs Australia, which is the first result that comes up when you google ‘assistance dog’. Eagerly I clicked on the ‘People living with PTSD’ section, wondering if perhaps I was eligible, before reading the following:

While we wish we could open our program to all those living with post trauma stress, ADA is currently only placing dogs with former Australian Defence Force or Police personnel diagnosed with PTSD.

Well. Fair enough, I supposed. I then moused over to ‘Children & families living with autism’ and clicked, my eyebrow raised. Here is what ADA’s website has to say about autism—with my commentary added in red:

Autism is a persistent developmental disorder, evident from early childhood, that affects almost 1 in every 150 Australian children. (You do know those Australian children will go on to be autistic adults, right? It doesn’t disappear when you turn 18…) True to our pioneering nature, Assistance Dogs Australia have been on the front line of training and placing dogs with children with Autism in Australia. (Nice person-first language there. A cursory glance at the autistic community will show that we overwhelmingly prefer identity first language, but sure.) Our program considers applications regardless of race, gender or religion. (But not age! Funny that).

The story was the same no matter what organisation I looked at. Autism and PTSD are two of the most common conditions for assistance dog use (just based on the organisations that I’ve seen), but they were all the same: if you were an autistic adult, or someone with PTSD that didn’t come from being a first responder, you’re SOL (and if you’re both it’s a double fuck you!) Boyfriend rightfully pointed out that those organisations run off donations, and autistic adults are not marketable. Neither are non-vets with PTSD. It’s easiest to get funding for those two demographics and so that is what they must focus on. Logically, it makes sense. Emotionally… It stings.

(And truly I don’t mean to demean any vets or first responders with PTSD. It just gets tiring, being told over and over again that you can’t have PTSD because you weren’t a soldier, and then… this. PTSD goes beyond service-specific and warfare-specific trauma, and I don’t think enough conversations are had about that.)

So I wrote the post on the facebook group, moaning about how I’m disabled but ineligible for an assistance dog, despite it being something I thought could help me a lot. Some of the replies I got were commiserating, and others were telling me that under the DDA, I could train my own assistance dog, and it was perfectly legal.

So began another internet deep dive.

The federal law that mandates assistance animals is the Disability Discrimination Act (1992). There’s a couple of states (not mine) that have laws around assistance animals, but the DDA, as a federal law, trumps them. It is King. It’s the holy grail to assistance dog handlers, and for good reason.

This is how the DDA defines an Assistance Animal:

(a) accredited under a law of a State or Territory that provides for the accreditation of animals trained to assist a persons with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability; or

(b) accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed by the regulations for the purposes of this paragraph; or

(c) trained:
(i) to assist a person with a disability to alleviate the effect of the disability; and
(ii) to meet standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for an animal in a public place.

Disability Discrimination Act 1992

So, in layman’s terms, (a) refers to state laws for accreditation, such as Queensland’s Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog (GHAD) laws. (b) refers to organisations like Guide Dogs Australia, or Assistance Dogs Australia. (c), however, refers to owner-trained dogs, and as long as your dog is trained to alleviate the effect of the disability and meets standards of hygiene and behaviour that are appropriate for a public place (while the legislation is not explicit on what these hygiene and behaviour standards are, in the Assistance Dog community it’s commonly expected that your dog should have basic obedience training (sit, stay, down), be able to walk on a loose leash next to you (heel), not bark, sniff, or be dog reactive, be toilet trained, and be clean—before it is allowed in public), your dog is an assistance dog.

There’s quite a difference from the DDA and the American law, the ADA, which requires that dogs be ‘task trained’. Our law does not state explicitly that the dog must know certain tasks, just that it’s trained to alleviate the effect of the disability, however most handlers task train just like handlers in the states do. The DDA also states that it is not discriminatory for a person to request evidence that the animal is trained to the standards mentioned above, thus it’s highly recommended that owner-trainer teams carry a letter from their doctor and/or vet, training logs, or complete a Public Access Test and use the proof from that test. If you get your dog through an organisation like Guide Dogs Aus, or Assistance Dogs Aus, they give you a neat little card or medallion that you can show as proof your dog is legit, but owner-trainer teams often have a little bit more trouble.

But it’s not impossible. That’s what excited me the most. It became a possibility, so I kept researching.

Let’s be clear what I’m not getting an assistance dog for.

I’m not getting it to take a dog everywhere with me because I think it will be cool. I’m not getting it to flaunt or flex. I’m not getting it as a first line of treatment, a knee-jerk reaction after being diagnosed. I’ve been in therapy for decades, am on medication, have hundreds of coping mechanisms and still struggle on a daily basis. I’m not getting an assistance dog as a fad.

I’m getting an assistance dog because I think it can help me. My disability is disabling enough that I need help with certain things, and it’s unfair to rely on Boyfriend or my mum for these things all the time. A dog can help me go to the shops without being overwhelmed and crying. A dog can help ground me when the world becomes too much and none of my other techniques are working. A dog could be a tool for me. Another tool in my toolbox of tricks.

It’s taken me a long time to arrive at this level of acceptance. For a while I felt like a fraud, even when I was putting the powerpoint together. I didn’t feel disabled enough to want this. I didn’t feel like I deserved it. And there were voices in my head, the invisible crowd of critics, that sneered you’re so pathetic. You start dating a blind man and all of a sudden you’re disabled too? His sister has a guide dog, so you get an assistance dog too? You’re so useless. Such a copycat. Always basing your identities around other people.

(No one has ever said the above to me, but, according to my anxiety, it’s what everyone watching my instagram stories and facebook statuses thinks about me.)

But as the months went on, and it became clearer and clearer that I was struggling—and struggling a lot—and that I’d been struggling the same way for years and nothing had changed, despite me trying my best, damn it, being the good little patient and going to therapy and taking my meds… Well, I need to start looking for other things to help me. And the idea of an assistance dog coalesced as I wrote my powerpoint and read stories of other handlers, the good, the bad, the ugly—all of it. By the time I sat my parents down in the living room and started talking at them, I was convinced that I’d done the research and concluded that this was a good choice for me. It wouldn’t be easy, and there was no guarantee of success—but if it would help me, it was worth a try.

And my parents agreed.

So that’s where we are today.

A few days after my parents agreed to support and help fund my assistance dog endeavour, I contacted a reputable Labrador Retriever breeder (who breeds a lot of assistance and working dogs) and got put on the waiting list for a puppy. At the time Boyfriend and I were living in our one-bedroom in a high rise in the city, an apartment wholly inappropriate for a puppy, so we deferred the dog until after we had moved. This also gave me time to think about my decision and make sure it was something I really wanted to ahead with, to make sure I wasn’t doing anything rashly.

But I stayed firm in my choice. The more I read, the more I researched and spoke to other handlers and read and read and read voraciously, the happier I became. It felt good, to have something to look forward to. We moved house into our current flat, which is on the ground floor and has a courtyard and is way better for a puppy. I contacted a trainer who has experience with training assistance dogs and had a preliminary, pre-puppy session with her and Boyfriend, and we both agreed she was a good fit for me. All there was left to do was wait, and last week, two beautiful big litters of Lab puppies were born and I got a call from the breeder confirming one of them was mine.

She’s going to wait until they’re older to temperament test them and assign me the individual puppy, but for now we discussed gender and colour preferences and decided that a girl would be the best fit for me, which means I’ll be getting a yellow girl. I don’t know which one yet, but every time she uploads a photo on facebook, I scan all the little scrunched faces of the yellow ones, looking as if I can see a spark of recognition there. Hello, I think. I’m excited to meet you. Are you excited to meet me?

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement. I’m positively petrified. I’ve never raised a puppy from eight weeks before. I’ve never really had a pet that is wholly mine (aside from the snakes, but they are so low-maintenance they barely count) before. It’s a huge responsibility, and I’m not taking it lightly, not at all.

But I’m also excited, and I’m looking forward to the future, and I haven’t been able to say that for a long, long time.

None of the above text is legal advice and is the opinion of the blogger only. For legal advice please always contact a lawyer.

Should I just pull the pin?

I think I’m going to quit my job.

I’m no stranger to bullying, as I’ve chronicled in this blog. But there’s something so insidious about workplace bullying, so different to the other experiences I’ve had, that is absolutely soul crushing. Bullying by peers is one thing—but bullying by a superior is nasty beyond belief, because there’s no way you can fight back. It’s especially made worse by the fact that we all need jobs to survive, placing an impetus on us, the victims, to shut up and keep our heads down to keep earning money. It’s staggering. It’s some of the worst kind of bullying, I think.

And once again I am being bullied because I am autistic.

Here’s just a handful of more obvious microaggressions levelled against me.

On my second shift, I was manning the reception desk alone with my boss. She scolded me for checking my phone (once, the entire day)—ok, I can understand that, she doesn’t want her employees to be glued to their phones. She scolded me for drinking a milkshake, said she didn’t want anything but coffee and tea on the front desk (even though the patients can’t see anything). The worst part, however, was when she asked about Boyfriend and what he does for a living. When I said he works in IT and engineering, she said, “oh, I suppose he must be autistic then.”

Was it a poor attempt at a joke? Or was it a serious comment? I couldn’t tell then and I still can’t tell to this day. Either way it wasn’t really an appropriate thing to say. There was a beat of silence where I felt my heart leap into my mouth, the weight of a million rebuttals clawing in my throat, before I finally averted my eyes and said “well, I am, actually.”

Another beat of silence. I could tell she hadn’t expected that. She asked some perfunctory questions about my diagnosis and I told her I’d just got it, in March. She said she didn’t know much about autism—despite being a clinical psychologist—and I said I was a veritable expert after so much research. The discussion was dropped. She never brought it up again.

But the digs continued. Once in a meeting with her and my two coworkers I was staring at the little red clock that sits on her desk. I was paying attention to the meeting, just not making eye contact, and she berated me for it. “Rose,” she said, and my eyes snapped to hers as I died a little inside. “Are you listening? You’re not paying attention.”

I murmured an apology and made a decisive effort to look in her direction from then on.

And the most egregious of all—the one that made me burst into noisy tears at the desk in front of my colleagues—was an email she sent yesterday. Before I get into it, though, I must give context.

The situation is this: there’s no official practice manager, instead this woman, my boss, is both a psychologist practising at the clinic and the acting practice manager. There have been proper practice managers in the past, but they have all quit (including one who apparently got so fed up she went out for coffee and never came back) because of her shit. She clearly does not want to do this job and is bad at it, partially because she is mean, and partially because she is genuinely very busy with her patients and trying to run a business on top of that is difficult. Myself and the other two receptionists are self-starters and very good at managing ourselves, but she insists on micromanaging us every minute of every day, sending emails nearly constantly throughout the workday. She is a huge gaslighter (especially to my coworker) and seems to enjoy wielding her power over us and making us feel small. If I was a better woman I would feel sorry for her, but as it is, I simply despise her.

One of the other receptionists (S) has been working there for 10+ years and the other (N) was hired a few months before me. My boss does not pay overtime and due to us being understaffed, S and N have been working behind—up to ten or eleven hour shifts, which is three unpaid hours—to try and catch up on all the work. My boss has not granted poor S any time in lieu to make up for these years of labour. S is done and over it. N is the kind of person who is the human epitome of a ray of sunshine. She tries and tries and works hard (both of them do!) and has nothing but pure thoughts. It’s quite wholesome, really—and she makes a nice foil for me—but it infuriates me to see her treated badly. It’s like kicking a puppy.

So, yesterday. Before this job I was a casual; now I’m a permanent part-time employee. This comes with sick leave and paid annual leave, but it also comes with rules and hoops that I don’t know how to deal with, and every single aspect of this employment has been confusing (no thanks to my boss’ poor communication skills). Boyfriend has been on hand to explain things to me for the most part, but up until now, I was operating under the assumption that if we arrived early (say 8:30 instead of 9), we could leave early (at 5, instead of 5:30), as that’s how it worked at my old job and that’s how I thought both S and N were operating. When I arrived to work on Thursday and told N that I was leaving 45 minutes early that day, due to having stayed back 45 minutes to finish up last week (because no overtime, remember), she told me that we now have to tell our boss when that happens. I dutifully sent the boss an email explaining, and she said that that was fine, but I need to tell her at the time of staying back so she can approve the time in lieu. So any time we arrive early or stay back late, it needs to be reported. I acknowledged this via email, explained why I’d stayed back (doctor hadn’t finished), and that was that.

The next day I woke up early, as I usually do on Fridays, to head in early. I walked in the door at 8:15. By the time I was settled at my desk and the computer was booted up, it was 8:30. I shot off an email to the boss letting her know I had come in early. This is what the email said.

Hi [boss],
I got in at 8:15 today so I will be leaving at 5:15
Kind regards

A normal email, or so I thought. I sent it off without a second thought and got a reply two hours later. It’s this email that had me crying:
Ok, Rose. What time does [doctor] finish?
BTW – you need to be mindful of the tone of your email. It could be read as quite rude.

Before I could think, blinded by rage, I fired off a reply that read
Hi [boss],
Sorry – I don’t mean to be rude – my disability means I have issues deciphering and emulating tone. I never mean to come across as rude. Just autistic 🙂

Then I went to the front desk and burst into tears.

Writing it down in black and white makes it seem so stupid. It’s just a dumb email. But to understand it you must understand the context I gave you above. You must understand that I can’t get through a day of work without her emailing about something or rather, instructing me to do this or that, making it clear that any answer except ‘yes!’ is unacceptable. At this point in time she had already told me she regretted hiring me. She made it clear she has no respect for me, my disability, or my time (due to her constant chopping and changing of my days in the first month I worked there, and her inability to be flexible despite the fact she knew I was a university student when she hired me—when I was selecting my classes for this term she refused to let me change my work days so instead I had to change what class I was doing). No matter what I do, she always asks for more. There’s always something wrong, always, always, even though I try my hardest at a job that leaves me physically broken. I might not be good at much, but I’m good at my job; I care about patients, I like the work, and I am thorough. That doesn’t matter to her, though. Nothing does.

That’s why the email broke me.

She rang me later in the day, to discuss things. A few weeks ago I had mentioned that I was feeling overwhelmed at work, in an attempt to explain to her how understaffed we are and how desperately we need another pair of hands to help out. Since then S and N have each said they too are tired of working overtime. She responded by saying she didn’t want to hire someone else, and wanted more hours out of us. All three of us refused—S doesn’t want to be working more at this point in her life, which I totally understand, and N is caring for her elderly parents, and I’m a disabled uni student who took the job specifically because it was two days a work and not three—and the discussion went nowhere. My boss mentioned that she’s bringing in a ‘HR consultant who knows the business well’ to try and sort out the issue. We all know it’s pointless, because the issue is her, but we can’t well say that. This is what she discussed on the phone with me. She wanted to work out what I could provide for the business with ‘limited days’, the exact same limited days I had when she hired me. She then said that in retrospect she should have hired someone full time, ‘someone else’. This is the second time she has said to my face that she regretted hiring me.

That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, really. The constant bullying and micromanaging, the stress, the workload—I think maybe I could handle that if my employer wanted me there at least, and acknowledged the work I do. But instead all I get is a sigh, a ‘limited days’, a ‘I should have hired someone else’, a shrug. It’s soul-sucking and heartbreaking, and I don’t think I can do it anymore.

You know what sucks? I care about the business. I really do. I care about the patients, the doctors, and my coworkers. I want to figure out a way to help the business make money. I genuinely am invested in this job, which makes it all the more frustrating that everything is so… cloak-and-dagger. Us three receptionists know what the problem is, but we can’t say it. Our boss is bringing in a HR consultant to supposedly fix the problems, but that’s the same issue—we can’t just say what the problem is or else we’ll get fired. It’s all so fake. I wish I could just be honest, say ‘your management of the business is bad, step back and hire a proper practice manager who works full time’. I wish I could just… make things better somehow. I want things to work. I do. But they can’t, and they won’t, and I don’t think I can do this anymore.

I haven’t made any concrete decisions. I’ve drafted a letter of resignation and updated my resume. I’m absolutely terrified of the prospect of actually sending it in, because I know my resume—a gap of a year and a half while I was on exchange, and then only being in this role for three months—looks awful. I also know I can’t try and get a job in the same hospital, because they’ll ring my boss to ask about me, and she might say bad things about me (and I acknowledge that I’m not a perfect employee, but I have a feeling she won’t just say that). I can’t have her as a reference. But I don’t think I can do this anymore.

I couldn’t escape the bullying in high school. I couldn’t just quit, although I did my damned best to try. Here I have a chance to be free of it.

And I think I’m going to take it.

how to lose friends and alienate people

My best friend and I are no longer friends.

My stress has been through the roof lately. Boyfriend and I have been moving house – widely accepted to be one of the most stressful activities known to man, a fact I can indeed confirm – and there’s been no relief from… well, anything. Packing up my life for the umpteenth time sucked marginally less with someone to help (and I’ll be honest – Boyfriend did most of the heavy lifting, packing-wise) but it still sucks ass. Hot, steamy ass.

I digress. The point is, I’ve been stressed. Crying, sleeping a lot, the whole shebang. I haven’t really been talking to anyone except Boyfriend, because all of my energy has been consumed by moving, and what little that’s left goes into uni and work. I simply have no batteries left to socialise on.

My best friend took that badly. They took it quite personally, in fact. A week ago they sent a long message saying that my continued shit responses hurt them, that it was a big factor in their self-esteem issues, and that their therapist told them the friendship is toxic and advised them to end it, among other things.

My reaction was not pleasant.

I broke. I shattered. I fell to pieces on the bathroom floor and Boyfriend found me in the shower, sobbing so hard I couldn’t breathe, blood swirling around my feet before disappearing down the drain. I had relapsed for the first time in years, much to my shame. He wrapped me in a towel and guided me to bed, fussed over me, held me close as I cried.

(Have I mentioned that I don’t deserve him? Because I don’t.)

It was not just the message that cut me so deeply (if you will excuse the pun). I think I would have reacted with tears no matter when it came, but the fact that it came when my stress was at its peak – it was just too much, all too much.

And now I am grieving.

To truly piece together how J’s friendship and I went so wrong, we kind of have to go back to the beginning.

J and I met in a group chat of kpop fans from Australia, all people who vaguely (or concretely) knew each other and shared interests. J and I didn’t exactly hit it off at first. They thought I hated them. It wasn’t until we started talking outside of the group chat that things started to get better, and in early 2017, they came and visited me and stayed with me. That set off a friendship that was deep and intense, the kind that people wax poetic about. We talked every day, and when I say every day I mean all day every day. Pretty much 24/7 we were texting each other. We were as close as two people can be without being romantically involved. Every single thought that went through my brain, every little inconsequential detail of life, I shared with them. They were my first port of call for any issues I was having.

2017 was a hard year. I was living by myself for the first time, in an apartment that was slightly and realistically too big for me, and I struggled to cope. I was desperately lonely, but didn’t want to date as I was moving to Korea the next year, and so I tried to fill the void with meaningless hookups from tinder. That stupidity led to my second rape, something I’ve never quite forgiven myself for. J was the first one I called when he left my house – I was crying, sobbing into the phone, and when I could finally speak I said ‘don’t worry, he didn’t rape me’.

At the end of that year, I traveled with J and some others from that group chat to Korea. It was meant to be a fun holiday to celebrate the new year. 2018 was meant to be the best year ever, and what better way to make that come true than to spend it with my best friend?

From the beginning, things began to go awry. Our plans were I would arrive first, a week early, and then J would join me later and we’d stay for about a week in the airbnb together before they moved over to their big group accommodation with other people from the group chat. I, in a move that turned out to be proactively wise, said that I would keep my airbnb so I had somewhere to escape to if I began to get overwhelmed. This was before my autism diagnosis, but I knew I didn’t fare well when shoved into close quarters with people I didn’t know all that well.

(Yet another lesson I had learnt the hard way. I’d gone to Seoul in the middle of 2017, to study Korean, and had happened to meet up with others from the group chat and their friends. We’d all decided to go to a kpop concert together, for a band I didn’t know that much about. It was the middle of summer in Korea, and Seoul doesn’t benefit from the southern changes and sea breezes that break up the simmering heat of Australia in summer, so we were sweaty and miserable. I was completely and entirely left out as the rest of them chatted happily about the band they’d just seen. No one even looked at me. It was as if I didn’t even exist. My wonderful friend G, who had tagged along that day, found me upstairs in the airbnb, crying silently so no one would hear as the rest of them ate happily. They’d all ordered food I didn’t eat and hadn’t asked me if I wanted anything, so I slunk upstairs to cry until G ordered me a pizza.)

I arrived without fanfare and spent the first week in the airbnb happily by myself. It was tiny, as Korean apartments often are; there was a loft bed, which I slept on, and then a sofa bed downstairs. As such there was no real privacy between the two people staying there. When J arrived we quickly realised that neither of us was really happy being up in each other’s business all the time. It was exacerbated by J getting sick, something I unfairly resented them for as it put a dent in our plans.

But J powered through and we fulfilled our goal in getting absolutely blind drunk and clubbing every night. One particular club we liked because the bartender, upon seeing my tattoos, proceeded to stuff us full of free drinks while sharing ink stories. We went back the next night and repeated the process. I got drunker that night than I’ve ever been, I think. We were still in the club at seven in the morning; at that point we were some of the only people left. The other girl still there, a Korean-American from California, bought us all tequila shots and we downed them happily.

The next few moments, I think, are where our friendship began to unravel.

When it was time to go – because they were literally closing up shop – I went to the bathroom and J went to the coatroom to get our bags and jackets . It wasn’t until we were halfway back to the airbnb that I realised J hadn’t gotten my bag, which had my wallet and passport in it. It was at this point that I began to have (something I can now clearly identify only in retrospect) an autistic meltdown. I was beyond drunk; I’m surprised I was still upright. I was cold – it was under 0 degrees Celsius. I was overwhelmed at being in a foreign country where I couldn’t speak the language that well. None of this excuses the tirade that I launched upon poor J – but it hopefully gives it some context. I sped-walked back to the club only to find they’d closed and gone home, because it was close to eight in the morning at this point. I lost it. I don’t remember what I said, but apparently it was horrible, awful stuff, personal attacks launched at J. We were screaming at each other in the middle of the street. They got fed up and started going back to their airbnb and I, drunk and angry, began to follow them out of some misguided sense of duty. It was their first time in Korea, I reasoned, and I didn’t want them to get lost or abducted and have it be my fault. So I trailed them doggedly all the way back to their airbnb where they disappeared inside without a glance behind them, and then I went back to my airbnb, on the other side of the district. I got home and collapsed into bed, slept fitfully for a few hours, and woke still drunk. I think it took me a good twelve hours to sober up completely.

The next day was New Years Eve itself. I didn’t talk to J at all, mainly because I couldn’t quite remember what I’d said but I knew it was bad. I talked to a few others who said I could come over to get ready for NYE in the evening, as we were planning on going clubbing. I didn’t really want to but felt obligated, so in the early evening I got dressed and headed over.

(To this day I still don’t know what I said that night. They refused to ever tell me.)

It was horrible. Everyone – there were about six of us – was doing their makeup and eating and chatting, and I sat squished in the corner, feeling utterly miserable. I knew I’d fucked up big time. I didn’t have the words yet to apologise; I was still processing, and being around J was uncomfortable. They came downstairs and breezed past me without even looking at me, which I deserved. I shrunk further inwards and wished I could go home.

The evening crept onward. I did my makeup half-heartedly and then disappeared upstairs to cry in a bed (notice a trend of me in Korea?), feeling sorry for myself, feeling like shit for feeling sorry for myself, feeling like I was the worst friend ever, feeling sorry for J, wanting to fix things but not knowing how, and all in all wanting to die. I planned to go back to my airbnb and hang myself that night. Two others found me and cuddled me close. It was close to midnight, and they sent everyone else out while they stayed with me and made me eat something. I sobbed about what I’d done, how I couldn’t remember what I’d said, how I knew I was the worst friend ever and I’d hurt someone close to me and I didn’t know how to fix it. They passed around a bottle of soju and wiped my tears, and when the clock struck over onto midnight, we all shared chaste midnight kisses. I felt awful yet again because I’d ruined everything – the rest of the friend group were all hanging around in a park nearby, unwilling to leave the two girls I was with behind, and instead of having the New Years Eve in a club surrounded by friends that I knew J wanted, they were sat in a park, passing around cheap soju while it snowed.

At this point, I threw in the towel. I knew I would just be a miserable burden if I went out that night. So I walked with them as far as the station, and then peeled off and went back to my airbnb. I spent the next two hours texting the two girls who’d consoled me – one of them went back to the club for me and got my bag for me – before ordering fried chicken and passing out at 2 am. As New Years Eves go, it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either.

It was pleasant to wake up the next morning sober. I had leftover chicken for breakfast and waited for the others to emerge from their hungover haze. There had been drama – the girls I’d been with had kept J waiting outside the club for them as they stumbled all over the district, drunk and lost, and by the time they arrived J was beyond furious (which I knew was my fault too, because I knew it was anger leftover from the night before). But I hadn’t been there to make it worse.

In the afternoon, I texted J and asked if they wanted to meet up and talk. Being sober, and free of a hangover, had allowed me the time I needed to process through the events of the previous two nights. I desperately need that time to process in a conflict. If I’m forced to face things immediately, I break down – the emotions are too weighty, too real, and I haven’t been able to distance myself from them yet. They replied agreeing and we met at an ice cream place halfway between our two airbnbs.

I apologised profusely. I knew I had fucked up, and I made it clear that if they didn’t want to be friends with me after this, I wouldn’t blame them. I was so beyond sorry for hurting them in a moment of pettiness; it is, and was, inexcusable (I still haven’t quite forgiven myself for whatever I said that night, and I think part of it is because I’ll never know what, exactly, I said). I shouldn’t have lashed out but I did and I was so very sorry.

To my surprise, they said that what had hurt them the most was not the moment itself, but the next day, when I’d come over to the airbnb and ignored them. I was taken aback – in my eyes, I hadn’t been ignoring them at all, but rather shrinking away and trying to give them space from me, and from the argument. I myself need that space to process, but as it turns out, J doesn’t. They want to solve things immediately, and saw my silence as adding further insult to injury. It was a communication mishap and I apologised for this as well. They accepted my apology, and the rest of the holiday was a non-event.

But when I returned home, things had changed. We didn’t talk 24/7 like we used to. I could sense that they needed some distance from me to process everything, so I gave it to them, and we chatted briefly every couple of days or so. It wasn’t until March that things picked back up like how they were, but that fight had changed the foundation that our friendship rested on, and it was never quite the same.

In the middle of 2018 I moved to Korea for exchange, and if you’ve read this blog before, you know how that turned out (if you haven’t, spoilers: I tried to kill myself, spent the entire time depressed, managed to work through some trauma, and returned home a Very Changed Person). I was doing more uni than I’d ever done before, as a requirement of exchange, and learning Korean for hours every single day fried my brain beyond belief. When I came back to Australia, I met Boyfriend within weeks of being home, and this, I think, was the final nail in the coffin of J and I’s friendship.

It’s not that I loved J any less. It’s just that living with someone takes up a certain portion of my energy, simply from being around them and talking to them. I’m autistic, and an introvert; my energy is drained by other people and regained by alone time. Boyfriend was there, all the time, and as awful as it sounds, I now had someone in person I could tell every little inconsequential detail of life to. As a result, earlier this year, J sent me a message explaining that my perceived lack of effort towards the friendship was hurting them. I apologised and promised to put in more effort to talk to them, and for a while, I did! Things were just like they used to be. But I got a job, and the world went to shit, and while I had Boyfriend to lean on, J had no one but me. They brought it up again a few months ago and I apologised again and renewed my enthusiasm for the friendship. I was really, really trying; even if I didn’t have the energy every day to send them an essay about how my day was, I tried to send little things, tiktoks and memes and anecdotes, that showed I was thinking about them.

To them, this read as callous. They sent me that long message and I had a breakdown in the shower and… well, you know the story.

I spent a couple of days marinating on their messages and sat down to write a reply. It ended up being 2000 words, and I sent it to a couple of people, Boyfriend included, to make sure it didn’t come across as accusatory or attacking.

I have no better way to explain it than I wake up every morning with a glass full of water, and every single thing I do results in water slopping over the sides. At the end of the day, depending on what I’ve done, I might be left with a couple of drops, or maybe a quarter full. Every single social interaction is me pouring water out of my cup. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or in person. Some days, if I wake up having slept well, my cup is bottomless; other times, when I’m having nightmares, or not sleeping well, it’s half-empty by the time I wake up and I have to make do with what I have.

I really don’t know how else to put it except that communicating with others is tiring because of my disability. In the first two years of our friendship, when I was living alone and working few hours a week, I could pour all of my water into our friendship, because I had nowhere else to put it; now I’m working more, live with a partner, trying to study, trying to move house, and trying to exist in this shitshow of the world that is COVID-19, and my water is spread thin. Everyone gets a couple of dribbles. That’s all I can do. I simply don’t have the energy to talk to you every hour of the day. It’s not that I don’t want to, because I love talking to you, it’s that I can’t.

If it is not the quantity of my messages that is the problem, but rather the quality, then I point to the same reason above but also apologise because I didn’t mean for our conversations to become shallow. I didn’t want to burden you with my problems and issues when you’re already going through so much. It seems so callous written out like that, but it’s the truth. I think this is yet another communication mishap we have—I’m pulling away from heavy topics because I don’t want to burden you when you’re already shouldering a lot, and perhaps you see that as me pulling away from the friendship/losing interest in you?

All I can do in that case is apologise. I don’t really know what I can do to fix my communication issues anymore. It seems like sometimes you run windows and I run mac. I can think of many times off the top of my head where I’ve said/done one thing and it’s been misinterpreted because of a failure on my part to communicate; the messages aren’t the right format, and they’re getting corrupted, no matter how well-meaning I was when I hit send. I’m unsure of how much of that communication breakdown is my failing vs my disability.

I thought I was being clear, concise, and communicating appropriately. I wasn’t exactly happy when I pressed send, but I felt firm in my beliefs. I knew that I’d done the best I could to explain myself and that if it wasn’t enough, than that was a J problem, and not a me problem. I thought we’d be able to move past this, as we’ve moved past so much shit previously.

Instead they replied accusing me of treating them as a “stand-in for the emotional connection a boyfriend gives you” and saying they are “not a placemarker between relationships”. They then went on to say “this friendship isn’t healthy and it never was, we’d both be better just moving forward without each other.”

And just like that, my closest friendship, a friendship of four years, crumbled to dust before my eyes.

I won’t lie and say it doesn’t hurt, because it does. It stings like you wouldn’t believe, especially since, for a little bit there, it sent me down a spiral of self-doubt. After all, if you meet one asshole in a day, it’s likely that you met an asshole. If everyone you meet is an asshole, it’s likely that you’re the asshole. If you smell shit everywhere you go, you should look at the bottom of your own shoes. Et cetera et cetera, metaphor after metaphor, you get the point. What has been the common link between J and all those other friendships that have died out over the years? It’s me. I’m the dependent variable. I’m the one who keeps fucking things up, time after time. I’m the one who keeps being a bad friend, alienating people, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, even when I don’t mean to.

And I suspect that fear will plague me for a while yet, even though I still have friends, great ones. It’s a hard one to shake.

But deep down, deep in my heart, it doesn’t hurt like I thought it would. I thought I would be wailing and prostrating myself on the floor, grabbing razors and pills and reaching for unhealthy coping mechanisms. I thought I’d be suicidal. And I’m not (any more than I usually am, I mean). I think part of me realised the friendship was dying before I consciously did, and now the rest of me is just catching up. The constant communication mishaps, the fact that I was terrified to bring things up that bothered me because I knew it would end badly, the way they made me feel so small sometimes… There’s a reason I never showed them this blog, even though usually they would be the first person I’d send this kind of shit to. They were right – the friendship was never healthy, on either side.

So I’m doing okay. Not great, but I’m okay. It’ll take time for me to stop reaching for my phone to text them; it will take time for me to stop seeing tiktoks and thinking ‘damn, I should send that to J’. But I’ll get there. I’ll heal and continue on, and I hope they will, too. And we’ll go our separate ways, treasuring the good times we had together, but accepting that everything has to end, one way or another.

I’ll get through this.

I know I will.


I’m sick.

I am sick, and the world can never see it, so they shall never understand.

I work with cancer patients. I see their blood test results come back, with bold, terrifying numbers that scream something’s wrong! I see them in the waiting room, nervous, because good news is delivered over the phone but bad news—well, bad news is always an in-person affair. I watch them wring their hands, their eyes tracing the line of the wall, the fish swimming blithely up and down, their gaze catching mine for a moment before falling away. I watch as the doctor comes to get them, and I watch as they return, eyes filled with tears that are hastily wiped away as they approach me to set their accounts in order and make another appointment, this time for poison to be injected into their veins. I smile at them and try and get them to smile back.

And through it all, I envy them.

Continue reading “sickness”


She floats on her back and stares up at the vastness.

If she thinks too hard, she fears, her brain will melt and pour out of her ears, run down her nose, her eyes will boil and her flesh will rot and she will cease to be. That is unacceptable, she knows.

She must persevere.


If I think too hard about anything, it starts to feel like my brain really is melting.

Here’s what it’s like:

I, Rose, person, human being. Breathing. Inhale, exhale. The complex machination of gas exchange, of biology, down to my very cells. Every part of me has evolved to this point, to where I sit here writing this. Every cell inside me is dividing endlessly and has done since the beginning of time. I am nothing but reused matter, a series of genetic accidents over millennia, people falling in love and falling out of love and dying and living—all of that has led to me sitting here in a bed that was made in a factory, the frame made of wood grown from trees and fixed together with bolts made from metal that was mined as ore. The laptop that I type on is an impossibly complex machine, unexplainable to most of human history, and if I gaze into its black screen I can find—well, everything. Every single piece of human history that has ever been recorded is at my fingertips. Every single piece of knowledge that defines us as a species… I can reach out and touch it, run my hands over it, eat it, stuff myself full of it. How are we so complacent of this? How do we not rejoice every day at how much stuff there is out there to know? I could spend a thousand lifetimes reading every book ever read and I still wouldn’t know everything, and the thought burns, it hurts my chest.

Continue reading “perennial”
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