Chasing Happiness

Attempting to retrieve happiness and joy in the aftermath of trauma often seems in vain.

But it’s not.

Please consider this a trigger warning, as well as an uncomfortable but important story I will forever continue to share. MINE.

In those desperate times after trauma, we become experts in subject matter in which we never wished to be associated.

If you know me, follow me on social media, or read this blog on a regular basis, it’s no secret to you that I am a survivor of rape. In that one act of power over another person, my life changed in a split second – like so many of our lives do.

In an instant, I was split into two.

Life as I knew it – my regular happy, filled with normal drama, surrounded by friends, and my hilarious sense of self was paused with such immediacy, I believe my body cocooned me the best way it could.

A pause that sometimes still feels permanent.

Disassociation from the body is an adaptive response to trauma. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember the exact feeling of waking up with an uninvited human inside of me. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember laying on that couch, waiting for the light to shine through the living room window to get the fuck out. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember my sister saying “fuck her” when I was on the phone, worried about telling my best friend that her boyfriend raped me. It doesn’t mean I don’t remember saying over and over and over “I can’t believe this happened to me” when my dad was taking me to the first of two ER trips that next day. It doesn’t mean I forgot how sharp the blade was when my best friend’s first response to the news was, “did you finish?”

For me, the aftermath of Rapegate is one that I will grapple with daily for the rest of my life. While you may think that time heals all wounds (bullshit in my book), the aftermath to my mind, body and soul ebbs and flows like heavy fog in a forest. I’ve learned over the last three years that past trauma can mean not feeling fully alive in the present. The body remembers.

Would the gleam and beam ever return?

I couldn’t help in the seconds, minutes, days, months, years since January 29, 2016 if I will I ever feel happiness again. Or will it be something that I forever chase?

The thing is, the finality of rape is like death in a way. My life as I knew it before was gone forever. The person I was before was gone forever. What innocence (don’t laugh) I had left was gone forever. I am still grieving the life and person I was before Rapegate. Nostalgia can seep into a pore of my skin so quickly and quietly, it feels like the Grim Reaper is trying to take over my soul.

Hours after reporting my rape to the police, I sat in an ER with a dead phone, my dad in the waiting room and a nurse practitioner guiding me through a rape exam. Then, question after question after question that seemed so important kept being asked and my brain was on auto pilot. Did he use a condom? Do you want to take the anti HIV pill? If so, it will be a horrible experience for the next 30 days. Do you want the Plan B pill? Here’s a handful of antibiotics to ward off any STDs that could have been transmitted to you. What do you want?

Somebody tell me what to do. Nobody could.

I sat there, gulping down medication after mediation on an empty stomach. I took all the pills. I took the Plan B pill.

Against abortion? Then you can carry my rapist’s baby if I get pregnant, thanks.

As my body started to recover from shock, I was diagnosed with PTSD, which I truly thought only applied to military veterans who’ve seen and endured horror far beyond. But this was my own personal, close up, front seated horror beyond.

For follow-up appointments (you know, to make sure I hadn’t contracted HIV or any other disease that can take time to manifest in the body), I had the choice to visit the hospital where my rape kit was performed for free but thankfully, because I had private health care, I was able to see my gynecologist. The first object I saw when I started to walk toward my doctor’s office for my first post rape appointment was a truck that read “Shane’s Trucking.” Shane was my rapist’s name.

Fuck off universe.

The meds I take have had side effects of brain fog (which coupled with blonde brain is a triple shit show), dizziness (like I needed any more help being a fucking klutz), and weight gain (oh the welcomed happiness of gaining 40 lbs – mostly in my belly because of cortisol levels being out-of-whack).

One of 4,713 battle wounds on my already klutzy before Rapegate body.

Being a victim of rape causes embarrassment, shame, feeling dirty, like somehow it’s your fault. Would I ever have the strut in my step, the confidence of a queen and the ability to simply see the joy in life again? This period of recovery wasn’t dark. It was black.

Did I deserve it? Why did I “allow” it to happen? It’s all my fault, right?

And, I have absolutely, 100% felt the self wrath, the aftermath, the internal tornado, the tsunami of emotions that surge whenever the fuck they feel like it and eruption of tears, hotly flowing down my face, onto my chin, into my shirt (accompanied with a river of snot and lemme tell ya, it’s a doozie of a look).

Innocent questions from others can seem like accusations to victims. What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Why didn’t you scream? Why were you there? How come you didn’t go home? These questions were all asked of me by the Nashville Sex Crimes Detective after my body was violated by a man’s dick. Keeping up with my detective was one of the hardest parts of my recovery. Once she was done interviewing me the day of my rape, she said she would be in touch. Then a week went by. Then another. I finally reached out and got this response…

The constant state of keeping up with my case provided superb evidence as to reason 4,618,599 why rape victims don’t come forward. Or come forward to then drop charges. It’s exhausting. Exhausting. EXHAUSTING.

Me. Every day the last three years.

The most important thing for anyone to learn when supporting a rape victim is believing them.

pc: @makesdaisychains

Because victims who become survivors of rape, already question themselves endlessly, the damage done by friends, family and strangers’ judgement can be severe. I am a walking, talking, rape stereotype. I wasn’t believed by those closest to the case. My detective said it was a he said/she said since the Shane the Rapist said it was consensual sex. My best friend believed her boyfriend over me.

In between being raped and the year and a half it took to close the case, where Shane the Rapist walks freely out and about, it would be insane not to think someone might go insane. I don’t think he ever even knew he was in the hot seat until my detective reached out to interview him NINE MONTHS after the day I was raped.

It’s improbable that someone can experience any kind of trauma or loss (death, divorce, career, disease, disorder, assault, etc) without consequence to them.

The best face I can muster some days.

For me, this is where my once stable strength of fuck off confidence got lost in the swirl of circling the drain. Would it ever be back?

The emotional, mental, and physical tolls sometime feel beyond debilitating. Combine that with life – which most certainly goes on around you – and it can make the most mundane tasks like making your bed seem like winning an Olympic gold medal if you ever get around to completing the job. I can still sometimes barely muster the courage energy to get out of bed, brush my teeth and wash my hair.

I made my bed. Where’s my accolades?

And the usual worries of life are still abound while grappling with sometimes crippling days. Money worries. Hoping your car doesn’t crap out on your worries. Can my cell phone hang on for another year? Are my friends and family OK? Am I paying enough attention to them? Do they think I’m ignoring them? Did anyone see me crying at work? Am I going to be punished for leaving early for therapy even though my boss already said OK?  See how this shit can snowball?

Avalanche.

Now more than ever, I feel it’s important to speak up if you can about what can sometimes seem like taboo subjects. I was raped. Think that’s fun topic to bring up to new people? “Oh hi, my name is Captain, I’ll have a Skinny Pirate please, I was raped, how are you?” Of course this doesn’t come up immediately but still, I talk about Rapegate, and if we’re gonna be friends, it’s gonna come out.

Did I scare you off?

Taboo also is this fucking stigma that comes along with mental illnesses. I have PTSD (along a myriad of other lovely conditions). When I was looking for a new job after Rapegate, I had to put down on applications whether or not I had PTSD. Now it’s considered a disability. So, OK it’s a disability. I’m dealing with it the best that I can but do I need to reveal that to a potential employer? Yes, I have had panic attacks silently at work in bathroom stalls and in my car but I’m still showing up and doing my job (although my panic attacks always end with me throwing up, so that’s fun to do out of my car window while attempting not to get vomit on my work attire).

And some days are dark. Like calm before storm, clouds rolling in, so quiet it may just drive you mad blackout dark. I think about the passing of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both of whom reportedly took their own lives within two days of one another last year. Both had loved ones, both were celebrated among their professional communities, both had achieved success in different fashions and both had children. So much to leave behind.

But can you even imagine the pain they must have been in to think that their only way out was to “unburden” those around them? That’s really scary to me. Because I’ve often felt like a burden to my family and close friends. Over the past five years, I’ve experienced loss and grief and change beyond my imagination and while I am learning to cope in therapy, I still feel like I’m so needy. “Can I borrow $20 until payday (while swallowing pride for 1,976,000 time)? I can’t go out because I am on a spending freeze (you know those handfuls of pills and doctor follow-ups aren’t free. I’m beyond lucky to have health insurance with co-pays). I just had a panic attack, so I’m going to have to miss your birthday celebration. I am going to stay in because I can’t fathom the thought of getting out of bed.” Mostly, I keep these emotions to myself but I still feel like one motherfucker of a burden.

I. just. can’t.

Will I ever feel like I’m not a burden?

It’s easy for people to say that suicide is selfish. I can see why one would say that but if you haven’t ever grappled with your own dark demons that sometimes you push deep down inside of you, or think they’re gone, only to have them pop up and taunt you over and over and over again – it’s not easy. Mental issues are a lonely, isolating experience of despair. I think this is often in part because not a lot of folks talk about their mental health and share stories from their lives.

pc: @makedaisychains

How others see me.                                           How I feel inside.

My darkest times since Rapegate (and everything else that has occurred in between), have never eluded me to think about ending my life. However, have I been in a place where I wished my eyes wouldn’t open in the morning because it seemed easier than fighting the anguish of deep depression? Yep. Has my chest been so heavy that I thought my heart was going to burst out of it Indiana Jones style because it could bear no more loss or grief, physically hurting? Fuck yes. Do I hit my snooze button 3,719,003 times in the morning (even though I have been up for three hours already) because the thought of putting makeup on and gussying up for work and putting on a “happy” face seems like too much to bear. Damn skippy.

Hi there. I’m getting pretty fucking sick of these feelings popping up whenever they fucking feel like it. Byeee.

That all being said, it’s not uncommon for someone to have these types of thoughts once or more in their lifetime. Some people do shoot sunshine out of their assholes (fuck, until three years ago, I was one of them) but more often than not, it’s a combination of rain, sun, sleet and hail as we trudge through life. On top of all this, I always see the suicide hotline phone number accompanying every death by suicide story. You know that is fucking great, but you know what’s hard? Reaching out when you need help. And let me say this – if you offer to help someone in any way and they reach out, for the love of God, do NOT shut them down. It’s already exceedingly hard to admit you need help.

How can you help someone that may not even be suicidal but just really down in the fucking dumps? Tend to them the best way you know how – if they are typically social, try to get them out of the house. If they aren’t up to it, stay in and binge watch some TV. Or go on a walk. Just don’t ignore them. Don’t give up on them. Don’t stop inviting them places because they always say no. Be persistent.

You can also help by researching options with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I have friends who would greatly benefit from therapy but haven’t been able to find the correct place. I’ve called this number before, searching for answers when someone was in need. In the research I have done around Nashville, there are places that offer sliding scaled payments for those who don’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover mental health (so fucked up). However, like in many other situations, the persons who need the help must be willing to go for themselves, not for anyone else. So if they refuse or keep handing you excuses, just do your best to listen.

My mental journey in the aftermath of Rapegate has been eye-opening. I’ve been so self deprecating to the point that I star in my own version of Mean Girls in my head some days.

Regina George, get the fuck outta my head.

However, I luckily have a solid circle of support. A very large sparkly army that isn’t confined to face-to-face relationships. My circle has expanded as I’ve talked about my struggles. The support system I have now extends from Nashville, to Iowa, to California, to England, to Italy, to Australia…and more. The “checking on you” voicemails, direct messages through social media, “thinking of you texts” to words of encouragement in my comment section, random gifts showing up in my mailbox, snail mailed letters, a cashier’s check just because…Every word, every action, matters.

This is what you do for me.

Moments of happiness and real, solid feelings of joy have burst back into my life more slowly over the past few years. Some moments of smiles are more fleeting than others but regardless, I’m proud as fuck of myself for sticking with therapy, shamelessly taking the medications I need to cope and move through life without becoming a victim of my own personal version of the Titanic.

Celebrating is still in my DNA.

Those struggling the most are sometimes people who you’d least expect. One smile can go miles – and it’s a universal language (as fucking cheesy as that sounds). A small compliment can turn a day around. An out of the blue “how are you” text can save a major cry session. Check on each other. Love on each other. Hug on each other. Raise some hell with each other.

Know that if you’re experiencing grief of any kind, it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to not be OK. Two steps forward, one step back is still progress even though I want to leap 10 feet at a time. It’s a constant job to mentally remind myself to be kind to myself.

While there’s been more dark than light the last three years, the chase for happiness and healing has seemed less and less like a daily marathon. There’s now room for bright light and hope. I’ve been a victim. I am a survivor. I will be a thriver the rest of my life.

I’m right here if you need any help chasing your own happiness.

Thank you for helping me find mine again.

Love ya, mean it.

CBXB

CBXB!

 

A Forever Face of Rape

I was raped three years ago today.

36 months.

156 weeks.

1,096 days.

1,576,800 minutes.

94,608,000 seconds.

I used to be an unfuckwithable badass. Then, I was brought to my proverbial knees.

Please consider this a trigger warning, as well as an uncomfortable but important story I will forever continue to share.

Mine.

During the wee hours of January 29, 2016 in an affluent neighborhood of Nashville, I woke up to my best friend’s boyfriend of five weeks raping me while I slept on her couch. Sleeping on this bestie’s sofa is something I’d done 4,209 times without a second thought before. I’d arrived around 9pm in mismatched pajamas, distraught with eyes so puffy from bawling over a friend’s death a few days prior that I looked as if I’d been fighting Rocky Balboa. I went to her for company, solace and what friends do best for each other – support.

Why can’t my lips get puffy when I cry instead of my eye lids?! WHY?

Her young son was asleep, her large, lovable pit bull mix jumped on my lap and her boyfriend of 35 days poured us generous glasses of wine while we watched Pretty in Pink. After more tears, lots of laughs and three glasses of vino later, I watched the two of them go to her bedroom, as I snuggled in after taking a sleeping pill, putting my glasses across the room on the coffee table, along with my phone.

A few hours later, in darkness so deep it rivaled a haunted house, I groggily awoke on my back to something very heavy on my chest, with my arms down by my sides, my pajama pants at my knees. There was hot breath and a human head in the right crease of my neck. There was an unwanted, unwelcomed and disgusting rape taking place. The rape of me.

Upon gaining my bearings and piecing together what the hell was happening to me, I silently freaked out, put my hands up on his chest and hissed, “what the fuck are you doing?” Without uttering one word, he retreated from my body, stood up and walked back into the bedroom where his girlfriend was sleeping. Through the fucking door that had been wide open the entire time – if my friend had woken up, she would have seen the rape occurring, due to the closeness of her quarters.

Scared shitless at what could happen during a confrontation with a man I barely knew, my first thought was of the sleeping four-year old in the next room. I was frozen. I didn’t know if Shane the Rapist was awake, passed out or going to come back out to finish what he started…or worse. My glasses and phone were across the room. I barely was able to muster the courage to pull my pajama pants up for fear of making noise. I remained a statue on that couch for at least two hours – until the sun came up.

Looking back as I hustled out of that apartment, I now know that I was in shock. Deep shock. And, I didn’t know what the fuck to do. Did that really just happen? What do I do? Did that just really happen? Where do I go? Did that just really happen? Who should I call? Did that really just happen? I was desperate to tell my girlfriend but wanted to do it while she was away from her boyfriend out of fear of what he may do to her.

When she was at work a few hours later, I called and told her to sit down as I had something life changing to tell her that would have a great impact on the both of us. Then I went on to say that I awoke in the night with her boyfriend of five weeks, having sex with me. Her initial response was, “did you finish?” Did we finish?

HOLY FUCK.

She immediately went home to him and called me back saying that she believed him when he told her it was consensual.

This was my first encounter with victim blaming. From my best friend.

My second encounter with victim blaming came from Shane the Rapist himself via a text to me after that phone call.

WISH I WOULD HAVE TOLD HIM NO?

I WAS FUCKING DEAD ASLEEP.

After taking a sleeping pill with three glasses of wine and being unbearably sad the entire day with endless tears coming from my eye holes, I was out cold. He had sex with what was basically a corpse instead of turning to his girlfriend he was next to in bed and tapping her on the shoulder for a piece of ass. He got up out of the bed and came to the couch. He knew exactly what he was doing. Oh and a side note, as soon as I was conscious enough I did say no. I said fuck no as I pushed him off.

My third encounter of victim blaming came from, once again, someone I held close to my heart. I couldn’t believe my best friend’s stance.

I ruined her life because her boyfriend raped me.

To read about the rest of the day Rapegate began, please click here.

Shattered.

My life was shattered in a matter of mere minutes.

My joy was robbed without my consent in seconds.

My trust in almost everyone gone in a few fleeting moments.

A rape counselor at the hospital said, “there is going to be a before rape in your life and an after rape in your life.”

And she sure the fuck was right.

A lot of my post Rapegate life.

As the days, weeks, and life in general went on around me, I couldn’t help but feel like I was responsible for “letting” myself be raped (how fucked up is that?). I was ashamed, embarrassed, disappointed and disgusted with myself. Insecurities formed I’d never experienced along with adjustment disorder, PTSD, chronic fatigue and severe stress.

In an instant, Shane the Rapist turned me into a girl who could no longer withstand being in my own mind.

He stole my stone cold solid pride. My life long unwavering sense of confidence. My will. All in one act.

The weight of profound grief is and can be all consuming. I was a stranger to myself and struggled to fight the will to get up out of the bed on a daily basis. I never wanted to die per se but you bet your motherfucking ass I wished my eyes wouldn’t open most mornings because the pain seared into my soul was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I didn’t really care about much of what I once did – a clean Mini Manse, washed hair, painted nails, working out, decorating for holidays, celebrating anything, taking a shower and so fucking on. Thousands of hours of sleepless nights. Panic attacks out of nowhere. And luckily and not so luckily, I was unemployed and looking for a job when Rapegate began.

What my laundry pile has looked like the last three years.

My sink has resembled that of a restaurant for years.

The most mundane tasks feel like climbing Mt. Everest.

Trauma happens in various of forms in this life, as we are all too aware. Loved ones die but it’s inevitable that we all have expiration dates. People desperate to be parents sometimes cannot conceive. Illnesses and disease that have no cures plague us. Auto accidents occur resulting in life altering injuries and changes. Children are molested. The endless cycle of domestic violence. Life is cruel. Trauma is brutal.

I’ve been in therapy for most of the last three years. It is hard as fuck. It is hard as FUCK. It is hard as FUCK. If you find yourself in a state after any kind of trauma where you can feel comfortable reaching out to anyone that you can trust, it will be for your benefit. I promise.

This program saved my life.

I started therapy with my Rapegate hero, Sheila every Thursday afternoon. We began with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and then later, EMDR. I’ve done countless hours of reflecting and homework and revising my thinking that I wanted to give the fuck up and just pretend Rapegate never happened. But for me, that was not an option. Once I started, I had to keep trudging ahead because trauma isn’t truly stored in your brain. It’s stored in your body. It’s why I’m unconsciously bouncing my knee to the ceiling right now. It’s why I stuttered for a solid 15 seconds until my boss finally finished my sentence yesterday. It’s why I have been inexplicably tearing up every few hours the last week.

One thing for people to understand whether or not you or someone you love has been raped, recovery will be a long struggle. Being a survivor isn’t something you do once. Being a survivor is waking up every day and doing your best to carry on. It’s a journey, not a destination. I mean fuck, I’m sitting here awake three years to the day later because my body won’t let me sleep on my Rapeversary at 4:00 am. The body remembers. The body stores trauma.

I was raped before the #MeToo movement began and when I first shared my story, I could not believe the droves of people who reached out to say they, too, had been victims. And not just women. Some I’d never met in person, only virtually but they felt comfortable enough to reveal their truth and I was honored to listen. Speaking your truth is an unbelievable weight lifted. Speaking your truth also makes it very real and that is scary as fuck.

Then you live with triggers that fellow survivors and I deal with on now, a daily basis. I can’t know and don’t know when it will hit. Not sure if being woken up in a startling manner will make me punch someone in the face. Not sure if a news story will make ice run through my veins. Not sure how provoked of a poked bear I will become over injustices occurring on a daily basis in our judicial system. Not sure if my ears will start bleeding when I hear a person defending a sexual assaulter. Because believe you me, they do it once, they do it again. And why wouldn’t they if society doesn’t think the punishment should fit the fucking crime?

Six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster because the judge didn’t want to ruin his life. Fuck the victim.

Four counts of sex assault? No prison time? Eh, fuck the victim.

But then again, America also voted a self-described pussy grabber into the White House and that’s just the fucking norm these days. AND. IT. SHOULDN’T. BE. If you think that’s OK, you are part of the gigantic problem of rape culture that this country has, so fucking stop it. Your children are watching.

And yet, we question over and over and over and over why victims don’t come forward at the time of their sexual assaults.

I. FUCKING. DARE. YOU.

The thing is, it takes a fucking village to overcome any type of trauma – and my village is as strong as an army. In instances such as the one I survived, it’s an experience I can hopefully convey to others and create awareness. Over 70% of all rapes occur between acquaintances (it’s an even higher percentage if you add in rape by family members). I never once thought I was putting myself in danger by going to my ex-best friend’s house to grieve a loss of life, only to start the unraveling of my own grief of life as I once knew it.

Instead of gaining comfort by reporting, I became a statistic that is all too familiar. My treatment as a rape victim by the Metro Nashville Sex Crimes division is and was no less than abhorrent. I was re-victimized by the very people supposed to help, support and guide me. Hundreds of hours were spent by yours truly following up with my detective and some of her peers, chasing information and answers that should have simply been provided. It exhausted me to my core. My rapist walks free because it was a “classic” scenario as my detective brought to my attention –  a he said/she said. And still, we question why victims don’t report.

The cost of being a rape victim has a tremendous impact for those who do (and even those that don’t) report it to authorities. Missed work, therapy visits (if you can afford it), police follow-up, doctor visits (that are required every six months for two years, just to be sure you didn’t contract HIV) prescriptions (for mental problems or STD medications contracted during rape), etc… is at an estimated $122,461 per victim according to a 2017 National Sexual Violence Resource Center . Pocket change.

I’m currently in surthrival mode –  that space in between surviving and thriving and I owe it to my support systems of thousands. You guys rock my world. Truly. You are my lifesavers from one to a million. With your help the last three years, I’ve become one hell of a survivor through your letters, texts, phone calls, cards, gifts, flowers, financial assistance, sharing of your own stories – I know I’m not alone. This is a horribly isolating trauma that reduces you to a solo existence. You feel like an endless burden. But I know I’m not alone. I think of the many who haven’t had the ability, freedom or support to breakthrough to the other side of rape.

You are not alone. You are never, ever alone. My once again unfuckwithable badass has your back and mine.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You will never know what it means.

XOXO –

CBXB

CBXB!

 

 

 

 

 

Going Mental

Sometimes we become experts in subject matter in which we never wished to be associated.

Sexual Assault Center of Nashville

For me, the aftermath of Rapegate is one that I will grapple with daily for the rest of my life.

Not necessarily in re-living the rape itself but the triggers, the daily reminders due to dealing with PTSD, chronic fatigue, severe stress, anxiety, nerves, handfuls of pills that I now take that have side effects of brain fog (which coupled with blonde brain is a triple shit show), dizziness (like I needed any more help being a fucking klutz), and weight gain (oh the welcomed happiness of gaining 40 lbs – mostly in my belly because of cortisol levels being out-of-whack) and therapy.

That is a perk of Rapegate that will surely have me in weekly sessions forever.

My Therapy Thursday saving grace.

There’s stigma in being a victim of rape – especially within victims themselves. The embarrassment, shame, feeling dirty, like somehow it’s your fault.

Did I deserve it? Why did I “allow” it to happen? It’s all my fault, right?

The questions from others. What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Why didn’t you scream? And so on, don’t help even though they may come from well-meaning places. The questions above were all asked of me by the Nashville Sex Crimes Detective after my body was violated by a man’s dick. You know, what if a Kim Kardashian sized diamond ring (one can wish) had been stolen off of my finger? Would any of those questions suffice in an investigation? Hell no.

Take my coffee mug advice.

But then here we are. I am a walking, talking, rape stereotype. I wasn’t believed by those closest to the case. My detective said it was a he said/she said since the Shane the Rapist said it was consensual sex and his girlfriend of five weeks – my now ex-best friend, backed his play.

That’s a super neat feeling of betrayal beyond words.

In between being raped and the year and a half it took to close the case, where Shane the Rapist walks freely out and about, it would be insane not to think someone might go insane.

And, I have absolutely, 100% felt the self wrath, the aftermath, the internal tornado, the tsunami of emotions that surge whenever the fuck they feel like it and eruption of tears, hotly flowing down my face, onto my chin, into my shirt (accompanied with a river of snot and lemme tell ya, it’s a doozie of a look).

I’m known for being a beautiful bawler.

And killing boxes of tissues in one cryfest.

It’s improbable that someone can experience any kind of trauma or loss (death, divorce, career, disease, disorder, assault, etc) without consequence to them (I had the pleasure of experiencing all of the above examples in the two years since rape – so yeah, I’m a tad done with being overburdened by grief and loss).

The best face I can muster some days.

For me, this is where my once stable strength of fuck off confidence got lost in the swirl of circling the drain.

The emotional, mental, and physical tolls sometime feel beyond debilitating. Combine that with life – which most certainly goes on around you – and it can make the most mundane tasks like making your bed seem like winning an Olympic gold medal if you ever get around to completing the job.

I made my bed. Where’s my accolades?

And the usual worries of life are still abound while grappling with sometimes crippling days. Money worries. Hoping your car doesn’t crap out on your worries. Can my cell phone hang on for another year? Are my friends and family OK? Am I paying enough attention to them? Do they think I’m ignoring them? See how this shit can snowball?

Avalanche

Now more than ever, I feel it’s important to speak up if you can about what can sometimes seem like taboo subjects. I was raped. Think that’s fun topic to bring up to new people? “Oh hi, my name is Captain, I’ll have a Skinny Pirate please, I was raped, how are you?” Of course this doesn’t come up immediately but still, I talk about Rapegate, and if we’re gonna be friends, it’s gonna come out.

Did I scare you off?

Taboo also is this fucking stigma that comes along with mental illnesses. I have PTSD (among a myriad of other lovely conditions). When I was looking for a new job after Rapegate, I had to put down on applications whether or not I had PTSD. Now it’s considered a disability. So, OK it’s a disability. I’m dealing with it the best that I can but do I need to reveal that to a potential employer? Yes, I have had panic attacks silently at work in bathroom stalls and in my car but I’m still showing up and doing my job (although my panic attacks always end with me throwing up, so that’s fun to do out of my car window while attempting not to get vomit on my work attire).

Thankfully the situation of Louis acting as my vomit trashcan has not yet taken place.

And some days are dark. Like calm before storm, clouds rolling in, so quiet it may just drive you mad blackout dark. I think about the recent passing of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both of whom reportedly took their own lives within two days of one another. Both had loved ones, both were celebrated among their professional communities, both had achieved success in different fashions and both had children. So much to leave behind.

But can you even imagine the pain they must have been in to think that their only way out was to “unburden” those around them? That’s really scary to me. Because I often feel like a burden to my family and close friends. Over the past five years, I’ve experienced loss and grief and change beyond my imagination and while I am learning to cope in therapy, I still feel like I’m so needy. “Can I borrow $20 until payday (while swallowing pride for 1,976,000 time)? I can’t go out because I am on a spending freeze (you know those handfuls of pills and doctor follow-ups aren’t free. I’m beyond lucky to have health insurance with co-pays). I just had a panic attack, so I’m going to have to miss your birthday celebration. I am going to stay in because I can’t fathom the thought of getting out of bed.” Mostly, I keep these emotions to myself but I still feel like one motherfucker of a burden.

I. just. can’t.

It’s easy for people to say that suicide is selfish. I can see why one would say that but if you haven’t ever grappled with your own dark demons that sometimes you push deep down inside of you, or think they’re gone, only to have them pop up and taunt you over and over and over again – it’s not easy. I’ve never experienced substance abuse but I can easily see how that would have an even bigger impact on one’s state-of-mind. Mental issues are sometimes a lonely, isolating experience of despair.

How others see me.                                           How I feel inside.

My darkest times since Rapegate (and everything else that has occurred in between), have never eluded me to think about ending my life. However, have I been in a place where I wished my eyes wouldn’t open in the morning because it seemed easier than fighting the anguish of deep depression? Yep. Has my chest been so heavy that I thought my heart was going to burst out of it Indiana Jones style because it could bear no more loss or grief, physically hurting? Fuck yes. Do I hit my snooze button 3,719,003 times in the morning (even though I have been up for three hours already) because the thought of putting makeup on and gussying up for work and putting on a “happy” face seems like too much to bear. Damn skippy.

Hi there. I’m getting pretty fucking sick of these feelings popping up whenever they fucking feel like it. Byeee.

That all being said, it’s not uncommon for someone to have these types of thoughts once or more in their lifetime. Some people do shoot sunshine out of their assholes (fuck, until three years ago, I was one of them) but more often than not, it’s a combination of rain, sun, sleet and hail as we trudge through life. On top of all this, I’ve constantly seen the suicide hotline phone number everywhere. You know that is fucking great, but you know what’s hard? Reaching out when you need help. And let me say this – if you offer to help someone in any way and they reach out, for the love of God, do NOT shut them down. It’s already exceedingly hard to admit you need help.

So if you see someone, know someone, sense something’s off and can have a conversation or need advice, you, too can call this hotline for another person. I’ve done it.

You know what you can also do? Tend to them the best way you know how – if they are typically social, try to get them out of the house. If they aren’t up to it, stay in and binge watch some TV. Or go on a walk. Just don’t ignore them. Don’t give up on them. Don’t stop inviting them places because they always say no. Be persistant.

You can also help by researching options with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I have friends who would greatly benefit from therapy but haven’t been able to find the correct place. I’ve called this number before, searching for answers when someone was in need. In the research I have done around Nashville, there are places that offer sliding scaled payments for those who don’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover mental health (so fucked up). However, like in many other situations, the persons who need the help must be willing to go for themselves, not for anyone else. So if they refuse or keep handing you excuses, just do your best to listen.

My mental journey in the aftermath of Rapegate has been eye-opening. I’m so self deprecating to the point of starring in my own version of Mean Girls in my head some days.

Regina George, get the fuck outta my head.

However, I luckily have a solid circle of support. A very large sparkly army that isn’t confined to face-to-face relationships. My circle has expanded as I’ve talked about my struggles. The support system I have now extends from Nashville, to Iowa, to California, to England, to Italy, to Australia…and more. The “checking on you” voicemails, direct messages through social media, “thinking of you texts” to words of encouragement in my comment section, random gifts showing up in my mailbox, snail mailed letters, a cashier’s check just because…Every word, every action, matters.

This is what you do for me.

Please remember that as you move forward with your days. Those struggling the most are sometimes people who you’d least expect. One smile can go miles – and it’s a universal language (as fucking cheesy as that sounds). A small compliment can turn a day around. An out of the blue “how are you” text can save a major cry session. Check on each other. Love on each other. Hug on each other.

Unless of course it’s the person who raped you, in which he’ll get a throat punch at the very least. See, I’m still a bad ass motherfucker when I wanna be.

Obviously.

Be fucking kind.

CBXB

CBXB!

 

Make Me Love Me

I have loved hot yoga for years – I always called it my natural Xanax because all I could concentrate on during class were the poses and postures – and nothing else (well, except for that pesky under arm fat/boob located in my armpit that won’t go away no matter what the fuck I do that I can’t stop staring at in the mirrors).

Sweat Now. Wine Later.

As the day of celebrating love is upon us, lightning struck a few days ago as I was in my very last pose of hot yoga class – savasana (for those non-yoga peeps, it’s when you lie on your back completely still and reap the benefits of your workout). The lights are dim, the instructor typically is silent as a song plays and you are relaxing/internalizing the ah-mah-zing shit you just did/thinking about the wine you’ll have after class (well, at least I am).

Worth the sweat.

Thing is, it took almost a solid two years to regularly get back on my beloved mat after Rapegate because I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts. I’ve recently been going at least three times a week since the new year and been proud of myself, getting back in my sweaty groove in a room heated to 100 degrees. However, the most fun thing about being triggered by trauma is you never know when the fuck it’s going to come out of the clear blue and smack you in the face. Or gut. Or heart. Or the motherfucking trifecta.

That night in savasana, as I settled in for my thoughts on snuggling with my pussies and Precious the chug while guzzling wine, Bonnie Raitt’s insane voice came quietly through the speakers singing “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

All I wanted to think about…

While I have heard this song no less than 5,872,012 times, it punched me in the heart. HARD. And I started ugly crying as quietly as one can while trying to act like I was just seriously out of breath. THANK GAWD the lights were off, and we sweat our asses off, so no one could see tears rushing down my red-hot cheeks.

Why though? It’s a stupid fucking love song that is about pining for something you can’t have with another. Except in this case, it was me realizing I haven’t been able to make me love me since being raped. The lyrics hit me faster than I can down a Skinny Pirate. And my thoughts followed the words…

“Turn down the lights”

  • It won’t matter because I won’t sleep anyway

“Turn down the bed”

  • I didn’t have the energy to make it this morning (and I love a made bed)

“Turn down these voices inside my head”

  • “You didn’t scream.” “Did you finish?” “You should have said no.” The voices won’t go away

“Lay down with me”

  • I can’t get vulnerable with myself

“Tell me no lies”

  • If I don’t lie, there’s nothing good to tell

“Just hold me close, don’t patronize”

  • In the fetal position permanently

“Don’t patronize me”

  • I can’t stop condescending myself

“Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t”

  • You’re broken. Damaged goods. Carry permanent baggage.

“You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t”

  • My heart is numb

“Here in the dark, in these final hours”

  • If only I could get hours of sleep

“I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power”

  • Self loathing is beyond power

“But you won’t, no you won’t”

  • I won’t, I don’t

“Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”

  • You’re broken. Damaged goods. Permanent baggage.

This could get ugly.

Jesus tap dancing Christ. I was a puddle. Here I’d thought I’d come soooooooo far. But in reality, I’ve been having a seriously hard time liking, let alone loving myself over the last 746 days (I mean, washing my hair is still hard – and I love my hair. So I resort to wearing it in a bun on an almost daily basis).

Wake up. Put up. Repeat.

Until friends force me to wash it.

If you knew me pre-Rapegate, self-esteem, confidence and the ability to ignore negative background noise aimed at me from others was ingrained in my personality. Or my core. Or whatever the fuck you wanna call it. I sparkled. I pulsated to my own beat no matter who loved it or not. I gave no fucks. Loud and proud.

Hieeeee. It’s jazz handing me not giving a shit how much my loudness annoys you.

But that was ripped from me without my permission. And it hurt. It aches still. For the first time in my life, I’ve felt lost with myself (like, Tom Hanks from Cast Away, with a fucking volleyball as my companion lost).

No shit behind my mini manse this morning.

It stems from the actual rape itself but it also has to do with the betrayal, abandonment and neglect I was left holding when my best friend believed her boyfriend of five weeks over me when he said it was consensual sex (which as a reminder, he got up out of their bed and assaulted me on the couch as I was sleeping in the middle of the night).

Yeah…she can also SUCK IT.

Rationally, I know none of this bullshit is my fault. But hearing that song about making someone love you if they don’t…well, that’s been me. My super hero therapist, Sheila has been on point in telling me my self-talk is beyond harsh. I’m supposed to speak to myself the way I would to a friend or any loved one in my situation. However, I’m such a black and white person, my coping skills in the past with myself have been “wallow, get over it, it’s life, move on.” With trauma like this, accompanied by PTSD, severe stress and adjustment disorder, I’m not getting off the hook that easily.

For fuck’s sake.

When I am triggered, various emotions come barreling down the hatch like a tsunami. Sadness, anger, grief, loss swirl in my brain and body – and then, I fall down the rabbit hole. I hate The Rapist who walks free. I hate my ex-friend for not believing me and stating falsehoods in her on-the-record police interviews. I hate I never got to confront either of them. And then, I end up hating myself for “letting” this happen to me (beyond fucked up, I know).

Haters gonna hate. Oh and love special places in hell saved for those they hate.

So here we are at the, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t.”

Thing is, I can make me love me. I loved the fuck out of myself before this shit. And I have been working second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, month after month and now – year after year to get my groove back on with my bad self.

January 29th marked my second Rapeversary and a sample of how I am reminded to make me love me?

Family –

Sister CBXB…

Mama CBXB…

And friends like you? Fuck you guys are my sparkly army shining bright. Reminders from you that I truly am making leaps and bounds. Prompts that no matter how exhausting, how minute, how trivial the day feels to me, I matter. And isn’t that what we all need to remember? We matter. We matter most to ourselves. And it’s so easy to forget that in daily life, regardless of whether you’re insanely happy every second of every day or in the throes of despair, desperately trying to figure out why the fuck to get out of bed.

If I can, you can.

Friends from afar have noticed and commented in photos I’ve posted –

Friends who have experienced similar trauma know when to give me a head’s up –

Shit like the above makes the quote below all the more believable…

Folks like you help me, help me…. you know, Jerry Maguire style. Help me, help you. And, hopefully I can help others beat stigmas they feel due to their own experiences.

On this day of love and pondering of when I will be 120% back in love with myself, it’s important to know that the struggles are real. We all have them. And I’m thankful to be reminded constantly by those around me near and far that I am loved. I matter. And so do you.

So, cheers to being the own goddamn loves of our lives.

Being our very own, every day Valentine.

Love, love, love from me to you. But mostly to me (see, there’s more of me back than I think).

Love ya, mean it.

CBXB

 

It’s All in the ‘Tude

Attitudes are the shit and I burst onto this planet with one in tow. I was born with the confident “I can do anything” stance somehow and my folks continued to nurture that temperament as I grew up. The only thing they cautioned me on was to not get married until I was at least 25 (they may be wishing they’d sung a different tune as I’m a candle lovin’ lady with four pussies, a chug and would now be considered an ‘old maid’ in a different era).  Before Rapegate, there was never an issue with me adjusting my attitude – being able to kick my own ass back into shape as needed.

Lately I’ve been exceedingly inundated with cheerful “I’m thankful for…” countdowns, “reasons for merriment,” and “I resolve to…” positive posts on social media. Going into the holiday season, I struggled to gear up for anything festive – and I hated my attitude. As some of us were excited to be knee deep in gravy for a solid two months, I was hoping this holiday season didn’t linger as long as my 21st birthday hangover.

I may or may not have drunk dialed my boyfriend’s mother at 3am. She answered.

Thing is, I never thought I would fall into latter category, as typically on America’s birthday, I’m salivating like Dracula does over a neck – thisclose to getting my Halloween décor out on the fifth of July. But mentally for the past two years, it’s been a monstrous war inside of my skull, emotions swinging back and forth more extremely than POTUS’s hourly tweets. Not just regarding holiday cheer but being cheery about life in general. Oh Rapegate, thank you for PTSD, adjustment disorder, severe stress, insomnia, panic attacks and all of the insecurities I gained at your reckoning.

Previous multi-seasonal head cheerleader.

In my experience, PTSD (can go fuck itself) is exhausting – not only mentally but physically as well. I’m constantly on edge, have nightmares, difficulty staying asleep, experience major loss of interest in activities I used to love the fuck out of and feel ultra-guilty about “letting” myself be raped (how fucked up is that feeling?). Accompanying these symptoms are feelings of alienation and self-inflicted detachment from friends, family and my old self. Problem is, I’m having trouble kicking my own attitude back into shape and I loathe being out of control of my emotions (so you can imagine how comfortable the last 23 months have been for me).

I think I’ll just stay in bed and wallow.

With mental issues, one can rationally know how lucky they are (or know what happened to them isn’t their fault)– no matter what bad shit has happened to them – or people they love. With this being the first holiday season without Aunt Crazy Pants and the fur ball love of my life, Ted, grief has also been a constant companion even though there are crazy fun memories of hilarity, hijinks, pee-your-pants fun to fall back on. The heaviness of grief crashes like tsunami waves, compounding the sense of loss I carry with me daily due to my personal trauma. I can almost feel my heart hardening at times.

Miss you something crazy.

Miss you something terrible.

Thing is, it super sucks because I missed my old holiday pukes all over the place self (and I mean all over – the mini manse, my office, fucking reindeer antlers on my car, Christmas underwear, socks, sweaters (that others might wear to an ugly sweater Christmas party I wear on the December regular), adorning Santa hats like they’re simply a part of my noggin, blasting holiday  music from my car like I’m Santa himself, watching fa-la-la-la-la Lifetime movies that are so full of cheesiness, I want to kick my own ass for loving them).

Christmas Gaudy Queen of yesteryears.

In therapy, I’m tits high into the thick of processing the act – the moment of my rape and my feelings (ew) – while also constantly reminded, triggered, (whatever you wish to call it), daily by the super cool humans who apparently never learned fucking body basics in kindergarten. Thursday afternoons I see my own personal super hero, Sheila, and as she guides me toward a semblance of my old self, sessions almost always leave me with an emotional hangover that can last days. The mental, emotional and physical fatigue I fight daily, barely leaves me any energy to gussy up for work, so the thought of getting in any kind of holiday spirit was simply draining.

I woke up like this. And just want to go to work like this.

But I’m at a point where I must ban myself from a weekend full of bed lingering when I’m not trying to be social (stepping out of my mini manse and Dalts bubble little by little). I forced myself to get Halloween decorations out to the max because I hadn’t for two years. The fucking nerve of me.

There’s a glimpse of my old holiday mistress.

So, too, it is time to get in the motherfucking thankful, celebrate everything, CBXB spirit again YEAR-ROUND. Period.

When Dada CBXB and I were watching the Iowa Hawkeyes win their first bowl game in four years (yeehaw!) and he suggested I keep my Christmas tree up a little longer because it looked so pretty. (Side note – my buddy Camo insisted that I put my worldly pink, sparkly possession up and almost forced the ornaments on the fucking thing himself – and I’m glad he did).

Once the goddamn thing was up, I couldn’t help but be excited about turning the lights on when I got home from work. I also raced home every evening to see if anyone from my pussy posse knocked the pink tinseled delight over (remained in tact all season) being that this was their first experience with an actual Christmas tree. Turns out, they just like to sit underneath it and stare up at the lights, much like their mother.

Hello Gorgeous.

Speaking of moms, mine suggested that if I still had mine up, I should decorate it with Valentine’s attire. And just like that – I had an Oprah AHA! moment.

If I kept my tree up all year round would that make me:

  • a) Festive
    b) Red neck
    c) White trash
    d) Crazy as fuck
    e)All the above

Guess what my answer is?

  • f) I don’t give a fuck

So, there you have it. I’m keeping my tree up all 2018 in celebration of celebrating.

Getting my ass back into the habit of loving everything about any little out-of-the ordinary thing of the day/week/month/year. If you visit the mini manse, best bring me something to hang on the pink tinsel (yes, mini bottles of Captain Morgan count).

I have a sparkly army – and if you’re reading, you’re a part of it – who has done nothing but encourage me every step of the goddamn way. Via comments. Messages. Snail mail. Phone calls.

Just minor digit change from last year.

I rang in the new year with reminders that I’m facing nothing alone sent to me from all over the world – here’s a sample of my faves:

I even wore armour sent by HJ and CC by way of Denver, CO (and no I wasn’t tipped and yes I was pissed no one tried all night).

Onward Buttercup There’s Fuckery to Spread

Attitude for gratitude, my friends. I have nothing but it for you.

Join me in being fierce as fuck in 2018.

Cheers.

Black Out

“What I know for sure, is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” – Oprah Motherfucking Winfrey

Awards season is just starting and you can bet your ass I’m parked on my leopard couch joined by four pussies and a chug. Wine is at the ready and I watch the pre-pre-pre red carpet because you know, I’m fucking cool like that. I was a little torn on watching my typical go-to network E! because one of their longtime female anchors, Catt Sadler recently left over gender pay discrimination. But as soon as I flipped to the channel, actress Debra Messing was chastising the network on the actual network while being interviewed. She fucking rocked it.

Cheers to you and the mic drop Debra Messing.

I was all dolled up in my best black lounge wear because a movement started a few weeks ago. It’s a fund offering financial support and advice to victims of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it after coming forward.

To date, they’ve raised over $16 million from donations made all over the world. Experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace first hand and being a survivor of rape, I’m all in on shit like this. Coming forward and speaking up is one of, if not the hardest decision victims deal with during the initial stages of shock, let alone trying to figure out if you can miss work, arrange childcare for legal appointments, therapy sessions, phone calls following up with detectives, etc…

The stars attending the Golden Globes wore black in support of this movement, Time’s Up.

While watching the red carpet, stars were asked why they were wearing black, not what designer they were wearing. As I sat listening to the heartfelt and moving answers, I started getting emotional (ew, feelings). This was a different sort of emotion that I typically associate and feel due to Rapegate. I realized I was feeling recognized – as silly as that sounds. In my experience of being raped, I still carry shame, guilt and a feeling of dirtiness every second of every day. I know that every other survivor I’ve spoken to has felt the same way at some point.

I found myself bawling watching the red carpet and I’m the world’s ugliest crier.

You guys. For real.

The first time in almost two years, I was feeling proud of myself. For sharing my story and hopefully helping other people. And for whatever reason, stars who have a global platform giving fucks about people like me really hit home.

Then when the show started, jokes were made and the mood was just as fun as a typical Golden Globes show (I particularly love when an actor wins and is kinda shitfaced when giving a speech because this is the only awards ceremony with an open bar). Seth Meyers opened the show with “good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen.” I loved it.

Cut to the first commercial break and an ad for the New York Times makes me want to go and get a goddamn subscription right now. Please check out my bootlegged version below:

Thing is, ever since the Women’s March last January, the #MeToo movement and now with Time’s Up, survivors like myself have a community. Support. Whether one has chosen to speak out, reported their incident or kept completely silent. And everything just seemed to come to fruition last night.

I’ve recently been told not to make rape “my cause” or that I am “dwelling” on it by being in therapy. I even had one of the closest people in my life tell me they couldn’t stand being around me because of all of my negative “rape” talk (side note: don’t ask me how my fucking day is if you don’t want the fucking answer). This makes me question myself. And, writing and talking about being raped as well as sexually harassed in a work environment have been my greatest allies because I feel like I can help others.

It’s sad that we live in a world where women have to ask for equality, respect and meaningful change no matter their socioeconomic status. Lack of opportunity, sexual violence, overall poor treatment because of difference in skin tone, sexual preference or gender is inexcusable. Period. Movements and organizations like Time’s Up allows survivors to know that they are not alone – never, ever alone – and personally speaking, being raped and the aftermath of it, made isolation my worst best friend.

I’m only seeing wine and my fur babies right now, thanks.

Trying to keep my stirring emotions in check, Oprah Winfrey took the stage receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award and holy fuck friends. It was the pep talks of all pep talks for the world right now.

It felt like she was in my living room (which, actually she was kinda) talking to me directly. I was in a fucking puddle. She not only touched on victims of sexual assault and abuse, she spoke to racism, free press, truth-telling and generally what it takes to make it through tragedy – hope.

“I’m especially proud and inspired by all of the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories….I want to express gratitude for women who have endured abuse and assault because they, like my mother had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. We’ve lived too long in a culture of brutally powerful men. For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.”

“A new day is on the horizon. And when that new day finally dawns it will be because of a lot of magnificent women and some pretty phenomenal men fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when NOBODY ever has to say me too again.”

FUCKING PREACH WOMAN.

I mean seriously. Can I get an amen?

Watching the Golden Globes and having Oprah Winfrey give the world a rally cry reminded me of why I’m fighting my fight. Why I won’t stay silent. Why I will hold my inept detective and the Nashville Sex Crimes department accountable. Why I refuse to let anyone else feel like a walking stereotypical rape victim, as I do. Why I remain with my personal super hero therapist, Sheila. Why I don’t give any kind of fucks how uncomfortable conversations can be when I talk about my truth. Because it’s mine.

I want my Iowa twins to grow up in a world where nothing holds them back because of the color of their skin or their gender.

You break these hearts, you die.

This movement, uprising – whatever you wanna call it – is giving a voice to those who feel muted, ignored, unimportant, disregarded, not believed. And I can’t wait to join in.

Time’s up motherfuckers.

CBXB

 

ENOUGH

Did NO ONE pay attention to the lessons of body basics in kindergarten? Keep your fucking hands to yourself. PERIOD.

Sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t new. Yet every time I hear another famous name added to the growing list of sexual harassers, it triggers me in a way due to my residual PTSD from Rapegate…and my own experiences with sexual advances in the workplace.

Sexual harassment has been around as long as …well, FOREVER. There isn’t one industry that a woman doesn’t deal with this issue from men in power (and not in power). But, this morning, I had to sit down with a heavy pit in my stomach after the announcement that Matt Lauer was fired from the “Today” show effective immediately. Why? Due to “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”

While the specifics haven’t been disclosed, the incident reported to the network’s HR department included enough evidence to fire an anchor that had no prior complaints and 20 year tenure with NBC news. I have watched the “Today” show as long as I can remember, welcoming Matt and co-hosts into my home, strangely feeling like we were somehow friends. Savannah Guthrie summed up her shock and confusion extremely eloquently.

Obvious shock.

“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “But I do know that this reckoning, that so many organizations have been going through, is important, it’s long overdue and it must result in workplaces where all women — all people — feel safe and respected. We are heartbroken. I’m heartbroken for Matt — he is my dear, dear friend and my partner, and he has been loved by many, many people here. And I’m heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story, and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

It’s just that – brave women and men coming forward – telling their awful experiences endured while working in environments where it can feel impossible to share incidents of abuse or harassment. I can’t applaud the decision to severe Lauer’s employment immediately enough.

Although I loved you Matt, boy BYE.

Of course, our always professional President of the United States, who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than 12 women had his two cents to contribute via Twitter:

“Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News. Check out Andy Lack’s past!”

You’re such a fucking ass clown Donald Trump.

New to the NBC network, Megyn Kelly had this to say, “I see anguish on my colleagues’ faces. But when this happens, what we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who’ve found the courage to come forward. And that is a terrifying thing to do.”

Preach Megyn.

In light of yet another revelation of a man abusing his power, I’m sharing my own story of sexual harassment in the workplace again. Because I will beat this shit like a dead horse because it’s fucking ridiculous.

As chick in the career world, I’ve been told not to wear makeup and dress down working at a construction company home office because I was too “pretty” and the construction workers wouldn’t be able to control themselves from ogling when they came into the office. I abided by the request only to be let go about six months later for not looking “professional” enough. Is that harassment? Maybe just discrimination – but still. I said nothing. I felt disrespected, of course, and I lost my job because of my looks?

I’ve heard men at more than one company bitch about having to provide maternity leave (for women who are carrying YOUR FUCKING SPAWN and need to recover) when I’ve written handbooks with maternity – and paternity – leave included.

Most recently, I encountered sexual harassment at a job where I thought I would stay until retirement. It was in the music business and I started as an office manager. While the company worked with big and small artists alike, the core of its personnel was about 10 full-time employees (two of which were female, including myself, and were also the lowest two paid peeps there…even though we both had manager in our title).

As my comrade Slappy would say….

Going into any business environment eyes wide open, I worked with a vast array of people, which is why I loved the company so much. It was the most non-politically correct place – corporately speaking – and I was a contributor in every way. Lunch banter included topics of a dude asking me about Jesus when I was wearing only a leopard bra, an instance when I was sent a dick pic and I was once told I would be “punched in the tits” from an executive if I pinched him for not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. None of it bothered me because I dished it right back. It wasn’t unnatural to ask a fellow employee how their weekend was with the response, “I got laid,” to which I started responding, “me too.” Swapping dirty jokes, tales of road mayhem and being able to freely be ourselves didn’t create a hostile work environment because we all respected each other.

Typical office equipment.

If anyone fucked with me (say the dick pic sender), I knew I had an army of fellow friends/brothers who had my back no matter what. Once, a new sales person let it be known that he was going to “fuck” me (oh and he was married with a wife and kids). He was immediately terminated when upper management found out after another employee overheard me telling someone. I felt valued no matter what my sex. We were all working our asses off together and I absolutely loved the atmosphere.

Decor often left on my desk.

As the company grew, we opened a new division and naturally, more folks were hired. One of them, the COO of the division and I became friends. Hell, we were all friends – with more of a small business family feel, even as we became a larger company. This COO, who I will fondly refer to as Piss Ant from here on out, was the person who fired the dude who wanted to “fuck” me. Piss Ant gave me airline miles to go home to Iowa and see my ailing Gma one summer. Piss Ant ranted and raved and sat in my office for hours on end and asked my opinions on everything from work to personal matters. Piss Ant was my friend.

Thanks for the miles and memories.

Piss Ant also loved power. And as he was granted more of it through his ability to land deals and bring in the big bucks to the company.  His tiny head grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger. AND BIGGER.

One day, he’d gotten back from a rather rough week on the road. He came to my office and said he needed a drink.

So we got him one.

The actual day.

He proceeded to get shit faced during the afternoon and unload dirty laundry from years past, present and what was to be his future. I listened. I gave advice. I also grew increasingly aware that this situation was about to take a wrong turn.

Uh….u-turn! U-TURN!

While sipping on moonshine at three in the afternoon (almost every office had some sort of alcohol in it – and it was nothing for folks to have a drink around quitting time), his stories got more personal. More sordid. More wistful. Wistful as in telling me I had a nice ass. As in telling me he married the wrong woman…he should have married me (his wife was at home pregnant). As in telling me I would never get married because I was too good for anyone. And, as you are all well aware, I’m no shrinking violet.

Fuck the shrink.

I immediately shut the shit down. I told him to stop fucking talking. That he would regret this later that night and especially the next day. I was being ‘cool’ – level headed, and as I went to get him some water, he followed me out of the office and pulled me into one of our dark rooms where designers could come and rehearse. It was pitch black and he slammed the door shut. He kept saying he wanted to kiss me. I kept telling him to back the fuck off and that he was going to have regret.

Once I manhandled him out of my way, I opened the door and went into the bathroom. When I came out, the note below was on my desk, folded neatly. As he sat in a chair in my office and giggled drunkenly, I responded the most flippant way that I knew how and told him he needed to go home.

Oh, you want to kiss me? In your fucking dreams.

And he did. And he called to apologize. And I told him that we all make mistakes. But I kept the note. Because I knew what happened wasn’t in the slightest bit OK.

Our working relationship recovered because I think as a woman, (and anyone else who has put up with this shit before) I HAD to move past the situation professionally. But personally, I was enraged. And confused. And conflicted. Piss Ant was my superior. Piss Ant was my friend, right? (Obviously wrong). What was I to do? Who was I to tell? What would be believed? Piss Ant was the company cash cow. What would this do to my career? Would this give me a tattletale reputation in the still small music industry Nashville?

WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING?

This is what goes through minds when sexually harassed, assaulted, abused.

I stayed silent.

Piss Ant was promoted to CEO. I was promoted to the executive team and I had no problem going toe-to-toe with him and his dictator style of micro-managing. He once called me to ask what my employees were doing. When I rebuffed with a ‘what are your employees doing’ it turned into a two-hour conversation about how he can run his division and I can run my department. He didn’t like that – but was always quick to apologize when he overstepped boundaries or knew conversations got heated for no reason due to himself.

He didn’t just bully me. He abused his power, he fucked with people for his own ego purposes and no one in the company was upset that he traveled 90% of the time. After I was promoted to his level as an executive, the work environment got extremely hostile and toxic for me. It felt like a personal witch hunt. Here was a man who used to show people a video I made while in an ‘80s cover band that showed a helluva lot of skin (you can’t see anything – trust me, my dad made sure of it) – to acting repulsed when he saw a photo of me modeling for a fellow employee’s jewelry line (who later became my direct report).

Said employee’s jewelry site was linked briefly (like 30 minutes) to our company Facebook when she was featured as the weekly team member. When Piss Ant clicked the link and found the above picture (that had been posted 10 months prior), he called and I immediately removed the link. You cannot tell it is me. My name is not mentioned. The company name is not mentioned but I completely understood why it needed to be unlinked. Problem solved, right?

Not so much. Three weeks later, I’m sitting in an office with Piss Ant, the president of the company, and an ultra conservative business consultant who knew (knows) nothing about the music industry and this photo is again brought to my attention. Piss Ant said an employee’s wife complained. When he told me who, I went to discuss the situation with him and he had no clue what I was fucking talking about. It was Piss Ant who had the “issue”.

One week later, the employee I had ‘modeled’ for – a member of my team – was terminated without my knowledge because they were ‘eliminating’ the position. A fucking social media position. Uh huh.

One month later, my position (which consisted of human resources, all administration, marketing, branding, production of new website, public relations, merchandising, company culture, company events, outside events, all things internal and external communication wise) was ‘eliminated’ and I was told by Piss Ant that I could now report to a new hire with 30 years of experience. The hired person was 29 years of age (who no longer is with the company – surprise – and has posted on their consulting website that they created everything I did at my tenure with the company. Classy fucking people, I tell ya). If I didn’t accept the new position offered to me (the social media position they eliminated just a month before), it would be considered a resignation on my behalf.

I was told that after almost four years with the company (who still had a former executive on a six month severance, which included healthcare and phone coverage) that they owed me nothing. As the conversation among us four executives got heated, we decided to take the night.

Well, you can imagine how that sat with me.

I was totally fine with it.

I came in the next day, knowing what was going to happen. I wasn’t going to be put into a corner, lay down and take it up the proverbial ass. When I brought the situation of sexual harassment with the note to a fellow executive, I was told to keep quiet, or I would receive no severance. The president had taken pictures of a box of wine I kept by my trashcan under my desk – again no secret that drinking took place at the office, as every single manager had either a mini fridge or a full bar in plain sight. I was told their lawyer was powerful, to take my severance, and they would send an email out to the company saying they eliminated my position and we would part ways (the email sent said I left of my own accord – again FUCK OFF).

Did you guys know I like to drink? Fucking secret’s out.

After I signed termination paperwork, tears were shed by Piss Ant as he walked me out the office front door and he said he didn’t agree with the way things went down. He didn’t agree with my leaving. He didn’t agree with the hire that was made in my place (FUCK OFF. He went to lunch with the replacement, gave the replacement the budget I had created, handed my department over, etfuckingcetera). He said he wanted to help me find another job. He said he would call. AS HE BAWLED.

I have yet to hear from him.

I can only hope that no one ever treats his daughter the way he treated me. The way he treats women. The way he treats other humans in general. But I sure as shit hope karma gets him.

Karma’s coming for you Piss Ant.

Sexual harassment isn’t new. Hostile work environments aren’t new. Men (and even women) abusing their status of power isn’t new. It’s also not going away anytime soon. But for me, this is about standing the fuck up for yourself. This is about standing up for those who can’t – or don’t – or feel unable (as I did). This is about awareness. This is about placing responsibility where it belongs. On the harassers. The predators. The abusers of power.

It’s not me. It’s YOU.

My takeaway from my horrible work experience(s), the career ruiner (what if I told? what would it do to my career in the music industry? would I be judged?), my anger (I still carry) is this –  it elevated me and gave me the gusto to tell when I was raped a month later.

I will never be silent. Ever again.

I will shout forever.

For you.

For me.

For them.

ME FUCKING TOO.

CBXB