Off Switch (Trigger Warning)

I am rolling through a house, looking up a flight of stairs when a friend of mine is shoved through the wall, I had not seen them in the hall but the wiring of the house has entered them, turning them into a macabre marionette. I feel the loss as I wake, and it takes me two hours to get back to sleep. Sprite and Sylvani shared the bed last night, something they only do when worried over me. Vani likes to sleep in the window so he can see everything, Sprite sleeps at my feet unless I need her.

I woke up ever hour with an adrenaline kick last night that cost me more energy than sleeping was worth but I was too tired to stay awake. I can barely keep my eyes open now though I will push myself today. I do not want to shut down. I spent October being quiet on my blog because I was having fun, and a part of that was the headlong rush to have as much fun as I can before I spend a month trying to function.

The pervasive sense of dread started early this year, though there was a trigger and an actual reason to be fearful I kept going and doing. This meant I had too much fun, or just enough, on Halloween and made it through the third where I can talk, I can look at people and I can go out. It’s more frightening today and yet I am fighting with the off switch in my brain. If I let it shut off from the annual PTSDathon I miss things. I miss people, I miss being able to go and enjoy the last warmth in the air while it starts to get that crispness that I associate with apples. I miss so much.

I have never made it this far into November without the off switch being flipped. It’s never with my consent now. I am not sure it ever was but I had no choice for so long. Turn off, stay off, and let the pain be over there. Be distant from it just to survive. I needed a reminder of this yesterday as I am in the mode of taking this one day at a time. There is no other way to survive November.

A catalogue of my current PTSD symptoms would be as follows: Physical sensations based on memories not reality IE I feel my father’s hands in places that no father’s hands belong, Nightmares that actually scare me, a bit of a fog in my head making it hard to follow the passage of time, a pervasive sense of dread as if the world will end, the razor’s edge of panic in my chest, the urge to run as far as I can, and something that I have more trouble with at this time of year is my temper. I am on edge, I am wanting to push everyone away and hide.

The mental image of myself when I touch on the fear isn’t me now either, it’s the small child I used to be. It’s the bed in the house where I was five hiding with my dog. It’s the past. There is not much I can do right now. I am wearing the birdskull necklace M gave me, because I have found it very comforting, I am wearing my batman shirt, and Sprite is hovering. I am going out without her today. She isn’t quite recovered and I think I can do this. This is the last day this month I am likely to be able to go out.

The off switch is something I have to hold up into the on position. It’s the weight of the world, I am a failing atlas as my grip slips. I must remind myself, I once could never lift it. I wasn’t strong enough at first. I spent a decade in the dark before I found it. Then I spent years learning how to keep the switch up. It only grows heavy for a month now. By December 9th I will be fine. Maybe sooner. Maybe I will not shut down at all.

I don’t know. I just know I made it further than last year. I also have more mental resources than last year. I am not fighting with a bad carer, I am not fresh off of abuse, I am not starved and though I am still physically weak I am not as weak as I was. I am never going to be as strong physically as I want but I am strong mentally. I know the nightmares will be robbing me of my sleep, but I also know that I can count on my caregiver, my service animal, my caseworker, and even my apartment manager. I can call on my friends if I need to, though right now I couldn’t let them in the door so we shall see if that happens.

I am fighting. Knowing I am fighting has restored a bit of my strength. Even as Sprite creeps up onto me and tells me to go rest, I know I can’t. I lay down right now and I am not getting up.

This month holds suicidal thoughts, depression, and a whole lot of pain. I will not give in. I am planning to write specific chapters of the PTSD book this month based on what I am doing in the moment. The things I cannot write without being up against the mental wall. When I can’t hold the switch up anymore or when the burden eases, I will also say so here. I am okay. It may not be the okay I want but I am safe. I am loved. I may want for things but I want for no needs. This is a first in my life. I have always needed the basic necessities and they have been just out of reach. Sometimes I could nearly grasp them but I am fantastic compared to any year before.

I will relive being raped countless times this month, I will relive the worst parenting ever, and I will know it is not my fault. There is no sense of guilt in me for the first time. I am just very sad. I mourn for the child I was and I wish I could save her. In some ways she has always been someone else to me. Perhaps the light switch will stay on once I can own the essence of her identity. Though this is a part of PTSD. I am separate from what came before the most traumatic moment in my life. It broke me and I rebuilt myself. In fact that was what my father wanted. He wanted to break his willful child. He made me more willful. He set up the biggest victories in my life by trying make me submissive.

If he had tried other ways I would not be me. Can I fathom living any other way? No. So I must work for it so that the way I live is 12 months a year not 11 or less. It’s my damned year. I am going to take it back.

Broken Windows and Drowning in the Pond of Doom (Trigger Warning)

I live in a haunted house, which is a bit weird as I also live in a one bedroom apartment. Yet this house will always be where I live too. It is the scene of horrors untold, it is also a place where I buried things. The place I stood outside my house, while watching the windows shatter, near that pond with a terrifying icey Ophelia with my face also is a place where things are buried. I know this house. I lived there.

I didn’t realize this was the house on William’s street from Estancia until the windows broke and I could actually remember the house and go inside my mental domicile. The wallpaper is less faded in my head than in reality. Where had I been standing? In my secret place that everyone knew about. Between the gate and the lilacs, staring into the windows that I dreamed of, not that were real. This is the house my mother moved us into when marrying one of her now ex husbands, this is the house where my sister and I shared a space and I had to fight for her life. This is also the place where in a few short years outside my bedroom door, instead of a window I had a door that couldn’t be secured. Of course I went insane from lack of sleep… yet outside this door was a house sized lilac bush, which always bloomed, a butterfly bush, tulips, irises, and every pet we had. Some were killed by disease, neglect, cars, but most by Grandma.

It was in this garden I found myself trapped by my fears for Nymph. Yet it was through that door that I entered this house consciously for the first time since we left it. I had locked away memories and the feelings I hadn’t known how to handle. Mostly sad things, a few happy things, not one spot of anger was in this dusty haunted house. What haunts it so? The lost little girl adrift in this great big world trying to understand why it hurts so much. This house is haunted by my unshed tears, by the pain that I couldn’t take. It is a house built out of repressed memories.

I was wrong, this house is not terrifying, and once the window broke and i opened the door it turns out to be just a sad place. It is a place where hopes were born, dreams were killed, it is a place where I had thought I was the world’s largest failure because I couldn’t stop a literal giant of a man (6 feet 6 inches) from raping my mother. As that is a 15 year old’s duty. I knew he was going to hurt her and I obeyed her as she told me to leave the house. A part of me knows she thought to protect me too, but most of me wonders if she believed my warning or if this house of memories will hold more moments where I am like the mythical Cassandra, right but wronged. Never hear, only believed once people are laying dead.

In this house, I find memories of my Sensei, lost to me until I opened that damned door. I find silence too. There is no one else here. Most of the memories until I want to access them are still pictures scattered over the dusty and broken floor. There are elements of furniture, the bed where my step father killed my cats and stuffed them under it because I had told him I didn’t want to do something. The mirror that fell and broke cutting his femoral artery. My wishes are there engraved in his blood for his death.

In this house there are ghosts too, they are quiet. Most ghosts are. People see them rather than hear them. There she is, in the front window, her big eyes staring out into the endless night. She is waiting for her father to come and take her to visit. She feels utter terror. She would piss herself with fear if she had learned long ago that only meant she would be wet and beaten harder. She also feels a terrible gnawing sensation, she wants him to come because if he shows up this time, it means he loves her after all.

Then there are the ghosts of them, my family. I see my sister and her friends smoking pot, a memory I had. I see however from outside in the moments before I take a toke and end up unconscious and not breathing, and kicked into a corner left to die. I see my sister’s face. I see that she’s just afraid to feel. I see as I am passing out that she is as scared as her friends. I wonder now why instead of going for help she chose probable death for me.

I see that first time I was pushed down the stairs to the basement by a “ghost” too. Except that I can see the ghost. It’s my step father. He wanted me dead. He pushed my mother to choose between he and I, and she chose him. I wonder if she regrets it. I see in the memory as I start to fall, his anger when I am balanced by a cat. The other ghost in my memory. A cat that couldn’t be, because this is a cat I never remembered before. I see him kill her.

It is after that, that I had started trying to kill him. In this house are other rooms from other houses, other places exist outside. It turns out this is the landscape of my suppressed memories. They aren’t in the same plane as my other memories which are full color. These are black and white sepia dreams of silence, no music, just breathing if anything, a periodic gasp, it is all looks and body language. The small smile when someone made pain happen. It is all this overwhelming sadness.

This house is my loneliness growing up, and sometimes now. This house is my suicide. This house is my homicide. This house is my desire for patricide, matricide, and siblingcide. I am sure there is a better word for that. This house is when I became a wild child. This house is the first time I saw my sensei cry because he knew I was hurting. This house is my rapes. This house holds the key to everything I couldn’t quite understand.

This house holds no god. This house holds no future. I feared it, because I knew deep down inside it would bring me more sorrow. So I look into the pond again, and the face before me is no longer my own. It is that of the child I once was. I kneel over the cracks and whisper to her, to me, that it’s okay to thaw. You see, this is that stolen innocence, drowned by rage and hatred. This part of me under the ice is there because that was the only way to survive. It wasn’t about being an alien robot like I told myself, it was just about not hurting so much so that I could go on. It was about no one believing me that my mother is a serial monster marrying monster.

In that house are the times my brother raped me. My grandmother strangled me. In that house is terror, but terror is not scary for me. That seems sort of ironic. It is this child under glass, I am not so sure it is ice after all. She is sleeping beauty, snow white, she is a fairy tale. She lays there staring up at me but her eyes don’t see me. She is trapped in that moment, the moment lost for all time where I could have been. She is my potential. Potential is never lost, but often buried.

So as I stare at Ophelia in the pond, girl under glass, frozen in time I realize. All along I have been the fairy princess. All along I have been the warrior woman. I am like Jean D’Arc. I am a super hero. I am the perfect woman. I am the strong man. I am the bearded lady. I am the freak. I am all my dreams. I cannot leave this haunted house, yet I already did. A part of me is buried with all those things I never had and all those loves I lost.

I lay on the ice and stare at her. She doesn’t breathe or move. Perhaps Innocent Ophelia is dead after all. Her eyes open, her skin pale, there is no color in her face, and it looks to me as if she has actually resurfaced, this pond didn’t hold her before. It could be that though this ice won’t break by it cracking I reclaimed the part of myself that I needed to. I forgave the part of me that wasn’t able to protect my mother from her own actions. I forgave the part of me that was a child and therefore couldn’t stop Grandma from being used as a murderer of pets, as a punishment for loving.

I feel whole. I don’t feel shattered or broken, I don’t feel a stabbing emptiness when I think of memories or these things. I feel the hole I have fought to plug in a myriad of self destructions, millions of atomic bombs to mutate my self failing and destroying, is filled. Oh, I feel sorrow. I feel grief. I will feel anger, I will feel rage. I still feel joy. Oh yes, joy. Because I remember. These silent films, still images, photographs on the dusty wooden floor? If I look at them, I can touch the memory without the pain.

If I didn’t know better I would think my PTSD was cured and I could “move on” with life. Except that I cannot ever leave this haunted house. I can add a yard, I can add a memory but the house is my head. I have continued to build around it, and now I can go wherever I please. So I walk out again, I don’t want to live in memories and sorrow. I leave the princess of ice behind in her silent night.

I stop at the gate, I look behind me at the ghosts, I take a breath and I walk into the world of color. I walk into the thoughts of my future and dreams. It is here that I am writing a book, it is here that I am laughing with my friends, it is here that I am Batman. It is here that I get to kiss the girl, it is here that I get to be whoever I dream of. It is here that I am also living in the moment. Past is still past. That house will wait for me, I will likely find more hidden rooms too.

As far as Ophelia in the Ice? If she is living, she is me and I am seeing a reflection. If she is dead, I am not, and I am a second person. If she is waiting to be set free it is not her time yet. I am not burying Nymph in that grave yard of pets either, I am merely letting her memories roam. Rose is there too, in these parts of me that are alive.

Someday perhaps I will be able to let that house be in color too but I am not sure I want it to be. It is the house that sorrow built, each board and nail created to survive being disallowed pain. Some of the things that will go into my PTSD book are part of this house. In fact, being told constantly to just move on, is a part of this house.

I see my mother with my adult mind telling my child self to just move on and I realize, she didn’t want me to hurt. She just hasn’t grasped the fact that no one ever just moves on. We may live, we may heal, but you cannot set the memories down and throw them away and be just fine. Instead you must let yourself heal. Moving on is suppression and repression. Healing is doing what you must to survive while preventing the gaping wounds of mind and body from being infected.

A second book that pulls at me is a children’s story. The story of a fairy princess who is also her own hero. She saves the prince, doesn’t slay the dragon but makes friends with it, and in general defies her parents’ ideas at every turn. In my imaginary future for this book there are print outs with different art, girls of each color and body type getting a book with their own image reflected by this heroine. That’s what I wanted. My Sensei gave it to me, though it was much easier to do since I am white, red hair, and beautiful by the standards of society. Still, this was before there were many strong female characters at all, and he found them for me.

I will say that there are rooms in color in that house, just very dusty. These rooms hold the memories of the people who didn’t let me get lost in the maze of conflicting demands made by the adults around me. These are the people who saw me for what I am, or at least a facet of that and guided me. The teachers who taught me things, instead of getting frustrated because I knew how to read and write and had already learned the things they should teach me.

Yet my favorite memories are not in that house. They are memories I have been making in the last year. Some even overlap recent horrors. Yes, I am sad and i feel the emotional pain of even having had a giant house I couldn’t see was there. I feel pain. Yet completed. I know there are missing things, my literal thought as I opened the door was, “Oh, someone stole all the furniture” which tells me there is more coming. Yet I am strong, after all I am the conglomiration of my childhood imaginings, I am a warrior princess alien witch zombie wizard ship who sang sword carrying dragon charmer sex goddess battle master bad ass. So I will wait, I will work on healing old wounds that I did not see before, and I will try to repair the house of Memories.

I will also lay flowers for Ophelia everyday, she may not be what I think she is now, but at least I see that a part of me is a frozen child. It is terrible to be that child, there are flickers of memory. Likely escapees when the ice cracked. I am a damsel in constant distress, yet I save myself. That is the lesson of this house. I have always been alone, yet I have never been alone. I am dichotomy woman, though somehow I doubt that would work as a super hero name. I think I will try sleeping a bit more now, all the word steam has escaped and I feel worn out suddenly. Trying to hold all this back in my mind for so long is exhausting.

There is something odd about this house though, I found no glass on the floor and my mental constructs are always complete with such details, which means that there were never any windows to begin with. It was all in my head. Yes, that’s a joke but it is also truth. The barriers that kept these memories back weren’t something as tangible as all that, just as the memories aren’t as solid as they feel. I can see them, hear them, smell them, and touch them as I described but the sword on the wall won’t cut my hand. It still hurts. So I am reminded by the lack of shards on the floor, to forgive myself and to be gentle with myself. It is natural to forget things that will make it impossible to act for survival. This is how society itself works. You discard information constantly in order to either preserve opinion, hence people who believe things that shock you with their stupidity or they form ideas that are as shocking as what others believe and seem brilliant but unfathomable. Yet it’s the same idea. I am just glad my brain didn’t stab itself, that would’ve given me a real headache.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Advocacy (Trigger Warning)

In conversation with one of my young friends I had a revelation. This was about thirty seconds ago. Sometimes advocating triggers flashbacks while I am trying to function. My mind lept then to other people who have to self advocate through PTSD symptoms. It isn’t always a flash back. If you do not have PTSD it might be harder for you to understand being jerked around by past trauma. Therefore I am going to explain, and this is why there is a trigger warning on this post. Sometimes reading about PTSD or other issue related things can trigger people.

This is not from the DSM (Diagnostic Manual thingy) but is from my experience. I may leave things out that apply to you or tell you things that don’t. The problem with labels is they are often not enough to truly explain what something means. Lets say someone shoots a gun. My first impulse is to be very still, not breathing, and praying that my father won’t make the shot. Even typing that sentence my head went into the land of fuzz and my chest is tight. I am taking slow breaths to focus and clear my mind. The trigger is not always a gun but just a loud pop. My brain is stuck on certain points of the abuse I suffered, it has a programmed loop that it likes to play. I have warning symptoms for my flashbacks now, and can often circumvent them.

My reality is in jeopardy from these loops. the weakest symptom is a tingle, intense fear, sometimes I start randomly bleeding. Why do I bleed? One theory a psychologist offered is somatic symptomalogy. Basically my body remembers, and it reacts so strongly to what my brain signals, that it thinks it is injured. This adds to the pain I feel. The pain from invisible injuries is far from phantom. I feel it. The next step after that is the sensation that I am floating, I disassociate and can see the entire world, but I am not connected to it. Usually I then go back in time. I see and feel at the same time, from multiple vantage points my father with his brand new gun, me and my siblings on the couch. I feel the cold metal of the gun pressing against my forehead. My nose stings with the tears I cannot shed.

The loud bang comes, I feel the heat of the bullet, my skin is burned by muzzle flash and I feel a horrible pain as the bullet grazes my temple. I don’t move. I don’t scream. I just stare up into that black hole, smoke pouring out of it and avoid looking into my father’s eyes, knowing he is going to be angry that he missed. I hear every word he screams again, how worthless I am, how I should be dead and must have moved. My sister starts to scream, my brother too but I can’t move. I look into his eyes and I see the blackness.

I still do not remember what happens next, though I have been told he decided to shoot at my sister, but I pushed her aside. I just know he tried to shoot his children, sitting on a couch that smelled like pee, and nearly killed his neighbor because the bullet went off. The cops were called but I took the blame. I said I was playing with his gun when it went off. I lied, to survive.

When I come back to myself I always want to vomit. Instead I focus on breathing. If the nausea is really bad I will take some Rolaids. Sometimes now, after years of effort, I let myself cry. Usually I manage a tear but my brain has yet to grasp the concept of tears. If I am not at home, it is worse to recover. At home I control my environment, I have a bed to curl up in, two soft fluffy cats, and my Person can go elsewhere more easily giving me the time I need to recover.

When I am advocating and flash back, I never know what to do. I try different things, and usually they work but the vulnerability can be debilitating. I flashed back my first time having to seriously advocate to that scene. That is why I chose to relate it to try and explain what PTSD is like. I wish I had simpler words but none can encapsulate just how much there is to it. Sometimes the flashes are different, sometimes I am still an adult but I am trapped, it is worse in some ways because I still feel the pain but I am completely aware that my world has vanished. I am never certain if I am going to hurt someone. I have before, but it has been a long time.

That first taste of advocacy was so bitter. The cops came, and one fondled his gun and my brain shut down. I was afraid, in pain and exhausted. I was being yelled at and deprived of my prescription because I needed my service animal. The cops even saw Sprite follow her training. When I flash she has three tasks, beyond her instinct to comfort me. First, she signals to my Person for help. Sometimes a conversation can end it. So she chirruped at the person of the day, and I had to form the words, “I need you to deal with them for me. I can’t.” Then, she helps me to sit. I had to wait fifteen minutes for a chair, I wanted to scream at them but I tried to stay calm. I was hyperventilating, they took this as my being dramatic. Then, she moves to my shoulder. Her instinct is to sit on my chest, but she might get flung there, I do not handle pressure on my chest well even when not panicking or flashing. Her instincts tell her to purr, to rub with just her face against mine. This grounds me.

The police threatened to arrest me if I did not leave the facility. I knew enough to know they couldn’t but they refused to acknowledge that I had rights. I couldn’t fight, but I had to. I chose then to repeat the law over and over. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t see their real faces for half the time. All I saw was my father and his eyes that reflected no light.

What can you do if you have PTSD and are an advocate? Here is the how to portion.

Step 1. Before you get to the point of advocating, have a support structure. This is a difficult process, because not every person can truly understand what it is to lose your reality. You need to have someone you trust availible, at least to call.

Step 2. If you have medications used to treat the symptoms of your PTSD in an emergency make sure to carry them with you, to keep a back up dose with your support person, and to keep your doctors number handy.

Step 3. Create a kit of items that help forestall your flashbacks. Nothing works for me beyond my cat. I can give her the signal she is trained for when i feel the warnings coming and ground. This is all I have right now, beyond my Person. No meds, just those two.

Step 4. Remember to breathe. Sometimes if you focus on just breathing you can help yourself.

Step 5. If you flash back during advocacy, try and focus on the responses that do not match the memory. This has worked for others, pulling them out.

Step 6. Advocate anyway. I did get the illegal policy over turned at the Pharmacy where I was threatened with arrest. I had to fight for a long time to do it, but, they relented. It is worth it even though it you might feel endangered or might BE endangered by your flashbacks.

Step 7. If you have to, stop. This opposes Step 6. Not every incident can be worked through. You might need to call your therapist, you might need to let your support person advocate for you. This is not a failing, this is merely the team network that advocacy should be.

I am glad to write this how to. I never considered how important it could be, but, in my mind my broken back, my asthma, and my failing eyes are not my most dangerous disability. The worst disability I have is PTSD. At times during flashbacks I have hurt myself, my friends, and reliving the painful memories can also cost me emotional, physical, or mental progress.

Keep in mind the time you are most fragile is just after a flash back. Some people can be triggered more easily, often it is easier to react in rage. Do not minimize your pain either. It is okay to cry, scream, and sometimes to just walk away.

I have done all of the above. Not every incident with advocating will cause a flashback either. Most of my time advocating I am left with memories of victory. My first taste of advocacy is as sweet as it is bitter, because I still succeeded, despite my unabiding terror of these men. My greatest cause was also revealed to me. I am actively fighting to get the local police trained in how to deal with enforcing the ADA. I want my rights protected, I do not want to fear being put in jail, dumped out of my wheelchair and my service animal being put into Animal Control’s care.

That was the threat, and so often is. My heart goes out to any other advocates who suffer from PTSD. I know each person’s PTSD is varied, some may not flash back, some might just panic. Others might not be able to stop their flashes. You can still advocate. Just prepare yourself as best you can.

The Rape of Innocence (Trigger Warning)

Literal. I lost my innocence, as defined as physical virginity to my father. It was rape. It was never consensual. Incest is bad. Typing these words is extremely difficult but my day has already been one full of tears, therefore, I am going to go with it. His excuse for rape, his reasoning that made it A-Okay to violate, subjugate, and to hurt me sexually was this. “You look just like my mother.” I was four years old. Today I was triggered. This isn’t an easy thing to admit, and I feel uneasy each time I come across things that remind me of him, and at times my PTSD is triggered by a harmful thing. Today I was already in a bad way due to pain, some of it is residual effects of my abusive childhood.

Some of it comes from feeling violated at having to see another doctor, since my service animal makes me unworthy of another. Some of it comes from this post on Feministing.com. I do not care that this game came from Japan originally. That does not make it better. I do not care that their society has a history of subjugating women, so surely all of their rape fetish bull is perfectly acceptable. Not to me. I want to reach out to the women of the world, for an uprising. It is in this moment that I state I am a feminist, in the definition that states I am pro women’s rights and equality, I am pro disabled equality, and I am pro mental health equality. I want to be healthy, I do not want to feel the edges of Victim burning at me again and again when I skim the internet, go outside, or even sometimes when I try and think of a happy moment. It is always there.

I am not the cause of my own rape. How can I be at fault for it? Yet games like this propagate the victim is at fault mentality. I remember when I turned my neighbor in. He was molesting me during the same period when my father decided to rape his mother allegory. I remember being asked by the prosecutor, at the age of five, if I wore short skirts to turn boys on. I didn’t even know what that meant. I remember, however, the after effects. I rejected my body, myself, and I tried to become a boy.

This attempt at maleness included trying to cut off my breasts when I was thirteen, shaving my head repeatedly (and discovering that my head is very lumpy) as well as rejecting my identity. I could not be Rebekah. I had to change my name. I did, as an adult. I found a name that fill sme with the sensation of security, health, and the desire to be happy. I do not cringe when I hear my name anymore. I never out grew the after effects of being raped. I was repeatedly assaulted through my life, and this was also used to overshadow real medical problems.

When I was eight years old my mother and father sent me away for hypochondria and Bulimia. It took adult hood to realize I never was bulimic. I also have a great deal wrong with me, and none of it is in my head, except what neglect and trauma put there.  All of my current illhealth cannot be attributed to the childhood neglect, but, a majority can. I am an advocate for anyone who needs it because there is so much to choose from. How do I choose between mothers and their need for proper nutrition, childhood health awareness, Celiac Awareness, Rape is Bad Mkay awareness, and the awareness that as a wheelchair user I need a door that is wide enough for me to not scrape through.

I am in tears today from pain, physical and emotional.  I am a woman. I am 24 years ago and it has been 11 years since my father last raped me. I have since seen him and he cowers with fear, he actually pissed himself when he saw me using a walker and fled in terror. I am not someone who causes fear but, I am a survivor. I was a victim and when I tried to say something, when I found out I should, I was denied that right. The district attorney felt that my case was not compelling enough because I was a mere child and had been sent away by my rapist for not being exactly what he wanted. I was denied justice, and I know my assailant is out there.

Knowing he is afraid of me doesn’t take away from being afraid of him. It does not take away from the sensation of the little hope I had being crushed because I wasn’t worthy of the time to take a bad guy off the streets. It doesn’t make it alright.

I hope whoever reads this finds either peace, awareness, and the understanding that if they themselves are a survivor of rape, abuse, or anything at all, that they are worthy. I understand as an adult why so few women report rape, when it is always the Victim’s fault. Eventually I will write more on my experiences with the mental health system as a child. I will write about my diagnosises, and the secrets that I am not sure my biological mother wants shared online. Someday she will google me and will discover that I am not the all accepting child she still perceives me as. I do not take the burdens she places upon me. I leave them behind.

I was about to submit this when I came across this in the comments on Feministing.com, another link. Amazon pulled the english version of the game, though it is still availible elsewhere. I am shaking with relief and rage. How do we protect our children when things like this pervade? What is to stop this from normalizing rape in our world? It might. It might not.

The Antidote for Discrimination Is…

I have felt the urge to blog repeatedly, but until now I have not given in. Blogging can be as personal as writing. I have spent the last week in preparation mode skimming the internet reading other blogs, seeing what I liked, what I didn’t like, and the power behind the words. Some of these bloggers brought me to tears, and that is no small feat. Others made me laugh, some caused me to feel sorrow, and a few gave me the chance to feel angry.

I wasn’t sure how to start my first post, but, since I am an advocate for all disabled, all women, all men, all people in need I will start there. The topic nearest and dearest to my heart is Service Animal Law. Some of you who read this might think you know about service animals, and you might be right. Others will presume that a service animal is only for a blind person. You are not correct. A service animal, by the federal definition, is any animal trained to assist a disabled person with a task. This does mean that if you have a seizure alert dog, it has to do more than that. The law even gives behavioral guidelines.

I have a service cat. She is trained to do things including retrieval, seeking assistance from specific humans in the case of an emergency, medication reminders, object retrieval, and she has also been trained to help me balance. A lot of these tactics came out of her instinctual responses, but those needed to be honed. She also had to be trained to handle a crowded mall. Now she handles it better than I do. People often ask me why a cat, and my response is simple. I am not allergic to cats, most of the time but I am allergic to dogs. I also trust cats, and I haven’t trusted many dogs in my life. I have to trust my service animal partner.

I have faced some serious discrimination because of being disabled. When I was still walking most of the time, it was harder because I was in extra agony since forcing myself to walk through a store took all of my energy. The more tired I am, the more pain I feel. There have been times when I have had shopping carts jerked out of my hands, causing me to either fall or nearly fall. I have been denied the right to buy groceries, and recently I have been illegally denied medical care.

I am perusing legal action but I am well aware that other people might not know how. Today, one of the blogs I read, reminded me that not every person is trained in how to handle discrimination. When you are disabled, you might feel more vulnerable to attack, and when people threaten to take away your service animal or refuse access, it can be terrifying. I feel often as if I am going to be hit if I push forward. I was an abuse victim for most of my life, but, adulthood came and I found a way to break free. Not everyone is that lucky.

So, here it is, my guide for other disabled people with any LEGAL service animal on how to advocate their rights. A side not before I begin, if you do not need a service animal, do not lie. We will catch you eventually, and the crime has a punishment. Depriving people of their rights through your shallow behavior is the worst thing you could possibly do, and, whether you believe in Karma, Hell, or just recriminations in this life from other people, you will pay for it. The law will get you, Advocates will get you, and if Karma gets you, it will be worse than anything I could dream up.

The Guide– Dedicated to Renne, Helen, Aimi and Snow, but especially Bree. (All Links will open in a new window/tab.)

Step 1. Stay Calm. This is for me the hardest part of advocating for your rights. Sometimes I want to run, other times I want to scream and cuss. Neither tactic is helpful. As hard as it is, you have to be the bigger person, and stay nice. You can have anger in your voice, do not deny the emotion but do not let the emotions over ride your goal.

Step 2. Calmly as you can, state that they are breaking the Federal Law. This is what I have practiced saying in the Mirror daily for the last two years. “You are violating the Federal Law. The Americans With Disabilities act provides protection for my use of my service animal.” When I say this I hand them a copy of the law. You can get a copy of the service animal laws from the ADA.  I  have the business brief printed with my state law on the reverse side. You can obtain access to your local service animal laws at http://www.animallaw.info/ I carry  my print out in aUSB case on my scooter keys. You can also buy laminated cards from various businesses with the law on it that explain your rights. For some people this is easier. Those cards are usually kept on your animal’s harness.

Step 3. Explain the law in simple terms and how they are violating it. This does mean you need to know the law. Not only does knowing the law protect you from discrimination, but, it lets you educate people. The biggest cause of discrimination in my experience is a lack of knowledge. If someone isn’t willing to learn, or admits they know, then you have a larger problem. One of the main causes of confusion with service animal awareness is that few businesses train their employees. It is illegal to require a service animal to wear a vest or show an ID tag. When someone asks me for this for my cat, I show them the law and educate them. Often, they will try and state she cannot enter because she is not a dog. My local laws state only dogs can be service animals. The laws are written so that the stronger law prevails. This means that if the Federal law says I can have any animal, that is trainable and meets the standards and the local law does not, we refer to the federal law. However if you live in a state like California that requires ID tags for all service animals, then, the law requires you have an ID tag. This is another source of confusion, but, it is an attempt at increasing the rights of many.

Usually by this point I am either in the building or they are just going to break the law anyway. If you have reached this point, it is time for Step 4.

Step 4. Take a very deep breath, and remember Step 1. Then ask to speak to their supervisor. If they refuse or are the supervisor you can try explaining the laws again, or calling another advocate to try and help. I keep the number handy to the local advocacy organization, and they have helped me countless times. Even knowing I can call day or night, is helpful because I do not feel alone. At this time I have no national links, but if you are in New Mexico, contact Service Animals and the Law. (Link forthcoming). If you have links nationally to websites that can help, post them in a comment. I want this page to be a resource for any person in need.

At this point you should be through the trying time, most managerial staff listen well and correct their employees. Recently I had to fight my way into an apartment complex using this tactic for three months. Even when I had food poisoning I had to try and follow my rules, but, eventually I prevailed. Advocating for yourself is the hardest part of having a service animal.

Not every person responds to this and if you still cannot get through to them, you need to contact the ADA. You can email them a detailed complaint, include names, addresses, contact information for both parties, and send it to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov . If you would rather call you can contact the ADA via their hotline using these numbers: 800-514-0301 (TTY-800-0363).

Remember, you are strong, you are beautiful inside and out, and you are not alone.

Other posts in this series: What is a Service Animal?

Additional Resources will be added as I find them:

Information:
http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/
http://www.deltasociety.org
http://www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm
http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm
http://www.equipforequality.org/resourcecenter/ada_serviceanimals.pdf

http://www.animallaw.info/
Service Dog Vests and Supplies:
http://www.pettop.com/
http://www.raspberryfield.com/
http://www.activedogs.com/servicetherapyvestharness.html?gclid=CI-6iKm7rpgCFQEpGgod3QL9Ug
http://www.ldsleather.com/patches.html
http://www.petjoyonline.com/ADA_Federal_Law_Information_Card_for_Service_Dog_p/svd-0054.htm The Law Info Cards
Scholarships
http://www.assistancedogunitedcampaign.org/scholarship.html
http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/ssd/ssd.php
Blogs:
http://www.servicedogblog.com/

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