Tuesday, October 2, 2018

My Crippleversary Party: How to Celebrate a Tragedy


As many of you know, I just "celebrated" my 10 year Crippleversary. How does you celebrate a tragedy? However you bloody well want to, I say! You  survived it so you get to make of it what you will. This post is about what I wanted to make of mine.

First, I wrote a post about all the things I've accomplished since the day I thought my life was over. That in itself was extremely therapeutic, and readers have told me it was therapeutic for them too. It was meant to remind all of us that life does not end with disability.

And, then, on the actual day of my Crippleversary, we had a kind of a party in two parts. I opened presents and "presents," the "presents" being all my fine jewelry which Beau had had repaired, sized, and cleaned for me. Then, in the evening, we got all dressed up and went for a fancy dinner.


Dress: Cherry Velvet; Shoes: Wonders; Diamond earrings: bespoke from Era Design; Ruby ring, ruby pendant, gold chain, and brooch: vintage.
Writing my last post helped me understand what people mean when they tell me I'm tough and strong. They say it often, but I never believe them because I don't feel strong. Most of the time, I feel like I'm just barely hanging on, ready to break at any minute, physically and emotionally. But I don't break, and I guess that's what people mean when they say I'm strong. 

Not only do I not break, I also don't stop fighting: fighting for my rights, fighting for justice, fighting to raise awareness, fighting for children's safety, and fighting for my own health. I was able to see my fighting spirit as I wrote my post about all that I've achieved since disability struck me down.

I was also able to see that I fight hard to find beauty, joy, comfort, and peace in a life that hasn't afforded me much of any of those things. I suppose it takes a certain strength to be able to find them at all. So that's an accomplishment too, or a series of accomplishments, each time I succeed, each time I try.

I don't give up, not because I don't want to, but because I don't know how. I don't know what giving up would look like. I don't know what I'd do differently.



When I began writing my first Cripplevesary post, I already knew that Beau has been hugely important in helping me achieve all the things I've achieved, but writing it helped me see that even more. Everything changed when I met him. He helped me become stronger by giving me the safe space - his love - in which to be softer and weaker.

Beau is the bestest person I've ever met and I am  honoured that he chose me as his beloved. Being worthy of his love, or trying to be anyway, is an accomplishment too.



When Beau and I discussed how to celebrate my 10th Crippleversary, I, of course, wanted to design a new piece of jewelry - perhaps a diamond solitaire necklace. If your income is okay, and you're careful with money, as I am, you can afford to indulge in such things from time to time. 

But, as many of you know, I'm in the middle of a legal battle with my insurance company and have had no income in well over a year. Beau has had to help me out, so he's stretched thinner than he should be too. A diamond solitaire was out of the question. 

But repairing, altering, cleaning, and sizing the jewelry I already have was not. We gathered up all my pieces that needed work, and took them to the same, local jeweler who made my diamond earrings when I received my inheritance. I went through it all with the goldsmith, and Beau paid for it, without ever telling me how much it cost. I only know that he promised not to break the bank. (Breaking the bank is simply not how I roll. It makes me too anxious!)



Beau's a brick! He didn't think of all this as frivolous. He wants me to find joy. He knows how much beauty helps me as I fumble through this difficult life, and he thought repairing my jewelry was a fitting celebration of my Crippleversary.



It ended up becoming a bit of a metaphor: I can't fix, polish, or resize my broken down body, but I can fix, polish, and resize my jewelry.



And, gosh darn it, I deserve it!


Onesie: Additionelle
The boys were with their mother on the day of my Crippleversary (they're with us half the time, and with her half the time), but they'd made a card and bought me a present before they left. Using his fancy computer skills, Boy 2 designed the card, which read, "Happy (?) Crippleversary!" Boy 1 signed it, telling me how much he's enjoyed having me in his life. I nearly lost it right there and then.



They got me the perfect present: a professional quality loupe, with a light and everything! It actually has two lights, a regular one and a blue one, but I don't know what the blue one is for. Do you?



Beau got me a really great ...



... stacking jewerly box. I keep my fine and sentimental jewelry in a vintage safe on my floor. It always ends up in a tangled jumble. Since I'm disabled and it's hard for me to use my safe, Beau usually helps me. When I'm getting ready to go out, Beau struggles to find the pieces I want and the ensuing squabbles are legend in our minds. This jewerly box is the solution! So far, it's working wonderfully. No more squabbles.



Beau also individually wrapped all my repaired jewelry ... but with a tad less care.



No matter. His wrapping it really did make it feel like the pieces were brand new. 



Some of them basically were new. Beau bought me this vintage, ruby pendant two years ago to match my vintage, ruby ring, but the bale on it was too small for any of my chains so I've never been able to wear it. Now I can!

And the vintage, gold chain itself? I'd lost it years ago and, just through a happy coincidence, Beau found it just before my Crippleversary. I'd been sure I'd never see it again. That actually worked out pretty well though because Beau bought me an even prettier, 18 karat chain to replace it. Now I have two! Such decadence. 



I felt a bit weird about sizing my rings because I don't like to think about the weight gain that came with disability. Between middle age and disability, I keep growing and I don't like it.



But I bought all these rings for myself, both before and after disability, as rewards for surviving my difficult life, and as markers of important accomplishments



Why on earth should I deprive myself of these rewards just because my body shows its age and suffering? The mere fact that this body is still alive at all is something of a miracle. I should celebrate my body's survival, not dismiss or deprive it because it doesn't look exactly as I'd like it to. 



After a restful day, storing energy for the evening, we got dressed up and we went out for a bowl of molten cheese. Okay, that's not exactly what we did but it's what I remember now. We went out for  a really great, Mexican dinner that included a sort-of taco, cheese fondue that was amazing. 

I wore one of my Cherry Velvet dresses that fit curves so well, I'd feel sorry for a skinny woman trying to wear them. You've seen this one before, styled for winter.

And, check out my arms! Since my terrible pain flare last summer, I've been much more disabled, and I've had to use mobility aids all the time. A walker requires me to use my arms and shoulders constantly. Even when standing, sitting, rolling over, reaching, etc, I need my arms to do the work my back can no longer do. My triceps show it.



I'm often insecure about how big my arms and shoulders have become. But I guess I should be proud. They're a sign that I keep trying, keep moving, even when it's really hard and really painful. I used to get buff at the gym. This is a new kind of buff.



Regardless of my insecurities, I do think this dress is very figure flattering, back...



... and front. The cut is retro so the retro fabric pattern makes sense. 



The sun was setting when we got home, and the colours of my dress so matched the sunset, I felt like the whole scene was stage directed.



Beau's vintage shirt also seemed tailor made for the lighting. It was pretty magical. 



While we're on the subject of things magical, we need to talk about my jewelry choices. I'm not totally sure that rubies are the best match for a salmon dress, but I really don't care.



I wanted to wear them - finally.



So I wore them. Simple as that. Wear what you want, always, not what you think others want. 



I added this whimsical, little, vintage brooch just for fun. I like its enamel creaminess, with just a little bit of sparkle.



Meanwhile, Beau got dressed up too. He even wore his wedding shoes, which he loves.

Isn't he just a tall, cool drink of water?



How on earth did I find a guy who's smart, gentle, kind... and really handsome? 



And that's it, the whole story of how I celebrated my Crippleversary.

How about you? Have you ever celebrated your Crippleversary? Do you think you ever would? You know what I did to celebrate mine. What would you do to celebrate yours?

(I'm sharing this with Not Dead Yet Style, Style Nudge, Tina's Pink Friday, Fashion Should Be FunElegantly Dressed and Stylish, Jeans and a Teacup, and Not Dressed as Lamb.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Life Does Not End with Disability: Celebrating my 10th Crippleversary

Me, ten and a half years ago, just before I became disabled, showing off the first beautiful thing I ever bought for myself: a diamond ring.
Life does not end with disability. This post is an attempt to remind myself - and you - of that basic truth. You see, it's my ten year Crippleversary. Yeah, I made that word up. Feel free to use it, with as much bitter, ironic mirth as you see fit.

Ten years ago almost to the day, I walked around the Seawall with a friend. The next day, Labour Day, I reached down to brush my cat, and I felt a pull in my lower back. 

That was the end of life as I knew it. But it was not the end of life itself. But it sure as hell felt like it was.

I've been severely disabled by constant pain ever since. There had been signs that this was coming. I'd had trouble with my back for years, and it had been getting far more frequent and severe in the last year. But still I kept rising, and functioning again, until that one moment, ten years ago, when my battered body just couldn't go on anymore. You see, I'd been sex trafficked throughout my childhood, and the abusers had been so brutal, so sadistic, so violent, that, as middle age approached, my body just gave out. There was no turning back. I hadn't known it, but this moment had always been inevitable.

In that moment, I lost everything, and went from being a slim, fit, extremely active, career woman, to being so crippled, it took me nearly a year of physiotherapy to be able to walk a block. I sometimes get a bit better, sometimes worse, but the general trajectory has been downward. I can't even walk a block anymore, not without my walker, and even with my walker, it's extremely slow and extremely painful.

Ten years. There is a lot to mourn and grieve. 

As I looked at old photos to pull this post together, I struggled with a lot of shame. I used to be able to walk, at least some. I was slim, and now I'm not. No matter how much I explain to myself that it's not my fault, I still blame myself. I tell myself I'm lazy, fat, disgusting, a failure. I tell myself I'm a bad person and, if I were a better person, I would not be disabled.

But every single medical professional tells me I've done and am doing everything right. Nobody could have tried harder than I did, than I still do, to be as well as I can be. I need to remember that, somehow. 

Thus this post.

Ten years ago, I thought my life was over. But, when I stop and think about it, I have done so much in these ten years!

So, for my Crippleversary, I'm writing a post about what I've accomplished since I became disabled. I'm trying to make this a celebration and self-esteem booster, when it could so easily be a dirge, rife with self-recrimination. I'm doing this for myself, of course, like therapy, but I'm doing it for you too, to help you remember that your life, or your loved one's life, does not end with disability.

So let's begin. What have I accomplished in these ten years?

- I have stayed sane. I consider this the proudest achievement of my entire life. Even before I was disabled, I'd endured levels of abuse that most people think they could not survive. But I did survive, sane. And now, the pain I've endured, the pain I endure, the physical triggers, the PTSD, the pain flares, the isolation, the depression, the ableism, the battles with my workplace and insurance company, the discovery that my rapists caused my disability... It's enough to drive anyone crazy, quite literally. 

It's felt like it was touch and go at times, but here I still am, sane. Not without mental illness, you understand. I have complex PTSD and DDNOS. But mental illness is not insanity and I've managed to stay sane. I'm proud of that.


My life in that first year of disability. Bed and sofa, sofa and bed.
- I learned to ask my friends for help. This was crucial, especially before I met Beau. I had spent a lifetime building my independence and I was fierce about it. But now, I need help with everything. If it hadn't been for my friends, I would have starved in a filthy apartment. I couldn't manage on my own anymore. It was humbling and hard to ask for help but I had no choice, so I learned to do it.


Self-portrait with TENS machine and pain. I felt like a cyborg but that TENS helped me get through the first few years.
- I refused opioids. When this all started, my doctors wanted to put me on various narcotic pain killers. But I'd been drugged enough in my life. My abusers had used strong, illicit drugs to control me, and there was no way I was going to let that happen again. I was terrified of narcotics, terrified that they'd change my personality, and terrified that I'd become an addict. Indeed, I saw some of my fellow chronic pain sufferers become doped up, slow-moving, slow-thinking versions of themselves. I didn't think they were wrong for choosing to use opioids. I totally understood their decision. But I was too terrified to make the same decision. So I said no. 

Somehow, I endured the pain with anti-inflammatories, Tylenol, a TENS machine, ice, heat, physiotherapy, and rest. Over the years, I've added some tools to my pain management tool kit, including some new medications, but I have continued to refuse narcotics. 

As it turns out, my doctor would no longer be allowed to prescribe them for me even I wanted them. If I had been taking them, I'd now be forced to somehow get off them. You see, in these last ten years, the Fentanyl crisis has exploded and, rightly or wrongly, doctors are having to rethink their opioid prescription habits, and new laws are being passed to restrict those habits. This has caused extreme hardship to some of my disabled friends who do rely on opioids. My choices prevented me from having to face that same hardship. I don't feel smug about it; I just feel fortunate.



- I fought hard to put together a good medical team. I sometimes call it Team Charlotte. I was lucky to have been going to the same GP since my teens, and she agreed with me when I told her which physiotherapy clinic I should try. She said to get to an appointment with their doctor no matter how much pain I was in and, somehow, with the help of friends, I dragged myself to that appointment and got the referral I needed.

My first physiotherapist was awful. He tortured me, disrespected me, mocked me, and clearly didn't believe that my pain was as severe as it was. I changed physiotherapists. 
I tried several therapists till I found a good one (more on that later). I fought my insurance company when they tried to put me in "rehabilitation" which could have put me in the hospital... 

I could go on about all the ways I fought to create Team Charlotte over the years, but you get the idea. It takes courage and strength to advocate for oneself, courage and strength I really didn't have. But I did it because I knew it was important. I'm proud that I somehow found that strength within me - and I encourage you to try to find it within yourself too. You deserve it!


I had already gained a lot of weight when I took this photo and truly believed I was becoming fat! This gives you a sense of just how slim I'd been, and just how much I'd exercised to keep myself that way.
- I started physiotherapy right away, within weeks of my collapse. I was used to approaching life through exercise, so physiotherapy made sense to me. After an initial terrible fit, I had a huge, wonderfully gentle physiotherapist who gave me a whole series of exercises that became part of the tool kit I used and still use to manage my pain and keep as mobile as possible.

I was extremely disciplined about doing those exercises (at the expense of any real life whatsoever, but we'll get to that later). I certainly did improve over those first few years, basically learning to walk all over again, determined to get better, all better. Nobody yet knew there was any reason why I couldn't get all better. 

Eventually, I plateaued, for a really long time. My discipline just did not seem to matter anymore. It was around then that I learned that my disability was permanent (and we'll get to that later too), but I have not lost the discipline that helped me in those first few years, and, indeed, helped me throughout my whole life. I just use it with different aims and different expectations now.



- I read a lot of novels. I was almost entirely bedridden and alone for my first year of disability. Once I was able to lift a book again, I read and read and read, every novel I'd been wanting to read for years, every novel I'd been wanting to reread, every novel I heard about on the radio or read about in the New Yorker (my favourite magazine).

You'd think that a college English instructor would read a lot. After all, I taught literature. But I was so bogged down, exhausted, and busy with work, I seldom found the time. Besides, every time I tried to read a novel, I'd find myself trying to figure out if and how I could teach it, and that spoiled the pleasure. So, while I was teaching, most of my reading for pleasure was non-fiction, especially history, escapist reading that wasn't really worth teaching (murder mysteries, for example), and novels that I knew would be too difficult for my students (this included a lot of Victorian novels).

But now here I was, flat on my back, alone but for my cats, in extreme pain. Books, starting with The Book of Negroes, saved my life in that first year.


Well, okay, books and the BBC. I discovered BBC4 and BBC7 that year, and listened to endless episodes of In Our Time, a whole river of novel readings, and a torrent of radio dramas. I really don't know if I would have made it without books and the BBC. And my cats, obviously.


One of my few outings, a small birthday party, but I forget which year. Note the new ring, another present to myself.
- I gained weight. I am not proud of this. I try not to be ashamed of it. Either way, it's caused a huge adjustment to my self-image, my fashion choices, and my feelings about women's bodies in general. I had been deeply, obsessively into exercise for nearly 20 years, and I was very slim, maybe even skinny. Suddenly, I couldn't exercise. I couldn't even walk, not really. So I gained weight. It's crept up, year after year, and there's been nothing I can do about it.

I've tried to accept it. I've always spoken out against our culture's limited vision of the perfect female body, but, now that my body doesn't fit that vision, I've had to grapple with this issue even more. Even if I do struggle with low self-esteem about it, at least I am one of the many women actively working to counter and topple our culture's equation of thinness and youth with beauty and worth. I'm proud of that.

Gaining weight has had an unexpected side effect for me: I've discovered that I have a pretty quintessentially, Ashkenazi, Jewish body-type. The rounder I get, the more I look like I'd fit right in on a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement - before the pogroms forced most of us to flee. This change in my appearance has brought me even closer to my Jewish heritage. It feels more real to me now. I am proud to wear my heritage in my body.



In keeping with that, I've grown boobs. That is the one thing I really do like about gaining weight. Boobs are pretty! So I've enjoyed that, and it's led to some fashion options I never had before.



- I started therapy. It became clear to me in that first year that I was not going to make it through this ordeal without emotional help. Nothing I'd done to cope with my PTSD in the past was working anymore, in large part because I could no longer exercise. I felt sure I was having a nervous breakdown, though I was assured that I was not, by everyone who knew me, doctors included. 

In the past, I'd joked that I'd been a sex slave. Now I stood up to the truth that it was no joke. I really had been a slave. A slave. A sex trafficked child. And being bedridden in pain was triggering as hell. I could no longer live in denial about my PTSD. That was clear. 

My therapist sucked, to be honest, but I managed to glean as much help from therapy as I could under the circumstances. 

Eventually, this led to my realizing that I needed to tell my doctors about the severity of the sexual violence I'd faced as a child, because it was an important clue about what was wrong with my now middle aged body. It also led to my realizing that I needed to own up to the fact that I have DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as MPD, Multiple Personality Disorder), or, to be exact, DDNOS. I needed help, but so did the many selves that exist within me. 

My therapist was singularly unhelpful on both scores, expressing doubts that the abuse was as severe as it was, or that DID even exists. Clearly, he was still bogged down in the shoddy psychiatric scholarship of the 1990s, and had not kept current in his professional reading. This is when he and I parted ways. Obviously.


My father
- I tried to mend my relationship with my father. In the first year of this hell, my father wrote me a letter saying he could finally kind of understand why I was upset with him for having completely abandoned his children. It wasn't an apology. It wasn't much of anything, really. But it was the closest he'd ever come to accepting any blame whatsoever for the hurt he'd caused. Starved as I was for love, I said, okay, let's get to know each other.

For a few years after that, we had long talks on the phone at least once a week. Was there any merit in this? Yes. Despite him, there was. 


For one thing, I learned a lot about my own childhood and the years leading up to it: the communes, the poverty, the big American cities, the draft dodgers, the drugs, the beatniks, the hippies, the break-ups and complicated relationships that eventually produced me. Up till that point, I'd only had Smother's version of things. Now I could fill in gaps and revise stories. Somewhere between the two versions of things, there might be something like truth. 

One of the things I learned was that, when my father left us and moved across the continent, he knew he was abandoning us to abuse.

My father learned some things too, including just how bad things had been in the home to which he'd abandoned his children. He didn't seem to care much.
Left, my father, about 17. Right, me, about 19.
I got to know that man better than I ever had. I even leaned on him a little bit, though he was as likely to let me fall as he was to support me in those moments. Above all, I learned two things about him. First, we had a lot in common. I won't enumerate all those things, because I've done that in other posts, but it was soul-soothing to know I came from somewhere. I imagine I felt a lot like an adopted child feels when she finally finds a birth parent.

Second, I learned that my father was the most selfish, childish person I'd ever met. He had no empathy whatsoever. He was a textbook narcissist. He'd always blamed me for all that was wrong between us, but, the more I got to know him, the more I knew that it wasn't my fault at all! I was also able to finally comfort myself with the fact that there was no way I was like my father on this front - because I have empathy. I may have had a lot in common with him, but I was not and am not a narcissist. Thank God.



- I didn't lose anything in the stock market crash of 2008. I'd been poor most of my life, and even more poor when I left "home" at seventeen. When I got my job teaching college English, I was earning money for the first time in my life. I had no idea what to do with it, so I just stuck it in the bank. Everyone said I should buy a condo and/or invest. I did neither. I liked the feeling of having savings too much to risk losing any of it.

Thank God I did. Just as I became disabled, there was a major stock market crash, in which I could have lost everything if I'd invested. Instead, I had a good cushion while I sorted out what on earth I was going to do next. That gave me a peace of mind which I'm sure helped my physical health as well as my mental health.




- I witnessed the election of Barack Obama! I cannot tell you the joy and I felt when I saw the Obamas up there on that stage. I cried with happiness. 

I cry just remembering it. It gives me some hope for our future.


My lovely friend and very first roommate flew all the way out from Toronto to be at my 40th birthday. Yes, people get us mixed up all the time; no, we don't actually look alike at all.
- I turned 40. Oh boy. Forty is a tough one for anyone. But I was crippled by pain, with an uncertain future and a broken body. I did my best to make it a good thing and that's the part I'm proud of. I asked my good friend, more like my sister really, to fly out from Toronto to celebrate. That made it special.


My ex, after a round of chemotherapy.
- I had a brief but important reunion with my ex. My relationship with C had been the most passionate, the most tumultuous, the most humbling, and the most painful, romantic relationship of my life. We'd broken up over ten years earlier and I'd always wondered if I'd made a mistake, or if our breakup had just been a matter of bad-timing, not incompatibility. But I knew he was now in a relationship and I had no interest in interfering with that.

Then, one day, out of the blue, he called me. He was single. And he was dying of cancer. 

It was like a punch in the gut. 

Nothing stirs up an old romance like mortality. My God. So, we reunited, totally unsure of what the hell we were doing. 

I'm really glad we did. 

First, our reunion proved to me that the connection he and I had was real. It had not been a fleeting connection in my youth. I had not just been his young plaything during his midlife crisis. We had really cared for each other, and we still did.

And we were a lousy match. We could both see that. We were our worst selves when we were together. It was a great relief to learn that I had not made a mistake when I'd broken up with him all those years earlier. It had not just been bad timing. Everything that had broken us up the first time broke us up all over again, only much more quickly. I'd done the right thing the first time, and I did the right thing again: I ended it.

Most importantly, I got the chance to say goodbye to one of the most important people in my life. There will always be an ache in my heart over his death, and he'll probably haunt my dreams all my life. But we made our peace with each other before he died, and I will always be grateful for that.


A female, Anna's Hummingbird at my window
- I started feeding the birds. Around the same time I became became bed-ridden, one of my childhood friends, a woman in her 70s, became bed-ridden with ALS. She was dying. I learned so much from her about how to face the indignities of infirmity. I've never known anyone to face death with such dignity, love, joy, and generosity of spirit.

At her request, her family planted a garden to attract butterflies and hummingbirds outside her window, where she could watch them from her bed. She and I wrote to each other almost every day, telling each other about the things we'd seen outside our windows, the little things that had brought us joy that day. Birds figured prominently in her tales.

I can't remember just when I first hung a peanut-butter covered pine-cone on my balcony. I think it was after she died. Whenever it was, I had no idea what I was starting. I just thought it was a good idea. The birds came. I put out a better feeder. More birds came. I put out a hummingbird feeder. The hummingbirds came. I got closer to hummingbirds than I ever had before. I even got to see them sitting still! Who can say that?


It was all so miraculous and wondrous. I could no longer get out into nature, but I could bring nature to me. I could nurture it, delight in it, learn about and from it. I loved feeding the birds!

The rest is history. I now have seven different bird feeders and a bird bath, each specialized for particular birds and their particular cravings and habits and seasonal behaviours. I watch them from my own window, as I lie in bed, resting my battered back. I know all their calls and twitters. I know when their plumage molts and changes colour. I know when they mate. I know when to expect visits from their curious, scruffy babies. I can chart the seasons by the changes in their habits and plumage. 


I have brought joy into my life. And I'm doing a good thing for the birds too. I'm proud of that.



- I bravely started taking medication for my PTSD. All my life, I had rejected the idea of taking any medication for my PTSD, and near constant depression. I didn't want to be weak. But, more importantly, I never wanted drugs to control me ever again the way they had when my abusers had given them to me. I had a blind terror of taking any medication that might alter my mood or thoughts in any way. For many years, the drug of exercise had been enough PTSD management for me

But, by about the ninth month of disability, in addition to my usual nightmares, I was having constant anxiety attacks, dizzy spells, panic attacks, heart tremors, insomnia... the whole bit. It took a lot of courage, but I went to my doctor and told her I needed help. I know she was relieved. She had wanted to help me for a long time. She took my fears about drugs seriously and together we decided on the medications that would help me. 

And they did help me. I got my anxiety and panic attacks under control. The dizzy spells went away (though it turned out that their cause was more complicated than "just" anxiety). I could sleep again. And I found myself with more courage to face my pain than I'd had. This was all good. I deserved this help.

My doctor and I were also both clear that medication was not a solution or cure. It was just one tool among many. I was still to take my hot baths, listen to my radio plays, pet my cats, do my physio, go to therapy, light my incense... I was still to use all the other tools in my PTSD management kit, tools I was incapable of using when my terrors were so strong, I couldn't even lift my head off the floor. The medications got my head back up.



- I joined social media. I was abused by an organized group of pedophiles, child sex traffickers, and drug dealers, some of whom are family members. Because of this, I've lived in something like open hiding most of my adult life, doing my best to keep under the radar of "the bad guys." I've used pseudonyms when I've worked as a journalist. I've had unlisted numbers. I've cut off contact with people who might inadvertently let the bad guys know about me. And, once there was social media, I just stayed off it.

But then my friend with ALS died and I really wanted to see her memorial page on Facebook. After a long phone conversation with a friend, who explained privacy settings and "blocking" to me, I joined Facebook, immediately blocking family members before they even knew I was there. 

I reconnected with long-lost friends who had once been important to me and who became important to me again. I was able to be stuck at home and still have something like a social life! 

Since then, I started this blog, using the pseudonym, Charlotte (for Charlotte Bronte), Issyvoo (for Christopher Isherwood). As Charlotte, I've created a second Facebook page, and joined Twitter and Instagram. It's been a great social outlet for me, housebound as I so often am. Social media is a boon to the disabled, that's for sure!



- I managed to go back to work for a few years, sort-of. After my first year or two of disability, I had improved, and I still believed that I would continue to improve. So, somehow, God only knows how, I began teaching (college English) again - part time, sometimes. Teaching on campus was grueling and left me in terrible pain, with no energy to do anything else. I had to walk, stand in front of a class, carry books. I have no idea how I did it. I could never do it now. It breaks my heart to think how much worse my disability is now.

Mostly, I taught online. That way I could work from home, and pace myself a bit more. But this meant learning how to use an entirely new online platform (twice, as it happened), redesigning lessons, classes, and assignments so they'd work online, writing lectures as essays for students to read... and a million other things that took a lot of time and energy. It also meant simply sitting up at my computer for hours at a time, which was painful and exhausting. Again, I have absolutely no idea how I did it, but I did, for better or for worse.
My "cleaning lady" and her daughter, from Rallying the Troops: Our Engagement Party
- I hired a cleaning lady. My friends had been coming to my house and superficially cleaning for a year or two, but I felt guilty asking for the help, and didn't dare ask for extra cleaning. My house was getting dirtier and dirtier. So I hired a cleaning lady. She did a deep clean, and then came regularly so I no longer had to live in the accumulation of dust and dirt of disability. 

She still works for me, for us, now, helping take some of the load off of Beau. Not only was she at our wedding, but we hired her to help us organize it too.



- I nursed my cat, Morgan, through his last years. When I was twenty, I'd sat with Morgan's mother when he was born and he andI had been together ever since. He was the most loving, gentle cat I've ever known, and he was the best companion and friend a girl could want in her suffering and pain. He gave me the affection, loyalty, and companionship I badly needed.

In his last two and a half years, he had kidney failure so I gave him sub-q fluids every day. I was happy to do it. Caring for him created a bond between us that I'd never experienced before. I promised him that I'd do anything I could to help him continue to enjoy life. And I promised him that I'd let him go when he stopped enjoying it. He was twenty years old, and I was forty, when he died in my lap.

I swear I learned more about love from that cat than I'd ever known before.



- I designed my first piece of jewelry. The night before Morgan died, I dreamed about a memorial pendant for him. When he died, I set out to design it. Every bit of its design was symbolic and sentimental and it helped me a lot. I'm wearing it as I'm writing this. It's a physical reminder that I have been loved, and I have loved.

Designing a piece of jewelry was also an interesting learning process for me and further solidified my passion for jewelry, especially vintage jewelry and vintage jewelry design. I've designed a few more pieces since, and will probably design more, budget permitting. 


Morgan, in his favourite place: on my head
- I accepted that my entirely intellectual approach to life wasn’t working for me anymore. For at least a decade, I'd been living in my head as much as possible. Logic was my god. I had no room for sentimentality, spirituality, or sensuality. I blocked out my PTSD. I told myself my constant nightmares were no big deal. I got a Masters degree in nine months in a city I hated, with surgery for endometriosis halfway through. I punished my body with increasingly difficult exercise. I ground myself down building a teaching career, sometimes teaching on two or three campuses at once, working semester after semester, with no teaching aids and no breaks. I stopped dating and was almost entirely celibate. I soldiered through my back pain, endometriosis, raging guts, and constant migraines, telling myself they were weaknesses and must be ignored. 

It was like my brain was a military sergeant, forcing me through my paces. And it worked for a long time. I achieved a lot. 

But, when Morgan died? When I lost the one spot of physical warmth and tender affection in my life? It hit me hard. (I still had Bobby, but he was not a super affectionate cat.) I had to make some changes. I had to let warmth, and sensuality, and spirit, and heart back into into my life. I had to humble myself into accepting that I am, after all, simply human.

I softened. I permitted sentimentality, like my mourning pendant for Morgan. I became a kinder, more compassionate person. I think I may have even become a better person.



- I redecorated my apartment and vowed never again to deprive myself of beauty. When I first moved back to Vancouver after getting my MA in Toronto, I'd been dirt poor and had furnished my apartment entirely with friends' castoffs, and stuff I found in the trash. It's how I'd always done it and it was no big deal to me. When I started earning money, I was too exhausted to think much about my surroundings. Besides, I was living in my head now. What did I care for beauty?



But, as I accepted that I needed to allow sensuality back into my life, I thought, "I may not have the sensuality of touch and sex, but I can bring the sensuality of visual beauty into my world." It was a very conscious part of changing my approach to life. I spent months obsessively looking at Craigslist and slowly filled my home with beautiful antique furniture that harmonized with the way I wanted to feel in my heart. It was amazingly therapeutic and transformative.



- I started dating. I mean, I'd gone on some dates over the years, I'd even had a lover or two, and a few casual sexual encounters. But I hadn't taken it very seriously and I sometimes went for years without even a hug, let alone sex. Certainly, I had nothing like romantic companionship. 

Sometimes I imagined what love might be like, but I didn't expect it. I didn't even want it. I thought I'd be single for the rest of my life. I was fine with that.

But Morgan's death left me with an ache for affection. I understood, for the first time in a long time, that I was a mammal like any other, and I needed physical bonding, physical companionship. So I started dating for real, actually asking myself if I could have a relationship with this or that person, even asking myself if I could love them.

Mostly, of course, the answer was no, definitely no. But I did meet a few people with whom there was at least a glimmer of connection. I liked one woman well enough that I was attracted to her, emotionally and physically, but I knew, if we became lovers, I'd have problems. I finally admitted to myself that I had to face the impact the sexual abuse had had on my sexuality. In other words, I had to admit to myself that I'd been celibate for so long not just because other people suck, but because I was deeply, sexually wounded.


One of the photos I used on my dating profile. Both the earrings and the ring are very special pieces of fine jewelry that I bought for myself over the years.
- And so I started working on my sexual healing. I tried getting counselling specifically for sexual abuse issues, but was assigned the worst therapist I'd ever encountered. She bullied, manipulated, and lied. I saw her twice and that was it. 

But I remained determined. I read a book by Wendy Maltz, called The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse. It was an eye-opener. I couldn't even get my head around her descriptions of healthy sexuality. They made no sense to me whatsoever. But I was able to see some of the ways in which my past and present feelings about sex had been formed by my abuse history. I started to have some visions of how I might approach sexuality differently in the future - though I didn't think I'd ever meet anyone nice enough, and patient enough to go through that process with me.


This is the photo we used when we changed our Facebook status to "in a relationship."
- And then I met Beau. We fell in love.

I almost feel like that's all I need to say - or I need to write a book. Beau changed everything

Finally, I knew what it was to be loved and cherished, and to love and cherish another person. I'd been alone my whole life. Now, I wasn't alone. I'd never known that feeling.



- Beau and I didn't have sex right away. I met him very soon after I read my book on sexual healing and I was determined to do things right for the first time in my life. I got Beau to read it too, and to read a few other books that I thought would help him understand me, like Lullabies for Little Criminals. I told him about my sexual abuse history, all of it. I told him that my faith had helped me survive. I told him about my sexual fears. I'd been open before, but never like this, never telling someone not just what had happened to me, but how I really, truly felt about it.

Beau and I had a physical affection for each other that neither of us had ever felt before, a mammalian cuddliness that filled my heart with softness and warmth, but we waited to have sex, something that I'd also never done before. I loved him before we were lovers. That too was new to me. And it was good.



- I earned the affection of Beau's two sons. 

When I met Beau, he was a single father of two young boys, aged eight and eleven. I had never wanted children of my own, but the possibility of stepchildren was never a deal breaker for me. I knew that, at my age, if I actually did fall in love with someone, he or she would likely have children, and I was okay with that. 

I'd done quite a lot of foster care in my 20s, so I was not a novice where childcare was concerned. I knew that children's hearts were not playthings, and had to be treated with care. There was no way I was going to push myself into the boys' lives until Beau and I were absolutely sure that our love was a lasting thing.

So Beau and I took it slow with them, starting first with an afternoon together here and there, then a dinner or two. It was a good long while before I stayed overnight at their place when they were there. Then they'd sometimes have sleepovers at my house. Beau and I did all of this with the knowledge and approval of their mother, who took them on the weekends. 


The boys liked me, and I liked them. Beau said they liked me because I treated them not like generic children, but like the individuals that they were. I don't know how on earth anyone could do otherwise with those two. Their personalities are so different! Boy 1 is quiet, methodical, careful, and focused. Boy 2 is loud, whimsical, impulsive, and inquisitive. Each boy has elements of his father's personality, and, you know, I love their father, so why wouldn't I love them too? Each, in fact, has elements of my personality too, so it was not hard to find connections with them, and those connections remain, now that they are, gasp, 14 and 17 - and six feet tall!

(I write very little about the boys in this blog, and post photos of them even less. This is not because they aren't important to me or a big part of my life. They are, obviously. Instead, they are largely absent from the blog to protect their privacy and, given some of the things I write about, to protect them from any possible backlash I might get for writing about difficult topics.)


- I became more open to exploring my faith and spirituality again. For many years, I had all but banished from my life the thing that was most dear and important to me: faith. I knew my faith was still there, but I mostly ignored it. And I was extremely private about it. I knew many of the people in my liberal community would mock it, and, by extension, me. I also simply felt that it was too precious and private to be openly shared with anyone. 

Despite this, I knew I needed to mention faith in my online dating profile if I had any chance of meeting someone I could really love, and who could really love me. In fact, what led Beau to respond to my profile was my desire for someone who was "iconoclastic but not allergic to theists." He loved that. 



When I met him, he had spent years deconstructing and rejecting the lies he'd been told about religion in the conservative, Christian cult in which he had been raised. In the process, he'd become far more liberal, and left wing. He'd also come to question the existence of G-d. I think it was nigh on impossible for him to conceive of a god different from the cruel, rigid, condemning god he'd been raised to obey. He was teetering on the edge between atheism and theism, and it broke his heart.

But, when I told him about the abuse I'd survived, and told him I'd survived because of my faith, his tears were not just for my suffering; they were also for the new vision of G-d that he saw through me. Together, we explored faith, sublimity, theology, and the divine, not from a place of rules and doctrine, but from a place of questions, a place where doubt was okay. It was healing both of us.



- I prioritized real life over physiotherapy. When I wasn't working, my life consisted entirely of physiotherapy and rest, nothing else. I didn't socialize. I didn't go out. I had no life at all. My physiotherapist didn't like this. He wanted me to get most of my exercise by simply living

But I was in so much pain, I thought this was ridiculous. Couldn't he see that there was no living with pain? Why on earth would I have a social life when a social life would hurt me? No, I had to do physio and nothing else until the pain went away. Then I could get back to living.

Beau changed that. With his help, I started going out, socializing, seeing and even making friends. I slowly increased my stamina for "upright time" till I might even be able to go out to dinner, or have a coffee with a friend, things I hadn't been able to do for years. This did mean that I did my physio exercises less often, and my ability to walk distances decreased. But this new kind of stamina improved my life. I was happier, or at least less unhappy, which is the best I ever seem to be able to manage. 

My physiotherapist noticed the change right away and was Beau's first fan. He was sure that Beau was good for me. He moved away a while after that, but we sent him a wedding invitation. He wasn't able to come, but I'm sure he was happy for us. I'm also sure that he wasn't at all surprised that we were getting married. He knew from the very start that we were a good match.



- I started The Self-Esteem Project. Though I can now see that I was still very slim, most of my clothing no longer fit me. I thought I'd become fat and, therefore, hideously ugly. I didn't see any point in buying new clothes, because I couldn't look good anyway, so what was the point? No, I'd just live in sweats till I got better and lost weight. (Remember, I didn't yet know that my disability was permanent.)

I also couldn't wear most of my shoes anymore. Before I'd become disabled, I'd been a big fan of high heels. The only nice shoes I had were heels, so I was living in the runners I'd used to jog and go to the gym. Can you imagine? Me? In runners and sweats? I know. It's horrifying! But, again, I didn't see the point in buying nice flat shoes when I'd just look ugly in them anyway. No, I'd wear runners till I got better and could wear heels again.

But Beau changed all that. He thought I was beautiful just the way I was. He even thought I'd look great if I gained more weight! He encouraged me to dress the body I had now, not the one I still believed I'd regain - someday. Why wait till I was better to live my life? Why not live it now



Beau helped me embark on The Self-Esteem Project. To this end, he took me shopping, helped me pick out several pairs of flat heeled boots and shoes, and helped me pick out clothes that flattered the body I had now. Whenever I was sad, he encouraged me to "buy something sparkly," by which he meant a vintage brooch. 

He also expressed awe at my fashion sense. He was impressed! I'd been complimented on my fashion sense in the past, but that was when I was dressing my slim, young, fit body. To be complimented on how I dressed this body, here and now? Maybe I really did have a good sense of style. Maybe it was a skill I should be proud of. Yes, I decided I would be proud.

When I put together a nice outfit, Beau took photos and I posted them on Facebook in an album entitled, what else, The Self-Esteem Project. Yes, looking back, it was pretty obvious that I was heading toward writing a style blog, but I didn't know it yet.


This was the first photo of myself that made me see the appeal of my new curves. Perhaps I didn't have to be rake thin to be pretty.
- I started reading style blogs, especially those written by older and/or larger women. I'd always been into fashion, and I'd always been a feminist. There were times, looking at fashion magazines, when these two aspects of myself clashed. This struggle became more emotional as I watched my own body expand, weaken, and age

I needed to find ways to redefine beauty, and these brave style bloggers helped me to do that. I saw their blogs as profoundly feminist and I could see that they were making an impact on the fashion industry. It would be a while before I decided to make my own contribution to that impact, but the seeds were being planted.



- I spent a lot of time in the suburbs. When I first met Beau, he and his sons were living in a conservative and almost entirely white suburb. Geographically and culturally, it felt as far away as Mars to me. But, in order to spend more time with Beau, I had to spend more time in that suburb than I had in any suburb in my life. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but I hate the suburbs. I can't even tell you how much. I think I'm allergic to them. 

Remember, I was raised in the counter-culture, I'm queer, and I'm Jewish (and this is a suburb in which I saw a real nazi, as proud he could be). No matter how hard I try to seem "normal" (and, to be honest, I don't often try), I always fail. I stand out in the suburbs and people don't warm to me - at all. And, to be honest, I don't warm to them either. It's just not the place for me. I know, and they know it too. It's all just incredibly uncomfortable!

But I went out to those beige suburbs, often. The things we do for love, eh?



- I got tenure! Okay, since I'm a college instructor and not a university professor, I got "regularized," but who can even say that, let alone know what it means? For all intents and purposes, regularization is the same as tenure. Tenure is the holy grail of job security for proffies - and I got it!


From Tenure! What a long hard trip it's been
There were a lot of odds stacked against me: my rough childhood; the fact that I got my MA in my thirties; an extremely bullying chair who hated me and wanted me fired; grueling evaluations led by said chair; and the fact that my disability made it hard for me to teach enough courses to qualify for tenure. 

But I got it! I consider this one of the crowning achievements of my life.



- I became a stronger, more vocal feminist again. 

I came out of the closet in 1989. I was eighteen. I came out right into the lesbian feminist scene. Given my history as a sex trafficking victim, radical feminism was a good fit for me. I minored in Women's Studies in university and know a lot about gender. But the insular, dogmatic prescriptiveness of this world began to chafe me, especially in two particular ways: femininity was derided; and the existence of female abusers was denied. Well, I was a femme who'd been pimped by my smother. I felt erased

So I left university pretty burned out on feminist scene as I knew it. It felt good to let go of some of my feminist rage and dogma. What I didn't realize is that, over the years, this led me to also let go of some of my dignity and self-respect. Slowly, and without being aware of it, I came accept a lot of sexism as "normal" and okay.

But then Beau came along and treated me with such tender respect and thoughtfulness, that I became aware of what I actually deserved, not as a woman, but as a person. I started to see all over again the myriad ways that women were not treated with that same respect in our culture. It made me angry. It just wasn't right!

My feminism was reborn.



- I gave Beau a makeover - but only when he asked for one.

One day, Beau said he wished he could dress well and look good like I do. I told him that he could. After all, I told him, he was objectively handsome. This idea shocked him. He didn't know he was handsome! Imagine! So he asked what changes I thought he should make. I'd had my answer ready for quite some time: Shoes, hair, glasses.



The rest is history.



I started writing this blog - Sublime Mercies! Yet again, you can blame Beau. He saw what joy I got from fashion, and vintage style, and he suggested I start a style blog. I thought that would be too vain, so he asked me why I liked the other style blogs I was reading. I said I thought that, by challenging and redefining societal notions of female beauty, they were doing ground-breaking feminist work. He helped me to see that starting my own style blog would by my way of joining that conversation. Plus, it would be a great distraction from my pain.

I decided to go for it. It felt so good to be writing again. And people read it! More, and more, and then even more people read it. To date, my most popular post has been read over 20,000 times! Not bad for a hobby, eh?


From Retro Girl: 40s Flair
- I fully indulged my love of vintage style. My blog gave me a chance, an excuse even, to really immerse myself in fashion history, both its beauty and its illumination of women's history. I struck on a really exciting combination: I could wear the fashions of different eras, and then write about them. Thus, I was indulging several passions at once: vintage fashion, vintage jewelry, research, writing, gender studies, and teaching. 

People seem to find it interesting. So, you know, yay!



- I started calling myself a writer again. 

I've wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old, when I started my first "novel" (which was, I think, four pages long). I've kept a journal since I was eight (you can read something I wrote in it when I was ten here). I wrote for and helped to edit a youth newspaper in high school, and, to this day, all my high school teachers ask if I'm still writing. I began my degree as a Creative Writing major, and then switched to a double major in Communications and English. In my teens and twenties, I wrote for and helped edit my student newspaper and the local queer newspaper, and I wrote for several other newspapers and magazines up into my thirties. I got a Masters Degree in English literature and language, and an ESL teaching certificate. I eventually ended up teaching composition skills at the university level.

I didn't just want to be a writer. I was a writer. And yet, when a guidance counselor in my Masters program asked me if I was really a "frustrated writer," and not an academic, I swore that I was not, and said that my dream was to teach college. I thought I was telling the truth. My dream, really, was financial security and the prestige of a college teaching position. I thought this meant I had grown up and put my childish dreams behind me. I thought this was a good thing.

But I was forsaking a huge part of who I am. I love to write. I mean, I really really love it. I need to write like I need to breathe. Writing this blog has been a huge, therapeutic, creative release for me. So I can't work anymore. So I'm not earning any money as a writer. So what? I am a writer. It's in my blood and bones, and it will never go away.


- I told my medical team about the severity of the child abuse. In particular, I told them about one particular weekend when I was nine or ten, when three men repeatedly and sadistically gang raped me so brutally, they injured my back. I was beginning to suspect that my body had never really healed, and that this was why I'd stopped getting better.

First I told my physiotherapist. The only shock he showed was in his trembling hands, and a brief clearing of his throat, and then he he told me that my struggles suddenly made far more sense. My my physical problems, he said, were much more severe than he'd realized, my bulging disks were a symptom of my problem, not the the problem itself, and that I probably wouldn't get better. Ooof! That knocked the air out of me!

Then I told my GP. Her reaction shocked me. She leaned back in her chair, put her hand to her heart, breathed a sigh of relief, and said, "Thank God you're finally facing it." Wow. Wow wow wow. Apparently she'd been suspecting something like this for a long time, and had broached the topic several times, but I'd been unable to hear her. 

Well, I could hear her now. I was facing it now. And it was HARD! Suddenly, the two great tragedies in my life were one, and the two horrible conditions in my life - PTSD and chronic pain - were also one.



- I tried to make peace with the injustice of my situation.

I have not succeeded. 

There is no justice. Humans are not good. I know these things like I know my own name. 

Mine is a reality so cruel and tragic, no soul can fully assimilate it. But I'm still trying.



- I adjusted my life to the fact that I'm permanently disabled. Until now, I'd been thinking that I was working hard to get better. This had been my goal and I'd created a lifestyle in accordance with that goal. Now I had to change my approach. My goal now was to get as good at pain management as I could be, while still living as much of a life as I could. Practically, this meant changing my physiotherapy exercises, using more mobility aids, and owning more things like triangle pillows and back massagers. 

It also meant admitting that I could no longer work. I'd tried. I'd tried and tried and tried, and it always caused a serious decline in my physical and mental health. If I wanted to preserve what health I still had, if I wanted any quality of life at all, I could not work.


From Schoolmarm Skirt: End of Term Blues - in Red
- I accepted that work itself is extremely triggering for me. I was a sex trafficked child. My survival depended on my body's earning potential. Earning money and being raped were the same thing. If I did not earn money, I was told I could be discarded like garbage, first in the woods, with bears and cougars, and, later, in the city, with human predators. I knew this was no idle threat. I had witnessed my abusers brutally murder another trafficked girl when we were both nine or ten. Then they left her in the forest to rot. I saw that too.

So I had to earn money or I would die. But, to earn money, I had to be raped, sometimes so violently, I might die. It was unbearable, but I bore it, somehow, some way. 

Is it any wonder, then, that ever since I left home at 17, earning money has triggered me? Walking toward my workplace, any workplace, my chest would seize, I would feel like I was walking under water, and I would have to explain to myself that, even though I felt like I was dying, I had no choice, I had to go on. Because it was life or death. No-one was going to earn money for me. If I didn't go to work, I'd die. If I did go to work, I felt like I was dying.


From my very first post, Cloche Hats, Dress Clips, and Aesthetic Escapism
It was unbearable, but I bore it, somehow, some way. 

But I can't anymore. Not with my body broken too. Body and soul, I cannot do it anymore.



- I ended my relationship with my father. It had been coming for a while. Ever since Beau had come into my life, I'd had someone to whom to compare my father. Now I knew what it was to be loved and cared for, and it was painfully clear that my father had never loved or cared for me. In fact, he'd told me so himself, but I was so starved for crumbs, I took what I could get. But, with Beau, I wasn't starving anymore, and a break with my father was inevitable.

The breaking point came when I learned that my disability was caused by the abuse and it was permanent. My father's reaction was far from loving. In fact, it was appallingly selfish and cruel. You can read the longer version of the story here, and, believe me, it's a doozy. The short version is that he was far more interested in talking about his latest romantic failure than about my disability, and he resented the fact that I wasn't "supportive" enough of him when he was down. 

That was it. I'd had enough. I did not deserve to be treated that way and I wasn't going to stand for it anymore.

When Beau and I got engaged, I did invite my father, though I wasn't sure I should. He refused to come. That was the last contact I ever had with him. 


From my post, Victory and Defeat: A Wheelchair on a Mountaintop
- I told my readers that my abusers had caused my disability. I'd often hinted at the severity of the abuse, but I'd never come straight out and said how bad it really was. I hadn't even known myself that it had caused my disability. But, once I did, I was finally and utterly weary of keeping secrets. After all, what had I done to be ashamed of? Whose secrets was I keeping? So I just said it. It was a huge turning point for me. 



- I became an activist again, in life and in my blog. Learning that my disability was caused by abuse and that it was permanent changed something in me. My anger finally outweighed my timidity. I had things to say - about child abuse, about pedophilia, about sexism, about child sex trafficking, about gender, about ableism, and, above all, about human cruelty, selfishness, and indifference - and I would explode with rage if I didn't say the things I needed to say.

So I said them.

I said them in pictures and in words. And, to my utter surprise, not only did people read them, but my readership grew almost exponentially! 



From When Christmas is a Trigger: Enduring the Holidays with PTSD
- I described the abuse in explicit detail. If people were to know how bad it could be for children, I couldn't just say I was abused. I couldn't "just" say I was sex trafficked. I had to tell them about the ropes, the scars, the razors, the blood, the semen, the guns, and all the rest of the sexual violence that formed my childhood and destroyed my body. I wanted to shock people out of denial. 

I did this particularly in three posts: Radiant Orchid, The Violated Vagina, and Blooming Once More; Cane for Pain vs Stick for Style - The Reality of Disability; and When Christmas is a Trigger - Enduring the Holidays with PTSD. All three are among my top ten, most read posts which suggests to me that there is a need out there for such brutal honesty. It turns out I'm not alone. Posts like these let my readers know that they aren't either.


From Pleasing Purple: Soothing the Pain of PTSD
- I stopped feeling ashamed of my PTSD. I finally got it through my head that, after living through what I'd lived through,I'd have to be a robot to not have PTSD. I am not a robot. My PTSD was proof that, despite it all, I am still human, still capable of human emotion, normal human emotions, given the circumstances.

I finally understood that all the shame belonged to my abusers, and none of it belonged to me.


I no longer hide the fact that I have PTSD, and I no longer pretend that my physical disability is my only debilitating condition. 




- I found a good therapist. Actually, a friend found her. She did something I'd never thought to do. She searched for therapists who specialize in working with people who have DID. Any therapist who is good at that necessarily knows how bad child abuse can be, because only the worst cases of child abuse cause DID.

I've been working with my therapist now for several years and I know I've made a lot of progress. It's hard. Sometimes I feel like it's making me worse, but those around me say it's making me a better person: kinder, more forgiving, more aware of my own struggles, and better able to cope with those struggles. Not only do I deserve therapy, but Beau deserves my being in therapy. (He's in therapy too.)

Raven and First Man, by Ernest Swanson. From Haida Jewelry: One Artist, One Piece, a Whole Lot of Meaning
- I learned more about Indigenous issues and cultures. I'm not exactly sure why this has become so important to me. Maybe it's because I've watched Indigenous communities working hard to heal from extreme injustice and cruelty, and I've watched them succeeding. Maybe I feel I can learn something from them. Or maybe I know what is to face injustice and I care about others who do too. 

Maybe I want to learn as much as I can about Indigenous issues and cultures simply because I live here, on Indigenous land, and so it just makes sense. But it makes sense in my blood and bones, not just in my head. I love this land in my blood and bones. Why wouldn't I want to know as much as I can about the people who have lived on this land for at least 15,000 years, while my people have only been here for a few hundred? Obviously, I could learn a few things from them.

Anyway, Beau and I got married in a beautiful Longhouse. It was perfect.


From My New Neighbour: Beau Leaves the Burbs
- Beau and boys moved into town and we all grew closer. When we'd been together for about a year, Beau moved out of the suburbs and into my neighbourhood, just a few blocks away from me. Beau and I really wanted to be able to spend more time together, and we wanted a lot of that time to include the boys. We knew we eventually wanted the four of us to live together, but we didn't want to rush it. We wanted the boys to be really comfortable with the idea first. Besides, I wasn't ready to be a stepmom yet. The boys and I needed to know each other better first.

Now, with the three of them so close, I started becoming a stepmother. I often stayed over night. I had some say in making and enforcing rules around the house. I hung out with the boys without Beau. I must have done an okay job because it wasn't long before they were asking me when I was going to move in with them. 

I can't tell you how that touched my heart. They liked me! They really liked me!



Me, Beau, and the boys, at our neighbourhood's annual Pride celebration. It was their first. It was my umpteenth.
- I introduced Beau and the boys to the counter-culture community. I grew up in the counter-culture. I never had to seek it out because I was always already in it. It's my home. It's where I'm most comfortable, most able to be myself, and most likely to meet like-minded people. I'm also very outgoing and I make friends easily, while Beau is shy, sometimes painfully shy. 

On a personal level, he had moved far away from his conservative upbringing but he had not found a community of like-minded people. After all, he'd lived in Sri Lanka for ten years and, directly upon moving back to Canada, he'd become a poor, single father. Finding a new community was neither easy, nor as high a priority as building a career and being a good father. He didn't really even realize how isolated he was.

When he started dating me, he found that I came with a ready-made community for him: queer, left-wing, bohemian, intellectual, liberal, gender-bendy. Once he'd moved into town, into my neighbourhood, he was able to fully immerse himself in this new community. And he loved it! It was like coming home. Now he doesn't want to live anywhere else. 

It's been fun for me to see my community through his eyes. I'd forgotten how unusual and special it is. Of course, having spent my whole life in it, I know its weaknesses and failures too. I know that it is comprised of human beings, and human beings are always flawed. Beau's come to see that side of it too. But it's still his home, and he's helped me see all over again why it's my home too.

In addition to all the other ways in which it's diverse, our community is ethnically and culturally diverse. Beau, the boys' mother, and I all agree that this is a much better environment for the boys to grow up in. When I first met them, they didn't even know about Chinese New Year! Now, they know a lot, about a lot, and they'll be better people for it.


From Charlotte and Beau Get Engaged!
- Beau and I got engaged. Wow. I really never thought I'd do that. Beau knew all the conventions of announcing an engagement, but didn't want to follow them. I simply didn't know them at all. I have very few friends who have ever been married, and I've only been to a few weddings, all of them extremely unconventional. So we did everything inside out and backwards, announcing our engagement before we had rings, before we'd moved in together, and before we'd set a date. Oops. We also did it super cheesy, announcing it on Valentine's Day. It was exciting and fun.

Our friends were very happy for us. Everyone thinks we're a perfect match. That's the best!



- I dealt with the triggers and flashbacks caused by our engagement. Unfortunately, getting engaged triggered some of the people inside me really badly. Because I'm no longer fully DID and, instead, am aware of and share the emotions of my other personalities, I suffered from all kinds of unexpected emotions and fears, chief among them the fear that I would now belong to Beau just as I had once belonged to Smother. All these fears were further exacerbated when we moved in together. I knew that Beau would never sell me, never let people rape me, never drug me, but parts of me inside didn't know that. I hadn't felt that multiple in a long time. It was a tough haul right up to our marriage. 

And beyond, really. A background like mine is bound to affect my love life. It does. I hate that. 'Nuff said.


From Healing From Sexual Abuse: 26 Things That Work For Me
- I helped other sexual abuse survivors. The more openly I wrote about my own sexual abuse history online, the more other survivors thanked me, told me their own stories of sexual abuse, and turned to me for some support. This happened both online, and in person, with old and new friends alike. Most of these people (mostly women) communicated with me privately, so the support I gave them was "behind the scenes" of my blog, but it became, for me, an integral part of the blog. 

There have been times when I've found this emotionally draining, but I think I've learned to pace myself better, and, in turn, many of my readers have become a support network for me too... which leads me to my next achievement in disability.


From Frida Kahlo's Back: What You Can Learn From Others' Pain
- I found an online community. It's really a set of overlapping communities: sexual abuse survivors, child sex trafficking survivors, feminists, "spoonies," chronic pain sufferers, chronic illness sufferers, disabled people, and disability rights activists. Through these communities (again, mostly women), I have found people who understand what I'm going through, what I've gone through, and the importance of finding ways both to cope, and to fight for change. We reach across the globe to each other, to lift each other up, support each other in our battles, and comfort each other when it all gets too much. This community has been vital for me, and I would not have it were it not for social media.


From Fall for the Birds: Autumnal Fashion in Hard Times
- I lost a lot of friends. This is not an accomplishment, really, but it's a fact. Everyone I know with an acquired disability lost many, if not most of their friends (and family) when they became disabled. It's no different for me. Some people just dropped off the planet, having no interest in really being there for a suffering friend. Others didn't believe me. Others didn't like my "attitude" about my disability. I don't need people like that, so I cut them out of my life, and that's the part I'm proud of. 

But it hurts. A lot.

My being open about my trauma history lost me more friends. They didn't want to hear it. They didn't want to know. They thought I just wanted attention. They didn't like the increasing feminism that went with my honesty. And, again, they didn't like my "negative attitude." In other words, what they were really doing was shooting the messenger: me. It hurts. It just does. 

I also chose to excise certain people from my life for other reasons. My relationship with Beau taught me what I really deserve from friends and family, and I realized that some people I'd thought of as friends weren't even coming close to that. I shouldn't have to beg for crumbs and some of my friends made me feel that I should. 

And being in a stable relationship, no longer alone, gave me the strength to finally face the truth about some of the people I'd thought of as chosen family. They'd been a lot better than the family I'd grown up with, but some of them were morally questionable, to say the least. I'd been so alone, and they'd been so helpful when I was young, that I'd been in denial, but I'm not anymore. This too has been extremely painful for me.


My reaction when my father refused to come to my wedding. From "The Appalling Silence of the Good": Abused Children are Everyone's Responsibility
- My father refused to come to our wedding and I gave up on him entirely. I'd pretty much already given up on him, but I did want "flesh of my flesh" at the wedding. I wanted to look up and see someone who looked like me, who was related to me. So, I invited him, stipulating that he was not to hit on any of my friends, and he was not to force me to have a serious conversation about how I wasn't a supportive enough friend/daughter.

He refused, saying that was far too much to ask of him. He said my stipulations showed that I had no respect for him and that I wanted a titular father only. I guess he was right. I didn't respect him. How on earth could I? 

In a way, I felt vindicated. I felt like I'd made every possible, good faith effort and could now wash my hands of him with total impunity. 

(When I told his brother, my uncle, of my engagement, He subjected  me to a twenty minute rage, accusing me of lying about the abuse, and even deliberately injuring myself as a child so I could grow up and falsely accuse my smother of sexual abuse. His tirade only ended when I hung up on him and threw the phone across the room. Needless to say, I gave up on my uncle too. Those brothers were cut of the same cloth, and, unsurprisingly, hated each other.)

So. Not one of my family members was at the wedding. So. Family sucks.


From His and Hers Engagement Rings
- I designed our wedding and engagement rings, with lots of input from Beau, of course. Oh, that was fun! I'd told Beau on, what was it? our third date? that, if we got married, I'd want a beautiful engagement ring, but I'd want him to have one too, because "If you pee on me, I pee on you." He was thought that was great. 

And now, here it was, time to get those rings. 

We didn't want just any rings. We wanted rings that spoke directly to who we each were, individually and together. I wanted to give Beau a diamond, but he really wanted a Sri Lankan sapphire, since he'd lived in Sri Lanka for ten years, so, of course, that's what I gave him, down on my knee and everything.

We both love our rings. I often catch Beau just staring at his. I do the same with mine.


Combining our books. From When "Home" Was Hell: Love After Slavery
- I moved in with Beau and boys. I'd lived alone, by choice, for twenty years. Now I lived with a partner and two stepsons. Eeep! There was a hard learning curve for Beau and me for about five months and, yeah, we did fight quite a bit - at first.

This was in large part because I'm disabled and Beau has to do the lion's share of the housework. I often didn't feel that he was doing it right so I felt like I had no control of my own home. Of course, I didn't want to say anything, so I'd bite my tongue, bite my tongue, and then, finally, explode. Not good. And, of course, Beau being Beau, did far more than he needed to, because he wanted to make me happy - and then he'd collapse. Also not good. 

But we talked a lot about it, and eventually found a symbiosis that works well for us. Now I can't imagine not living with Beau, and he feels the same way.



- We introduced our cats to each other. Milo and Bobby were both old, and both grumpy, especially Milo, who'd never lived with other cats. Their getting along was definitely not a forgone conclusion. Beau and I did a bunch of online research about how to move two cats into one home together, and we carefully followed the advice we found.



It worked! I wouldn't say the two of them adored each other, but they did both seem happier living together than they had living apart. The liked to have standoffs over the water bowl, and chase each other in old man, slow motion, around the house. They pretended to be indifferent to each other, but then I'd catch them lying on the bed, very close, often butt to butt, pretending they didn't notice that they were touching.

I know Milo cared about Bobby, because he cried for days when Bobby died. It was heart-breaking.



- I took charge (mostly) of decorating our new home. We're renting a lovely, 1949 house that I adore. Beau loves my sense of beauty but didn't really feel he knew how to employ it in our home. So we talked it through and went with a great, 1950s look in the kitchen, and a 1930s look in the other rooms (while the downstairs is Beau's office and the boys' space so they took charge there). It's really pretty great. Beau often says that one of the things he loves about me is that I brought beauty into his life.



From The Cape, the Colours, and the Mobility Scooter: Disability Style Every Day
- I got a mobility scooter. I'd been using canes for years, but this was taking things to a whole new level. This was a really powerful symbol of reality: I'm disabled. I'm a disabled person. Getting that scooter was bittersweet. I hated that I needed it, but I loved that I had it. Even now, I'll be rolling down the street and think, "Is this was it's come to? Is this really me? Did the abusers really reduce me to this?" But I can get around on my own now, on good days, anyway, and that's huge. That independence goes a long way to healing my fears of being owned. 


From Outtakes and Bloopers from the Summer of Wedding Planning
- Beau and I planned our wedding. Oi! I was never one of those girls who dreamed of being a bride. Marriage had never been one of my life goals or part of my life plan, and, to be honest, I hated wedding planning. I hated all the gendered, heteronormative assumptions that wedding vendors, magazines, and websites foisted on me. I hated that most people assumed that Beau had no interest in the planning, and that our wedding was my day, not his day, not even ours day. I hated being so immersed in the mainstream, heterosexual world - for the first time in my life. I hated my queerness being erased.

I also hated how much Beau and I fought about it. We didn't fight about what we wanted for the wedding. We were definitely on the same page there. Instead, we fought about how to go about making it all happen. It really boiled down to one problem: on the Myers-Briggs personality scale, he's an intP, and I'm and intJ. He likes to figure things out as he goes along. I like to carefully plan everything ahead of time. It's that P/J difference that has always been one of the primary causes of our disagreements. Mostly we've worked it out, but it all flared up in the in the months before our wedding. 

I think any couple that can survive wedding planning is a very strong couple indeed! We got along a lot better when it was all over.



- I learned even more about Judaism. Beau and I decided to have a (mostly) Jewish wedding. We both wanted a religious wedding, but a very liberal religious wedding. We wanted faith to be an integral part of the ceremony. That was all that mattered to Beau. Whether the expression of that faith was Christian or Jewish was far less important to him than that it be liberal. I, on the other hand, recoiled at the thought of having a Christian wedding. So: it was to be a Jewish wedding. 

And I knew just the right rabbi for the job. Over the course of nearly a year, Beau and I worked closely with our chosen rabbi, learning each wedding prayer and blessing (in Hebrew and in translation), and discussing various understandings of what they meant - to our rabbi, to Jewish scholars, to liberal Jews, and to us. Our rabbi was open to our making small changes, and to including elements of other faiths into our wedding, most notably our addition of several minutes of Quaker silence.

We also spent a long time choosing exactly what we wanted our Hebrew vows to say. We read several versions online and ended up combining them, leaving out a bit or two, and adding a bit or two, to make them perfectly reflect what we wanted our marriage to be, to us, in this world, in our faith, and with the blessing of G-d.

Those vows are now inscribed on our Ketubah, which hangs on our living room wall. It's beautiful.


From Outtakes and Bloopers from the Summer of Wedding Planning
- I started peri-menopause - I think. Oi! Right before our wedding, I missed a period, for the only third time in my entire menstruating life. I had to pee on a stick and everything. I wasn't pregnant, thank G-d! But I knew then that peri-menopause was coming, if it wasn't already here. My moods were odd, my taste in food was changing, my belly was growing, and my endometriosis cramps were getting much worse. It felt like puberty all over again! Right before our wedding. Great timing.

I've subsequently consulted with a gynecologist and managed many of my symptoms (but, alas, not the belly) by suppressing my periods altogether, but I hadn't done this yet. So: oi!



- Beau and I got married! It was the best decision I've ever made.  I'm told the wedding was beautiful. I remember that the ceremony itself was amazing, so full of faith and heart. And I remember the moment Beau and I were alone after the ceremony, and looked at each other and knew, "We did it! We're really married!" I'll remember that hug forever. I didn't even notice that our photographers were there but I'm glad they were.

Honestly, because of my abuse history, because of my DID, I was so scared, and on so much ativan, the rest is a bit of a blur. I wish it weren't so, but such is my life.

When it was all over, and we were in our gorgeous, in-town, honeymoon hotel, I was surprised to find that being married felt different right away. It really does feel different than living together and being committed to each other for life. There's a beautiful security and certainty in our marriage that I've never felt before. Love is grand. 



- I helped Beau face his own trauma history. I haven't shared much about this on my blog because it's Beau's story to tell (or not tell), not mine. I'll simply say that the conservative Christian cult in which he was raised was bad, very bad, and this included a lot of severe child abuse. 

When I first met Beau, he was in a lot of denial about this. It was obvious to me that he had PTSD, but I knew he had to face this in his own time, not mine. All I could do was care for him, love him, and give him a place of safety and security in our relationship that would let him move out of denial when and if he was ready. 

Now he was ready. 

It was not easy for him. It was not easy for me. But I understood what he was going through, and I was able to be there for him. I'd always wondered if I could be generous of spirit, if I could be the kind of loving and supportive person I wanted to be. By the time I met Beau, I was pretty sure I could. When I met him, when we grew to love each other, I knew I could. He was safe with me, even at his weakest.


From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
I dealt with my father’s death. 

In the spring after our wedding, my father died in a suspicious, motorcycle accident. It was in complete shock. I didn't mourn, not really. I'd already done that when he refused to come to our wedding. But, of course, I was flooded with emotions and memories. Most of those memories were bad ones. If I did mourn, I mourned for the relationship we could have had, if he hadn't been a narcissist. 

Because his was not a natural death, I had to communicate with coroners, and police, as well his executor, banks, credit unions, lawyers... and I can't remember who else. It was grueling.

I also had to deal with all his flaky, hippie friends who came out of the woodwork, cajoling and whining, trying to get at his money, which was, to my complete shock, now mine. They were creepy, offering me aura readings, for a price, telling me his latest girlfriend (of five months) deserved his money, trying to get me to pay for the funeral, guilt-tripping me about not attending the funeral in California even though I told them I was too crippled to travel, telling me he'd done me a great good deed by abandoning me, making it clear they didn't really believe I'd been abused as badly as I was, etc, etc, etc. They were toxic, completely toxic.

And I had to deal with all this from across a border and thousands of miles away. American bureaucracy makes Canadian bureaucracy seem like a cake walk.

Even worse, I was forced into some contact with my abusive family, one of whom managed to steal a lot of money from me, and kept sending me increasingly abusive letters, until I had to get legal intervention. Triggering much? Holy triggering!


From On the Road: Fashion, Death, and Distraction
- I inherited some money. My father had lived like a hobo and had given his children nothing while he was alive, so it came as a complete shock to me that he had money. It came as an even bigger shock that he left any of it to his two children. Even though he only left us about half of his net worth, my cut was a substantial chunk.

It was substantial enough to give me one great gift: The ability to sue my insurance company and to wait them out while they dragged their feet in an effort to make me give up. They had not yet even refused my application for permanent disability income, but I knew they would. They did. I've been forced to sue them and live off my inheritance for over a year so far.

So thanks, Daddy. If you'd been a real father, I wouldn't be disabled in the first place, but at least now I can fight for my rights. Too little, too late, but far more than I ever expected, because I'd learned to expect nothing.



From Spring Flowers, Diamonds, and Real Women in the 1930s
- I designed diamond earrings with a little bit of my inheritance. My father hated femininity. He'd been known to break up with women just because they wore lipstick. In his mind, when femininity included fashion, jewelry, makeup, hairstyles, etc, femininity was nothing but selfishness, narcissism (ironic, I know), vanity, materialism, and mainstream thinking, all of which were vile to him. And here I was, his extremely feminine daughter, who wrote a style blog, which he called "a vanity project" and "a cult of personality." It stung.
From The Lost City, the Found Dress, and my Beautiful Revenge Ring
So, when he left me some money, I wanted to use a little bit of it to buy myself a treat, and I wanted it to be one he would have hated. First, I bought my Revenge Ring, floral for femininity, and rubies, for the power of red. 

Then I designed my I Survived My Father earrings. Gold and superb diamonds, these earrings signify to me that, no matter what I was told as a child, I deserve beauty, money, comfort, and pleasure. They also signify to me that, no matter how controlled I was as a child, my adult decisions are mine and mine alone. Plus they're just so damned pretty!


From Believe! Rape Culture and Disbelief
- I did a very very brave thing. People often tell me that I'm brave but I don't feel like I am. But when I went to a "believe" march with this sign, I knew I was brave. The march itself was a reaction to the verdict in the Ghomeshi case, in which yet another celebrity rapist was found "not guilty" because his victims were vilified and not believed. I know a thing or two about not being believed, so I showed up, sign and all, for all my friends and neighbours to see. It was scary, but I did it.


One of my very few photos of my paternal grandparents. I think I got his face, and her body and fashion sense.
- I started doing genealogical research on my family. With all the antisemitism I'd been facing since Trump's rise, I became even more curious about my own genealogical roots, particularly about my Jewish family. For the first time in my life, I understood that, even though my immediate family had left Europe to escape the pogroms around 1903, they had left other family behind. Therefore, there could be no doubt that I lost family members in the Holocaust. How could this not have occurred to me before? 

I tried hard to trace any information about the family that stayed in Europe. I could find nothing whatsoever. That in itself is part of the tale of genocide. Combined with the rise of antisemitism, this new awareness of my heritage has caused me to more concerned and vocal about antisemitism than I ever was before. 

Most of my Jewish heritage comes from my paternal line, but, as part of this quest, I also had a DNA test which proved, definitively, that I also have Jewish blood on my maternal line. It probably comes from my maternal, great-grandmother, who was long-rumoured to be hiding her Jewish heritage, but I'll have to do some more digging to see if I can find out for sure.


From The Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
- I outed myself as having had Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I did this quietly in a post about another topic (my childhood love of books). I don't think many people even noticed. But I did it, and it took a lot of courage. I've mentioned it here and there since. Maybe someday I'll write a whole post about it, but I'm definitely not ready yet.


From Ableism: Beaten Down and Fighting Back
- I fought back against my company, union, and employer. I was abused by them when my insurance company claimed I'm not too disabled to work and cut off my entire income, and my employer and union refused to go to bat for me. This despite the fact that the insurance company's actions put my employer in direct breach of my tenured contract.

Given the how money and income are a huge trigger for me, the stress of this situation nearly killed me. But I did not give up. I did not cave. I didn't feel I had a choice in the matter. I felt I had to keep fighting or die, but others tell me that I do have a choice, and the choice I've made is a brave one. The battle is not over yet, not by a long shot. 

And it's still killing me.


From Darkness Descends: Life Under Trump
- I survived and am surviving Trump. This is an accomplishment for anyone so I'll mostly leave it at that. I'll only add that these are especially hard times for anyone who doesn't belong to his favoured group: straight, white, abled men. As a bisexual, disabled, Jewish woman who endured multiple rapes as a child, Trump's rise and the rise of all the hatred he condones is extremely hard, and triggering! And yet, I go on. So do you.


From Bodies as Bait: Betty, Veronica, and Me
- I found a new cafe. The day before Trump was elected, Beau and I were banned from our favourite cafe because I talk about disability too much and apparently that's unacceptable.

Now, you have to understand that I live in a city that is all about its cafe culture, especially in my neighbourhood. They are social hubs here. Think of the bar in Cheers. Now subtract the beer and add good coffee and you've pretty much got the cafe culture here. Without a cafe I could call my own, I felt adrift.

I tried this one and that one, and finally settled one with awful decor and terrible ventilation, but really nice people. In a lefty neighbourhood, this one is one of the leftiest. In a very queer neighbourhood, this one is one of the queerest. 


It's nice too that the clientele range in age from babies to seniors, and everywhere in between. In fact, a few of the young people who work there went there as babies themselves. They know what "my usual" is, know which kind of cup hurts my back the least, and which chair to get so I'm more comfortable. It's a good fit.

I can't do much, but, on good days, I can wheel myself to "my" cafe to write a little, look at a fashion magazine a bit, play some cards with Beau, or just chat if a friend comes in, which often happens. For a disabled person like me, just that is a lot.



From The Weight of the World and the Agony of a Pain Flare
- I had my worst relapse ever. Over a year ago, I coughed, and I felt a pang in my back, as bad as or worse than the one I felt ten years ago. I was immediately in as much pain as I'd been ten years ago. I couldn't move. I couldn't roll over or be touched without screaming. I knew, for sure, that this was bad, very very bad. 

And it was. I have not yet recovered, and I fear I never will, not even to my previous level of disability.

Before this happened, I could walk a block or two with my cane. I could make myself a snack. I could run my own bath. I could walk around the house without any mobility aid. I could carry my own ice-packs. I could leave my mobility scooter outside when I went into a cafe or store. I can't do any of those things anymore. 

Before this happened, I'd never needed a walker for more than a few days. Now I've been using it for over year, even in the house. If I'm not using it, I need two canes now, not one.

Remember, only about a month before this, I'd had the worst panic attack of my life. Do I think it's a coincidence that all this happened just after my insurance company cut off my income? No, I do not! 

From Ableism: Beaten Down and Fighting Back
- I went to my MLA for help. Although my MLA and those who worked in his office did their best to help, they were unable to do so, largely because they tried to help me in my insurance company's appeal process and that process itself is corrupt. It forces ill and disabled people to go to a million, unnecessary, medical appointments and chase down a million binders of paperwork, all of which the company does its best to make impossible. 

Still, it was nice to be believed for a change, instead of being treated at best like a nuisance and, at worst, like a cheater and liar. 


My lawyer and me, from Dead Girls' Ghosts: Mount Pleasant in the 1980s
- I hired a lawyer. It had become evident that my insurance company's appeal process was an exercise in futility. Its main purpose was to permit the company to engage in endless lies and delay tactics that would eventually beat me down. At the same time, my employer and union both made it very clear to me that they had no intention of helping me in any way. This despite the fact that the insurance company's denial of my claim put my employer in breach of my tenured contract.

So, I hired the lawyer with the top ratings in town. He's well-known locally both as a left-wing, civic politician, and as an activist for disability and poverty rights. In fact, I only knew him through these activities. I didn't know he's also a lawyer. And he's disabled. So he's not an ambulance chaser.

It's been about a year since I hired him. The wheels of the law (not of justice, because there is no justice) turn slowly. I have not been paid in all that time. I hope this whole mess will be resolved within a year (the sooner the better!). When it is, if I win, my lawyer will get 33% of what I earn - till I'm old enough to retire. Tell me where the justice is in that.


- As part of my legal battle, I endured extremely triggering and difficult medical evaluations. So far, this summer, I've had two: a two and a half hour psychiatric exam by a psychiatrist, and a two and a half hour physical exam by a physiatrist. 
After my two and a half hour psychiatric evaluation to prove I really have severe CPTSD. 
The former was the most terrifying. I had to talk to a complete stranger, a man, about the worst things that have ever been done to me, how I feel about them, how they've affected me, and how bad my PTSD really is. Beforehand, I spent weeks in constant state of being triggered. I was so terrified, I went to a rape crisis centre in advance to meet an "ally" to come with me, since I was not permitted to have any ally attend who actually knows me. 

Then came the meeting with the physiatrist. I was less frightened by this, partly because Beau was allowed to attend. But, by the night before, I was pretty freaked out at the thought of a strange man touching me, and that touch determining whether or not I receive any income whatsoever.

As it turns out, both men were quite kind, and both can see that my insurance claim is legitimate.

Now we'll see if my insurance company insists on any other sorts of tests, or on having their own psychiatrist and physiatrist before the same evaluations on me. Evaluations performed by their own "experts" will be 100,000 times more frightening. I've already personally learned that these experts are not above bullying and lying. It's how I got into this whole mess in the first place.

From Loving the Body: Mortality and Frailty in Love
- I nursed Beau before, during, and after his surgery. I wrote a post about this so I won't go into great detail, but I will tell you that it was brutal. Even now, we don't like to think about it much.

Beau was terrified and triggered before the surgery, and needed a lot of emotional care. Then he was in the hospital for a very tough week and needed my care and love pouring out to him from home and on my visits. When he came home, he was in extreme and triggering pain for a long time. I know a lot about pain, so I was able to help him a lot. He says I took good care of him. I am proud of that.

I'm happy to say that he's fully recovered and doing well.



My favourite photo of me and Bobby, from The Ditsy Dress and the Dirty 30s: Honouring the Women of the Great Depression
- I nursed my 21 year old cat in his final days. Bobby was the miracle cat, just living and living and living - happily. But, finally at 21, and in the same month as Beau's surgery, he started to really fail. I did everything I could for him, always with the promise that, if nothing worked, I'd let him go. 

After a month, it was time. He was ready to die. It takes great bravery and unselfishness to end a beloved pet's suffering. But I had to do it. 

The ache is perpetual. I am still grieving.


From Bodies as Bait: Betty, Veronica, and Me
- I got a referral to a chronic pain clinic. A few years earlier, I'd met a man in my neighbourhood who was suffering from severe chronic pain. He was extremely thin, and barely able to walk. I saw him often and, after a while, I noticed great improvement; he was still disabled, but his walking was much stronger and his smile much more sincere. The colour had returned to his face. I asked him about the change and he told me about this pain clinic.

So, I went to my doctor and got the referral. Getting treatment here required long, physically and emotionally painful exams. In all, I've had doctors test me for Fibromyalgia three times this past summer, all three times pressing on a multitude of points in my body that they knew would probably hurt a lot. They did. I cried, twice. 

But I was willing to go through all this if it might help. I think that takes some bravery and I want to give myself credit for that.

I'm continuing to work with the pain clinic, my GP, and my pharmacist to find some new approaches to my pain management and improvement of my abilities.


My first visit to the chronic pain clinic
- I was diagnosed with Central Sensitivity Syndrome. What's that? Even some of my doctors don't know what it is. It seems to basically be Fibromyalgia Plus. It encompasses not only myofacial pain, but the many other painful conditions common to those with Fibro: Endometriosis, migraines, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, skin sensitivity, etc. Boy, have I ever got it

And, yes, it's often caused by childhood trauma.


From Lilac and Loss: The Rewards of Illusive Beauty
- I tried new medications. Now that we know my chronic pain may be caused by hyper-arousal of the my neural pathways, I can try medications specifically targeting that problem. It's always scary to try a new drug, but I was brave. One of them is helping some. I can now get in and out of the bathtub on my own, if still with a cane and three grip bars. So that's something. 

I tried another drug and it was a nightmare. Six days in, I became almost psychotic. I was suicidal, full of rage, crying all day, confused, unable to cope with anything... Six days in, and I went off it. I am not going back on it, ever.

But I was willing to try, and that was brave. You know my feelings about drugs. So, I'm trying to give myself credit for my bravery, instead of berating myself for needing to take drugs to survive.




- I came to understand that I am a survivor of FGM, Female Genital Mutilation. I am connected with many feminists on Twitter, including some Muslim women who were subjected to FGM as little girls and they've helped me face a truth about my own life. 

I've known that, as part of a child porn photoshoot, my genitals were cut with a razor when I was a child. I've known that this left my genitals visibly scarred with parts missing. But I haven't known that I could give this a name: FGM. I hadn't, until recently, taken a mirror and looked, really looked, at the damage done. Nor have I let myself think, really think, about the physical suffering these scars have caused in my life. I guess now I'm ready to do that. It's not easy! But being able to reach out to other FGM survivors, no matter how different their context, is helping. They've been very welcoming and generous to me. We'll see where I go from here with this.



- We got kittens! When Bobby died, it was the end of an era. Now both Morgan and Bobby, the loves of my youth, were gone. Beau had just gone through surgery. I'd just been diagnosed with CSS. It was a time of a lot of loss, mortality, and grieving. Even our remaining cat, Milo, was crying. He was trying to find Bobby, and Bobby wasn't here.

We wanted to give ourselves time to grieve and mourn Bobby's loss, and we did, but not quite as much time as we'd planned. Milo was so sad without a companion, and, when we put ourselves on a wait list for rescued kittens, the perfect little pair became available earlier than expected. There was no way we were going to turn down a match so perfect. So, we brought home darling, little, brother and sister kittens! They're names are Ketsl and Chuti, and my next post will be all about them.

Even when my self-loathing is at its worst, I do know one thing about myself: I am good to cats. The rescue organisation was very impressed, and I thought, "Well, yes, of course." They said they were happy Chuti and Ketsl were going to a good home, and they certainly did. I'm proud of that. 


I'll never forget Bobby and Morgan, and I'll do my very best by Ketsl and Chuti.



So I'm ending on that note: my being good to my two new kitties. That's an accomplishment I can be proud of unequivocally. 



Wow! This was a hell of a post to write. There were a lot of things I didn't really want to remember. But I wanted to celebrate this 10 year Crippleversary with a reminder to myself, and to you, that life does not end with disability. If nothing else, I think this post has made that fact very clear.

Now it's your turn. If you have an acquired disability, what have you accomplished since you became disabled? Be honest. I'll bet you'll find it's a lot more than you thought. Be proud. You deserve it.