How I Got Burned Out On Current Events and Politics by Age 19

Trigger warnings: current events and politics

“By voting, you are complying. You are complying to a preexisting system. I think we need real significant change, and that real change won’t come if enough people are complying. While you see voting as expressing yourself, I see it as compliance with the system.” -Russell Brand, who explains not voting in this interview

I first appeared on television when I was four years old. It was the mad cow disease scare of 1996, and my dad took me to a Burger King for lunch. The local Fox channel filmed me, a cute blonde child, grinning and saying, “I love cheeseboogers!”

It was the first time that the media used me to promote corporate irresponsibility, passed off as news. It wasn’t the last. This is a brief timeline of things that led to my disenfranchisement with current events and politics.

Whenever I tell people who are generally older than me that I’m disenfranchised with politics, I mostly get a “you’ll understand when you’re older” response. It says I’m inexperienced, I couldn’t possibly have been involved or informed at such a young age.

But I was involved. At five, I knew what abortion was and I was vehemently pro-life. At nine, I listened to my dad reading graphic stories about Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers and oppressive regime. At twelve, I imagined myself getting arrested for attempting to bring water to Terri Schiavo, and when a 10-year-old did just that, I decided I wanted to get arrested for doing something right. I also campaigned for various senators and congressmen, and they admired me because I was young and focused.

I was twelve when I was riding in the car with my mom, and we were listening to Michael Savage on the radio. It was October 2004, and Savage listed fifty issues that neither Bush nor Kerry had bothered to talk about, among them homeschooling.

“Mom, I can’t tell if he’s a republican or a democrat, because he’s criticizing both sides. What is he?” I asked.

Mom replied, “He’s an Independent.”

I decided then that I wanted to be an Independent – someone who talked about what the main people ignored.

My business experience helped me learn about economics and competitive marketplaces. I could fill an order, package and ship it, and discuss details with a customer when I was ten. Discussing international currency and the simple logic behind supply and demand was a natural next step. My limited information was slanted, though. As a kid, I devoured World Magazine’s “News Current,” which was for kids.

Then there was high school debate competition, where our judging pool was made up almost entirely of homeschooling conservative parents like mine. I debated “both sides” of energy policy, but I didn’t learn about the dangers of frakking until I reached college. I debated “both sides” of illegal immigration, but nobody would dare run a case supporting amnesty and expect to be taken seriously. I debated “both sides” of U.S. foreign policy toward Russia, and I learned of the corrupt police state there, never considering that our own police might also commit serious felonies without going to trial. I debated “both sides” of environmental policy, and in every round, both teams made an economic-based case against saving the planet. Even the phrase “saving the planet” was one we laughed at.

At age 16, I read Friedrich Bastiat’s book The Law and Henry David Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience. I started collecting quotations, and that’s one of my healthier addictions that lasts to this day. I realized I was a libertarian, not just an Independent. I wanted limited government, but Thoreau’s point about interdependence lingered with me: nobody can truly make a life in pure loneliness. Basically, even monks import some goods, and even lone island inhabitants once depended on the nurture of others.

When I did research on my own, I sometimes got confused. We had a competitive event called Extemporaneous (“Extemp”) speech, where you got 30 minutes to prepare a 7-minute speech answering a question about current events. You couldn’t use the Internet, so we carried file boxes into the Extemp prep room, filled with hundreds of neatly sorted news articles. Well, MINE were neatly sorted.

Questions included things like “Is Caterpillar going through metamorphosis?” and “Did Justin Bieber tarnish the Anne Frank guestbook?”

Those are some Extemp questions I wrote for a tournament after I graduated. They’ve stopped asking me to write Extemp questions.

What confused me was that I knew my judges supported Israel over Palestine, but when I looked at a map of the Gaza strip, I realized how tiny it was, and wasn’t sure why Israel was so threatened by a bunch of immigrants there. In my senior year, I was ranked the best Extemp speaker in the state, mostly because I chose topics that people weren’t informed about, and I could appeal to empathy instead of bias. I won a tournament with a vague connection between It’s a Wonderful Life and a minor election in Ireland.

As soon as I had access to a broader base on information, I applied what research, communication, logic, and debate had taught me. Opposing same-sex marriage stopped making sense. Opposing environmentalism stopped making sense. Criminalizing drugs and immigration stopped making sense. Each discovery made the ideal government of my libertarian imagination grow smaller and less necessary.

What finally pushed me to anarchy was working undercover for James O’Keefe in 2012. James and I don’t always agree, but I deeply respect him and I’d name him as one of the most effective people in the world today. I wanted to work for James because I’d picked him out during an undercover sting back in 2006, in which he and Lila Rose caught Planned Parenthood supporting race-selective abortions and failing to report rape. He got more national attention for exposing sex-slavery coverups by ACORN with Hannah Giles, and then lost much of his national rapport when he got arrested in New Orleans during an attempt to expose the lies of a politician there.

Other people gather signatures and make small changes within the existing system. James taught me to make corrupt authorities live up to their own book of rules. I followed his work closely, and noticed that he liked G. K. Chesterton, so I tweeted him my favorite Chesterton quotations. He replied and followed me, so I emailed him and asked to work for him. I wasn’t very good at the work – it’s hard to be taken seriously when your hidden camera is somewhere on a denim outfit – but it gave me a chance to observe the differences between democrats and republicans.

The differences were almost nonexistent. Members of both parties demonized each other. Both parties were aging, and it was rare to see someone my own age. The issues were marginally different, but the tactics, underlying motives, and rhetoric were the same. The corruption was the same. I talked to one of my fellow investigative journalists during a project, and we admitted that after working with democrats, we knew there weren’t any solid arguments against legalizing same-sex marriage. I also learned that there was far too much trust for government among democrats, but republicans weren’t as supportive of limited government as I’d thought.

The democrats were only winning during the 2012 election because they made everything feel like a grassroots effort, when it was just clever marketing. I once walked around a living room in Boulder, served homemade cookies, and then held up a phone on speaker so everyone could listen in on an interview with Michelle Obama. It was no different than an ordinary radio broadcast because it wasn’t interactive, but it felt personal and interactive because we were gathered around a phone in a living room.

When I shadowed a congresswoman in the Colorado capitol, and interviewed the Colorado secretary of state, I thought politics was a giant joke. These people looked powerful from the outside because we used powerful terms to describe their jobs. Once I was inside, I saw a bunch of people striding around importantly, carrying papers and having conversations that were as realistically influential as church ladies gossiping (and church ladies can do loads of damage – I use that comparison to give weight, not to dismiss).

The political system was not the answer. Even exposing corruption within it felt redundant. I voted that year with the realization that my vote meant nothing. My ballot existed to make me feel represented without taking the trouble to actually represent me. It was the second and last time I voted.

I couldn’t read the news anymore. I lost interest in politics. I could only read political philosophy that explored the notion of peaceful anarchy – where people lead themselves instead of turning to authorities to tell them what to do. I was burned out after doing more politically active research and work than most people do in their lives, especially those from older generations who defend voting.

Right now, I’m slowly coming back to current events and politics. I’m not interested in using the system for minor changes anymore. I want to overthrow it.

Drinking from the Final Straw

Trigger warnings: alcohol abuse, child abuse, graphic descriptions

“We were addicted to the blueprint
But we threw it in the flames and now we’re never gonna trace it
You, you lied
Ha ha ha ha I was right all along
Good job, good job
You fucked it up…
Now you’re walking on your own
Rain falls down, I’m not answering my phone
I got to phase you out my zone
Hope you realize now that I am never coming home
You were meant to be alone.” –Charli XCX

Many people who were, like me, abused in the Christian-homeschool-patriarchy movement, still maintain at least moderately rocky relationships with their parents. I gave up, in the end, because of the events surrounding how my parents started drinking.

One day near the end of 2013, I visited my parents’ house. Mom was in bed, recovering from her last miscarriage. She’d saved the fetus, named him Ezra Mark, dressed him and taken pictures, and buried him in the backyard. What shocked me the most, though, was that she had a bottle of Jack Daniels on her nightstand.

“Mom, why do you have hard liquor? I’ve never seen alcohol in our house.”

She said something about dealing with the pain. She was referring to both the emotional pain of losing a child, and the physical pain of blood loss. She insisted, though, that she was only taking small amounts of it as a medicinal solution.

I accepted this answer. After all, I drink alcohol sometimes. I wouldn’t want to be a hypocrite.

On the 6th of January last year, mom’s sister Debbi died suddenly. She was only 52, and she’d practically raised my mom and her brothers and sisters, because my maternal grandmother was, as previously mentioned, addicted to alcohol. I asked for time off work so that I could travel to Minnesota for my aunt’s funeral.

Mom was losing both a sister and a surrogate mother, and she turned to alcohol with the shock and grief. I’d always taken care of my mom, but she was making me worried. We ordered drinks on the plane. When we got to my paternal grandparents’ house, she asked me to sneak more liquor for her from their cupboard. It didn’t matter what it was – she had no taste preference, it was to numb herself.

Within weeks of our return to Colorado, dad was drinking, too. They had wine regularly, and there was a twelve-pack of beer in the fridge. When I asked about it, mom said that since she couldn’t have kids anymore (a statement I never got full clarification for), it was okay to have alcohol now.

Again, I accepted this. I didn’t accept alcohol for myself until I realized there was space between alcoholics and people who completely abstained. The problem was, mom and dad had never seen someone demonstrate moderate drinking. I assumed that they only drank when I was there, which was once or twice a week.

Once in the spring, we built a bonfire in the backyard and roasted marshmallows. Dad was acting strangely – less mature than the kids. He wanted to burn a whole door, and he threw it on the fire, scattering sparks and making the fire spread and smother. When I told him he was being dangerous, he laughed at me. My brothers and I nervously sat him down and contained the fire ourselves. It would take me months to look back on that night and realize dad had had at least three drinks, and was playing with fire around children.

By the time I started to get suspicious, I realized my parents were showing all the red flags of addiction: denial, minimization, and defensiveness.

Lydia was living with them again, but only kind of. She slept on the floor in the girls’ bedroom for a month, so technically she didn’t have to pay $500 rent. Mom sometimes lamented that Lydia didn’t have a bed to sleep in, but Lydia knew she didn’t mean it. She lived there to be around the kids. I couldn’t take the way I felt suffocated there.

Lydia started counting drinks when she wasn’t busy with work. Dad said to her, “I’m not an alcoholic, I just have a couple of beers in the evening.” Whenever Lydia voiced criticism about the alcohol, dad took her outside and yelled at her – for the first time in her life, he swore at her regularly. My parents weren’t being themselves, and it was getting dangerous.

Dangerous, because if you can’t admit that you’ve had a few drinks, you can’t admit that you need to wait before driving, or stay away from fire. Responsible drinkers keep count and stay accountable. The house felt less and less safe.

The last day went something like this…

I come in the house on a Thursday.
Mom offers me wine.
I turn her down, saying I try not to drink more than once every two weeks.
She looks hurt and suspicious, like I’m putting myself above her.
She adds what would have been my serving to her half-drank glass.
I start counting mentally: that’s two glasses of wine altogether for her, and it’s 5 p.m.
I offer to help with dinner, we talk about work and how my therapy is going.
I give vague, slow answers to her questions.
I watch as she drinks half the glass again, and refills it.
It’s a clever way to lose count.
Meanwhile, dad is outside at the grill.
He’s finished a beer when mom brings him his wine.
When we sit down to eat, mom’s wine glass is full again, and dad is drinking from a non-transparent covered cup.
I wait for him to get up, then I taste his drink. It’s kombucha mixed with wine.
He can’t possibly be drinking for the taste.
It’s 9 p.m. now. They’re both still unfinished with their wine glasses when we do family prayers, bless and kiss the children, and send them to bed.
Dad asks Lydia and me if we want to play a game.
We say no.
Yes, I think you do, he counters.
We really don’t.
But we don’t even know what the game is, he says.
We say it’s obvious that he wants to play a drinking game, and we’re not interested.
He looks dejected and rather disbelieves that we’ve just said no to him.
Before I leave that night, I ask mom: “Do you drink every night?”
She laughs loudly. It’s pretentious and insulted.
“Of course we don’t!”
I turn to my 12-year-old sister and murmur in a lower tone: “Do they drink every night?”
She nods slightly so mom doesn’t see.
The next time I visit, they don’t serve alcoholic beverages.
It’s like they’re trying to prove without words that they don’t drink every night.
It’s too late.

It was early September when Grandma – my dad’s mom, Judy – messaged me to ask how I was doing. I opted for honesty, and told her everything. She used to be an alcoholic, and she’d been a sober AA member for as long as I could remember. She saw what her and her husband’s alcoholism did to her kids. Surely she’d understand that something needed to be done so my parents didn’t hurt her grandkids.

She called me, and I told her what was happening. She said it sounded like alcohol abuse that had gone on for nearly a year, but she conservatively chose not to call it addiction.

She also questioned the validity of my story, because I was only going off hearsay from my siblings and extrapolation. I wasn’t living there and I couldn’t watch my parents all the time, so I couldn’t be sure.

Grandma said she was worried about my parents, since their alcohol use indicated stress.

“But Grandma,” I asked, upset now, “What about the kids? Aren’t you worried about them, too?”

“Well,” she said slowly, “I think you and your sisters have turned out okay. I’m amazed at the resilience I’ve seen in you and your siblings.”

“So you’re more concerned about my parents than about the kids.”

“I’m concerned about my son, and as a parent I want to know why he’s so stressed.”

“Well Grandma, that’s not good enough for me. I’m concerned about my brothers and sisters who are stuck there, and it’s not safe. What am I supposed to do?”

This part of the conversation was well-practiced for her. “I’ve worked with recovering addicts for decades, and we always learn the serenity prayer, do you know it?”

“Yes, I know it. I don’t think it applies here, Grandma.”

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”

I burst into tears, and for the first time in my life, I vented my full anger at an elder in my family. Elders are to be respected, never contradicted. I broke protocol. “No, Grandma! I do not need you to tell me to answer this with prayer and acceptance! That is not what I need right now!”

She was quick to backpedal, rephrasing her words, trying to find some other practiced line that would please me. I realized that my dad had learned his habit of using all the right words from his mother.

Nobody was going to help me or listen. So I blogged about my parents being abusive. Grandma told me she felt like her heart was going to break, and I didn’t respond. If her heart could break and she could still treat my trapped siblings with indifference, I had no reason not to hurt her feelings.

The day before my dad released the podcast responding to my blog post “Melting Memory Masks,” I met with one of my brothers for lunch. He told me the alcohol was gone. Dad had thrown all of it out, saying that if it meant so much to Lydia and me, it wasn’t worth keeping. I asked why dad didn’t say that to me directly. My brother didn’t know.

Alcohol was the breaking point. It’s what made me realize that I had so few allies in my family, and that I needed to get away for myself. That’s what made 2014 different from all the years before it.

February 21 – A Letter to Anastasia Steele

“Emotions aren’t that hard to borrow
When love’s a word you never learned…” –Avril Lavigne, Give You What You Like, 50 Shades of Grey Soundtrack

Dear Ana,

I won’t say that I know how you feel. I won’t say that I’ve been where you’ve been. I haven’t. I just want someone to say some things to you, because I can’t find anyone else who’s said them.

You didn’t do anything to deserve this.

I have the dialogue running over in my head – he said something vague, and you took that as a challenge. You were curious, you wanted more information. Sure, you could look it up for yourself, but there was allure in the way he took interest in you, the way he kept you guessing.

It felt real. It felt good to be pursued. He was baiting you, and taking advantage of your naivety. It wasn’t your fault that you fell for it. It wasn’t your choice. You didn’t see the whole picture. I’m sorry he did that to you. You didn’t do anything wrong.

People are saying you were stupid, you were immature, that you made a mistake. The smartest of us make mistakes when treading unfamiliar waters, Ana. He was in the wrong. Not you.

You have a right to be curious. You have a right to your naivety and your curiosity. You had a right to decide to leave and to say no. You had a right to have him respect you when you did that. When he didn’t, it wasn’t your fault.

Now, in book time, you’re married to the man who stalked you, tortured you, ignored what you wanted, and trained your body to like pain – a body that didn’t like pain at first. We’re wired with our pain and pleasure receptors very close together in our brains, and it’s possible to rewire you into a masochist. That’s what he did to you, and you didn’t know that from the beginning.

Sadism and masochism is about understanding the terms and conditions. He didn’t give direct answers to your questions. He did things without asking you, without being concerned about your safety and comfort, without allowing you to process and heal and learn and grow – all the beautiful things that such relationships bring. You asked, you asserted, you were curious. He didn’t listen, he kept baiting. You didn’t do anything wrong.

They’re saying you asked for it, that you ignored the red flags. They’re not saying he was wrong to manipulate you. I think maybe that’s because you’re telling the story before you’ve realized it for yourself. They are, after all, reading the story from your perspective.

Ana, I want to hold you, be gentle to you, and tell you that getting special attention doesn’t have to mean suffering. Some of us like pain, but we’d never force it on someone who isn’t sure, especially not on someone who doesn’t like pain. You were forced – pushed, controlled, trapped, lured. This is not your fault.

When I say it’s not your fault, I’m also saying it’s not your doing. You didn’t choose this. Since you didn’t choose it, you don’t get to take credit for it. Your attempt to brag as you tell your story sounds disjointed. There’s pain and confusion, because you’re trying to take credit for what felt like a choice, when you were just surviving in a situation you didn’t control.

I’m not saying I get it, or that I’ve been there. I haven’t. See, I’ve heard many victims who didn’t realize they were coerced. Some carry shame – they tell their daughters, “don’t make the same mistake I did.” Others carry pride – they say, “I was the queen, the dirty-minded one, I had no limits.”

They don’t realize that the mistake wasn’t theirs. The limits they set were disregarded, so they decided it was their own choice. Sometimes we don’t know our own limits, because we’re never given a chance to reconsider, and for our conclusion to be respected.

You didn’t do anything wrong. He did.

I’m writing to you, Ana, because nobody is saying this about you – your naivety was a vulnerability, and it was not your fault that you were vulnerable. It was his fault that he exploited that vulnerability.

You deserved to learn and to grow at your own pace. Not with enduring what you didn’t want. Not with being harassed and manipulated, until you believed you loved him back, when you had no other choice. Not with drawing you into a mysterious world where you weren’t informed, and withholding information to control you. Not with confusing your emotions and memories and physical feelings until you mistook it for love.

Ana, you have a right to be curious and naïve. You have a right to live in a world where it’s safe to be vulnerable, a world where abusers know better than to take advantage of you.

I’m sorry that world doesn’t exist yet.

 

~ Links ~

National Sexual Assault Online Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave

I Dated Christian Grey: How Women Are Groomed For Abuse

Planned Parenthood Resources on How to Identify Abusive Relationships

Alecia Pennington, Identity Abuse, and Me

When I first saw Alecia Pennington’s video about how she can’t prove her American citizenship, nothing about it took me by surprise.

I have friends who, like her, don’t exist according to the government. They have no birth certificates, no social security number, no passport. If their parents also distrusted modern medicine, like mine, there are no medical records.

When my dad started offering bribes to take down my blog posts about my parents’ abuse, my sister Lydia and I demanded our identification. On October 7th last year, my dad put up a podcast blaming my mental illness for the absurdity of my allegations (transcript here). He quickly took down that podcast, and that same evening, he emailed Lydia and me to offer bribes.

His email said, “What would you like from me? Seriously. Just name it. This is hurting the family, but I never asked what you actually want.”

I was a mess that day, so I let Lydia reply. She asked for our birth certificates and social security cards. In the rush to leave when our parents kicked us out, we brought our driver’s licenses, and I had my social security card, but our parents still had part of our crucial documentation. We’d also left a few boxes of what we didn’t have space to move that day – mostly trophies from piano, AWANA, and speech and debate competitions from elementary school through high school.

Thankfully, we had our social security cards and birth certificates in the first place. Mom would order three or four social security cards at once, because, she told me, it was too much hassle to do it right when the kids were born. She could wait and make a pattern for “every few kids.” Our various midwives handled the birth certificates (mom gave birth to 12 children at home), but both Lydia and I lost our original certificates in our family’s disorganized paperwork, and had to reapply for them before we could get our driver’s licenses.

In exchange for taking back what I said, dad offered us money, a chance to see the family, legal mediation, and a counselor of our choice. He never answered about getting our identification documents.

In late September, I went to the emergency room for a self-inflicted injury. My bills, along with a psychiatrist’s opinion that I was depressed, went to my parents’ house. I found out fourth-hand, three weeks later, that my parents knew about my condition and my financial need to pay hospital bills, and they’d made no attempts to contact me about it. The person who told me this said my dad was “concerned.”

I was more aggressive when I demanded our documentation again on October 21st:

It is illegal to open mail addressed to another person. It is also illegal to withhold the official identification documents of an adult. You will give Lydia and me our bills, any mail that you’ve opened, and our files and our social security cards and birth certificates, and copies of our medical records. We will also take what is ours of what’s in storage on your property. If you do not comply, we have the right to get the local police to escort us to your house to retrieve our things safely.

Dad replied quickly, saying he was willing to meet with me. I sent him a secure P.O. box address, so he wouldn’t know where I lived. Three days passed, and I hadn’t heard anything in response. I told my dad that our things had better arrive within ten days, or we’d arrive with police escorting us to retrieve our legal documents. He replied,

Cynthia, mailing isn’t an option for us. Sorry about that. I’d be glad to pass your goods onto you in one of the two ways:

1. You can come pick them up. Just call or txt the time.
2. I can drop them off at your work.

Let me know which is best. We love you and miss you. You are always welcome, just txt or call.

Dad

I asked why mailing wasn’t an option. I never got an answer to that question. Instead, that week my manager texted me to say some boxes with my name on them had been left on the front step of the office where I worked. I had to explain that I’d asked my dad not to bring my personal belongings to my workplace, and I apologized to my manager for the lack of professionalism.

The boxes didn’t contain all of our things – we still didn’t have our trophies, and the only hospital bill inside was unopened. There was a manila folder with our birth certificates inside, and my mom’s handwriting told us in big marker letters that they didn’t have our social security cards. My sister Lydia never got her social security card – she can only apply for jobs because she has her SSN memorized.

This is a mere hassle compared to what Alecia Pennington is going through. The people who compared her parents to mine, though, don’t know that story. The similarity lies in the public response.

Alecia’s mother, Lisa Pennington, posted a video in response to her daughter, and this video was taken down. Similarly, my dad posted a podcast response to me, and it, too, was quickly taken down. Soon afterward, Alecia’s father posted a more sanitized production, explaining that he was willing to help his daughter – all she has to do is contact him.

I can only speculate. My theories just come from being in a very similar situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alecia is afraid to contact her parents because then they can track her down. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s tried to contact them before, and they took no interest in helping until they had the heat of public attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took down the first video because it was the woman speaking, and the patriarch should take initiative and show control. I wouldn’t be surprised if they uploaded a cool, calm, scripted video with the dad wearing a suit, because they want to look respectable.

I would be surprised if my mom hasn’t already contacted Lisa Pennington to express solidarity. She, too, had her third-eldest take to the Internet with “lies” about her parents.

When I saw Alecia’s story, though, I saw a bigger problem: every person in this country needs to be identified. You can’t drive, you can’t work, you can’t live as an adult, unless the government has your name in their files, cross-referenced from birth to international travel.

For Alecia Pennington, the outside world is hostile. Yes, the Internet community has raised awareness and we’ve gathered around to support her. I can almost guarantee that her parents, church leaders, and other authorities in her life warned her about the outside world, and told her she wouldn’t be able to make it out here. Better to stay with them, where it’s secure and she has a place to live and eat and survive. She’s out, but she can’t drive or work.

Conservative fundamentalists want this because it means the system is easy to exploit for abuse. Withholding documentation is an easy way to immobilize another person. You can’t make money, you can’t demand rights, you can’t move on.

It works on illegal immigrants. It works on the poor. It works on their kids. It’s about control.

Being a Perfect Victim

This is a repost from the archives. For an update, see my post “The Pity Accusation.”

Yesterday, my brother Micah posted on my Facebook timeline. He didn’t address me directly – he was telling people not to believe the stories I was “making up” about my family.

It took me by surprise a bit, but it didn’t bother me too much. I sent my brother, who is 17, a message to ask what was up.

Then came the sympathy. I got private messages, texts, and a re-post to a secret group. Comments supporting me. That’s when I realized that dozens of people were watching, and that’s what bothered me.

Nobody did anything wrong – the responses were all understandable. I just knew that everyone was waiting for my response. It would take me three hours to come up with something that clearly communicated what I felt.

I had to strategize. It wouldn’t look good to accuse him of trying to promote his social networking presence. I needed to show compassion toward my brother, which I did feel. I hated the fact that I needed to do damage control to preserve my reputation.

I fell asleep on the floor in a patch of sunlight, drifting away from the existential spinning thoughts. I shouldn’t have to carefully plan my moves, because this isn’t a game. Were I to respond in kind, however, I wouldn’t have gotten such positive feedback.

My response was all care, no anger. I asked that nobody say anything hateful to my brother, and to affirm his truth.

“I admire you,” they said. “You’re a class act.”

If I didn’t take the time to step back, think clearly, and come up with something that looked good, though, would I still receive the same support?

My angry, hurt, frustrated writings don’t get published. They’re not blog-worthy. I write what’s raw, and then I form it into something more constructive. I give it time, because I know how to play this game.

I hate that it’s a game. It shouldn’t be. It also scares me.

Being a survivor in the spotlight is just as dangerous as being in the spotlight for any other reason. The audience is fickle. I see the way people admire me, and I know it’s because I haven’t slipped up yet. I’m the perfect victim – calm, cool, collected, but still honest and believable in the stories I tell.

Some people don’t have what I do, and people don’t listen to them. They sound angry, or not very well-spoken.

I’m angry, too. I have to take care of myself before I can come up with what to say. I know I’ll slip and lash out eventually, because I’m human, and this whole situation sucks. It would be abnormal for me not to feel the bitterness and grief and depression that I experience every day.

The spectators see my family members throwing me a curveball, and they watch to see my response. I want to scream and run away from the playing field, because this isn’t a goddamn game.

So, why didn’t I do that?

It wouldn’t look as good. People are counting on me to be the perfect victim. My two choices are to perform well, or not to perform well. I do my best to be honest, compassionate, and kind, without whitewashing the truth of what happened.

We shouldn’t demand perfection from victims. I know we still do, because I feel the pressure and see the response.

You didn’t do anything wrong in supporting me. I just wonder: would you do the same if I’d said something more emotional?