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Callie: Hey there, its been awhile since we talked last. Sorry I was away for so long. I was working through some shit. But you’re still here, and I sincerely appreciate that. While I was away, Lisa upped her pledge on Patreon and I couldn’t be more appreciative. Can’t say for sure what the future holds, but I’m back, and I won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Thanks for sticking around, and thanks for all the loving and supportive messages while I was gone. I’m going to be releasing a companion episode to this on Patreon as an audio journal to talk a little bit more through where I’ve been, what I’ve been going through, and what it took for me to get back. I’m glad to report that I’m doing much better than I’ve been, and I hope this finds you well.
Quick note at the top here, this episode deals with and describes emotional abuse, so take care of yourselves friends. My name is Callie Wright, and this is Queersplaining
I have a problem with directions Sometimes. I don’t really understand why, but sometimes I have trouble remembering which exit to take from the highway, even if I’ve been to some place a dozen or more times. I feel like a jackass every time.
The hair stands on the back of my neck, my heartbeat jumps, my blood pressure probably does too. I start questioning my intelligence and my self worth. I kick myself for being such a millennial, so helplessly dependent on my GPS regardless of how often I’ve been to this place in particular.
After it settles down. After I get to where I’m going and swear to myself I’m not going to forget that particular set of directions EVER again, I start thinking.
Jesus Callie, that was sort of the textbook definition of an overreaction. It makes sense to be annoyed at yourself for forgetting something you should know. But like, you know your worth as a human being doesn’t depend on you remembering directions right?
Then I remember why I feel this way.
My ex hated driving, so I drove everywhere. We usually took her car, because it was cooler than mine. She was the one with the fancy healthcare job who made twice as much as me. I the lowly A/V systems installer.
What’s wrong with you? Why do you miss this exit EVERY single time? Why are you driving in this lane? Why did you turn left here instead of there?
Did this bag of chips come from the bottom of the grocery store shelf, and was it the bag BEHIND the bag in front?
Did the dogs get a total of 5 treats at 8:30am just before you left? Did you fill the food and water bowls to the exact line?
I remember getting a stress headache when I heard her car pull into the driveway of the house we bought together. I’d jump up and take laps around the house to make sure everything was in order. I’d pull up text messages and scroll furiously to make sure there was no reminder or request that I’d missed. The door opened, I would cringe. There was about a 5 second window in which if I heard my name, there would be problems.
Fuck, hang on a second, did I use the wrong cycle on the washer when I did her laundry? Can I sneak downstairs before she does?
It took me years to figure it out. But I was the victim of emotional abuse.
I was a victim of emotional abuse.
*takes a deep breath*
I’ve always had a tenuous relationship with self esteem. There are some ways in which I’ll cop to being downright arrogant. There are also ways in which I find myself thinking I’m completely worthless. These feelings tend to exist on a spectrum, as most things do.
My real struggles with my self esteem started just around the time my issues with my gender identity started to surface. There seemed to be a direct correlation between these two things, so I didn’t question it very hard at first. At that point, I was embarking on a journey into the unknown, finally able to explore a side of myself I’d always hidden before. It seemed only natural to me to ask questions about my self worth. It made perfect sense to me to question whether or not I was even capable (read: good enough) of pulling off this coming out and transitioning thing. Every failure seemed justified because I didn’t think I was smart enough, or good enough, or capable enough, or that I was worthy of having the happiness and joy I’d seen this transition bring to others.
It seemed odd to me then, that as I settled into life after coming out, those feelings didn’t go away. I felt very sure of who I was. I’d spent more time than I care to recall exploring my identity and figuring out who I was. This wasn’t just some run of the mill self doubt.
I’d successfully made it through my social transition, had my legal transition well under way, and was working toward getting things in order with work so I could transition there. I’d accomplished so much and came so far. Why was I doubting myself so hard? Why did my failures all make perfect sense to me when I was shocked by my successes? Why did I find it so incredibly hard to believe it when anything said something nice about me?
It was not too long into this process, I read an article that set me on the path to figuring out all of these questions. I searched over and over again trying to find this article again to no avail. The title was something akin to “How I became an abuser and didn’t realize it.” The story was of a woman who’d become emotionally abusive to her husband, then recognized what she’d done, worked to make it right, and shared her experiences with others as a caution for them not to do the same. She gave an example that hit me square in the chest.
She was the one who did most of the cooking in the house. One night she wasn’t feeling well and sent her husband out to get some ground beef. Her husband came back with the wrong kind, and she found herself berating him for it. She would say things like “why can’t I ever trust you to do simple things?” “Why can’t you ever remember what I tell you?” “What’s wrong with you?” and the like.
I felt a creeping sense of realization
I didn’t realize this as it was happening, but I really did start to internalize those ideas. I asked myself constantly “My god, what IS wrong with me?” “Why I can’t I even remember to do these simple things?” “I’m just a horrible partner, I guess.” I believed these things about myself. It was more or less a coincidence that the downfall of my relationship to this person happened as I began to struggle more and more with my gender identity, which made it easy for me to pin these things on my gender identity instead of my abusive relationship.
Like a lot of people, I didn’t see it when I was in the situation. I really did make mistakes, and plenty of them. I was even thoughtless and careless sometimes in a way that justified anger on the part of my ex. I’m no saint, nor have I ever been. But there are no mistakes that justify robbing someone of their self worth.
Once I figured this out, suddenly so many things made sense. I believed that I was clumsy, unintelligent, and forgetful, to the point where my worth and usefulness as a person was suspect. I would get nervous about performing every day tasks for fear of the verbal shellacking I was to receive if I didn’t perform exactly to specifications. The joy was sucked out of every day things.
Abuse, like any other human experience, resides on a spectrum. One of the most unhealthy things a person can do is to compare their experiences to others in an effort to undermine their own feelings about what they’ve been through. As a society, we tend to treat all the various forms of abuse based on their perceived severity. We tend to think of things in terms of what’s worse to us instead of asking how the abuse effects the person who is being abused. That’s a view we’d do best to leave behind.
Because people experience abuse differently, it only makes sense to deal with abuse on the level to which it has consequences for the abused. There are some people whose experiences have very few lasting consequences for their day to day lives, and there are some for whom their experience was debilitating. There is an entire spectrum of experience between these extremes, and we, as a society, need to come to terms with that.
For my part, if we’re discussing the consequences, I’d have to say the lasting effects fall at a 3 or a 4 out of 10, if 10 is the worst kind of fallout. I’m not interested in taking up space meant for survivors of abusive trauma, because I wouldn’t use the word “trauma” to describe what I’ve been through. Baggage is probably a more appropriate word. It certainly does, though, have lasting consequences for my self worth, my self esteem, and my confidence. My relationship with my wife hasn’t escaped these consequences either. We have, by all measures, an extremely healthy relationship. I’m fixated so hard on how healthy our relationship is, I borderline obsess over the fact I may lose it somehow. I’m working through that.
I think my story is an important illustration of the fact that sometimes abuse isn’t overt. Not all abusers are monstrous caricatures. I’m positive the person who did these things to me didn’t intend the consequences of their actions. None of that changes the affect it’s had on me though. If you’re hurting because something like this happened to you, please don’t think that you weren’t hurt enough to be effected. Please don’t wonder if your experience is worth talking about. Please know your experiences and feelings are valid, and most of all, know that you’re cared for and loved.
If you want to support the show and help me keep telling my stories and the stories of queer and trans people, check out patreon.com/queersplaining and consider a donation to support the show. If you already do, I couldn’t do this without you, thank you.
You can search Queersplaining on Twitter and Facebook to find us there, and I’m @calliegetsit on twitter and instagram.
Before I go, I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared. If you feel like no one cares and no one understands…you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you, cares for you, knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling. Please don’t be afraid to reach out. Until next time friend, my name is Callie Wright, and this is Queersplaining