Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My "Dear White People" Fanfic

Now I don’t want to get off on a rant here…
Actually yes I do. Shut up, It’s been a while.
     Some people have wondered about my notable silence since the election. Actually I've been relatively quiet since the Mike Brown murder (yes this has been me quiet.) When Trump won the election, I was angry and sad, but not surprised. My anger was directed at you who were surprised. I really don’t want to make this a race issue but of course I will. I like flinging around the Race Card like my name is Gambit. I’ve been angry, Black angry, which if you have been paying attention is really fucking angry. I’ve been angry, not at the Trump supporters but the White people who were in denial, who turned a blind eye to all the signs that trump was going to win. Over the last 4 years police have been murdering Black men and women in the streets and receiving cash compensation for it. There were hate crimes against Muslims just going about their days that were written off as lone nuts with a grudge instead of racially motivated slayings. There were blatant attempts at voter suppression in the South and blatant poisoning of PoC in Michigan. College kids in the Midwest wore racially offensive costumes every chance they got. Women couldn’t be on the internet without being threatened with rape and murder (Gimme Shelter) regularly.
     Speaking of internet threats, every Black person who dared have an opinion about the shitty way we have been, are, and will be treated in America woke up every morning to hundreds of tweets and posts from White people telling them that everything they think, know, and feel is wrong. Over Thanksgiving, Facebook was rife with posts about people being afraid to go home and deal with their families who were inevitably filled with Trump supporters. White “liberals” for lack of a better term were utterly convinced of their victory, and to an extent I understood. The idea of Trump winning, on the surface, was laughable at best, implausible at worst. But then, 4 years ago I would have thought it improbably that police would murder a 10 year old and refuse him medical treatment, or murder a Black man for wielding a toy gun in a store full of toy guns. But, here we are. And on November 9th, 2016 yea there was much gnashing of teeth and beating of breast. “How could this happen!” the people cried. And I looked at them and said “how could it not?”
     Who, exactly do you think those people voted for? The people who donated money to George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson? The Gamergate people. The Tea Party. “The 1%.” Those people from the suburbs who never met a Black person in their life who go to work in the worst parts of the city. The people who complain that “illegals” are abusing the Medicaid system. The White teachers who only deal with the most troubled and disadvantaged Black children. The people who blame the decline of their town/shit-kickerville state on Obama. Those people who blame every cramp and hangnail on Obama. The people worried about “the gays.” Those people who have more cops in their families than Black acquaintances. The people who think Facebook started racism. The dregs in middle management who are so miserable with their failed existences they they take out their impotent fury on their far more talented Brown coworkers and curse “affirmative action.” The conspiracy nuts, the anti-vaxxers, the doomsday preppers, all the heavily armed fringe-White psychos, who do you think they voted for? Who do you think they are?
     So yes, I’ve been angry. Then a weird thing happened; I started seeing people who had never expressed an opinion about any of the horrors of the world start opening their mouths, or at least, taking to their keyboards. Many of you got a real ice-bucket challenge, the cold reality that a lot of your so-called friends actually don’t give a fuck about your feelings or your welfare. It was funny for me to see people posting about having to unfriend “friends” who were all for taking rights away from everyone. I laughed. I didn’t unfriend anyone last year, because I unfriended every one of those assholes who posted anything about “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” Turns out they seemed to have a high correlation with Trump voters. Shocking right? I had no sanitizing to do; it had been done, because I saw all of this coming. “But John” you say, “if you were so all-knowing and wise, why didn’t you do anything to stop this?” While it’s true that I am all-knowing and wise, I can’t do everything myself. In fact there is one thing I specifically can’t do; change white people’s minds. These Trump voters have no real understanding or emotional connection with anyone who doesn’t look or think like them, so it is the people who look like them who have to change the way the conservative Trump voter thinks.

     Hell I couldn’t get the people on my side to take the necessary action to head off this disaster, what can I do about the people who don’t? And here’s the kicker; the Trump voter is invisible. Yeah you can spot the fanatics from a mile away, because they want you to see them. But your boss at your publishing firm, your dry cleaner, your mailman, the people who you have a pleasant relationship, the people who send you Christmas cards, the people you think have Black friends, those are the Trump voters. They weren’t going to any inauguration. They weren’t proud. They’re happy enough knowing that their local, state, and federal government is busy taking civil rights away from minorities, women, and in many cases themselves. You know who voted for Trump? Women with BCBS, Aetna, Cigna, Humana, they don’t have to worry about Planned Parenthood, or abortions, because no one will fuck those unfuckable hags.
     Sorry. That was uncalled for.
     My point is that White women with financial privilege don’t give one spare fuck about White women who don’t have the same financial privilege. Lately I’ve been seeing White women go to war with each other over reproductive and civil rights, and it’s been lowering my blood pressure. These arguments are what will save America, because the last push the Sanity Party needs is for White women to, as a group, get on board with taking down conservative White male rule. The highbrow reason that I love these fights is that I feel like we as Black people are finally getting the help from so called allies that we have been asking for decades now. The lowbrow reason is I like seeing White people fight among themselves. But seriously, now is not the time for silences. A war can be won with words... mostly violence, but words too. Words change minds and most importantly, can change votes. Words can inspire empathy and compassion. Words can humble even the most ill-informed Trump supporter (redundant.) White women have to take a long hard look at themselves and really figure out if their priorities are to women or to preserving White supremacy, because those are not two great tastes that taste great together. Are your allegiances to your race, to the “patriarchal” institutions that oppress you or to other women? Are you vocal for PP but silent about Sandra Bland? You, you reading this, know a woman who is all for Trump and for stripping women of all civil liberties and access to healthcare, because those are things they never worry about. I don't know how to change that. Maybe before marching against men, some of you need to march against each other. I don't know, these aren't questions I have answers to. The rest of us PoC got our shit together to stop Trump, but y'all dropped the ball.

     In short, Dear White People; please unfuck yourselves before over half of you get the rest of us killed. BTW if you're reading this I am totally not talking about you. You're one of the good ones.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Saves 9

When I was a little girl the world seemed gigantic to me. Just like, really overwhelmingly huge. One place in particular always left me with a mixed feeling of awe and dread; University Hospital in Krakow.  It was a castle, maze, galaxy, hospital, and whatever else I could imagine it to be. My mother was the Queen of it all, which was a little intimidating to me. When I was 11 my mother started taking me there to volunteer taking care of the elderly patients and sick children while she worked in the ICU. She was... is, a nurse, and a really good one. Some called her a legend, because none of her patient’s ever died on her shift. Maybe before or after she left, but when she was on she worked her hardest to save every life. She was an inspiration, and like the hospital, she was bigger than life. When I grew up and became a nurse myself, everything seemed smaller. The world got really small, the hospital wasn’t as vast, but the legend of Marynia was larger than ever. She was something of a celebrity, and sharing her name and profession was a bit much.

After I finished secondary my mother really wanted me to take the Matura test and go to Wein like she did, but that seemed like... a lot for me to process. So instead I traveled and bounced around Europe for a while. She was the exact opposite of ecstatic about that. I did get an education in my own way, learning this and that, directionless but observant. I wanted to be a nurse but I wasn’t ready to take up the responsibility that would come with being the daughter of Marynia Majchrowski. I studied lives and experiences I never knew existed and gained skills I never imagined I’d need.  Sometimes I would get into trouble just to see if I could get myself out of it. I thought it was too hard living up to the impossible standard my mother had set, but those few years gave me the confidence to believe that I could handle anything she could. Now as an adult I am a little more jaded and a lot more realistic, but my mother was and always will be a giant to me.

I however, was not a giant, so Marynia K. Majchrowski decided to move to the US to make her own name. I went to school in California and ended up going into nursing after all, since the expectations of an anonymous girl new to the US weren’t so high. I work in the Emergency Department of another University Hospital, USC. It’s not as big as my mother’s University, but I look forward to making it my own. It’s a trauma center, so we see some pretty messed up people. It doesn’t bother me because in the last 6 years I had seen and done some pretty messed up things, most of which I’m proud of. Not all of it, but most. On the night shift we had little to worry about, because Dr Walker was there. He was by far the most talented, gracious, humorous, and intelligent Emergency Department doctor in the state. He knew 3 languages fluently and another 2 conversationally. He was very handsome and very, very married with two kids, but that didn’t stop all the nurses from flirting with him. He accepted the attention graciously, but it was very apparent that he was happy with his life. He radiated that happiness to his patients. I’ve seen patient’s pulse and blood pressure fall just being in his presence. He would laugh when a patient recovered, cry when they didn’t. This is the story of a crazy few months were no one laughed.
There’s a little crew of us who all work overnights, and we arranged it so we work the same nights as much as possible. Coincidentally those nights were almost always the nights that Dr Walker worked. About 3 months ago we got a call that a 23 year old female was coming in by ambulance. When she got to us she looked like she’d just fought a pack of wolves. She was bloody, battered, broken, like, a total mess. She was missing teeth and her face was near unrecognizable. We called a code and most of the ED rushed to her side; her vitals were terrible and she was crashing fast. Walker was a blur, barking out orders, and directing traffic. Dr Walker had a great record when it came to saving lives himself. He was nowhere near my mother’s mark, but his reputation in the city as being an expert was well known. We work in a rough area, so seeing victims of violent crimes was an unfortunate but all too regular part of the job. This was different somehow. Her name was Joanne. She wasn’t much younger than me, 24 years old, White, just an average girl, nothing spectacular about her. Her wounds were from far from average and way more than I’d seen in the worst domestic violence victims. This woman had been abused and beaten for some time. The EMS crew said that she was dumped on the street a few blocks away from the hospital. She was bleeding from several different types of wounds, and Dr Walker was determined to stop them all. He did his best, we all did, but by the morning the best we could do was stabilize her. For most doctors this would have been considered a victory, but Dr Walker set very high standards for himself, so by extension the rest of us did too.  Dr Walker stayed with her until the family came and he explained what happened. He was shaken… we all were, because as a team we went as he went. It was a shitty way to end my shift, my third in a row. My only consolation was I would have a few days off to de-stress. The next night I worked, the mood in the ED had returned to normal for everyone but Dr Walker.

He did a great job managing things as usual, but we could tell that his thoughts were somewhere else. The charge nurse that night was Juliet, my best friend, ass-kicker, and unapologetic ginger of the ED. She was in her mid-40’s, worked overnights, and ran the lives of her 3 teen aged sons in the daytime, but you would never know it by the energy she brought to the job. She was great at managing all of the different personalities and characters in the ED staff, which was very much like herding cats. She kept us in line by being so empathetic that she could tell when one of us was going to lose our shit before we did. This was great for me since I tended to lose my shit frequently. Another reason why I chose to start my career in America is that I had a bit of what people call a short fuse. I like to say that I enjoy spirited conversation. The police called it "assault." Whatever.

In between patient’s I went and asked her what as up with Walker. “I don’t know” she said “I guess you noticed how he isn’t as focused as he usually is. Maybe he needs to get laid. I’d be happy to take him in the supply room and relieve his stress. With my vagina.” Did I mention that she had the filthiest mind in Southern California?  Dr Walker walked by and gave us a weak but genuine grin. “But your right, he definitely isn’t his usual hyper-chipper self.” She came over to my side and said “I think he’s not over that girl from last week. You know how detail oriented he is. There’s something bothering him about that girl and he won’t tell anyone what it is. Personally I think she was just 4 hours into a night of heavy S&M and forgot what her safe word was. Mine is banana.” I looked at him down the hallway, and all the signs I had missed up to that point were crystal clear. He was distracted. This was more disturbing to me than anything I’d seen in the worst neighborhoods of Hungary, Poland, and France. Seeing such a strong man so shaken gave me the chills. I put it out of my head. In most ways nursing is just a job like any other except every now and then we see patient desperately trying to die, and we have to stop them.

I was two days into my next three day stretch, and the grind was wearing on me. Coffee wasn’t working to keep me awake anymore, and for the first time in my life cocaine seemed like a viable alternative to Starbucks. I had just finished wrestling a psych patient down so we could give her 5-and-2, which always puts me in a festive mood. Just as I was catching my breath we had another EMS crew sprinting through the ambulance doors with a critical patient. My heart froze as I ran to assist; it was another young woman, one who looked frighteningly like me if I hadn't just been run over by a train. She had broken bones, spiral fractures, clean breaks, puncture wound, and lacerations. It was like someone went down a Reddit list of 13 great ways to hurt someone without actually killing them. Her name was Gloria. She was a Music major at the school. She played piano. The fingers on her left had been systematically broken one by one. If there was no nerve damage she might be able to play again one day. One day in the far future. I was on autopilot as we slid so easily into our appointed roles. As an ED team we were kind of a well-oiled machine. It was that speed and efficiency that saved lives.

Dr Walker should have been proud of himself; this was not an easy one. She had a deflated lung and a lacerated spleen. We patched her up well enough to get her to ICU. She would leave the hospital 3 weeks later, in a wheelchair. She would need that wheelchair for another 6 months. He was there when she left. One of the day shift nurses, Maureen, watched the whole thing. For the first time ever I was grateful that she was exceptionally nosy. She told me every detail, how she thanked him, and how her parents thanked him. She recited the whole scene as if she were a court stenographer. I held back tears as she told me in her thick West Indian accent how he, for all of his effort, and for the fact that she was sitting there in front of her, alive, could not stop apologizing. She was alive, not physically well, but emotionally and spiritually she had been healed. She could not describe what had happened to her more than she was returning home from a late class, and was abducted somewhere between her bus stop and her apartment. There was torture; there was pain, and a ruthless, sadistic coldness to everything he said to her. She told the detectives that he kept blaming her for what happened, blaming her for what “she made him do.”

Two weeks passed and we didn’t have one patient like that. I spent more time with Juliet after work; she would make sure her kids got off to school then we would process the events of the night, and by "process" I mean drink a bottle of wine each and share impure thoughts about the male ED techs.  It helped, and we needed the release; the whole hospital did. No one said it but that break gave us the greatest relief you can imagine, greater than taking off your bra after a long day. We relaxed, we exhaled, we let our guard down, and naturally you know what happened next.

This time it was early, so early in my shift we had barely put our things down. The day shift was giving report to the overnight nurses coming in. In the middle of report an EMS crew bursts in, panicked. They were kids, and this was obviously their first trauma victim. There were two shifts of nurses there, which meant that we were all in each other’s way. Fortunately Juliet was there too and herded the cats. She has a voice slightly more peaceful than a train wreck, so she is great at getting people’s attention. She directed traffic and made sure that no one was doing anything redundant. For all her insanity she was the calmest person in an emergency; mothers are good for that. We ran in all directions like dutiful children finishing up our chores.

Her name was Elysian. She looked as artful as her name was. She was pale and graceful, like one of those elves from the movies. She had long jet black hair and crystal blue eyes. Her left arm was covered in tattoos of vines with thorns. She told me later they were catbriar vines. They were intricate; she said it took for 8-hour days to finish. She had no broken bones, just deep purple and black bruises all over her. She seemed like the type to bruise easily anyway.

Unlike the others there wasn’t much to do with Elysian; once we had made sure there was no internal bleeding, there was nothing we could do for the tissue damage other than make sure that she was comfortable while she healed up. She had been walking home from one of the buildings over at the art school, and just like the others she had no idea what happened next. Just like the others she woke up to a nightmare of a beating, all the while her attacker blaming her for what she had made him do. There was no finesse to this one, no subtlety. It was hurried and sloppy. With the other victims he took his time, starting the damage out slowly and building to a crescendo of violence until the victim blacked out from the pain. The scars were both emotional and physical. He never raped any of them... I guess he thought THAT was the line not to cross. Psychopaths are funny that way.

It turned out to otherwise be a slow night, so I had some time to talk to her. She said that she didn't know where she was, but she had been unconscious for about an hour; she managed to look at her watch at some point. People really need to wear watches more often. They come in handy when being kidnapped my a serial killer. She said that as soon as she woke up he started hitting her with all of his might.  At one point she played possum so he would stop hitting her. He turned the lights on, and she peaked at the walls. They were covered in a wallpaper of blood-spattered newspaper clippings, website articles, and photographs of one person. A couple of times he wore himself out from exertion, and she called him an out of shape pussy boy. She told him that the newspapers on the wall were not only cliche, but tacky. He beat her harder. I liked this girl, she was a badass. Anyone who risked getting their ass beaten worse just to taunt their attacker while he has you tied up to a chair can be my BFF forever.

"I couldn't read all of the text, but the guy was murmuring to himself the whole time, and I distinctly heard him say 'Dr Walker'" she said.

I bit my lip; my suspicions were confirmed. There was no way that it was a coincidence all of these girls ended up on our doorstep the same nights when the same crew was working. This guy must have stalked us to find out our schedule. I knew this wasn't random, but I was missing this last piece of the puzzle. This guy was hurting these woman to get at Dr Walker. It worked; Dr Walker had been a nervous wreck since all of this began. I think he figured this out long ago but he didn't want to worry the rest of us. He's probably been trying to fix this himself. That's his way, to help everyone else and never ask for help. "Did he say anything else?"

Something about "just as long as I did. Just as long six more...."

Six more. Six more. That would be nine. I prayed to God that he would be caught before then, but me and God aren't exactly on a first name basis. Not anymore. Over the next 3 months we got 5 more victims, all around my age, all beaten within an inch of their life. The only pattern was their age; 2 were Black, one was Asian, and two were white. They had jobs in all different locations; it seemed like they were kidnappings of opportunity, which would explain why the intervals were random. Some of the nurses stopped working our shift. Police and news crews hovered around the hospital all the time now. At one point Dr Walker, knowing that he was the cause, went on long term leave. It killed him that he wasn't there to help these girls, but he couldn't deal with the guilt of knowing that he had some part in all this. Him leaving just made things worse though; the month he was gone, the victim went into a deep coma; her injuries were too severe. Her name was Jenny Chang and she was a pharmacy tech working her way through the pharmacy program at USC. She had a large family and most of them were there when they decided to take her off of the respirators. The family asked that Dr Walker be consulted before the final decision was made though; he said that they should wait a little longer. He thought that due to the nature of her injuries her body might take a while longer to sort itself, and there was still a chance that she could come out of the coma. The rest of the attending doctors said it was impossible, right up to the day when she woke up and smiled at her parents. He saved her life from home. Dr Walker came back soon after; he figured if he couldn't stop this guy at least he could save the victims. After number 8 the entire hospital was on edge. Everyone from maintenance to executives were going sleepless. This one man had terrorized most of Southern California, and he was building to his grand finale. I was pissed, I was angry, and I felt helpless. I had had enough. It wasn't enough to patch these girls up, someone had to stop him.

I had a hunch, an instinct, a feeling, and I had to act on it. As I said before, I was a woman with a certain set of skills you wouldn't know by looking at me. In my time bouncing around Europe I learned some things to keep myself safe, like how to handle a knife. For two weeks before my shift I walked alone to The In-n-Out near the hospital, and got a burger and fries; unhealthy I know, but it was all in the name of vigilante justice. I made sure to walk the same rout every night, and was always alone. I knew from the various descriptions I pieced together from this guy that I could take him; he was only a real threat if you were tied to a chair. After a couple of weeks I started to think nothing would work, until one night a felt a sharp pinch on my ass. No one was around so it shocked the shit out of me. I thought maybe it was a Wasp. When I reached back there was no wasp there, but there was a tranquilizer dart.

"Son of a....*"

I was gently awakened with a hard right cross to the chin. I heard more than saw one of my teeth skitter across the floor. The love tap was followed by three more to the face, and another two to the abdomen. He had certainly refined his attacks. It actually looked like he was in better shape than what the other victims had described. I knew that taunting him makes him sloppy, and I was Oh so good at it.

“You know, if you’re going to hit me, you may want to get a weapon. A crowbar or brass knuckles maybe. I’m from Poland; my people survived 2 World Wars, the Germans and the Russians. You’re from the Valley yeah? I doubt you’ve survived anything worse than unexpected rain." He cracked me again on the side of my face; I almost felt my cheekbone give way, but it held. I have to admit, he was literally knocking the sass out of me.

“You think your funny bitch? I’ve been watching you. I’ve been watching you this whole time. I knew I would end up with one of his own, but it took me a while to figure out who. Then I saw you, how he looks at you. I knew you were the one, the one that would hurt him the most.”

My left eye had swollen shut, and he stayed to that side so I couldn’t see him clearly, but his voice definitely sounded familiar. Before I could open my mouth again I heard my left collarbone crack. Well, there goes that arm.

“You know I can see why you’re his favorite, you have good ideas.' He walked to my right side so I could see him more clearly. “A crowbar is way more efficient.” He pulled back and slammed the crowbar down on my right thigh. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of hearing me scream but it hurt like a MOTHERfucker.

“Vinny?” It was Vinny, a lab tech that worked overnights He left the hospital after his daughter was diagnosed with cervical cancer. His 25 year old daughter…

“You’re probably shocked. I don’t fucking care if you see me now. You’re the last one, the 9th one. Nine lives for the nine months that incompetent asshole did his experiments on my little Suzy before he finally murdered her. Did you know he used to do oncology? I know. He was supposed to be the best. I counted my lucky stars that we worked in the same hospital so our insurance would cover it. Suzy was getting real bad so they admitted her here. For 9 months Walker did all these tests and chemo and anything else he could think of to get her better, he said. I think he was just trying to get his name in the papers for curing a girl of cancer. Well he fucking didn’t, and my little girl suffered every single day of those nine months. He quit oncology for the ER after, probably fucking ashamed at being a total torturing failure. He got away scot free and I had nothing left but 9 months of agony and my little girl’s dead body. But we’re going to be even now.”

He put down the crowbar and picked up a very dented aluminum baseball bat. “See, the Asian girl was supposed to die, but SHE. JUST. WOULDN’T. DIE.” With every word he swung the bat nearer and nearer to my head. He wanted me to flinch. I didn’t.

“But you will. I’ve had a good amount of practice, and I think I’ve perfected my craft to where you’ll get far enough into the ED to die right in front of him. Then maybe I’ll go to Mexico. Or shoot at some cops, I haven’t decided yet.”

I was finally ready. “I have been working with Dr Walker for a long time. He feels every patient’s death like it was his own child. He was probably devastated when your daughter died, and I really am sorry for your loss. But if this, all of this is your response… If you really thought that taking away nine other daughters from their fathers would somehow make you even with the universe, then you’re really the fucking failure in this situation, not him. Hopefully in her next life Suzy gets blessed with a competent father…”

He roared and came at me, blind with rage, just what I wanted. While he was monologuing I got the knife I taped to my lower back out and had cut the plastic ties he put on my wrists. He swung wildly with the bat and I leaned back easily. He missed by a mile. I dropped to one knee and jammed my knife right into his right knee, severing his ACL and PCL (I hoped.) He screamed like a banshee and immediately went down. I went to work on that leg; cut his ACL down near his ankle. He probably wouldn’t ever use that leg again. When he reached down to grab his knee I took the opportunity to stab my knife into his shoulder. Well, there goes that arm. I got up unsteadily. I wasn't sure how deep the damage was to my thigh, but it felt like someone dropped a truck full of anvils on it, so I guessed it wasn’t OK. I pulled myself up, one arm and one leg completely functional, and grabbed the bat.
“You know what’s the saddest fucking part? For all this shit you’ve put everyone through, he saved them. He saved EVERY. GOD. DAMN. ONE OF THEM.” It was my turn to accentuate my words with stabbing pain. I slammed his disabled knee and shoulder over and over again with the bat. “Isn’t it ironic? Dontcha think?”

He cried. He rolled around. He screamed. But I didn't stop. All I heard were the cries of those girls, and I hit him til the cries stopped. I wasn't sure if he was silent or I had quieted the memories in my head, but either way it was quiet. I felt nothing and heard nothing. I found my phone in a corner of the basement. Through my good eye I blearily took in the history of what he had done. He wasn't really careful with covering up evidence; he obviously didn't have a long term plan. I called 911. I fell into a corner and started to cry, big heavy tears. I wasn't crying because I was scared, or sad... I was angry. I was still full of rage, and he wasn't moving and I couldn't beat him anymore and I couldn't stop wanting to hit him. It felt good, past the revenge, past the fact that there would be no more broken girls, it felt good to hurt someone. That part wouldn't make it into the newspapers when they interviewed me over the next few months. But I knew it. I know it and I am completely fine with it.

The EMT's allowed me the honor of rolling the piece of shit's unconscious body through the ambulance doors. They applauded me like the conquering hero I was. I only had full use of one arm and 1 1/2 legs, but I did it. I didn't kill him. It wasn't on purpose; turns out I passed out right after I called 911. Who knows what would have happened if I could have stayed on my feet. I know, but again, the media didn't need to know that. Juliet came over to help me to a stretcher. "You attention whore, you look like dog meat." She went about addressing my wounds, tears smacking me in the face the whole time. "I may look like dog meat but it's better than being an ugly crier." I tried to laugh, but it hurt when I laughed. Or breathed, or existed really. Juliet moved over as Dr Walker looked over me. "It's over" I said "he only got eight. He didn't get me. I got him, you see that? I got the fucker." He put his finger to his lips "I know Mary, I know. Now be quiet while we get you patched up." He smiled that special smile of his, "You look like shit."

That was the first time I'd ever heard him curse.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Personalities, Ordered

Nerds and geeks are often labeled as troubled, weird or “having something wrong” with us. I’m here to tell you that this is probably true, but it is not a bad thing. I wear it as a badge of honor; who wants to be normal anyway? The idea that we are weird and troubled does not mean that everyone else is somehow more functional than we are. Even so, people who are aware that they are broken and dysfunctional are the sanest ones because we have better insight into ourselves and by extension people in general. The crazy ones are the people who ardently believe that they are completely sane and rational. Trust me, I’d rather be socially awkward and under control than “normal” and a raging alcoholic. Yes, those are sweeping generalizations and yes there will be more.

Accepting the hypothesis that as nerds and geeks we are all mad here, let’s delve into the ways we may be mad from a psychological perspective. We have talked before on this site about mental illness, mostly focusing on psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders. We talk about these diagnoses (what I refer to as “The Big Three”) the most because they’re the most disruptive to the lives of the sufferer and those around them right? I do not find this to be true. The Big Three are the disorders that people can most readily identify, but I contend that Personality Disorders can have more insidious and long-term effects on a person’s life and social environment. A personality disorder has 5 key elements according to the DSM-V which are:

1. An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior. This pattern manifests in two or more of the following areas:
a. Feeling
b. Thinking
c. Interpersonal relationships
d. Impulse control
2. This pattern deviates markedly from cultural norms and expectations.
3. This pattern is pervasive and inflexible.
4. It is stable over time.
5. It leads to distress or impairment.

Personality disorders also have 4 common elements common to each diagnosis. These are:
1. Rigid, extreme, and distorted thinking patterns (thoughts)
2. Problematic emotional response patterns (feelings)
3. Impulse control problems (behavior)
4. Significant interpersonal problems (behavior)

Personality disorders are further divided into three groups called “clusters” (I know this seems a bit obsessive itself, but people who study psychology LOVE grouping things. It’s like, our pastime.) These clusters are:
Cluster A - the “odd, eccentric” cluster
Cluster B - the “dramatic, emotional, erratic” cluster
Cluster C – the “anxious, fearful” cluster

I’m sure it won’t be hard to figure out what group your specific personality type is in. Chances are that people have been calling you one of these descriptors all of your life. I usually get Cluster B myself, though anyone who has been around me for more than 3 minutes usually classifies me as “odd” as well. I cannot make this point strongly enough; just because you find that you have some of these symptoms IT DOES NOT MEAN that you have the disorder. All human behavior exists along a spectrum, and all people will exhibit some disordered behavior at some point in their life. Just because you like to clean does not mean that you have a pathological illness. Maybe you just like the lemony fresh scent of Pine Sol. A lot. It is fine if you identify so much with some of these behaviors that you strongly suspect that you may have one, but I urge you to see a mental health professional before self-diagnosing. Personality disorders are hard to diagnose because they can be difficult to distinguish from normal transient states without proper training and experience.

I would say that many nerds and geeks would trend towards Cluster C disorders, particularly Avoidant PD. Many times people who would fall into this category identify themselves as introverts. There is a point when mere introversion can become a crippling inability to excel in interpersonal relationships both professional and personal.

In Cluster B, which I have extensive experience with, I would say many nerds and geeks *cough LARPers cough* could fall into this category as well. I say LARPers and tabletop RPG players because those are games that cater to extroversion and being able to express emotions openly and freely. These behaviors become problematic when the person is unable to regulate their behavior, that is, know when to turn it off and on. Its fine to be a manipulative, conniving scumbag in your Vampire LARP, but you should not also be one at work the next day. People in this cluster tend to have the least insight into their problematic behaviors, instead constantly blaming others for the problems that they themselves cause. In stark contrast to Cluster C types, Cluster B types rarely think about their own internal states, so they most often are encouraged to seek help by those around them. Cluster B disorders can be the most destructive of all the personality disorders as they are most often described as being “toxic,” and their behaviors take a great emotional toll on those around them. Healthy Cluster B traits can make someone the life of the party; pathological Cluster B traits can cause someone to be the inevitable cluster-fuck drama bomb of the party.

Finally Cluster A traits can be shown in the quiet reclusive geeks and nerds, the ones who retreat into their hobbies because they are unable to relate to others. These are the types, such as the Schizoid PD, who you can only connect with through their hobbies. You may only see them at conventions where they can indulge in their particular area of interest in the company of like-minded individuals.

This is all just some information to get you thinking about if a personality disorder is negatively affecting your life in ways that you may not realize. If you have more questions about these disorders, information about them is available almost everywhere on the internet. It’s easier to become curious about a diagnosis than to come to a conclusion about whether you have something or not, so please see a therapist. Maintaining good mental health is a communal activity and the more we talk about bit the better we can help each other. If you have any questions or you need direction, you can tweet me or email me at exit.eleven@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

That Time I Was Black-shamed at Work

So there I was...

I work at a a part time office job. I don't have a lot of other Black coworkers, which doesn't really bother me because that's been my life and I know how to blend. I'm very Suburban. I've stopped saying that I have “White” traits, and instead I have Suburban traits. I realized recently (it shouldn't have taken me this long) that being Suburban is not tied to being White, and I should do stop perpetuating that line of thinking. There are plenty of Black people from the Suburbs, there are entire towns of Black Suburbs. You should see my Whole Foods!

So like I said, me and this girl rarely work together, but every time I do work with her she always has something slick to say about our backgrounds. At first I thought I was imagining it, but I soon realized that 1. there was definitely shade coming out of her towards me every shift, and 2. she had no idea she was doing it. First there was the religion talk; she's very religious and talks about it fairly constantly. When I told her I wasn't religious, there were judging looks, but I let it go. I thought we should be friendly, and I'm not about workplace drama. Then there was the day she was talking about her lineage. She knew all about her background and ancestors. She stated to me, repeatedly, how HER family were NEVER slaves. I said I don't know much about my family past my great grandmother. She was incredulous that I didn't know more, again repeating that SHE was NOT descended from slaves. I told her that it seemed like she was judging me about that. Even my White coworker said something about her insistence on that point. She denied it. I let it go.

Yesterday was the last straw. I go in, friendly as can be to everyone, including her. Again, I try to foster some kind of office-civil relationship. I was looking through Facebook and saw a funny Color Purple meme (the details are irrelevant, but trust me, it was Hilarious.) and I show it to her. She laughs, I laugh. Pleasant moment right? She then proceeds to explain TO ME the joke that I HAD JUST SHOWN HER. She literally asked me if I knew that it was from “A movie called The Color Purple.” At that moment I had a moment of clarity where I realized she had been what I can only call Blacksplaining* things to me from day one. She was constantly explaining Black culture to me, a Black man. I told her point blank to stop doing it. She didn't feign ignorance; her ignorance was quite genuine.

I make jokes about being White all the time, but they're MY jokes about ME. That is not license for others to do so unless we are good friends; me and her are definitively not friends. When other people make inferences or statements about my Blackness I get REAL serious REAL quick. She kept laughing and smiling and saying she was sorry. I told her she wasn't sorry and that I was offended. I said it three times, and each time she said “Ohhh, don't be offended.” I was clearly offended, which she should have recognized because it's not a common feeling I feel in my feels. It's incredibly hard to offend me, so when I am, I don't let it go. Still, she was laughing and asked for a hug. I told her to back off. I told her she's been doing this from day one, trying to make herself feel like the Superior Black Person at my expense. Her apologies were both condescending and belittling at the same time. She kept trying to explain herself, and I had to, again, repeatedly, ask her to stop because she was just digging the hole deeper.

First she said that she thought she had to explain to me the joke I had just showed her like I was one of our White coworkers. I asked her why she would think that. She said because I have worked in places with a lot of White people. Like the place we were currently sitting and talking in. The job she had actually had longer than I have somehow imparted Whiteness onto me and not her. She was flustered by now, and kept laughing and said something about me growing up in the Suburbs. She is from Philly, and I grew up in Woodbridge, NJ.** I guess that made her more authentic than me. Except for right now she lives a town a few miles from me IN A MUCH NICER AREA THAN I LIVE IN. At this point the irony was strangling me. She kept trying to convince me that it was all a misunderstanding, a joke. I was not laughing. Kept asking if I was offended, and I kept saying yes. Kept saying it wouldn't happened again, and I told her that it would because she had no idea that she was doing it and, I believe, did not even understand what she was doing wrong. The condescension in her eyes was still there. After several more insulting comments she left, but the insult stayed with me. It's still with me today.

It is ironic that as I am writing this there is a discussion on Twitter about Black nerds being bullied in HS. I was never bullied, but I was, I guess mocked is the best way to describe it. I was mocked by White kids, but it didn't matter because I felt intellectually superior to most other kids. Their words meant nothing to me. Yeah, I know how it sounds, but it saved me years of therapy. When I went to school in a different town were there were other Black kids, the mocking was more hurtful because I was so happy to be around more kids who looked like me, and they were not happy to hang around me. Yeah it hurt, which is probably why I'm still sensitive about the subject. Thankfully as I got older I met more Black people who accepted me for who I am, and I thought that part of my life was over. Imagine my surprise when now, at the ripe old age of 38, I still have to deal with judgment and people policing my Blackness. It had become so rare that I thought maybe I had imagined it, maybe I was being oversensitive, but no. This is a real thing and it has to stop.

I've seen that some people deny this happens, or tell people to just get over it. Having core pieces of your identity questioned by the very people you identify with is not something one just gets over. In fact, it's time we as Black people and American culture in general stops blowing off other people's feelings and experiences. I'm not saying spill your emotions all over the place, have some dignity for God's sake. I'm kidding mostly, but invalidating the feelings of someone who is opening up about a subject important to them is a major dick move. As I've said, this is a sensitive subject to me, but I can't imagine any Black person would respond positively to this treatment. Likewise, blaming everyone for the actions of a few is weak as well. In fact the reason this is bothering me so much is that I thought I was done with having to deal with this stuff. I don't really have a point, or a conclusion or anything. Just, don't be the dick that does this to other people.

*I looked up the internet definition of “Blacksplaining” and was horrified. For the purposes of this essay “Blacksplaining” is when one African American condescendingly explains a part of African American culture to another African American.

**Exactly what it sounds like. A collection of the most average suburban sprawl towns you could imagine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"A Few Words About Suicide" or "I Hate Your Joy"

My mother killed herself in a rather grisly fashion when I was 23 years old, and death has set up a permanent residence in my head ever since. It's a few weeks away from what would have been her 59th birthday, and she starts to flood my mind around this time. One of the big misconceptions about suicide is that it get's better when the environment a person live in gets better. I saw it in action; my mother started to brighten up in the weeks before she did it. Of course she was happy, she'd found what she saw as her solution to a miserable life. I can tell you from my own experience that reversal of fortune does not always effect depression, at times it can make it worse. Some people are so used to being miserable than when they finally get the things that make them happy, they become terrified of losing them. They kill themselves when everything is good. I call it “going out on top.”
People are shocked by suicide, especially when it's done by someone who they feel has a good life. What people don't understand is that a “good life” is relative. You never know who is really suffering unless 1. they trust you and 2. you ask them. The people who are most at risk rarely talk about it. That isn't to say the people who are vocal shouldn't be taken seriously. All expressions should be taken seriously. When someone who is really depressed suddenly brightens up, be concerned. One of the most dangerous times in the recovery of a suicidal person is when their medications improve their energy but therapy hasn't improved their faulty cognitions yet. People become more motivated and energized to act on their plans.
Major Depression isn't as dangerous as a Depressed and Manic self, the mixed episode. Hopeless, Impulsive, and full of boundless energy is not a good combination. If there's Winter Depression don't you think that Summer Mania is a thing as well? I've seen no less than 3 of my Facebook friends post about friends lost to suicide in the last 30 days. Good weather can be very depressing. Suicidal people, seeing everyone else having fun and happy, may feel even more broken because they feel they should be happy too. Warm weather is when these people are bombarded by everything that proves their faulty thoughts and automatic beliefs correct, much like being single on Valentine's Day. It's a stark reminder of everything you don't have. Depression warps perception; beautiful weather can be torture. I, personally, Hate Your Joy unless I'm happy as well. But I'm petty. “There's so much I SHOULD do,” the suicidal person thinks, “and so much I'm NOT doing. I'm a waste.” Suicide doesn't mean someone gave up on life; these people should not be reviled. Depression is something you succumb to, like any other terminal disease.
Depression loves rainy days and blizzards, abandoned train stations and isolation. There's a certain relief the depressed person feels when no one else is having fun either. Unseasonably warm weather throws people with mood disorders off, and they generally don't deal with it well. Depression is ever present and it doesn't take a day off. Its been my experience (as a Mental Health Professional I have come across A LOT of depressed people) that, as a friend, the best way to help them is to keep them out of their own head. If they don't want to go out, stay with them. A person cannot commit suicide if you're ass is always in their face bugging them. And eventually that may distract that person from their intrusive, self-destructive thoughts. They may not outwardly express their gratitude, but trust me, it helps.
Suicidal people don't need to be deified or have grand gestures to effect positive change; they just need to know that people would really have their lives wrecked if they killed themselves. Suicidal people are obsessed with death; it's a friend, a lover, a release, a safety valve that promises a solution. They're so in love with Death, everything and everyone else is obscured. It's not selfishness, the rest of the world just disappears, like sick twisted new infatuation. Like anyone in an abusive relationship, helping someone in this situation takes support, concern, and attention. You can't get tired or burned out. Make it a team effort so one person can pick up when another runs out of gas. It's hard to for the depressed person to know and believe that if you kill yourself you'll break so many people you care about.

Spring seems to be rush hour for the depressed at work. Pay attention to your friends, pay attention to the people who you could not live without. Because some of them may feel that everyone would be better off without them. If you are lost, message me, I get paid to do this and I offer my services for free as well. People need you. One death can have a negative ripple effect destroying so many others; those closest to you will feel it the hardest. If this sounds like you, Break up with Death. That ho don't love you.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Non-Productive Comedy Show, August 7th!

The Non-Productive Comedy Show is a live stand-up comedy and variety showcase that takes place the first Thursday of every month in Montclair, NJ, and features some of the best professional comedians from the Tri-State area.

The next show will be on April 7th at 8pm at Just Jake’s on 30 Park Place in Montclair. Admission is $5, and food and drink specials will be announced the night of. Tickets are buy one, get one free with college ID. A ticket for our Crap-Raffle is included. It is exactly what it sounds like. MAKE SURE TO GET THERE ON TIME! 8PM! You miss the start, you miss a lot.

The Non-Productive Comedy Show features comedians from diverse backgrounds who have important/irrelevant/irreverent points of view on life, the universe, and everything. Each show has it’s own unique theme and features the aforementioned raffle where audience members can win quirky prizes of dubious value. This month’s theme is CONFLICT: Winter vs Spring, St Patrick vs Snakes, the Easter Rabbit vs Jesus, all of the classic conflicts of the Spring.

This month we are featuring:

Chelsea Moroski              Host of the Manifestshow Comedy and Variety show

Benel Germosen              The Creek and the Cave, host of Otakulyspe

Ritu Chandra                      Stress Factory, Gotham Comedy Club

Daniel J Perafan                                Laughing Devil Contest

And our headliner
KC Aurora                            LAUGHS TV show on FOX, Seeso TV

As always the show will be hosted by John Minus and produced by Frank Hablawi of Non-Productive.com