CONTENT NOTE: Essentially, all the warnings and alerts for readers, especially those who feel they are in a precarious emotional and/or mental state. Bookmark this for later. Or never. Whenever is best for you. In this multi-part post I address various forms of domestic violence and reference other forms of violence. I get personal. I do not write about any abuses in graphic detail, but oftentimes the muted, even mundane details can be the most triggering. And I write about some lasting effects, including mental health/illness crises and self-harm. Take care of yourselves and thank you for reading.
Part II. Dis Closure … a MyGoodWolf exclusive
This time it’s personal! As in, truly personal history. Note cautions above. (Was not easy to post this.)* Continuation of Part I. Did you hear what I Heard?
I am a survivor several times over. Meaning I’ve endured multiple traumas and lived to generally not tell the tale, except in therapy. (And even then …) I have hinted at my trauma history here and there in this erratic blog and some people know bits and pieces of my history, but very few know the whole picture. Those who do are my husband and a couple psychotherapists. So yeah, I can keep a secret! Almost as well as those who took certain information to their graves. My PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) has surged to crisis levels more than once these past few/several years, most recently over the roughly 6-month period this last November-April.
This is not a digression.
Here’s a listing for the first time all in one place. You’ve been cautioned. Not all on this list are traumas in and of themselves, but contribute to an overall environment of instability. Some stuff listed below may be the result of trauma. Some … just needed to be on the list.
◦ I’m the child of parents and a guardian with largely untreated mental illnesses. (My mother was also a victim of malpractice in this regard.)
◦ I’m the child of parents with likewise untreated eating disorders.
◦ I’m the child of a parent and a guardian with debilitating and on a few occasions life-threatening alcoholism. (Also untreated/under-treated)
◦ I’m the child of domestic and sexual violence. I was witness to and subject of these abuses, perpetrated both in person and from afar. Our abuser had a diverse portfolio of tactics. Abuse enabled in part through legal and medical systems.
◦ I was the victim of a sexually and emotionally abusive teenage relationship.
◦ I grew up in an economically depressed area with an undertow of racism, ableism, anti-Semitism, and stark classism. Sometimes, I was the target of prejudice. More often I was witness to bigotry directed at people I liked and folks I loved.
◦ I was a victim of sexual harassment before I knew what to call it. Colored my education, from junior high through college, with the worst offenders being teachers and professors. During my dance career, I also experienced harassment from strangers disguised as fans.
◦ I’m a survivor of suicide loss several times over. Most notably, my mother died by suicide. And a couple mentors. A colleague. The list goes on … surpassing numbers of loved ones who died due to AIDS.
◦ I am mentally ill. Clini D,** bad nerves, and shell shock; i.e., Clinical Depression, Generalized Anxiety, and PTSD. I’ve “entertained” suicidal thoughts more than a few times throughout my 59 years. In therapy/treatment for last 40 years and counting.
◦ I’m a recovered bulimarectic. (Yes, autocorrect, that’s the proper term for a person with bulimarexia, so stop already!) I do still suffer from body dysmorphia. In between is my self-harm … thang. Manifested in different ways. (Mostly past tense. Working on it.)
◦ I’ve lied more often than I care to admit. Usually to keep “secrets” related to the above, at the behest of others, stated or implied, and out of a terror I often could not name. I tend to get caught in other kinds of lies. Except, of course, lies to myself.
◦ I’ve worked with and for victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence in various settings for half my life now. Somewhat diverse group of adults and teenagers, though majority were female and white. I am an advocate/ally/activist for survivors, doing what I can, when I can, now from my altered reality of early retirement due to disability.
◦ I have no children. I have had no children. I have had 3 miscarriages, an oophorectomy, and a complete hysterectomy (entire uterus, cervix and all). One-ovary menopause was awful! I don’t recommend it.
◦ I’ve literally survived a few near-fatal asthma attacks and one burst appendix yearning to be free! Thank you, AMA medicine! I’ve also been a victim of medical gaslighting and malpractice. Dammit, AMA!
◦ 28 years ago, a man, seemingly under the influence of a psychoactive substance, crashed onto our front porch, shattered a glass lamp, and sliced open my husband’s forehead. While I was on the phone with 911, our dog Joplin chased the man away, saving the hubster! Assailant never caught by authorities. Hubs stitched up nicely. Thanks, AMA doc!
While there’s much more to me than this list, I have been undeniably shaped by trauma since infancy. (Adverse childhood experiences correlate with later development of autoimmune diseases; I intend to write about that.) I’ve also been molded by directives to keep secret “personal issues” like alcoholism and depression and to deny abuse outright. Not only do I view the world through the lens of one who has survived domestic and sexual violence, but also as one who has endured and witnessed other forms of violence that are pervasive and still largely tolerated, although they’ve become progressively less acceptable over these last 6 decades, at least according to public policy.
As with the George Floyd murder, I began paying much closer attention to the Depp/Heard trial after the small group, come-and-go drug-lounge that is how I like to think of the infusion clinic. Full disclosure: I did not go back and watch any significant portions of courtroom testimony. I read and watched as much as I felt I could safely consume. Then one night, my husband and I saw a clip of Heard’s exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on the evening news.
“She’s just so … odd.” [Hubster, aka my life partner]
And there it was. First comment from the love of my life, who to that point had seen but a fraction of the trial coverage and commentary I had. Celebrity scandal is even less his thing than mine. And he’s been concentrating his energies on recovering from hip replacement, as he should. (He’s progressing quite nicely!)
Hub’s comment caught me by surprise. Since when have we been fans of normal? Is watching the evening news a sign of our descent into normalcy? Do we need an intervention?
Up to now we’ve been casual fans of Johnny Depp. We like his weird movies, but not the Disney pirate franchise. Despite eschewing tabloids, celebrity gossip shows, et cetera, we’ve heard tales over the years of Depp behaving in ways ranging from inappropriate to clearly abusive. Tales often spun later to portray Depp as a harmless eccentric, framing his hurtful actions as aberrations, made possible only by consumption of impressive amounts of alcohol and/or drugs. No lasting damage!
Because that’s how a male celebrity off the rails and in the throes of chemical addiction is presented. Especially, a proven cash cow like Depp. (Major misnomer there, eh? Shouldn’t that be cash bull?!) Instead of being painted as a drunken, drug-addled freak lashing out, or an alcoholic/addict in need of anger management and intervention, he’s pictured as a lovable eccentric, hailed for both his macho ability to remain standing after consuming inordinate amounts of alcohol/drugs and his manly stamina through multiple rehab stints. Such heroic personal work! Yet, little to nothing about how any of this affects the people in his life. (We’ll come back to this later.)
Celebrities of lesser stature are painted with an entirely different brush. Women and girls on a separate canvas altogether.
Yes, Amber Heard is a little odd. Plus, some say, she is not a perfect victim — whatever that is. Johnny Depp, who looks great at 59, is extremely odd. His talent, good looks, gender, connections, and well-channeled weirdness have made him a wealthy man, adored by millions around the world. He may also be a very accomplished (spousal) abuser. Not perfect, mind you, just really, really good.
Do I believe Amber Heard? I don’t want to sift through the testimony from the UK trial and/or this US one and risk a major PTSD episode so that I may play pretend juror. I have enough on my plate with my memories. I have reservations, mostly, I think, because I (kinda) hate that the Washington Post op-ed at the center of the US trial was written by folks at the ACLU. Even so … yes, I am leaning in her direction.
Do I believe Johnny Depp?
I mean, are you kidding me? No!
From my perspective, shaped by surviving and witnessing intimate violence, the image of Johnny Depp presented at trial fits that of a domestic violence offender to a nearly comical degree. He was calm and charming. Personable. Confident and relaxed. Unwavering. Absolute! He never hit her! Never assaulted her! He never started anything; he only defended himself. He never hit her; she started everything. He was always the victim. Excellent use of the DARVO tactic: Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim/Offender!
Johnny Depp easily “justified” abusive and violent language about/or directed to Amber Heard by simply dismissing each as irrelevant, out of context, mere fantasy, a joke between friends, etc. So comfortable were so many with him, that when he admitted to assaulting cabinets and joked about excessive alcohol consumption, many in the courtroom laughed, smiled, and/or nodded. Yes, they were entertained!
And the jury was won over. Somehow the jury felt they “abused each other” and that canceled out the harm, just like double technical fouls in basketball. He was more believable, stable throughout, as you’d expect from a victim. (Say what?!) Amber Heard would sob one minute and turn ice cold the next. The deliberating jury of 5 men and 2 women didn’t know what to make of her. She made them really uncomfortable.
Yup, that’s what we victims/survivors do. Our existence makes you all uneasy. And when we break our silence and speak about our violations and our abusers, we make you all very un-fucking-comfortable. Female types, especially. Trans and other gender nonconforming folks take that discomfort to levels off the charts! Thus, the current hateful legislation around the country.
(I will suppress political rant/digression #4 for now.)
*I’ve experienced an array of internal backlash — ridiculous thoughts, awful rashes, hellacious migraines, etc. —between writing and editing this post. And then again, from editing to posting it. Yes, the extreme heat is a factor. As is this — this thing right here I feel the need to do.
**Thanks, John Moe! John Moe is the creator of the brilliant podcast The Hilarious World of Depression and author of a memoir with the same title. After a pandemic-related hiatus, Moe’s podcast resumed in 2021 on a new platform as Depresh Mode. I recommend all! Even if you don’t have Clini D — you poor bastard!😁
Coming up … Part III. When Barry Met Sally