© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

My partner has woken me up from night terrors. 

He knows to just hold me and remind me of where I am, remind me to breathe.

And it doesn't really take long for me to come back anymore.

 

But even now when someone grabs me by the wrist I have this little blip of panic.

 

*

 

I got sick. 

So I took myself to the doctor a few times. 

I could barely get out of bed but I was able to drag myself there and sign myself in and talk politely. 

 

My family was going through a lot, and I just had this "power through" mentality. 

That mentality stuck, and for the next few years I went to every appointment alone, took care of myself through two concussions and a few ER trips. 

I just forgot how to ask for help.  It's like I forgot help was an option. 

That took until very recently to overcome.

 

I paid for everything out of pocket, both immediately and in the year to follow. 

It started a credit card debt spiral that still has a grip on my life. 

It's been exhausting.

*

Sex continued to be a negative experience.

I would initiate it earlier than I would normally chose, just so I could be the one in control. 

But one demeaning comment, one request for oral sex, one power play would send me reeling.

I would lie in bed wishing I could disappear. 

 

I was angrier at those men, the men who did not assault me, the men who did not know.

I would hate that person for having the gall to exert any kind of power.

Because these were people with whom I was a consensual partner. 

So their words and actions left me feeling that much more disgusted and ashamed.

Because I'd chosen them. 

And kept going back to them.

I was home with my parents a few years later applying for graduate school. 

I have a tendency to process things emotionally when I am home with my family.  

Because I don’t have to keep my shit together there.  I can just be a mess. 

 

So maybe that’s why I told my brother in a bar on St. Patrick’s Day what had happened. 

It just came out. 

 

He called every single day after that “just to check in.” 

So did my sister. 

We don’t keep many secrets between the three of us, but I held that from them for a number of years. 

And they wanted to be there.  

To help. 

To connect me with resources. 

I think it was new to them and so they kept treating it like it had just happened. 

And I certainly hadn’t dealt with it, so in a way it was like it had just happened. 

But it was covered in this like muck, you know?

Something that had been sitting on top of it.

 

And so I think they couldn’t understand it when I didn’t want to go to therapy, why suddenly four years later I wasn’t like, “Yeah, I want to go get better.  I want to go take care of this thing, heal it, treat it.”

 

I went anyway, but it was yoga that helped that winter. 

 

*

 

I did a Groupon thing at a local studio, and I went pretty religiously. 

It made me feel good, grounded. 

I just tapped into something I hadn’t before.

 

I got strong. 

I liked the feeling of pushing my hands and feet into the ground, controlling my movement. 

I was in this room full of women just being conscious of their bodies and it felt so good.

This year I’ve started to talk. 

I tell people, not casually, but without any buildup. 

I maintain eye contact. 

There’s power in that.

 

*

 

I didn’t participate in the #metoo campaign. 

I was very proud of friends who had, but I was also angry that it was on us to call out the problem, to become vulnerable, to put our pain out there in order for the issue to get attention. 

I didn’t find it empowering.  It felt victimizing to me.  I think I just wasn't ready.

 

I’ve thought about publically sharing, even sharing with a group or my parents. 

I’ve thought about it so many times and never have I thought about it in context of social media, this fleeting thing that would be a status today and gone tomorrow. 

I didn’t want my “coming out” to be in a status. 

I'm happy I was wrong.  It's become so much more than that.

Even before the Weinstein stuff. 

Starting with the presidential campaign, starting with Hillary. 

Just the words that were used to describe her and some of the backlash from this movement. 

 

It's hard to explain to men that there is no vocabulary equivalent for the words that are used to degrade women, to degrade women's bodies.

Bitch, slut, cunt, whore. 

 

Even words that we use to put down men, they don't really put them down. 

They just kind of give them power. 

Like calling someone an asshole or a jerk or a dick. 

It's not positive, it's negative. 

But it doesn't make them small. 

It makes them almost looming. 

 

I can't explain that to a man who has never known what it means to be demeaned. 

And that makes it hard to have a coherent argument. 

 

I want to pound on them. 

I'm angrier than I used to be. 

And it used to bother me, because I’m not trying to hurt those relationships. 

But I just cannot possibly care about taking care of men's egos anymore. 

 

And it’s when the liberal men I love make jokes about women being inferior that I am the most hurt, the angriest. 

An asshole is an ass hole. 

But a good guy who chooses to be an asshole is infuriating.

It’s conscious.

 

*

 

My goal is to find a way to have better conversations with them and to become better versed in the vocabulary surrounding women's bodies and assault and history of gender studies to be better equipped to have that discussion and to, not change their minds, but help them ask themselves questions and help them try to put themselves in the shoes of someone with less power.  I think that’s a goal for this year.

 

 

-Kate