PTSD Help video 1

 

Sorry about the picture quality and the sound, I’m still having technical issues… mostly cause by poverty issues. But hopefully it’s clear enough for now.

The lady mentioned as a possible additional resource on youtube is called Kati Morton. I’ve watched most of her PTSD, Panic and Trauma-related videos, and I found them really cool. My mentioning her isn’t a guarantor I just think she might be a really good place to start learning different views on these things, particularly as she genuinely seems to want to help people. And, I’m not a professional, just an experienced amateur, and you deserve as much information and viewpoints as you can access to help you with your recovery process.

Normal is the greatest evil in the world

Bold title, no? Perhaps, but it’s actually true.

Think of some of the most horrific crimes done by societies on this planet in history, and look at the core issue that caused the violence. It’s usually one group of people dehumanising and annihilating another group of people who are different to them in some way.

Nazis believed that people like them were “good” and real citizens, and blamed all of the bad things in their lives on those people not like them. In World War 2, the German Nazis murdered millions of people just because they weren’t like them, because they were Jews or gay or non-German, or disabled in some way or any number of other “not us” things. Modern Nazis are everywhere these days, killing, beating, maiming and raping people because they believe themselves to be more human than the “other”.

Look at what’s happening all around the world, even here in supposed egalitarian New Zealand. People identify those who are like them and those who are not, and convince themselves that the people who aren’t like them are less human or less worthy of freedom or even existence. When another person is viewed as not as human as me, then the me can discriminate and be cruel. Poor people can have their needed help taken away from them because those in power dehumanise them and blame them for being poor. The homeless are stereotyped as being hostile and dangerous, as being at fault for their situation, so people can justify treating them inhumanly. Politicians can take away funding to feed kids in their schools because they can blame the parents for not being good parents, all the while the kids still go hungry. We have become a very cruel world, or perhaps the cruelty has always been there, we’ve only just recently become aware of it.

People are being murdered around the world because they’re “other”. There are innocent African Americans being murdered by American police in certain regions because the cops believe that just being black means someone is a threat. A kid with a plastic gun got shot by a policeman last year or the year before, because that policeman didn’t see a boy playing pretend, all he saw was a criminal with a gun. Because being white is this great NORMAL, and not being white is an excuse to kill and oppress people.

Closer to home, in New Zealand if you’re obviously Maori, people immediately assume that you’re a criminal. You get followed around shops because you’re Maori and that means you’re in the shop to steal stuff. If you’re a large Maori man with facial moko tattoos you can just stand there and smile, and still someone will accuse you of being threatening or dangerous. If you go to court for the same offence as a pakeha person, the judge will often subconsciously believe that the pakeha person is good and deserves a second chance, but if you’re Maori, they will more often than not assume that you’re a career criminal, as if the mere existence of Maori genes in your blood means that you will always be a criminal and violent, and you will get the maximum sentence or certainly a harsher one than your pakeha compatriot. Because being pakeha/white is “normal” and good, and being anything else is “bad”.

There are so many people out there who genuinely believe that Islam is a religion of hate and cruelty, without any knowledge of the actual religion. I don’t know much about Islam, other than it holds a lot of the same beliefs, religious structures, and doctrine to the other Judeo-Christian religions, but I know enough about the body count of the major religions in the world throughout history to understand that if you actually did a tally of religious violence throughout history, and used that as the benchmark of the “most violent religion”, Christianity is much much higher on that list than Islam. They’re the ones who used their religion to colonise the world, to murder millions and millions of native peoples around the world in the name of God, they’re the ones who tortured, raped, drowned, and burned to death millions of “witches”, and they’re the ones who, in the modern age, still justify killing, maiming, and allowing people to die of things like AIDS in the name of God because being anything other than heterosexual is being a “deviant”.

All of this hate, all of this rage and violence… almost all of it comes out of the defence and enforcement of this weird fluid thing called “normal”. In some ways even the gross amounts of violent greed in the world is down to this concept of normal because the super rich view themselves and humans and “good”, and the poor “masses” that they steal from aren’t human, aren’t “normal”, so they’re justified in taking everything.

Everything horrific in this world, at least the human world, so often comes down to this idea of normal and that it divides people into one group who are allowed to live without oppression, bullying or death by mob, and the other group who are “less” and deserve to be oppressed as a punishment for not being normal.

Now, there are broad scales of this idea. Lots of incarnations. World War 2 is just a very large scale, as are all of the current “ethnic cleansing” events that are going on in the world. Those things are obviously immoral to much of the “civilised” world. But what about the kid at school being beaten, threatened, and verbally abused because he prefers reading books over playing rugby? What about the drunk mobs who beat up some random guy on the street thinking he’s gay because he’s wearing a pink shirt? What about the transwoman who is assumed to be sexual predator just because she dared to choose to live as herself instead of the man that society decided she had to be? What about women who get beaten for asking questions, for being smarter than the boys? Or shot for wanting to go to school? Hell… what about the smokers who just want somewhere safe and under cover to have a smoke without the entire world lecturing them about lung cancer. Or the fat person who can’t go into a food court in a mall and eat their lunch without multiple people telling her what she should and should not be eating?

Every time you correct someone for not being normal, that’s a kind of violence. Telling a fat person that she should be eating a salad instead of hot chips doesn’t seem like a sort of violence, it’s certainly not on the same scale as mass murder, but it’s still violence. Just as refusing to respect someone’s preferred name and gender doesn’t seem like violence, but it is. Those “corrections” are telling to each person who are receiving them that they’re not allowed to even exist, that they don’t deserve basic human respect, because they’re not “normal”. If a fat girl can’t eat in public without someone “correcting” her, that message says that she’s not allowed to exist in that public space. If a smoker can’t just sit and have their break far from people who might be harmed by the smoke without being harassed, they get the message that they’re not allowed to exist anywhere but their own homes, that they’re not allowed lives with work and kids and partners and go to the mall or the movies or whatever, because they’re not a person until they’re non-smoker, or until they’re no longer fat, or no longer brown skinned, or until they wear a short skirt with cleavage, or until they walk everywhere with a smile glued on their face. When you “correct” someone in a public space for not complying to your beliefs about what people should do and be, you’re telling that person that they’re not allowed to exist in a public space unless they fit what you think of as “normal”. You’re erasing their very right to exist in public spaces. Now does it sound like violence? I think so.

I live in a small coastal town in NZ. It’s a pretty nice town with lots of different sorts of people, but if you’re weirder than the locals they generally respond in a similar shitty way. I was sitting outside a bakery one day a while back, and a kid wearing a full goth outfit, a Mohawk, and heaps of piercings was walking down the street towards me. He looked amazing… beautiful even. I sat and just admired the fierceness of his manner and all the details of his costume. And as I watched, the locals on the street coming the other way were all so afraid of him. They gave him a wide berth, some even crossing the road to avoid walking past him. Here was this beautiful example of diversity, and they were all afraid of him. I remember that day thinking that it was such a tragedy. This kid was just a kid, just an ordinary young person living his life as he chose and dressing as he chose to express himself externally, and because these locals perceived his lack of normality as a threat he was othered, he was avoided and treated like a pariah. That fear, that assumption that diversity is always a threat, is a sort of violence. You’re telling someone that unless they’re normal, they can’t possibly be a good person.

Our culture enforces the norm with different kinds of violence. And this idea permeates every aspect of our lives. It’s so prolific that a lot of people bully and correct other people, but do not even recognise that they’re being violent towards those other people.

I genuinely believe that we will never ever stop the violence in our world until we stop this enforcement of the norm. People are people, whether they’re like you or not. Individually, some people are good, some people are mean, some people are loving, some people are cold and grouchy. But belonging to one group, say gender or sex or culture or race or religion, does NOT define whether an individual is good or not. And if we pretend that it does, we’re being culturally violent towards those people.

I once had a person tell me that I must be inherently a bad person because I did not follow their particular religious sect. They believed entirely that without their specific faith, humans had to be evil. What’s ironic is that they were a part of Christian sect that prayed for God to kill LGBT people, and celebrated when other groups of people out in the world killed an entire race. Now does that sound like goodness to you? Because it certainly doesn’t sound good to me, but do we assume that all Christians are evil bastards like this particular sect? No, we do not because they’re a part of the “mainstream”, the normal, and so any deviation from goodness is considered an issue of an individual being evil. But the moment an individual in a “minority group” does something horrible, the entire group is held accountable for it. The only evil in the world is individuals, not entire races, religions, cultures, sexualities, genders… ONLY individuals. But everyone is so focused on policing the norm and making everyone the same, that they convince themselves that their bigotry is true to make themselves feel better about the world.

But you know what? If you collected together all of the people who in one way or many ways did not fit this invisible “norm”, who had been bullied as a kid or treated badly because they belonged to a “minority group”, what proportion of the population do you think those people would belong to? Perhaps, let me put it another way, how many people do you know in your life who haven’t been bulled at school or at work, who haven’t been treated badly because of something that they are? I don’t know about you, but I know no one who has never been bullied in one way or another. And I guess, that could just be the fact that I don’t fit into this “norm” in very many ways so I tend to befriend fellow freaks and weirdos, but I would still guess and probably be right to assume that actually, the majority of people don’t fit into the norm in some way. Which makes it not a “minority” problem but actually a “majority” problem. For example, take 50% of the world of women, they are oppressed in patriarchal societies, then add gay men they too are oppressed in patriarchal heterosexual societies, add straight men who aren’t white, and now I ask what proportion of the total population would all of those groups be? Certainly NOT a minority. The problem is that the proper group that is completely “normal” are the actual minority, and they subconsciously (or consciously) enforce the idea that they’re the majority, that they’re the norm by making everyone oppress each other for the singular bits of them that do not fit the norm.

So why do we continue? Why do we continue to bully others who don’t fit in? Why do we think we have the right to beat up or maim or kill a person simply because they belong to a particular group who aren’t “normal”? I’ve always wanted to meet someone who has violently beaten someone for being gay, and actually ask them why? Why was that violence the reasonable response to someone being gay? Why does being gay in some areas of the world mean that straight people are justified in hunting them down and beating, maiming or killing them? I’ve never understood this. Why in Chechnya, did an uncle feel justified in throwing his nephew off a building and killing him? Why do people do this? What is the purpose? Why is this the correct response? I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer from any bully I’ve managed to talk to, they usually just shrug and say something mindless like “they’re gay”, with no other justification. But why? Why must we as a culture use bullying and systemic oppression to suppress diversity? Why is diversity such a threat to society? And why can’t we each see that hardly anyone actually fits in the norm perfectly? Everyone is bullied, everyone is told that they’re horrible or bad or whatever, for not fitting that perception of normal. So why do we perpetuate it? Why do we not remember being that scared child facing down a bunch of bullies, remembering how horrible that was, and then as an adult refusing to bully others like that?

If we stopped enforcing the norm and accepted diversity as a perfectly natural part of being human, what wonders do you think, could we create by redirecting all of that energy into better things? How much better would the world be if we actually allowed everyone to be treated equally as human beings regardless of concepts like “normal” or “freak”?

Bigot isn’t an insult it’s a challenge

(Originally posted 1 Feb 2017 on the old blog)

My core belief with regards to social justice is that everyone should be treated equally, so when I see a comment or a post online that is bigoted or contributes to the suffering and/or oppression of others, I immediately feel the moral imperative to call out people on their bigotry. I do try to curb that instinct for self preservation or if I can see that the person just won’t understand, but the need to point out the bigotry is always there.

Other than the very common explosion that happens when you point out people’s prejudices and they’re not ready to contemplate your words, the next most common reaction for me is someone getting angry and accusing me of insulting them.

I’ve never really understood this reaction.

To me, an insult is a label describing a trait of a person that is probably permanent. Essentially an insult is a judgement of someone’s moral essence or it’s a way of making someone else less human than you are. In general, it’s usually describing something that can’t be changed or something that someone thinks isn’t changeable. Like, being called a “chauvinistic pig”, is usually a label given to cis het men who think that women exist to meet their needs and for no other purpose.

An insult is what you call someone when you know they’ll stay an asshole, so there’s no point in having a discussion with them. It’s an insult because you’re calling them something as their identity, and not just identifying bad behaviour, i.e. you’re assigning them an identity based on their behaviour or beliefs.

But when I’m calling someone out, my intention isn’t to assign someone an identity of “bigot”, my intention is to call out their behaviour, to name their behaviour and inform them of the consequences of their behaviour so that they think about their actions. So, if I take the time to construct an intelligent reply that points out to another person why what they’ve said/written is offensive, and perhaps give them other ways of responding to said situation that is less harmful, what I’m actually saying is that I believe that the person is a reasonable individual who just simply doesn’t understand all of the implications of what they’re saying. I’m also saying, that I believe once they understand, that they would care enough about other people that they would want to be a kinder person, that given additional knowledge they would choose to change how they deal with said subject to minimise the harm that they previously spread with their prejudice.

So, if I take the time to actually call you out, particularly if it’s a long post/reply, I’m not actually insulting you, I’m challenging you to understand the situation a little better, because I believe that you’re a good person who would want the opportunity to learn how not to be an asshole to other people if only you understood the situation a little better.

Being called out isn’t a comfortable process, it’s embarrassing, challenging and can hurt one’s feelings, it can feel like you’re being attacked. But, at least for me, the purpose in calling someone out on their bigotry is to challenge them to be more aware of the consequences of their actions.

I’m calling someone out as a challenge to be a kinder human being. So when you reply with things like “don’t insult me” or “political correctness gone wrong” or “grow a thicker skin”, all that I end up hearing is in fact that you don’t care. That I’ve just wasted my time and my belief in your kindness towards others. In the end you’re actually the one who is insulting you, not me, because you’re revealing that you just don’t care enough about other people.

Does Freedom of Speech mean I can say what I want?

(Originally posted: 10 Dec 2016 on the old blog)

Being a regular facebooker, I’ve seen all sorts of arguments, and responses to arguments. One that bothers me a great deal is this idea of people thinking that they can say what they want without social repercussions because of Freedom of Speech.

Now, whenever someone says this, I think of the various movie memes when a character says “I do not think you know what that word means”.

In general terms, Freedom of Speech is the right of every person in that particular country to say what they wish (within legal reasonableness), without fear of death, attack or some other sanctions from the government.

Freedom of Speech and Expression is covered in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and under this Article 19 is a suggestion of limitations to the Freedom of Speech: Justifications for such include the harm principle, proposed by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, which suggests that: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” (Wiki)

Now, different governments apply the legal definitions and consequences of Freedom of Speech, slightly differently (and I’m not knowledgeable enough in international law to go into specifics). But they all come down to the idea that freedom is where one can say what one wishes (within reason) without fear of punishment from the government. No where that I’ve seen does this Right extend to one person being allowed to speak their mind, while blocking the right of other people who disagree with them to verbalise their disagreement.

The idea of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is to make everyone as absolutely equal as possible. So that one person doesn’t have more rights to being human than someone else. So, Freedom of Speech is about everyone being allowed to speak without sanctions from their government, and that right protects not just one opinion but all opinions (within legal reasonableness). What that really means is that whether you and I disagree about an issue, we both have the right to express our opinions without the government chucking either of us in jail. Which means, if I disagree with you, the law protects not only your right to speak, but mine also. So, when we all argue on the internet, and paratroopers don’t break into our houses and to arrest us, what we’re actually doing is practising Freedom of Speech.

And while I can certainly understand why anyone would wish that there were laws against people expressing opinions that we don’t like, in order to protect our own rights to free speech, we also have to protect the rights of those we disagree with for it to truly be a Universal Human Right.

In The Friends of Voltaire, Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 

So, next time you get annoyed when someone disagrees with you, try and remember that they’re not breaching YOUR Freedom of Speech, but actually practising their own.

Transition

I remember being five or six years old and sitting on my bed in my underpants with my arms crossed over my chest, refusing point blank to wear the frilly pretty dress my dad wanted me to wear. The refusal wasn’t because it was a girl’s dress, it was purely pragmatic. I knew if I wore that damn dress and went outside to play in the mud as I had intended, I’d get in trouble for making that white dress dirty.

I didn’t really have a strong sense that I was a boy in a girl’s body, just that whatever I was it certainly wasn’t the kind of girl the family wanted me to be. Mum was a loud feminist, so I could be myself with her and not get into trouble, but when I stayed with my dad or his family, they constantly tried to shove me into a box that was too small for me. It seemed to me at the time as if they wanted everything that was really me to disappear.

And because of other issues that were going on in the background, I didn’t feel safe enough to really stick up for myself. So I learned how to play the game and be the girl they wanted but on my own terms, and learned how to only be myself in my alone time, where I’d read books about kids who saved the world or went on glorious adventures, or told myself stories about such kids… this of course led into my becoming a writer over the years, and because I could be myself completely while writing, it then became my bliss and joy.

Throughout my school years I was bullied from all angles, as well as being bullied by my dad’s family and their terrible fear of anything different to the 1950s “norm” of humanity. One year they were so destraught that I liked too many boys things, that they came to the conclusion they had to stop me from turning into a lesbian (as if that was a bad thing, or even linked to gender expression), and I got five barbie dolls in one Christmas.

It all became very blurry after that. I tried to be the kid everyone wanted me to be, but constantly failed at that. The struggle blurred all the lines and I didn’t really have a good sense of identity inside all of that confusion and fear and never being good enough for them. As I grew I tried to find compromises between what society wanted of me, and what I wanted. At times, I cut myself short and learned what they wanted and gave it to them, and at other times I cut them short and embraced my pain and frustration, taking it out on others, particularly in my teenage years.

There were other very loud things going on in my life, like developing complex PTSD, and then the horror of my teen years, so some of the time the other bad stuff overshadowed the gender issues. But slowly as I got older and the other stuff lessened (particularly after I finally finished high school), I was left to explore my own identity.

I knew I wasn’t who they thought I was. I knew I didn’t like my birth name and I knew that in order to have a chance at my own life, defined only by me, I would have to do something drastic to assert control over my own life. And age 21, with the help of my awesome mother, I changed my legal name and tried to reinvent myself. And while life was better because more of it was on my terms, I was still compromising for other people. I knew I wanted the name David, but because girls aren’t allowed boys names, I had to choose another. And because I didn’t know that gender and sex were different things, or that there were other people out there who felt similarly, I figured I’d best just do what I can with what I have and get on with life. So I did. I got a degree in philosophy and the study of religions, I trained to become a qualified ESL teacher, I wrote a couple of books, became an Indie Author, and still something wasn’t quite right, but I soldiered on.

At the beginning of my 35th year, I had a breakdown. It wasn’t due to gender issues, though that certainly didn’t help. what went wrong is that an event triggered a sequence of repressed memories to surface of the abuse I suffered as a small person, and was essentially retraumatised. By my 36th birthday I was suicidal and very close to passing on, but slowly, over the next year or so I got trauma counselling and a lot of support, and eventually started to heal.

And an amazing thing happened… as all that pain started healing and brushing away, my mind finally started to clear enough to get a better sense of my own identity. At the same time as this healing was the resurgence of information about the transgender identity online, and one day I read an article about being non-binary… and the penny dropped.

Up until that article, I knew about transgender people but I didn’t know you could be anything other than extremely male or extremely female, so I had nothing to describe because I’m neither. After the article I went searching online for more information and terms and ideas and a community to which I could connect. There are a lot of words out there in the world to describe gender, but I believe I’m technically a “non-binary gender fluid Demi-boy”, which means a person who is gender neutral but with male leanings. At the time I didn’t know what I needed or could do about this realisation, so I sat on it for a while to figure things out. And november last year 2016 (age 37), I decided to publicly come out as non-binary, requesting they refer to me using they/them pronouns and changing my legal name of Ke-Yana to just K. I thought it would be easier for my friends to use “they/them” and use a variation of the legal name, I thought it would be less confrontational for them than having to try and observe where I’m sitting on the gender scale on any given day and give me the correct pronouns for that day.

As it turned out, things didn’t really go how I wanted them to. I’d made another compromise for the comfort of others, and most people couldn’t be bothered to apply it, to even meet me half way. It’s almost a year since I came out and people still call me “she” and still call me by the legal name. All I’ve ever wanted is to be seen. For someone to see who I am underneath this ridiculous body, talk to me, not to the me they want me to be.

I’ve come back to me and what I want because I’m sick and tired of making compromises with my own public identity, and showing respect to others, when they are too lazy and selfish to bother meeting me half way. So I’m using that anger to build a new me, a new public face. And if the rest of the world doesn’t like it, they can jump. I’m sick of compromising who and what I am, and forcing myself smaller so as to give space to people who won’t even give me similar respect, or even basic respect in return.

I’m not sure entirely what this future me will look like, but I invite you to journey with me on this transition to an identity that’s solely mine.

PTSD Help

My name’s David, or “K” if you knew me in my old life.

A part of that old life was being a small child at the mercy of a sexual predator. As a consequence, I now live my life with the huge task of having to manage, control and alleviate the symptoms of having Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, along with social anxiety, panic disorder and major depressive disorder.

Life with PTSD isn’t easy, but it is manageable with the right mental health tools. I’m almost 40 and I’ve been learning how to manage PTSD since I was about eleven, when I decided to teach myself how to meditate, although now I think about it, some of the things I use to manage PTSD, I learned even younger.  As an adult, I’ve done ordinary CBT, trauma CBT, miCBT (mindfulness training), years of counselling, large chunks of DBT, half a degree in psychology, and I’m also in a twelve step mental health managing Program called Grow.

I think I have a lot to offer to folks who need a little help managing their PTSD. One thing I’ve noticed about CBT and DBT manuals is that there’s so much speciality language, and little to no variation on the exercises. Such as “grounding”, you’re always recommended to list five things that you can sense from each of your five senses. But they don’t really go into what grounding is, it’s purpose, and other ideas to apply the same purpose in a different way. I’m a kinethetic and visual learner, which means I don’t learn very well with words or from books, I have to see what I’m learning in my mind, or physically do it to learn it. So over the years I’ve modified the “official” ways of doing things, so that they work for me.

I imagine if I’ve had trouble with those manuals and the complicated language, that other people have too. So, once I figure out the technical details, I’d like to start a series of videos helping people to find the methods to manage their PTSD that works well for them. I want to give really practical and helpful suggestions to people.

It’s really hard trying to live a normal life with the effects of PTSD. Some people can come to a complete place of recovery, and others, like myself, are likely to always be affected in one way or another, but one thing I can promise you, is that with the right tools, you can improve your situation considerably.

Crafty Things!

As a person who also suffers from chronic illness, I’m often too unwell to write but too awake to do nothing but sleep, so I’ve taught myself a number of crafty skills. The current passion is Crochet.

Learning crafty things can be hard if you’re a different kind of learner. I’m a kinesthetic and visual learner, which means I either have to be able to see it in my mind, or physically do it before it’ll stick in my brain. As a consequence I’m wanting to share in video form (once I sort out the technical details), of how I learned but from a very simple kinesthetic and visual perspective. Too many people teach things like crochet via words, via lists and patterns that often come off as some sort of encoded message to those of us who don’t learn by reading. So I’d like to start showing the basics of crochet in an easy, simplistic way, so you learn immediately how to actually MAKE something.

The first set of lessons is how to make “Granny Square” blankets/afgans. You actually only need to learn three stitches to do granny squares, so I’ll teach those in really simple, step by step format for folks.