My freshman year of college was one of my worst to date, though my PTSD didn't kick in until I lived 1,500 miles away from everyone who'd traumatized me. I was doing great for a couple of years once I was in the Midwest, until one night while I was asleep, and my house was robbed. I was physically completely fine, but I remember consciously having the thought "I'm never going to be safe." That's when the floodgates opened and everything I'd experienced years prior came rushing back to me.
I talk about most of this a lot. I talk about my rapes. I talk about how sick my mom has been off and on, how poverty-stricken my childhood was intermittently. And I allude to "this really bad roommate in college" quite a bit, but it was worse than that. We'll call her Sarah. I thought Sarah and I had a soul connection, chosen family, twin flames, etc. etc. While I won't regale the entire thing now, suffice it to say she was verbally and emotionally abusive--and that wasn't the worst of it. She also broke into my email, even writing emails as me. She took out almost a dozen credit cards in my name. (They have since dropped off my credit report. Goddess bless financial advisors helping me out further.) And she made me anxious, fearful of my own spiritual power, fearful of my own voice, fearful to get too close to people. To this day my biggest show of trust is me sharing a password with you because you need onto a computer. To this day Sarah shows up in my dreams, laughing at the way my stomach drops to see her.
Over the past several years, my PTSD has taken several things from me. One of the most notable is my desire and ability to perform--I don't have any performance related trauma, but it's made my anxiety come into entirely new places, like severe stage fright that incapacitates me to the point that it doesn't seem worth it to push past it. My close friends know the highlights of this story, and I've told most of my family and people who's relationships were affected by her manipulations. But speaking of Sarah publicly, even under a fake name? Let alone telling my semi-newly found stage fright to screw off so I could tell it publicly. But Thursday night that's exactly what I did.
I've slowly been working my way up to performing regularly again. I don't have a desire to do the whole actor's life thing again. Producing, curation, and theatre direction really are my artistic passions(beyond writing that is). But I do genuinely love performing. I have friends who are glorious storytellers, and there's things that intersect writing and performing beyond that like what the Neo-Futurist's do theatrically that I would happily spend my entire life doing if I thought that was an option for me. Performing IS going to be a part of my life. It is a part of my voice as a writer and theater artist, and while I don't need to "perform" where tarot is concerned, teaching and speaking still require a comfort level with elements of performance. So I;ve been taking it slow but getting back in the saddle. In February I put together a series of short plays for a Patrick's Cabaret event about my dating life, and that was wonderful. And I told a hilarious story about getting my period at a nice restaurant with white chairs (WHO HAS WHITE CHAIRS?! SERIOUSLY) at a different storytelling show a few months ago. I've jumped up to do shorter pieces at open mics and been working steadily on having a collection to pull from.
So when I was invited to feature at Story Club in October, I had two thoughts. One was the "hell yes" that I judge every decision by. (If that's not my reaction, I don't do the thing.) Two was "oh hell what do I even talk about?" Deep down though, I knew it was time to talk about Sarah. I'm a sucker for all things horror in October, and this was a real life horror story. I also met Sarah at a Halloween event. She's on my mind a lot, every year, around this time. This year I feel different though. I've been making so many big, important changes and yet I've still been sitting here, sitting with this entire thing just swirling around inside of me. It was time to talk.
So I did. I got up in front of a pretty decent sized crowd that included two of my storytelling idols, and I tore down the tower of "not knowing how to even start processing this" by doing the thing Sarah always tried to prevent me doing: telling people about it.
I had somewhat more altruistic reasons for this too. I like to talk about things that people don't talk about a lot but a lot of people experience, (like getting your period EVERYWHERE at a dinner party), and I'm not the first person to deal with a truly toxic, abusive, sociopathic friend. We don't think about how formative friendships are, especially when we're young, but they frequently shape us as much as our family and love lives do. But we have tools for dealing with those things, we have resources, and people talk about them at least MORE than they talk about abusive friends even if it still isn't enough. I'm not a proponent of kicking everyone who's the least bit negative or problematic to the curb. I get a lot of satisfaction out of giving unconditional love, working towards true compromises, and meeting people where they are and watching them grow. But there are genuinely horrible people in this world. I lived with one and she controlled my every move for a (luckily relatively short) period of time. I hope in speaking about it, others recognize those patterns sooner, or at least know they aren't alone in having had these experiences.
Story Club was a wonderful audience and experience--some people came up to me and talked about their own trauma and toxic experiences. Little introvert me was a little overwhelmed, but it was a good overwhelm. I feel relieved to not just be carrying this story around in a pocket of my soul anymore, and I feel honored to have gotten to tell it among such distinguished company and at an event I respect so much. It reminds me why I'm so addicted to the cycle of: Tower, Death, Judgment in my life, but that that isn't always a bad thing. That cycle got me to the Midwest. It gave me success in my careers. And now it's allowing me to breathe in a subject I haven't in so long.