The Collective Nightmare [TW: trafficking, abuse]
Sometimes I wonder if the reason I’m so bad at keeping regular employment is because it reminds me too much of when I was sold for sex.
Here are all these things you HAVE to do whether you like it or not, whether you CAN or not. Sex. Ten-hour shifts. Blowjobs. Constant performance regardless of disability. Unless you please them, you WILL end up on the street. Beatings. Eviction. Drowning. Foreclosure. DON’T YOU DARE HAVE FUCKING LIMITS. Don’t cry or they’ll hit you harder. Don’t have a breakdown or you’re fired. DON’T YOU DARE HAVE FUCKING NEEDS. Love? HAHAHAHA YEAH RIGHT. Time off for doctor visits? NO. GET BACK TO WORK. You don’t get to complain, just do what you’re told. Take off your clothes. Unload the truck. Get in the van. See me in my office. BUT WE LOVE YOU. You obviously want it. Nobody’s forcing you to do this. You were born to do this. What else would you do with your life, laze about doing nothing like a slob? This is what you deserve. Wage slavery is a part of life, get used to it. You’re too good at fucking to do anything else. This is necessary for progress! Since you did so well tonight, I’ll make you dinner. Here’s your paycheck.
Rape is not sex. Capitalism is not progress.
When I started therapy, I had removed myself from my primary abuser. I believed the abuse was all over. I grew up in a nightmare, but now I had removed myself from it. I was back in the normal world, where things aren’t perfect but are at least okay. This was my chance to move on to a normal life.
I was so naive.
I used to keep an imaginary version of my family in my head, where everyone cared about each other’s feelings and wanted the best for everyone. Where I wasn’t being raped, where there wasn’t an hierarchy of scapegoating. It was painful to let go of that fantasy. It was heart-wrenching to admit to the reality. Every now and then when I was living with my family, something would happen to reveal the ugliness underneath in a way that I couldn’t repress it into a dark corner and forget. I would briefly see the abusive system for what it really is. Then I would get weak and return to the fantasy.
It wasn’t all bad, after all. We would sometimes have fun together. Make jokes that weren’t at each other’s expense, watch movies together, share our feelings. There was just enough of a functional family there we could cling to what worked and ignore everything that didn’t. It was only when I challenged the system that I felt the wrath of my family and the abusive dynamic that persisted after our primary abuser was out of the picture.
I think our current global system is like that, for privileged people like me anyway. I survived horrible abuse, but I am also white and grew up in an upper middle-class environment. Just as there was enough padding at home for me to ignore how we were fundamentally broken as a family, so too is there just enough padding for most people to ignore how society is broken and abusive.
It was only after I was thrust into adult life that I saw the cracks in the system. It was only when I was forced to get regular employment to avoid starving to death on the street that I saw the ugliness. It was only when it became apparent that I wasn’t just a little sad, but functionally disabled from PTSD that I realized the outside world wasn’t benign, but actively abusive. Especially toward anyone who challenged the system or couldn’t operate within it.
I didn’t leave the nightmare. I jumped from one nightmare to another. Granted, I have a chosen family (along with a few biological family members) that is genuinely loving and supportive. My life now isn’t all bad. But this isn’t at all how I imagined the world “outside the abuse” to look. I can’t get outside the abuse. I can’t leave the nightmare. I have spent the past ten years trying to leave the nightmare, and while the fight resulted in self-esteem, better coping methods, and a connection to a large network of amazing people, there is a nightmare on a larger scale that, most of the time, is invisible.
I can’t escape the nightmare, I can only become a lucid dreamer. I can accept the nightmare’s presence while fighting the status quo, because the status is NOT quo. I can learn to navigate the nightmare. To cope with the extreme feelings the nightmare causes. I can cultivate a sense of humor, a kind of warped sense of humor that mocks the garish visions I encounter. I can find allies within the nightmare. I can learn to exercise my power as a proper lucid dreamer, to shape the nightmare. I can connect to other lucid dreamers. And maybe, eventually, all of us together in unison can wake the collective human mind from its slumber.
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