My Formal Treaty of Alliance

                Ally: (noun) something united with another, usually by treaty.  See also: supporter, advocate, partner, friend.

                My heart is heavy this week. 

                There’s a girl I know—someone whose name matters but won’t be revealed here—who is being hurt by someone she loves.  It doesn’t matter how I know this girl, just that I do, and I know her to be sweet and kind and undeserving of the things that have happened to her.

                Although, really, it wouldn’t matter if she wasn’t sweet and kind.  She could be rude or thoughtless or irresponsible and she still wouldn’t deserve the things that have happened to her.  No one is deserving of the things that are happening to this girl. 

                It wasn’t the first time she piled on the concealer to hide the bruising around her eyes or had to press ice cubes to her mouth, trying to calm the swelling of her fat lip.  It won’t be the last time, either.

                I knew she was going to go back to him.  Even as we sat together and discussed her options, even when the tears started cutting through the thick makeup beneath her eyes, even when she put her head on my shoulder and told me how afraid she was…even then.  I knew. 

                While looking for a way to help this particular girl, I found a fairly staggering collection of statistics:

o   Every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.

o   On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.

o   1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

o   1 in 5 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

o   On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

o   Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.

o   Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.

o   Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

                My resources also tell me that, on average, a woman will attempt to leave an abusive relationship seven times before she finally leaves for good.  By that point, a lot of people in her life have given up.  They’ve burnt out their concern.  They’ve forced themselves to detach.  She’s lost her support system, her safety net.

                A large part of my brain is telling me to do just that. To detach and say that she’s a grown woman and to let her make her own decisions, but my heart is still wincing with each beat.  I know it would be easier to turn my eyes away and to find something better, something more positive to focus on, but I just can’t.  Not when there are so many broken little girls like her. So many people who have already been erased by those they love out of pain or disgust or exhaustion.

                I can’t make this girl come with me. I can’t make her go to the police or the hospital.  Not if she’s not ready to.  But here’s what I can do: I can remain her ally.

                And if allies are only recognized as official by formal treaty, then I guess this is mine:

                I promise not to punish you if you decide to go back to him.  I will not roll my eyes and mutter under my breath that you are asking to be hurt again; I will not shake my head and pity you or call you an idiot and ask what is wrong with you.

                I promise that I will still answer my phone if you call me—whether it’s the middle of the night or the middle of my shift at work.  I promise I will answer.

                I promise I will believe you and treat you with the respect that you deserve while we get you the help that you need. 

                I promise that I will try my hardest never say "If it were me..." or "If I were you..." Because I am not you and I don't know what it's like to be living through the things that you are living through.  

                I promise that if you need me, I will come and get you.  No matter where you are, I will come and get you and bring you someplace safe.  Even if that place is my own home.  I will keep you safe and so will my loved ones. 

                I promise to be your ally; I promise that you are not alone and that this is not the way your story is meant to end. 




Eff you, Mars

“I’m not going to die here.”

I said that to myself last night as I looked in the mirror.  It’s not an original line by any means.  I’m sure it’s been said a million times, but most recently and most famously by Matt Damon in the supremely wonderful film The Martian.

Mark Watney (Matt’s character) is stranded on a hostile, deserted Mars. His situation is pretty hopeless. But there’s a moment when he looks down and says those words to himself.  “I’m not going to die here.” 

I’m not going to lie, I feel a little like I’m trapped on Mars.  Things are pretty dark in my head lately.  Pretty hopeless.  My job feels like a dead-end, it sucks my time and energy away from almost anything that makes me happy, my skin has been in a constant state of painful revolution since November of 2013 and my finances are…well…

I don’t like to overuse the words tragic farce, but if the shoe fits.

I’m unhealthy, grossly unhappy, and losing my grip on the hope that there’s still something bigger and better shimmering beneath my dingy surface.  And a lot of days—more often than not—I’m tired of feeling like that.  And I don’t see a light at the end of any tunnel.  I’m just tired.  I don’t necessarily want to die so much as I just want to lay down and close my eyes and wake up when I have the energy to live my life again.  

Depression is funny like that.  It beats you up slowly.  In tiny, little increments when you don’t even realize it.  It does it by reminding you of every time someone stabbed you with words like “Be realistic.”  Or “So what’s the back-up plan?” and “What are going to do for a real job?” It chips away at any kind of belief you have in yourself.  It turns the lights out one by one until you’re left sitting in the dark, replaying all of those words, all those moments when it was right.  When you weren’t smart enough or brave enough or pretty enough for…whatever it was you were looking for.

I can’t even remember sometimes. 

My depression’s been a real fucking asshole this past year.  It’s left me sitting in silence in my apartment, screaming and crying inside because I’m too inept to reach my husband who is walking through his own darkness just two rooms away.  It’s told me over and over again that my words are worthless.  That I’m a disappointment as a daughter and a sister and a friend.  That the reason no one has come to visit me is because I’m not worth it.  That my dream of grad school, of publishing and teaching is selfish and childish and unrealistic.  It’s assured me how unspecial I am.  How unentitled I am to anything more than a boring, run-of-the-mill existence. 

And it’s done it for so long that it sounds more right than anything else I can come up with.  Anything anyone else can say to me.  Because it’s coming from inside my brain, so it feels like it knows me better than anyone else.  So it must be right.

And, who knows. Maybe it is.

Maybe I’m not special.  Not everyone is.  (That sounds harsh, but it’s also the point of being special, isn’t it? That not everyone can be.)  Maybe I’m not meant for anything more than middle management and a word processor full of works-in-progress that never seem to achieve anything more than a few hundred words a month. 

Maybe that’s all true.

But it’s also true that I looked myself in the mirror yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and said “I’m not going to die here.”

And I’m going to say it tonight, too. 

Because I’m not going to die here.  Because I might be living a fucking nightmarish existence of mediocrity, but I’ve at least decided that much. 

And that’s not nothin’

Mars isn’t going to win this one.