Poetry – Cook Me With Tenderness

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Cook Me With Tenderness
By: Maranda Russell

Clever,
and not yet
without tricks,
I seem to
only disappoint
you further.
But I beg of you,
don’t roast me –
just smash me to bits
and cook me
with tenderness.

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Thoughts on Growing Up With Autism

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This post will contain a collection of short journal entries I wrote recently about what it was like emotionally to grow up with autism. These thoughts specifically dealt with bullying and (for me) the most confusing time of adolescence, which was middle school and the beginning of high school. By the last couple years of high school I had figured some things out and learned how to “pretend” to fit in a bit better, even though deep down I still felt like an oddball.

Here goes:

I hated always being the butt of the joke – even among friends. I was naive. I was gullible. I was trusting. Too many times I was set up for humiliation or embarrassment.

In an effort to avoid this embarrassment, I quit trusting anyone. I quit taking anyone at their word. I became suspicious. I struggled to identify sarcasm, so I started assuming ALL was sarcasm unless I knew someone well enough to tell the difference. 

Due to this struggle with recognizing sarcasm, how many “mean” comments did I take to heart that were meant in jest? How many cruel words that cut me to the core, were never even meant to be cruel? When boys would say they liked me and I would take it as them mocking me and choose to ignore them or laugh at their “joke”, did I instead end up hurting their feelings in an effort to save my own? 

Bullied for my weight during middle school, accused of having a lack of “feeling” or frustrating others who thought I didn’t care about anything because I suffered from selective mutism under stress, constantly feeling reminded that I wasn’t “feminine” enough – this was much of my teenage experience.  

The common thread throughout was that I unknowingly made myself a target for abuse. The way I dressed. The way I talked. The way I acted. I was so desperate for acceptance and approval, but I reached for them in ways that were socially unacceptable to those around me and ended up only painting the bulls-eye larger on myself.  

Kavanaugh & Ford: Thoughts on Attempted Assault, Trauma, and PTSD

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The last few days, I have come across a lot of stupid, ignorant comments about attempted rape and its potential aftermath on social media. In case you have been living under a rock, people have gotten very passionate about the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court candidate and his first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, who both recently testified in front of the senate about sexual assault charges.

I have seen many memes and comments about both the accuser and the accused, and while some of them are respectful in expressing their personal opinion, many have taken to maligning the accuser, calling her a liar, a political schemer, and even saying the assault wasn’t a big deal and couldn’t have been that traumatizing. I want to take a minute to say that just because an assault is not completed, does not mean it isn’t extremely traumatizing! I will use a couple personal experiences to illustrate why I feel this way:

When I was in middle school, almost every day I was chased by big, mean bullies who threatened to “kick my ass” or even “kill me”…they never did actually beat me up, but they TERRIFIED me. I was truly afraid for my personal safety. They made me dread going to school and I became hypervigilant about trying to avoid them. In fact, I remember having to time my afternoon trek to the school bus just right so that hopefully I wouldn’t cross their path, while also making it to the bus on time.

When I was 17, I was robbed at gun point while working at Burger King. It was the end of the night shift and the manager and I were leaving out the front door, when two males in black outfits and masks jumped out of the shadows, one of them pointing his gun straight at me. No, I wasn’t actually shot during the ordeal, but I had terrifying dreams and flashbacks long after. I could never work night shift there again. To this day, I am still afraid of home invasions and double or triple check the locks at night.

If I had been a victim of attempted rape, I’m sure that would have been another terrifying memory to live with. I wish people understood PTSD and how even attempted assaults can cause immense levels of trauma, depending upon the person and how they process events and react to them. Some of the events that I find most traumatizing, others might not understand, while other events I went through that didn’t phase me much (like my mother’s many divorces) would have rocked the world of other kids. I wish we didn’t feel the need to judge others for what hurts or scars them.

A Night Full of Nightmares

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Last night I had a bunch of nightmares. In fact, I woke up feeling like that was all I did all night – face some of my darkest fears. These nightmares didn’t feature vampires, ghosts, ax murderers, clowns, or spiders…they featured the person I love the most in the world, my husband.

In these dreams my husband turned cruel and cold. He stopped caring about me. He wanted to leave me or even kill me. The betrayals started small in the dreams, with him choosing friends over me and simply being uncaring and dismissive of my feelings, but they accelerated as the dreams went on and turned to him expressing extreme hatred towards me and even trying to stage an “accident” to get rid of me.

Let me say that these dreams ARE NOT representative of my husband’s treatment of me. We have been together 15 years and he has been wonderful. Caring, patient, understanding, loving, forgiving….all of these are adjectives that fit him perfectly. He always puts me first before anyone else, often, even before himself.

So why the bad dreams? My guess is PTSD. When you grow up in an unstable environment with mentally ill, abusive, and selfish people who often put their own desires before your needs, it fucks you up for life. You always feel unworthy. You always feel like the rug of security can be pulled out from beneath your feet at any time. You feel like you don’t deserve good things, and if you do happen to get love and affection, you are suspicious and paranoid about it. How I wish I could just forget the past.

Does Any of It Matter?

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Do you ever wonder if it all matters? I sure do. I try to be positive most of the time when I think about the things I do and whether they make a difference, but when I get depressed, the voices of doubt tend to get louder. They say some pretty mean things:

Are you just wasting your time writing and making art? Who really cares?

Why would anyone care what you have to say? Who do you think you are?

You try to support others, but do they even notice? Does it even help them?

You only focus so much on art and writing because you can’t keep a REAL job. 

Your own family never cared that much about you, why would anyone else?

If you died today, barely anyone would notice or care. Your funeral would be empty. 

You are selfish and everyone sees through you. 

You are a drain on your husband and society in general. 

I know these are very negative (some would even say abusive) thoughts, but when I am feeling low, they play in my head like a stuck record. By writing them out, I am hoping they will finally shut the hell up. Do any of these thoughts (or similar ones) ever haunt you?

 

Poetry: Waffle House at 3am

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Waffle House at 3am
By: Maranda Russell

Waffle House
at 3 am
is not the place
to make a scene.

It doesn’t matter
if your heart
is broken,
if your brother
just ran off
with your boyfriend,
or if you want
to punch
that smarmy cook
right
in the left
testicle.

Stringy hashbrowns
cover a multitude
of sins,
vanilla coke
softly bubbles
over salty wounds,
and once in a while,
raisin toast
can be sweeter
than revenge.

My Mother Helped a Guy to Stalk Me

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Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of resentment and anger towards my mother. To explain why, let me share a specific incident that kind of illustrates why I am upset.

When I was 14/15, my mother worked with a guy named Danny who met me and developed a huge crush on me. He was in his late teens or early twenties, but was definitely an adult already. I DID NOT share his romantic interest and made that plain. I had absolutely no interest in dating him or getting to know him better. He bought me an expensive bracelet as a gift, which I immediately returned to him to make it clear I wasn’t interested.

Even with my mother knowing how I felt and that I was stressed out by the attention, she actually egged him on in spite of how I felt or what I wanted. She even gave him our home address and told him when I would be home. So, he ended up coming to my house while I was there alone and banged on the door and called my name for what felt like forever. He yelled about how he knew I was home because my mom had told him so. I never answered the door or responded to his calls. In fact, I hid in the closet because I was scared at the aggressiveness he was displaying.

I felt like I was being stalked, and worst of all, my own mother was encouraging it. This is just one small incident that portrays an issue with boundaries and respecting my privacy that was even more disturbing in other ways which perhaps I will share someday if and when I am ready to do so. I know it might sound odd, but I almost have a feeling like my mother WANTED to whore me out for some reason. I can’t even describe what that did to me psychologically.

Not in a Good Place Right Now

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I’m not in a good place right now. I wish I was, but I’m not. For the past couple months, I have been struggling off and on with what almost feels like a new low level of depression. Half the time I can’t stop crying, and half the time I feel almost absolutely nothing. I swing between numbness and despair, with a few almost decent days thrown in here and there. This may sound strange, but I am even too depressed to entertain suicidal thoughts. I just can’t think that far ahead right now or drum up the energy to make a decision like that.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason. For several days I may be weepy and lethargic, skipping meals without even meaning to, and only finding comfort from burrowing in a pile of heavy blankets or laying on our swing outside. Then out of the blue, I might have a decent day where I can get myself showered, dressed, and actually get a few chores done or do a little shopping…but the very next day, I’m likely to be right back huddled up on the bed or the couch.

I guess the only good news is that today is my appointment with my psychiatrist, and I am praying he takes me off the Prozac and can get me onto an antidepressant that will actually work again, because the current cocktail of medications doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.

I Could Have Been Labeled a Terrorist

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Sometimes I feel like I live in an entirely different world than the one I grew up in. One thing I am greatly thankful for is that there wasn’t the sensitivity to threats of violence or stupid immature outbursts when I was a kid and teen. I think about how common it was when I was a kid to joke about “blowing up the school” when you were mad, or how easily we threw around the “I’m going to kill you!” threat. Of course, we didn’t really mean it, to us, it was just a way to express frustration…but if kid me were to make those comments today in school, I would likely be taken away in handcuffs.

I also think about a stupid reaction I had as a teenager to a betrayal by someone I had a huge crush on. This person I had a crush on had been sort of leading me on and making me think that we might have a future together. We worked together at Burger King, and he was a few years older than me, but probably not much more grown up. When I found out that he had been lying to me and was secretly in a romantic relationship with someone else we worked with, I was SUPER PISSED. Both of these people I worked with had pretty much lied right to my face about their relationship numerous times and one day at work I simply went off.

Everyone else was gossiping about their affair and I was pulled into the conversation. Several knew how I had felt about him and asked if I planned to do anything. Being someone who was viciously angry and has always had a dark sense of humor, I said maybe I should go set their house on fire with them inside. Then I remembered that the girl had a daughter and I corrected myself by saying I would make sure I got the little girl out first. It was a dark joke. Clearly not something I intended to do, just a way to let off steam. I have often thought though that if that were to happen in our world’s current climate, I seriously could have been arrested for making terrorism threats.

It is these memories I revisit when I see stories about kids getting expelled or investigated for making pretend guns out of Pop-Tarts, shouting something in anger, or making pretend shooting motions with their fingers. I think of how stupid and immature I used to be and how I lacked the wisdom to see the potential consequences of a rash, snide comment or playful dark humor. I certainly understand our world’s over-sensitivity to these things today, but I can’t help but think of how naively innocent I once was when I would foolishly spout off without thinking it through.