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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged rape

CW: homelessness, PTSD, depression, anxiety, Christmas, chronic pain, eviction, mentions of rape, rejection, MMJ, gaslighting

For the first time in ten years, I wasn’t literally going crazy around Christmas. Usually around this time of year, everything makes me feel beyond sad and so anxious I feel like I’m dying constantly. Last year, this mental health crisis began in November and lasted until about September. Almost an entire year of crazy.

But this year, so far, I was managing a lot better. I was doing things to take care of my mental health. I was a few moths into therapy, and I quit a job that was infringing on my mental health. Christmas one week away, ten years without mom two weeks away, my twenty-sixth birthday two and a half weeks away. Nine year rapeiversarry less than a month away. Nine year suicide attempt anniversary less than two months away. But I was holding up. Even though I had been fired from a job I’d really wanted, rejected from multiple others, rejected from a writing fellowship, rejected from grad school, and was feeling a little undervalued in my many volunteering attempts (all in the last couple months), I was actively working on myself and making an effort to do things that felt good. Healing.

And then my landlord delivered an N5 to my door. Three complaints, all within the last month, from the neighbour upstairs about my dog barking when we weren’t home. This neighbour had a history of complaining about anything and everything in the building, and had lived there even longer than the three years we had lived there. For the last couple of months, everything in the building had been quiet, and, as far as I was aware, there had been no drama whatsoever.

Our names were spelled wrong on the forms, which automatically voids them. But it was still an unnecessary stress that, honestly, infringed on MY enjoyment of MY space. We had seven days to correct the problem, or we would be taken to the Landlord Tenant Board. My landlord told me to get a shock collar to leave on my dog when she was unsupervised, which I told him I was uncomfortable with, he suggested I locked my dog in the one bedroom with a small window she couldn’t see out of, and he told me not to be upset. He was delivering me with a Notice to End my Tenancy a week before Christmas in a town with a 1% vacancy rate.

One of the time periods where the neighbour claimed Luna was barking, my partner had been home. During another documented complaint, the neighbour had contacted my landlord five minutes after I had messaged her back telling her I was leaving where I was to come home, as she had texted me informing me that Luna was barking. She didn’t even give me a chance.

We’d been in communication about this brand new issue my five-year-old dog was apparently suddenly having in a building she had lived in for three years. I had communicated to the neighbour the efforts I was taking to address the issue: working with my dog when I was home on making no sound at all, ever (she only ever barked when someone knocked on the door or when the dog across the hall went out), blocking off the one room where she could see out the window, and working from home 90% of the time.

That was something that was starting to be a little triggering. For about a month, half the time I would leave my apartment (which was barely ever, thanks to a lovely combo of chronic pain and chronic anxiety and depression), the neighbour would text me to say “Luna is on a barking spree”. I would thank her for letting me know, and let her know that I would get home as soon as possible. Whenever I was out for a reason aside from work, I left what I was doing and immediately came home to my silent dog.

I started to do some tests, in the hope of better understanding the issue. I would walk up the stairs, loudly, to see if that was enough to trigger Luna to bark. It wasn’t. I knew that ringing the buzzer or knocking on the door would trigger barking (because she’s a dog), but the barking never went on for more than a couple minutes, at most. I stood out back and had a smoke and called a friend on the phone. No barking. On this form, it claims that she was barking continuously for spans of 90 minutes or more. I asked another neighbour, directly across the hall, if it was an issue, and she said that it wasn’t. As far as I was aware, this had never been an issue before, and I was actively working on it (under the assumption that it was true). My landlord himself had spoken to me once, about three weeks ago, about receiving a call out of concern (not a complaint) because Luna was barking, which was so unusual for her.

But apparently it was a big enough issue this past weekend that it was ground to threaten eviction.

Before we lived in this apartment, we had spent three months homeless living out of backpacks in a generous and awesome couple of friends’ spare bedroom after having a falling out with a friend who had told us we could rent a spare room in the house he owned while we got on our feet after moving to Northumberland County. For three months, I learned that there is nothing more scary than feeling fucked up and having nowhere that was safe or yours to go to feel those fucked up feelings and cope with them.

We weren’t bad tenants. I openly utilize (legally prescribed) medical cannabis to treat my health issues, and I have a (sweet, loving, obedient) dog who is selectively aggressive with other dogs and apparently sometimes barks (!?). So I keep my dog on a leash and work actively with her and invite people to contact me regularly if there is anything we are doing that inconvenienced them in any way. I’ve lost track of how many times I have given my phone number to all of my neighbours. I really tried to go out of my way to have a good relationship with my neighbours in the building.

I was almost always home. I was trying to work on some freelance art and writing and other creative projects while doing a lot of work with a local charity that is important to me. And I was trying to manage my (both physical and mental) health. And now I’m sitting in my living room at 4:55 a.m. having an anxiety attack because this home I am building is threatened (even abstractly) and I’ve been rejected yet again in a huge way from this place where my partner and I so desperately want to build a life.

And mom’s still dead, and someone violated my body without my consent a really long time ago, and I still want to die sometimes, and no one believed in me enough to hire me, and no school believes in me enough to accept me, and I’m still in pain every day, and everyone is still singing the same bullshit Christmas songs and watching bullshit Christmas movies.

I’m still here.

Writing instead of losing my fucking mind. One foot in front of the other. Hoping I have a community behind me.

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CW- Bronte Creek Project, suicide, overdose, rape, slut-shaming)
 

The last thing that happened before I tried to kill myself was the co-op students in my class told me that it was inappropriate to be sitting on the bed with the boy who had raped me a few weeks prior. In all fairness, they didn’t know that he had raped me, they just knew that I had a boyfriend who wasn’t this guy and that we were on a school trip in Temagami. So me sitting on his bunk was not cool.

I had told some of our classmates what had happened, but they also considered it cheating. They didn’t know about the ways he had manipulated me or understand just how vulnerable I was, having just had the first anniversary of my mom’s death. They just knew that I had had sex with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. My boyfriend didn’t know.

Anyway, even after the assault, I got off on the intense attention he paid to me, so I was still close with him. I even had sex with him sometimes. After all, he’d already had sex with me, so what did it matter? He had carved my initials into his arm, so I figured that if he wanted me to sit on the bed and talk with him, I guess I had better do it. The co-op students told me that what I was doing was inappropriate, and it was like like a switch flipped off in my head. Now I know that that feeling has a name: dissociation.

I was done. I went to my bag and took every pill I could find. I had brought a bottle of extra strength advil, about two weeks worth of my Prozac and Clonazopam prescriptions, and some allergy pills. I went in the bathroom stall, and I took the pills in handfuls. (That’s always bee a skill of mine). I sat and waited.

The next thing I remember is one of my classmates (we’ll call them “R”) finding me. I think they asked me what I took. I think to this day, they probably all think I was trying to get high. After a few of my classmates gathered and realized how out of it I was getting, they finally decided get a teacher.

The next thing I remember is hiding my phone in my underwear upon getting to the hospital so that “they” wouldn’t take it from me.

The next thing I remember is waking up and swiftly removing the IV from my arm. I looked up and saw my uncle sitting in the chair at the foot of my bed. My dad walked in to the room.

The next thing I remember is being home and all my classmates getting back from their super cool winter camping trip and coming to visit me. Including him. They told me they loved me and they were glad I was okay.

At the end of the semester, I kept in touch for a while with a few of my classmates. Some of them stayed very close. Some of them are still really close. They go to each other’s weddings. They speak so fondly of this semester-long program that changed their lives. It changed mine too. It was formative in a lot of big ways. It is also something that will forever be associated with an event that changed my life.

In the end, it wasn’t the rape that did me in. It was the shaming afterward. It was feeling disconnected from what I thought was my community. It’s a story about a time “community” wasn’t community after all. And maybe it’s time I wrote down.