On Physical Pain

I have been struggling with pain for about five weeks. Not emotional pain, but physical pain. I ran some intervals a while ago, and I developed some pain that I thought was soreness, but it didn’t go away. A few weeks later, I went to see a doctor–not my doctor–and she diagnosed me with Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness and showed me a bunch of stretches. On Friday, I went and got a massage, and the massage therapist told me that she could feel a bunch of trigger points in my thighs, and I had obviously been working very hard. By Monday, I could barely walk, so I went to see my doctor this time. Her diagnosis was, I don’t know.

My doctor is very kind and empathetic. The world has brought so many kind and empathetic women into my life when I have needed them, and I found myself telling her that I really didn’t want to stop running because I have been using the running to manage all of the trauma that has come up from writing my book.

She asked me, “Do you think that the trauma is what is causing this pain?”

“Is that even possible?” I asked.

“Well, western medicine wouldn’t say so,” she said. “But I wouldn’t rule it out.”

In my book, I have a chapter titled “His Ghost in Her Bones.” I talk about how Caleb has become a ghost in my bones.

And I guess I was right because what is wrong with me is that I have stress fractures in both of my hips.

My problem isn’t with my muscles, but with my bones.

I did everything right to strengthen my muscles, but my bones couldn’t take it.

Bones can’t really be made stronger.

My friend said tonight, “Have you been thinking about the metaphor of birthing this book and your hips being fractured?”

I haven’t, but she made a good point.

This book is too large.

It has broken me.

But this is not a story about my book.

This  is a story about a woman who will walk around on fractured hips for five weeks.

This is a story about a woman who will finish teaching her classes, and throw multiple parties, and pack her house, and move to another house, and unpack most of that house, and send her son off to spend the summer with his father, and spend time with friends, and walk her dog every night, and flirt with multiple people (and even make out with one of them), and cook delicious meals, and work on book revisions, and write blog posts, and all of this will happen while her hips are broken.

This is a story about a woman who does not know how to feel physical pain.

Last night, I walked by a piece of broken glass from a picture frame that a friend had accidentally stepped on. The glass shard sliced through my calf. It was a pretty nasty looking wound, nasty enough that my friend wanted to take me to the ER, but I just slapped a bandaid on it.

Still, later, I broke down crying. I said, “My body is in so much pain already. I don’t think I can take anymore.”

That was the first time I had articulated how much physical pain I am in.

At the beginning of the physical therapy session, I could tell that the physical therapist didn’t take me very seriously. By the end, he took me very seriously.

He told me that I need to rest. He told me not to run at all, that I need to avoid walking, even.

I cried on my way to the car.

I called my mother. She said, “Just give yourself 48 hours on the couch, okay?” By the end of our conversation, she had modified that to 24 hours because it was clear I was never going to give myself 48 hours on the couch.

I told her that I would do as she said.

I hung up the phone and went to the gym.

When I walked in to the gym, a professor at the front desk said, “Did you get your shirt?” (It’s a shirt for having gone to the gym over a 100 times in a year.)

I have gone to the gym 166 times in the past nine months.

Throughout this process, I keep being asked to rank my pain on a scale of 1-10, but I am at a loss as to how to do this.

I asked the nurse, “Is 10 like childbirth? What do these numbers represent?”

I said, “My pain when I run is a 7. No, maybe just a 5. Or maybe only a 3.”

I said, “I don’t know what my pain is.”

She said, “It’s just for our records. Just give me a number.”

I said, “Okay, the number is 6.”

Today, the physical therapist said, “When you run, the pain is a 7 or 8, isn’t it?”

I said, “Yes, it’s a 7 or 8.”

(I had just needed his confirmation to believe it.)

How is a woman who has had to learn how to not feel physical pain supposed to rank her pain on a 1-10 scale?

Is a 1 a push? A shove?

Is a 2 a grab at the arm?

Is a 3 being pressed against a wall?

Is a 4 being shoved into a wall?

Is a 5 being being punched in the arm?

Is a 6 being punched in head?

Is a 7 having hair ripped out?

Is an 8 being punched in the face?

Is a 9 being hit with an object that has been thrown?

Is a 10 that one time that I was on my stomach, and he punched me so hard right in the middle of the spine that, no matter how much I disassociated, I couldn’t not feel it?

I find that the blog posts that get the most traction are the ones that have some kind of empowering ending.

This is not that story.

This is a story about a woman who doesn’t know how to feel or identify pain anymore.

This is a story about a woman who broke her hips because she was running away from her trauma brain.

This is a story about a woman who has been running for too long.

This is a story about a woman who doesn’t know how to stop running.

This is a story about a woman who doesn’t want to run anymore.

On Trauma Brain

I miss the rain in the holler. This new house is beautiful, but there are so many boxes that need to be unpacked. Meanwhile, I need to make revisions on my book. In a grand, symbolic gesture, the vintage doorknob to my office has come unscrewed, and I cannot even get into that room.

My mother tells me to slow down. To relax. She tells me not to push myself so hard

I never once saw my mother slow down.

She has always been the fiercest person I know.

She, too, is a trauma survivor.

Both of her parents died when she was a child, and I have no idea what she endured beyond that, though I can make some guesses.

I sent an email to a former friend (of mine and Caleb’s) recently.

I wrote:

I saw that you’re still friends with Caleb on Facebook. How does it feel to be friends with the wife abuser on Facebook? It’s just you, —-, and —-, so you’re in good company.

—- tried to add me as a friend recently. I turned his request down and messaged him that I don’t “friend” people who have raped my friends. The entire process (for me) was super easy. Unfortunately, rape is really hard. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to supporting survivors   (and not their rapists).

I hung out with —-at AWP. Now that guy is a real man–not afraid to support a survivor of assault when she tells him she needs it.

I guess what we’ve learned from this is that no woman will ever tell you what to do. I mean, even when a woman has loved and valued you and told you that she needs you to not be friends with the man who almost killed her, you just go your own way and stay friends with that man.

Fuck all of the bitches who try and impose their needs on to you, right?

I think The Onion wrote an article about you recently. You probably posted it ironically. I always loved your ironic sense of humor.

Like when you claimed to be a feminist, that gave me the biggest guffaws of all.

I don’t know why I felt this need to persist with this friend after he failed me. My trauma brain makes me fixate on certain people who have “wronged” me. My trauma brain doesn’t let those people go.

Trauma brain makes things from the past feel so present.

Trauma brain also erases so much.

Trauma brain leaves the highlights, and the rest feels like background noise.

When I think of Reed’s childhood, I feel, so vividly, Caleb’s fist cracking on to my skull, but I barely remember Reed’s first steps.

Still, that memory of Caleb’s fist fades a little more every year.

Trauma brain is the great equalizer. I remember little of my child’s younger years, but I also remember little of the abuse.

My therapist has explained to me that my trauma brain is part of what keeps me sane. My trauma brain is erasing the memories because they are too painful for me to live with.

Still, I miss the memories of my baby.

I had such a terrible fight with my parents on the day that I got divorced. I have written about this here.

The next night, my mother, father, and I drove to the Texas Roadhouse to eat, and in the car, I said that I hope that Reed gets a good stepmother. My own mother told me then that she had a stepfather she loved, and my father said, “What?

My father who had been married to my mother for almost forty years didn’t know she’d had a stepfather.

She only had that stepfather for a year before her mother died, and then, she lost him too.

My mother has kept her own losses closed up tightly inside of her.

For the past few weeks, Reed has been lamenting how he doesn’t want to go to his dad’s for the summer.

On Friday, he went to his dad’s.

Today, on the anniversary of my wedding to Caleb, Reed became a brother.

Caleb finally got that second child that he wanted. The child that I almost had with him–that I tried to have with him–until I held my hands over my stomach and thought “If I am pregnant with Caleb’s child, I will cut this child out myself.”

That was just before I left Caleb.

 When I left Caleb, people said to me, “If you met the right person, you could still have another baby!”

People have stopped saying that to me now.

Reed texted me updates of his stepmom’s labor all day. I know that he did this because he was excited, and I also know that he did this because I am the most important person in his life.

Even though the baby is his father’s, he wanted to share this with me because this is about him. His sent me a picture of the baby.

His final text said, “I am a brother now.”

And he will be the best big brother that little girl could ever have. I am so proud of him every day.

His teacher sent me an email the other day about Reed. She wrote, “As for Reed overall,  he is fantastic!  He is a great, well adjusted young man.  He always takes responsibility for his actions and is truthful, even if it is hard to do.  And yes, he is a very hard worker.”

I felt grateful to have such a great son. Later, I thought, “He has those qualities in spite of his father.”

I am glad that Reed wanted to include me on his journey of becoming a brother, but I am not glad that he included me on that journey.

He does not know this, but it has hurt to have to go along on that journey with him.

Sometimes I wonder how different my life would look now if I wasn’t still so tied to Caleb through Reed.

How much further in my recovery would I be?

Would I still be trapped inside of my trauma brain if I didn’t have the constant reminders of what was–and is–and could have been?

I got an email back from that former friend. He said that I had been right, that he had been making decisions out of stubbornness rather than his principles. He said that he had defriended Caleb as well as the other guy. He also indicated that he also had no desire to be friends with me again, then said that he didn’t want to seem patronizing, but that he hopes I have found some peace and happiness.

He did seem patronizing.

I thought, “You have finally chosen to live by your principles so many years later–at a time when no one cares anymore.”

I thought, “How convenient for you to maintain your status as a faux feminist by defriending an abuser that everyone else has already defriended.”

I thought, “This is all about your principles and still has nothing to do with what I needed from you as your friend.”

I thought, “At least I can finally put you behind me.”

I thought, “This, at least, is something I can have closure on.”

On days like today, it feels as though I will never have closure on my relationship with Caleb.

More than that, it feels as though he has completely rewritten his story, yet I am only writing the same story over and over again.

I gave a presentation at a writer’s retreat in New Mexico a while ago about writing on trauma. The presentation had to be short, so I focused on some questions that I thought would help writers assess whether they are ready to write about their trauma.

My final question was “Are you writing your way out of your wound or back into it?”

My own answer now is that I don’t know.

Today, it feels like Caleb has been doing so much living, and I have only been writing. While he has been remarrying and having new children, I have been writing.

When I was growing up, I thought of my mom as the fiercest, strongest person I knew, and that wasn’t always a good thing.

While I was packing, I found an interview that Reed had conducted with me in the third grade. He had asked me who my hero was, and I had said, “Grandma Kathy.” It was true. I am in awe of her strength.

I have never been strong like that.

Until now.

I am strong.

I started jogging after I left Caleb. I was, and am, terrible at it, but I have increased my intensity while I have been writing this book because getting my heart rate up seemed to help combat my trauma brain.

One of the themes of my book is that I was always someone who ran. I ran away whenever I wasn’t happy, but with Caleb, I didn’t run. I stayed.

I should have run.

Now, I actually run–not long or hard–but I run. And I have developed what my doctor diagnosed as DOMS–Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness–which is when the breakdown of the muscular tissue manifests later to cause physical pain.

DOMS is only supposed to last for up to 72 hours, but it has been plaguing me for over a month, and I keep thinking of how much this pain is like trauma. I can forget about it when I’m relaxing, but movement makes the pain so sudden, and sharp, and unexpected.

And I can’t escape this pain. The only thing that brings relief is when I run enough that I no longer feel it.

So I keep running.

The OED lists trauma as a noun, but, to me, trauma is not a noun.

Trauma is my verb.

On Genesis

Reed home

I am so tired. It is almost 1 a.m. here, and I have been up moving from one house to another since before 7. I stayed up packing until 2 am the night before.

The mover brought his wife and two kids, and all of them, without exception, worked hard. He had to rent a U-Haul because he had an issue with his trailer. His kids, both younger than Reed, were adorable and sweet, and they bonded with Reed. They turned the work into play, and Reed helped move things in a way that he wouldn’t have done if I had asked him to. Reed didn’t complain, and he hustled too, though not nearly as much as those kids did.

The wife was young, and tough, and hauled boxes that I could not have carried, but she was so tired at the end.

After the move was complete, I took Reed to get a pastry with me at a nearby bakery. I said, “They all worked so hard. I felt really lazy in comparison.”

Reed looked at me and said, “Same.”

Then, we ate our apple galettes.

I paid the man who moved us fifty dollars more than he charged me, but it still wasn’t as much as I should have paid. The U-Haul rental alone was probably that much. I’m realizing that I should have paid more.

I am painfully aware of money to the point of my detriment. I am incapable of not paying someone what they are worth, though I have very little money myself.

When I was a waitress, the poorest people always tipped the best.

Maybe this is how we poor folks stay poor.

I am no longer poor though.

Not, really.

I mean, I am poor compared to most of my friends, but I am not poor compared to my neighbors in the holler.

I have this resistance to claiming the word poor, and this resistance is not classism. It’s that I have lived and seen poverty.

Poverty is desperation.

Poverty is not deciding that I can’t afford to buy lawn furniture for the patio I now have.

Poverty is not calculating all of the ways that I can save money in my new house, even though the rent is more.

Poverty means dealing with a $500 heat bill in the winter rather than upgrading the furnace.

Poverty means managing gas prices and commuting prices from living in the country.

Poverty means larvae falling off of the ceiling, and birds trapped in the walls, and possums in the trash can, and rain pouring into the pasta pot in the middle of the kitchen floor, and mold, and sick kids, and a foot of snow to brush off of a car in the morning before driving the kid to school.

I have lived that life.

But now I have a house with a new furnace, and a reliable roof, and a two car garage.

Saving money is only for the middle class, you see?

I’m not sure sure what any of this has to do with genesis, except that genesis means an origin or beginning, and I am at a new beginning.

I am not poor, though also not not-poor.

I am at the beginning of being middle-class.

But that is not my real genesis here.

My real genesis is that, in the new house, I am not sitting in my usual place on the couch.

There are two coveted spaces on this sectional–the corner and the ottoman. Caleb’s favorite places were the corner and the ottoman, but I have rarely sat in either place.

Instead, I have found the most uncomfortable place on the couch where no one would have wanted to linger, and I turned that into my place because it was untainted by Caleb’s memory.

For four years, I have been sitting on the worst place on the couch as a way of avoiding Caleb’s memory.

I loved Caleb fiercely, and we were never not-touching.

I feel that the only people who understand are others who have been with someone so all-consuming.

I was consumed by Caleb, and it was the most beautiful consumption.

When he wasn’t beating me, he was treating me like a queen.

But who can ever measure up? Who can ever measure up to the man who did the “14 Days of Valentine’s” where he gave me thoughtful/funny/quirky gifts for fourteen days and made my own father grumble that Caleb was making all of the other men look bad?

Who can ever measure up to that?

When I knew that our relationship was coming to a close. I started having sex with him every night and sometimes during the day and night.

We were like newlyweds.

I didn’t want to leave him so soon, but he gave me no choice.

After leaving him, I thought, “If I had known, I would have had sex with him one more time.”

I think I even told him that later.

I still regret not having sex with him that last time (as though I would have known when that last time would have been).

The last night that Caleb and I spent together, I was too bruised and swollen to have sex. He touched me–so hesitantly–and I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t want our relationship to be over, but it was over. He had hurt me too much by then.

Even I couldn’t stay.

Reed is very excited that we’re living in such a nice house now. Tonight, via Facetime, he gave Caleb a walking tour of our new house. I could hear him, and he said, “This is Mom’s office.”

Caleb said, Whoa, because my office is so nice.

If I could have said something to Caleb, I would have said, I have made this life on my own. I have provided this beautiful home for our child on my own. I have moved on from you on my own. I have learned how to survive on my own.

Too many times, he told me that I couldn’t do it on my own.

I’ve had to make a new life for myself–one where I’m not sitting in Caleb’s favorite seat, but also not avoiding his seat entirely.

So, instead, I am sitting on the ottoman for the first time in the four years since I’ve left Caleb. I am writing this blog post in a new place–a new house, a new neighborhood, and a new seat on the couch. This feels weird and unfamiliar, but I have gotten good at change.

This new life is hard, but it is not as hard as the old life, and I am born anew every time I am forced to make this kind of change.

Caleb’s ghost is still here, but I know that I am at a genesis.

He may be a ghost, but I am not.

I am alive.


On Fathers

This is probably the last blog post that I’ll write from the holler. The epilogue to my book is titled, “The House in the Hollow.” That is how much this house has affected me. It has been a good place for Reed, and for me, to grow. We have lived in seclusion, in peace, and it has been beautiful, but now, we’re moving into town, and I’m ready. I’m ready to open our lives up to more.

Reed home

Our new house

May is the month of Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is hard for me, always.

I still have all of my Mother’s Day cards from Caleb. The ones where he told me how wonderful I was, how much I loved our son, and how lucky he was to have me as the mother of his child.

I don’t know why I keep them.

Caleb forgot my first Mother’s Day. It wasn’t his fault. We were moving in with my parents for the summer. Reed was so small. We stopped on our drive and bought my mom a hanging plant, but Caleb didn’t think about the fact that I was a mother too.

I was hurt that he had forgotten me, and my own mother told me not to overreact. She was right.

She was often right, but also, often so very wrong.

Caleb ordered flowers for me that we couldn’t afford and they were delivered days later. When the florist delivered them, she said, “Keep that vase. That vase is Blenko glass. Your husband must really love you.”

Everyone in my hometown is poor, you see?

Blenko glass is made in West Virginia, but that bouquet was delivered to me in Idaho.

I didn’t yet know that West Virginia was my future.

All I knew was that the flowers felt like a gesture, and I had wanted something real.

Last year, at this time, I was preparing to go to a writer’s residency in Belgium. I was going to spend the rest of the summer in Idaho and at my favorite writer’s house in San Francisco.

I stayed with River Guide the night before my flight. We were just “friends” by then. Still, I sat close to him on the couch, and then, he put his arm around me, and then, I slept in his bed, and I could have loved him, but he didn’t feel the same way about me, which was something I had to live with because I wanted something real.

I am going to two writer’s residencies this summer. I received a full fellowship and stipend from the Vermont Studio Center, and I received a scholarship from the OU English Department to attend a residency at Mineral School, which is located at the foot of Mt. Rainier.

I met a friend for a beer tonight, and I told him that my regret is that I won’t have the time to go backpacking with my father this summer. I said that my father is a stoic and quiet man, and I feel like our backpacking trips are the only times that we really, really, talk. My friend told me that he had wanted to tell me for a while that, when I had read a chapter from my book a while ago at a reading series, he had resonated with the descriptions of my father. He said that he could feel the tenderness in my words.

I teared up, and my friend said “Maybe this was not the time to tell you that.”

My dissertation advisor wrote in his feedback to my book manuscript: “I know you worry about portraying your parents.  I think you’ve done an admirable and fair job. Your father seems human to me, not bad.”

Before that, my advisor had sent me an email that said that he had read for two hours longer than he had anticipated because he couldn’t put my book down. He said, “You have done an amazing job.”

A while ago, I admitted to my advisor that I don’t have a very tender father, and some of my faculty mentors have stepped up and taken on that role for me. I admitted that he (advisor) has become a kind of father figure to me, then I regretted that admission because I didn’t want him to feel old or fatherly, but he seemed touched, and I was glad that I said it.

Above all, I earnestly want to grow as a writer and academic, which I believe that he knows.

One of my favorite male faculty members voted for the sexual predator in my department to keep his tenure. It was hurtful to me and so many others. Someone recently told me that the predator was the best man in this faculty member’s wedding, but I still can’t wrap my head around this faculty member’s decision after the 80 page report that was released.

All I can think of is that his vote was symbolic. Everyone knew by then that the predator was going to lose his tenure. So what did those symbolic votes that supported the predator achieve?

The vote was supposed to be anonymous, but we know. We know how people voted.

If there is anything to be learned from this, maybe it is that “anonymous” voting is never actually anonymous in such a cloistered setting.

Also, maybe faculty members should have to stand behind their votes. Maybe they would vote differently then.

Also, if they “anonymously” vote to support a sexual predator, then they are still supporting a sexual predator.

Also, that we grad students don’t give a fuck if that vote was supposed to be “anonymous.”

Also, we only give a fuck about our safety and the safety of our students.

Two of my favorite faculty members asked me recently if this stuff in the department is going in my book. My response was, “No, this is going in my next book.”

Still, it is not my story to tell.

There are two young, very brave, survivors who can tell this story, and I will not steal it from them.

Caleb’s new wife is due to have her baby in a week. Reed told me “She could have the baby on dad’s birthday!” which is May 22. I restrained myself from saying, “Or on our wedding anniversary,” which is May 21.

And then, I thought, “Oh god, please don’t let her have the baby on our wedding anniversary.”

The symbolism would be too much.

I talked to a friend the other night and said, “I don’t care anymore about Caleb, but I feel sad that he is having another baby.”

My friend said, “Well, he gets to have another baby, and you don’t. He can have a new family, but that is something that you will never get to have.”

And then I started crying.

Because she’s right.

I love being a mother.

I wanted to have another baby, and that is not a wish that will ever be fulfilled for me, but Caleb gets to live my dream with someone else.

I still live other dreams. I go to writer’s residencies in Belgium, Vermont, and Washington. I spend time in my favorite writer’s Victorian house in San Francisco. I write a book, and my dissertation advisor says that I have done “amazing work.”

But I am alone for all of this.

When Reed was tiny, I nursed him and memorized all of the details around me so that I would never forget.

Already, I think I knew that he would be the last baby I nursed.

My mother told me once that she had struggled with postpartum depression after my brother was born. I had expected her to have been depressed after she had me because she had always, so obviously, favored my brother.

Leaving Caleb revealed the fractures in my relationship with my parents. Maybe they weren’t even fractures. Maybe they were caverns.

Maybe we will never be able to traverse this distance.

Recently, my mother said, “You were not an accident. We waited for you. You were planned. You were always wanted.”

And I wondered what it would have felt like to have always felt wanted.

Which leads me to this: Will I ever be able to forgive myself for not forgiving my father?

My father didn’t believe me. He didn’t believe me, and I don’t know how to move past that, though I’m trying.

My parents have done the best that they could, and they are good parents. I know this, and I love them. I am aware that not everyone has loving parents.

It is so difficult to be a mother, yet seems so easy to be a father, though I know this can’t be true.

Last summer, my father, brother, and I backpacked in the Sawtooth Wilderness. We hiked 23 miles in three days. At the summit, I kept trying to take panoramic photos. We were at almost 10,000 feet. I held my phone and swept it around, but the photos kept coming out shaky.

The only constant was my father. No matter how shaky the photo was, he still stood there looking into the distance.





On Pre-Existing

Yesterday, I picked Reed up from school and NPR was playing in the car. They were talking about a bill in Ohio that would make abortion illegal, and I was listening intently because I care. Reed was in the backseat happily munching on a donut that I had brought him from a meeting at work, and suddenly, he said, “Mom, what is that?”

“What?” I asked.

“Abortion,” he said.

I paused, then turned off the radio.

I said, “When a woman gets pregnant, the egg is fertilized, and if that woman carries that fertilized egg to term, she will have a baby, but sometimes, she does not want to have a baby, so she chooses to terminate that pregnancy. A doctor will give her a pill or do a procedure, and the pregnancy will be over.”

I said, “This is controversial because some people believe those fertilized eggs are already babies, and that is called the ‘pre-existence,’ but that is not what I believe, and I believe that women should be able to choose what to do with their bodies. They should be able to choose whether they want to have a baby or not.

Reed said, “I believe that too. I wouldn’t want to be the kid with a mom who hadn’t wanted him.”

And I thought of how I have written pretty honestly about how my first impulse when I I found out I was pregnant with Reed was to have an abortion, but then, Caleb talked me out of it, then my brother said that he would support me no matter what I wanted, and finally, my mother said, “You are 27. You are not a teenager. You can raise a child.”

And my mother’s words indicated that she knew the truth about me.

The truth was that I wanted to have the baby, or I wouldn’t have even told my mother I was pregnant.

I wanted to say to Reed, You were always wanted.

But of course, it has never occurred to him that he might not have been.

My mother is a very religious woman, but in many ways, she doesn’t fit the model of contemporary American christianity. Maybe this is because she was raised in poverty.

She raised me to be pro-choice, and when I asked her why (because I knew it was in opposition to the beliefs of our church), she told me that it wasn’t because she believed that abortion was okay, but because she knew that, if abortion wasn’t legal, people would try to perform abortions themselves.

She told me that a 14 year old girl who grew up down the street from her died when her father tried to give her an abortion with a coat hanger.

Today, the House voted to make being a survivor of domestic violence a pre-existing condition.

They’re right. Being a survivor of domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. I wrote about that here.

In that post, I labeled myself B.C. (Before Caleb) and A.C. (After Caleb).

I wrote:

B.C. Kelly was this girl:


I wrote:

A.C. Kelly misses that girl. That girl didn’t know what was coming.

I am inalterably changed.

I worry that, in my book, I have portrayed myself as being too vulnerable, as though violence was a disease that I would simply catch because of my weak immunity.

I am not entirely sure that my fears are unfounded.

If surviving domestic violence is my pre-existing condition, then what is his? What is the pre-existing condition of the man who ripped my hair out? Who punched me in the head? Who dragged me out from underneath the bed where I was hiding by my ankles? Who chased me into the street in his socks to keep me from getting away from him?

What is his pre-existing condition?

All along, more people have been interested in my pre-existing condition than his. And you know what?

I have done the work. I have gotten therapy. I have changed my life. I haven’t repeated my patterns.

Still, the man with no pre-existing condition is doing the exact same shit he’s always done.

Shortly after I left Caleb, his friend told me to identify my own triggers that caused me to stay in the relationship before it got unsafe.

She told me to identify my triggers then hosted a party for my abuser when he was in Boise and shushed him when he tried to tell her how bad the abuse had been because she preferred not to believe me

Even when he was willing to confirm my story himself, she chose to shush him because, to acknowledge what he had done, would have meant that she had failed me when I went to her.

Later, she wrote a self-congratulatory blog post about how she had learned that she needed to do more to understand survivors, and she hadn’t been sympathetic enough to me, but she still portrayed herself as having extended her own kindness beyond what was needed.

She portrayed it as a kind of I should have been sympathetic to her even though she was a horrible person who brought the abuse upon herself kind of post. When my friends commented that she was wrong, she deleted the post, and offered another, inadequate apology that essentially said the same things.

Always, all of us, want to think that we’ve done the right thing. Some of us will do the wrong thing in order to keep telling ourselves that we were right in the first place.

I keep using this woman as an example, and this is why: She is a peak example of how too many middle-aged white women have responded to me.

The consensus is this: Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

I will never forget being put in a wheelchair after I had been walking on my broken foot for days.

I will never forget being laid on a table and pushed into an x-ray.

I will never forget the way that the male nurse looked at me so sadly, and the female doctor touched my foot so gently.

By then, I no longer knew what it was like to be treated with care.

Surviving domestic violence is a pre-existing condition of mine. It is the condition of resilience, of strength, of kindness, of mothering alone, and of humor.

But none of that would have happened if he hadn’t put me here.

How about we focus on the pre-existing conditions of the abusers instead?

And I say this to Patti (the blog poster) and all of the other women who have shamed me for being angry: You might forgive, and your forgiveness might win you the favor of some abusive men, and in that, you might have won the battle, but you have not won the war.

You will never win the war with forgiveness.

I don’t forgive.

I’ll forgive when all of the fights have been fought and won. I will forgive when my status as a survivor is no longer a pre-existing condition, but Caleb’s status as a wife batterer is.

I will forgive when this entire world has been upended.

Until then, I’ll keep fighting.