[Content Note: Heavy stuff, Traumatic Experiences, Discussion of Suicide kinda, Discussion of Murder and Domestic Violence and Abuse, Grief, etc. Tell me if you think I overlooked something I should be warning for.]
So Monday November 27th, I went through a particularly traumatic experience with a very close friend of mine becoming a murderer in the last second of his life before choosing to die by suicide. I have been through traumatic things in my life before, things that made it so I struggled to sleep that one night of the day the thing happened, things that made me want to talk about it constantly, things that made me still feel upset for a little while afterwards. But this particular thing affected me in a way unlike any of the other things I’ve experienced.
The tl:dr is that I’m doing way way better this week. I’m okay. I’m going to be okay.
But I wanted to write some more about all this.
After morning through midday last Friday (December 1st) writing up my last post about how I couldn’t stop crying, I still was a wreck. I then proceeded to be fired from my volunteer organization, as if that wasn’t going to be adding insult to injury especially when I had unresolved extreme fear/trust/walking on eggshell issues from September based on them treating me super unfairly back then, 3 months ago, and I just… and I still wasn’t sleeping, and I was adding EXTRA stress to myself about needing to wake up at the ridiculous hour of 3:45 AM to catch a shuttle to the airport that I almost forgot to book…
So it shouldn’t be that surprising that by dinner-time hours that night after I had kept being distracted by things all freaking day that it’d been about 26 hours since I’d eaten a meal (although around the 20 hour mark I’d shoved some plain cheese in my mouth from the fridge), I semi-tearfully told my brother how I wished we had hot dogs in the house or something so that I wouldn’t have to actually put any effort or even just patience into my dinner and he offered to go to the store and buy them for me. I asked if he really wanted to do that for me, and he chuckled a little nervously and seemed almost scared of… okay not scared of me, but out of his comfort zone with my grief and like he did want to help, and said maybe not like he super wanted to but he’d do it.
And it shouldn’t be all that surprising, either, that trying to sleep for 6 hours that night I still could not, I was an adrenaline fueled total mess, and at one point I started literally shaking in my bed, and I don’t think I was shivering out of any cold temperatures under my heavy comforter etc; it didn’t quite feel like that kind of shaking anyway. I got out of bed and put my pantyhose on that I planned to wear with a skirt to the airport because I was planning to be properly dressed for the funeral when I left the house at 4:00 AM. I put my pajama shorts back on, on top, and I tweeted my freak out briefly, and when I got back in bed I wasn’t shaking.
My friend on twitter told me:
This from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/coping-with-emotional-and-psychological-trauma.htm sounds like what you’re going through.
And I think that helped me a lot to read…
That article in general did help, not just the excerpt.
It’s probably true that something about:
While traumatic events can happen to anyone, there are risk factors that make some of us more likely to experience psychological trauma following a disturbing event. You’re more likely to be traumatized if you’re already under a heavy stress load, have recently suffered a series of losses, or have been traumatized before—especially if the earlier trauma occurred in childhood.
is affecting me too, that previous traumas are piling up on me. I’d just, earlier that month, finished vidding and writing up an explanation of my breakup from back in May. I had to dwell on some of the intense feelings, especially at the end of the vid, and I think the way Robert broke up with me was kinda a trauma; I was very suddenly and confusingly abandoned. I’d felt similarly again when Recovering from Religion as an organization suddenly suspended me as a volunteer for no good reason in September, like I was having flashbacks to my breakup almost in a very vague sense, even if they decided to end my suspension and let me back in later. It all felt really unfair. I tried so hard, put my all into a relationship of some kind, and got this in return. I found myself really upset by sudden shifts to my life, I’d recently been sent to tears at work by a co-worker accusing me of being a liar who was trying to destroy her career when I completely didn’t do anything and I was kinda a stressed and an ashamed wreck over how “sensitive” I’d been and how crying at work probably made it all worse. My supervisor and her supervisor both got involved to help me and they were super nice to me throughout the incident, but I’m left now still having a super chilly relationship with that co-worker… and that upsets me because I was really starting to feel like she could be a friend before all this. Obviously I have had childhood trauma too…. Even Thanksgiving week my aunt was acting frustrated by the tiniest of things and like everything we all did personally was offending her, and it wasn’t that bad but it kept things kinda tense that whole “vacation” staying at her house for 5 days. My dad, my brother, and I discussed it once we got back home, like it made everything “less fun”… and I just…
Things have probably been building and building for me and that’s part of why I finally burst and broke last week.
I’d already been remembering back to 2.5 years ago with this comment thread and started re-reading that stuff a little out of curiosity. I wanted to understand WTF was happening with me, with my body, with my reaction.
Eventually I also reminded myself of the sentiment in this comment too by re-reading more, a sentiment I’d seen plenty of places in my life but still it never felt as real until right now…
As Siggy said:
In many ways, I find that the rapist as ordinary person is much scarier than the rapist as monster. It means that I can’t tell rapists apart from other people, and that there are many more than I imagined. And what’s worse, I care about their feelings.
But back to what I was saying, I then read through that article on trauma Friday morning because, like I said, friend linked me to it after I was explaining my… Symptoms. This whole week I was utterly a mess and a lot was resonating in the article. I think that’s all part of what I was probably dealing with this week, this event from in one of my very closest friends… it “shatter[ed my] sense of security” and in a weird way did involve “a threat to life or safety”. Like.
It was me seeing someone I thought I knew inside-and-out – someone who when he quit our podcast for “personal reasons” and wouldn’t tell me why I instantly correctly guessed exactly what his reasons were, that he was too ashamed to tell me his wife threatened to leave him and also that he thought not doing the podcast might save his marriage – like I knew him that well that without him telling me I just knew all that! – a person who only seemed suicidal at worst… This person ended up being capable of killing a person he loved and spent tons of time with and that just… even though I don’t really think I ever once during that week started to fear anyone else specific in my life was capable of murder, it still shook me to my core.
It probably didn’t help that I got more Facebook messages and emails than I can easily tally up from people who “Thought of me first” when they heard the news that Scott had done this. So many people knew how freaking intimate my friendship with Scott was. Even, perhaps, how directly after his wife and kids I was like the person he was “closest” to. All these people expressing condolences and whatnot to me was appreciated and kind and made me feel loved but it also made me feel reminded of how obvious it was in certain circles that Scott was someone super close to me. That I can’t just get away with minimizing our intimacy and relationship in my head as a coping mechanism even if I wanted to because people keep reminding me. That I trusted Scott so much and what… what is the chance that someone in closer proximity to me than Texas could also be someone I trust that much and then do something like this.
I think deeper down my instincts were that if I could trust someone like Scott so fully and this happen, I just could not psychologically handle it, could not cope and know how to go forward from that, at least not immediately. It was so different than other traumatic things I’ve been through, because all my other traumas were just… not about someone I trust and ultimately assumed never could do something violent actually murdering someone in their intimate circle.
Enough people, even if it was only like a handful of women in my circles, were unpacking all the times Scott had made them uncomfortable or told jokes that went too far, which also didn’t help. I had plenty of times Scott made me uncomfortable, even so much so that I’d drawn pretty hard boundaries occasionally or been sent to tears over a couple fights of ours. And I knew he wasn’t a flawless person. But even so, I never fathomed this would be possible coming from him. And besides, I can’t just super easily write it all off as he is someone we all shouldn’t have trusted at all and in fact, instead suspected of being extremely dangerous to befriend. Because I can’t pinpoint any particular way he was so much worse than a number of other people in my life. And for those few people listing ways they saw him as sexist/misogynist, I’ve been just as uncomfortable from women too. Like. It’s all such a confusing and scary mess to even try to begin to unpack.
One of my friends (in fact, the friend I’d been thinking I would love to have co-host the podcast with me after Scott had quit) told me:
I don’t have much of an opinion except to say that therapy would probably help you talk about this in a way that accounts for all your emotions and that shows you ways to be healthy and kind to yourself. I mean, let’s be real: Someone you were close with just did something incredibly brutal; many people seek therapy for much, much lesser shocks.
I have been feeling so much guilt that I didn’t stop this from transpiring too, feeling it especially strong the first week – which is ridiculous, I need to find a way to fully believe that I couldn’t have stopped it. That it was so much bigger than just me and he didn’t show homicidal warning signs to a number of folks in his inner circle and I wasn’t actually the only person in his life. I was all the way across the country and less likely to be able to fully help than some others. But this feeling of responsibility was probably tied into my sudden trauma of feeling like “I really should’ve seen it coming”. Since I completely didn’t see it coming, I’m not actually safe. My “not seeing it coming” truth, which itself is the trauma, manifested as me trying to take back control and convince myself I did see it coming and just didn’t properly do the right things to stop him. Because if I have that kind of control the world, going forward, is less scarier. And it’s…
I’m pretty sure realizing all of this and framing it this way in my head has already been helping me move past it all. All the while though, I also lost a close friend. I have to deal with a real grief for the loss of a real human being, regardless of the traumatic stuff I was feeling. This has been a year of me being particularly scared of people I know dying by suicide. Examples:
- I thought harder about my uncle who died by suicide 4 years ago at the end of a day I spent with him and walked in a suicide prevention walk with him as the main person I was walking for
- Although I was also walking for all the suicidal people I’d spoken with on Recovering from Religion’s helpline and who I felt helpless to help and I wanted to fund research for them. I stopped taking calls a while ago probably in part because of how burnt out I was talking to suicidal people
- I had issues with my former queerplatonic partner Robert making me wonder if he might be suicidal on a couple of occasions even if I still never knew for sure it was a concern, but I still dwelled on this
- I talked a random acquaintance on tumblr struggling hard with schizophrenia out of suicide at least for that day and the next day after an intense back and forth and a lot of begging and stress
- a fandom friend of mine (online only friend but one I’m pretty close to) spoke to me about her mom seemingly attempting suicide in live time as she and her siblings waited for her to wake up
- a year ago my own abusive mom who I’m no contact with started leaving more of the “I’m not dead yet” type voicemails or “I won’t be around forever” ones that made me reminded she probably struggles with suicidal ideation
- I made a new friend a few months back who had pretty recently lost his legs in a suicide attempt… he’s excited to probably get prosthetics to walk with soon
Wow when I tally it all up like this…
Anyway so my friend. In addition to the murder, I have to deal with the fact that he died by suicide. That
A) it was, even if you complicated the fuck out of it by adding in murder, it was indeed suicide, after the year or so I’ve had. Like REALLY dude? Really, Scott? Yeah I just switched to first person because I feel like I need to express my anger *to you*. You donated to my suicide prevention fundraiser. You knew I was visiting the surviving wife and child of my uncle who died by suicide over Thanksgiving and remembered my story well of how I’d been there in the museum where he jumped. You knew the 23rd, Thanksgiving Day this year, was the anniversary of that death. You didn’t know all of the suicide stuff I dealt with this year but you knew a lot. You even met our physically disabled-because-of-the-suicide-attempt friend who was a big fan of our podcast and tried to maybe record his story for an episode of our show!! You chose unprompted to explicitly tell me 1 week prior you weren’t suicidal, and now you do this.
B) you are dead. I have to mourn your loss. I have to mourn my podcast because of you doing this to me but that’s basically nothing in comparison to the fact that I also have to cry every time I think of a happy memory. The worst grief I’ve had to endure before was probably my breakup with Robert, even though he’s alive, because of how much I let him color so many parts of my life. The worst grief over an actual death type loss was the stuff I wrote about here 1 year ago: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/personal-updates-and-a-grief-fueled-rant/ and you were very nice to me those days. You and Robert both were a big part of my memories associated with Monday December 5th 2016, the day of my grandmother’s funeral, where Robert decided to pick the worst possible time to want to get back together and I had to record an interview with you that I let you carry completely because I was too emotional to focus. I can’t help but remember much that happened in the 2+ years we’ve known each other well. I have reminders of you everywhere. I cry when I watch The Atheist Experience promoting the fundraiser for your daughters and see in the front of the hosts the Flying Spaghetti Monster and how freaking much you LOVED the Flying Spaghetti Monster, used the spaghetti emoji for fun all the time, etc. I search your Facebook and see how even before I met you you shared your oldest daughter having drawn The Flying Spaghetti Monster or that you became an ordained minister in the Pastafarian parody religion. I just.
I cry when my uncle sends me an odd grief care package in the mail too.
Hang in there. Life throws crap at all of us and you have had more than your fair share.
I created that coloring book after I quit my job as [Government something.]
It was really a silly cathartic rant after producing propaganda for so many years. I even considered doing video podcasts where everyone particpating would be wearing bags on their head like the “Unknown Comic.”
Maybe do one a month, and include a note to your future self. Then read them all on month 27.
I also decided to try to see professional help after all this. Even if I probably would be okay without it… I’ve had a job for over a year now, I should be able to see a therapist on my insurance, I live near a city that doesn’t feel overly religious, I really should be able to do this. I worry I will struggle to find someone who understands what a podcasting partners relationship can be like, someone completely secular and able to respect my atheist activism and lack of beliefs in any god or an afterlife, AND who is aromanticism and asexuality competent, which will probably end up being important to me too because asexuality is a huge part of my entire life… I’m not going to try therapists on The Secular Therapy project quite yet but… It could come to that.
It feels really troubling that Scott told me he couldn’t sleep, he was at the lowest point in his life, and he was clearly experiencing finding out his wife was seeing another man (even if it turns out – I found out from a close friend of his after his wife’s funeral – that his wife had said it had been an emotional and not physical affair) as a trauma, and I had just assumed it was grief he had to work through but that he’d be okay eventually. I think it’s… almost ironic? I don’t think I’m using that word right, that he was so traumatized that he did something that then, in a chain-like-fashion, then traumatized me (and who knows how many other people in his family’s life have been traumatized, but I think a lot of his friends and probably every person in his extended family).
Also on Friday, the day before my sense of calm finally came, before my last night of feeling scared by just how unable to sleep I was, an online friend on tumblr (whose name other than a username I don’t even know) said one of the most helpful things I’ve been told in the days since last Monday when Scott killed his wife and himself.
These are the types of comforting words in the midst of this nightmare that I find myself wanting to frame and preserve.
For context, I had directly before this said: “It’s still making me cry every time I read those types of ‘I hope you know it’s not your fault’ messages so I guess I don’t actually know that yet. But I’m trying.”
So she said:
“I can’t say I’ve been through what you’ve been through right now. But I’ve been through trauma. Hearing it wasn’t my fault made me cry too. It’s equal parts scary and reassuring. Scary because it means admitting it was a scary, horrible, painful thing that happened that you had absolutely no power to stop. That’s scary. Are reassuring because really, you did nothing wrong. There was no magical way you could have stopped this. You bear no fault for what happened. But let me say this: If he didn’t have you, the community you both belong to, and other friends, if he didn’t have those friendships and connections, his life would have been worse. And perhaps the end of it would have been too. It’s really hard to look at a tragic thing like this and realize it, because all we can see is how horrible it is (not without good reason) but that doesn’t negate the love you give. Or the difference you make in people’s lives. You found someone out there in the world reaching out for connection and you gave it to him and no matter the end, you still made a positive difference.”
This makes me cry a lot just copying and pasting it from tumblr messages to this post and having to re-read the kind words. But I just want to say it really helped. And I felt like sharing.
Lots of people have done tons of things that have really helped. But this was just particularly powerful in terms of its effect on me.
I’m not sure anyone else said anything very similar about… About how me being in Scott’s life mattered, or any of us who tried being there for him did. I think it’s why it hit (and hits) me so hard that I started crying again just trying to type this. Anyone acknowledging that Scott was so so much more than an evil murderer, anyone caring about how sad and hurt and full of trauma Scott was at the end the way I truly cared, or acknowledging at least that they can tell I cared and that this was a good instinct in me to extend what I could as a friend to him long before I knew how his family’s story would end. This kind of thing is what helps me feel like it’s ok to this friend and wouldn’t make them uncomfortable if I truly grieved Scott too. If I felt bad for him, thought he was a victim too. And that plus more is what is so powerful to me.
So idk what exactly I’ll talk to my new therapist about, but I will at least try talking and seeing if it helps. I also hope maybe a professional might have unique advice that random people who are just trying to help without expertise might not. It’s certainly helped me plenty to talk to friends but I think I’ve run a lot of my friendships to the maximum amount of compassion a reasonable person can be asked to have for me.
I’ve made appointments with two different therapists next week, one on Monday after work and the other on Thursday after work. I want to see which I like better or if I still feel I need to try a third…
I’ve been calmer, able to basically sleep if I try, since I got to San Antonio Saturday December 2nd, and I think it might’ve been the 4 hour plane ride in the dark, calmly listening to music and crying about how much the lyrics applied to my life or Scott’s for the latter half of it, that helped a lot. I think understanding what I was experiencing with my lack of ability to sleep and how stuck in a stressed state the trauma had made me and finally really eating 3 meals a day and stuff all helped too.
I’ve had some feels about being aro asexual since this all happened, and like The Asexual Agenda’s question of the week this week has touched on indirectly, one of the big things I have actually been thinking ever since the end of October when I found out about Scott’s marriage situation was that I just intrinsically will never, ever understand or get lots of aspects of attraction, cheating, or – and this is a big one – jealousy. I don’t know how to properly empathize with how it must feel to be jealous, especially to the degree Scott seemingly turned out to be. It’s possible jealousy wasn’t the main motivation but it seems likely it played a part. The research here: https://www.officer.com/on-the-street/body-armor-protection/article/10744560/murdersuicide-when-killing-yourself-isnt-enough
seems to reflect that
“Amorous jealousy”, involves one half to three quarters of all murder-suicides in the U.S.
and well, while I’m sure the majority of people who are typical straight cis men like Scott also cannot relate to what he ended up doing either, I feel like I’m further away from it on a deeper level, perhaps.
I also have been thinking about how platonic all my relationships in my life are, how much I want to use the word “love” to describe what I felt and feel for both Scott and for all the supportive people around me in my life in the aftermath. I’ve been taking advantage of more than 10 friendships with men, confiding in and venting to them, and the majority of these men are straight but I still feel entirely safe and pretty much the exact same way I feel toward the more than 10 friendships with women I’ve also been…. utilizing to my advantage in this difficult time. (There are pretty much no nonbinary people in my super inner circle these days who I’ve been confiding in but I’m sure I’d feel the same towards them too!)
I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with Robert too, which I can’t think of without remembering how queerplatonic we were because of the aro ace factors. He knew more about my relationship with Scott than anyone. He met Scott in person the same weekend I did and had the same two meals with him. Robert listened to our podcast. Robert discussed the nitty gritty details of my fights with Scott and my discomfort with his jokes and my ideas for the future of the podcast with me. Robert liked the way my voice sounded better on the microphone Scott gave me that time we met Scott in-person rather than how I sounded on the headset I’d been using before. Scott had sent Robert candy as a care package when Robert was on his civilian contractor deployment in Afghanistan! Scott had comforted me over BOTH of my breakups with Robert and when Scott’s marriage was ending and I wanted to empathize and be sympathetic to losing a 16 year relationship the only thing I had in my life experience to compare it to was the pain of losing my 2 year relationship with Robert. Robert being radio silent since the breakup and ending our friendship so completely for no understandable reason to me that he almost might as well be dead has been so painful to me, and I’ve been so tempted to reach back out to him in my grief and see what happens because Robert has to have an opinion!! The time Robert was in my life and the time Scott was overlap to such a high degree – I knew Robert only a few months before meeting Scott, and I knew Scott only 6 or so months past Robert being gone from my life. And it’s just.
So if I want to talk about it, and who Robert was to me, and why I’m thinking about THIS, I have to address the “I’m asexual and my ‘boyfriend’ wasn’t really a boyfriend and I feel like my dating pool is a puddle that may have already evaporated and I’ve missed my chance to ever have a significant other again” side of it and…
I told most of the people (friends of Scott’s and Jennifer’s) who I met in San Antonio about being asexual. I apparently can’t help but talk about it constantly. I talked about how I plan to present at asexuality related workshops for the Creating Change conference at the end of January. I talked about when asexuality came up in my relationship with Scott. I just. I talked about it. When asked if I might do another podcast now that Recovering from Religion has fired me I discussed how asexuality activism is more on my mind anyway and I’m less inspired by atheism stuff these days so if I did, idk I’d probably wait a while but might do a podcast on a niche topic like the intersection of asexuality and fandom.
I’m just… I wanted to share with all of you where I’ve been at mentally and emotionally. The comments I got on the previous blog post have meant the world to me, and helped greatly. This has been such an intense time in my life and I’m still sad and crying at least a few times every day but I’m… I’m a lot better than I was a week and a half ago.