Clarity

Posted in general, love on October 3rd, 2016 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Clarity

“I knew you were trouble as soon as I laid eyes on you.”

The road to Hell, as the saying goes, is paved with good intentions. Both my sins and the trespasses upon me are many — the intention to make amends, the intention to change, the intention to love, the intention to help, and the intention to heal. Some have met with success. Others have done more harm than good. I can recognize my own hubris and presumptuousness.

“I’m easy to please. Just do what I say, and don’t do what I say not to do.”

Until recently, my head has been full of voices — not the false phantom voices of insanity, but a more insidious refrain anchored in reality. The silver tongues of friends and lovers, flattering in one ear, while accusing in the other. Advice twisted by rose- or shit-coloured glasses; always, always couched in concern for my personal needs and well-being. Opinions biased by experience, desire, and wishful thinking. I am asshole. I am brilliant. I am crazy. This is who I am. This is how I should feel. This is how I am broken. This is why I do the things that I do. This is how so many have abused and mistreated me. These voices became more influential and persuasive until I was dependent on them, and I lost the ability to think for myself or to make independent decisions.

You know my rules. I’m starting to think you like drama.”

“I got this. I got this. I got this. I got this. I told you, I got this.”

I am not your master. I am not a puppet. I am not a toy. I am not a pet. I am not your everything. I am not your afterthought. I do not want your pedestal. I do not want your self-serving protection. You are not my therapist. You are not my caretaker. You are not my keeper. You do not have the right to assign yourself any of these roles. I do not exist to bolster your self-worth, either as a trophy, or to make you a martyr. I am not a merit badge for your sash.

“You want to give me everything, but you can’t do what I tell you to.”

“I knew when you came to me that your marriage was over.”

I am a person — truth. I am a monster, sometimes. Beautiful, perhaps, in my flawed way, and fierce. I do my best to be a decent person, but life has made me what I am. Like a mirror, to be close to me is to be willing to confront the dark truths that you do not like about yourself. The function of the artist is to observe and reflect. No promise was ever made that art must be pretty. I do not wish to be coddled and told that I am not a monster. I need those who can see the firestorm behind my eyes and confront it, unafraid. Those secure and strong enough to temper — and be tempered by — my heat. Those who can view me objectively as an equal, without fawning or subservience. Those who do not attempt to control me, or to presume what is in my best interest, regardless of intention. Did I not listen? Or have I listened too much?

“I promised myself that I would always love you unconditionally.”

So many sides of the same multi-faceted die; to help me, to hurt me, to serve me, to insulate me, to rescue me. Whichever way it is cast, I am infantalized and stripped of my autonomy. I am ashamed and humbled for allowing myself to be manipulated in this way. I can forgive, but I cannot forget. Never again will someone else tell me who I am, how to feel, or what to think.

“You are becoming the person I always knew you were.

I am the person you all refused to see.

Being Wrong

Posted in Uncategorized on July 13th, 2016 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Being Wrong

Something kind of wonderful has been happening to my brain recently; most noticeably amplified in the past week. It is as if all the gears and mechanisms of my mind have come together, everything is finally in sync, and I am afflicted with a clarity of thought and vision that I was previously incapable of.

Like a child learning a new word, the abstract idea of boundaries has become internalized to me, and I now recognize its application everywhere. Empathy! Respect! Consent! My ability to see people as their own, separate entities has a strange and fascinating newness about it. This has come alongside my own development as an individual. Mastering my anxiety and insecurities frees me from my obsessive tendencies, and allows me to share my needs confidently, as well as honour those of others. Another roadblock removed to intimacy.

Before deleting my dating profiles, I texted someone my phone number. Last week, I had dinner with him. That turned out to be one of the most enjoyable dates I have had, and I fancy him a lot. I made clear that I would like to meet again, and then left the ball in his court. The amazing thing is not my lack of fretting over this, but that I do not have any urge to fret. It feels incredible.

I am reposting this from the ephemeral hole of Facebook:

Forcing yourself on someone, in the form of contact or communication; unwanted and unwelcome gifts, favours, or charity; and violation of body or personal space; are all wrong. I am guilty of all these things, and no matter how good or pure the intention, doing them without consent is wrong.

Over the past few months, I have been on the receiving end of all of these, and learned firsthand how shitty it feels. I wish I could time travel and change the past, but all I can do is learn my lessons and be respectful going forward. Someday I might get to be a real girl! Also: Don’t touch my stuff.

Obvious? Yes, but really understanding this has been an epiphany for me.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario: Your car is dirty, and needs to be washed. You are busy, tired, and complain to a friend that you do not have the time or energy to wash your car. Your friend repeatedly offers assistance. Finally, you ask them if they could pick up a coupon for the local car wash. Days later, you discover they have driven and washed your car, far beyond what you asked. Your friend has spare keys for emergencies, and because you travel together often. Your friend is also aware that you are uncomfortable with other people driving your car, and have general issues regarding trust and personal space. But they drove your car without explicit consent, and furthermore, reset your programming on the stereo, disordered the documents in your glovebox, and added an air freshener and other accessories you do not want. They cleaned out your trunk, rifling through luggage and other intensely personal items.

This is a breakdown in communication and lack of healthy boundaries.

Your friend had good intentions and wanted to be helpful, but in the process, violated your trust and feelings of autonomy and independence. You may feel betrayed, guilty, indebted, ungrateful, and embarrassed. Your friend may feel ashamed, unappreciated, taken advantage of, rejected, and unwanted.

Both parties in this situation have legitimate grievances, and that pain could have been avoided with better communication and clearer expectations. Both parties have the right to feel hurt. I have experienced both perspectives.

No matter how badly you want to help, only the recipient gets to decide what you may and may not do. I have not respected that. And I was wrong.

No matter how much you care or love them. Still not your decision.

I will be the first in line to admit that I am not the best artist, comic creator, or creative writer. I am not the most beautiful woman. I love to dance and sing, and I am unashamedly not very good at either of those. Though I always try my best. In my opinion, where does my greatest strength lie? In my ability to adapt, change, and grow: my willingness to admit when I am wrong.

I Walk Alone

Posted in health, love on July 6th, 2016 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on I Walk Alone

Another month frittered by; the weather is warmer, though the mornings are often brisk and windy. I attended the Artistreet show in Minneapolis on June 25th. As someone more accustomed to high-attendance comic conventions, it was probably not a show I will repeat, but I did enjoy the opportunity to chat with some other local artists. I will add one or two more small conventions to my schedule this year, ending the season with the stellar MCBA Fallcon.

Last week, I made the decision to discontinue going to professional therapy. Either I am too entrenched in struggling with things on my own, or else I just cannot open up in the correct way to find it helpful past a certain threshold. I do feel that it helped me crystallize the areas where I require the most work. I have started listening to audio books, and I found them better suited to my needs by offering specific coping strategies and mental tools. Two books, The Willpower Instinct and Never Chase Men Again, have caused major paradigm shifts for me. My two biggest issues can be boiled down thusly —

Problem: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Daily feelings of anxiety have decreased significantly, but individual episodes have become more acute and panic-attack-like. This includes symptoms such as elevated heart rate, physical agitation and discomfort, and a sensation of my head being full of “white noise” or static. Overwhelming thought patterns lead to irrational, counterproductive, and self-destructive behaviour to relieve the pressure. Fatigue and catastrophizing cause me to react to others based on imagined worst-case scenarios. Highly damaging to relationships.

Solution: Reduce or eliminate triggers until self-control and emotional stability has improved, integrate physical (cardio with weight training) and relaxation exercises, maintain a healthy diet and consistent 8-hour sleep schedule.

Problem: People-Pleasing and Healthy Boundaries

Difficulty distinguishing anxiety-created imaginings from legitimate concerns. Inability to establish and enforce healthy boundaries in situations where I am uncomfortable or feel the need for approval. Putting others’ needs before my own to the level of self-harm. My fluid sense of identity makes me over-eager to conform to others’ ideals. All of these contribute to a rubber-band effect of underlying resentment, until I break and snap back in a hurtful way.

Solution: Continue building egalitarian, trustworthy friendships to overcome fears of abandonment and rejection. A conscious effort to increase empathy and become a better communicator. Compassion and kindness meditations to forgive myself and others, and cleanse out negative thinking. Release of past baggage and improvements to emotional availability. Continue to strengthen and solidify the Self through artwork and other acts of creative expression.

Recommended by a friend, Baggage Reclaim is a wonderful resource.

I have stopped romantic dating; it was an interesting experiment, and I have learned about people, but it is not for me. I have been out with at least two dozen men, most of which I never saw more than once, though for no more exciting reason than lack of interest or incompatibility. A few I connected with have made the jump into my circle of personal friends. Any opportunities for a relationship to form have been intentionally or unconsciously sabotaged. Two things are going on; the first is that at this point, I am comfortable and want to be alone. Non-sexual snuggling with a friend is enough to satisfy cravings for intimacy. My romantic relationships have almost all been long-distance, room-mate type scenarios, or otherwise stunted and emotionally unavailable in some way. I am freaked the fuck out by honest, genuine, and reciprocated closeness with another human being. A relationship with me absolutely must begin on the foundation of friendship to have any chance at longevity.

The second thing, if I am honest, is that I am still terribly wounded by my loss in January. Yes, I was unhappy. Yes, it was unhealthy. But my heart still aches for someone I am crazy about to adore, to pamper, and to spoil. Very little in this world brings me such happiness. I do not enjoy baking or cooking much anymore. But now, I can only fix myself and ride these feelings out. Perhaps in time a man with the softness of heart, strength of character, and depth of thought to handle me will appear. Someone who will not merely tolerate my intensity, but bask in it. Someone that I cannot keep my hands off of.

Raise my umbrella to the sky and soldier on — I walk alone.

Healing

Posted in health, love on June 3rd, 2016 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Healing

My beloved city of Saint Paul has been often dark and stormy of late; the rain is still a welcome miracle to this drought-scarred Texan. Therapy is going well, I think. It has primarily consisted of unravelling the damage both created and churned up by the relationship I left at the beginning of this year, and further, why I have struggled so much in the process of letting it go. Two people, so unfathomably toxic for each other — one defensive, insecure, unpredictable, and controlling, in my opinion — and myself, anxious, free-spirited, lonely, and too enthusiastic. Incompatible life goals selfishly swept aside by both parties from the beginning. Two broken assholes, bewitched by each others’ charms, caught in fleeting moments of togetherness and hope. As I touched on in this video, failure is anathema to me; a dogged and motivated problem-solver, it has been difficult to internalize the idea that I cannot fix anyone but myself. Nor is it my right or responsibility to; it is, in fact, the height of arrogance. The guilt and shame I felt for abandoning the relationship — for giving up — sent me into an emotional tailspin from which I have only recently recovered. Also, I have undergone the unwieldy task of sorting out my real issues from what I was patronizingly, and repeatedly, told were the issues. The amicable divorce from my best friend of twelve years, and smoothly-coordinated cross-country move, were never a source of trauma for me. It was the relationship.

I am getting professional help. I possess the self-assurance to show my face to the world and own my mistakes — mistakes that have informed me, that will not soon be repeated. I hope that he ultimately finds what he needs and wants out of life. He remains, in spite of everything, one of the most beautiful and fascinating men I have ever known. I regret that I lacked the experience and wisdom to have not entered the relationship at all — we might be friends still. I regret the subtle signs, and flashing warnings, that I ignored along the way for love. I do not regret the precious time we spent together.

A few weeks ago I began casually dating, learning to navigate those waters, while gradually rebuilding my confidence and self-esteem back to its previous state. Overall, it has been beneficial and positive. My lifestyle and workaholic ways do present a challenge to finding a compatible and suitable partner, but I have a clear vision of what I am searching for, with an increasing knowledge of what to avoid. I have shared many meals with kind and interesting people. In particular, I have spent some time in the company of patient, well-adjusted individuals who have helped me learn to trust men again, after this breakup, and an unpleasant rebound that left me feeling gross and manipulated.

I am rediscovering what it feels like to be treated like a person, and to have my needs considered in a genuine, non-self-serving, and respectful way. I am improving my ability to honour consistent and rational boundaries. Relearning how to share my thoughts and openly discuss feelings without fear of anger, judgement, or reprisal. Relearning what it feels like to communicate without having my words twisted into the worst possible conclusion. I am grateful for the chaste intimacy, tenderness, and insight that has been shared with me by men who recognized my current fragility — and responded appropriately. I am not only healing through this, but I am being made stronger. The journey has not been easy, but I am finally allowing myself to be happy.

I am a person. I am no man’s manic pixie dream girl.

Daddy Dearest

Posted in general on May 19th, 2016 by Jin Wicked – Comments Off on Daddy Dearest

Late-night AM radio paranormal talk show host George Noory famously quips, “There are no such things as coincidences.” While I do not necessarily believe that, and I understand the phenomenon of confirmation bias, my life appears to be afflicted by a theatrical sense of timing. My personal journey of the past two years — leaving the extended adolescence I occupied for over a decade, weighed down by anxiety and depression — climaxed this past weekend with my appearance at MSP Comicon. One year ago, I tabled there with a meagre pile of my mini-comics; a shrinking violet, timidly hawking my wares. This year, I commanded a full table in the centre of the convention floor, surrounded by a stable of friends; lip syncing and dancing shamelessly for two days straight, and doing virtually anything to bring a smile to those passing by. Triumphant, it was the most actualized, confident, and self-assured I have ever felt.

On Monday night, I received news that my father had shot and killed himself. In one final act of cruelty, another person was witness to his suicide.

My father was a profoundly angry, and, at his core, unhappy man. He worked taxing, physical labour in a trade he did not enjoy, and found himself trapped there when plans to take over the family business fell through. Violence and misbehaviour eventually lead him to never consume alcohol. The sheetrock in our garage was littered with holes in the walls made by his leathery fist. The oldest child, my most vivid childhood memories involve being chased through our hallway, his voice bellowing threats at my heels, or being strapped with a leather belt. I rarely understood what I had done to deserve that. My father was a large man. There were plenty of happy times, of course, but I learned to fear him and his temper quickly. I recall many incidents of him cursing at my mother and refusing a meal because she unknowingly cooked something for dinner he had had for lunch. I watched her react and, unconsciously myself, became trained to do or say whatever it takes to avoid that anger. As a child, I fought tirelessly to earn his approval and recognition. It seldom came; more often I was punished for failing to meet his standards or be what he wanted. Therein lies the seat of my identity issues and insatiable desire to please.

As I grew older, I became an angry, disturbed, and poorly-adjusted teenager. The overt violence ended, only to be replaced by undercurrents of threat. My activities and socialization were severely restricted for most of my high school years, stunting my emotional development and ability to connect with others. Both of my parents were obsessively controlling, consistently eavesdropping, violating my trust, and invading my privacy. I had a violent psychotic episode at age 14, which resulted in the screws being tightened further. They falsely accused me of drinking, using drugs, and prostitution. My makeup, clothing, weight, and interests were mocked and criticized. My attitude was somehow always the ruination of our family outings and vacations. Day after day, I was reminded of all the things wrong with me. I should state that — for whatever reasons — my two younger siblings did not receive this treatment.

Outwardly, we appeared to be the ideal nuclear family.

Friends charitably helped me escape this toxic environment those many years ago, before I descended into self-harm, or worse. I remained in Minneapolis for one year, then in Buffalo, NY, very briefly, before returning to Texas. When I came back, my parents charged me a small amount of rent, and were then mostly-able to treat me as an independent person and less judgmentally.

However — my father became more emotionally distant and unavailable over the years. Communication was always on his terms, despite my requests not to be alienated by his politics. He continued to express little to no capability for compromise. He continued to lecture and talk to me like a small child, and he expressed little interest in my life and none in my work. He was incapable of apologizing or owning any responsibility for damage to our relationship. He put only the most minimal of effort into maintaining the relationship. I realize now that I have been intoxicatingly attracted to men displaying these same unhealthy traits in my romantic partnerships. (Never Matt, though!) Affection withheld as punishment and returned as reward, being deliberately ignored, being dehumanized by name-calling like asshole and crazy, having my feelings marginalized or invalidated, and threats of abandonment are all things I have endured. I will no longer suffer others’ perceived failures and insecurities.

I set aside all my grievances when my mother’s breast cancer metastasized to her bone marrow. Initially, I cleaned my parents’ house once per week for token payment. As her illness progressed, I became her daytime caregiver. It was during this period where I felt the most connection to my father. United by the common objective of caring for my mother, we functioned together as a team, and he would occasionally confide in or seek advice from me. It was I who researched hospice care, and who ultimately helped him accept it when that time came. It was I who spoke with the hospice representatives, when he could not face them alone. Unfortunately, after her death, things returned to the status quo. He was never the same, and neglected to seek help.

My mother did apologize to me, unsolicited, before she died.

One day in the kitchen, while planning my mother’s funeral, my father looked at me and said, “My children were all disappointments — you know? I wanted doctors and lawyers. But I guess I didn’t give you the genetics for that.” And, immediately realizing what he said, he attempted to take it back. But I knew. Our relationship mostly consisted of me visiting, staring at the television for a few hours, then returning home. Dinner conversation typically involved his life or whatever he had heard that week from Rush Limbaugh. When he became abusive about including an unwanted and inappropriate third-party in one of my birthday celebrations, I decided to sever. His violently slamming down the phone on me was the last time we spoke. The silence lasted for many years, though I did attempt to reconnect before leaving Texas last September, which he declined. My feelings about his death are understandably mixed.

Over the past two years, I have worked tirelessly to address my flaws, make amends with those I have hurt, heal my old wounds, and purge my heart and mind of ugliness. Am I perfect? Absolutely not!!! But I have made a conscious decision and effort to learn empathy, to build my undeveloped social skills, to connect with and love others, and to forgive my past mistakes. I had to learn not to expect abuse, neglect, and pain as necessary companions of love. And I now have the largest, most robust support network of friends and adoptive family that care about me and want me to succeed, that I have ever had.

And I treasure every new person that becomes part of my life.

I have lost over 60lbs, relaunched my art and comics career, relocated across the country, and restarted my life. I am standing alone, on my own two feet, for the first time. I have a steady paycheque doing work I enjoy with people I am happy to see every day, and who are in turn happy to see me. I have an unsteady paycheque doing creative work that brings me personal fulfillment, and delight every time I make someone laugh or think. I work hard. I have a nice apartment, new car, new phone, and a future to look forward to.

The chains that have bound me are falling away.

Matt has been very supportive through this process, as I feel we have slowly begun to rebuild our friendship. I am appreciative that he has been available through this and other recent traumas. I will close with some advice he gave me weeks ago: “You have to let go of the self-loathing — it will kill you.”