Tags: violence


Jay, La Cheim, Mood, Meds, AC Transit

After two weeks in the ICU (and now a bit of time in the Slightly-Less-Intensive Care Unit), my friend Jay is continuing to slowly improve after his accident. After numerous surgeries, he's beginning to get his pain management under control well enough to be transferred to an inpatient rehab facility. I hope this means I'll get to visit him soon, as I haven't seen him since first hearing the distressing news back on September 15. His wife (Lois) has been amazing, sending out email newsletter updates almost every day to the many people who are concerned, keeping us all apprised of his progress. I hope transfer to the rehab facility will mean things get easier for both of them.

If nothing else, the docs seem to be done sticking pieces of metal (be they knives, drills, plates, or rods) into Jay, and that's something to be glad of. Jay is FAMILY to me, and I don't like bad things happening to my family. That is simply NOT okay with me. This whole time, ever since I first heard, I have thought of Jay several times a day every day, probably rarely going 2 waking hours without wondering where he is and how he's feeling and what they're doing to him ... and I look forward to being able to at least hold his uninjured fingers (below the broken wrists) and give them a good squeeze while solemnly declaring that electronic skateboards are Satan's work.

Also Satan's work, though probably unrelated: the AC Transit #18 bus line. I was taking the bus from La Cheim to therapy today when two grown men got into an altercation and both pulled out knives. Of course, given my luck, one guy was sitting directly behind me and the other was directly across the aisle from me, so I was basically stuck right in the middle of the whole thing, and I was terrified as hell. Both guys did a lot of very abusive yelling, a lot of threatening, a lot of swearing, a lot of smack-talking, and a lot of knife-waving ... but in the end nobody got stabbed, so I call it a win. The reason I say that the AC Transit #18 bus line is Satan's work is because this is the same fucking bus line I was on when a blind passenger was assaulted by a fellow passenger who then directly threatened me before deciding to instead chase the blind guy down the street, continuing to attack him. Unfortunately, the #18 goes many places I need to go. This keeps happening, though, and I'm going to develop #18-o-phobia!

I'm still hypomanic, though the new med (Depakote) seems to be helping. We had to lower the dosage because I got hit with a triple-whammy of sedation, increased appetite (especially for protein), and nausea. On the reduced dosage, my thoughts are racing again, but not as badly as before the Depakote, so we're going to continue giving it a try. It can take a while for side effects (e.g., the nausea) to diseappear, and it can also take a while for the full effectiveness of a dose to kick in ... the combination of which means we're going to stick with the current dosage (750 mg/day) for a while and see what happens. In the meantime, I'm always a little too tired, a little too hungry, and a little nauseated.

La Cheim is great, but is tiring as hell. I'm now in the Intensive Outpatient Program, which means I'm only at La Cheim on Tuesdays-Thursdays, and I'm back at CWC on Mondays and Fridays. Maybe I'll write a friends-locked entry about some more personal stuff re: La Cheim, but right now I'm just wanting to go to bed. Sooooo tiiiiirrrreeed.

Last bedtime thought: I wonder how Jay is doing right this moment. I hope he's sleeping soundly and letting sleep help heal all the stuff that needs healing. And I hope Lois is getting whatever rest and support she needs, too. I hope they're both as comfortable and happy as possible, given the circumstances. My last waking thoughts go out to them.
girl in tree, hiding

People Getting Punched on the Bus

Was on the bus this morning, on my way to Lisa's house, when a violent assault took place as we were passing through downtown Berkeley. A (possibly homeless) 40-ish black man became enraged over basically nothing & forcefully punched an older blind white man in the head. Granted, the blind man was being a bit of a dick (flipping the other guy off for refusing to pay the bus fare), but that doesn't excuse a punch to the head!

There were about 20 passengers on the bus at the time. I was sitting just across the aisle from Violent Guy, so I had a front-row seat. Lucky me.

I'd become nervous when Violent Guy had started shouting about not letting anyone disrespect him (referring to the Blind Guy's insistent middle finger display), then even more nervous when Violent Guy had stood up and started looming over Blind Guy, but I became truly frightened when Violent Guy hauled off and slugged Blind Guy in the side of the head. Other passengers started shouting. Sobbing, I cried out, "Driver! This guy just hit someone! Make him get off the bus!"

Violent Guy turned to look at me and asked me if I was going to disrespect him, too. I didn't say anything, still crying and crying. He stared fixedly into my face, his eyes cold and angry, and it seemed like it went on forever in total silence and stillness. He started moving across the aisle toward me, but Blind Guy had taken this opportunity to hurriedly exit the bus (since the driver had pulled over when the commotion erupted), and it distracted Violent Guy. He proclaimed loudly to the bus at large, "When you see that blind guy again, don't be surprised if he's dead." Then he said, "I'm gonna go break that guy's finger."

Violent Guy went to get off the bus, but the driver approached him at the doorway and tried to calm him down, suggesting that he shouldn't run off to hurt anybody, etc. Violent Guy started looming over the bus driver and was very clearly seconds from punching him, so the driver wisely stepped aside. Violent Guy was out the door like a shot—dropping all of his crap on the sidewalk (he'd been carrying a raincoat, a sleeping bag, various bags, etc.)—and strode meaningfully off after Blind Guy, who was only a few yards away by this time (since he is entirely blind & it's difficult to run away when you're relying on a white cane to guide your passage).

At this point, the bus driver closed all the bus doors (ensuring that Violent Guy could not get back on) and was on the phone with dispatch and/or police. I think he'd been on the phone with them earlier than this, but at this point he turned all his attention in that direction. At this point, probably only a minute or so had passed since the punch was thrown.

Violent Guy caught up with Blind Guy almost immediately, right outside the bus windows, and he hit him from behind with a powerful running kick. Blind Guy stumbled but continued walking as quickly as possible, while the bus driver opened the front door of the bus and stepped out to shout at Violent Guy to leave Blind Guy alone. Everybody on the bus was standing up and watching out the windows. One woman was shouting to the driver to open the back door so she could go out to help Blind Guy.

Hearing Bus Driver's shouts, Violent Guy turned around and came back toward the bus, then seemed to think better of it (maybe the bus driver stepped back inside and closed the doors?) & turned back in the direction Blind Guy had gone. The bus driver stepped back into the bus and closed the doors again.

Violent Guy took off. An older woman on the bus got up and came and hugged me for what felt like a really long time, telling me that everything was going to be okay. I just kept sobbing and sobbing and sobbing. I heard the bus driver saying over his radio that Violent Guy was gone, but the people in the back of the bus yelled that he was still running after Blind Guy. I ran to the back of the bus and looked out and was horrified to see the Blind Guy standing at the corner, waiting for the light to change, while Violent Guy rapidly approached him from behind.

Violent Guy was only maybe 8' away from Blind Guy (and this was almost an entire block away, so we couldn't hear if Violent Guy was yelling or if Blind Guy was totally oblivious to the impending second assault), but then another guy on the street stepped up and started talking to Violent Guy. I have no idea what they were saying, but Violent Guy stopped, and Brave Random Passerby talked with him, gesturing a lot, though he seemed pretty calm. Whatever Brave Random Passerby said seemed to convince Violent Guy to leave Blind Guy alone, and Violent Guy came back to the bus. He stood at the closed front door of the bus and glared, still clearly incensed, through the glass at the bus driver. It seemed pretty obvious that he wasn't just making a polite request to be allowed back on the bus to proceed to his intended destination but was still hoping to get a few more licks in. The bus driver kept the doors closed and kept talking on his radio.

Eventually, Violent Guy went and picked up all of his crap off the sidewalk and strode away in the opposite direction of where Blind Guy had gone.

A guy in a wheelchair had been screaming and shouting, demanding that the driver let him off the bus, through much of this time. The bus driver tried to calm him down, explaining that he had to follow procedures and that the police would be coming. By regulation, a bus after this sort of event has to go out of service and the driver has to wait for statements to be taken and such.

In the end, most people got off the bus, bitching and moaning about having to wait for the next #18 to come along, but Older Hugging Lady and I both talked with the driver and asked if it would help if we stayed to serve as witnesses, since we were both sitting right next to the initial attack. Also, there was a blind woman sitting in the front of the bus (though she had not been traveling with Blind Guy) who offered to stay for a bit, but then had to leave. She praised the driver repeatedly for how he had handled the whole situation.

The bus driver was VERY shaken up. He was trembling & kept rambling about what had happened, how he was glad the guy hadn't hit him because he wouldn't have been able to keep himself from fighting back and probably would have lost his job. He kept talking about how he'd been only minutes away from his lunch break & had a burrito in his backpack. I suggested that he eat his lunch while we wait for the police, but he wryly admitted that he didn't think he'd be able to keep food down right then.

The bus driver and Hugging Lady both commented that they'd been worried that Violent Guy was going to hit me. They both agreed that if Bus Driver hadn't let Violent Guy off the bus when he did, Violent Guy would have hit Bus Driver & would almost certainly have come for me next. This did not particularly help me calm down, though I don't think I was crying anymore by this time. Well ... actually ... I think I still was.

Three police officers arrived pretty quickly, but one of them was a complete asshole. He complained about how people had given him conflicting descriptions of the guy, then said that he'd gone in the direction everyone pointed, but hadn't found the guy, despite the fact that there were very few people walking over that way. It was like he was accusing everyone of lying or something! And he laughed about it, looking around at everybody (most of the people who had gotten off the bus were still standing at the stop, waiting for the next bus to arrive) and mockingly describing the various things he said people had said. I'd heard what people had been telling him, and he clearly hadn't been listening well, because he totally misquoted everyone, saying that people said the guy was carrying a yellow umbrella, when I and everyone else I heard had said the guy was carrying a yellow raincoat.

Anyway, Asshole Cop eventually came up with some kind of electronic gizmo & was staring into it & it turned out to be video of what happened out on the sidewalk. Asshole Cop started scoffing again & saying stuff like, "You acted like he was beating this guy up all over the place! He only hit him once!" and "You didn't mention that the guy kept hitting himself the whole time, too." WTF? I was watching almost the entire time (except during the 20 seconds or so when Hugging Lady had been hugging me) & Violent Guy never hit himself. Bus Driver, Hugging Lady, and I all looked at each other when Asshole Cop said this and raised our eyebrows in disbelief. Violent Guy had not seemed crazy, just really really angry, so it would have been extremely out-of-character for him to hit himself in that situation, based on his other behavior. I'm EXTREMELY dubious of Asshole Cop's assertion. And even if Violent Guy had been hitting himself, it wouldn't have excused his attacking other people! And it wouldn't excuse Asshole Cop's minimizing the whole thing!

Then Asshole Cop started accusing Bus Driver of giving statements about things he hadn't actually seen himself but had only heard the passengers shouting about. Probably a fair assertion, but it shouldn't have been expressed so accusingly and dismissively.

Dude. Asshole Cop is an asshole.

Eventually, I saw Lisa approaching (I had phoned her on my Emergency Phone to tell her I would be late, and then again to ask her to come get me when I knew that the bus was going out of service & the bus driver had asked us to stay to give statements to the police) & I asked if Hugging Lady and I could leave, and the cops and AC Transit people said that we could. We got off the bus and hugged again and then Lisa and I went to brunch at La Note, my favorite brunch place.

Then I came home and fell into a totally exhausted, drained, traumatized sleep for a couple hours until Shannon got home.

It all obviously triggered Ernie stuff for me, what with me sitting helplessly nearby while a vulnerable other person else was physically assaulted, then having the violent person turn his attentions toward threatening me when I raised my voice to ask the bus driver for help/protection. I'm still really shaken.
girl in tree, hiding

No safe place at CWC

Terrible no good very bad day. Verbally violent, frightening, threatening woman in the Art Room in the morning who basically held us all hostage for 20 minutes (especially me, as I was stuck off in the furthest corner of the room & COMPLETELY unable to get past people to leave, while Scary Woman was right by the only door) with almost no intervention at all by the staff, followed by me having a panic attack during the CWC holiday lunch, followed by me waiting about 45 minutes in the rain for a bus to bring me home.

The Art Room Fiasco triggered a lot of Ernie stuff for me, and there's been other stuff going on lately lately that's been triggering, too. I just haven't had the energy to write about it yet.

Perhaps I'll write more about it all later today, and about the other stuff that's been going on, as well, but right now I just want to put on my comfiest clothes & some really thick, dry, warm socks & crawl into bed under the covers with my Sasha.

Hitting, Hiding, and Becoming Visible

In therapy today, I was talking about how my feelings about myself have changed as a result of my physical therapy, about how I feel stronger when I walk with my shoulders back and my head held high than when I slouch in my lifelong habitual inward curve. We talked about how my posture has been one of the many ways that I unconsciously protected myself, like I was curling around my vulnerable middle, like I was making myself smaller, less likely to be noticed, easier to miss, harder to hit.

Out of nowhere, I said, "I feel like I've still been living in Ernie's house ever since we left," and it gave me a jolt, the kind of jolt that tells you, "That was important." It feels remarkably, surprisingly, deeply true, like I've been living the past 40 years frozen in a dim corner of Ernie's living room, trying not to move, trying to avoid attracting attention, trying not to catch the eye of the monster, alert to everything around me but trying to be separate from it, surrounding myself with a cloak of invisibility as much as was humanly possible.

Immediately upon saying those words in today's therapy session, I saw myself as this small girl, trying not to be seen, trying to protect herself, afraid of this lurking, lumbering shadow, this monster who could pulverize her if he noticed her there. She saw him hurting people every day, knew that he could hurt her just as badly, knew that her only defense was to make herself as small a target as possible. I saw this little girl, but I was her, at the same time. I realized that she'd been there all along, that I'd been her all along.

It reminds me of my response to one of the recent prompts on oneword.com (the website that gives you timed 60-second writing exercises). The prompt word was "crosswalk":
She holds the child’s hand and they cross carefully. “Look both ways,” she says, looking down, and the girl looks up into her face and nods solemnly. “Always look both ways,” the woman repeats, “because then you’ll be safe. Then no one will hit you.” The girl looked down at the lines on the asphalt and thought carefully, then nodded again.

"[T]hen you'll be safe. Then no one will hit you"— those sentences really jarred me with a jolt of emotion when I finished writing them. They didn't feel like they were about crossing the street.

There's a lot of stuff about hitting, violence, and hiding in my 60-second writings at oneword. Apparently, that stuff often comes up for me when I write from a purely gut place without having time for any filters.

Hell, even my mom used to hit us. It wasn't just Ernie. He just seemed to enjoy it more ... and he was a lot bigger. A lot scarier. Really really scary.

I'm dealing with all this stuff now, and just recognizing the fear makes it less frightening, deprives it of some of its power. There is no lurking, lumbering monster—he's been dead and gone for decades. I can stand up straight and not be afraid that I'm going to get slapped simply for being visible. I won't get punched or pinched or slapped or kicked or cut or bitten or hurt in any way. I can just be a regular person, and it doesn't necessarily mean pain. It means potential for pain, obviously, but that's what life is. I'd rather be visible and take my chances than live my life hiding in fear. Pain comes either way. I might as well be standing up instead of crouching in a corner.

a girl lived inside a giant head ...

In a previous entry, I mentioned the writing exercise from this week's writing group, in which I wrote about "buttoning my lips," and I decided to write it up here so I can print it out and take it to discuss with my therapist. As always, this is an extremely rushed writing assignment in which there is little time for thought or planning: words just stream out of you and then you consider them afterward.

Once upon a time, a girl lived inside a giant head. She knew the old woman who lived in a shoe—they were distant neighbors, after all—but this particular girl lived in a head.

On days when the weather was warm, she would open the eyes and mouth and let the sunshine and cool breezes come wafting into her head, clearing away the cobwebs, but on days when the skies were gloomy with threatening clouds or even with hail, she would close the upstairs shutters with their long fringed lashes and she would lock her teeth tightly together and button her lips against the cold.

The head house was quite ingenious, actually, in that no one outside could ever find the door unless they'd already been shown. To get inside, you had to walk around under the left ear and duck into the hollow under the chin. A tiny door there would let you in, but by that time the girl would probably know you were coming. The house would have heard you, after all.

The girl never locked the door, since bad guys generally couldn't find it and good guys generally don't come in without knocking. In fact, like the doors of the old-time Denny's, this one actually had no lock. The girl didn't like locks, because instead of shutting other people out they always felt like they were shutting her in. She liked to be able to flee her head house at a moment's notice, without having to fiddle with locks and keys. Sometimes she thought about removing the door altogether, since she doubted that the hidden spot under the chin was prone to drafts, and then there might be gentle gusts of fresh air wafting into the house regardless of the weather outside.

As I mentioned last time, it ended up making me think about what "buttoning one's lips" means when used in its less literal, more common way, and about how here it was used literally to protect the girl inside her head, away from outside violence. It made me think of Ernie, and whether I was quiet before we moved in with him, or whether I became more quiet during that time to avoid getting hit. I don't know. It makes sense, though, that I would have learned to keep my mouth shut, and to identify silence (and invisibility) with protection.
writing, poetry

Mostly the untitled poem I wrote today

I had a great day today. I had good energy with only one 2-hour siesta, only an hour or two of nausea, two very enjoyable social outings, an excellent dinner, and a salted caramel cupcake from Cakes and Purls.

I mostly didn't feel like a sick person at all! It was like real life!

One of my social outings was dinner with Debbie and Alan, which was wonderful, and the other was my writing group with Julia and Crystal. Our writing prompt today was "a time you were frightened." I returned to familiar emotional memories and wrote something that may not seem like a part of a "great day," but it was cathartic:

Ernie gave away our puppy.
Mandy dug holes
in the backyard,
which is something that dogs
especially young dogs
It's to be expected.
It's bad, maybe,
but that's what dog kids do.
They dig holes.

But Ernie didn't like the holes
or maybe the puppy
or maybe both.
He didn't like things
he couldn't control.

Send them to the backyard
where he doesn't have to see them
but even then
they should only do
what he wants them to do.

I'm sure we must have had fun
in that
with four kids in the house.
I'm sure we played,
at least sometimes,
but mostly I remember
Mandy getting in trouble,
Ernie yelling,
grabbing her by the back of her neck
and shaking her
like he was going to throw her,
maybe throw her at the wooden fence:
a sickening thud and yelp.
It was already there in my mind;
I could already see her
limp on the grass
in pain and fear.

She was black with brown markings
maybe she would have grown up
to look like a Doberman,
but I didn't see her grow up,
so I don't know.

Ernie shook her
and I was sure he was going to
throw her,
kill her.
He looked at her
the way he looked at us sometimes,
like when he put duct tape
over Alan's mouth
because he talked too much.
I think Alan was 4 then.
Maybe 5.

Alan talked too much.
Mandy dug holes in the yard.
What did my mom do
to make him throw her against the wall?
Probably her smart mouth.
Maybe Ernie could have just used
duct tape,
but he didn't.

He yelled at her
while we sat in the backyard
where Mandy had dug her holes
before she was gone.

Mom told me
my first pet mouse "ran away,"
though I'm sure
she just died.
I hope Mandy really did
go elsewhere
like Mom told us.
I hope she found a good home
with a good backyard
where she could dig holes
and no one yelled
or picked her up
by the back of her neck
or shook her
or threw her into walls
like Ernie did to my mom.

I wonder if Ernie just
put Mandy to "sleep."
I wonder if
he killed her.

I was afraid
he might kill my mom.

We sat in the backyard
and listened to him
hearing the thump
of my mom's small body
hitting the wall,
the whimpering,
and then worse.

I was afraid he might
kill my mom.

Did he kill Mandy?

That backyard
didn't have any holes in it.
Ernie filled them all in
and it was like
Mandy had never been there.

I wonder if he killed her.
I hope not.

Because I Like Lists: Events That Had A Big Emotional Impact on Me

For the past few days, for no apparent reason, I've been concocting this list of the national/international events that have had the most vivid effect on me thus far in my life. I'm not sure what it means that the earliest one that really had a big impact was when I was 16. I remember some politically or culturally significant events before that, but they didn't really hit me hard in the way stuff did later. Maybe I just wasn't capable of fully understanding the implications of those earlier events, and so didn't respond as deeply.

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What moments most affected your life? I'd be interested to know.