“My biggest struggle is in the balance of wanting to be rid of my traumas, yet knowing that I need to keep my finger on them not to relapse into mental illness. It’s dealing with symptoms of PTSD like touch aversion and memory loss 7 years after being assaulted, yet cultivating vulnerability and new relationships to help me move forward. It’s honouring my truth, and walking away from situations that are harmful to me. It’s listening to my intuition and noticing when I’m being gaslit into silence. It’s knowing that I have a heavy thing to carry. That I need to share it with others like me, while I continue to survive.”
What was / is your biggest “struggle” as a womxn?
My biggest struggle is the long-haul one: unlearning all the garbage we’re told as children about who we’re meant to be. My biggest struggle is in the balance of wanting to be rid of my traumas, yet knowing that I need to keep my finger on them not to relapse into mental illness. It’s dealing with symptoms of PTSD like touch aversion and memory loss 7 years after being assaulted, yet cultivating vulnerability and new relationships to help me move forward. It’s honouring my truth, and walking away from situations that are harmful to me. It’s listening to my intuition and noticing when I’m being gaslit into silence. It’s knowing that I have a heavy thing to carry. That I need to share it with others like me, while I continue to survive.
What significant event had the biggest impact on you ?
There’s a freakish duality between trauma and sublimation. Obviously, I wouldn’t have chosen to be assaulted. But that period forced me to make some important decisions about where I would go next, and what my life could look like. I was just so tired of being talked over, of bending to other people, and having folks who don’t know anything tell me who I am supposed to be. I realized that most of the time, people project their shortcomings onto you. They make their problem your problem. It really boxes you in. But I had had enough, and I started saying no when my gut told me no. I stood up to people who had gotten used to pushing me around. They often don’t take it well, even to this day. So now, I just stop spending time with people who are unable to respect me as a human being.
It can be terrifying to say a lot of this out loud, so I started writing poems. Those poems became songs. Those songs gained new life when I performed them, because I was big and loud and took up space and demanded attention and respect. Once I started sublimating the PTSD stuff into songs, and people started reacting to this music, I realized that I had something to gain. Not through recognition, but through sharing with and listening to fellow survivors of sexual violence. Through connection. Once I realized I had the power, my whole life changed. It’s not always easy, but I’m not run by anger anymore. I have a lot to give, and I am going to give it.
What is your relationship with your body and more specifically related to the main topic we discussed in person?
My relationship with my body has been changing so much, in beautiful ways I didn’t expect. I used to be so insecure about body hair. I would obsess for hours in front of a mirror, pulling them out one at a time. I tried waxing, electrolysis, creams, bleach, tweezers… I also used to straighten my hair a lot, anything that I thought would make me more acceptable to others. I internalized so much junk about what I had to look like in order to be worthy. And the more I relented to these ideals and gave in, the more anxious I became. It’s like, feeding the beast only made it hungrier.
But after the assault, that unspoken veneer of cultural misogyny was finally shattered. My life had to be about me. My happiness, my health, my goals. I can’t have been put on this earth to appease others by ripping out hairs from my skin. I started questioning who really cared about me, what the people around me truly had to offer, and whether my sacrifices were benefiting my relationships. I let go of a lot of people who fetishize and sexualize me for my ethnicity. I let go of people who scrutinize and critique me for existing. I started to see who had screwed up ideals about women’s bodies and blackness, and I didn’t want them poisoning me anymore.
Once I cleaned house and started over, I stopped fixating so much on hair and skin and stretch marks and stuff. Those ideas were never mine in the first place. It’s just a body. It’s meant to carry me through this life. I just feel so grateful to be in this body. Especially now, since I put my body through so much with touring. And trauma has difficult physical effects on your vessel. It deserves to be taken care of, loved and accepted as it is. Unconditionally.
What impact did the others have on you?
It was extremely validating to hear about everyone’s experiences with their womanhood. The sense of community and belonging I felt in that one conversation was something I had lacked for so long in my life. I want to cry thinking back on it. I felt heard. I felt smart. And I felt so much awe at how strong, intelligent and amazing we all are. I feel so grateful to everyone who does this difficult work of arranging the icky, scattered gut feelings into words and sentences. It can be painful and isolating, but I can not stress this enough; it saves people’s lives. We need to know we’re not alone or crazy.
What is the hardest / most important decision you had to make regarding your body and your perception of it?
The most important decision was also the most difficult one: letting go of other people’s expectations, and being true to who I am.
Why does society value so much the standards of modern beauty and more specifically the body of women?
I would guess this obsession is a misogynistic cocktail of outdated religious shame, colonialism, and unscrupulous capitalism that takes no responsibility for who it hurts. Keeping people insecure removes us from our power. Everyday people did not create it, but we uphold it. It is our responsibility to analyze our culture, and remove that which is harming us.
What is the most crucial thing for a healthy relationship with oneself (body and mind)?
When do you feel the most beautiful?
When I wholly accept and honour my uniqueness, idiosyncrasies and contradictions.
Why did you want to participate in this project?
When I saw you were bringing women together who have such a wide variety of experiences, and who were speaking so openly about their thoughts, I knew I needed to reach out and be a part of it. Thank you so much for including me and facilitating this space!
How was the experience?
It was positively illuminating, as I knew it would be. We could do a round table like that every week, and never run out of things to say. It’s sort of like group therapy. Like a debriefing after some wild and dangerous situation, to bring us back to Earth and know what is real again.