Those Flashing Lights

A deep pit forms in your gut, your palms moisten, your heart rate elevates and breathing shallows… all at the sight of those flashing blue and reds.  I knew he was coming for me.  Cops and I don’t have a great track record of getting along.  Now, aside from the obvious involvement in prostitution and some other various crimes (mostly necessary for survival) I really was a good citizen.  I wasn’t into vandalism, I didn’t drive recklessly; being stupid for stupid’s sake was never part of my entertainment agenda.  Without being ignorant, I realize that the people you associate with or the neighborhood you’re in (or your skin coloring, dress, makeup, etc.) leads to officers of the law making certain assumptions about a person… and I get it, statistics and learned behaviors do allow for certain things.  It’s when I’ve been all cleaned up, out of a bad environment and a minor infraction gets blown out of proportion that that target (that must be) on my forehead becomes all the more obvious.  It’s as if cops somehow just knew that 5 days out of the 7 I’d been breaking the law, but because they caught me minding my own business on day 6, they were going to give me a hard time anyway.

I know you might be thinking… “what’s her point?” so allow me to relay a few scenarios… Keeping in mind that by the grace of God alone I don’t have a criminal record.  Sadly, I’ve met a lot of dirty cops– those guys you see on CSI who would rather take a stack of cash, a stash of blow or a back seat sexual favor rather than withhold justice… they’re real (but I hope not as prevalent as my bias leads me to believe). I’ve had a cop hit me with his gun because my friend smarted off.  I’ve been offered a ride home out of the rain only to be asked for a generous “thank you” in return.  I’ve been issued a speeding ticket while on my way to the police station in fear of my life, all the while begging the cop writing the ticket to just simply help me.  I’ve watched as one officer guarded the door for another as he negotiated prices with my father.  I’ve been humiliated, intimidated, and pressured while trying to file charges against my abusers.  I’ve been laughed at and called every name for whore, hooker, and slut that you can think of that I wont write on here.  I’ve been cuffed as a minor, thrown into the back seat as a minor, raped as a min– well, that doesn’t even matter that I was a minor.

Cops and me just have had a track record of not getting along, so when I got pulled over tonight, for the first time in years, it activated a lot of old fears.  I’ve been very blessed recently to have met some awesome members of law enforcement.  There really are men and women out there who care about preserving justice in a dignified manor and I’m thankful for each and every one of you… but I still have these old wounds.  I was pulled over tonight because one of my headlights was out and was let go with a warning (my first warning ever- whoo hoo!).  I feel very fortunate not to have gotten a ticket but that was about six hours ago and I still can’t get myself to calm down.  I immediately went into “hyper-alert”, my mind reeling with plan B’s, plan C’s, plan D’s on how to escape.  I don’t need an escape plan here but it’s just a natural response for me.  Oh how I wish it wouldn’t be that way… if you are one, or if you know of a “good” cop out there, do me a favor and point him/her my way.  The more of these legit men and women we see standing up for what’s right, the better for all of us! Thanks…

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

Advertisements

All About the M-O-N-E-Y

Money is one of the biggest triggers for me.  Nothing sends me into a spiral near depression like being low on money does.  Let me back up to explain…

Money conversations were common in my household growing up, but it wasn’t talk of stocks and bonds.  It was talk of how money doesn’t grown on trees and certainly not on our trees.  It was more complaining then financial planning.  My father was really into conspiracy theories and how banks and “the Man” were out to get you.  I was constantly told “you need to pull your weight or we’re going to starve”— hence him forcing me to work in the sex industry.  The “Life”, the “Game” of sex… it’s always about the money.  It’s about greed and an easy way out for people to make cash and act superior– but really, it’s all the money.

I think I do pretty well with my funds, though I’m sure I could do better.  I know how to get what I need out of a little– stretching the  dollar you might say.  I’m a firm believer in tithing and in general being generous with your finances.  (I’ve been so blessed by other people throughout life and God has always been my provider so I really just can’t see another way of operating.)  I don’t over-shop and I’m not afraid to return those inevitable impulse buys that sometimes happen.  All this being said however, I’ve pretty much always lived paycheck to paycheck and have had to come up with creative ways to get the bills paid.  It’s one of my biggest stressors.

It used to be that when my family was backed into a financial corner, the sale of my body would get us out.  It used to be that when my family was out of food, I’d be the last to eat.  The correlation between being broke and being raped is clear and it makes me sick.  I look at my bank account even now and the lower it gets, the more nauseated I feel.  The more it drops, the more seriously frightened I become that my world’s going to fall apart and I’m going to feel again what it means to starve.  I haven’t used my body as a financial bail-out since I moved from under my father’s control, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tempting at times.  It’s not rational to think that I’ll starve but it is rational to hate the love of money.

Wishing that the world wasn’t so controlled by money is nice but it’s not going to change anything.  As much as finances stress me out, I am SO glad that I have a job I love instead of one that makes me a million dollars a year.  I’d much rather live generously than live selfishly knowing that if you even make $1,000 (USD) a month you STILL are in the top 10% or so of the world’s wealthiest.  Please take a moment to see where your own income falls by clicking here (it’s a little outdated but still handy.)  Also, read through some of these mind-blowing statistics, like the fact that 1 in every 2 children in our world are living in poverty or that 80% of humanity lives on less than $2.50 a day— 80%!  Let’s you and me take a step towards putting our money situation into perspective!  It’s one of the best ways I’ve found to minimize the stress surrounding my finances because there are people in MUCH worse situations than me and at far greater risk of being trafficked.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

What the Heck is “Trauma” Anyway?

What the heck IS “Trauma” anyway?

It’s pretty logical that one scary situation causes another.  Little Bobby Joe watches a scary movie his parents didn’t know about.  In the scary movie a big monster attacks a little boy after jumping out from under the bed.  Bobby Joe slams the TV off in fear. (Scary situation #1)  That night Little Bobby Joe is crying at bed time and refuses to accept that he is safe in his own room. (Scary situation #2, caused by #1)  Both situation’s fears are real and similar, but one definitely caused another.  Also, just because the threat isn’t real, doesn’t mean the fear isn’t.

There is no “fix it” button for trauma.  As much as I hate that there’s not… no such button exists.  I feel pressure from myself and others around me to follow a series of tactics or to mark off a specialized check list that holds the magic cure, but still… nothing short of gradual improvement.  I’ve always been very hard on myself too– no one wants a lightning speed recovery more than I do.  I guess this is why I get so frustrated with other people’s unending suggestions for happiness.  Don’t they think I’m trying to be better?  I’m not a dumb person– I’m doing the research, I’m doing the hard work.  I don’t need unsolicited people to bombard me with “Are you better yet?’s” because I’m doing enough of that on my own.

Trauma is its own monster, with its timeline, personality, and quicks that are completely separate from the person who possess it.  Until you intimately learn how your own trauma operates it’s an ugly process that moves much slower than most would like.  To me, one of the most bizarre aspects of this process is that the symptoms of an initial traumatic instance may not show up until years later. This is what happened with me and is part of my new favored word, frustration. I felt a fake “fine” for years after the trauma began but it was when I finally got into a safe environment that most of the symptoms of that trauma appeared.  It was then that I began to experience weird reactions to normal things.  Crowds that I used to love started to freak me out or I’d be sitting on the couch and my heart would started to randomly beat rapidly.  Where I used to be in complete denial of my abuse, I started to replace that numbness with feelings of shame and guilt.

Trauma is tricky to say the least and has all of these scientific labels attached to it.  All I know is that it feels like I have some horrible disease… complete with the lack of understanding from most doctors and the unfortunate social stigma that AIDS/HIV used to carry.  I don’t like feeling so different from the rest of society, like I have this huge secret that no ones knows (which is actually all true I suppose).  I wish my circumstance was as simple as Little Bobby Joe’s and his fear of nighttime monsters under his bed.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

Daddy Issues

I had a rare moment Sunday; I had a “dad” moment.  God’s been very gracious to bring replacement mom-types into my life but good men to step up and act like a father are more of a rare jewel.  It was a simple moment. We were sitting at lunch and this dad-ish overheard me talking and started to chime in with his words of warning.  I was a little taken aback.  I’ve known this man for a while and have great respect for him but he’s never before switched into a parenting role with me in such an outright way. (At least not that I can remember.)  He’s been very present in my life, along with the rest of his family, but it was this vocal expression that threw me off.  Even though I didn’t really agree with him, I couldn’t help but smile and think about his guidance.  The moment meant a lot to me.  I now find myself very distracted, thinking about what it means to really have a dad— a true, noble man who has the right to be called a father.

I think back to the relationship I had with my father… volatile is a good word to describe it. My father and I had two things in common—we had a gift for creativity and were fiercely stubborn.  We differed in pretty much every other way.  My father was extremely unpredictable and had a temper to match.  He’d completely ignore you one minute than walk in the room screaming the next.  I remember one particular instance where he’d beaten me into a corner.  I was crying so hard I ran out of tears and was now just sort of dry-heaving with my hands over my face.  I was in so much pain and he just keep yelling at me to stop. (As if that would help.)  The more he yelled, the harder it was for me to breath.  The more he kicked, the more jumbled my thinking got.  At one point I realized that I didn’t even know why I was being punished.  In my father’s rage, he had not even thought to tell me what I’d done wrong.

Always fearful of my father, I often walked with my back to the walls of our house, so as to avoid being snuck up on.  The older I got, the more detached I became from my emotions and the harder it was for my father to do physical damage to me. (Partly because I grew stronger and faster, partly because men wouldn’t pay as much to sleep with a bruised whore.)  Also, as I grew older I would find more and more loopholes to his seemingly unending control over my life.  I walked a thin line of rebellion—just enough to exercise some of the independence I craved, but not enough to get me killed.  I can’t help but wonder what different line I would have walked if the man at lunch today had been my father instead of the monster who was playing that role years ago.

No one’s perfect obviously.  No father will make every perfect decision. There are people who grow up into wonderful citizens who had awful fathers.  Then of course, the opposite is true—beautifully parented individuals can become gruesome criminals.  Still, I can’t help but just wonder (not dwell) on what would have been different for me.  Damn you classic daddy issues…

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

Goodbye

I said goodbye to a dear friend yesterday.  It sucks.  I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people in my life and society tells me that I’m supposed to say here that it never gets any easier but I don’t think that’s entirely true.  I think it’s your first real goodbye that’s the worst.

You’ve had no previous experience to built up emotional calluses at this point; you’re heart is exposed and set up for pain.  You’ve not learned the protective measures of building walls, or guarding your emotions.  You’re probably young and throw yourself fully into life.  Everything is phrased in terms of “This is the best!”, “It was the worst!”, “She’s my bestest best friend”, “I love him sooooo much.”, “We’ll be together forever.”  Your life is a life of extremes.  Not yet have you been taught any different, so it’s that first real goodbye that sets the trap of relational distance in motion.  Maybe like me you’re harmed by a family member and you say goodbye to your trust in them, or, one of your dear friends is killed and you say goodbye to her company. You see, a “goodbye” is just a loss, the beginning of a grief process, that’s disguised in a conversation.  Maybe it’s something as seemingly simple as the deep rejection of a peer group because you don’t look like they do.  Your first goodbye triggers new thoughts of “I’ll never trust again” and “I don’t need people” and such…

I quickly became Queen of this belief system.  I think I said too many goodbyes too soon in life.  The walls around my heart went up in record time and at record heights and my second, third, fourth, and fifth goodbyes were much easier that that first one.  (It all made me the perfect future worker for the sex industry.)  I refused to attach myself to real relationship so cutting off a connection wasn’t terribly painful.  I refused to feel pain any longer and did what I dare to say every trafficked girl does who survives… I numbed out.  You have to.  Survival = numbing if you’re in the life for any length of time at all.  Another level of your sexual purity is taken, you block it out and go back to work.  You’re friend is beaten and disappears, you shrug it off and move on.  You’re betrayed by another, you burn up their pictures and pretend that they never existed in the first place.

The trick, like I’ve mentioned before, is finding a healthy balance.  Since I’m one of the amazingly fortunate few to have survived this horrific Game*, my life is now about finding balance.  I truly became a master of this thing called disassociation.  I would let nothing touch me then, but I’m working desperately hard to learn how to let the good things come close to me now.  So, when I say that it sucked to say goodbye to a friend yesterday, I guess it really was a good sign for me.  Life is loss; it happens and that’s OK.  People will make their own choices and circumstances out of our control will occur, but I have to let life touch me again.

Goodbye Jess, I love you so much and hope to see you again soon.  I hope you have much happiness and safety in the months of life ahead of you.

*”Game” here refers to the workings of the sex industry and is often how pimps refer to their lifestyle: “I’m pimping, I’m just playing The Game and I aim to win.  I’m gonna own the most hoes in my stable (brothel). I’m gonna make more money than any other of the players out there– I play to win!” Sickening isn’t it?

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

Secrets of Recovery

They don’t tell you it’s this hard…

Psalm 109:21-22 reads:

“But you, Sovereign LORD,
help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me”

Another translation says “my heart is full of pain.” This is the way I feel. I remember saying to people, right around the time that I got out of my trafficking situation, that my heart was torn and my mind confused. With all the terrible things that had happened there was just no making sense of any of it.

What people don’t tell you at that point… the point where you’ve seemingly been “rescued” from your deepest, darkest fear, is that the recovery process isn’t a straight light up towards peace and bliss.  In reality its trajectory is more similar to the up and down of Himalayan peaks.  If you’re in healthy community, fight like hell and God willing, your recovery line will generally move upward.  (Thankfully, I think mine is.)  However, the understated discouragement is that I’m currently in a valley, not on one of those mountain peaks and it’s hard.  It’s terribly hard.

The past couple months I’ve been hit with insomnia and some other health barriers. For those who never have dealt with sleep issues, let me paint you a quick picture… insomnia fells like you’re drowning in your backyard pool. You can see the surface, there is a definite bottom and you have even been swimming a million times before. For some unknown reason though your body has now completely forgotten how to float and no amount of warm milk or Tylenol PM is helping to remind you. You can physically feel your lungs begging for air and you know it’s only a matter of time before you lose your mind and drown. You just keep straining to swim with no avail…. or trying to sleep with all exhaustion mounting. That’s insomnia.

For a person like me who prides herself on strength and all around “together-ness”, this all has been embarrassing and ultimately frustrating. I have to force myself to rise each day and ask “Why the heck am I here?”, “Was it really that bad in my old life?” (Yes, by the way!), “Would anyone really miss me if I was gone?”, “How long until the people who say they love me leave?”, “Can I handle this?” Every day I’ve been fighting non-stop lies of “You’re worthless”, “You’re still just a hooker”, “He’ll find you”, “You’re of no help”, “You’ve been kidding yourself”, “It’d be easier if you were dead.”

So the secrets of recovery? It’s not quick. It’s not easy. It’s necessary if life is the option you’ve chosen. What do I do then? I recognize that the 23 hrs out of the day when I’m being bombarded with flashbacks is not the time to make important decisions. I wait for that one hour of sanity in my day to call on people for help.  I pray that God’ll get me through the rest of the day until I again have been placed gently on a mountain top where I can see the face of Christ’s grace more clearly.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

%d bloggers like this: