Marissa Explains it All #40 – The Moment After – A Short Story/Recollection

This isn’t a blog, and yet it is. It’s an in-the-moment recollection of the worst night of my life.

TW: Graphic detail, sexual assault

The scent of damp bodily function wafted through the pitch dark room. Slow, heavy breaths scored the otherwise oppressive silence. The clenching fingers at war with the downy threads raging against each other, a single bead of sweat dropped down a glistening, furrowed brow. Breathing, unlike other instantly previous actions, was minimally consensual.

Nervous metatarsils gripped the cold, wooden panels forming the pathway of momentary escape. The racing thoughts conversed with the methodical, deliberate pace with which reprieve was gained. Solace found only in the hidden comfort of solitude, presence regained its autonomy after the ultimate yet temporary betrayal.

Being alone was figurative, as the violator remained immediately above the present state of the stripped. The past force exerted to gain physical superiority continued to press firmly into the crushed veins and nerves of exacerbated vulnerability. Muse’s cruel inspiration dripped through the ethereal blackness, much like the foreign wetness invading the chambers of once-held peace. In silence, there cannot be a calm that washes away those drops of unforgivable malice.

Eyes eventually close, parting bittersweetly with the shock-induced numbness before trauma truly sets in the system. A subconscious reprieve was the only savior from the uncaring hand of reality reinstating its monarchy over the peasant of cope. But, like all monarchs, long shall they live, cruel shall they reign.

But not tonight.

 

 

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Marissa Explains it All #35 – Let People Feel

Whether it’s Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, or any other person in the mainstream awareness that passes away from these circumstances, the same responses are always so irritatingly prevalent.

“You didn’t know them, stop pretending like you did.”
“Suicide is the coward’s way out.”
“He abandoned his family.”
“Permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
“Fuck them, I didn’t like their work anyway.”

I’m curious why it is so many people seem determined to remove the agency of how people feel from the conversation. What is it about feelings, especially surrounding one of the most difficult situations a person can deal with, that causes others to speak up about how others shouldn’t feel a certain way?

As I described in the last blog, I recently went through the loss of a friend of 14 years, the 18th person I’ve known in my life to have left via suicide. This was shortly before Chester Bennington of Linkin Park resurrected the same conversation I hear as mentioned above, so my feelings are still sort of raw on the topic, and I’ve had to avoid a lot of threads based on that.

What I can’t understand is how some people seem determined to not let anyone feel or grieve, whether it’s because they didn’t care about the person’s work, or because they’re unwilling to acknowledge the impact artists can have on our lives.

I had this conversation a lot when Robin Williams passed, and the graphics and memes were passed around where people were mourning. Whether it was because of the Genie, Good Will Hunting, his standup, or any of his other endeavors, he touched a lot of lives. And there was, as mentioned, the usual offputting responses of “He took the easy way out,” “You didn’t know him, why do you care?” etc.

I think you have to wrap yourself in a layer of ignorance to not think that artists can impact our daily lives. You’ve seen pictures of my library. You’ve heard my interviews with podcasters and activists. Some I consider friends at this point, but they all started out as people who influenced me, or whose voices were prevalent in my life. Losing one of them would be devastating, because their voice or words were a part of me, even if it wasn’t an interpersonal connection.

For many of us who grew up in the late 90s, Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” managed to capture an essence of rebellious youth, of suffering, of being angry and not necessarily knowing why. It was my entire freshman year, especially being in and out of the hospital. Granted, I moved on from it rather quickly, especially when an album of remixes came out. It didn’t catch me anymore, but for that brief moment in time, that screaming and raw emotion captured my inner conflict of the time.

That level of angst was so real for many of us, especially post-9/11 when those of us who were social outcasts were singled out and pushed away. I didn’t last an entire school year after that happened, partially because I wasn’t interested in conforming to my elitist school’s image of what a student should be. Many of us were pushed out the same way. That’s part of what “Voice in the Dark” (available now at rismccool.com and free to patrons at patreon.com/RisMC or patreon.com/incitingincidentpodcast) was really trying to recapture; a time in my life where it seemed like the management was more interested in pushing us away for not wanting to fit a certain model of a student or citizen.

But sometimes, someone who speaks up about those things the most ends up losing their battle with mental illness. Then people call them a coward or someone who abandoned their family or a quitter or a piece of shit for leaving people behind, and you stand there and wonder… “Gee, I can’t imagine why people don’t speak up about these feelings when they have them.” When you stigmatize mental illness, or refer to anyone on anti-depressants as weak, crazy, or say that they just need to go outside, the world can feel empty and alone. People don’t want to reach out for help because they don’t want to be belittled, insulted, or condescended to. Or even worse, proselytized.

I sat through the funeral for a friend recently, and I saw little to no reflection of who my friend was. Instead I heard about Jesus and heaven and the same stories we’ve always heard, but I went there to remember my friend. I cannot emphasize that enough. I kept my mouth shut, even though I know when I’m being stared at (it was a Catholic service), but this was like Aiden’s grandmother’s service. Thirty seconds on his grandmother, 29 minutes and 30 seconds on Jesus and the rapture and going to heaven and salvation.

Maybe it’s because I was raised in a family where you talked about and celebrated the person when they passed, but this seems so foreign to me. I didn’t get that experience of remembering the person until a bunch of us who were friends back in the day sat around a table at the diner and reminisced, laughed, and even teased. To me, that’s always been how to remember someone, and I wish more of that was incorporated into remembrances such as that. I’d rather remember my friend who was an amazing musician than what Jesus said about X. I’d rather acknowledge that he thought he was way better at martial arts than he was, which led to him getting dumped on his ass a few times, than hear about how God called him home because X. It seems so fake, and more to convince people that they shouldn’t be sad because they lost someone because better tomorrow or something.

I mean no disrespect to anyone for whom that is a comfort, but distracting from what’s going on, in my experience, has never been a healthy method of coping. Remembering who the person was and what they meant to you? That’s how you learn to accept what has happened, and remember them fondly.

But yet, we don’t allow people to feel this way when it comes to the death of an artist or celebrity, because you didn’t meet them or know them, so that means you’re not allowed to feel. Feelings are constantly invalidated by those others who are uncomfortable with them, because god forbid things are being discussed that don’t involve you, or are about someone you didn’t personally admire.
Whether it’s about the death of a celebrity, our experience as LGBT people, or anything else that anyone has to deal with, there’s always someone out to tell us what is more important that we’re not focusing on, what is more important than whatever it is being discussed. “Why do you care about X when Y is happening and nobody’s talking about it?”

And usually, whichever Y is, they don’t do anything about it. They only want to stop the conversation, pat themselves on the back for pretending to care about an issue, and then move on like nothing happened because conversation about feelings outside of their box made them uncomfortable, and we can’t be having that shit going on.

Feel what you feel. If an artist meant something to you, celebrate their presence in your life. If a writer captures your imagination, you’re under no obligation to pretend that meant nothing to you when they pass. And for the love of everything, don’t invalidate how someone feels upon their passing just because it isn’t how you feel. We have to deal with that enough without adding grief to something that can’t be expressed without being explained to why it’s wrong and being constantly invalidated.

Marissa Explains it All #34 – Coping With Loss

For those of you who have followed me long enough to have heard Inciting Incident #30, pre-transition and all, you’ll know that I’ve had a long history with suicide in my life. I wrote a movie about it in 2015, and that was the first of many times I’d use the song “I Believe.”

18. 18 people. That’s how many I’ve known since the first time I lost an acquaintance that way in ninth grade. An ex-neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, a tag team partner, an ex-girlfriend, and so many others make up the rest of that list. However, this one was probably the toughest one I’ve ever had to deal with; not just because it was someone I’d known for 14 years, not just because of the family he left behind, but because thinking about it made me realize how much of an influence this guy had in my life.

Brian and I went back to 2003, when I first started hanging out with new people again. At that point in my life, I’d made the mistake of returning from Florida so soon because I was homesick. Or rather, friendsick. What else could you expect from someone who was supposed to be in their junior year of high school but had graduated instead?

Brian was one of many I met at another Brian’s birthday party. The other Brian had been my friend since sixth grade and went through junior high with me. However, he’d gone to the Catholic high school in our area as opposed to mine, and therefore had found a completely new circle of friends. With me having returned, he brought me into that circle, which included this Brian.

He and I became close a few months later, when I went to the junior prom with them, and attended the YMCA lock-in afterward. I remember well how he and I sat against a wall talking while his date slept on him. He was the first of many friends with whom I had a lot in common personality-wise, but were extremely different in philosophy and life experience. It made for interesting conversations, disagreements, and even fallings out at several points in our lives.

As I’ve been slowly remembering different ways he was involved in my life, I’ve been struggling with tensions in many places. He introduced me to my favorite band, among many others, could do a dead-on Denis Leary impression, shared many sleepovers and events, was in my first wedding, and also capitulated my first serious relationship ending.

That’s been my biggest point of struggle: remembering that things were far from copacetic over the years we knew each other. We mended fences a few years ago, and I’m grateful for that especially now, but I’ve been feeling guilty for the fact that at two distinct points in my life, he did a terrible thing to me. I don’t need to go into what they were, because that’s not the point of this column, but I’ve been fighting the guilt demon for also thinking about those points in our time together.

At funerals and times of remembrance, you’re supposed to talk about the good things and reflect on the person fondly, right? Especially under these circumstances, with leaving a little girl behind and a grieving family, isn’t it a disservice to remember that he also betrayed your trust?

It’s also true though that those friendships that go through some struggle and issues are the ones that become stronger in the end. Did that happen with ours? Possibly. I can’t say for sure, but I do know we came to a new point of understanding before our friendship met its untimely end last week.

My relationship with this friend was tumultuous longer than it was stable. We were co-workers, roommates, and close friends; but at points, we were also in arguments, disagreements, betrayals, blow-ups, and periods of silence.

That’s life though. More relationships you have will have unpleasant parts than not. But it doesn’t resolve the feeling of guilt when remembering those times when they pass away, especially in such a manner and under such circumstances. Intellectually, you know there’s nothing you could’ve done. Logically, you know there’s nothing you could’ve done.

But then you remember that the last time you saw each other, you promised to catch up. You remember that you could’ve reached out at a couple points, and somehow missed each other. You find out that there was a lot going on that you missed because of your travel schedule and other engagements, and feel like the worst friend on the planet for having no idea of what was transpiring.

Such is the untimely loss of a friend.

Tonight, I’ll be attending his viewing. There’s a lot of religiosity and conservatism in this family, and the funeral tomorrow will be a full Catholic service. Those things would make me uncomfortable before I transitioned, but right now, with the way things are and the atmosphere in which we live, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not somewhat uneasy knowing how I might be received since almost no one attending this service will have seen me since I started transitioning.

It’s not about me, and I’m not going for them. The same as I know I couldn’t have changed the outcome, even if he had reached out. But that doesn’t change the guilt I feel, the heartbreak I’m experiencing, and the fear of facing those that either didn’t know or don’t agree with it. I don’t feel that’s unreasonable. It’s acknowledging that while good things may take place, and there will certainly be those, potentially bad things may also occur. It’s not pessimistic, it’s realistic to consider both sides of the equation.

Just the same as you have to do with a friendship when it comes to an end in such fashion. It’s not unfair to the person who passed if you remember the bad times along with the good, because that’s how they’re a person. To gloss over that is to disregard part of your story together. Just because it’s come to an end doesn’t mean you tear that chapter out of the book.

That being said, it’s going to be hard to read through that chapter when you pick up that book again, no matter how much you know that it doesn’t make you a bad person for doing so. The only thing you can really do is make the best of the situation, and try to be there for those who are hurting worse than you are.

But this one hurts. Badly. Damn, man. I wish I knew you were feeling such pain.

Help Brian’s Family – https://www.gofundme.com/brian-johns-memorial-fund
Brian’s Obit – http://cumberlink.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/brian-michael-johns/article_d9234ffa-2c1d-57ac-9c73-2c37ae1fc063.html
Permanent Solution (2015) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DosOKXMvpk