I don’t know what to write.
I don’t know what to write for blogs. For stories. For poems.
I think I found myself some writer’s block.
I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD. The “C” means that I didn’t get here through the classic method—going to war, for example—but through the thousand-cuts method, injured over an extended period of traumatic events.
I’m a woman. Sexual assault happened once. Harassment, lots. It sucks.
I’m also an autistic person. I originally made this blog because I wanted to write about life as an autistic person. On the way, my mother threatened to sue me. I don’t know how to pick up that hurt. I don’t know how to pick a lot of my hurt. So I leave the experiences down, deep down; and I carry them around places.
In addition to autism and C-PTSD, I’m a depression survivor. I’ve lived through three periods of suicidal ideation: 14 years old; 20-21 years old; and 28-29 years old. I’m confident that I’ve developed strategies to avoid that dark valley again, but I still “have depression,” like a cancer in remission.
I went through a molar pregnancy. I still have post-partum depression. I realized the children I lost at 19 and 20, I invested psychologically into my cats, Loki and Philo. Then Loki and Philo died from cancer. On the night of Philo’s death, I was shamed for having a meltdown.
I know it’s a lot.
I live it, so of course I know it’s a lot.
But I have social anxiety, too. Issues don’t stop because they become overwhelming. Once, a close friend told me that when I write about my life in fiction, it’s hard to believe, since one character is going through too many things. What a way to frame my human experience in a sentence.
So my social anxiety stems from some of the social blindness I inherited as an autistic person. Not all autistic people inherit the same things. Some of us aren’t this socially awkward. Many of us are.
I like life as an autistic person because it can be just as rad as bad. For instance, I love my special interests. I like RPG Maker, SNES JRPGs, cats, and penguins. I’m grateful every day, because not every autistic person gets special interests; mine are a favorite part of being me.
My social anxiety has roots in my childhood as well. Phrases like “it builds her character” and “it gives her a sense of humor” were common in the aftermath of feeling icky. And since I was bullied at home, I was conditioned for it at school, too. Or maybe, it started the other way around?—chicken and egg. Feeling safe was rare.
I’ve lived through a third of a life under the fire of gaslighting. “What a strange memory,” I heard as a child. “Your memory is broken,” I heard as a girlfriend. I felt like I was losing my mind—a very special mind, that used to be able to do all the math; all the pattern recognition; all the “smart” things.
Now I get lost in expressing myself through art.
I studied writing. I remember a different me thought writer’s block was impossible. That was when I had different cells. I’ve sloughed skin.
I thought it’d be okay to have a bad memory and study writing. I thought, even though we all change, this part of me will remain hard as a rock.
I remember playing memory games. I liked the ones in video games; the Super Mario 3 mini-game comes to mind. But I also played with decks of cards. I was so good. I think I still might be good. I just don’t believe that I’m good. I can consciously tell you, “Yeah, I got this,” yet my amygdalae are like firecracker shrimp fed junk food for three decades. They trust nothing.
If I don’t write, I collapse into shambles. I’ve had more migraines in the past few years than the rest of my life. I forget to hydrate. It’s calming when I study triangles, except my memory’s no good for math. Surely it’ll turn out okay. Except I need to write, when I can’t.
I can write about myself.
It’s too much for one character.
It must be a character, because the memories aren’t real.
Autism’s definitely the best part of my brain. I have mixed feelings about depression; when I’m not in the depths of it, I can see how it made me stronger. It’s a terminal disease though, if it’s left unchecked, and that’s always a scary and serious matter. Social anxiety’s tough. My heart’s lost beats it could have used later. Yet C-PTSD—that’s the trickiest ride.
C-PTSD is the hardest one because at the drop of a trigger, an orchestra of trauma can flood through my body. I’m not sure most people understand how this feels. I’ve tried to express how it feels, in words and pictures and games; yet the impact it has on my everyday existence eludes observers.
The value of writing about your experience, mental illness or otherwise, isn’t in conveying pain to observers. It’s a lost cause; observers will see openly only when they choose to do so. This is a lonely existence, and active listeners are few and far between.
But when I think about someone who is going through C-PTSD—or is struggling with social anxiety; or is surviving depression; or is unmasking pressure that holds back the best quirks of autistic life—when I think about my people, only then, I feel drawn to write a little more. To put it out there.
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. Visit Kourtnie.net to read her dev blog or fey.earth to try out her games and stories.