“When a hen is hurt, the others rush up to peck it.”
– Simone Weil
Or, the hen pecks itself, and that scares the others. That is why they join in. They want to believe that the hen that pecks itself is the only one diseased.
“He wouldn’t have made me this way if he wasn’t planning on using me this way.”
That was written in December, 2010, which explains the “He.” I was finishing college and planning to move to Jakarta to teach, and I was desperately trying to convince myself that I wasn’t too broken to be useful. Usefulness was the prize at the end, my only motivation for healing myself. I might not have recovered had I not believed in a “He” that wished for my usefulness as much as I did.
I reflected on those words again almost three years later, as I applied to seminary.
Two things happened between deciding to go to seminary and actually going to seminary: I realized rather suddenly that I was gay, or that if I was ever going to love someone, it was going to be a woman, and I went home. It wasn’t long before the same dynamics began to play out: “She just doesn’t know how to talk to people.” I can see now that, in that scene, they were angry with me for calling out their racism, that I was talking to people just fine, but is it any wonder that I never “integrated to Eight” in their midst? Each time I spoke, they crushed me.
I was quiet, contained, and controlled, but every now and then, I accidentally let out my biggest secret: my mind was burning with questions, thoughts, and ideas that were different than theirs.
I think I always knew there was something else going on, something beyond introversion, but I didn’t want to claim anything too big.
Now, when I look back, all I can see is layers and layers of trauma. I was not surprised to note that most of it connects in some way to your Christians. I cannot think of anyone who has seriously hurt me who was not also one of your Christians.
How many times have you been told that you wouldn’t amount to anything–anything good? They said you were trouble. They said you were going to infect the others. “That girl is going to get pregnant before she’s even fourteen, mark my words.”
How he kept you, even though he didn’t want you: “You’re going to be alone.” “You will never know what that kind of love feels like.” You fear, even now, that he was right, and yet you go on loving.
The Dark Night of the Psyche, the night his eyes went black and the lights went out: “You’re a snake…evil…” “There is nothing good inside of you.” You had never been so close to the edge, but you held on, and we made it through the night.
“You destroyed the community in that room.” Then, “Well, if the Spirit were in you…” It was almost like you felt it leave–it was almost like she called it out of you (so it isn’t surprising, then, that you spent the next two days shaking and sweating).
When I look at my behavior with today’s lens, I don’t see shyness or even social anxiety but post-traumatic stress.
“You burdened me with their pecking and now you burden me with your presence that bears it.”
I endured, and I went to seminary. I was stubborn enough to go but not stubborn enough to last. I left the seminary for at least two reasons.
There was a male professor who was using his position of power to pursue me, and there was no one I trusted enough to tell. Worse, he was skillfully subtle most of the time, and most of the time, I thought I was crazy.
Someone advised me, as I was already considering leaving, that I might be too “introverted” to be a chaplain. I knew then that they did not really mean that, for of course introversion is as much of an asset as extroversion is, especially for a chaplain. They meant, “You might be too broken to be a chaplain.” They were referring to my fear orientation. My corner-crouching, flinching neuroticism.
Two nights ago, as I drove home, I suddenly wept and said aloud to myself, “I have PTSD.” Of course I do, but I don’t think I saw it before, or I thought I had no right to claim it before.
This realization was twofold. I saw also that I was going to finish my degree and press back into my “call,” even though this isn’t 2010, and I don’t believe in “calls” anymore.
Part of that is because making sense of anything is empowering. Most of that is because I can no longer think of myself as being vaguely diseased or “backwards,” as my father called me once.
Knowing what and why, or beginning to know, allows for a kind of self-acceptance that I never could have managed before, that I am going to need as I traverse the inevitable pecking of your Christians who are unable to forgive me my brokenness.