PTSDiaries Four: An Open Letter to Christie Blatchford

eye1

Dear Christie Blatchford,

I, like you, am a Canadian writer. We are a small but mighty bunch, sharing our words across the world. I have always had pride in other Canadian writers. I always thought that Canadian writers and journalists were the best of the best.

That was, until, I heard of you.

No, I’m not saying your writing is awful. You’re a solid writer, I give you that. However, I cannot stand behind a writer who uses their words to promote ignorance and just plain cruelty.

I’m of course referring to your articles about Rehtaeh Parsons, God rest her soul.

I know you’re probably not going to read this. I know you probably don’t care about what some bitch from Saskatchewan thinks of you. You’ll probably laugh about my tweets. You’ll probably dismiss me. Just like you did Rehtaeh.

The thing is, Ms. Blatchford, Rehtaeh isn’t here to defend herself. She’s with the angels now. But I’m still here.

My rapist denies that he raped me too, you know. He denies that he made me feel like human garbage. He denies that he killed part of my soul. However, he feels sorry that I tried to kill myself. That I almost became another Rehtaeh.

But I’m still here, and I won’t shut up.

So I’m writing this to you. I’m writing this to you because I can’t stay silent. I can’t stand by and let people say that sexual assault survivors deserve what happened to them because they were “flirtatious” or intoxicated, like you seem to think. I can’t stand by while people give the rapists more priority and credibility than their victims.

I don’t think you care about any of that. Given how many articles you’ve written on Rehtaeh, I’m willing to bet on it. You get to live in a world where all rape victims are sluts putting down good ol boys, where sexual assault happens to other people. I envy you that. What I will tell you is this: I lost faith in Canadian journalism today. I always pride myself on being from a country where shit like Steubenville doesn’t happen, where our media coverage doesn’t sensationalise violence or aggressively promote religious attitudes. I lost some of that pride today. Your columns are something I’d expect to see on a white supremacist blog, or from Fox news. I thought Canadian journalism was above that. I thought we were above that. Have you read the responses from Rehtaeh’s parents? Do you even have the guts to, after the things you said about their child? How could you use your influence, your talent, to bring more pain to parents who lost their child? How dare you?

As a fellow writer, it disgusts me when writers use their talents to do things like you’ve done. It reminds me of cartoon supervillains, gifted with incredible power who chose to hurt people and be selfish. There’s a reason that they’re the villains. Keep that in mind, Ms. Blatchford.

I wonder if part of this is because you know it will get you views and clicks and reads. I wonder if part of this is because you know it will get a response out of people. I wonder if it’s because you like to get people angry, get people violently debating. Good job, I suppose. I always thought writing and journalism was more than that. I always thought that journalism was about the truth. You’re not being edgy or thought provoking by siding with rapists. The rest of the world does that.

A lesser person would wish sexual assault on you, but I won’t. I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy.

I guess I’ll close by wishing you a nice life, Ms. Blatchford. Because Rehtaeh doesn’t get one anymore.

Dubious regards,

K. J. Mills

Speak for the Dead.

In my abnormal psychology class, a classmate suggested, in response to statistics that rates of depression fall in middle adulthood, that people with depression “grow out of it”. Before I could rip into this ignorant excuse for a human being like a starving zombie, my professor said something that stays with me to this day.

“It may look like that,” she said, “but in reality, a lot of young people diagnosed with depression simply don’t make it to adulthood.”

I wish I could say that I didn’t believe her, but the scars on my stomach lining tell a different story.

The fact that I never met my uncle tells an even darker one.

It is a different world than the one my uncle lived in. To be mentally ill now is a paradox. More and more people have become aware of the stigmas and falsehoods surrounding mental illness. Campaigns like Bell’s “Let’s Talk” have brought mental illness awareness to the television sets of millions. High-profile people being honest about their illnesses have led many people to greater understanding. Academics are dissecting the affects media has on perception of the mentally ill.

I’m not saying that this isn’t great.

But now there’s another problem.

A lot of the academic work surrounding the portrayal of mental illness completely ignores the experiences of the real mentally ill.

I’ve been blogging about psychology and the media, specifically literature, for a long time. Only one of the articles I’ve encountered acknowledges studies where mentally ill people were directly asked about how portrayals of their disorder in television and films affected their daily life. Others simply made generalizations about how mentally ill people felt victimized by these portrayals, and how the characterization of mental illness in the media made them afraid to seek help.

No, these media portrayals aren’t the problem. Not all of it. But I doubt these academics will listen to what I have to say.

The core issue at both media portrayals and these foolhardy academics is that these people are not letting the mentally ill speak for themselves. They are not letting us tell our own stories of victimization, of frustration, or, indeed, of hope. The issue is that, perhaps because of our disordered status,  they assume that we are in no position to do it. That we don’t know how. “Oh, the poor oppressed mentally ill!” they seem to say, “we must tell their stories, take these vial media pundits to task! Oh, we are truly selfless, speaking for the voiceless!”
With all due respect, shut up.

Just shut up.

All of this reminds me of critiques of the “white savior” archetype: the Caucasian knight who rushes in and solves the problems of racism for the poor oppressed coloured folks. Except this time, it is the “Neurotypical savior”. The mentally ill, for the first time in many centuries, aren’t voiceless. We can tell our own stories. We can point to where society has failed us, where the media has made us into monsters. We can slay our own dragons.

For instance, a children’s film that these articles cited often was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. In the film, Belle and her father Maurice are labelled mentally ill by the townspeople. At one point, the townspeople attempt to force Maurice to be taken to a “Looney Bin”. Articles that mentioned this said that this reinforced harmful stereotypes. But, if one looks closer, this is not the case. It is the townspeople, not Maurice, that are cast as the villains for these actions. This sends the message that treating people like this is wrong. That’s a good thing. The lyrics from the Broadway version take this further:

            “We don’t like

What we don’t understand

In fact it scares us”

These lyrics are from the mob song, where the townspeople rush off to kill the Beast, who the audience knows is a kind being, based on the suggestion of one person. They are being portrayed as the bad guys. The “mentally ill” characters aren’t.

Here’s my favourite example. These academics point out adolescent are listen to music with themes of mental illness, framing it in such a way that this music is a problem. Your tax dollars at work, truly. Most mental illnesses manifest in adolescence, a fact that anyone with access to google can find out. Perhaps these young people are listening to music that makes them feel less alone. This issue frustrates me as a poet. What was suggested was that the fact that artists are making music about mental illness is the problem. Pardon me, but artists relate with their inner world through their art, and inner worlds often contain hints of mental illness. Should artists be forbidden from making music about their inner demons because an adolescent might learn that suicide and psychosis *gasp* exist? Should artists be regulated to making safe music for everyone, for “normal” people to enjoy? Should the mentally ill be forbidden from telling their own stories, because it makes people uncomfortable that kids might be listening, and it might “give them the wrong idea”?

Pull your head out of your ass. This attitude is just as harmful and damaging as only showing mentally ill people as serial killers. It is saying that, because our experiences differ from the norm, that they must be kept out of the public eye, away from children. It is saying that we are different, and therefore bad.

It is saying we don’t get to tell our stories. Our “neurotypical saviours” do.

So I’m writing this.

This blog tells my story of mental illness. It’s not glamourous, it’s not academic and it sure as hell isn’t easy. But it’s my story, and I’ll be damned if anyone else tells it.

I can’t speak for all mentally ill people. But someone should start speaking for the dead.

 

Post written in memoriam for Robin Williams, Sylvia Plath and Douglas Mills. 

Sources:

Adolescent mental health

Anderson, M. (2003). ‘One flew over the psychiatric unit’: Mental illness and the media. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 10(3), 297.

Klin, A., & Lemish, D. (2008). Mental disorders stigma in the media: Review of studies on production, content, and influences. Journal of Health Communication, 13(5), 434-449. doi:10.1080/10810730802198813

Lawson, A., & Fouts, G. (2004). Mental illness in Disney animated films. Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne De Psychiatrie, 49(5), 310-314.

Stuart, H. (2006). Media portrayal of mental illness and its treatments: What effect does it have on people with mental illness? CNS Drugs, 20(2), 99-99. doi:10.2165/00023210-200620020-00002

Wahl, Otto. (2003). Depictions of Mental Illness in Children’s Media. Journal of Mental Health, 12(3), 249-258.

 

Mob song: lyrics and 

song here

Read about some celebrities with mental illness here

 

Goals for 2015

Guten tag,

I think every other blogger I follow has done some sort of goal post for the new year. Now that I’ve had a chance to return to real life (as uninteresting and boring as the life of a student may be) I have had time to think on my goals for the year.

I’ve decided that my goals for the year are:

  • To publish a poetry chapbook (with a publishing house): this has been a goal of mine for a while, but I’ve been unsure how to do it. After toying with the idea of self-publishing, I have decided that I would like to attempt to take a traditional route.
  • I would like to finish the script for my graphic novel, which I’ve been working on for a while. More on that later.
  • I would like to attempt to get published every month

Those are the main ones, but there are always side goals. I can never seem to rest. Perhaps that should be my goal this year as well.

 

God Bless,

 

Kelsey J.

PTSDiaries: 3.5

eye1

Hi everyone, I don’t really have much of an entry for today. I’ve actually had a really good week. I think it’s due to the start of school and going back to work. It’s given me something else to concentrate on, and I haven’t thought about R very much, therefore, my symptoms didn’t flare up at all this week. I’ve also had time to read articles.

I thought these two were very interesting. One is about if it’s possible to honour both victims of sexual assault and the legacies of their abusers, and the other is one survivor’s response to that question. I don’t know where I stand on that question. I wonder if it truly is possible. I don’t know how I’d feel if R became a famous artist (heaven forbid) and people tried to silence me to protect him. On the other hand, if his art was any good, I wonder how I’d feel about it. I don’t know.

Thoughts?

Video Editing and Writing: How Creative Pursuits Help Each Other

Lots of writers have hobbies aside from writing (and no, before you ask, alcoholism does not count as a hobby). Emilie Dickinson baked, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes raised bees, and Kelsey J. Mills makes fan videos.

I’ve written before on how my two hobbies help each other, but alas, I have long since lost my word document and the link to the actual blog post. However, as two years have passed since I wrote that post, I feel that I’ve grown as both a writer and a video editor. So today, I would like to present two ways video editing has helped my writing and two ways writing has helped my video editing.

Video editing has taught me…

You don’t have to share everything you create

I’m of the personality type that needs constant approval for every little decision and action. It makes me seek to share everything I do in my desperation for someone to say “yeah, that looks pretty good” (I aim for “THAT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I’VE EVER SEEN AND IT CHANGED MY LIFE” but I’ll take what I can get). I grew up in the age of the internet, and I know that it is entirely possible to receive constant instant gratification.

Possible, but unlikely.

You’re only human, after all. Some of what you create isn’t going to be very good. Some of what you create might be really good, but it might not have a place yet. Some of it might be terrible to everyone around you but really good to you. And that’s okay.

You don’t have to share everything you create with the world. You aren’t a bad writer or bad painter or bad video editor if you don’t share everything.

It’s okay to be underappreciated

I spend a lot of time on my videos. I work to make the best product I can, and I aim to make people feel. I will create a video up to my standards, post it to YouTube and expect the adulation to come pouring in.

It doesn’t.

I watch other videos that I consider to be below my skill level, less artful or whatever that have tons of views and comments. And I die a little inside.

It’s the same with any kind of art, but especially writing. A lot of people are too lazy to read. You create a witty blog post that no one likes or comments on. You write a story that your friends tell you is the best one you’ve ever written that can’t get published. Or, the worst, no one wants to read your writing at all.

Most people don’t get rewarded right away. Our internet culture of instant gratification has created an atmosphere where we expect to, but we don’t. Some people never get rewarded at all: I can think of several authors that only became famous after they died.

What your mom told you when little Timmy stole your eraser is true: you can’t control other people.

It is at these times where I buck up and take the writing advice everyone and their dog gives: I ask myself why I’m doing this. Is it to get views? Is it to be famous? No. At the end of the day, it’s because I like video making, and I like writing.

Some people won’t like what you create, or will ignore it entirely. That’s okay, as long as YOU like it.

Writing has taught me…

Sometimes, it takes many drafts to make the best version

In writing, if you don’t draft you’re looked at as a complete amateur. And, truth be told, you probably are. Drafting is essential to make your writing shine.

What I didn’t realise is how that principle could be applied to video editing.

My new technique is to first set the clips where I want them to be, and save that version. Then, I go back and put in the transitions where I want them to be. Save that version separately. Then, I add in the effects, and, you guessed it, save that version separately. Then, I convert it into WMV format and make sure everything is hunky dory. Then, upload.

I’ve noticed a definite increase in video quality through drafting. I’ve been writing for so long, I’m surprised I didn’t think of applying this technique to other things sooner.

Taking some time to really master craft is always a good thing

I was an itty bitty twelve year old when I started video editing. I would throw clips together without any regard for, well, craft. I progressed bit by bit. And I mean bit by bit. I kept operating under the assumption that there was worse than me so I was good by default.

Meanwhile, my writing was progressing at light speed. I wondered how I could be so good at writing, learning and growing, and yet stuck at relatively the same level I had always been at video editing.

Then, it hit me: I had taken time to learn the writing craft. I had read books, gone to conferences, practised.

I finally took some time to learn the craft of video editing. I watched music videos and movies for ideas on how to use transitions and filters well. I watched other videos and analysed what made them good or bad. And I practised. And I got better.

It is always better to take some time to learn the craft. Unless you really do want to be twelve forever.

On soundtracking

At first I was hesitant to admit that Stephanie Meyer and I have a technique in common, but alas, I can hide it no longer.

One of my favourite writing techniques is to soundtrack.

I started sound-tracking long before I started seriously writing. When I was younger, I’d come up with stories based on the music I was listening to on long drives with my parents. I couldn’t read in the car without getting motion sick and I think it would be better off if I didn’t finish that thought. It was also a way to make country music bearable. As I got older, I would listen to music when working out and think “this would suit ___”, either a character or a scene or even a relationship between characters. I also would look up songs to help me get the tone of a scene just right.

My sound-tracking process is fairly standard. I use iTunes to create a playlist and play my soundtracks. If I feel like sharing them, I use internet streaming sites, such as grooveshark and 8tracks. My music comes from the radio, my own musical tastes and from fan videos (which I will be talking about next week). However, if I am dissatisfied with my own music library and can’t find an appropriate song, I use songfacts. Songfacts has songs categorized by artists, eras, where the song is from, and, most useful for my purposes, what the song is about. If I am writing a scene about a character grieving for their lost friend, for example, I can look up “songs written for friends who died” and find several good songs to use. If I really wanted to, I can use google, but I’d rather just have one site to use.

Sound-tracking has its pros and cons. I find that it helps me set the tone of the scene or story. It also provides good background noise to help me drown out all else—I live with some very noisy folks who don’t always understand that it’s writing time right now you guys SILENCE. Creating the soundtracks also provides a nice break from lengthy writing sessions. However, sometimes I cannot find a good song for a scene or a character and it’s frustrating. It can also be too much of a distraction—I’m one of those people that will get distracted by listening to the artist’s whole repertoire and forget that I should probably be writing. All in all, though, sound-tracking is a good writing tool.

 

 

PTSDiaries: Entry Three.

eye1

I realised today, when preparing for this entry, that I don’t have a whole lot of pictures from the reign of R. I wanted to include a picture from when I was 14, when it all started. I have pictures before, and pictures after, but not a whole lot in between. I realise I was only with R for a year, but given the amount of pictures my friends took of me, I figured there’d be more. I figure they probably untagged me. That’s probably for the best. I don’t know if I’d like what I looked like. Still. Did I look happy? Was there something off in me, inside looking out? I don’t look that different before or after. Makes me wonder if much changed at all.

I wonder if the tired eyes and plastic skin were all in my own head.

It probably doesn’t matter.

*

In retrospect, I probably should have seen it coming.

I usually dismiss it by saying I was young and stupid, but I wasn’t that stupid. I knew words my teachers didn’t. How stupid could I really be?

I was lonelier than stupid. I was wounded in ways that had started in childhood and had never really stopped. Society had conditioned me that I wasn’t worth much because I hadn’t had a boyfriend, or even a boy really interested in me. Never mind that I was 14. I had only recently figured out how babies were made. But I needed a boyfriend, and nothing would make me happy until I found one.

Sometimes I think of R as more of an animal than a human. I think he could smell desperation. I think he could smell fear. I was like a bloody seal in the water. The minute I was wounded I was dead. Thrashing made it worse.

I later read about “grooming”, the process by which a sex offender who preys on children ensures their victim’s cooperation. First step: identify victim. Perhaps the girl in creative writing club, who sits by the window and writes disturbing stories about a teacher who murders their student. Second step: collect information. Befriend them. Make up cute nicknames. Try to make them laugh. Find out what they like. Music. Books. If they like hugs. If they like getting their hair pet. If they like kissing. Anything, really. Third step: fill a need. Go to the dance with them. Tell them they’re beautiful. Tell them no one else loves them like you do. Listen to them, but only enough that you can use what they say in an argument later, or to buy some meaningless trinket.  Fourth step: Lower inhibitions. Get bolder with cuddling. Touch them more. Touch them all the time. So much that when you stop they notice it more than when you start. Tell them sweet nothings, because that’s all they are. Fifth step: Initiate. Take what you want. Hit it and quit it. Mission accomplished.

 

I think people forget that I never asked for this. Asking for it would have made it sex, not rape.