This time a year ago I was spending most of my time in bed, streaming episodes of Once Upon A Time, subsisting on a diet of hommous and crackers because the anxiety was so overwhelming that even going to the kitchen was too scary. I was trying out extended-release Ritalin to see if taking it on a daily basis helped. Mostly it just turned up the anxiety to full volume (which is the exact reason I’d been avoiding Ritalin).
There’s a bunch of things that helped me recover. One was moving to a flat where I could use the kitchen without worrying about flatmates giving me judgmental looks for eating food that comes in a can. Another was that my grandmother left me some money when she died, which gave me the freedom to take time off and work on recovering without having to battle WINZ every few weeks. I think maybe the most important one was that after a ten-year break I decided to give anti-depressants another go. I’ve had such terrible experiences with anti-depressants in the past that things had to get pretty desperate for me to even consider it. I’m glad I did, because right now the combination of venlafaxine and atomoxetine seems to be working out ok. I keep waiting for the meds to stop helping, for everything to revert back to the way I felt before. It’s like tiptoeing in the dark waiting to step over the edge of a cliff. Past experience has taught me that depression is never solved; you just learn to make the most of the good times and be prepared for the worst times.
I started making a list of significant things that happened in 2013:
- Margaret Thatcher died
- George Zimmerman was acquitted
- SCAF took power in Egypt
- Beyonce released a surprise album
- Chelsea Manning came out as trans
- Cis boys wrote earnest facebook updates about how they were gonna call Chelsea Manning by her correct name and pronoun
- Cis boys patiently waited to be showered with cookies
Last year we had the first NZ-wide conference about Palestine in two decades. Organising the conference was an educational experience regarding working with people who have drastically different political outlooks and approaches to organising. At times it felt like performance art on the nature of White Supremacist Patriarchy (White men making the decisions, Arab women doing the work).
I’m really glad it happened. It was awesome and inspiring and validating to meet people from around the country who are committed to the decolonisation of Palestine.
The highlight of the conference was the Palestinian writer and youth worker Yousef al-Jamal. He talked about his life in Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza, BDS, and the Palestinian prisoners’ movement. Building personal relationships between Palestinians in Palestine and solidarity activists here (as well as Palestinian New Zealanders) is really valuable and I hope that in the future we can bring more Palestinians over here, not just from Gaza but also from the West Bank, the ’48 territories, and the refugee camps. It’s far more useful than sending New Zealand journalists over to Palestine—there are plenty of Palestinian journalists who report from there.
The conference also included Jewish-Israeli anti-Zionist Miko Peled. It was revealing that—with the exception of Native Affairs—every mainstream media outlet was only interested in interviewing Miko and not Yousef. They all thought the voice of the coloniser was more valid and impartial than the voice of the colonised.
The conference gave birth to an Aotearoa BDS Network, which is where most of my time and energy went towards the end of the year. The global campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel is something that I’m incredibly invested in on a personal level. It’s the most useful way that people living outside Palestine can be actively solid with Palestinians. It’s an opportunity to abolish Israeli apartheid and see the refugees’ right of return honoured using non-violent tactics. I would much rather see Palestine liberated without more bloodshed. I also know that right now the chances of that happening are looking pretty slim.
I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions but this year I’m resolving to be nicer to myself. I’m giving myself permission to do things just because they’re fun and make me happy, even if they don’t contribute towards The Revolution. My list so far:
- Play music
- Make street art
- Pat dogs
- Drink beer
I considered adding ‘have sex’ to that list. There are good reasons I decided to take a break. I miss having sex with other people, but I’m not sure I’m ready either. I wish I lived in a culture where being a rape victim wasn’t stigmatised. I wish I lived in a culture where knowing how to support rape victims was considered such a vital skill that everyone knew how to do it. I wish I felt comfortable talking to potential lovers about what my boundaries are and what I find triggering, and be confident that they would listen and respect that and respect me for telling them. I wish I never had to see that expression on someone’s face when they go all awkward and uncomfortable and I know that they find all this stuff too weird and scary to be thinking about. I wish I didn’t constantly feel like I’m not worth the trouble of having to navigate through my trauma.
Last year was a ruthless reminder that I live in a rape culture. The group of teenage boys who got girls drunk, raped them, then humiliated them on Facebook, is one of the scariest things I’ve ever heard. The response—from the boys’ schools, from the police, from the media—was horrific. It’s no wonder that boys think it’s a good idea to rape girls when they grow up in a culture where rape is minimised, condoned, laughed about, and blamed on the victims. I’ve seen so many people blame these boys’ behavior on drinking culture, on hook-up culture, on the girls they raped. The reality is that this entire culture is at fault for making it so easy to rape, and to get away with it.
Watching the story unfold in the media brought back so many shitty experiences that I’ve had. Almost every woman I know was feeling the same. Maybe one of the positive things that came out of it is that it encouraged people who’ve been raped to talk about what happened, to talk to each other, to know that we’re not alone.
It was amazing to see Civic Square full of people who came for the Stop Rape Culture Now march. It was amazing to hear so many brave smart women speak. I know that it’s much easier to come to a protest than to actually respect boundaries and pay attention to consent in all of your sexual relationships (not that paying attention to consent is that fucking hard!) but I really really hope that all the protests, and blog posts, and discussions did have an impact.
Wishes for 2014:
- No more rape culture
- Decolonisation of Palestine
- Anarchist revolution
- Vegan pizzeria across the road from my house
- Good science fiction with lots of trans, disabled, POC, queer and women characters
- Introduction of transport beam technology
Failing that, I’ll settle for satisfying work that makes me feel useful and lots of time spent with awesome people who make me feel loved.
Happy goy new year.