The Rules of Enragement: On the Benefits + Dangers of Engaging With the Men Who Neg, Troll, And/Or Sexually Harass You Online

Or: Butthurt Boys and On-Guard Girls, Or: What I’ve Learned Over the Past Eight Years of Being Unable to Resist The Urge

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” — Margaret Atwood

 

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I never internalized or followed the directive “Don’t feed the troll.”

Far before my art alter-ego Maidenfed was conceived, when I was just a regular, everyday lass — and presented to the Internet as such — I found myself in constant keyboard-to-keyboard combat with men. Whether they stepped to me in a manner I considered inappropriate, aggressive, or simply clueless, I quickly developed a taste for melee on the battlefields of dating sites, hookup apps, and social media platforms. I was out for boy blood.

At the beginning, risk seemed minimal. I was naive regarding the possible repercussions of engaging and enraging the males who happened along my radar. It seemed a worthy, fertile environment to sharpen my wit and flex my creative funny bone.

Several years ago, I created this blog as a repository for my substantial backlog of screenshots and conversations, with offerings ranging from the grotesque to the hilarious. A few of the posts went vaguely viral (thanks for not crediting me for that *locking eyes with you as I inhale your vaginal aroma* one, Buzzfeed), and I was encouraged to continue my ball-busting escapades.

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Maybe two years in to this totally worthy intellectual and comedic pursuit, I started focusing more on “art” and the Maidenfed shit. Along the way, I somewhat inadvertently — but not entirely thoughtlessly— merged the two. My volatile reactivity in the face of trolling, which arguably existed in the same thematic world, carried over with ease. I was being called “empowered” and a “queen” for talking back to these dudes. And having long felt a sense of inadequacy in relating to women (not unrelated to my reliance on male validation), this female praise felt pretty good. Of course, it was interspersed with reassurances that “not all men” are like these crude examples, but overall the feedback was that I was doing something like God’s work.

At the very outset, the stream of messages I received would be almost entirely sexual in content and/or relating to my flesh suit. A truly remarkable example of this was a thread several pages long on the now-defunct incel hangout PUAHate. Dedicated to an in-depth, thoroughly scientific investigation as to just why my face is so ugly (conclusion: Jew schnoz and ridiculously long “midface”), this red-pill message board became my first concrete evidence that I — at best — have a polarizing physical appearance, and — at worst —am a textbook butterface.

I’ve been very lucky to have had comparatively few body insecurities throughout my life; but in their absence, it seems that all of my physical anxieties migrated to my face. I think I was always somewhat aware that I’m not generically, apple-pie attractive, but I didn’t realize the capacity that my particular configuration of facial features — high forehead, big eyes, long nose, and an overbite with lips that don’t naturally close all arranged on a rather small, narrow canvas — had to repel. It has been balanced by compliments of its “uniqueness” and “exoticism,” but these kind words exist simultaneously with a barrage of “horseface” critiques.

Needless to say, confirmation that I am — gasp! — not a prototype of feminine beauty hit hard at first. But once I was made hyper-aware of my face’s apparent power, I was so relentlessly critical of and cruel to myself that anything anyone else said about it paled in comparison. And the fact that the majority of insults about my physical appearance would magically appear right after I romantically or sexually rejected someone, I learned to not think much of them.

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But as Maidenfed evolved and my sobriety continued, my online output began to morph considerably in content and theme. With the expansion of my work and its mediums, there became a much wider range of targets available. Suddenly, my gifs, collages, videos, writing, and [what we’ll loosely call] raps were — and remain — all under attack from multiple vantage points. And these taunts are more upsetting, because they were no longer primarily eviscerating how I look, something I have very little control over. Unsurprisingly, there’s often a line thrown in about how “it’s always the ugly ones who have to try to make up for it by being ~edgy~” but that’s nestled within a wall of text about how much what I do and make sucks.

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There’s a full body sensation that accompanies reading one of these comments. It’s a pulsing, sweating combination of rage and anxiety. It entirely fills me up, but it’s an energy that seems incapable of being transferred to anything besides retaliation. I know that attention is their entire goal, yet I am still frequently unable to resist. And having an extensive resume of being ignored and ghosted in a plethora of ways by dudes, I am intimately familiar with the reality that no response or resolution at all is the most unbearable one. However, engaging and “making a point” still lures me in more than I’d like.

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I’d say that the most fascinating and unexpected result of over half a decade of this shit has been that I now immediately enter an adrenaline-fueled semi-fugue state when I come in to contact with this type of behavior. And because of that, I am often unable to differentiate between what is inappropriate/an affront, and what is actually a largely innocuous (if perhaps misguided) attempt at a conversation opener. Or to put it more simply: I assume the worst intent, almost all the time.

A few recent instances have elucidated just how pervasive this mindset is. Some days, I’ll get a handful of almost catatonia-inducing, utterly generic DMs from various dudes, often ones that came across me on Tinder or a similar app. I will often — whether it’s wise or not — reply to these with a screenshot of my sex work rates, which includes a video chat option. Although I understand that that’s likely not what they are interested in pursuing, I nevertheless find myself fuming when they respond derisively or dismissively. This is especially the case when their reply is — in my view, at least — condemning of or chuckling at the entire concept of paying someone you’re romantically or sexually interested in for their time.

One case study branded it “quite absurd” that I’d deign to “charge people to meet” with me. I promptly dug in to him for ostensibly mocking and disrespecting my (and many other women’s) source of income. I felt like a simple statement of his lack of interest in such a pursuit would have been far less demeaning than dubbing the entire concept preposterous; just because I’m not interested in something, that doesn’t make that thing worthless or mean that it has no business existing. But when I posted the screenshots of this exchange — as I often do, since I am endlessly on the hunt for that external validation — it was brought to my attention that I may have overreacted, and I had to mull over that possibility. Since at this point I’m all but automatically predisposed to respond mirroring the disdain and judgment I feel I’m receiving, it’s difficult to reflect in a dialectical and balanced way on the possible sources of the bluster.

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In the interest of fairness, thoroughness, journalistic integrity, blah blah, I spoke to several other women on this subject. And by that I mean one: my mom. Her concern — which has previously been expressed in the arenas of substance abuse and sex work — could be summed up in that universal parental cliche: “I’m just thinking about your safety.”

When I grilled her with precision and acuity (aka casually asked over dinner) on the pros and cons of asserting and establishing myself as a not-to-be-fucked-with Woman On The Web, her primary focus was on the biggest pro of ignoring: that I would “live another day.” I’m not entirely sure how far her knowledge of horror stories re: doxxing and cyber-stalking goes, but even a middle-aged elementary school teacher can see the potential pitfalls of provoking a strange man online.

The fact is that — although I haven’t met an untimely end yet — there have been conspicuous negative outcomes from my online wrestling matches. A year ago, a virulently misogynistic blog published a bizarrely comprehensive tirade against me, touching on everything from my face to my being a sex worker to my Jewish greed to my pitiful excuses for “art.” Naturally, I engaged, and a drawn-out, thoroughly infuriating exchange resulted. The very next day, I awoke to my Instagram being gone. Poof. I couldn’t help but think that there was a connection between this eerily obsessed fool and my account’s deletion. It’s not unlikely that he spent his evening reporting every post I’d ever made, while dusting debris off the brim of his fedora.

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I feel that I am just now reaching a place of beginning to fully understand the entirety of how this engagement and enragement has affected and continues to affect me, my sanity, and my sobriety. An overwhelming disappointment and fury surges within me when I’m brought in to contact with a dude who chooses to spend his time — however minuscule that amount may be — trying to knock me down. I don’t enjoy speaking in massive generalities about genders or life or the world, but in this instance, it is inescapable that these encounters are inextricably entangled with larger issues.

And as much as I may enjoy having the last word, I’d rather have my sanity.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/the-rules-of...

Time for Everyone's Favorite Game: Do I Really Enjoy This, Or Do I Just Think I Do When I Actually Only Liked It While High Out of My Mind?

Aka Pin the Tail on the Now-Extinct Hobby

 

Once upon a time, I loved concerts. Growing up as a socially inept adolescent in a drowsy suburb, I felt like I was truly “myself” and “where I belonged” when I rode Metro North in to NYC for any of several life-affirming, all-ages musical experiences.

When it was time to apply to college (where I’m from, this was not a question of “if” but rather a competition of “which, and Ivy League or *scoff* not?”), I applied only to NYU (early decision) because I was convinced that I would (finally) blossom in this cradle of culture. I intended to wiggle my way in to the Music Business major, considering myself highly qualified after a summer internship at Le Poisson Rouge, push-pinning flyers to bulletin boards. Sadly, one has to prove musical ability through an audition, and since I promptly quit every instrument lesson I ever started (I only stuck with guitar for as long as I did — a whopping 4 months — because I was in love with my teacher, Isaac [hmu]), that was a non-option. So, I enlisted in the Media, Culture, and Communications major, trusting that I would nevertheless find a way to pursue my One True Love, live music.

Instead, I isolated in my dorm room between classes, made exactly one friend, got in to a manipulative and codependent open relationship, and slowly but surely became a drug addict.

Oops.

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Before I got in to my routine of snorting lines of a dissociative anesthetic in the bathroom at metal shows where everyone else was drunk — which did not exactly get me on the same wavelength as them — I was a completely sober concertgoer. I usually hung on the periphery of any mosh pit that formed from the surrounding dark matter on account of my utter lack of arm strength, but I considered myself “a part of” rather than “apart from.” Typically, I went alone, which, at the time, I thought was a declaration of my awesome female independence, as well as a means of facilitating my tangential meeting-a-boy goal. I now realize that this flying-solo act was largely just a means of avoiding a prolonged episode of socialization.

During my sophomore year of university, once my freshman “Friends Forever!!!” group had imploded, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable at concerts — as well as everywhere else. From this point through graduation, I unobtrusively glided through school, hiding both in my teeny-tiny room and under one of a conga line of hats (junior year: a beanie with all my hair tucked under it; senior year: a newsboy cap too big for my tiny head) I wore from as soon as I got out of the shower until bedtime. Shows no longer served as sites of connection or enjoyment or freedom. Rather, they became reminders of how ill-equipped I felt to, quite simply, exist alongside other human beings.

Although that belief in my own ineptitude did not entirely disappear after college, it was made a good deal more bearable by discovering two other One True Loves: ketamine and my sociopath male model ex. Armed by instantaneous escape via the former and deluded by obsession with the latter, I became a regular concertgoer once again, seeking recklessness, connection, and dudes to fuck to get back at said ex for flaunting his sextracurricular conquests. Yet, shockingly, I was unable to regularly get the results I was after, and the crushing feeling of being “apart from” was akin to being pressed to death by hellephants.

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There were no concerts in rehab, unless you count rhythmic sobbing.

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I am now nearly two years sober.

A couple of months ago, my mom and I went to see the Pixies, who have long been the band bridging my family’s parents-to-children generational crevasse. I’ve been to a few concerts since getting sober, and enjoyed only one (clipping., because, I mean, Daveed Diggs, c’mon [hmu]), during which I had to consciously force myself to get in to a mindset porous enough to allow “fun” to enter, even slightly. And eventually, it did. But at no point did it feel effortless, and the prospect of needing to metaphorically gird my loins before any ostensibly, supposed-to-be enjoyable event or activity so that I could — maybe — get out of my too-clear brain was discouraging, to say the least.

The Pixies show ended up setting a worrying precedent for my [non-]capacity to enjoy any cultural or entertainment event. In a twisted incarnation of my “personalization” cognitive distortion, I seem entirely unable to simply appreciate someone else’s creative work and prowess. Instead, their talent immediately becomes a reflection of my own [perceived] lack thereof, and I develop strangulating resentments against absolute strangers due to their [perceived] expertise and success. In other words, it becomes all about me and “how am I ever going to catch up?” and “how am I ever going to be happy if I don’t reach this person’s level?” When entangled in the web of such completely unhelpful thoughts, shimmying to the music and having a good time — whatever that means — become very distant targets indeed.

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My identity post-rehab, post-relapse, post-flushing-drugs-down-the-toilet did (and still often does) seem extremely fraught and fragile because I felt like I was — in many ways — a newborn, but without the intrinsic, obvious excuses of not knowing how to do anything whatsoever. The confusion about having no idea what to do with my life next became more dire as my clean time added up; at the outset, I often felt as though I didn’t even know what my passions were or how my priorities ranked anymore.

Warning: I’m about to write a really bad metaphor, and I intend to edit this and replace it with a better one as soon as I think of it. However, what seemed like a black hole slowly transformed in to a garden: fallow at first, but eventually more and more fertile. I started collaging and reading and writing and longboarding and rapping (or at least trying to). In the very early days of these pursuits, I was rather easily able to infuse meaning in to them, with the knowledge that — insignificant as they may be in the grand scheme of things — they were dutifully, necessarily distracting me from cravings and regrets.

But once the absence of failure no longer felt like success, my enjoyment of these activities started to become eclipsed by my desire to excel at — and ideally make money off of — them. My awareness and envy of “the competition” (also known as other practitioners of similar hobbies) frequently kept and still keeps me from continuing to forge ahead on my own path.

I have to remember that the simple fact that I am even here today to discard old interests and acquire new ones is — though it somewhat pains me to put it this way — a “blessing.” And for the sake of my sanity and sobriety, I can not afford to have this all-important truth be shrouded by my enduring, counterproductive suspicions that: life is a race, everyone else is as happy and/or successful as they portray themselves on social media, and there is a finite amount of fulfillment to go around.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/time-for-eve...

All Hail $$$: My Hoard and Savior

pussy paparazzi — punched out like a nazi — at my bat mitzvah we all got real sloppy — my drive to succeed’s more like a jalopy

I come from an upper middle-class, Jewish family, and was brought up in an affluent New York suburb. I know that I am extremely lucky — “blessed,” even — and that I am not truly at risk for imminent financial annihilation or homelessness. This is part of the reason why I almost don’t want to write this, but because it feels important to do so for me (and my cognitive distortions), I am. As with every single one of my other writings, I am speaking entirely for myself here, and do not intend any of this to be construed as a representative statement for any group or party outside of Maidenfed, LLC.

I am obsessed with the balance in my savings account.

I check in on it, making sure it’s still there — pure and untouched as fresh snow — several times a day. I use the bank’s website, the bank’s phone app, and even the bank’s many brick-and-mortar locations. The precise amount is irrelevant and need not be noted here. Pertinent data points: it is several times my monthly rent; it is largely comprised of the residue from my bat mitzvah earnings; it is sneering at me; it is hardly ever withdrawn from, even for necessities; it is my closest friend; it is my arch-nemesis.

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I now understand that my firsthand witnessing of the upheaval prompted by mental illness and substance abuse is what activated — very surreptitiously — my extreme money anxiety. The relative in question was sent to a succession of therapists and facilities before I had much of any drug knowledge, and absolutely zero personal experimentation or experience. At some nodule on the timeline of their nascent recovery, I began to fret that all of my family’s money was being spent “fixing” them, and that there would be none left for me, should I ever need it.

And, heh, I did…eventually.

I don’t remember being consciously aware of these origins when they were taking root. A similar in-the-moment ignorance is true for several other fundamental motifs stemming from adolescence that have ended up molding so much of my current personality and life. The most glaringly obvious and over-referenced of these being: skater boys ignored me all throughout my adolescence, so I am presently seeking vengeance for this unjust snubbing. But in that 20/20 hindsight, the sources of my money mania are just as clear to me as the fact that my complete lack of pubescent male attention rendered me pathologically disposed to chasing comparable validation now — when it’s a little too late to be endearing.

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I was never a spender. Yet like so many other thought-action linkages, the behavioral pattern of compulsively stockpiling money — even when I had “plenty” for my age, at least by others’ standards — was entrenched long before the psychosis beneath became discernible.

What I was and still am is a hoarder — of both things and money (in that order, originally). When I was little, I would insist on carrying around a battalion of dingy toys — largely-undressed Barbies with crude haircuts, the-once-collectible Beanie Babies, minuscule action figures from gumball machine-like contraptions at Pizza Hut — to arrange in various formations wherever I went. This solitary activity (if others wished to join in, they were usually met with an incredulous glare) predictably inhibited the full extent of ideal socialization. When I got a bit older, I went full-on klepto and pilfered whatever I could — rhinestone jewelry, clothes I was not nearly old enough to know what to do with, drugstore makeup, specks of lint — from my sister, then piled up the loot in my closet. I think it was the thrill of accumulation and excess and possibilities that made me continue this pursuit, despite there being no ambiguity that I was the source of the petty thievery.

Simultaneously, I began to amass a now-sprawling, completely unmanageable collection of printed matter, including books, magazines, playbills, catalogs, those real estate brochures in the supermarket, and comics. Upon purchase, I would often just superficially peruse them rather than actually read them. The appeal lay more in their potential for display, either in their original form (rarely) or torn out and pasted on a wall (frequently) to — hopefully — impress others with my mature aesthetic sensibilities. This speaks to the performative aspect of my ceaseless acquiring; I must have hoped that ensconcing myself in items of intrigue would, by osmosis, make me in to one.

Although my [cursory] research has been inconclusive, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a correlation between being excessively uncomfortable around people or within reality and being overly attached or attracted to particular non-sentient things. The comfort of being tucked away somewhere ostensibly safe with a legion of items of my own choosing — which, by design, lack the ability to stir up my ever-proliferating insecurities — stands in stark contrast to the unrelenting anxiety I feel out in “society.”

I eventually came to view a bloated stash of money as the ultimate incarnation of this, because a sack of cash is essentially a symbolic representation of all the possible things I could gather in my little kingdom. I find this to be preferable, because I tend to inevitably be left disappointed and unfulfilled when I do acquire those things that I thought would so dramatically ameliorate my unremarkable life. The first scrap of this evidence I can recall was the sad high school realization that turquoise eyeshadow doesn’t fix all your problems — even if you smear it all the way up to your eyebrow. Boys still passed me over for my gregarious friend Nina; I still couldn’t get Isaac, my guitar teacher, to fall in love with me; I still walked around with shards of popcorn kernel lodged in my braces.

And I still had no fucking idea who I was, who I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do with my life. Some things don’t change, am I right!

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Another major aspect of this funds frenzy is the quest to redefine the meaning of “success.” My parents are not of the hard line that making money is all that matters; in fact, my mother swapped a lucrative career in law for the far humbler vocation of public school teacher. Still, I was reared in a town in which thriving within an academically competitive setting was rewarded with a college worth name-dropping, to be followed by the paradigm of a prestigious, remunerative career with a stereotypical nuclear family.

Now, I am tasked with the daunting hurdle of de- and re-programming my conception of what fulfillment and prosperity truly mean. As I write this, I am “celebrating” — aka gorging on blackberries following my weekly semi-public, tear-filled meltdown — exactly eighteen months and one day off drugs. Unfortunately, any such checkpoint serves primarily to remind me of all the years I spent in a state of stubborn somnambulism, not getting closer to anything worth reaching, including answers to the Big Questions.

Since getting sober, I have become more obsessive than ever about locking my money up in a checking account chastity belt. Rather than direct my savings towards worthwhile soul-searching and healthy pursuits — travel, classes, gym, “cultural activities” — I have instead convinced myself that it should all be stowed for some hypothetical future need. Often, I’ll deprive myself of what are arguably necessities (you should see what I generously designate a “bed”) in favor of the vague comfort provided by knowing I have some money — somewhere — for something — at some point.

Clarity is the double-edged sword of sobriety. After years upon years of avoiding facing the reality of my heretofore ineptitude in dealing with life, I can now see clearly — painfully so — how much I have to address in order to become a self-sufficient, adult Human Being. And since that already seems like a full-time job, the prospect of also ensnaring a reliable income appears rather impossible.

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Aaaaand here’s where the sex work comes in.

Just today, I was at a women’s AA meeting, and we read “Listening to the Wind,” a Big Book story about a Native American woman’s drinking history and eventual recovery. I’ve always remembered this particular story because the woman discusses her double life as a “super-mom” during the day and a “drunken hooker” by night. Although it’s the only personal history in the literature (that I know of) to discuss engaging in sex work at length, it is predictably packaged as a major aspect of this specific woman’s bottom.

(Aside: Without fail, whenever sex work is mentioned in the rooms, I get incredibly revved up, and feel like it’s somehow my duty to “educate” everyone. The instances that have especially jolted and bothered me are those in which people refer to sex work as “selling themselves,” and that it’s the one icky thing they would never stoop to. I fully respect everyone’s personal limits and respective comfort levels, particularly on a subject as embattled as this. But it’s when sex work seems to be depicted as something practiced solely by an alien species, or — more often — as an activity assuredly symptomatic of “hitting bottom,” that I become extremely uncomfortable, especially considering the transparency valued in the program.)

When it came my turn to share, I once again found myself vocalizing my constant conflict with the role sex work plays in my life. After the usual blustering, I eventually heard myself say: “…if I decide to transition out of sex work, that doesn’t mean that I’m agreeing with the trope that this kind of job is necessarily self-destructive or immoral. I’m just making the best decision for myself, based on a huge number of factors.”

The fact is that, as with any other occupation — because that’s what sex work is: a job — there are endless pros and cons that I enumerate and mull over on a daily basis. Because this has been my primary source of income since college, there is a comfort level involved that is extremely cogent. Also, my lack of confidence in my abilities and qualifications for “above board” work is a key factor in my sticking around. As for the work itself, sometimes it’s genuinely rewarding; sometimes it’s exhausting and miserable. But — as you might assume from this article’s brilliant title — my focus right now is the money, the dough, the coin, the loot. It logically follows that if I am in a state of continual fretting over my suspected, irreparable shortcomings re: figuring life out, I want to have as much capital as possible to carry me through this — hopefully not indefinite — stage of Reality Integration.

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I have been working on some amateur self-hypnosis, along the lines of the following incantation: Money is not a cure-all. Money comes and goes. Money does not make you happy. Money is an illusion.

But until that starts to have an effect: http://www.cash.me/$Maidenfed

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/all-hail-my-...

A Day In My Brain At A 9-Hour Shift at My Part-Time, Minimum Wage Job

(That I Only Have So There’s Something On My Resume While I Definitely Don’t Pursue Infinitely More Lucrative, Off-The-Books Things)

12:00 PM: Okay, today’s going to be different. I am going to be grateful I have any job, period. If that doesn’t work, I’ll transcend my earthly surroundings and enter an untouchable state of rapture.

12:05 PM: Why do all my coworkers hate me?!

12:10 PM *downs disgusting Starbucks™ Doubleshot Espresso elixir*

12:15 PM: *whips out the 3 books, 2 magazines (one from 1994) and Moleskine I brought with me*

12:20 PM: *takes the first of 3–4 Doubleshot-induced shits*

12:30 PM: (In caffeine- and preservative-induced state of mania) It’s alright; I’m a genius. Misunderstood. Struggling. Every really successful person has stories about the awful jobs they had and hated, but that they were eventually able to kiss goodbye to forever. This is that, for me. Soon, I’ll leave all this behind me.

12:35 PM: I know I deleted the Instagram app last night because I couldn’t stop checking it, but there might be something life-changing in my DMs, so I better take a look.

12:40 PM: I suck. My life sucks. I’ll never amount to anything. Everyone is living unspeakably more interesting existences than I am. No way to catch up at this point. Might as well give up.

12:41 PM: *whips out Moleskine to scrawl something depressing*

12:45 PM: *strolls pointlessly back and forth between the rooms I’m supposed to be “guarding”*

12:50 PM: *shoves half of a banana in to my mouth*

1:00 PM: The New Yorker, my savior.

1:13 PM: *takes the second of 3–4 Doubleshot-induced shits*

1:30 PM: Inspiration has struck.

1:32 PM: *opens RhymeZone.com*

1:35 PM: *furiously scribbles a verse invariably about killing [skater] boys despite trying really hard to veer in to new subject matter*

1:50 PM: Time to crack open this dense philosophical tome that I will surely be able to focus on fully.

2:00 PM: Time to put this dense philosophical tome back in the janitor’s closet.

2:04 PM: *takes the third of 3–4 Doubleshot-induced shits*

2:15 PM: *gets bitched out for telling someone to lower the volume on the Snapchat story they’re blasting from their phone in a crowded place where no one wants to fucking hear that bullshit*

2:30 PM: When is my break? Have I really been left out of the coworker group text again? They DO hate me!

3:00 PM: Oh god, apparently my break isn’t until 5 today. I’m not tearing up I’m not tearing up I’m not tearing up.

3:10 PM: Would anyone notice if I just sunk my teeth in to my arm to muffle an otherwise bloodcurdling scream?

3:30 PM: What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just smile and say “hi” to the guests? I know they don’t actually want to talk to me, but I bet they think I’m a huge pretentious cunt because I have my nose in an Ernest Becker book instead of showing that I am man, I am them, I am one of the people.

4:00 PM: No ma’am, you can not stroke that sculpture or put your tongue directly on its pubis, even though I’m sure your 28 Instagram followers would just laugh and laugh at your cleverness. Okay, leave a negative Yelp review. What’s my name? For the negative Yelp review you just threatened? Ethel. My name is Ethel. I don’t know why I have a job in customer service either, trust me.

4:05 PM: *pens diatribe in Moleskine about the unfairness of life and the foolhardiness of the human race*

4:10 PM: *transcribes diatribe in to phone’s Notes section*

4:12 PM: *screenshots diatribe*

4:13 PM: *posts screenshot of diatribe to at least one social media account*

4:20 PM: *deletes screenshot after it fails to garner a substantial-enough number of likes*

4:30 PM: Okay, only half an hour til break. I can do this.

4:35 PM: Oh my god, I can’t do this.

4:40 PM: *hides in janitor’s closet, reciting positive mantras*

4:45 PM: *emerges from janitor’s closet, harried and vaguely dissociated*

4:52 PM: In a mere 8 minutes, I will be nourishing my body with something healthy and replenishing, which will surely invigorate mind and spirit as well.

5:01 PM: *strolls in to McDonald’s*

5:25 PM: *flees from McDonald’s when they start setting up for ‘live music’ and lighting candles* (THIS IS 100% TRUE AND ACTUALLY HAPPENED)

5:30 PM: I’ll just sit in the park with a water and my book.

5:35 PM: *enters 7–11, purchases a soda*

5:40 PM: How can I focus on my book when there are all these people? People who are clearly much happier and more successful than me??

5:43 PM: *tries to meditate*

5:44 PM: *stops trying to meditate*

5:48 PM: Okay, for these last 3 hours of my shift, I will really hunker down and Practice These [AA] Principles In All of My Affairs. Be kind. Recognize that everyone is sick and suffering, in their own way.

5:59 PM: Ugggghhhhhggghhhh nooooo don’t make me go back.

6:05 PM: At least I’m in the room with the most robust A/C for the rest of the night. See, gratitude!

6:10 PM: Now I’m just fucking freezing, THANKS A/C.

6:20 PM: *starts writing another TMI article before having completed the previous one*

6:22 PM: *thinks of a great, punny title for yet another TMI article*

6:23 PM: Welp, since that title’s better, I should definitely abandon this one.

6:25 PM: Writer’s block. This is hopeless. I shall never write again. Also, why have I not made any money off my writing? Nothing is worthwhile unless it’s profitable.

6:30 PM: *checks my bank account balance*

6:32 PM: *even though it is not depleted at all (relatively, in the grand scheme of things) I am aghast and convinced it’s not enough*

6:35 PM: *tries to log on to one of several sugar daddy sites*

6:36 PM: *is alerted that my account has been suspended*

6:38 PM: This is actually a good thing. I waste too much time on this nonsense anyway. My Higher Power is taking care of me.

6:41 PM: *makes a new account*

7:00 PM: Clearly, I need a meeting.

7:02 PM: What’s a meeting going to do? No one’s paying me to go, so what’s the point!

7:10 PM: *writes openings to 3 more verses*

7:12 PM: *abandons all 3 verses*

7:15 PM: Let’s try the book again.

7:17 PM: *underlines an inspiring passage*

7:19 PM: *posts inspiring passage to social media*

7:22 PM: What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just appreciate something without needing to broadcast it to [the very small portion of] the world [that gives the slightest fuck]?

7:23 PM. That’s it. I’m deleting all these apps from my phone.

7:25 PM: Ah, so much better. I am cleansed. I am pure.

7:30 PM: Now I will just read, for me. And write, for me. No one else.

7:32 PM: *re-downloads the apps*

7:40 PM: I should probably circulate the room.

7:41 PM: *circulates the room*

7:42 PM: *circulates sanity*

7:43 PM: *shuffles off this mortal coil*

7:44 PM: *shuffles back on*

7:50 PM: Just a little more than an hour left. I can do this. I am worth it. I will honor and love myself, and recognize that it is a feat just to stick with a job and not immediately quit to avoid the discomfort of mind-numbing routine.

7:52 PM: Nah, I hate myself. I am not qualified for any job, and never will be — ever. I only got this one through a fluke and knowing-someone-who-knows-someone.

7:53 PM: I am a joke.

7:54 PM: I should just give up and relapse already.

7:55 PM: *goes to bathroom to be melodramatic in private*

8:01 PM: Less than an hour to go!!!! Alright!! Yeah!

8:03 PM: This is temporary. This is not forever. Things will get better.

8:10 PM: *tears out New Yorker cartoons to glue in to Moleskine for cheering-up purposes*

8:15 PM: *twiddles thumbs*

8:22 PM: I’m going to text someone something nice. Doing for others is the only solution. I need to stop being so self-obsessed and impatient.

8:30 PM: OMG EVERYONE JUST FUCKING LEAVE ALREADY ASDFJDLSFLDSKJLJDSGOIX

8:35 PM: *picks nose*

8:36 PM: *scowls at a PDAing couple behind their backs*

8:40 PM: I think I can taste freedom…

8:42 PM: …nope, just threw up in my mouth.

8:45 PM: How do people decide what they want to do with their lives? How can anyone definitively select a career, and not obsess over the millions of other possible professions they are necessarily excluding?

8:46 PM: What if I just never figure it out?

8:47 PM: Some people just don’t.

8:48 PM: Am I one of them?

8:49 PM: I’m probably one of them.

8:51 PM: Well, at least I know.

8:52 PM: Knowledge is power.

8:53 PM: But I am powerless.

8:54 PM: So I guess this is my life.

8:59 PM: BYE SUCKAS

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/a-day-in-my-...

From the Case Files of The Self-Deprecating Sleuth: Why I Can’t Refer to Myself As An “Artist” Without Automatically Using Air Quotes

Is “art” a four-letter word? 

Is it humiliating to self-brand as an “artist”? Or a “creative director,” as I see on every third millennial's Instagram bio? Is it simply ill-advised to label yourself anything, because that opens the chamber door for the plebeians to tell you you’re wrong and are, in fact, not that, you fucking poseur?

Or am I just wary of any self-chosen designation because it would mean a) actually committing to something for once, and b) an indication that I am taking myself somewhat seriously, which means any subsequent failure would also be “for real,” and not merely a “joke” or an “experiment”?

Yeah, probably the latter.

---

But I’m not imagining that there is an infestation of generational peers calling themselves — shouting it from the Internet rooftops, really — “creatives,” right? That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with me, though. Except that it does, because I’m an equal-opportunity junkie; as such, I can’t seem to stop myself from obsessing over others’ careers and life trajectories, and how my own stack up in comparison. (P.S. I genuinely want to found a Social Media Addicts Anonymous program, as it is such a pervasive aspect of our lives, and I know that entirely new psychiatric fields will spring up soon to analyze the effects of this 24/7 access to people’s faux existences. Yet, go figure, I can’t seem to get off the World Wide Web long enough to embark on this.)

This all started with [not] calling myself a “model.” Beginning in 2013, standing motionless in front of a camera was my initiation into the shit I now create. (Note the subject’s usage of the pejorative “shit,” as opposed to “art” or even “work.” Fascinating!) At the outset, I was convinced — with absolutely no evidence from reality — that if I ever actually used the word “model,” I would be forthwith knocked down by a barrage of taunting trolls: “YOU think you’re a MODEL?” “Butterface!” “Eat an ass burger, then kill yourself, bitch!!” etc. etc. So in response to this completely unfounded certitude, I decided to say as little as possible; and when I had to say something, I would self-deprecate so extremely and thoroughly that everyone would know just how much I didn’t take this “nonsense” seriously. Thus no one could possibly poke fun, because if it means nothing to me, there’s no tantalizing lure of a ripe specimen to mutilate.

---

This raging internal debate begs the question: at what point would I not be mortified to tell people I’m an “artist”? Would it be when I get a solo show at some sucker of a gallery? When I sell a collage to a hapless fool for $1,000 (because that’s approximately my rent and anything below that I somehow decide is negligible)? When I finally get the opportunity to work with one of the handful of real artists I near-idolize, a seismic event that will surely catapult me to fame, wealth, and — finally — serenity (à la the classic AA meeting closing prayer)?

All of these options, unsurprisingly, are predicated on a metamorphosis initiated by specific forms of external validation, as opposed to internal resolve. Only if _____ and _____ and possibly _____ were to happen to me, would I become _____. But I sense my reluctance would not evaporate even if all of the above do happen. As my main man Oscar Wilde put it: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

If all signs point to my being perpetually unsatisfied and forever minimizing my achievements, does someone else need to decide what I am for me…?

---

On the subject of identity, my mom and I recently attended In And Of Itself, an “existential magic show” about how one constructs her selfhood, and how this affects both how we see ourselves and how others see us. Upon entering the theater, we were greeted with a wall covered with hundreds of small white cards, each reading “I Am A _____.” Arranged in alphabetical order, the options ranged from actual professions to fantasy figures to idioms. I automatically drifted towards the P’s; although a safety pin-affixed patch on my purse christens me a PROCTOLOGIST, I was pleasantly surprised to see “I Am A Prostitute” available for the taking. (My mom was not quite as thrilled. She chose “I Am A Fast Learner.”) Before taking our seats, everyone gave the card they had selected to a stage manager. As the grand finale, Derek DelGaudio asked that those who had chosen a card that they believed was a true reflection of themselves to stand up; then, to many gasps and much applause, he correctly matched each audience member to their selection.

The possible backstage mechanics of this feat aside, I left the show feeling profoundly distraught, and had a very un-magical sidewalk sob before dragging myself to my legal but part-time, minimum wage job. I had not stood up to be matched with my chosen identity; at the time I figured it was because I was being thoughtful about how my mother might feel if I were “revealed” to be A Prostitute to a room full of well-to-do strangers.

But upon further reflection, there was undoubtedly more to my reluctance than that. I do not feel shame, per se, associated with my doing sex work, but there is surely some internalization of the stigmatization that the field continues to cultivate. I have never, and likely never will, proclaim my involvement in this field to be any sort of “feminist” mission, nor would I frame it as inherently transgressive or empowering. As many wide-ranging factors go in to choosing this vocation as any other; no job selection is as simple as “I love it.” For me, the benefits of independent sex work are primarily the trifecta of the comparatively high hourly rate, the flexible schedule, and the freedom from having to answer to an employer — which is especially important considering my ongoing, and seemingly ever-expanding, “battles” with chronic physical and mental illnesses.

Consensual sex work — meaning between two willing parties, as murky as those definitions may sometimes actually be within a perverse capitalistic system — seems to be one of the final frontiers of what is widely societally acceptable. To an extent, it appears that the stereotypes revolving around The Addict are the most recent to be investigated and revised. Even though there still is — and likely will continue to be for a long while — considerable debate over whether or not addiction can be properly classified as a “disease,” the branding of the addict as necessarily weak, selfish, and/or immoral has seen a profound reexamination.

Essentially, I feel that I have a better grasp on “being” a “sex worker” (albeit in my own admittedly privileged compendium of experiences) than I do an “artist.” For example, somebody recently approached me — and subsequently ghosted me thanks Austin — about commissioning a collage. Instantly, I was suspicious. Although I knew he was in a relationship and had children, my mind immediately launched in to a story about how this whole commission thing was merely a ruse, and he was really just trying to bone. As it turned out, he appeared to be sincere about wanting a piece of my work hanging in his apartment. And rather than being primarily proud or excited or even anxious about the prospect of my first commission, I was disappointed. If he had actually wanted my sexual services™, I would have been somewhat relieved because, quite frankly, I am more comfortable with playing that role than I am embodying the part of an “artist.” No matter which of the two identities — and I am defining them as being separate entities, at least for now — I’m entering, I’m invariably a sack of nerves. However, in the “artist” box, there is an even longer list of aspects I feel unprepared for dealing with, including pricing, deposits, timeframe for completion, sourcing materials, and so on.

The unceasing anxiety with all this may be partly because, as a friend and complete weirdo (@ sucklord) once told me, it can be difficult, overwhelming, and confusing to attempt to blaze a previously uncharted course. Especially in an age where the methods and venues for the creation and dissemination of content are being routinely uprooted, how to best “make it” in a field largely reliant on self-promotion can feel like a permanent question mark. Trial and error — with social media, apps, networking, actual IRL events — seems to be the only feasible strategy, if it can be properly called that.

But also, since I am attempting to fuse multiple forms of “art” — modeling, collages, writing, hopefully more video — there is not really someone who’s “made it” in all of these mediums whose approach I can try to emulate. Aaaaaaand this is where I decide I need to throw in an aside to the effect of: I AM NOT SAYING THAT I AM A GENIUS DOING SOMETHING SO DIFFERENT AND REMARKABLE THAT PUTS ME COMPLETELY OUTSIDE THE BOUNDS OF TYPICAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE. I tend to disqualify and over-apologize even before any indication arrives from outside my solipsistic bubble that such a statement is necessary. I feel this is akin to the reluctance to self-label, as both impulses serve the purpose of eliminating imagined friction and discomfort.

---

I see a blindingly clear connection between my reluctance to self-label and my near-automatic reflex of deciding I have zero interest in being a part of any and every group/community/scene — before they can tell me they don’t want me there. If I never make the effort to incorporate or prove myself, then there is no possibility of “failure,” whatever that means in this context. But, amorphous as it may be, I evidently think it would be brutal enough that I want to avoid it at all costs, even if that means an excess of solitude. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who thrives in seclusion, but that is surely at least somewhat of a defense mechanism, too. And there’s a stark difference between productive and/or reinvigorating alone time and soul-crushing isolation, the latter of which I’ve learned can be achieved just as swiftly and often sober as while an active addict.

Speaking of the “addict” name tag… as you may or may not know, before anyone shares at a NA/AA meeting, they introduce themselves by stating a variation of “I’m ______, and I’m an alcoholic/addict.” It took months of excavating the fossils of my delusions and denials as to why I was not an addict until I hit the bedrock, which bore the lovely epigram “OF COURSE YOU’RE AN ADDICT, DUMBASS.” Now, it’s pretty much the only label that I feel comfortable with.

Is that because it’s inherently negative — at least in connotation — and thus would be very difficult to be construed as any sort of boast or self-satisfied signifier?

Maybe that’s what I’ll make my next definitely-not-art-thing about.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/from-the-cas...

To The College Student At a Crossroads, Foolish (And Sweet) Enough To Ask Me For Life Advice

Dear “Young & ready to run south of nowhere,”

Thank you so much for all the kind words, for real.

But I think it’s imperative that you hear directly from me just how much of a falsehood my — and everyone else’s, though I often have a hard time grasping that — online presence is. The chasm between what I present and my day-to-day life is massive, and it’s a dichotomy that is a source of endless anxiety for me.

I really don’t want to be one of those people who talks to you as though you’re “so young,” since it’s not like I’m ancient compared to you. And I’m sure that you feel the same pressure I do, thanks to social media, that everything has to be done *right now* so you can catch up to all those people who seem to be so far ahead, living the life you think you want.

Nevertheless, the fact is that when I was 19, I was about as far from who I am now as I was when I was 5; maybe more so, actually. I was a virgin, for one. And like you, I was in my sophomore year of college, at NYU. Where I grew up, it was not a question of whether or not I, or anyone else, would go to college; it was a competition of how prestigious of a college it would be. My parents happen to not be especially pushy in terms of what they feel I should do with my life; and that’s a problem in and of itself, as I often feel that, if they were, it would have been more obvious for me to rebel specifically against that. And rebellion is a direction, as misguided as it may end up being.

In any case, I applied only to NYU (early decision) because I was convinced I belonged in the city, that I was too much of a special snowflake to have blossomed in my suburban adolescence, and that I would be “at home” in NYC. At this point in my life, I was obsessed with live music, and wanted to pursue a career in that. But at NYU, although there is a Music Business major, you have to audition to be considered. And since I quit every instrument lesson I ever started (along with dance, gymnastics, painting, learning to ride a bike, etc.) because my parents didn’t want me to resent them for forcing me into anything — and wanted me to genuinely find my own way — that was a non-option. So I ended up in the Media, Culture, and Communications program, with absolutely no direction or aspirations once the concert fascination wore off.

I ended up essentially sleepwalking through college. I did the bare minimum academically, and because I’ve always done well in school without trying, I was able to graduate with honors and give the impression that I was actually being diligent. Although I must have been in the nascent stages of disillusionment with this college to grad school to career to family trajectory, I kept it entirely to myself because I felt guilty that I had “wasted” so much of my parents’ money pursuing a degree I have, as of now, done zilch with.

And when you go to a school like NYU in a city like NYC, it’s very easy to isolate and not meet people as you likely would on a smaller, traditional campus. Which is exactly what happened once my “friends forever” group from freshman year fell apart at the beginning of sophomore year, when my supposed BFF started dating my supposed BF (Zach and Tessa, I am truly so glad you found each other 😘).

The point of all this is that after I graduated, I had absolutely no fucking idea what to do. (Apparently this isn’t that rare, especially with our generation, but that doesn’t really matter when you’re in the midst of the maelstrom.) I hadn’t taken advantage of all the “resources” available at NYU, and had, true to form, phoned it in at my two academic-credit internships. So my post-college years — up til rehab in autumn of 2015 — ended up being a very delayed adolescence, in which I tried to make up for all the exploration and experimentation I had pussied out on in high school.

This led to my doing sex work, first getting into modeling and art, a series of extremely unhealthy (though in a variety of ways) romantic/sexual relationships, and ketamine addiction (it’s a thing). I do not list these together to imply that they are equivalent or necessarily related to one another; they simply encapsulate my early twenties, for better or for worse.

Basically, I think of myself as being two years old. Or, like, thirteen. After rehab, I became aware of just how little I had successfully acclimated to the real adult world, which was terrifying. And my inability to face how to begin to remedy that contributed to my many relapses.

Once sobriety finally stuck, things started to change…very slowly…at times, almost imperceptibly. And even though I’m awful at giving myself even an atom of credit for any accomplishments, it is true that I have made a shitload of progress in the past year and a half.

But it never feels like enough. I look at other artists/models/writers/just about anyone anywhere, and am resentful of them for what seems like massive success/fulfillment/serenity on their part. It’s extremely difficult for me to comprehend, in the moment of obsession, that their presentations of their lives and achievements are just as curated as mine.

I’m not quite at the point where I am able to say “wow I’m so glad everything that’s happened to me has happened, since it’s made me who I am today!!! :)” It is possible, though, that had I gone to art school, for example, I would have burnt out on anything creative and ended up hating it. Or I could have an entirely different “style.” OR I could be hugely successful and famous and rich. The point is that I’ll never know, because it’s one of the many unlived lives I have, just as everyone has an infinite amount that increases with each tiny decision.

Just yesterday, I had a 15-minute phone consultation with a “career counselor.” (I keep saying I’d still like to, maybe, be a librarian or archivist. I don’t know if this very shaky “Plan B” of sorts is a smart, proper backup possibility. Because it could also merely be a way for me to appease people who wouldn’t understand/support transforming what I do now into a long-term profession; and, in a sense, it’s another way for me to be only half-committed to any one pursuit.) It scared the shit out of me. Not just because of the rates she informed me I would have to pay if I wanted to continue, but because I still have no idea if I want to work my ass off trying to make “art” my actual career or if I want to do something “safer,” more “conventional,” with a far clearer trajectory.

The “moral” of this long-winded response, basically, is that there is no answer. No one can tell you what you should do, including yourself. Do I think you should drop out of college and flee the city? Probably not, but I can’t give many valid reasons why I think that. (Though I will say that NYC is likely one of the absolute worst places to be if you’re prone to comparing yourself to others. At the same time, beware of the “geographic,” which is AA terminology for moving somewhere else and thinking it’ll solve all your problems.)

Just remember that perception is not reality, and that the life I’m living on a day-to-day basis — wracked with constant full-body fear, obsessing over money, endlessly seeking male validation, living in a state of permanent disarray and filth — is probably not really the life you imagine or the one you want.

But what you want will change, so fucking often.

And, no matter how it seems, you don’t have to make all these huge decisions right now; which should actually be considered good news, because you quite simply *can’t*.

No one can.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/to-the-colle...

Boohoo, Instagram Deleted My Account — Again

WARNING: This is a candid account of a girl admitting to a pathetic amount of frustration and sadness in the wake of unwarranted, unwarned social media account deletion.

Instagram and I have always been strange bedfellows.

I was late to the IG game, because I figured that it was an illogical platform for my work, the majority of which contains at least some nudity or content deemed “sexual,” to varying degrees. I don’t necessarily view it that way myself, though. The imagery I’ve been drawn to — and thus was inspired by to create — does tend to be what is frequently labeled “provocative.” I think that comes more from my gravitation towards extremes (mainly through fetish and medical aesthetics) as a counterbalance to my persistent solipsism than anything else. But I do also think it’s important to challenge the status quo of what is “appropriate” for women’s art to involve, and how that work can be successfully transmitted to a wide audience in this digital age, with its censor-happy overlords.

When I finally bit the bullet and made an account on IG — largely in the spirit of experimentation — it was without knowledge that the app was and still is the most ubiquitous connector of those who wish to display visual content and network with similar souls. I remember thinking “ho hum, yes, this is certainly a great way for me to get my work out there” whilst pixelating approximately 25% of myself in any given image. As such, I continued to primarily use Tumblr; but it wasn’t long before that site’s heyday was upon us, and the traffic on my blog steadily decreased.

Skip ahead to the autumn of 2015. I was fresh out of rehab following a summer of heavy drug use, prompted by a traumatic breakup with a sociopath male model. While I completed an outpatient program, I was living with my mom in the suburbs. Feeling extremely isolated, I started to become much more active on Instagram. At this point, I had years of content to share, pixelated though it may have been; I also started using modeling images of myself in hand-made analog collages, which were sourced from a decade’s worth of magazine and book hoarding. Over the course of a year, I gained over 50,000 followers, and had the opportunity to interact and work with countless artists and designers (Tyrone Lebon, Muted Fawn, Creepyyeha, Tableaux Vivants, among many others) through the magic of IG’s ability to bridge geographical distances through a mutual appreciation of output and ensuing dialogue.

But perhaps the most meaningful — and certainly unexpected — result of my IG success was a slow but strong desire to speak about my recent experiences in treatment and the subsequent “post-rehab blues”. I shared my struggles with staying clean following several relapses through essays on Medium, as well as screenshots from Nomo, a sobriety clock app. The responses to this transparency were overwhelming. I now think of my writing and my art as inextricably linked, and my ability to present these simultaneously on IG was fundamental in keeping me connected while I stumbled through early sobriety.

The first time my IG account disappeared, it was after posts had been reported and taken down in an exponential manner over the course of months (although I truly tried my best to follow the extremely vague “Community Guidelines”). At that point, I felt stupid more than anything else for having lacked the foresight to see entire-account-removal looming on the horizon. I also had no real website at this point; but even though I do have one now, IG has still been — by far — the largest source of work, publicity, and communication for me. The website is more a safeguard than anything else (and, unsurprisingly, it gets a fraction of the traffic!).

But this time, I hadn’t gotten anything deleted off IG since that fateful, life-changing June day.

I am almost positive that the fact that an alt-right, whorephobic misogynist’s rant about me (in response to my side blog, in which I chronicle my misadventures in online dating, and my responses to the men who immediately launch into lurid sexual propositions in their initial message) went live two days before has something to do with this. The timing is just too convenient. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this schmuck spent his thrilling evening reporting everything I’ve ever posted on IG. And instead of combing through the posts to determine if this incessant stream of terms-of-use violations notifications actually had any merit, the powers that be decided to just disable my account instead. Groan.

There are fairly obvious implications here — namely, that pages featuring any sort of female sexuality or otherwise “unladylike” content (i.e. posting screenshots of the vile direct messages you receive from men) that does not fall within strict parameters of what is socially acceptable and/or generally-agreed-upon-attractive are particularly vulnerable. And that’s pretty much the entirety of my shit. The reality that any anonymous, offended person can report you — without transparency or any sort of appeals process — means that, in all likelihood, the more butthurt notifications you inspire, the more inevitable your swift evanescence.

So why even continue to bother with an app that can peremptorily erase a years-long record of interactions and work on a whim?

Unless you’re an artist/model/meme’r/whatever content toiling in general obscurity during your lifetime like a 21st-century Henry Darger, some form of social media presence is a basic necessity for networking and money-making. Especially for those without traditional representation (i.e. a manager or agency), being active on social media — especially IG, for those who create largely visual content — is a tactic of circumventing the methods of getting work that are becoming more and more archaic. Also, a high follower count can be a bargaining tool for negotiating paid shoots, as well as a form of instant recognition — if not of quality, then at least an indication of relevance.

Beyond the potential financial gains from networking and visibility, IG had — for the past year — been a conduit for me to reach and connect with people near and far who were similarly struggling with sobriety. As I’m coming up on a year now, I was looking forward to sharing my 365th day clean, but alas…

Anyway, I’m sure there’s a not-too-hidden message in this, if I ascribe to the “everything happens for a reason” trope. I should stop existing mainly online; I should start jogging and drinking kombucha; I should not continue to allow a platform that can arbitrarily remove any content it disagrees with (or simply doesn’t want to spend the time reviewing reports — of the bruised-male-ego variety — of) to dictate the proliferation of my content.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to feel a sense of loss when any social media account is abruptly obliterated — as they, whether we like it or not, serve simultaneously as time capsules, advertisements, message boards, and portfolios. Nevertheless, I’m concerned I am having a histrionic reaction; it’s not as though I’m now a phantom, or never existed at all. But I do feel in a state of weird limbo, which I guess makes sense when one becomes relatively dependent on such a platform for the survival of their career, and said platform can — without warning — expunge an entire anthology of effort.

R.I.P. MAIDENFED, GONE TOO SOON

Source: http://slutever.com/maidenfed-instagram-de...

On “Invisible Progress” In the Age of Social Media: Your Followers Don’t Care That You Finally Did Laundry and Didn’t Cry Yourself to Sleep Last Night

I like making shit.

And writing shit.

But I’m acutely aware that the process of creation has, for me, become inextricably fused with the act of instantly sharing it for external validation. And some things — often the most important things, though they tend not to seem that way — are incapable of broadcast. Or, if they somehow are, it would nevertheless be unwise, because the intrinsic value of these acts would prove to be lost in translation and pixelization.

To be clear, I’m talking about the conquests that fall under the umbrella of “distinctly un-fun self-care,” i.e. removing the human-and-cat hair clot from the bathtub drain, folding a single article of clothing at long last, paying bills — whatever those are. The tasks I (and, perhaps, you) spend all day — or week or month or life — avoiding. For me, one of the most prominent reasons for this task-shirking is that I feel like I should — somehow — be able to just skip all of that boring shit and get to the more palpably impressive achievements.

Which reminds me of something my sponsor related to me recently. When she was first getting sober, she was informed that maintaining sobriety is “the most important thing” she’ll ever do. At this, my sponsor scoffed. Surely, she thought, getting a show at a gallery in Chelsea or launching her own clothing line or buying a studio apartment were of far greater magnitude than abstinence from substances. But now, with a few years of clean time under her patent-leather-and-O-ring belt, she has come around to acknowledging that without the perhaps seemingly banal foundation of sobriety, those deceptively massive “surface” accomplishments — the hypothetical job, partner, opportunity, house, car, etc. that we think will solve all of our problems — would have nowhere to seek shelter.

It’s extremely easy for me to forget this: that the little daily moments — the ones only you are privy to, and in which you make seemingly the tiniest decisions — constitute, in all actuality, the majority of an entire life.

This is likely in part because over the past few years of presenting myself online as a persona more than a person (big difference), I have slowly and unwittingly started to believe my own bullshit — that being the careful curation of my existence, and that the instances deserving of emphasis are the creative, outlandish, and/or histrionic as opposed to the humble. Maidenfed, by design, excludes the largely tedious nature of everyday life’s punctuated equilibrium. In doing so, my maintenance of her/it and my reliance on the resultant validation are a constant diversion from the everyday actions that allow one to be a relatively stable, functioning human being.

Much of this is rooted in the fact that I spend most of my time reacting instead of operating with clearly defined intention. Just over the course of writing this, I’ve wandered off down digital dead ends more times than I care to count. When I’m thrown off of a shakily blueprinted course by a storm of anxiety, comparison, or regret — or all three — my already-wary commitment to the baseline-maintenance pursuits (eating, exercising, sleeping, cleaning, socializing, etc.) completely vanishes.

What it comes down to is this: I’m almost certainly going to be the only person who cares if I do or don’t do the quiet, solitary, uninteresting things that, somewhere in my mind, I know I should do if I want to have any sort of success, period. The gulf between knowing that and following through — occupied by a mile-high pile of digital mousetraps — needs to be re-acknowledged, re-assessed, and re-surmounted every single day.

So, is it truly worth doing if it doesn’t provide both immediate gratification/relief and similarly instant commendation…?

I’ll ponder that while I promptly post this to share with you all so that you can hopefully validate my self-worth a little bit more.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/on-invisible...

From The MAD (Misguided, Anxious, Deranged) Scientist Files: If You’re Framing It As “An Experiment,” It’s Probably A Poor Decision

Sober for 3 months? Time to call my dealer and test out if I can use just a little, here and there.

Bored of monogamy? Time to flip through the options on Tinder and hook up with whoever materializes, just to see how it makes me feel.

Jobless with no prospects, having had virtually no legal employment for years? Time to not do anything at all!!!!

Though I may fancy myself a vindictive, empowered mad scientist set to rid the world of useless skater boys by exacting medical revenge on their supple bodies, so far the only “experiments” I’ve carried out have been self-destructive ones that blew up in my face a la the classic science fair volcano. It’s invariably when restlessness sets in that I’ll have the brilliant idea to launch an exploratory expedition into what I think is “the unknown” — but is actually “the already-visited” and “the previously-unsatisfying,” albeit tweaked just enough so that I can delude myself into thinking it’s uncharted territory.

I guess everything I write until January 18th — my one-year sobriety date — is going to be primarily about that shit, so here I go again. Despite all the relapse horror stories and subsequent warnings I heard in rehab (“an addict can’t ever use ‘just a little,’ sorry”), I figured I could moderate my use post-outpatient because I wasn’t an addict; I was just depressed, and the persistent ketamine coma was merely a side effect. So I tried using only on weekends. Or only at night. Or only during sessions. Or only during sex. Or only… always. Dramatically flushing my remaining drugs down the toilet was a surrender and a relief, finally admitting to myself that I am, in fact, an addict — a textbook one, really. This doesn’t mean that I’ve accepted that I’ll never ever use again. But I’m also not clinging to the possibility that I will someday be able to.

However, I have begun to notice that this very common relapse justification of deluding myself into believing that I’m an external researcher conducting a meaningful experiment is a long-standing pattern for me. These very important, scholarly investigations spring up — without fail — in areas or circumstances only where other, more rational reasons for deciding to try something are mysteriously absent.

The most prominent example of this, besides substance abuse, is sex. I’ve really only ever been in open relationships, so I’ve never before had to choose between being with someone I truly care about and being free to [compulsively] pursue whoever I could hypothetically be “missing out” on. It’s around the three-month mark of any relationship that I tend to become quite overwrought and distressed by the oppressive possibility that there is someone else out there — somewhere — perhaps on a barren tundra — who is my true soulmate. With this conviction, I re-establish myself on a host of apps and dating sites to make myself available to this hunky enigma, should he mosey along. Also, I’ll often think it’s wise to set up my very sophisticated and professional Laboratory of Lust, so that I can drag some hapless dude in and find out — only with the strictest settings and foolproof control variables, of course — if I am actually satisfied by this genre of sexual encounter.

When it comes to the sorts of things, however, that are, you know, more objectively worth focusing on — health, work, cleanliness, etc. — I find that that resolute researcher is entirely dormant. And that’s undoubtedly because steady employment, a fiber-rich diet, and an organized pantry are not all that enthralling to me.

But being able to at least begin to learn how to slow down the progression from impulse to follow-through — and recognize why my brain has decided to choose the framework of “vital experimental research” as opposed to “logical task to complete” — can hopefully curb some of these more self- and livelihood-eviscerating tendencies.

Now hand me my scalpel so I can cut off this male model’s testicles.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/from-the-mad...

If You’re Down, That Must Mean I’m Up: A Brief Investigation Into My History of Compulsively Surrounding Myself With People I Consider Inferior

From here on out, when I write “inferior,” it is not an objective fact, but rather my often-warped perception of the overall quality of an individual’s life up until the point when we intersect (as well as the prospects his future holds). Also if you’re reading this and think it’s about you, it’s probably not because just about everyone I’m thinking of as I write this has blocked me or been blocked :)

I could count on one hand (make that one finger, if we’re being honest) the number of relationships I’ve been in, in which my partner had his shit together — in any sense of the phrase. Of course it could easily be argued that anyone in their [early] twenties is going to be a bit lost and uncertain of their desired direction; this certainly has been true for me and most people I know. But whenever I would be confronted with peers who were on an at least somewhat-defined path and were productive “members of society” (whatever that means), I instantly felt my insecurities lactate up and over. So in order to push them back down to a manageable level, I got the fuck away from these successful — in career, education, love, social status — nuisances as quickly as possible.

I chose my partners with the same motivation that I chose my drug, my hobbies, and pretty much everything else: to escape reality. To spend more than a few fleeting moments with anyone who wasn’t dedicated to doing the same exact thing was rather unbearable. I couldn’t deal with a constant reminder of the fact that there are indeed people out there who have hunkered down and 1) accepted their natural human limitations within society, and 2) found joy, serenity, and/or wealth via this mentality.

When I entered into my ill-fated relationship with the Abercrombie Sociopath, I was able to reconcile my perceived inequality in physical attractiveness between us with the fact that his life was in shambles. He had recently dropped out of college, was unemployed, and was in the process of moving back in with his parents; he was also abusing Klonopin daily. I thought I’d struck cock gold: a beautiful dude who seemed just as dedicated to rejecting responsibilities and real life as I was. My first trip to visit him down south — via Greyhound because there was no way I’d make it through security at an airport with all the controlled substances I was packing — consisted of us shacking up in a cabin in the mountains for a week, snorting an array of white powders. It was just as hazy and pastel as a dream sequence on television. When it all came to an end, being forced to leave my “One True Love” for the harsh fist that is reality proved an insurmountable challenge; I shrunk down to a gaunt, crude facsimile of myself.

I think it’s important to note that, for the most part, my seeking out these “inferior” specimens did not stem from an urge to “fix” them — whether for their betterment or as a distraction from my own cornucopia of issues. Rather, I preferred to keep them exactly where they were so that I could continue to enjoy a very slight feeling of superiority. Like a bullshit jewel-encrusted throne elevated only an inch — if that — above the plebeians. And although I can’t recall a time I’ve ever directly meddled in a partner’s affairs — sending malicious texts or emails, stealing from them, etc. — I’ve certainly quietly rejoiced in their failures and less quietly begrudged their successes.

But what I am slowly coming around to realizing in sobriety is that happiness and success (the definitions of which remain shaky to me) are — shockingly — not finite resources. Nevertheless, I am aware that when I’m faced with good things happening in the lives of those around me, my natural immediate reaction is resentment; beneath that, though, is a gurgling swamp of fear. The biggest, haunting thought is: Will I ever catch up? And, related: Am I ever going to figure out what I want to do and who I want to be? And who with? And where? And when? And how? I want to have it all figured out NOW and seeing others with what I want (or seem to have what I want, and I don’t even know what the fuck it is I want anyhow) reminds me that I am not where — or who — I want to be yet.

Reflecting on this has confirmed what I have believed to be true for the 8 months since I last used: this mindset and approach of clinging to a feeling of preeminence whenever I could got me absolutely nowhere worth being and nothing worth having.

Time to try something new.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/if-youre-dow...

“I’m Just So Intrigued By You”: A Reflection on Being the Quasi-Human Who Dudes Fuck Right Before They Get a Real Girlfriend

Disclaimer: I am fully aware that I have created and cultivated a persona that has often isolated rather than freed me. Now that I am much more in control over my mental faculties than I have been in years, I am attempting to show the entirety of myself as a human being rather than just the shields I’ve used to keep everyone at a distance. This essay examines that armor and where it’s gotten me thus far.

In the years since I graduated college (during which I was in a long-term, open relationship), I have noticed a disturbing pattern: I seem to have become the girl dudes hook up with — and are “fascinated” by — directly before they enter into a serious relationship. I cannot downplay my role in this phenomenon, though, because to do so would be to completely disregard how my approach to sexual/romantic connections has totally fucking backfired on me.

For most of my life, I have been a decidedly insecure, miserable human being. My utter lack of experience with the opposite sex growing up transformed into a compulsion to “make up for lost time” and simultaneously prove my worth — specifically in terms of attractiveness and desirability (See: “Late-Blooming Girls and the Fatal Lure of the Male Model”). During college, I consistently pursued other options of the male persuasion separate from my relationship, stemming from a need to both compete with my boyfriend (note: if you think there’s a “winner” in a non-monogamous partnership, you’re probably not cut out for it) and to ensure that I was appealing to more than just one boy.

And so I dabbled… and straddled.

But it wasn’t until about two years ago — when Maidenfed was birthed from a concoction of ennui, curiosity, and imagination — that the disheartening trend of being perceived as a sexual, seemingly inanimate novelty really kicked off.

Maidenfed became a perfect — or so it seemed at the time — solution to my utter confusion about how to present myself to males. First, it served as a built-in elimination process; if a dude had an issue with whatever it was that I was doing as this incarnation, then I probably didn’t want to waste my time on him anyway. Also, because I have always been prone to neurotically comparing myself to others (particularly women), I figured that Maidenfed was a surefire way to make it instantly clear to everyone just how interesting and worthwhile I am. And by immediately shoving this persona in to a potential romantic candidate’s face, I felt that I was avoiding that cumbersome, often tedious getting-to-know-you process.

As such, I tended to hook up with dudes straightaway, and then sometimes a relationship would develop after that initial bedroom romp. But I consistently led with sex. Maybe because it was easy, maybe because I actually have a higher-than-average sex drive, maybe because my father didn’t pay enough attention to me growing up. Maybe all of the above.

At some point, I started to notice that I would often get eschewed a few weeks or months into this dalliance with a text informing me that the boy in question had “started seeing someone.” My first thought would be, “am I not someone? Were you not seeing me?” Then I would scroll through our text history — noting that the majority of the exchanges were nudes and sexts — and my heart would sink. The inner, self-punishing monologue would commence: “Did I really do this again? I actually liked this one, too…”

I recently hooked up with a boy who I had first met in 2014 — an event I had no recollection of (sorry, Adam). His reminiscence about the encounter rattled me. Essentially, I had strutted in to the Brooklyn bar armed with a list of fucking bizarre and invasive questions that I proceeded to interrogate him with. Then, when we went back to my apartment afterwards, I abruptly asked if he was going to make out with me, which prompted him to book it the hell out of there. He told me that the encounter had a “profound effect” on him, and had caused him to completely rethink what it was that he was looking for, because it “definitely wasn’t that.”

Hearing this tale from my past mainly just made me laugh, but it was also a disconcerting reminder that — regardless of the perhaps somewhat unjustified perceptions of boys I’ve been intimate with — I am the singular, overworked parent of my own fate. This all began because I wanted to transform myself in to something not fully human, so that when I got rejected or cheated on or admonished or abused, it wouldn’t affect me like it would a true flesh-and-blood organism. But despite the efforts I made to encase myself in a protective, seductive exoskeleton in order to avoid heartbreak, I unwittingly opened the gates to a whole new battalion of inadequacies and renunciations.

After the Sociopath Ex-Boyfriend Shitstorm of 2015, I re-entered this primitive armor — which I had abandoned during our relationship, allowing my most vulnerable parts to be preyed upon — and molded it into its most complete manifestation of itself. The previously missing pieces were filled (somewhat haphazardly) by relentless drug use until the whole masterpiece came crashing the fuck down.

Six months sober, I go back and forth on this. I definitely still romanticize the concept of making myself into a character less easily demolished than my human version, but I’m also realizing the impossibility of successfully transmuting into an untouchable, pedestal-topping alien queen. Finally accepting reality and my fragile place within it has been — and will undoubtedly continue to be — the most challenging aspect of early sobriety.

All I know is that a simple object cannot change as much as I have, so I must be something more.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/im-just-so-i...

Drug Addiction and the Lasting Curse of Immediate Gratification

During my fun little stint as a full-time addict, my entire life revolved around immediate gratification: drugs and sex, in that order. I did what I had to do to make the most money possible in the shortest amount of time. Those funds went directly to my dealer. I would snort lines for most of the day, crouched alone in my room with a growling stomach and a pounding brain. Many nights, when I felt somewhat sane — by my own distorted standards — I would invite someone over to temporarily relieve my overwhelming loneliness with his dick. I was completely dissociated for most of these encounters; I figured “if the sex is shit, at least I’m high.”

Those two activities occupied the vast majority of my time. On the days I had to actually leave my room to go to my psychiatrist, the subway ride from Bed-Stuy to the Upper West Side felt like a motorized march to the gallows. I cemented my status as Crying Girl on Public Transportation that summer — a title I still often live up to to this day, but thankfully not as consistently. Although she was well-intentioned, I felt extremely judged by my psychiatrist; one day I remember I was on the phone with her trying to explain why I hadn’t shown up to my appointment while simultaneously texting my dealer my coordinates.

My sole vocation consisted of using — and gathering the cash to do so — in order to alleviate my crushing gloom. There was no long-term planning or hopeful daydreaming or excited anticipating. I felt I had to immediately quell my hopelessness as opposed to actually feeling and grappling with it, which turned out to be a Sisyphean labor.

Up until very recently, I’ve been the type of person who has sought to do the bare minimum to get by and get shit over with, so I could maximize my free time (not that I would do anything productive — I just wanted as many opportunities as possible to stew in my misery). In high school and college, I rarely studied; good grades came without much effort. When I would write an essay, I’d wait until the last possible minute to start it, then churn out some eloquent bullshit and send it to the professor without bothering to proofread. I wanted to simply stay under everyone’s radars so that I could self-destruct without being a nuisance to those around me.

And up until I weighed well under 100 pounds and finally gave up, I succeeded in keeping my addiction relatively under wraps.

Now that I’m over four months sober — after several relapses post-rehab — and the “simple” abstinence from substances has become ingrained, it’s become time for decisions and plans and schemes and relationships(?) and classes and jobs and savings accounts. But when the effort put into these meaningful tasks doesn’t produce instantaneous and spectacular results, I find it exceedingly difficult to find within me the resolve to persist. The sad fact is that I’ve never really developed a work ethic, and my addiction only served to further entrench my dependence on immediate gratification to feel fulfilled.

My DBT therapist made an observation back when I was in my first couple of weeks of sobriety that seriously fucking blew my mind. We were discussing the variety of people in my inpatient program, and how many of them were much older and had lost jobs, spouses, or children on account of their addictions. I remarked that I almost wished I had lost something(s) concrete and quantifiable, like others had, because then getting clean had a very tangible and obvious goal. And she said, “You have to basically just have faith that it’s worthwhile, because it’s not about what you’ve lost — it’s everything you haven’t gained.”

This has been another installment of “Life in Early Sobriety is Really Fucking Weird and Difficult.”

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/drug-addicti...

Late-Blooming Girls and the Fatal Lure of the Male Model

Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that this essay is probably going to make me sound like a shallow hag, but just to be clear, I do not base my relationships on physical appearance alone. I wrote this primarily to grapple with how my complete bafflement when it comes to my own physicality affects how I react to others’ flesh suits.

One thing my therapists (and psychiatrists and social workers and parents and friends) have consistently praised me for is my self-awareness. I’m pretty fucking good at observing, naming, and dissecting my issues, and I always have been. But this doesn’t necessarily feel like a trait to applaud, since that awareness is almost never entwined with an ability to actually address and remedy the flaws. Rather, I ruminate on them and hide and cry…and take a hot bath that immediately puts me to sleep so that I can just end the goddamn day and give myself a break.

Which brings me to a realization I’ve come to about myself relatively recently. Because I was largely ignored by the opposite sex in my adolescence, I have a thing for dudes younger than me. Not children. But on the legal side of the teenage years through early twenties. It’s largely centered on pretty skater boys, since they encapsulate the ultimate ideal I could never hope to attract during my decade-long “awkward phase.” I wasn’t even deemed interesting enough in middle and high school to be teased or bullied; I was simply overlooked. So I’ve created a sort of revenge fantasy, in which I capture the current-day avatars of this specific breed — with their flaxen shoulder-grazing locks and lanky limbs — and wreak havoc on their stupid bodies and useless lives.

But let’s take a step or two back (unless you’re reading this on a skateboard; in which case I hope you do a really difficult trick to impress your imaginary fans and fall on your ass and die). Basically, I’ve become fascinated and often hopelessly ensnared by male beauty. I think this also has roots in the fact that I grew up with very few male characters in my life. I had no male cousins or family friends who were my contemporaries, and up until college, I was too shy around boys to wrangle any, even as platonic friends. So there’s always been this kind of intrigue around males my age, as though they constitute another species entirely. My knowledge in this area is — and always has been — almost comically lacking. Positively gaping, really. (Insert joke about gaping and destroying a skater boy’s asshole that I’m too lazy to come up with here.) Thus, the combination of this — in my mind — exotic populace with intoxicating physical beauty usually renders me incoherent.

So when my most recent ex — who will henceforth be referred to as “The Abercrombie Sociopath” because his name does not deserve utterance/keystrokes — popped up on Tinder and expressed a pointed interest in meeting me, I was flabbergasted. Here was this all-American, stereotypically handsome-as-fuck skater dude, with muscles (new for me), one of the squarest jaws I’ve ever seen this side of Johnny Bravo, and long, freshly bleached hair (my #1 weakness in boys, after tiny nipples on a sinewy chest)… and he was texting me nonstop to meet up. Regardless of how I look now (and I honestly feel like I have no idea what I look like, period), I am still invariably shocked when a male paragon of beauty hits on me. I immediately revert to the gangly, horse-faced pubescent incarnation of myself circa Bat Mitzvah season ‘03.

Looking back, my fascination with this dashing sociopath’s physicality was a major factor in why I stayed with him despite the painfully bright red flags that appeared in an exponential curve over the course of our relationship. Anywhere and everywhere we went, he was treated with a sort of reverence that I would have considered bizarre and harrowing if I hadn’t shared it. And this awe didn’t just come from women; it was actually more obvious in men, especially the good ol’ Southern boys who populated his Tennessee suburb. While I felt somewhat slighted that I seemed doomed to be the less attractive half of the couple, I was simultaneously filled with pride that this straight-up hunk had confessed his love to me and had chosen me to spend his precious time with.

Of course, as his pseudonym suggests, he turned out to be the worst fucking person I’ve ever encountered and our traumatic breakup prompted my downward spiral into drug addiction. (See: "The Post-Rehab Blues: When the Absence of Failure No Longer Feels Like Success.")

Once I regained clarity, though, I was able to poke through the maze of the ill-fated, disastrous relationship with my rejuvenated self-awareness operating at its full potential. And I basically realized that I allowed myself to be manipulated for months and months because inside, I’m often still a gangly brace-face nerd who gawks at the type of boy I pined for growing up.

Now, a year later — with a begrudging hat-tip to the Abercrombie Sociopath — I am not going to allow this inner, slighted mini-me to be sucked in by any dude with the type of cheekbones that look like he’s been sucking on a lemon for days. Instead, I’m choosing to channel this weird energy into the development of my alter-ego: a sultry mad scientist who — seeking revenge for her years of being cruelly disregarded by skater boys — abducts her local skatepark’s delinquents and takes them back to her diabolical laboratory, where she performs experiments on them that most assuredly violate the Hippocratic Oath.

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/late-bloomin...

The Post-Rehab Blues: When the Absence of Failure No Longer Feels Like Success

It probably isn’t news to most of you, but I was in rehab this fall, after I finally realized I was at a point where I could not attend to even my most basic needs.

From June to late August of 2015, I was barely eating or bathing, living in filth, and doing sex work in a self-destructive capacity [it is important that I make this distinction, because I do not want to add to a canon of uninformed bullshit about sex work being necessarily, inherently self-destructive. I have done sex work under conditions that did not have an adverse effect on my mental health, but this period was different. I was doing it solely to get money for drugs, which I would then use during sessions, creating a crippling ouroboros]. During this Summer of Squalor, I did everything I could to just barely get by so that I could keep the severity of my near-catatonic depression and debilitating drug use to myself and not worry anyone. I had — or so I thought at the time — successfully whittled my support system down to a group as skeletal as my hunched, wearied body.

In the months before this, I had been consumed by a long-distance relationship with someone who I thought was the love of my life, but turned out to be “just” a beautiful sociopath. My obsession with this person caused me to focus on our manipulative dynamic to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. So when he abandoned me — literally drove off and never spoke to me again — I felt an overwhelming guilt that I now needed these people who I had eschewed during our brief but catastrophic relationship. (It turned out that most of them could not be gotten rid of that easily, which I am more grateful for than I can express.) Then there was the feeling of being a burden on my parents; I felt overwhelmingly guilty since I had been doing nothing with the college degree they had spent an ungodly amount of money furnishing.

One day in late summer, I made an attempt to dodge this emotionally devastating flotsam and jetsam by actually venturing out of the room in my sublet apartment I had been holed up in (the fact that it came with its own bathroom ensured I barely left; no need to go down to the kitchen when you’re not eating at all). My friend convinced me to go to Coney Island with him. It seemed like the thing farthest removed from the bleakness of our respective rooms (each its own contained chaos, unbearable but familiar) as possible. When I think about this day now, I can’t help but cry. I weighed well under 100 pounds at that point, and I remember bringing this new tiny bright yellow bikini because I thought it would cheer me up to wear something ridiculous. Instead, seeing people’s reactions (and the pictures we took for Instagram) to my emaciated body made me so distraught and confused and helpless. The other thing that sticks out the most — besides my ribs, har har — was the seemingly insurmountable task of consuming an entire Nathan’s hot dog. I watched my friend scarf down two, while I struggled to nibble my own, ketamine-nauseous the whole time. When I returned home to my apartment that night, I felt so unbelievably drained — like I had tried to muster up any bit of positivity I hadn’t lost with all the fat and muscle mass, and there was officially nothing left.

 

It was shortly after this that I figured it was about fucking time I do something about clawing my way out of the hellhole I’d fallen into. My psychiatrist had been recommending DBT to me for years, so I finally made an appointment for an intake evaluation at a DBT-based outpatient program. Once I spilled my guts to them about my substance abuse, though, they told me that they couldn’t admit me until I was sober. But instead of taking any steps toward at least cutting down my use, I instead took that stipulation as the green light for me to completely give up and devote myself entirely to my addiction.

That didn’t last long, luckily. I don’t remember exactly what happened that made me call my mom and tell her I needed to go to a full-fledged rehab facility. But I do remember the state I was in right before I was taken there, because I have video footage of it. I put on my red latex mask for no reason, snorted all of my K, and filmed myself incoherently babbling and crying. This was the most “creative,” “productive” thing I had done in months.

Shortly thereafter, I was in the Acute Care Unit for a week before being transferred to the four-week inpatient program. I met a new best friend, I made everyone uncomfortable by discussing sex work, and I played a lot of tennis.

But this isn’t about what rehab was like, how difficult it was, or if I fucked anyone there (I didn’t). It’s about the surreality of getting out and realizing that everything still exists, but you don’t — at least, not in the way you did before.

— — — — — —

The first hardest thing once I got out was looking at my phone. I had been in a social network-free zone for a while, and now I was being confronted with the fact that all of these characters had continued to live and progress and — so it seemed — succeed in their own individual productions. I’ve always been prone to compulsively comparing myself to others’ curated lives; when I was in the throes of my addiction, I could spend a full day doing lines and falling into an Instagram black hole, wondering how I could ever catch up to these impressive strangers. So after spending five weeks in a bubble in which the only other people were ones with similarly crumbling personal infrastructures, that feeling of having fallen too far behind — even newly sober with an aftercare plan and “on the right track” — immediately knocked me on my ass.

The second hardest thing after rehab was having to reassess just about all of my relationships. I knew that a substantial amount of people had to go — that they were either a risk to my sobriety and mental health, or had very little interest in my new incarnation, or both. The knowledge that I was doing what was best for myself was tainted with almost unbearable loneliness (which I’m still grappling with).

The third hardest thing was that I was still in denial about being an addict. While in rehab, I was in the program for “mental illness,” meaning I wasn’t technically required to attend the nightly NA/AA meetings. But I went to them all anyway, mainly because there was so little to do there; the twice-a-week “open” meetings also allowed a brief glance into the outside world, as members of the local community would attend. So even though by all appearances I was coming to terms with being an addict, I was actually constantly going through a list of excuses in my head as to why I had been using so much. The #1 method of denial came in the form of blaming it all on my trauma and the consequent, demolishing depression. My use was simply a side-effect of my being so miserable, I told myself over and over and fucking over again. It wasn’t until I completed my outpatient program (which came with built-in drug testing) and relapsed a countless number of times did I decide: “oh fuck, they were right. I’m an addict.” I thought I would just test myself, see if I could use a little, here and there, now that I was “all better.” It turned out that every relapse story you hear in NA is true; it’s virtually impossible for an addict to recreationally use.

But what has been — by far — the most difficult for me in this strange in-between realm of early sobriety has been that I have convinced myself I cannot afford to waste any more time, period. I’m so terrified of making the wrong decision — in virtually any area, but especially career and education — that I find myself consistently paralyzed and instead make no decision whatsoever. When I was using, I had such tunnel vision that the only path I could see was to continue to get more and more fucked up, and scrounge for the money to do so. Now that I can see how many options actually exist, I don’t see how I can possibly select one.

The other day, my DBT therapist had me look at my resume for the first time since August (when I had desperately applied to a host of positions in a frenzy of anxiety, only got one interview, and showed up so physically and emotionally shattered that I left sobbing). All those feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and hopelessness came surging back, and this time I didn’t have an instant escape to line up and snort. I was sitting next to my old dying cat — who I’ve had since childhood — and just totally fucking lost it.

How can I make myself commit to something if it turns out to be the wrong thing? It doesn’t feel like an accomplishment anymore to “just” be sober.

Stay tuned, I guess...

Source: https://medium.com/@maidenfed/the-post-reh...