I am announcing the publication of a brand new zine, “Unhealthy”: On Coping wiht Pain in Socially Inappropriate Ways. It is a very personal zine about negative strategies to cope with the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. It is written from the perspective that the “trauma industry” of psychiatry, self-help books, therapy groups, etc. alienate some (possibly many) survivors when they glorify individualistic internalization of positivity, optimism, and hope as normative. The title comes from performance artist Penny Arcade’s famous line from the show “Bad Reputation”:
being a bad girl is not about wearing too much makeup,
too short skirts, or fishnet stockings
it’s about being cut out, and left out of the society
because you can’t handle the pain in your life
in a way the society thinks is appropriate
so you’re mute with rage, you act out, you’re bad
From the introduction:
i have been making zines for about ten years, mostly on social and political issues that affect me and my friends. this zine also addresses an urgent social and political issue that impacts me and too many people that i know, but it is much more personal than anything else i’ve created in the past. that is: this zine deals with the topic of childhood sexual abuse and its continuing impact in my and other survivors’ lives.
this zine also challenges ways in which social service industry and the anti-violence movement have promoted a singular mode of “healing,” the cult of compulsory positivity, that does not work for some survivors.
for many years, i had difficulty expressing why i despise “affirmations” and other exercises designed to improve our self-esteem, or the whole notion of “healing” that presumes a “healed” state to which i am expected to aspire to. people haven’t been receptive to my objections, and suggested that i either needed to try a little bit harder, or that i was “not ready” to heal just yet. “don’t worry, it is a hard work but you will get there when it’s time.” i found these comments invalidating and patronizing, but didn’t know how to respond.
this zine is an attempt to formulate a response to these challenges and to connect with other survivors who also feel invalidated and excluded by people and institutions that are supposed to help us. i also hope that this zine might in some remote way inform people in the helping professions as well as those of us whose loved ones, family members, and friends are survivors of abuse (that should include all of us, whether or not you realize) understand survivors’ (or at least some survivors’) experiences better. i hope that this zine helps them become better at supporting survivors who use survival strategies that involve negativity, defeatism, withdrawal, lowered expectations, hopelessness, pessimism, emptiness, ambivalence, contradictions, self-injury, indecision, inappropriate feelings, passivity, masochism, silence, substance use and abuse, promiscuity, melancholy, and other so-called “unhealthy” or “maladaptive” behaviors some (or most) of the time.
this zine definitely isn’t for everybody or for every survivor. i wrote it because i feel that it might help someone somewhere (possibly just me) feel less crazy, and might lead to a fuller societal understanding and appreciation of survivors’ resilience in whatever ways it may manifest. but this zine could be a double-edged sward: if for any reason you feel that reading this zine might make it more difficult for you to survive rather than less, i ask that you trust your intuition and refrain from reading on, even as i explore and embrace counter-intuitive approaches to survival.
I want to make this zine accessible to other survivors who is interested in reading it, but I don’t want to put it for download or order online: it’s too personal for that mode of distribution. For now, there are three ways to get hold of this zine: 1. I will be carrying some copies on me at one of my presentations or other public events I attend (Seattle Spit this week, for example); 2. If you already know me personally, email or facebook message me; 3. If you don’t know me personally but you still want a copy, get to know me by emailing me and telling me why you want a copy.
I apologise for inconvenience…