self awareness

Scrutiny

Content Warning: abortion, trauma

Today, I read this great piece from Black Girl Dangerous on trauma. I don’t know why, but it still chokes me up to even hear about trauma. I feel like that is an indicator that clearly, I am not yet over the traumas in my life yet.

Coincidentally, I’m in a weird place right now with my hair. For those of you who don’t know, I chopped all my hair off after I got an abortion in December. In those first few weeks afterwards, I couldn’t stand having my hair any more. I couldn’t stand all the memories stored in it. I couldn’t stand all the feelings I had associated with it. So I symbolically pressed the restart button on my life and chopped off about 20 inches. I went from having around 2 feet of thick, black hair to having a really close pixie cut.

I trimmed it regularly, so it would be longer now if I had just let it grow. I decided to stop trimming in May, around the time that I graduated. It hasn’t grown too much, but the length is starting to show. The hair has grown over my ears, and I have to clip the back frequently so that I don’t have a mullet. It’s a weird, shaggy phase. My hair has not been this length since I was around 4 years old.

And this dissatisfaction with my hair is also symbolic. I literally cut it off as a marker of a trauma, as a reminder to myself of how long it takes to heal. Now I wish I had my long hair back. It’s almost as though my brain would like to convince my body of something it knows is not true. I am almost my normal self again. Almost. I am very convincing to other people, and that is so dangerous because then I start to believe the lie. I say hi to all my friends. I correspond with employers. I help out around the house without complaining. I did the therapy, I dealt with the emotions, I did all the reconnecting with my inner self stuff for four months. My brain insists, shouldn’t I be done with this by now? Haven’t I done everything I was supposed to do?

It is frustrating that it takes so long, but I know in my heart that I am not yet over it.

I know because–and that’s just it–I am still not normal for me. I still don’t like being out in public. It causes numerous, inexplicable anxieties. That is not normal for me. I feel satisfied sleeping all day. I feel satisfied staying in the house all day. I have barely done any physical activity all summer, when I’m usually so active. That is not normal for me.

I suddenly realized, my reaction to scrutiny has also gotten worse, which is probably the biggest indicator that I am not back to normal yet, even now.

First off, I should name that I have never been comfortable with scrutiny. I cannot remember how long I have felt that way, but if I had an RC community to go to where I am, that would probably be an area I need to work on. I think scrutiny can go under the general category of surveillance, something that many people with marginalized identities experience. Surveillance happens in a number of ways: policing of clothes, behavior and speech; storing information without indication for use later as blackmail (or other purposes); expecting people to behave a certain way even when no one is watching; the list goes on.

It should be noted, in my opinion, any person who puts another person under surveillance of any kind is being abusive and manipulative.

I use the word “scrutiny” very intentionally, though. The word “scrutiny” comes from the Latin word “scrutari” which literally means “to search.” Thus, my both founded and unfounded fear is that people who scrutinize me are searching for my weaknesses, searching for ways to exploit my vulnerability.

I think the founded fear comes from generally existing as a woman of color, especially in interactions with men. As soon as a creepy man starts asking me too many questions (and this has happened so many countless times), I start lying. While this is great for keeping me safe from creepy men who walk up to me in the street, it may not be so helpful when, say, my supervisor asks me why I have changed my hours. Or when my parents ask me what I’m doing next week on Tuesday. Or when people who care about me ask reasonable questions because they are concerned with my safety, and I lie to them because deep down, I am terrified that some unknown entity will hunt me down.

Then, the fear becomes unfounded.

I was thinking today, the best thing in the world is freedom. I don’t mean in that silly patriotic sense. I mean specifically, I wish I was free from scrutiny. I wish I had the money for my own living space and a car so that I could do whatever I want and go wherever I want without people wondering what I am doing. I wish I could run my house however I wanted without having to deal with other people’s rules about how clean or dirty it is. I wish I didn’t have to answer to someone else about how I am using my money, what I spend my time doing, what my body looks like, what I’m wearing, who I’m talking to, or where I’m going all the time. These are all things that different people have all kept track of at different times in my life. I think that is such a huge distinguishing factor between having dominant identiti(es) and having marginalized one(s). I doubt a white man experiences the kind of scrutiny that I do walking down the street. At the same time, I probably experience less scrutiny than say, a homeless person.

Simultaneously, I would also love to be free from the fear I have of scrutiny. I wish I could trust people and their intentions enough to not go into full fight-or-flight mode every time someone asks me a question. It is a trauma reaction, so the fear comes from an incapacity I have at the moment: an inability to trust people, and a fundamental lack of faith in the world. That’s really sad for a person who used to be an ENFP at one point. Personally, I don’t believe it is a natural state for human beings to lack trust, to lack faith in humanity. So it’s a sad thing for me to admit I have neither. It makes me even more sad that we live in a world where gaining both back may take the same amount of time as it does for 20 inches of hair to sprout from my head. Trust does not disappear without a good reason.

 

 

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