PCT Day 17 – 20

📍on unceded sdukʷalbixʷ land

Day 17, 7/14/2019

14.6 miles

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Trooper, Rook and I get a great hitch from Skykomish to the trail at Stevens Pass with a guy who is just getting done with a backpack. He gives us coffee and packages of shot blocks! I’m thrilled and feel like I’ve won the hitch lottery. What a great way to start a section!

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Today felt like a totally different day hiking. For the first time in a week, I felt safe on trail, held by the queer folx around me. Trooper introduced herself to someone on trail and used her pronouns and her support in that moment allowed me to state mine, too. I didn’t realize I needed that support. I didn’t realize I needed someone else to do that. I feel I now have the strength to introduce my trail name and my pronouns together and that feels fucking awesome.

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As I hiked I felt more in my body and more on the trail than I have all trail. The question still returns of, “why am I doing this and not something more restful?” I’ve had that question come up a few times. I wonder if I’ll get off trail at some point due to this question or if it’s just due to the constant physical difficulty. At the same time, I was fully on the trail today. I was so aware of my hike, so aware of my surroundings, able to drop in like I haven’t so far. I felt safe and more than that, at home for the first time on trail. Like I am in the place and with the people I specifically need to do this trail with right now. After begging the universe/divine queer all last week I feel like I was heard and given the queer support I need at this moment. The nagging straight-ness of this trail is really overwhelming.

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We camp by a lake and I camp next to Rook and Trooper and Bounce and Soups. It feels comfortable. We are companionable with one another and I show Rook and Trooper my pouch of things from my friends that’s my “cheat” weight item. The best cheat weight item(s) ever, to be honest. The pouch has gotten me thru a lot.

Day 18, 7/15

22 miles

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I enjoy the first part of the day talking with Trooper about coming out stories etc. Lots of climbing and lots of sharing. The thing that stands out most is when I share about last week and Trooper says, “That sounds like it was traumatizing, honestly.” For someone who knows trauma so well, I feel like I would have noticed this earlier. Because yes, it was traumatizing. As she says it I recognize the feeling of absolutely being trapped, no recourse, trying to survive… i feel grateful to my body and soul for what it did to help me through.

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I so appreciate Trooper for the accomplice she’s been on trail and I can feel that is why I’m scared to lose this group and to lose her company. So the second part of the day that’s been in my face. I’m afraid because I see the group dynamics. Two couples who have been together from the beginning and a couple of us queer stragglers. This makes the desire to fight to prove myself arise. I remind myself I have nothing to prove, I can just be myself and either I’ll stay with this group or I won’t. Sometimes that happens, you know? At the same time, I’m so scared and I can feel myself withdrawing out of fear. It’s a very young feeling, I recognize that quickly. And it’s so so painful. It began early and then was reconfirmed over and over through my life. Scared of others liking other people more than me, or not finding me important, or being left behind, or being left at all. This is very deep. I hate it and yet I find myself grateful for its appearance so I can start holding this sacred part of myself.

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In this fear, I quickly find myself totally awash in grief missing Rachel and feeling extremely resentful that the thing and person I cared about most was taken from me. And every time I feel a relationship threatened this is where I go. It’s excruciating especially on top of a 22 mile day. Internally I feel I can’t handle it. I can’t take it.

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There’s an older part of me that knows it’s okay, and I’ll hike what I hike and do what I can. I can’t make people like me. I can only do my best. And I’m too old to try. Maybe I won’t keep up with the queer folks. Maybe I will. It’s too early to say. I’m scared about if I can’t, but I can’t control everything. I think and decide that maybe if it’s too much I’ll get off trail and go see my dear friend Danielle.

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It feels like the more I hike, the more layers of grief are uncovered and I don’t know how to handle that. Each hard day unravels a new layer in me. Each hard day breaks my body down to its grief and it’s excruciating and hard..

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Do I even want to finish this hike? Today the answer is yes. I just hurt, and hurt, and hurt, and I’m afraid my hurt will destroy my relationships because I cling out of such extreme fear of loss.

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I wrote this in my tent exhausted after 22 miles and flying into camp on a wave of caffeine. The terrain wasn’t the hardest I’ve done, just long. And I feel that in my body, bringing all this grief to the surface.

Day 19, 7/16

20.7 miles

I’ve lost track of the date – I had to look that up!

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Today started hard again. I’m still in my feels about maybe not belonging with this group or being left behind or not mattering. Something along those lines. I could tell it was the young part of me getting all in their pain, so I just did the next thing – hike. I got up at 5, rounded up all my things, and was on trail with water filtered by 6:30. Mostly everyone passed me on the big climb, and that felt painful, a nail in my feeling coffin. I let the part of me feeling terrible grief just have at it and gasp cried up the hill. Sometimes you gasp cry up hills while through hiking. Even when the ascent is actually one of your favorite ascents yet – lovely and switchbacked and a perfectly sloped uphill. Sometimes even then you cry up the hill and acknowledge the beauty even as your throat closes around a “fist of loss” (Andrea Gibson).

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I didn’t expect thru hiking to bring up so many fucking feelings. It’s like moving your body does that or something – ha. It’s beautiful out here and I feel myself settling into the rhythm. With that rhythm though it’s like my body vomits my issues up for me to sift through. It’s beautiful and terrifying.

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After letting myself gasp cry up the hill, calm came over me. It was the rational adult sort of calm, a bit closeminded but doing what I could to keep going. Rationally, I am clear on all sorts of things about the multiple situations triggering me. I can see that perhaps in this group of people, connections are already set. That doesn’t mean anything about my worthiness – sometimes I do this with my own connections. It’s natural to enjoy some people’s company over others (I’ve gotten this more since turning 30 at the beginning of the year and tbh this understanding is so useful). It also doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt me or affect me, or that my feelings are invalid. I can see both these things and let them both be true. I can think clearly and try to act more like an adult, while still trying to acknowledge the pain. I can see multiple sides to the situation and I’m not as reactive.

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I stop for water with everyone in the fragile area. I think of the irony of the naming of this space as fragile, feeling the reflection in my body. It’s first lunch for the group. Mosquitoes have found me to be their favorite feast and they munch on my legs. I have to get up and leave; my legs are burning and burn for at least 30 minutes. Maybe I hate mosquitoes more than rain.

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Today was also gorgeous. Lots of high elevation walking and stunning views. We climbed 2 passes and both climbs felt like a breeze, rhythmic. Maybe I’m getting my hiker legs? Neither climb was easy but I felt good and in my body. The second climb, I was far ahead of everyone, lost in my feelings yet again and trying to walk them out. Anger this time, though. It gave me such strength and speed uphill and I just let it carry me. Finally I popped out of the internal firestorm. I took a break and sat down to gaze at the mountain next to where I was switchbacking up a pass. I sat there a good 5 minutes admiring this beautiful mountain. “I’m really out here,” I thought. “I’m really walking the PCT and taking in this gorgeous view.” It’s been slow to sink in with the emotional turmoil this past bit, but I’m slowly getting into trail rhythm and realizing – I’m out here and doing the thing. Damn.

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I realize I feel safe out here and with the people I’m with, unlike last week where nothing felt safe and I felt like I was in emotional hell. This week I’ve felt like I could take things in better because I’ve felt more held. Even with the fears around maybe not belonging, I feel more deeply able to be here because of these queer folx, and I’m so very deeply grateful.

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I looked at the mountain name and in English it was The Three Queens, and that felt significant somehow.

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I was in a good rhythm the rest of the climb and my feelings stopped overtaking so much. I stayed in the awe of being on trail, being here, doing this.

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When we got to camp, the mosquitoes were horrible. My morale took a dive after the earlier mosquito debacle. I tried to sit and cook dinner and wait for the others. But I had to give up. “Waist Deep, I’m just gonna go sit in my tent, I can’t do this,” I told her. I was miserable and itchy and paranoid. I took my mountain house meal, a hikerbox find, back to my tent. I systematically killed all the mosquitoes that had gotten into my tent, somewhere like 10-12 in all. After that I could finally relax and eat. Trooper came to check on me after the meal, and the check in settled something in me. “Maybe I belong. Maybe,” I thought.

Day 20, 7/17

14.6 miles

Nero in Snoqualmie

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I get up at 4:30 am and quickly pack my things to hike into Snoqualmie. My friend And is driving up from Seattle to meet me there today (squee!!!! Off trail friend meeting me on trail, I’m so excited!!!!!!) and I need to get down there early to meet them. I’ve got 14.6 miles to go into town yet. I sit and pack everything in my tent, because I’m still rattled from another hiker waking me up at 2:30am yelling at some wild animal. My tent was turned the opposite way so I couldn’t see what, but at 2:30am I was awakened by a gruff deep voice yelling “go away!” and banging on things. It scared the living shit out of me while I tried to figure out what it was. After about 20 minutes this settled down. But this morning early I’m still unsettled so I pack in my tent.

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I don’t realize that my first bit is a climb. When I find out, I curse and feel angry. It’s too early for this shit after all the climbing yesterday. Plus, it’s cold and foggy and I can’t see anything. After some time of intense frustration and crabbiness, I down a couple of bars, mix a Via into my cold water, and throw on my headphones. “Ok let’s do this!” I say to myself and put on my PCT playlist. The first song is Jump by Van Halen which always puts me in a good mood and soon I’m jamming and dancing down trail, spurred by caffeine into using my hiking poles as microphones. I pretend I’m doing drag. One day when I get off trail, y’all will see that. 😉

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The entire way into Snoqualmie is cold, foggy and rainy. I don’t have any views. But I’m happy with my music going and my caffeine. I get onto the catwalk, not able to see a thing up there, and howl into the foggy void. My ghost howl echoes back across an indeterminate distance, and I grin and howl a couple more times for good measure. I’m here the PCT, alive and well and hiking!

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I get down to the hotel where Carrot and Muffy are, finally. Soon enough And is there, and Trooper and Rook arrive too. Trooper and Rook say they’re just gonna hike through and I try to process this news. They leave pretty quickly so I sit down with Muffy and And to discuss what I should do next and I immediately start crying. The queer group is hiking on without me and I’m so scared and I need queer people so much right now and this is all so much. Muffy and And are gracious with my sudden emotions. I realize I can hike out with Muffy and Carrot tomorrow and I slowly calm down.

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After this me and And do chores. It’s so lovely to have a friend visit me on trail! So lovely to have And in particular. They are wonderful and gracious and after 3 weeks of not touching people (too long! I haven’t really touched anyone on trail even like a hug, and I feel this) I am soaking up all the hugs and affection. We go to REI and I change out my shoes in hopes that it will help my ankle and also just be a better fit. We get food and Starbucks and more food. It’s a lovely end to the day and the section and I fall asleep feeling more fulfilled and held.

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I am raising money while I hike to support Indigenous Women Hike. Please donate to help indigenous women have the means to access their own land! GoFundMe is here.

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PCT trail blog – Days 11 – 16

 

On unceded Chelan, Yakama, Syilx/Okanagan, and sdukʷalbixʷ/Snoqualmie land.

The place to which I hike this week, sqʷat (or The Guardian Spirit of Snow), is an area that was long inhabited by the sdukʷalbixʷ/Snoqualmie and Tulalip tribes. The pictures I found below in this area (at sqʷat itself) describe its history, so I will let them tell their story. I am privileged to have walked on this land this week as well as the land of the Chelan, Yakama, and Syilx/Okanagan.

Day 11

18.6 miles

7/7/19

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Finally on my way. It felt like it took forever to get back to the 10 mile point I’d reached yesterday. But I reached it at approximately the same time, despite feeling like I was going much slower. I’ve adjusted my pace to fit my current hiking needs around my ankle.

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A hiker I don’t particularly enjoy caught up to me around mile 9. He asked my name (again, he doesn’t recall meeting me earlier but he did) and I was so relieved to give him my trail name instead of my real one. Which I did, tersely. He’s one of those people that can’t read a room, though, so when he caught up to me again later, he proceeded to try and talk at me. I say talk at, because it wasn’t really a conversation I wanted to have. It wasn’t horrible, I just knew this fellow by reputation and had no intention of forming a trail friendship. I continued to be short in my answers, but again, doesn’t know how to read a room. I probably would have just let our paces either separate us or keep us together, but he was going slower than I wanted despite me having let him pass. It’s like when you are driving between the Springs and Denver and that one person is sitting in the left hand lane going 70. (My Colorado Springs friends will feel this!) I wanted to speed up so I said, “hey would you mind letting me pass, actually? It seems my speed has increased.” I had no hard feelings… I’ve just learned my boundaries. Funny how that goes.

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After this I was thinking for awhile that sometimes I wonder if I’m an enneagram 2 integrating to 8 rather than a 4, just with how direct I’ve become with my boundaries! I’m proud of myself. I don’t know though, that 4 heart is strong. I like my idealism strong and my romances sweet like wine but intense like whiskey. Heady. I live for mystical moments where I become a small body on a big earth feeling the pulse of everything around me. And ta da, with that, I am definitely a 4.

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Washington finally lived up to its elevation change bragging today. The first 10 miles that I’d already done weren’t bad. From there on out though, it was an uphill slog. I’d popped in my earphones because of aforementioned dude, so I just jammed out to my tunes as I walked up the hills. I don’t always like music when I hike, I really like feeling the connection to nature that I have when I don’t play music. But today I was really feeling my music, so I let myself jam on to my hearts content. If you have suggestions for empowering dancy tunes for my playlist, send em over!

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In the process of my jam sesh, I discovered something truly magical. Dancing snack breaks!!! Seriously, stopping for a snack break and having a dance party for one is day changing. I did it twice today after seeing how effective the first one was, and I’m a convert. Dance snack breaks until the end of time!

7/8/19

Day 12

18.8 miles

Today was boring. In case you wondered, thru hiking can indeed be boring. I started out with a mountain pass that had a decently intense elevation gain, but after that it was downhill, then just rolling trail for miles. And miles. And miles. I was even bored of my MUSIC. And I don’t have enough Healing Justice podcast downloaded to re-listen to my favorite episodes. So I pushed through.

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Highlight was, ending today at a big creek. I wanted to go further, but I’m worried a LOT about how much food I have, and was really hungry. I have a massive elevation gain after this site which will definitely eat more food stores, too. I have plenty of dinner, just not enough snacks. Oops. Also, I think hiker hunger is here. It’s the famed thing when thru hiking that your hunger gets to be astronomical. I was literally hungry all day today. I mean, have you ever had a 300 calorie snack and instead of feeling full like usual just felt like a bottomless hole? Yeah.

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Anyway, I decided to stop. I stuck my feet in the glacial creek water, which felt divine. Also chatted with a bunch of fellow hikers, which was really nice. I’m finding I enjoy the company of all the women and like……. zero of the cis men. I mean honestly they’re all just basic. I wanna make a parody song or something and use that seen from The Good Place where she says “Ya basic!” Over and over. Speaking of which, have realized I really love The Good Place as a show. Anyways. That’s been my day! Now just laying creek side listening to the water about to fall asleep.

Day 13

23.7 miles

Sometimes, when you want to avoid a creepy middle age cis male, you hike your longest day ever. 23.7 miles. Over 2 passes with about 3500 ft in elevation gain from bottom to top.

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I’ve been having not good feelings about the person I mentioned a couple days ago. The guy who passed me and started going slow. We camped at the same campsite last night. I felt weird enough that I slept with my knife. I don’t like doing that. He just keeps trying to talk when I very obviously don’t want to. I am a person highly sensitive to intrusion and with an impeccable gut sense about creepy men since I was small. So I’m choosing to trust this feeling. Today, we kept passing each other on trail. He wanted me to take a pic of him, so I did. He then asked if he could take a pic of me, which I said “I’d rather not.” He then asked if he could take a picture of my back, which made me even more uncomfortable, and I said no again. It’s these types of interactions that don’t make me feel good, so I decided to outhike him. Hopefully it has worked. He’s been trying to pull 18-21 mile days, and I’m now ahead of that. I’m crossing my fingers that’s the end.

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I’m also crossing my fingers that my body can handle this. There was a lot of ankle rolling today. The KT tape held and things feel fine. I ended in the rain and my hip and left calf were clenching up. I think I’m going to do only 18 again tomorrow so that should help.

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I hiked down with Boy Lunch, a big group of mostly cis male hikers, and ended up camping with them. At this point I’m honestly grateful just to have someone else I’m at least mostly comfortable to talk to. It’s not perfect but at least it’s not creepy. Read: they’re all very basic but right now I’m scared and alone and need someone. So here we are.

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I walked the last few miles through the rain, hoping I’d wake up tomorrow to sun and dry gear. With that in mind I tried to sleep.

Day 14

7/10/19

17.7 miles

This morning I woke up to everything still wet. My skirt was still wet. My rain jacket, soaked. My tent, dripping. I haven’t slept well, because the dripping all night kept me awake. Miserable. I don’t want to move. I want to stay in this tent all day in my warm down sleeping bag where I’m mostly dry. Sure, there’s condensation, but that I can live with. The nasty sopping wet I’m about to be, not so much.

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After talking with Boy Lunch for like an hour, I finally decide I need to get going. I still don’t want to, but I wanna do 18 miles and it’s almost 9am. I still have one big pass to do.

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I’m in my feelings today somewhat. I start out tired and so frustrated with being wet. I imagine what I’d tell my friend Jacklyn if I could message her right now, the Marco Polo I’d send her about how I’m doing. I imagine saying I’m scared. This makes me realize I’m exhausted and at the end of myself, because thinking about saying “I’m scared” makes me want to cry. Suddenly I feel totally overwhelmed, lonely, and exhausted. I’m hiking without Muffy this week and no one out here really gets me. I want Jacklyn and I want my friends back home. I want reception. I want people who know my heart and speak my language. I want my queer witch babes.

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Then I realize, starkly, more than anything I want my mom… in a way that I’ll never get my mom. Because my mom isn’t capable of being the mom I need. I start thinking about this because I just read Bastard Out of Carolina and the interactions in that book really drove that home for me (among other things, such a good book, thanks Muffy!). So internally I’m having this maelstrom of emotions and externally I’m bawling for my mom and for everyone I miss and for how exhausted and sad I am, and trying to hide this from Fluffy Bunny who’s walking a few hundred feet behind me. Underneath it all I’m wiped and I feel like I’m in the twilight zone. It’s raining, I’m drenched, I have so many more miles to walk, I’m trying to stay ahead of the creepy guy, I miss my cats, I want more friends on trail, i don’t have reception… it feels like it will never end. Finally I wipe my face and the storm passes. I don’t feel much better, just calm. For now that’s how it is.

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Fluffy Bunny catches up to me, and we hike together most of the rest of the day. She tells me how she lives in a community living situation in Delft, Holland, and works as a psychiatric nurse. I think she’s interesting. It’s nice to hike with a girl that I at least enjoy being around. She’s chatty but the kind of chatty I enjoy, talking about interesting things.

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We hike the pass together, because the weather looks bad and I wait for her to go over. The morale support is immeasurable to me, especially considering i had been bawling an hour before. I appreciate her slower and more measured approach to hiking and it reminds me how I wanted to start this trip – steady mile gaining. I haven’t done it that way, but I’m starting to do better.

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Kermit, a person I just met officially this morning, makes a fire by a pond, and me and Fluffy Bunny sit. He tells some of his story after I ask an open question and I am starting to realize I’ve got to tone down my open questions! I mean, maybe. I’ve just got to make sure I don’t go further than a question. Sometimes I hate trying to make friends as a therapist – the therapist pops up and asks therapy questions when I need friend questions. He seems interesting, I don’t like the oversharing but I appreciate the depth. And I like talking to someone in their 40s after being around all these 20 year olds all day. Everyone out here thinks I’m in my 20s like them, but I feel so poignantly my 30 years of life and experience. Nice to talk to someone else with that depth and experience but who isn’t creepy. I love the 20somethings, I just miss the different shades of conversation you get with 30+ peeps. Or maybe that you just get with people who are actually tuned in to deeper stuff.

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Blandine shows up a bit later and joins the crew of me and Fluffy Bunny. It makes a good crew, and I enjoy things more. We hike together to our last camping spots. Fluffy Bunny stops before me and Blandine; she’s wiped. Honestly, so am I, but I’m hoping to get to the next spot. In the next mile, Blandine and I have a lovely conversation. I out myself to her as queer… the first stranger I’ve outed myself to on trail. She tells me her reasons for hiking the trail and her biggest lesson so far – Respect your body! It’s something I’ve been reminded of just being around her, and I tell her so. I’m grateful to know her even if it’s a passing friendship.

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We get to camp and I throw up my tent just as it’s starting to rain. I make a pot of Annie’s Mac n cheese and I gratefully eat it all. I’ve had trouble finishing my meals on trail for some reason. One night I felt sick and couldn’t finish. The next night I had to force myself to eat all my food. I’ve consistently had to force down food, because my body doesn’t think it wants it even though it does. So tonight I’m glad I finished an ENTIRE POT of Annie’s (hiker hunger has hit!) and will hopefully sleep well with a full belly.

Day 15

7/11/2019

20.7 miles

I haven’t started my day yet, but am thinking about how everyone wants to think they know about nature, but they don’t. Nature does what they want. It’s not supposed to rain this much in Washington in July, and yet it is.

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I think about this and then I end up reading a chapter on Consistent Practice in the book Zac gave me to carry, Bearing Witness. In the chapter it talks about always coming back to not knowing. I cry a little, feeling seen by this book. I am the first to leave camp, which had become Blandine and the boys of Boy Lunch, and as I walk I think about my book. I think about Bearing Witness, again. I think about being mindful as I walk instead of rushing. I think about how I am connected to what is happening around me. I feel everything. I feel the support of the trees as I pass by, and it makes me cry. They know me. They are they, too. I have a picture of Zac walking with me on trail and then suddenly realize that is the caption they wrote in the front of the book. More tears. I feel the ground under my feet. I feel the blades of grass brushing against my legs, welcoming me. I feel my aloneness and let it be. I feel everyone passing me and how they are faster and notice my reaction, my desire to keep up and fit in. I do this for a long time.

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I have a conversation today with Teen Dream. He’s 19 and hiking with Boy Lunch and he’s a Pisces, because of course he is and I attract so many Pisces and water signs to my life. He’s the first person on trail I talk to about spirituality. He’s really into it. He shares some of his life story and we talk about lots of things that other people are too afraid to admit or science away. It still doesn’t satisfy my ache for queer company, but it’s not too bad. He’s young and still learning and feels open to me.

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Today too I’m really feeling the lack of diversity out here. I haven’t seen a person who presents as a person of color since Stehekin. I think about how messed up it is that white cis men stole indigenous land and now they’ve created a huge speed and land contest of who can dominate the land the fastest. Who can walk the PCT the fastest and do the biggest miles? It’s hard for me not to get pulled into it too. I am constantly returning to a practice of bearing witness both to myself and all of life and that’s all that keeps me. It makes me feel even more passionate about the organization I’m raising money for out here (Indigenous Women Hike) and other POC-led hiker organizations I support, like Blackpackers. This environment of cis white male dominated power is so ripe to change.

Day 16

9 miles

Nero in Skykomish

I’m on my way down with Blandine today and we are talking as usual. It’s a fine conversation, but I am shaken by a deep feeling. It’s fine. But I need queer community desperately. I feel the desire I’ve been staying off all week. I feel even more how I’ve been letting everyone misgender me because I’m afraid to explain “they” and genderfluidity. I feel how fake I feel, how outside of myself, how alone. There is no one else here that I am aware of who is like me. I am suddenly deeply sad and lonely and exhausted and feel the too muchness of the week and am desperate to get into town and see Muffy and Carrot. I need queer people. I need queer love. I need to hear people call me “they.”

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So I hike my 9 miles, grab my box from Stevens Pass, and hitch a ride down to Skykomish and meet up with them. My body takes in the relief all afternoon while still having moments where tears come, over and over. Feeling how hard this week was. Feeling how I denied big pieces of myself, some of it as self preservation. Feeling safe again and it feeling overwhelming. Processing a little with people I trust.

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At this moment I don’t know how to do this trail. I know I can’t be who I was this past week, pretending I’m a cis girl. Because hearing “she” feels so dysphoric to me. Internally I’m preparing to go back on trail and state my pronouns to people I meet. It feels overwhelming but also necessary. Hiding nearly did me in. I may hike alone a lot. I may be scared of people who don’t get it. I wish I’d had more courage this week and I am reminding myself it was a deeply hard week – rainy and involved with trying to avoid someone who made me feel unsafe til the very last second of this stretch.

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I am recalling a tarot reading I got early this year from Sincerely the Tarot on Instagram, with The Hermit card, a card called Separate, and a card called Death and Rebirth. I couldn’t feel this more keenly right now. Even though I knew that whole reading was about this trail, I didn’t realize the depth of how pertinent it would be.

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I don’t feel like I can do this, and I feel so much weight and sadness right now, but I also know I really can’t live a lie. So we will see. I know too the way forward is just to keep the practice of Bearing Witness which is just so very dear to me right now, so integral to who I am as a whole.

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This section felt so difficult to me. Full of moments in which I sacrificed pieces of myself in order to try and survive a physical ordeal. But the pieces I sacrificed felt so dear. I hadn’t realized the depth of my nonbinary, genderfluid identity until I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. And then I realized it is a part of me, like sap or chlorophyll is to trees. It runs through all I do, through my very being, and to try and divorce it from myself is a violence I can’t abide.

The further keenness with which I felt the dominance of white male power, as a force that eliminates difference, was so poignant and terrible. There is such a violence in this perspective that is painful to my soul, and I can only imagine the pain it causes to others. In reading Bearing Witness, I see it so often as an inability to tolerate that which is different, an inability to rest, the drive to overcome and show power as a way to deal with the tension in that which one doesn’t understand.

The truth is, also, that I have had to reckon with this force in myself as a white person this week. I see this often in my attitude of “let’s CRUSH MILES” or “how fast did you go?” or “how little did you rest?” I find it internally manifested in pushing myself to 3 miles an hour of hiking despite my ankle rolling constantly, giving me the message that I need to be slower. Need to pay attention. Need to be aware of the ways in which I try to dominate rather than be present with. My ankles are annoying, but they are also a reminder to me of the ways in which I need to be aware of the ways in which I perpetuate white supremacy and dominant power. In that sense, I am grateful for the chance to work with this and learn a different way of being.

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I am raising money while I hike to support Indigenous Women Hike. Please donate to help indigenous women have the means to access their own land! GoFundMe is here.

PCT Preparation – Indigenous People of the PCT, Food Prep, and Gear

Hello friends! My first milestone has come – over $200 on the GoFundMe raising money for Indigenous Women Hike for each mile I hike on the PCT. As promised, I am writing my first post!

I’ve been wanting to hike the PCT for at least 2 years, and in thinking about it I cannot hike on stolen land without being aware and in communion with the land and its original people. In that spirit, I am raising money for Indigenous Women Hike, as well as learning about the people whose land I am walking on.

This first post will be an overview of the Indigenous People along the path I’ll be walking, the food I’ll be carrying, and gear.

Indigenous Lands

There are dozens of tribal lands along this path. I am putting the most correct information I know, but I acknowledge that as a white nonbinary person, it is very likely I will make mistakes. PLEASE correct me if I share any wrong information and I will immediately correct it.

The tribal lands along the pathway of the PCT, north to south, that I am aware of:

Nłeʔkepmx Tmíxʷ
Syilx-tmix (Okanogan)
NXAʔAMXČÍN (Chelan)
Yakama
sdukʷalbixʷ (Snoqualmie)
Tulalip
Puget Sound Salish
Wenatch
Kittitas Yakama
Cowlitch
Klikitat
Upper Chinook
Chinook
Wasco
Wishram
Paiute
The Warm Springs
Tenino
Molalla
Klamath
Shasta
Cow Creek Umpqua
Takelma
Karuk
Shasta
New River Shasta
Okwanuchu
Winnimem Wintu
Atsugewi
Achumawi
Nisenan
Mountain Maidu
Konkow Maidu
Mechoopda Maidu
Yokuts
Nisenan
Washoe
Central Sierra Miwok
Northern Paiute
Southern Mono/Monache
Newe
Tübatulabal
Kawaiisu
Yokuts
Fernandeno Tatavian Band of Mission Indians
Tongva
Yuhaviatam/Maarenga’yam (Serrano)
Cahuilla
Cupeño
Kumeyaay

As I cross each tribe’s land, I will be writing more in-depth posts on Instagram and here about the history and language of each tribe. As much as possible, I plan to include traditional place names for the places I travel through. I will be starting in the land of the Syilx-tmix, whose land crosses the border of what is currently called the United States and Canada.

In gathering this information, information on whether the indigenous had any knowledge or input into the creation of the PCT is scarce. If you know of any resources for me, please let me know!! I have been able to find nothing. My general assumption, to be honest, is that those who formed the trails of the PCT likely stole ancestral indigenous trails. I know this is the case in Nuumu Poyo, known to the wider world as the John Muir trail, which forms a section of the PCT.

Gear

One of the things I studied a lot in the beginning of preparing for this trip was gear! I don’t have the time to do a super in-depth gear review, but I’d love to give you an overview of what I’ll be carrying.

First of all, I want to mention that at this point, I’m carrying a small stove. It’s heavy, but I’ve noticed so far when I backpack, I want a hot meal. My plan is to keep up with that, we will see if it lasts! A lot of people don’t use stoves at all!

Also, I may switch my pad still to a Thermarest Neo Air. I’m a side sleeper and very picky about how my mattresses feel, and this Big Agnes was the one I liked best. The shitty thing is that I have to carry a secondary pad for insulation if I take this one (yay extra weight!).

Pack: Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 60
Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering Versalite 10
Pad: Big Agnes SRX Insulated
Backup Pad: Thermarest Z lite
Stove: BRS-3000T
Water Filter: Katahdin Be Free 1L filter
Hiking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech carbon fiber poles (Costco/Amazon for $45)

Packed Clothes:
Uniqlo Puffy (Uniqlo, $40 is what I think I got it for)
Patagonia Capilene Mid Base Layer (secondhand)
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket ($98 on sale)
REI Midweight long underwear bottoms
Patagonia Women’s Active underwear
Fleece Gloves
Beanie

Washington Only:
Ice Axe
Microspikes

Worn Clothing:
Nike Dri-Fit Tennis Skirt (thrifted)
Shirt: Columbia short sleeve white shirt (secondhand)
Socks: Walmart special 😉
Shoes: La Sportiva Ultra Raptors
Dirty Girl Gaiters

I’m bringing lots of other tiny little things but I’m not going to list them here. If you’re REALLY curious, message me on Instagram or something. 😛

Food

Dear. Goddexx. Save. Us.

Listen. Food resupply is the hardest thing EVER to plan. What will I want? What will I be tired of? What will I want more of? How much should I carry? How can I make sure I’m eating enough calories (a very important consideration on the trail, actually. I don’t count calories usually so this is very odd for me). Literally planning food may actually cause me to lose it.

The only thing I know for sure is I want my protein shake every morning. It’s a mix of Nido whole milk powder, chia seeds, protein powder, and instant coffee. It looks like mud but it’s super delicious, tons of calories, fiber, and protein. Plus CAFFEINE. It’s a very good trail decision. I’ve used it hiking in the Grand Canyon so it’s trail approved. Plus later on, I can vary up the protein powder flavor if I get tired of it.

I’ve been slowly doing field research this past year ish to figure out the rest. Things I know I like (or like ENOUGH)?

Himalayan Salt Ruffle Kettle Chips
Fig Newtons
Cheese
Apple Lara Bars (after awhile you only taste the cinnamon)
Honey Stinger Waffles
GUMMIES (I love gummies. It’s bad)
Almond Butter
Dried Mangos
Sour Cream and Onion Chips

Those are the solid ones. Everything else is just chance, people. Will I like Peanut Butter M&Ms in a month? WHO CAN SAY. Can I jimmy everything together enough to get enough calories per day?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  I’m trying to spreadsheet it but it’s overwhelming, so who knows. I’ll do my best. I did a coaching session with Carrot Quinn (such a good idea, BTW – get after that if you’re planning a hike, she’s got so much thru-hiking wisdom) and she said it’s roughly 2.2 lbs of food a day, so I’m using that + roughly 3000-4500 calories/daily as a guideline.

Alright! That is it for today’s installment. When I reach my next fundraising goal on the GoFundMe, I’ll be back with more to share. Please continue to donate and support!

Dear Recent Mass Shooting Survivors — Love, A Fellow Survivor

Numb. Dead. Unable to feel. Feeling EVERYTHING. Feeling weird grief that comes in waves then goes and you feel numb again. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. Replaying scenes. Nothing feels real. Scared at loud noises. Scared at people acting shady. Freaked out in crowds. Songs make you cry til 4am. Wandering in a fog. What is a body, even? I don’t feel mine.

They will tell you over and over again to let you know if there is “anything I can do, let me know.” But you have no idea what they can do, or what you need, because you can’t feel much of anything.

You are grateful when a friend doesn’t ask — he just brings over movies and puts them on and sits there and watches them with you, quietly. Finally, one person who doesn’t have to ask. One less thing to take care of.

They will ask you how you are, and they will cry in your arms while you stand woodenly, and when you ask how they are, they will react in shock that you could even ask such a question “when you’ve survived such a tragedy.”

They will tell you that your peace means “you’re so strong.” You will think that you are not strong and you don’t know why people keep telling you this.

Mainly, you are shocked that your sisters (or friends, teachers, loved ones) are dead.

The media will get in your face. They’ll hound you for interviews. They want to know what it was like to survive a shooting. They want to broadcast the horror; you want to tell them that no one should ever know how that horror feels. Good Morning America will send a basket to the hospital where your father is. You’ll have to come in a back entrance to avoid them. They will call your phones.

Your phone. You’ll be trying to field a million text messages. You’ll talk to relatives you haven’t heard from in years. Everyone is so sorry. Everyone is horrified. You say thank you a million times but the words almost lose their meaning. They ask you what happened and you repeat it, for the thousandth time, the words feeling unreal when they come out of your mouth.

You are numb. Or bawling. Or feeling heavy. So heavy. Unbearably heavy. How could you ever feel un-heavy again? Or normal again? You wake up the next day wondering if other friends have died overnight. Part of you doesn’t want to live anymore. It’s too hard.

The images are constantly replaying and you almost want to put a hand over your eyes to block them. You feel cold, so cold. You want a blanket just to wrap around you for a moment. You want someone else to do your life.

No one will understand how you are feeling, unless they were there (or unless they were somewhere similar). So many people will say things that sound incredibly stupid.


For 5 years, I wished to find a community of survivors who knew what I went through. Finally, after Newtown, I saw a news article talking about The Rebels Project. 5 years I carried all of the above around, and more. Experiences that no one else could understand. Things I could not talk to my immediate family about, even though they were also there. Finally I had a place to lay it down.

I’m just letting you know, for a second, that you’re not alone. There’s more of us out here who get it (Search The Rebels Project on Facebook and you’ll find us). And when you have a second to breathe by yourself again, come find us. We’ll be waiting for you with open arms. We’ll walk you through.

I’ll walk you through myself. I’ve been there. I’m still here. And you will be, too.

Supporting Victims in the Aftermath of Mass Shootings

As a shooting survivor, I have an intimate view on victim support after a mass shooting. In light of the continuing shootings that occur around the country, I wanted to let communities know how victims are impacted, and how to move forward.

This is a long post in Q&A format. I keep it long because I feel these ideas are important.

How do secondary victims get help despite being secondary?

First, let’s define what a so-called “secondary” victim is. Victims can often be people you aren’t even aware of. They’re of course the people we quickly think of – friends and family of those who were killed (primary). But there are many others – “secondary”.

For instance: there were people that watched the shooter(s) kill their victims. There were people that heard the gunfire of either event. There were people that lived on nearby streets, were in lockdown nearby, who saw the wounded, who were first responders, etc. There are people trapped in the buildings that weren’t killed or injured. In whatever situation you are considering, try to consider people you normally wouldn’t think about who would have been affected.

So in other words, there are a LOT of victims. And it’s easy for them to go under the radar, because unless the news media exploits their story (and I do mean exploit, I’ll explain later) they are unknown to the public.

If you are friends with either a primary or secondary victim, it’s important to know that the experience most likely changed their life forever in some way shape or form. Right now is a time for you to know some mental health first aid:

If you don’t know what to say – don’t say anything. The BEST thing you can do is to be present, gentle and supportive. Cliched statements such as “well, everything happened for a reason” are much more harmful than helpful.

If you or someone you know was a victim and need more professional help, look for Community Crisis Response of some kind. Usually there is a center set up after such events by police departments, the Red Cross, or local mental health agencies. Note which agencies are there and be sure to ask what kind of extended help they provide.

If the victim is in the police report, they could be eligible to have mental health costs covered by the a local judicial district’s Victims Assistance Fund.

If not covered, many therapists work on a sliding scale – look for therapists qualified and trained in trauma treatments such as EMDR. Always find someone who says clearly on the phone or website that they are licensed and that specialize in trauma.

Also, of great service to me has been the Rebels Project online Facebook group. It is a group for victims of mass shootings and traumatic events to share their experiences with people who understand. This has given me personally a lot of support when I am triggered or processing something. Feel free to give this out to victims (both secondary and primary).

And please know – if you are a secondary victim, your experience is no less important or impactful than if you were a primary victim. If you are feeling fragile and jumpy, it’s okay to get help. If you are feeling frozen or numb, it’s okay to get help. Tell close family and friends what is going on. Ask for support. Find a good therapist. The better support you have, the more likely you will be to emotionally recover.

How can the community engage with this somewhat new reality?

It’s important to be aware of mental health first aid, especially knowing that there are many people impacted that you’re unaware of. Be aware that people will have a variety of triggers.

Mine, for instance, are screaming, loud bangs, and men who are behaving in a erratic way. I can also get triggered by news of new mass shootings, if I read the news too much. Sometimes I have to stay off social media after news of mass shootings. I used to also be triggered by sirens, emergency vehicles, and car accidents as well. Other people will have different triggers.

If you know a victim (primary or secondary) be very aware of this. Don’t shut them down for reacting in certain ways. If they literally run away from situations, if they hide from certain things, if they freak out for no reason, this is ALL normal. Those are ALL things that I have done.

Be very cognizant of what you say. For instance, there is a lot of talk right now about how college campuses utilize trigger warnings. It helped me immensely to have trigger warnings. I went to college after my sisters were murdered, and it was by far the place I felt most unsafe. I had a professor who warned the class about a video interview with a serial killer. I was extremely grateful because then I could choose to leave class before sitting there in shock.

I also experienced one of my worst triggers in a class in which a professor made an extremely inappropriate joke about the Aurora shootings. I was dissociated and couldn’t pay attention at all for about 20 minutes. So be sensitive to survivor experience.

Another huge thing is to realize that we will be dealing with this for years to come. It’s been 8 years and I still have triggers, albeit fewer than I did even 2 years ago. As a community, it’s important to ensure that supports remain in place on a continual basis.

We often forget the massive impact of traumatic events because of the media’s short cycle. Realize the victims are probably still processing in some way, shape, or form, even years later. Churches, community organizations, businesses, and schools should be especially aware of this as they endeavor to support their members.

And for the general population – if someone shares with you that they were affected by these events and are still processing, suspend judgment and just be present to their story. Listening and providing your emotional support (without having to say much beyond “I’m here”) is the best thing you can do. But, don’t be afraid to ask what happened! It helps after the media spotlight goes away to know people still care. A good way to ask is, “Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?”

While many people have an experience of losing a loved one, how is this different when it is in the public eye?

This changes the experience drastically. There is a whole set of expectations that comes with your tragedy being seen by the whole world (or your whole town, state, etc). Here are some expectations I’ve had placed on me, and my responses.

People (especially the media) expecting victims to tell their story

No one is constrained to tell their story publicly, even if the media covered the event. It’s up to the person involved. We as victims make the final call on whether we share or not. But, DO feel free to ask us as victims about what happened. A good way to ask is, “Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?” This leaves it open for us to say yes or no. Often the “yes” or “no” depends upon how safe we feel sharing with you.

People expecting victims to react a certain way emotionally when telling their story (crying, being very upset, etc).

Everyone deals with things differently, and trauma can further distort that. Just because I’m not crying doesn’t mean I’m not upset. But if I’m crying that doesn’t mean I’m falling apart, either. Maybe I’m just having a rough day. Suspend judgment about reactions and realize all of our stories are different. Trauma looks different for different people. It can sometimes look like startle response or crying. It can also look like dissociation, substance abuse, and numbing. Again, suspend judgment.

People having certain ideas about what victims are going through, based on media reports.

As victims, we may or may not be shattered by what happened. We may or may not be “over it and stronger as a result.” The media does not reflect our personal feelings most of the time. The spectrum holds a lot of gray, so some days, we could be shattered again. And some days, we could be doing great! And some days, we could be somewhere in between.

People having assumptions about victims beliefs/politics based on media reports or where the event occurred.

In my shooting, just because it was at a church doesn’t mean I’m still a Christian. Just because an armed guard took down the shooter doesn’t mean I’m pro/anti concealed carry. Victim beliefs and politics are not necessarily in line with public assumption. Just because a victim’s shooting happened at Planned Parenthood, or as a result of open carry, doesn’t mean their specific beliefs/politics align with the popular assumptions carried around those places or ideas. Be careful to not assume stories based on media representation or current political climate. Let victims tell the stories. Our beliefs are not a way to further a political platform, unless we choose to use them that way ourselves.

People seeing the fact that victims do sometimes choose to tell their story publicly, and telling them that “they’re so strong” for being able to do so.

What you see in a victim may not be strength or peace. It may be shock. My repetition of the story immediately afterwards looked like strength, because I didn’t break down and cry. As a matter of fact, it was not strength or peace, it was shock.

Not being able to have your private grief, because the media is looking at you – but then when media moves away, feeling abandoned – When the media is around, the public is completely involved in victim’s private grief. But conversely, when the media turns away, it can feel like the whole world has forgotten about you. Both suck. When it’s public, I felt like I couldn’t grieve the way I wanted. When the media turned away, I felt like my grief didn’t matter. It’s a catch 22. In this situation as a community, we can make sure we continue to support all victims of these tragedies months and YEARS to come (recovery takes years, my friends).

Have you experienced the feeling of someone using your experience for their gain in social capital?

Yes. The media especially is skilled with this. I’ve recently chosen to begun sharing my experiences more in the media, in the interest of shutting down the “sides” mentality we have around gun issues and encouraging more dialogue. (This is my position, not necessarily the position of other victims of shootings) When I share, I find my words get skewed. I am often made to sound more traumatized than I actually am. People love disaster stories; I call it disaster porn.

An example: I have widely shared the Gazette article I was recently in because it maintains my greater point, but some of the material was skewed. For instance, I did not hear sirens when I delivered food to the Penrose ER on Saturday morning. [Edit – the Gazette has since edited the article]

People often use victim’s stories to further their own aims or viewership. I implore you, media outlets – please do not exploit victim’s stories to improve your ratings. Be compassionate and aware. And as communities, we all need to be careful that we don’t exploit victims for our own ideas or political platforms.

Are victims of gun violence also a victim of the current politics of gun violence? Is there additional impact when the violence speaks from other political arenas?

In a word, yes. This is a huge area where the media can take advantage of victims. Currently, the media tends to portray sides within the politics of gun violence – pro-gun or ban guns. I personally have expressed a middle view of dialogue first, action or possible reform second. I have to be extremely careful how I word this, because if I don’t word it correctly, the media will portray me as being on one side or the other.

After I wrote my letter to Congress, many responses were revictimizing. The worst were people asking me about the armed guard Jeanne Assam that took down Matthew Murray in my shooting. Several people asked me why she didn’t play into what I wrote.

Their questions were indicative of wanting to convert me for one side or the other in the debate (in this case, pro/anti concealed carry). Problem being, they were not at New Life Church that day, and I was. Their attempt to tell me what to believe/write about was revictimizing. It was an attempt to steal my voice as a victim and to use me to further their own politics.

I can’t speak for the victims in other shootings. However, my experience has been that victims have a variety of political views, just like the general public does. Therefore:

It is not up to the public to assume any victim’s stance by seeing their status (i.e. police officer), situation (i.e. shooter openly carrying rifle) or where they were on that day (i.e. Planned Parenthood clinic). None of these things give us any real insight on victims’ political views or beliefs, and to assume and place labels on them is to revictimize them.

It is up to the victims of these shootings to state their political beliefs if they so choose. Until then, no assumption should be made about where they stand on any issues. All assumptions made are an act of re-victimization and the public stealing the victim’s voices for their own aims.

I want to end with this: Most importantly, as communities we need to step forward and support our victims. We need to be sensitive to what they need right now, and careful to not re-traumatize or re-victimize. There are hundreds of victims who need us right now. These are just some simple ways that as communities, we can support them for the months and years to come.

How to Respect Gun Violence Survivors on Social Media

A friend of mine requested that I write about this topic, and after seeing a video that’s been circulating my social media lately, I decided it was time.

When you are a shooting survivor, there are certain things that are hard to see in your feed. At least, there are for me, and I’ve heard the same from other survivors.

I’m not asking people to tiptoe around, always trying to figure out what to share in their feed without upsetting someone. Sometimes, things need to be shared that I personally can’t watch, because they’re important for other people to see.

But, here’s the best, BEST thing you can do. If you know that you know a shooting survivor, and you want to share something in your feed that:

  • Directly mentions a shooting
  • Depicts/discusses gun violence themes
  • Depicts/discusses graphic violence (bombings in Syria, for example)

Then I encourage you to send that person a private message, and ask – “should I share this? How can I share this?”

The messages I have appreciated most from friends are when friends have messaged me to alert me that a shooting has happened, so to be careful on my feed. Or to alert me of a particular video I should be careful watching. Or they message me to ask what kind of trigger warning they should put on something before sharing.

These all mean a lot to me and are extremely helpful, because then I can:

  • Make a decision about whether to be on social media that day
  • Make a decision about whether I am okay to view a certain video/read a post
  • Makes me feel considered and protected on my social media account because I know they are thinking about how to label things

On top of all that, I of course do a lot of my own screening for self care. I almost never watch videos out of Syria, for instance, because one of my biggest triggers is children screaming/people in distress. I can’t deal with it, so I choose not to watch it.

Even with doing my own screening, however, I can’t even explain my level of gratitude when I know that people are watching out for me on social media. I so appreciate when they send me a message to ask about how to share or whether to share something. Because one of the shittiest things for me is to be surprised by something in my feed. Getting blindsided by something is a part of a trigger for me, too… there’s a huge element of surprise and sneak attack involved in a shooting, and that’s hard to deal with. So it honestly feels PROTECTIVE for me when people are looking out for my wellbeing.

I also want to address the current video circulating. I’ve seen it mainly from Buzzfeed. It depicts a cute relationship beginning between a boy and girl scratching words into a desk. I (THANKFULLY) knew that the content required a trigger warning before watching it (Thank you, Lauren), or I would have freaked out. At the end, out of nowhere it is revealed that in the background, a student has been planning a shooting all along.

The problematic part of this video for me is the -out of nowhere- piece. There is a significant part of a shooting that is the unexpected factor; someone just starts shooting “out of nowhere.” You get blindsided. In my event, I never even saw the shooter and so there’s an aspect of “out of my field of vision” that’s really triggering for me personally, also.

If I had watched this video without a trigger warning, I would have had a breakdown. It just so happens this video is also circulating this week, and on Friday this week I have the 9th anniversary of my shooting. I don’t always know where I’m going to be emotionally during what I call “anniversary/hell week”, and so it was particularly helpful to have a trigger warning this week. Furthermore – the Sandy Hook shooting anniversary is on December 14th. There are lots of survivors out there right now.

So, with that in mind, I’m asking/imploring you to share this video with a content or trigger warning. Wording like “Trigger Warning: Gun violence/mass shooting” is helpful. Or even “themes of mass shooting.” Something to let us survivors know whether we should choose to watch it or not.  It helps us to feel more protected out in the world, which is sometimes a daily struggle. I think I can speak for more than just me when I say that we would all appreciate your thoughtfulness.

 

Terror Attack or Shooting? – A Poem

Trigger Warning: Mass shootings, gun violence, graphic depictions of violence.
I wrote this poem in response to the talk about the Pulse Orlando shooting being a terror attack because it was perpetrated by “possibly a Muslim”. As a shooting survivor, I have a lot of feelings about that.

Do not tell me what is a terror attack or what isn’t.
You do not know the ice of hearing windows shatter
You do not know the terror of hearing sister is shot
You know nothing of what bullets sound like hitting human flesh
or the screaming of your sisters
or the desperation of being on a phone to a 911 operative
begging them to come because my sisters have been shot
because my twin is lying in front of me on the floor of a minivan
with blood streaming out her nose
and she looks like she’s asleep but she won’t wake up
Do not tell me it is not terror
to try to hide behind a leather seat
to see bullets hitting windshield
to not see where they are coming from
to watch father fall to ground from one piercing him
to want it all to stop, stop, stop
but the bullets are ringing over and over and over
there is so much noise
time is so slow but it keeps going
do not tell me it is not terror
to rip a scarf from your body to try to stop twin sister’s bleeding
to have to look your twin over for an exit wound
do not tell me it is not terror to not have her answer you
to hear your mother saying “I can’t find a bullet hole
I can’t find one, oh God I can’t find one”
do not tell me it is no terror to stumble out of the car
to see other sister on the ground
with face blue from lack of oxygen
to feel your heart fall apart into your stomach as you know she is dying
to have to run from her because the shooter could be returning
to feel your soul is being ripped from your body
because your sisters’ souls are leaving you
do not tell me it is not terror
to wait for news of which hospitals they went to
to know on the way there that twin sister is gone
because you don’t feel her soul next to yours anymore
to watch a policeman speak what you already know while he is trying not to cry
do not tell me it is not terror
when father comes out of surgery, silently looks at you all
looking for the people missing
looks at you and asks where your twin is
and mother is quiet and says nothing so your mouth has to open
you say the worst words you have ever said
“Dad, Stephanie is gone.”
Do not tell me it is not terror
to stand by other sister’s bedside begging for her to come back to you
to sing all of her favorite songs in a desperate attempt for the bullet not to win
to try to cry it out of her heart and take the bullet into your own heart instead
to ask her to please not leave you alone here
do not tell me it is not terror to have the doctors
come out to waiting room to tell you that other sister is gone
that she has left you here alone despite all your begging

you say that a mass shooting is not a terror attack
unless it happens to have a Muslim face behind it
I want to tell you to fuck yourself and wait until you live one.