My Next Life

2020 version of 2000 photo

Velvet: My drinking is worse than it's ever been and I feel scared all the time. I try over and over to focus every last bit of energy and motivation I can come up with, and I can't make it very long - usually at most a few days before a massive relapse. Detoxing takes a long time (5 days or so), and it's brutal. It feels like detoxing itself is causing damage to my body.

I feel more isolated than ever, I don't know how to talk to anyone any more, I find it difficult to trust anyone, and when I do try to talk to anyone, I'm so stressed and depleted that I bite people's heads off which leads to further isolation.

Possum Dreaming listens to the same unresolved trauma mantra over and over, and doesn't know what to do. He's been stretched past his limit for a long time and doesn't know how to get support or help for me or himself.

I need help, I need kindness and understanding, I need a community, but my website and my distress and anger push people away. I need too much.

If I kill myself here (by hanging, which I really don't want to do), I'm afraid of causing Possum Dreaming trauma and the stress of perhaps police or officials treating him with suspicion.

All of the issues I've had with my body have worsened with age and years of drinking. With menopause and increased tolerance for alcohol, my weight is higher and my fitness and strength less. I am ashamed about it, but still can't seem to stop drinking. I need to get my eyes checked and my teeth cleaned, but I can't even cope with showering most of the time, and the idea of contact with people, including medical professionals, seems more impossible than ever.

I want pentobarbital.

If I can't have that, I will try to 'relocate' my life to Second Life, but I don't want to erase as if it was never here. It will still be possible to send email here. I want to stop writing about misery. I feel I understand 'how I got here', and that I have a better frame of mind in Second Life.

Dr Velvet Thong: For most of your life, due to the unrecognized effects of stigma and misunderstanding, you have gone without treatment, and without the understanding and support of family, friends, society and institutions.

I believe you have been through enough, and thought it all through, and that you should be allowed the option of a humane death, and that such an option could bring a sense of personal meaning to your life.

Velvet: I do want to stop writing about misery, but you know how I am. There are 'loose ends', and so in today's session I'm probably going to be all over the place tying them up, and then I'm going to try again to focus differently in my communication.

I'm going to make a conscious effort to move into my Second Life.

Dr Velvet Thong: Don't worry about how coherent or messy this is going to be. Let's try to do this such that we aren't stuck here indefinitely.

I've seen some signs that you might be ready to let go and reach a new place in communication.

Velvet: Last year, I watched a program on SBS hosted by Jess Hill on the subject of coercive control. This kind of control does not always include physical violence or visible wounds, but nevertheless results in psychological damage and negatively impacts quality of life.

I want to thank those who shared their stories and experiences, and I also want to thank those involved with putting the program together. It does come across how dangerous it is to speak up, how overwhelming and pervasive the situation is, and that speaking up is bound to lead to an increase in danger.

It does feel like support to me. It feels like some of the situations I have encountered in my life have been framed differently, such that a larger number of people would be able to understand.

Some of my early relationships added significantly to preexisting damage and the effects of trauma, and later on, hacking and cyberstalking also took a massive toll on my ability to trust.

Dr Velvet Thong: It's a significant step, but it also seemed quite clear that at present there aren't enough resources to go around.

It also occurs to me that coercive control is ubiquitous in everyday life - we are constantly having to agree to Terms of Service and types of surveillance/lack of privacy, often for our own 'safety' or our own good, with the underlying assumption being that we cannot survive in society, hold down careers, travel, if we do not agree. How can we get men to understand coercive control in personal relationships is wrong if our whole society seems built on reinforcing many different versions of it?

In an abusive relationship, what often happens is that a person's self-esteem and identity are worn down to the extent that they don't believe they can survive in the world without the abuser's 'protection' - but it does seem that this is part of modern life. Even when we have to watch or put up with commercials in order to access content we are genuinely interested in, the commercials might be philosophically at odds, such that they are possibly a brainwashing tool, or at least a source of psychological pollution that requires conscious effort and vigilance to override.

Velvet: I find it difficult to watch SBS since changes to the site rendered my ad-blocker obsolete. The commercials feel like coercive control to me, even the ones for worthy causes - because it seems like the causes are now using the universal high-pressure business model. I'm allowed to feel informed and concerned about world issues, but the commercials are there to remind me of how the world Really Works, and that those with the most power do not want change.

A couple of years ago, when I left the house for a few hours, I was surprised by all the ads just in my neighbourhood, including ads for competing religious schools that both seemed to be saying 'My Jesus could kick your Jesus' butt'. Ads for preschools seemed to require that parents choose politics for their kids, as well as an identity: Jock, Bookworm, High Achiever, or Teddy Bear. As this daytrip from Brisbane to Noosa continued on, a trip I hadn't made in almost 20 years, I was shocked to see how much everything had changed. What was once a beautiful drive with stunning coastal views had become a seriously ugly road absolutely choked with ads, and various real estate developments completely blocking the view, for the entire trip.

With the issue having been named and framed, it is only natural that people begin to look at the men and women around them differently. I am particularly worried that if I do manage to kill myself, Possum Dreaming might be hassled or judged as someone who made me feel I had no choice but to kill myself through his covert psychological abuse of me.

I grew up around coercive control and violence against women. My father was psychologically abusive to me in complex ways. There was a lot of unconscious misogyny on both sides of my family. Most of my father's friends were abusive to the women in their lives, and while he might have fought his instincts, I think he had some of the same ones, and at the very least he accepted his friends, negatively reinforcing their actions and beliefs.

My mother's partner after my father was a man who seemed full of rage. She told me that he had threatened to kill her and/or her kids if she left him - and that is coercive control. At the age of 13, I had a legal right to make a choice to leave that situation, and I left. It's not that I didn't care about my mother or siblings. I told the person I respected and trusted most - my father - and he reacted in an immature way. He was full of rage, but he didn't actually do anything (except maybe make one angry phone call, which probably made things worse), and then it was dropped, and it was like he 'forgot' about it. The law was of no help. This was an important lesson for me, but I think it was mainly on an unconscious level that I understood I didn't have much control in life, and that the inmates were running the asylum.

My first boyfriends were controlling and abusive, and so I feel the need to reiterate that before they entered my life, my identity and self-esteem had already been smashed.

In the digital age, control of women extends to: hacking phones, computers, using GPS to intimidate. When I was young, it was considered fair game to do what you wanted with drunk and even unconscious women. We now get the message that consent matters, and is more complex than originally decided. I think at present people are getting the idea that you can't do much about digital hacking/stalking, and it's up to the woman to 'ignore' it, and assume that it only has effects if you let it get to you. I think we need to challenge this, and we need to label this behaviour as rape/violation/a serious consent issue. Part of the issue is that the tech sprung up fast, and nobody's talking enough about the implications. It's good to put a name to 'coercive control', and to make laws, but the whole area is so tricky, and the numbers so high that in practice it's probably difficult to actually police, and there will always be those who know how to evade consequences.

Maybe I'm wrong, but my impression is that many males in the modern age believe that if you are not able to talk to a female, or if she turns you down, you have no choice but to hack or stalk her, and that there's nothing particularly bad or harmful about this. It's a bit like solving a puzzle in a video game, with similar dopamine rewards. This has to be identified and challenged. It's not OK to blame a woman for not having a good enough password or firewall. It's not any better than saying a woman had it coming because of the dress she was wearing. It's not OK to hack or stalk a woman to 'uncover her true character' or 'worth' such that you feel you have a right to pass judgment on her. Rape is wrong. Violation and intimidation are wrong. If you have a compulsion to 'get in' and get a high related to your skill, we probably need to have some kind of group therapy for that. You need to understand that you are violating a human being and her trust.

There are women who also become agents of coercive control, by belittling other women's experience, or expressing the same attitudes and comments of misogynist males, supporting or believing the one with the most power, and through gossip and other behaviours that prevent social inclusion.

Dr Velvet Thong: Let's try again to do a brief recap of your personal situation.

Velvet: I've made an effort you can read here.

I want to try to express some ideas related to ways in which religions or communities with shared values and beliefs can add to an individual's sense of isolation.

On religion, belief, and society: even when you don't share beliefs, you can be affected by them, and it doesn't necessarily mean you're 'weak'. Other people can have conscious and unconscious attitudes that come across in how they treat you and speak to you that you internalize, or they can make decisions to include or shut you out without being truthful about why. If other people believe you deserve to burn in hell, that you haven't earned happiness, it can be difficult to challenge, and it can be difficult to identify ways in which they might have tried to block your path. In this sense, it is possible to see that when someone feels like the world is against them, it might sort of be true.

For example, my mother's side of the family were Roman Catholic. When I moved in with my father at 13, I stopped going to church, and didn't consider myself religious or Catholic, but I had absorbed beliefs and continued to absorb beliefs after I moved out. Not all people who belong to a religion can describe the basic beliefs, and from what I've read, it seems that even when some people identify as belonging to a certain religion, they don't necessarily accept all the beliefs. There are Catholics who don't believe it's bad to use birth control or have an abortion, although those things are against basic tenets of the religion.

When my grandfather remarried into another Polish Roman Catholic family a year after our mother died (and several years after our grandmother died), we lost another significant type of stability. Our tradition had always been to spend Christmas Eve with our grandfather, but we were somehow downgraded to a celebration in November each year. Sister Smurf and The Space Cowboy were still allowed to be there on Christmas Eve, even after he had been convicted for dealing drugs. Our uncle did his time, so maybe that's like doing penance, and I didn't do penance for my abortion? I've always wondered if it was because I had an abortion.) In the Catholic Church, abortion means automatic expulsion/excommunication, but, if you truly repent, and talk to a priest and he tells you how to atone, you can be forgiven and accepted back.

However, no one tried to 'save my soul' or counsel me. No one talked about it at all. We were just excluded. It's like the Church, through many different agents, exerted control over my life, and I wasn't allowed to know it - I could only speculate about it. It was like I was given up on, as if I were ruined, and this was also unconsciously absorbed as a powerful message to my siblings.

Different people interpret the basic tenets of a religion in different ways, and human beings have individual prejudices. It seems pretty mean to destroy the traditions of a group of kids whose mother died young, at a time when they need some semblance of stability and support. What kind of a Christian family (especially a wealthy, powerful one) would deny a group of motherless kids with an unstable father a chance to have Christmas with their grandfather? What reason could they have?

To me, abortion (as a reason) makes sense. I can say religion is good in many ways, it gives people a sense of belonging, meaning, it gives them structure and guidance regarding how to live their lives. When people really believe, they have to act according to the rules, and this might be harsh for some. I might interpret their actions as cruel and unfair, but they are doing what they think is right. However, I didn't think of them as cruel and unfair in the 1980s-90s. None of us questioned this shitty treatment. We were very accepting, and it didn't occur to us that this wealthy family with many connections in the Polish community didn't really try to offer us support. We were so used to change and upheaval and new circumstances and new people that it just seemed normal to us.

It doesn't seem normal to me now.

Even if I think it out rationally, it's still hard to overcome the guilt that my siblings might have paid a price for my abortion. However, there's more to it. What they unconsciously absorbed from that situation might have been that powerful people shunned people like me. When dining with our mother's side of the family, they would bow their heads, say grace and cross themselves like everyone else, and I was the one who stood there defiant. That's misleading. It took courage, yes, but my attitude was not hard or snarky. When people don't consciously question their own beliefs, they might be accepting things they don't know they're accepting, and contributing to another member's feeling of banishment.

I don't repent my abortion. I believe it was a good choice. I don't believe my life has been a punishment for that one decision. However, I do not know to what extent I have not been able to shake internalized judgment and superstition, or that of others who believe to different extents in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

What I see is that in my life, there was a pattern of me being dependent on, or being surrounded by, powerful groups and individuals who believed I was ruined, a source of shame, or something to be shunned, and this is the kind of thing that can result in the feeling that the world is against you, or at least that you have no support. On the other side of the family, I had a father with the kind of power to influence beliefs that a cult leader might have. Siblings and others might think they don't share certain beliefs, but when you socialize with such groups, you may unconsciously partake of a certain kind of support and validation, and you might not recognize that someone is singled out as a scapegoat.

Perhaps it's no wonder that it became harder for me to attend family gatherings, and that when I stopped, people didn't seem to worry about whether I was ill, whether I was 'all right' - they just assumed it was more proof I was a bad person, that I was irresponsible and inconsiderate, and not a loving person.

And with the general public only knowing that I 'divorced' my family, that I cut them out, they probably just assume that I've always been an asshole, not that in many ways, I probably cut people off because I was trying to avoid being a burden, and also because contact felt like abuse, it felt like there was never any possibility for a positive identity.

Dr Velvet Thong: I don't think you've managed to sum things up quite like that before. I hope others notice.

I feel a bit scattered today, so I'll probably seem to be all over the place.

Going back to coercive control: we don't really have solutions for how to change controlling and violent behaviour, or the instincts that underlie it. I don't think shaming people into killing themselves because they can't change is the answer, and there wouldn't be enough jails or facilities, and those places don't usually work for rehabilitation, anyway. However, it has to be acknowledged that it can be dangerous to try to offer understanding to someone with unconscious rage and deeply ingrained violent or controlling impulses.

Let's leave that for now, and talk racism and cultural appropriation.

Velvet: I feel I might have given some mixed messages regarding where I stand, and so I want to try to clear that up, if possible.

It makes sense to me that there is a lot of frustration and anger, and that people would think of me as entitled and oblivious.

The safest thing is probably to say nothing, but if you do actually care about the situation and want it to progress, I think the thing to do is to try speaking, accept that you might get it wrong, and keep trying.

I do not think it 'proves' I'm not racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, misogynist, if I tell everyone that in the 80s for an American History course I wrote an essay about how Hollywood had and was still negatively impacting culture and society through its stereotypes. I think it's interesting that when I was in my teens, before we were more conscious of the fact that positive representation matters, I had instinctively grasped this, and I was really sure that I wanted to choose my own topic for the essay, not something 'safe' that was on the teacher's suggested list.

This still does not mean I could really understand the breadth and scope of people's experience, but I was sympathetic, and empathetic. I wanted to be part of the world, and to experience much more of it, and I wanted discussions, but in my teens I became seriously isolated and my social development was halted.

I was aware of my privilege, and ashamed that despite it, I could not make something of myself. To me, it seemed fair that I should now cop everyone's judgment, take it without complaint. I did not feel entitled to life or happiness, to marry, have kids, own a home, travel. I did not ask myself 'why me?' I accepted that I just wasn't as good or strong as others, and so when people judged me, I treated them with kindness and understanding. I'd had a 'moment in the sun' when young, and I was genuinely happy when I skipped a grade, but I did understand that there are intelligent people all over the world who aren't fairly rewarded, and sometimes don't even get to attend school.

I know that every time I seem to try to support equality issues, I ruin it by making it all about me. I support many different causes. I personally live in a state of distress. When I am able to concentrate well enough or get the energy together to post something, I usually try to do what I can to make a statement of support for others, and then continue trying to make my cause known - because I am not stable enough to be a full participant in other causes. My cause is the 'reason' I'm not stable enough, and so I focus on trying to get my message out there. I know there are others in the world dealing with mental illness, addiction, body image issues, who have no voice and who do not relate to the common messages we receive about these topics.

The mentally ill, those with eating disorders, and addicts are not really portrayed in ways that I think are positive. I have experienced serious enough equality issues in life that it feels unfair to have my thoughts and feelings discounted as those of a selfish, oblivious person of privilege.

I find it extremely difficult to seek medical treatment, because I feel like I am always judged, and/or that because of my position, I can't be taken seriously, that whatever I'm saying, my perceptions are probably wrong, or out of touch with reality, or that I'm a liar. Not to mention that I have such serious body trauma and shame that it is extremely difficult to let a doctor or dentist do anything. I'm now at a stage that if I do have contact with the medical profession, I have a recurrence of PTSD afterward. I do not feel safe when I visit medical professionals.

I've lived in Australia for almost 22 years, and this comparison might sound offensive, but it's a bit like I'm a refugee living in detention. I've never felt that I had a right to stay, either in this house, or in Australia, and in a sense I've been on alert that I might have to leave at any time. I live with most of my stuff boxed in my cupboards. I've never had a personal visitor to the house. I think in total, I have had less than 5 texts/calls in 22 years. Most of my online communication whether it's for support groups, discussion groups, penpal groups or email, doesn't last very long, and in the last 7 or 8 years, I have hardly ever emailed, and I honestly just dread even having to check my mail to keep my accounts open or keep an eye on weird activity.

For me the eating disorder and addiction could both be described maybe a bit like I have taken antabuse, such that life is something I can 'drink', but I'm going to be violently ill, I'm not allowed to enjoy anything. And in writing that, I honestly expect that most people's attitude is: serves you right, you get what you give, you deserve it, bitch.

And it seems 'wrong' or like an excuse to try to say I was physically and psychologically abused, bullied, sexually harassed, sexually assaulted and tortured, when I was still a 'nice' person (and when most people thought of me as such), because I end up sounding like someone who enjoys being a victim or who likes to place blame, not someone who is trying to say I think the attitudes and behaviours that existed back then are still in the world now and are morphing with the new tech, and that while in the past the way to show character was to turn the other cheek, at present I think we need to become more conscious of the hidden misogyny that contributes to inequality in society. We need something other than 'ignore it'. People who don't think they're doing anything wrong will keep on thinking that, because silence lets them keep on thinking that. Well, when a female Prime Minister makes a Misogyny Speech, and then people still support the misogynist who inspired it, that also sends a powerful message.

On streaming services: I wanted to use them as a replacement for drinking, but what happened was that they became one more thing linked to drinking, or that triggers it. And I think the issue is that there's so little representation of my experience, beliefs, philosophies in movies and programs that it stresses me out and I don't feel I belong in the world. At times it feels more sinister. For example, I joined Netflix because I wanted more of 'the world'. There is a lot of good Australian programming, but I've watched a lot of SBS and ABC, and I started to feel suffocated by Australian values and beliefs - and that even in their world programming choices, I felt like it was all framed by an Aussie agenda, and I had to escape! because I am living in a country where I feel hated, devalued and disrespected, or at the very least, profoundly misunderstood. After a while, it seemed that despite my likes, my views, I was getting more and more Australian content, when I wanted less. I didn't want to watch with a VPN, and besides, even if I did, I think they probably would have gone with the country from which I made an account. The rationale is probably that wherever people are in the world, they feel comforted by messages from 'home', but to me, it actually seems like a scary brainwashing device, a way of reinforcing what I don't think needs any more help/support. I doubt it is only an Australian thing. All countries can maybe exert control over their citizens through putting pressure on Netflix, Facebook, whatever, to show a higher percentage of content that supports their agenda, and that this is a better, more effective way to control their people than political discussion.

I have seen some signs that some groups are starting to change the discussion regarding addiction and mental illness, but there's still a long way to go, especially considering that when I was in a major Australian public hospital, it seemed like more of the staff than not were holding on to beliefs that perpetuate stigma.

And I do have to make clear, since I'm sure SBS, ABC, Stan and Netflix all have records of my watch history, that if I like something or watch it more than once, or dislike something, I need to be able to explain why, and individuals make assumptions regarding my beliefs at their own peril. The why matters more than the 'like' or 'not for me'. And sometimes, I have experimented with the system. For example, I thought it somewhat fitting to 'vote strategically', perhaps not unlike how you're supposed to vote in Australia. To try to reduce the amount of Australian content in Netflix, I went and put a thumbs down on almost all the Australian content I could find, except a few things, like Babe and The Wrong Kind of Black, not because I dislike all of it, or don't appreciate the quality, but to see if I could reduce Australian content without getting a VPN, or if there was a set amount I would have to put up with, for reasons and things going on behind the scenes.

Which brings me around to: my second Second Life. To anyone signing in, it looks like I'm 9 years old, but that's because they never delete accounts, probably to make it seem like they have a higher number of subscribers/users than they actually do. In total, I've only been on Second Life a couple of months, and still only have the skill level of a noob. So, people who might think because I'm 9 I should know better and not act like an asshole represent a source of stress, and it all becomes yet another detriment to social interaction.

This time around, I had very little social interaction, and I mostly did try to hang out in places where traffic was low or nil. I did have fun, but there is a lot about Second Life that is stressful and that technically doesn't make sense.

There's a massive amount to learn for Second Life. I think it was good for me to try, to give me something to focus on for a while, and to think about 'Well, if I can choose anything, what do I want to look like, where do I want to go, what do I want to do?'

Overall, I did have fun, and I think the experience lifted my mood. I have ideas about what else to try, but at present I'm not ready.

Dr Velvet Thong: I quite like the idea of having my own therapy centre, with the theme rooms we discussed once upon a time, for those who cannot afford to pay $200/hr or whatever it still is with a Medicare rebate. I am not sure yet what I want to look like, either. So, in the long term, maybe we both could learn not just how to do interior design, but landscaping/building as well.

Velvet: Are you using our session to advertise your business?

Dr Velvet Thong: It's an interesting hook, isn't it?

Velvet: I know people are probably tired of it, but I want to try again to sum up what happened, because I think I understand more now, or it seems clearer, the evolution of coercive control in my history.

It's true that I had a tumultuous childhood, with the stress of my parents' fighting, and the upheaval of many moves. I had a weird skin condition that made me familiar with having to hide a deformity (and that's not an exaggeration), and although it could be hidden to some extent gym class was a nightmare, and there was also a belief that I could probably never marry. It's true that I was sexually molested at age 5, and that throughout school I was bullied and later sexually harassed. Nobody gets to say 'it happens to all girls, get over it.' It should not be happening, period. It's not something anyone should accept as the norm.

It was not these things that destroyed my internal structure and stability, although it's not likely they helped much. My first boyfriends (not counting the very first who was only a boyfriend for 2.5 weeks), were controlling and abusive, but while they may have contributed, the damage was already done, and was probably what drew them to me.

It's taken a long time, and going over the details again and again, but I think I see now where the most damage was done. It occurred from ages 13-15, when I moved in with my father. Before that, no matter what was happening, I always found my footing, and I always excelled in school. My suicide attempt occurred before I had an abortion or had even had vaginal intercourse. The reason for the attempt was not a controlling boyfriend. He was part of it, but in the larger sense, I lived in chaos, felt I had no control, and saw no future for myself.

After the first schoolyear with my father, I stayed with my mother for the summer. During the schoolyear, my eating disorder had developed, and it was distressing, but I kept it to myself, and no one noticed or commented or made it possible to open discussion. With my mother, for the entire summer, it was like the eating disorder disappeared. My weight was constant, didn't fluctuate, I didn't feel out of control, I didn't feel like I was living in chaos.

I think the reason was that on many levels, my mother was giving guidance and structure and support to my life. I didn't know how to value it or recognize it because my father denigrated her contributions and worth and my critical thinking skills weren't developed.

At the end of the summer when I returned home, my eating disorder came back and was worse than before. At the beginning of the next summer, when I returned to stay with my mother, I had a breakdown. I had now been away from her too long and I had nothing but internal chaos. I told her I could not stay, and that I needed to see a psychologist. In the past, I assumed the problem was that she wanted something unrealistic regarding my appearance, but the truth is that with her my weight would naturally have been lower, and my nutrition better. However, my internal chaos was now so strong that I couldn't control it, and I knew she'd see it - I didn't think she could help, and I couldn't live with her after having my own room and being away from the stress and tension of living in the same house as her boyfriend.

My problems with food weren't just about lack of self-control and lack of guidance, boundaries and rules, they were also about the destructive power of my father's personal chaos, and being a dependent in a situation in which I didn't feel safe or feel I had any personal say or control - and to 'choose' to live with my mother would have resulted in a different situation in which I felt equally powerless and unsafe. My problems with food were an attempt to act out a complex kind of psychological abuse in which all of my abilities and accomplishments were undermined and twisted by my father, partly due to an immature and vindictive response to perceived sexual rejection. My social isolation later on might have partly represented a feeling of shame-shunning from my mother's religious side of the family, but the three sexual assaults that occurred in a three month period after my abortion, and led to the PTSD that resulted in my first period of isolation seem more likely to me to represent that I had internalized my father's (repressed) sexual rage against me.

My father's friends and acquaintances all seemed to be abusive to women. The women he dated all seemed to have serious family and/or relationship abuse, and they were all emotionally disconnected, except when it came to him. I think that although he might have tried to override his instincts, they were there.

With 'humour', he destroyed my innocence, trust and self-esteem. He was able to brainwash others into seeing it as humour. His girlfriend was an accomplice. She was an unconscious misogynist, and her own trauma and experience had led her to side with men, against other women.

In Our Souls At Night, a young boy calls his grandmother because he has been left on his own while his dad is drinking. He's afraid. When the grandmother arrives with her boyfriend, you see a lot just in the way they survey the scene, and because it's Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, perhaps, you take it seriously. There are empty bottles, there's garbage strewn around, but there's also a feeling that the boy is in trouble, and so is the father. They need help.

Is it really so far-fetched that at 16, even though I was suffering PTSD, I was capable of recognizing a similar situation, and I was able to find whatever strength and compassion I had left to try to take responsibility for the psychological and physical health of other human beings who were lost, scared and sad?

The house was bigger than the one in the movie, and there was a lot more garbage and disarray. There was also pet hair from 5 pets, and this meant I had to vacuum every day. But it wasn't just about cleaning up, planning meals, cooking a regular dinner, washing all the dishes, doing the laundry, the psychological work was also significant.

The father in the movie did not seem to have the destructive power of my father, who was more dominant, more like a cult leader.

What needs to be explained also relates to my eating disorder. It's about my father's power and influence. Living with our mother, there would never ever have been that kind of mess. The rules were different with The Bumble, starting with visitation. We were always afraid in any new situation that we'd do something wrong. But this was about being tuned in to the person in power, and waiting for instructions. It was not about feeling anyone had a right to question the order or if it made sense there was a mess. He had control. I think that's what it meant. And he didn't know how to use it in a healthy way, and when he was not in a relationship, it was worse. He didn't know how much he relied on women to take responsibility for things he thought sorted themselves out magically. It was one of the reasons women left him. They didn't sign on for so much responsibility, and when they left, he was angry, not sad. I can see that it was like he was an abandoned child, and that he didn't understand the power he had and didn't want any responsibilities. And I think I understood that without words back then, and when I began to support the others, to take control of what I could, I didn't do it in a way to belittle his experience, even when he completely invalidated and belittled my contributions, or at least misunderstood and focused on something lesser.

He didn't really understand or value women's contributions, but he had trouble functioning without a woman in his life.

The focus that he passed on to everyone became that I was beholden to him for allowing me back in the house - and to me, even if that was completely about his unconscious belief system, it seems like a way to control people, to make them always doubt their value and contributions - to make them feel they owe you, that their contributions have no value.

I still think my siblings believe his spin on the situation - that I was an embarrassment, that I didn't contribute anything 'real', and that I had always been 'off'.

It was like powerful forces or influences from both sides of the family shared negative assessments of me, and they were such that no one was actually concerned about my illness or future, because everyone was unconsciously accepting that I didn't deserve a future, or that I was something never meant for this world.

My efforts to connect with the world after serious trauma were often heroic, but unrecognized and unsupported. I was actually put down many times by my father when trying to 'get out there'. I think I had internalized something that made it difficult for me to know how to connect my efforts with practical solutions and the support of people and institutions.

My mother had balanced his destructiveness and chaos. She had protected us. I am not sure if I've made a clear connection yet in writing. When I returned to the house, it was like that scene in the movie. No one thinks I did anything, but I think my instinct was to channel whatever I remembered of my mother, and that I tried to balance the chaos for the others, or to offset it.

When one individual has enough power to shape the beliefs of others, to reduce the power and dismantle the identity of a person such as me, surely that falls under the definition of coercive control. When you are dependent on such an individual, it can seem threatening to challenge his beliefs, especially when you've seen how others fare when they try.

Later, online, I was drawn to those who misunderstood me in ways that eventually helped me to understand that I had been badly treated. I think I had to allow them to inflict their own unique types of destructiveness on me so that I would be able to identify it and move forward with the process of individuation. I never wanted to think of anyone as a hopeless case, and even when they wanted to do me damage, I did not want to damage them. I wasn't strong enough to be kinder, but I think part of the process of individuation is about not supporting those who would harm you.

Dr Velvet Thong: I don't want anyone to forget that for the last 17+ years you have felt stalked and abused by hackers. People don't get to just dismiss that, or think it has no effect on trust, or on your communication over time, including how patient and kind you are able to be. Also, I'd ask them to have an open mind about it. The circumstantial details might seem to point to Possum Dreaming as the perp, but I don't believe it's him.

Velvet: I realize it might still seem nebulous, or like conjecture, and that maybe my focus will change again sometime.

Dr Velvet Thong: Yes, one day you might find out that it was indeed a secret underground experiment designed to see what the human mind comes up with to explain things when you are actually just being controlled by people who implanted something in your brain from birth.

But through what you've written, and through seeing various statistics, and the experience of others, including how experience is reflected in art and creativity, it does seem that certain experiences and combinations of experience lead to certain human responses and future experiences. A lot of people are still mired in the wrong conclusions and old judgments, not seeing enough of the overview. If what I'm saying becomes an accepted part of collective consciousness, it will result in a kind of change in which so much of what's been accepted for a long time will seem wrong or even offensive. In a modern age, where there are endless copies and types of media for all the prejudice to be conveyed, what will we do with all the encoded sentiment when we understand it?

Velvet: OK, I think my headspace is better in Second Life, where I talk less. I think what I wanted to try to do was write a bit about coercive control, and get across that the problem is bigger than just rehabilitating those who perpetrate it and helping those affected by it leave their situations, that we pretty much have to accept many different types and layers of coercive control to survive in society, to have a career, social existence, to participate in hobbies or travel, use social media, get a streaming service, and that if we want to challenge coercive control, we have to look at how we are controlled from birth to death beyond our individual families and relationships, by Big Business, by the parties with a stranglehold on government, and by religions.

I wanted to try to write something to make a distinction between my early experiences and my experience with Possum Dreaming, such that if I kill myself, he isn't looked at or hassled as a 'suspect'. He has a hard enough time as it is, and I wouldn't want people to inflict stress on him that might traumatize him during an already stressful time. I meant to try to get people to think about how the misunderstanding of me and my situation by my family and PD's led to increased isolation for me and Possum Dreaming, and increased stress and resentment for all. I wanted people to think about how I was turned away by the Australian psych system/process when I asked for help, but also to see that those who try to support me do not get enough support from society, institutions and their families. In part it's about the hidden effects of stigma and misunderstanding, even when people think these are not issues.

I wanted to write something about cultural appropriation. I'm assuming I've been guilty of it, and I want to try to discuss it. I want to try to get across that for a person whose identity is shaky, who feels banished from both sides of her family, exiled from her country of birth, hated in her current country of residence, it maybe makes sense to try to explore what's different from what she's known, trying to find out if there's anywhere she belongs. I'm trying to find ways to heal myself.

With cultural appropriation, people try to reduce a culture down to aspects they find attractive or personally relevant, or try to capitalize on it for personal gain. It's not about learning about a culture in more depth.

Is it cultural appropriation, or a valid way for a person to explore identity, for example in cases of abuse, trauma or disconnection/shunning from one's own culture, society, family, friends, to try to somehow connect with the larger world, or others they sense have been mistreated? Can it be creative or healing?

A person who has experienced many kinds of sexually-related abuse and harassment (eg, me) might intuitively seek out ways to seem 'attractive' (possibly one of the ways is through cultural appropriation of stereotypes) - ironically to attract more abuse and punishment, which might even include being shut out from institutions and organizations fighting for the rights of the marginalized. The possible positive of this is that I think I have learned about what has happened to me, such that it might be possible for me to develop differently now.

There are different ways of learning or paths to learning. I have watched a great many documentaries and films made by those of many different cultures and circumstances, I have listened to people tell their stories in their own words.

I don't know how to connect with anyone, from any culture, at this point in my life. I don't see positive representation of myself, and what I've said in my own words doesn't seem to resonate with anyone.

There are people who are skilled at appearing to 'experience culture' in some kind of authentic way, but is it really human or realistic to say that if you travel, or learn anything about a culture, you first have to be very careful? A lot of people would be scared to try, because it's hard to have someone watching your every move, saying no, you're doing it wrong, idiot, clueless, racist. Isn't it valid to be struck or inspired by something visual, and to want to process that intuitively, not block it with structure or 'shoulds', but to go with a feeling? When I travelled, and went out walking, it seemed to me that the only real chance I had for human connection was not to try to live like a local, but to look for something in the eyes of other human beings.

One of the points related to appropriation is that a culture with more power uses elements of another to further glorify itself, while denying the other equality and advancement.

When it comes to racial bias and cultural appropriation, I think it's a problem when you expect too high a standard of perfect sensitivity, too fast. It is important to try to focus on identifying those who try to prevent anyone from sharing in their resources and power, those who block the advancement of others.

A lot of people might be afraid to speak in case they get something wrong, even when they truly believe in equality. Because human beings have this nasty habit in public 'discussion' where it has to get down to 'I'm smarter than you, you ignorant uneducated whatever', and people, most people, want to avoid that. It's not just that human egos are fragile, it's that the court of public opinion can easily turn on average people who don't speak well or who don't have good lawyers or spokespeople to spin the damage. And it's no fun to feel that no one likes you or is on your side.

I feel the need to say this, because I'm not sure people know. I don't make money from my website, or anything I've created. I haven't monetized anything. I have been paying to keep my website up for more than 17 years. When the size of my site was too much for my free Geocities account, I got a Small Business account, but not because I intended to use it for anything business-related. My website is not a beard for my secret spamming business or anything else. It was the only plan that made sense considering how much space I needed, and over the years, I kept it for two reasons. One, I thought priority might be given to business accounts, such that they loaded faster than personal account websites, and two, I thought it might be a nightmare contacting people and dealing with all the hassles of a changeover.

Sometimes, I wonder if my website has influenced certain mental health or addiction groups, or creative efforts, and if the reason I don't receive feedback or credit relates to stigma, that I'm seen as so insignificant that my contributions don't matter enough for me to deserve feedback, that people don't consciously perceive my contributions to the discussion, or that they're afraid of associating themselves with the likes of me. Wouldn't that be ironic? I mean, if I have helped people to understand the isolating effects of stigma, and this further contributes to my own isolation and stigmatization?

It's not a contest about who has had it the worst, suffered the most abuse or inequality, or who has the lowest self-esteem. It's not about who has overcome the biggest obstacles and therefore must have the most positive attitude. It's about the necessity of individuals to tell their own stories, to help us identify inequality, suffering and abuse such that it is possible something can be done. It's about shifting the perception of what parts of the sadness of life it might be possible to do something about.

It has bothered me that I have used an image for my index page for years that includes clothing and hair designed in Second Life by people I did not credit. I only recently figured out how to get that info, and I'll repeat it here:

Nova Mnemonic clothes, hair and accessories by: Ronja Pera, Paulinha Sands, Cranlor Burrito, Mammoth Noel, Cyan Linden and Blue Burke. If I'm leaving anyone out, it's not on purpose.

Exit International's Sarcos are interesting, and passing the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill is a good step. Most states in Australia, but not all, have passed it. When I read a draft of it originally, it seemed to me that a good lawyer could possibly argue on my behalf, but the last time I tried to find it, I think it had changed or they made it less accessible, and I found many people were stressing it was for those who were going to die of a physical illness within 6 months. You have to make a request to your doctor, and I'm not sure all of the terminally ill would know this.

Something that worries me, though.. I think there are those who don't really want people to avail themselves of the law - for financial reasons. I get the idea that there are those who want to change ideas about life and retirement. If people are retiring later, and believe that the new norm is to keep relatives alive longer in retirement villages, maybe there are those who would stand to make a lot of money from this. I remember that I did a search on retirement villages some time back, ok, a simple, quick search, and had trouble finding the financial details, like who's profiting, and if many different products and services could all be linked together, but the whole business did come across as financially convoluted, shady and unfair - and probably corrupt is a better word.

If you use power to support and finance media, tv programs, films, that have an agenda of selling Australians on this new version of their future, you exploit all the Australian core values you're aware of, while making sure to obscure this by occasionally throwing a bone/extending false hope.

Is that a life of free will, or is it just another form of coercive control?

Dr Velvet Thong: I find myself wondering if we need to look at more layers. Do you respect Australians? Have you got into a habit of always fighting an 'entity', without seeing enough of the other side, without seeing that not all Australians believe the same things?

Velvet: I think at times I really have to fight hard not to be as prejudiced about Australians as they are about Americans.

Somehow I think their stereotypes are as bad as racism, but no one's speaking up about it. I get that Americans are fair game because they're powerful, and have used power in bad ways, but the US is diverse. Not all Americans support the atrocities. Many are very vocal about this.

It does matter that those who are affected by coercive control are willing to speak despite the danger, and on a personal level, it matters that the issue has been named and backed up by Authority. It does feel like support. Thank you.

A couple of groups are also making efforts to change the dialogue about mental health issues and addiction, and the part stigma plays, groups related to the SBS program Addicted. That helps, too.

I do see, however, that I still can't seek these groups out, to be part of these communities. I have too many other complications, I'm not really in more danger than I would be out in the world, other people are in more serious situations, and I think it's likely Australian women would find me difficult to talk to. Also, I'd probably be self-conscious about taking up resources, including emotional and psychological resources, that should rightfully go to Australian citizens and not me, especially when I'd rather have pentobarbital. It's not a kindness to keep me alive and suffering just because it seems like a 'fuck you' to those in my life who have tried to control me or who have abused me and my trust. Help those who can be helped, and learn from my experience.

I also wanted to say that I don't think the Australian Mental Health system is likely to help those most marginalized. There are still too many hoops, for someone like me at the very least. I have learned some things I did not know before. For example, I thought Medicare paid for 10 CBT sessions if you have a Mental Health Plan with your GP, and they do pay for some, but not all of your bill. You get a rebate on what might be a $200/hr fee (this seems to currently be somewhat standard or even low). You might still pay $120, or $90 a session, and I do not see how this is affordable for the most marginalized. I do not know to what extent medications are compensated. But if treatment is 'community-based' and this means that the process starts with you contacting your GP and then taking her recommendations for therapy within your community, I'm not sure how that would have helped the three times in my life I was hospitalized when I was homeless. If you don't have the stability of a home base, how do you get community-based treatment?

One thing I remember from my hospitalizations was that upon release, when I had no home to go to, I received no help in finding accommodation. I think that having a place to live, a place you like, is an important part of recovery and building or rebuilding a life.

I want to say again that I think Australia should take in more refugees. At present, I struggle a lot concerning the refugee situation. I know the best chance for survival refugees have is if they have community support. I don't have that, I don't have connections to offer. I know compassion matters, but I think it also matters where it's coming from, and if you respect that source. A good human being might find meaning in self-sacrifice and humility, but I think of necessity, the approach to refugees in Australia is to teach them to accept coercive control, and I'm not strong enough or smart enough to know how to challenge that without destroying their chances. So I am here, trying to draw attention to what I see.

->exile on meme st: a diary