That which does not kill us makes us stronger. – Friedrich Nietzsche
I’ve often referred to my “year of disaster”, August 1994 to July 1995, a single twelve-month period of my life which contained enough misfortune and trauma for any twelve bad years. By the time it was over, I felt as though my psyche had received the equivalent of a sustained beating with a wide assortment of blunt instruments; it took me years to recover from the accumulated stress, and I was still subject to panic attacks (often provoked by unpredictable stimuli) until about 2003. Even to this day I dread being alone with my own thoughts unless I have something like writing or a book to focus on; when unoccupied by work, reading or conversation my brain is wont to start dwelling upon things best left shut up in mysterious boxes under my mental stairs. But since those boxes often emit sharp thumps, chilling whispers, horrifying moans and unintelligible muttering that can sometimes be heard through the locked door, a few words about their contents is probably in order on this, the twentieth anniversary of what at the time seemed the most devastating of the incidents.
On August 16th, 1994 I suffered a 22-week miscarriage; in the old days that would’ve been called a stillbirth, but modern medicine prefers more neutral, clinical language. I was convinced it had been dead for some time, and my OB/GYN saw no reason to argue with me about that. Some of y’all may find it strange that I wanted children, but Nature is, as I have so often said, a bitch goddess and She often makes us want things that clearheaded consideration would declare absolutely terrible ideas. I was also very young (27) at the time, and not half as cynical as I am now; however, honesty compels me to point out that anyone who’s ever been a guest in my home can tell you that my frustrated maternal drives have resulted in my compulsively mothering every mammal within reach, all the time. And anyone who’s ever heard me talk to my pets…well, the less said about that, the better; I have a reputation as a hardheaded badass to maintain. On some level, it probably even influenced my shift into a kind of sex work where I could directly care for people, and my soft spot for disabled clients.
A few months later my doctor broke the news to me: unless, as he put it, I wanted to keep having deformed babies, my uterus would have to come out. I did not take the news well, but like the miscarriage itself the hysterectomy was probably for the best in the end. My hormones had always fluctuated erratically, and within weeks of getting them out of a bottle instead of relying on my hopelessly-befuddled ovaries to supply them I was marveling at how much quieter my brain was and how much more stable the world outside of my head looked. But I’m getting ahead of the story; the actual hysterectomy didn’t come until early July, because…well, I can’t honestly remember why I waited that long. I guess it was because of everything else taking up all of my attention that winter and spring, things like the awful car accident a few days after Easter which left me with five broken vertebrae and that rather unsightly scar those of you who have met me in person may have noticed on my left wrist. Had the surgery not already been scheduled by then, the Memorial Day attack (please indulge me by being patient for a few months until I write about that again) would probably have delayed it even more…but as I pointed out yesterday, I have a peculiar dedication to schedules and once I had made the appointment I wasn’t going to let little things like major sexual trauma and PTSD get in the way of the program.
The last-referenced incident definitely had the longest-lasting negative effects; all the others I eventually came to see as “blessings in disguise” except for the car accident, which I filed under “Just One of Those Things That Happen To Maggie”. It wasn’t what I perceived as the worst of the shocks at the time, though; that dishonor is reserved for the events of Monday, January 2nd, 1995. I’ve already described them in detail four years ago, so it will suffice to say that my ex-husband, Jack, used my attendance at a library conference to clear out and take most of our stuff with him. I was utterly devastated; I’m very phobic about abandonment so I didn’t really take it well when faced with a literal nightmare come true. It took me two years to come to the conclusion that my friends really had known what they were talking about when they warned me away from marrying Jack in the first place, and were therefore more than likely correct now when they urged me to forget about him and take advantage of my looks (though I did that in a rather different way from what most of them meant). Twenty years later those looks have not yet faded (not much, anyway), and they’ve taken me places poor Jack’s narrow little imagination never could have dreamed of; I sometimes wonder how he’ll react if he ever sees my picture online or catches me on television. I’m not the scared little girl he dumped any more, and in a way I have him to thank for that; had he not left me twenty years ago today my life would’ve been much different and certainly a great deal less rewarding.