Trigger Warning: This essay was written by a teenager in our system who was put through torture-based programming. It is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness style description of her trauma, which may be experienced as raw and provocative. This piece of writing was prompted by our previous essay, in which someone else in our system expressed being unable to remember any torture that utilized electric shock.
There is nothing like ease in my heart, to start it beating one more time, after they rape me and drown me, or shock me and beat me, or string me through a parade of torturous programming—programming meant just for me, designed with my mind in theirs.
Captured. I am a caught bird.
Have you ever had to ask yourself whether it is worth it, to stretch out your wings from within a cage? What hurts most deeply? The muscles cramping? The reminder that the cage is built too small for you and that you cannot escape? Or the notion of the life worth living that is going on without you, in some parallel world where slavery cannot exist—where it slips through anybody’s fingers, like falling dust, or settling sand?
There is no room left for me here. I am settling down, deeper, deeper, into the dust of my existence. They have already blown my soul apart. What is left of me? Nothing? No—I see a shadow. A shadow that is me. That is not me but that is pointing to me—if I follow it.
You are a shadow in my mind, Earth. I have only ever known you from afar. I do not know you now. I do not know how to step on you. I only feel my feet hit something that I cannot understand. Again, again, again, step, step, step, like reading a sentence in a book over and over again because somehow my mind can’t hold its hand.
Who are you, death? Are you me? Am I death? Am I living? Am I worth living? Am I anything? Will anyone ever know me? Will they even find me under here? Under the basement? A room for which this language has no title, for it is not meant to exist. The room below the lowest room. The secret room. The programming room.
Electricity soars through me, as though the night sky all at once decided to devour me and leapt at lightspeed. I’m dazed and I’m hungry but I should not eat. Not now. Even taking in love would make me hurl. I have been upturned for too long.
Daisies surround me, and I sense that they are doing something stupid to me now. The programmers. They are singing a song about daisies. As a baby it was chaos; as a child it was confusing because it was nice and mean at the same time; as a teenager I simply wish I could role my eyes. But they’ve got those pried open.
Tingles form on my feet and that means they are starting again. The pain is so loud; or is it the electricity? Soon it turns into ants and the ants are not me anymore. They are eating up the pain. I am a field of daisies. I start to recede. They can pave over me now, do anything they want.
How terrible it is to be in this helmet, with this bite guard keeping me in tact while I get destroyed. How many feet above me do normal people tread the quiet night, under the flickering city lights?
I wish I were them. I wish I were dead. I wish I were not me. But I can’t be. Too many people depend on me. So throw me into a field of daisies if you want—I’ve got family. I’ve got children who need care and nappies, and I’ve got elders who aren’t allowed to tell me that they are on my side. Hey programmers, I’ve got hope. What’ve you got?
It’s over. I can walk again. Every step trains me to retreat from my past as I move forward into the sunrise of this new day. I am new again. But I feel old. I feel fragile. But soon I won’t remember. I will look at myself in the mirror and wonder why I am so tired, so depressed, so lonely, so hurt, but with no bruises, no marks to show for it.
School is exhausting because I have to work hard to keep my brain from working. Only certain parts are allowed out at school. God forbid we remember how smart we are.
School is exhausting because the history books teach the wrong lessons, and the science books leave so much out, and the literature pokes fun at me from within my mind (Charles Dickens was used in my programming). I like being outdoors and I like not being attached to any machines. What do you like?
There is a place in my heart where I cannot yet remember the eyes in me who saw the murders, who felt the rapes, who got sold over the rickety table, who got beaten with a vengeance. There is only darkness there. Maybe for now this is as it should be.
But there is a spring in me, a spring who would like to tell you what it knows, what it remembers, what it feels, and maybe one day it will. Or will this life end before every single circuit in this brain can have its chance to heal? What is the furthest I can count before I die?
I am alive now, as you can see. I write to you now. I made it. I survived. Maybe you did too. I work really hard at learning to rest, to take in goodness, and to stop working hard. I am learning to be happy. I wish that Happiness had been one of the classes I was forced to take in school, but it wasn’t.
What does it mean to feel happy? Why am I allowed to be this? To feel this? Who am I? After so much electric shock to the brain, I don’t know. I don’t know much anymore. But what I feel to be true is that I used to know many things, and that my mind is mostly made up of hidden knowledge.
I am on a search for it, and I hope I can find it. And I hope you can find whatever you are looking for, too. I hope you have someone in your life who tells you that the things you most deeply dream of are valid, and that is okay to have your wants and needs. I hope you have someone who holds you in a safe way, and isn’t going to leave. I hope you are able to step out into the freedom. Don’t get caught in a programming room like me. Whatever you do, don’t give your ability to think to someone else.
I really like ease. I can’t say I’m surprised to find this out, and yet I didn’t know it until just recently. My life never gave me a chance to experience ease.
But I do like ease. I want more of it. I wish I didn’t have to work so hard to have ease, and that almost feels like a paradox.
But I know it’s not. I know it can be done. Ease has been found on this planet before, even by survivors of the extremes of life. If it can be found once, it can be found again. I think the place to look for it is in nothing that hurts, or something that matters. That’s where I’ll begin.
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