How I’m Learning to Fall Back in Love with my Scars


I heard the click of the bic lighter, a sound I would later come to pretend to love and then I saw the flames.

It’s one of those cute stories I used to tell. That time I put a fire in a diaper out. At first I forgot about the lighter. I blamed it on a faulty furnace. I forgot where the burn scars came from, scars that only some of my more observant lovers would notice. They are actually all over my body and I remember now how I treated them myself. A cold shower flushed the plastic down the drain, but the scars remained.

I issued excuses, and then covered those up. It’s all a series of elaborate lies. I could lie so easily, my intelligence and respectability, my pale skin acting as a kind of alibi only I would ever have to live with.

Now it’s all of you who will need the alibis.

Only once did they ever ask questions, my body seems to know how to hide. My body knows how dangerous the truth can be, maybe that’s why I’d fall in love with the truth later as an adult. Maybe that’s why I went looking for it.

And so here I am today, thinking about how best to cover up defensive wounds on my wrist from that Christmas they tried to kill me. I remember how they got there now and I used to be grateful only those with the right background could see they weren’t self inflicted. Pretty clear defensive wounds, kids. I wasn’t kidding about some of my skill sets. I got them from the father in died in prison for selling the same drugs you are now all entrepreneurs for selling.

I lied because I had no choice and you can call that convenient but I know my brain is magic because the truth only came when it started to be safe. All right, I lied again. It came a little sooner than I would have liked but that’s the way my brain handles things. I’m not in control of it and that has turned out to be the greatest miracle of all.

Or so I thought.

Then I got reminded how much pain my scars could cause.

I could lie but the truth should be obvious now. I can play CSI on myself. I change the subject and pretend to be normal. Do the scars or the Stanford degrees come first?

No one seems able to process both.

So from now on you’ll have to listen to those stories about each scar because each and every single one of them is proof that I belonged at Stanford in the first place.

You did extracurriculars. I survived murder attempts and rape.

I’m not going to apologize for that. I won’t be backing down or lying anymore. I’m here because my own brilliance saved me from multuple attempts on my life.

My ability to get back up and laugh after rapes can be called madness all you like but it’s also why I’m an unstoppable force. I refuse to apologize for that either.

I’m going to stop apologizing for my pain. I’m going to start falling back in love with my scars. I know who I am and I’m not going to be told what to hide anymore. Choose to deal with it or don’t. I can’t help you there.

But if you want to know how to survive, how to thrive even, when everyone around you is mad enough to light babies on fire, I’m your girl.

The answer to the question of how I’ve survived seems to be jokes, music and love. Little acts of kindness made by people who didn’t have the power, fallen soldiers in a war we lost before I was even born. I got conscripted before I even had a choice, like my ancestors before never, going further back than I even know. We come by our stubbornness honestly, because what other choice is there? They said give me liberty or give me death, and too many people weren’t given the choice at all. I’ve always been more of a lover but that’s a weapon too when the whole world wants war and the struggle is against anger, pain and hate. They called me stubborn, and I call that still being alive. That stubbornness was all passed down from ancestors who survived long enough to keep me alive.

My body is all the more beautiful because it has been marked by monsters that fell long before they could take me with them and I’m going to fall back in love with it even when no one else can handle it.

It’s not my concern anymore whether or not it hurts you because maybe you need to know discomfort. There is beauty in this kind of madness. I wonder sometimes how much beauty the rest miss out on because they are so afraid of being anything other than normal.

But I can’t make you see what is patently obvious to me.

This is centuries of the human condition. I wasn’t the first fire. I won’t be the last one sold. This isn’t an unfamiliar story, it’s just one that never gets told.

I’m almost bored by it these days. It makes you forget your social graces.

“Oh shit, was it just inappropriate to mention the murders I witnessed. My bad.”

That’s my mundane.

And I’m not sorry about it.

And the reason I’m not sorry is because despite this, I’m still standing, and laughing my ass off at this whole charade.

That’s a choice.

It’s always a choice you have.

So make that choice like your life and the lives of everyone depends on it.

Those scars, they aren’t going anywhere but if they remind you to love they are beautiful, and you should demand love for them.


A Comprehensive List of Reasons We Aren’t Having Kids


Since getting married, people keep asking me and my husband if we want kids. Since neither of us has ever expressed even the slightest interest in procreation, it seems odd. But the really odd thing is when people argue with us about it after we try to politely demure. You could stop with the question when we say no, and I politely talk about how grateful I am that other people have them, but instead you keep interrogations going. Since we are getting tired of repeating ourselves, here’s the list of reasons.

Prepare to be horribly offended.

  • We don’t want to.
  • Kids will cramp our style? Why? Because our style is called “being irresponsible” and “sleep.”
  • You all frown on people who smoke weed around their children
  • People keep telling me how brilliant our child will be, and that might be true, if we win the genetic lottery. But they’ll also be insane, and we’ll possibly produce a Lex Luther.
  • Don’t you all think I’ve done enough damage to my body?
  • Listening to the cries of children gives me horrible flashbacks to my childhood.
  • I’ve already taken care of lots of kids, so I know better.
  • My husband straight just hates kids, you guys.
  • OR… we can both write.
  • We’re just a pair of selfish assholes.
  • OR… I can continue to play subversive aunt to all of your children
  • I literally can’t do it all without dying and frankly I like writing and activism better than raising kids.
  • Between my husband and I there is only one fully functioning adult and we both agree it’d be best to raise kids with two.
  • I wouldn’t wish my medical conditions and epic-genetic trauma on my worst enemy.
  • Just general laziness.
  • Neither one of us wants deal with the fallout of possibly having a douchebag. Which is to say, we’d have to hate our own child.
  • After 28 years, I’m finally getting good sleep. Fuck you for asking me to give it up.
  • Children aren’t fluffy and they expect to be fed more than twice a day on a regular schedule.
  • Our cat wouldn’t like it.
  • Christmas and Disneyland are usually involved in our descriptions of hell.
  • Do you REALLY think it’s a good idea? I mean, if you know us? DO YOU?!!
  • Because we are too irresponsible but also responsible enough to know we are too irresponsible.
  • It’s all fun and games to tell children to rebel against authority until you are the authority.
  • Children’s birthday parties.
  • Pregnancy, for either of us.
  • We’ll never like our child as much as we like each other and we’ll both also do a poor job hiding it because of aforementioned laziness.
  • “No, honey, Santa isn’t real. He’s just something some white people made up to get people to spend money. Sure, go ahead and share that information with the masses.” Do you really want my child in school with your child?
  • Children are like biological weapons factories and my body is basically virgin soil for the all the good my immune system does me.
  • I don’t actually carry the gene that makes me addicted to baby smell, because I’m a mutant.
  • I secretly hate taking care of kids even though I’m really good at it.
  • I’m also really good at physics but I have yet to see such a mass campaign to get me into scientific fields.



Practical, Realistic Suggestions for Exercising with Chronic Pain


Working out is super hard under the best conditions, but especially hard when you are a chronic pain patient. Over the last year and a half, I went from being bed-ridden to being functional on most days again. I work out probably 5-6 times a week (unless I’m injured) and I’m continuing to reach a healthy weight. If your goal is to lose weight, I can’t help you. The reason I can’t help you is because MY goal was to create a sustainable lifestyle so I could be healthier again. Research will tell you that exercise doesn’t matter for weight loss, and maybe that’s true but I know for a fact that it matters if you want to be healthier. So please don’t expect that I can tell you what to do about the number on the scale. That number might be perfectly fine and healthy for you, it might be too high, it might be too low. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I wanted to be able to dance again.

Now, up front, there are some basic barriers to this that the social justice community needs to take up as part of our list of causes. A lot of my success has depended on access. I’m able to exercise BECAUSE my pain is better managed and my pain is better managed because I can exercise. My pain is better managed because I now have access to medical marijuana and acupuncture and supplements. For people living with chronic pain in poverty, this challenge is a lot harder. Medi-Cal covers acupuncture but most doctors won’t take it, medical marijuana isn’t covered by insurance and that access depends on where you live. Supplements aren’t covered, though Vicodin and the like are. The most likely outcome as a chronic pain patient with Medi-cal is that they will shove prescriptions at you and hope for the best, because that’s what the government covers. Yet another reason we need universal health care, especially as research is currently implicating the exact drugs chronic pain patients are on as part of the health crisis among poor whites. So before we start lecturing anyone about how I did it so they can too, you can put some hours into fighting income inequality and poverty.

With that said, there are some pretty practical things that can help a lot of people that took me a while to figure out on my own, so I’m imparting that knowledge.

  • Go slow

The goal isn’t to do CrossFit tomorrow (OR EVER! WHY GOD WHY!), the goal is to be more functional and in less pain. The best way to start is to start out small. I started with short walks before they became long walks which then became yoga, which then became dance. 5 minutes became 15, 20 became an hour. OVER SEVERAL MONTHS. Especially with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, the goal is to avoid injury because injury sets us back and also makes us want to avoid exercise in the future. Injury in Ehlers Danlos is also permanent, so it’s NEVER worth whatever the push was for. Stop when it stops feeling good.

  • Have fun

A lot of chronic pain patients develop justifiable fears of movement because they exacerbate their conditions. We’ve developed negative associations with exercise because of past injury or poor pain management. The goal is to find things that you can develop positive associations with so that your brain and body start to associate exercise with a positive experience. For me, this means that I also had to think around social anxiety too. So planning around this, I knew I didn’t want to do competitive activities that involve a lot of social interaction. So I started doing yoga based on youtube and books, and walking. I love to dance, so when I was able, I started incorporating that too. After some time, I developed such positive associations that I kind of hate when I don’t get to work out. Coming from someone who grew up in a family that mocked me for yoga, this is a huge improvement.

  • Please for the love of God don’t push yourself to work out when you are ill

Pain is your body’s way of saying something is wrong, other people will encourage you to push past this. These people do not live with chronic pain and aren’t fragile and likely to be injured. These people should not be giving sick people advice. The goal is to be able to do more over the long term. It’s not a race and you don’t win by being injured.

  • Listen to your body

One of the degrees you get as a chronic pain patient trying to exist is in ignoring your body. “The pain is always there so I just ignore it.” “I can’t work if I don’t ignore the pain.” Even perfectly healthy people do this because we live under an industrial system that is frankly quite brutal. But your body is pretty smart and it does know what it needs if you learn to hear from it. Doctors gaslight us into not listening to our own bodies or health needs but this is a HUGE mistake if you want things to get better. You have to plan exercise around what works for you. On days when my shoulder hurts, I need to walk instead of doing yoga or I need to do a different form of yoga. I spent a lot of time also meditating and working on my anxiety so that I could listen to my body again, and because I spent that time I was able to create a system that worked without injuring myself.

  • Routine is your friend

This one is really hard because sick people never get sick on a routine schedule and because some of us (me!) didn’t grow up in a house with a whole lot of routines. This isn’t about always doing the workout or doing the workout at the same time every day or to the same level of difficulty. It’s about knowing that it’s better to do a little bit more often than to do big long workouts that tire you out. It’s about self-care routines like baths (hot water therapy is my best friend in the whole world, besides Epsom salt, but they are in a committed relationship with each other). You have to make exercise a sustainable life-long habit for it to work, so don’t try to show up to 90 minute fitness classes with perfectly healthy people if that doesn’t work for you. I don’t dance in a studio. I dance like I’m from North Highlands in my bathroom. But I do these things most of the time as part of my routine.

  • Your mental health matters too!

You know what makes it super hard to work out? Anxiety. SO HARD. So I had to actively start treating my anxiety. Depression makes it hard too. So does a whole host of conditions that can be brought on just from being in pain all the time. Again, this is something that we need to improve access to, so before you go around telling people to “get over it” I’m going to ask that you put some hours into expanding mental health treatment access. Your environment also matters a lot! We think we can just “power” through whatever, but we can’t. You have to reduce stress in your life to deal with the health issues and environmental factors make all the difference, so again, let’s work on poverty. But assuming you have some resources, I would encourage you to take up meditation and get your mental health issues treated like the real condition they are, because they will inhibit your ability to exercise and make routines. I don’t have a medical degree, so I don’t know that they would work for everyone, but there are free meditation apps like Brainwaves that I’m having a lot of success with for anxiety. Some mental health problems are also nutritional, I’m taking a B12 supplement (I have deficiencies both from my body being weird and my childhood) that has helped both my anxiety and energy levels. Some feelings come from having just experienced a lot of terrible stuff, in which case, there are a lot of promising treatments for most forms of PTSD. I’m not saying that things will be perfect. I still have lots of bad nightmares and flashbacks and all sorts of fun stuff but the goal here isn’t to be perfect, it’s to be happier and healthier.


  • Get a new doctor if yours isn’t helping

This is harder because there are real access issues here, but if your doctor isn’t giving you the resources to improve, or doesn’t take you seriously, get a new doctor. It’s not conducive to you healing to have a doctor that gaslights you and a doctor that believes in you and works with you to achieve YOUR goals is going to make a huge difference down the line. Seriously, this is what they are paid to do, to heal you. Fire them if they aren’t working on that. And not to be too biased, but until male doctors step their game up, I’m going to say that I’ve had A LOT more success with female doctors at the helm. They’ve been more likely to treat me with compassion and respect and like an equal partner in the process. YOU DESERVE THAT, SO DEMAND THAT. If your doctor makes you uncomfortable, report them too. Just because they went to school for a long time doesn’t give them all mighty god powers. They are human beings, and while I suggest that you find a doctor that you feel you can trust to not micro-manage (I do whatever my doctor tells me now because she has already been successful, so I don’t question her except for clarification), I also will very loudly encourage women to self-advocate in the medical office. Every experience with your doctor shouldn’t be stressful hell. Stressful hells are not conducive to healing.


Bottom line here is that exercise is part of self-love and we are all learning that concept again after a lifetime of being trained to treat ourselves cruelly for the sake of production. So I’ll end with this reminder: you are a human being. This is beautiful. This is more than enough.