University of Texas student Andrew Ridout photographed by Graeme Hamilton for The Daily Texan.
The following is my unedited November 23 response to Andrew Ridout’s piece in The Daily Texan where he accesses campus mobility using a rented wheelchair. Discretion is advised as content may be triggering to some.
I don’t want to see you smile
Cobble stone is what I remember most, because it left most of the scars on my body. Feel that; I hope you feel the pain that God never asked me if I wanted to feel in the first place. I hope you get up when you fall, every; single; day. I hope the cobble stone tears at your skin, leaves you black, blue, and purple; because now you can’t hide it. Now people can see the battle in your mind.
I hope you feel dizzy from having panic attacks in the West Mall; makeshift knee pads from Bounty Napkins and Scotch Tape falling under your sweats, calling UTPD only to have them refuse an escort to class; so you ride alone in a taxi and purchase a kid-sized walker, because that’s all you can find — every insecurity you’ve known is exposed and heightened.
I hope you can feel the demons screaming he doesn’t love you so loud in your head, until pythons hiss in your ears and wrap themselves around your heart, suffocating it. I hope that stays with you, and sits in the pit of your stomach when you still try and convince yourself that you aren’t his definition of you. You aren’t the names he called you; you aren’t the unanswered doors and unkept promises. You’re not the empty I love you’s that yours tried so hard to make up for.
I hope you’re angry. Don’t be ashamed of that, and don’t apologize for it. Feel what it’s like to be ignored, and neglected, and ridiculed. But don’t blame your father when he tries to call and make up for an absence that led you down a string of abusive patterns. No, you can’t blame him, because alcoholism is his demon that he let go of — and you understand, because you’re trying to let go of yours.
So I hope you’re vulnerable and out of options the night you tell friends how much you want to die. I hope you’re so tired that at 23-years-old you ask your single parent mother for permission to commit suicide, because 23 years is enough to feel this bad, even though she’s already said good-bye to a child once and tried her best to go on. I hope you never forget that’s the main reason why you hold on.
I hope you feel naked, makeup smearing from cooling sweat when you sit in front of the councilor – scared, unsure, and guarded.
I hope you’re numb like that night before Thanksgiving when you left your next abuser. You tell yourself he’s high and he doesn’t mean it, but it’s finally no excuse.
I hope you don’t know what to think, so you go back to your empty apartment, and heat up the now-too-old-to-eat leftover’s your mom made when she came up to check on you. “You were a puppet, and tonight you broke the strings”, she said. And you trust her, because she spoke with a conviction you never heard before; one that made you realize she knew from experience, experiences she’d always say she’d tell you about “when you’re older”, but never really did.
Three years later, I hope you feel the shame of relapse and a repeated codependent cycle. I hope you feel the constant drain of a self-enrolled Intensive Outpatient Program, because that’s how much you want to get better; that’s how much you know it’s too late to die now. Even so, I hope you feel the overwhelming anxiety of lying in the tub for hours, wanting to submerge your head, but instead you turn off the faucet and call 911. An ambulance takes you to the hospital for Suicidal ideation, no sirens; just silence.
And I hope that when you’re healing, you feel the desperation of clinging to the pain you know. The pain that tricks you; the devil that wants you dead is hiding in the background of the darkest shadows of your subconscious. He’s been with you so long that you don’t have Rolling Stones type Sympathy for the Devil, but an empathy that only you and him know, because at least he stays.
I hope you exorcize your demons anyway, writing this with thoughts flowing like fire raging out of hell, drenched by the calm, understanding rains of heaven that you’re so hesitant to, but are no longer afraid of welcoming. Can you forgive yourself? Maybe in time, slowly; slowly like you pray. I hope you know that you deserve the peace that’s been fighting to get to you.
So don’t just feel the blisters, because until you’ve felt my pain and seen my scars, your white male, able-bodied, crip faced blisters don’t validate my struggle, and I don’t want to see you smile in your one-week wheelchair.