A few weeks ago I tweeted a link to an old blog post of mine, the one about the after effects of having been physically assaulted several years ago. I broadcast it again, over a year after I first wrote it, because of the #YesAllWomen campaign which happened in response to a mass shooting in the USA that was motivated by the killer’s hatred of women.
When I sent that tweet, I included in it the #YesAllWomen hashtag as a show of solidarity and to add my voice to those of other women who felt able to share their stories of abuse.
Stories were being shared from around the world, mostly the Western world, and I wanted to widen the campaign’s sphere of influence to include those who know and care about me but would otherwise not pay much attention to grassroots feminist action.
I thought about it for a long time before drafting and longer before clicking send. Several times I’ve experienced the abuse one can receive as an outspoken woman participating in debates via the feminist hashtag du jour. Just the week before I had received a psychotic rape and death threat via email from a man in California.
I didn’t want to provoke any more vitriol to be spewed in my direction but I also didn’t want some hate-filled stranger on the other side of the world to have any control over me. I was braced for unpleasantness, but completely unprepared for what happened.
First, my message got retweeted and replied to and favourited, all with supportive messages. Then the email notifications started one Thursday night, about six hours after I tweeted. I was out and not really paying attention. Someone crazy person, I thought, was commenting on my blog over and over.
It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered each comment was from a new person, strangers from around the world. This little blog that I hardly ever post on had a couple of hundred hits on a post from 2012.
Among the notifications I almost missed the email from one of the senior editors at WordPress. She told me she had read my post and chosen it for Freshly Pressed, a daily curated collection of eight posts recommended by WordPress editors from the 1.42 million published there each day. I was pretty blown away.
So the comments just kept on coming. Every half hour, as a new part of the world woke up, there would be a new batch of comments—all positive. It continued for a week, a month. Now there are almost a hundred.
Some thanked me for telling the story, others told me how strong I am, that they’re sorry it happened to me, that similar things have happened to them. It’s now this blog’s most-viewed post ever. There’s still a new comment every few days.
The attention, well-meant though it was, affected me badly. You can get angry about strangers threatening you with rape and murder. What do you do when people say nice things about the way you told them a horrible story? ‘Thanks for reminding me’?
For days I was on the verge of either tears or shouting but unable to explain why. With the unrelenting reminders of having been attacked all my PTSD symptoms reappeared. I startled at loud noises and flapping clothes, I was angry, anxious, unable to concentrate, drank too much alcohol and coffee, slept fourteen hours a night and woke exhausted.
Luckily I have a good doctor, excellent people and a rabid determination to get past the things that flatten me out like that. I did all the things I’m supposed to and while it took a few weeks, my energy and focus are back, giving me the ability to work, be a good housemate and friend, to pay my bills on time, and remember to eat.
And that’s the story of what happened to me when I tweeted a link to an old blog post about an even older trauma.