Hey everyone. Wednesday was a little chaotic with my sister going into labor, so I didn’t get the chance to put up a post yesterday. Waiting for babies is exhausting. 😂
I’m so happy to share this guest post with you all by Mia Siegert. Mia was previously on my blog in 2016 with an interview. I’m so honored they decided to share their story with me today for Shattering Stigmas. Please be sure to read the content and trigger warnings before proceeding. 🧡🧡
CW/TW: PTSD, Depression, Abuse, mention of Self-Harm, Animal Death (*NOT* in grotesque detail), mention of Suicide, issues with food
A/N: This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I don’t like being vulnerable, but given what I write about—how my upcoming book SOMEBODY TOLD ME deals with depression and abuse and JERKBAIT deals with suicide and bullying (both dealing with toxic masculinity in very different facets—I decided to open up. I have provided content/trigger warnings above and apologize if I miss anything, and with victimhood and addressing it, I hope this might be able to help anyone who is struggling, not in the “it gets better” sense, but in the “I’m glad I’m still here even if it’s a daily struggle” or, “you’re not alone.”As well, in regards to sharing something this personal, I hope that even one person would believe me because many times in the past when I’ve tried to tell people, they’ve immediately said, “that couldn’t have happened.”
*For my safety, I’ve omitted names and a few identifying details but all of this is true.
Fifteen years ago, I left the horse world. It’s still hard to distinguish now from then, many friends shocked when I say it’s been that long. “I thought it was less time since…” Their voices trail off as they look at me, and the magnitude sets in. The moment when they realize that no, I wasn’t exaggerating or faking it for attention, like one of my family members confessed years ago.
Until recently, most people don’t associate PTSD with things outside of war, and even still, some people don’t see the ties in other life facets. How layered and nuanced it can be. I didn’t see people get killed in front of me; I saw my horse dying in absolute agony and felt the guilt of leaving, teenage me not thinking to ask if I could stay. I didn’t realize until years later that I wouldn’t have been allowed to, or more importantly that my horse, who’d climbed to his feet after surgery because he didn’t want me to see him down, who’d rested his head against my chest, turning away to cough, gave me that last look when I left his stall and then refused to look at me when I came back in because I didn’t want to say goodbye and, as a friend put it, he wouldn’t have been able to do it with me there. I heard the stories about how his vet pulled off his halter to left him to graze with an old donkey, to give him a few minutes as a horse, and after grazing a tiny bit, in a story that made her tremble because never in her life had she experienced something like this, he approached her, nudged her hand with the euthanol injection, walked up a small hill, lay next to a tree, and looked at her.
I thought his death was the end of the world, and in a way it was. My short six months with him were six months of hope as everything happened right before him: my cat, my granddad died, my parents separated, one of my trainers unexpectedly left the barn and the ones who remained allowed me to get in two preventable accidents including one fall where I was left in the snow for twenty minutes, they refused to take me to a doctor, and threatened me if I didn’t finish riding the horses that day even though I couldn’t walk. When the largest trainer pulled me aside and dismissed me from the barn, I’d never been at such a loss.
I had nothing. No hobbies, but one best friend, now in college, who didn’t want to talk. She had her college life. I had nothing except, per her words, “all the fat you need to lose.” I’m not sure what I’d expected from someone who, whenever we were in a group of people, her friends, would do things like sneak behind me with a scarf in her hands, pulling it around my throat until my body became limp, my neck bruised, and everyone laughed, laughed, laughed because “it was just a joke!” And when she finally cut me out of her life for daring to ask would she take a moment of silence for my horse, blaming a suicide on me that soon I’d discover never actually occurred, I wondered why there was such a cavity in my heart.
There were so many ways to hurt myself, I soon discovered. I knew the ways from the horse world, the tricks to make myself throw up, the diet pills, the painkillers. I went from eating only lettuce and water to eating full ziti pizzas by myself, stuffing my face with anything I could, trying to find something, anything, to fill the emptiness. I went four months without setting foot outside of the house. I enrolled in community college before I got a GED and CLEP-ed out of a few courses, a school that someone close to me once said was for the r-slur. I was so ashamed I threw away the President’s List and Dean’s List letters I received and didn’t tell anyone I made the lists.
I started trying to rely on tiny things, little miracles to cheer up. But sometimes things happen, and rather than taking them as they come (a “well, this sucks” sort of thing), I’d lose myself. Each time something minute happens, I get crushed. I fall apart, sobbing tears I never was allowed to shed. I become devastated beyond normal sorrow, punishing myself for weeks afterwards, giving up on hope.
I never really learned how to get along with people, not the way I did with horses. Making and maintaining friendships is difficult for me as I’m often vulnerable to abusers, unable to see red flags or dismissing them as part of the paranoia I was diagnosed with. Emotionally, I will probably always be stunted as a teenager, maybe young twenties, and a damaged one at that.I know I’ve hurt people for not asking people about themselves, for not even thinking to ask because I absorb their words and body language, much like with the horses where I was forced to learn how to communicate that way. I ran away from book twitter for a long time because I felt ashamed, taking it personally when followers dropped, feeling like I was a failure. With people I DMed frequently, I didn’t know, and still don’t know, how to reach out to say, “just wanted to say hi” or “I missed you” or anything without them feeling like I’m only in it because they had good publishing luck. I wish that could change rather than me sitting, waiting, for anything to happen.
When I got the message inviting me to write for the blog about mental health, my mind immediately went to horses, especially with it fresh on my mind as my main trainer was permanently banned from the sport for sexual misconduct. I think about the tens of thousands of dollars of therapy, the medications, how I could never hold a traditional job for more than six months (exceptions being teaching and working in publishing). I look at my phone and see the last ten texts were variations from my parents, group and single, and one friend who I don’t get to see often. Two years ago, I told some people that there was something wrong with my head, that something wasn’t right. I was told it was anxiety, that “it’s not real.” So I’d repeat it again, and again, that something was wrong, but nobody cared. They’d get hung up on ambulatory speech patterns, things that frustrated them and put them on edge, while I kept going back to it, trying to find another way to say, “you’re not listening.” They didn’t understand why I’d freeze at loud noises, why I’d ask a thousand times “are you mad” because of a change in atmosphere. Some friends noticed when I’d check out, knowing I’d go to another place, sometimes talking to me, trying to maintain eye contact to keep me there, with them, in the now. And I’d fight, fight, fight to stay with them, but they knew as well as me that I was already gone.
And I wrote.
I wrote in that raw, jarring stream-of-consciousness that’s my voice. I wrote knowing that there is a good chance that people might not understand, that they might not get what I’m trying to say, what I’m trying to convey, when really it could be boiled down to empathy. I write knowing that these truths could be really boiled down to just one thing:
I’m always listening. And I hear you.
~About Mia Siegert~
Mia Siegert is the author of SOMEBODY TOLD ME (which can be preordered currently through Book Depository (https://www.bookdepository.com/Somebody-Told-Me-Mia-Siegert/9781541578197 ) and Amazon and JERKBAIT (available at all book retailers). Outside of writing, they’re a costume designer whose work has appeared on Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and the CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” You can follow them on twitter @miasiegert or Instagram @miasiegert.