This is a completely self-indulgent post, so feel free to skip it if you like.
So. I came up with the title of this a few days ago. Matthew suggested dropping the “and die” part, but I feel it loses punch without it.
So…Fuck Off and Die, Grace McDermott.
My blood family is full of secrets, so some repeated stories are the accepted form of truth, rather than being the actual facts of the situation. Example: I was told my entire childhood that my father was dead – somewhere in early childhood I figured this wasn’t quite right (where were the photos, why did we never visit this grave, etc).
So while I don’t know if it’s true or not, the story was that my grandmother picked the name “Grace” – I guess that’s fitting, since she was the one to raise me. My mother apparently wanted to abort me, and grandmother convinced her otherwise.
I wish she had aborted me, if only for her sake, no one should be guilted into carrying a child they don’t want to (or can’t) raise.
So I came into the world unwanted.
The abortion thing I found out about rather recently, but I was still aware that I wasn’t being raised by my mother (they didn’t try to hide that, at least), but I grew up in a constant struggle between the two – grandmother on one side (who I called “mum”, because she raised me); mother on the other side, jealous and hateful because I didn’t call her “mum”, even though I only saw her a couple of times a week.
I grew up abused, controlled and lonely. Some highlights of my childhood: not being allowed to listen to music (my only exposure was being able to catch the last song or two before rage ended and Saturday Disney began – and only if I kept the volume way low so my grandmother didn’t hear it). Not being allowed to play in the yard unsupervised. Being made to get down on my knees and pray to god for forgiveness if I accidentally said a swear.
And yes, I am still fucked up by my childhood. I probably always will be.
My grandmother died when I was fourteen. I felt guilty for years, because I had been there at the hospital the night she’d died, but had been asleep in the TV room. This fucked me up so much I wanted to die. I wanted to kill myself because I felt I’d failed her.
In less than a year, I lost my grandmother, was sent to live with my mother, was kicked out by my other and dumped with my aunt and uncle, moved houses three times and moved schools twice.
All without any kind of help or counseling or anything. I was basically expected just to…move on.
So I just…switched off my emotions. It was the only logical solution I had. It was the only refuge I had against the insanity my life had become.
And I was still Grace. Still…basically a slightly taller version of that abused, controlled child. I didn’t really have any real identity. I didn’t have…a me. I had interests, but I was mostly just drifting, going through the motions, because it was easier than actually being.
I don’t want to say fanfic changed my life, buuuut fanfic changed my life.
I got waaaay into Lord of the Rings, to the point where my two friends at college were begging me to stop talking about Elvish genealogy and talking differences between the books and the movies, so I looked for an alternate fandom; something I could pour my energy into, that would hopefully take a while to ramp up to annoying levels with the two people who even spoke to me.
And it’s not like my LOTR fanfics were anything special anyway, I deleted most of them without a second thought.
I legit do not remember why I picked The Matrix, other than “hey, that movie was cool, that virus speech was fun, etc”. I was also waaaaay into my full villain-loving stage. (I used to imagine Visser 3 morphing into some horrific monster and eating a couple of my teachers).
So I wrote a couple of Matrix fics, and one turned into a series, and I got a bunch of comments.
And like the naive little author I was, I started a fan forum for my stuff (I was too stupid to wonder if this was a faux pas), and people joined and were, like, elated to be chatting with the author, and just posting LOLLOLSUGAR I’M SO HYPER HEHHEHEHH#H#H##H and the like (shut up, it was the early 2000s, this is how we communicated).
My original online handle was “Stormhawk”, “Storm” because I liked storms, and static electricity kind of makes me high/giggly and “hawk” for Tobias from Animorphs.
Someone on the board – who I still maintain was either T’Lorie or Angel – just called me Stormy, and I still remember this little “huh” moment. It was special to me, because it was the first real nickname I’d ever had.
And I was basically just Stormy from that moment on.
It was an identity that was mine. A name that was mine. A whole new, nascent me that all because of things I had done, choices I had made. It was…me finally starting to construct my identity, and not just be a reflection of what the people around me wanted.
And more and more, it was this wonderful secret identity that I could find solace in. I wasn’t lonely when I was Stormy, because I could log on and find six different threads people had started about random shit on my forums. I could find comments on my fics where people were laughing or crying.
I felt, like I was a presence in the lives of others, and not just a burden. I was someone people wanted to be around, and I’d never had that before.
I hadn’t had friends at school. I was that weird kid who sat in the corner of the yard and read books. People didn’t talk to me in class unless they wanted something – a girl came crying to me in Math once, telling me she hadn’t done her poetry assignment, which was due the next period.
I scratched out a full assignment for her – 500+ words – during Math, and gave it to her, only to hear later that she complained that I’d only gotten her a “C”.
It wasn’t like that for Stormy.
And…things for Stormy only got better and better. She made friends in meat space. People I could hang out with.
There were a bunch of us that attended an anime club once a month. We’d meet up in the city, and head out to the university from there. One time, my friend Miranda, did her “I’m the Doctor, run!” arm grab she’d do sometimes, where we’d run through the mall and pretend we were running from Cybermen or whatever.
This facade was to stop me from seeing people carrying my birthday supplies. I hadn’t been looking, because I hadn’t been expecting anything.
Woolworths mud cake and a few packets of lollies have never been more appreciated. I still have the present from that party, 13 years later. I had friends, and they’d thrown me a party. I had people who liked me. Who liked Stormy, who appreciated Stormy. And it’s a good memory I’ll never forget.
And I started dating. Found the absolute love of my life on the first go. Found my most important person.
I owe Matthew my life in more ways than I can count.
Matthew had put up with a lot of shit over the years – they bore the brunt of my emotions coming back into play, where I’d scream and yell because I didn’t know how to regulate myself. They’ve had to hold me and let me scream or cry because of my frustration with my family. They’ve stopped me from walking into traffic.
And at each step, they’ve given me more and more courage to be myself.
I’ve done things that I had always wanted to do, but just…didn’t, because I’d been made meek and small by the expectations of my family.
I figured out what I wanted, I started to get the ability to push back on unreasonable demands.
I started to recognise how extremely fucked up I’d been by my family. This is still a thread I’m pulling on – every so often I’ll think of something completely normalised by my childhood and go “did everyone else do this”, and Matthew will just pat my hand and go “no. no one does that”.
In 2018, I moved to Melbourne – in part, to get some distance from my blood family. In a much bigger part, to be closer to my best friend, and the woman I consider my sister, Miranda.
In 2019, a few weeks ago, I sent in my name change paperwork.
In 2019, a few days ago, I sent a letter to my family, telling them I wanted low/no contact until they can learn to…be better, to treat me better, because I’ve finally reached a point where I feel I deserve more. I deserve a family that doesn’t look at me like shit when I get triggered and scream/cry for twenty minutes because I’d just flashed back to getting choked out. (My uncle’s response: “hasn’t that been therapied out of you yet?”).
In 2019, today, I get to change my name on Facebook, for all the world to see.
Because…I do have a family. It’s Matthew and Miranda and Wraith and Shade and everyone I love. It’s Leaky and his inexhaustibly dirty mind. It’s my friends, new and old, because they feel I’m worth something. I’m not a burden or an obligation.
I’m Stormy, because it’s me. Because it’s freedom and choice and everything I have built in my life.
I’m “Sto Helit”, because Sir PTerry has been a more positive influence on my life than any of my blood family. The comfort of reading and rereading Discworld has been so important to me. I hope he wouldn’t mind I did it.
Fuck Off and Die, Grace McDermott, it’s my life now.
-Stormy Sto Helit