This has little if anything to do with tech, but everything to do with me and my life. The last several days have been dark and horrifying, and I've been trying to come up with a way to explain them to people.
This is a triggering post. If you have a history of emotional or sexual abuse, please, feel free to skip reading it. If you need a powerful gut wrenching story to share with your friends and family and loved ones who haven't been abused feel free to share it. This is a story of how one young woman was broken by the world, and why she's terrified of what is about to come next. It was brutally hard to write, and as such, commenting is disabled.
By Vanessa White, November 12, 2016
Once upon a time there was a young girl named Butterfly. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest long before the city near her was called Portlandia, and early enough that she was a young child when it was called Little Beirut, but long after is heyday as Stumptown was over.
Butterfly was a bright and vivacious child, happily playing within her parents yard with the family's pets. She was thrilled when her little sister was born, because finally, there would eventually be someone she could talk to. There were magical years of play and happiness and vacations to the wilderness, and Butterfly had her sister at her side.
It seemed like all of Butterfly's dreams were coming true until her sister got sick.
"Be still Butterfly, we're at the hospital."
"Here Butterfly, read this book or magazine or whatever." and she was passed a Highlights or "Everybody Poops" or a diagram of a kidney or some other major organ.
Butterfly's sister was suddenly quiet from being poked and prodded and questioned and examined over and over by the student doctors. Butterfly's parents went into overdrive in their own ways — her father constantly working and taking a job with better insurance that took him away from the family, her mother getting a crash course in 1980s medicine.
Butterfly was alone again, and spent her days watching PBS from the morning children's programs into the adult learning during the day, to the children's programs in the afternoon. When the news came on she would switch to Star Trek: the Next Generation, and then back to PBS for Nature and Nova and National Geographic.
Butterfly was ok with this — she absorbed the science of optics, home repair, furniture building, Bob Ross' oil paintings, the latest findings on dinosaurs and ancient Egypt, and arthroscopic knee surgery sandwiched between Mister Rogers and Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow.
Then she got sent to Christian preschool.
Butterfly didn't go to church.
Suddenly bright, vivacious, creative Butterfly was surrounded by drab, conformist moths.
One of Butterfly's classmates cried because her mom left her at preschool. Butterfly comforted her, and explained her mother would be back. It was like when Butterfly went to grandma's house sometimes. It would be ok, the girl's mom would come back, she was probably off doing something important, and that's why they were here.
And then it happened.
"No Butterfly, you can't color the cat orange, it has to be black, just like everyone else's."
"But I have an orange cat, why can't I color the cat orange?"
"Because everyone has to color their cats black, now go sit in the corner."
It got worse.
Butterfly was different. From birth Butterfly had always had red hair. The doctors and her parents had been shocked. Butterfly was also left handed from only a few months old.
Butterfly's classmates noticed.
The teasing began.
By kindergarten Butterfly had gotten in trouble multiple times for being left handed.
"Take the hand you write with and place it crosswise over your chest. No Butterfly, the hand you write with."
"But teacher, this is the hand I write with."
"Your other hand then Butterfly."
Butterfly cried again.
And so, Butterfly's life continued much in the same vein for the next several years. She was placed in the talented and gifted students program for scoring off the charts at tests. Then they taught her phonics and broke her ability to spell as she'd already learned whole word reading at home so she could quietly read books and magazines while at the doctor.
"But Butterfly, you're so smart, you should easily be able to get along with people."
"But Butterfly, they're only words. People calling you a freak and weird shouldn't actually affect you."
Butterfly cried even more. She didn't know how to deal with normal children. She had spent all of her time around adults or children too sick to be vicious, or sick and smart enough to realize she was like their healthy siblings who hung out and played with them. She knew how to play Borg babies with the children at the hospital, who put IVs in their special dolls, and always looked longingly at the Nintendos the kids not in Outpatient got to play with.
Butterfly retreated into books. She read. Voraciously. Beyond her age group. She tore through everything — leading up to the Jurassic Park movie coming out she read the collected works of Michael Crichton. She read through everything in the science fiction and fantasy sections of the library that looked interesting and she could get her hands on.
The next year after Jurassic Park came out Butterfly's parents gave in and got the family a computer.
"Here Butterfly, there's an encyclopedia and an atlas and a whole bunch of edutainment software and MYST."
Butterfly was thrilled. So much learning! She took to the computer with abandon. Soon it was her only real friend.
"Mom, Dad, I'd like the Internet please. I've been on it at school and it seems interesting."
"When you get your grades up Butterfly. In the meantime here is a computer magazine that comes with a CD full of shareware and demos."
The magazines and the discs full of software kept Butterfly occupied for a couple years. But eventually it wasn't enough, so Butterfly finally worked on getting her grades up.
"Ok, I got my grades up, can I have the Internet now?"
"Well Butterfly, if you'll help me run the phone line through the unfinished attic to over by the computer, sure."
And so Butterfly helped her father run the phone line, and fought off the yellow jackets that lived in the attic with a shop light.
By this time Butterfly has been battling with alienation and depression for a couple years.
Butterfly was finally on the Internet. She joined a forum with other teenagers who read the same magazine as she did. She started making friends.
Her first and best friend was Bat. She loved Bat dearly, and didn't understand that what she was feeling was friendly love, because, well, the only love that exists is passionate and sexual love according to the rest of the world.
Bat was the first person Butterfly had to talk to about everything. They spoke of love and depression and of being the weird kids in their respective schools. Bat had local friends though, and was far, far away from Butterfly.
Bat started having relationships with girls local to him, and it broke Butterfly's heart, so she took a break from being his friend.
Around that time, Goose had shown up in Butterfly's life. Goose was a bit older than Butterfly and he didn't really seem to understand that Butterfly was younger than he was. Butterfly understood how it could be confusing for him, she was smart and well read and her depression was eloquent and dark.
Butterfly was working on her depression during this time, and started to work on getting through it. First she got birth control pills to try and smooth things out some, and when they weren't enough she spoke with her doctor and got antidepressants.
Butterfly started to shine a bit more again, and she started to strive. She worked hard on school, and got a part time job at a grocery store, and had her friends Bat and Goose, she studied and excelled at Japanese, and she funded and took a trip with some classmates to Japan.
Butterfly was finally starting to feel pretty good about herself.
And then Goose utterly broke Butterfly's heart. It was right before the start of her senior year of high school.
Butterfly was in shock.
She quit her part time job in a rage over a bag of grapes.
Butterfly spent the start of her senior year utterly depressed. She had her medicine levels increased so she could cope.
Butterfly got a new job at a video game store.
There Mantis hired her.
He could tell she was hurt and weak.
He cultivated that.
Took advantage of that.
Waited until she turned 18.
He started to make his move.
A copy of Alice's Adventures Underground. The book Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote for Alice Liddell.
A disturbing inscription about eternal friendship to Butterfly.
Mantis isolated Butterfly, and told her cruel things. One day Butterfly would understand she was being groomed and conditioned through his gaslighting, but that was a realization far off into the future.
"No one else will ever love you as much as I do Butterfly. You were meant for me, to be mine." Mantis told her as he pinned and mounted her.
"Why would you waste your time on a pathetic and miserable subhuman creature like me?" Butterfly asked.
Mantis chuckled, and isolated her further. With each sexual assault he stole Butterfly's hope and self worth, and she lost her wings.
Butterfly gave up her hopes of going away for college, because no college would want a worthless piece of shit like her.
She went to the local state university, and played the role of depressed goth college student.
But she excelled at her classes, and started to make friends, and Mantis didn't like it.
He snapped, and threw things at her at work.
Butterfly finally ran. She went home, and called the district manager.
Mantis didn't work with her anymore. He couldn't rape her any more.
Butterfly still felt worthless.
She retreated into a cocoon.
She play-acted at normal life, had some college boyfriends, eventually pissed off Bat so badly he stopped talking to her, and sank further.
She got a different job at the store for the computers she'd been using since she was 10.
She dated a man with unmedicated bipolar disorder and it pushed her to give up on dating.
She focused on work and university. She changed majors three times.
She got her first full time job.
She graduated college, got fired, and turned 25 all in one week.
She applied for a postbac degree program, and got accepted.
She didn't work for 9 months, and instead lived on student loans.
She took a job at the university helpdesk, and gave up on trying to do froofy liberal arts work, and instead sunk herself into working in tech.
Based on the client systems administration she got a job working as a platform specific systems administrator.
Her first workplace was dysfunctional.
Butterfly's boss seemed bipolar. She started to have panic attacks and gastrointestinal problems.
But despite that, she throve on the work. Instead of only having one computer friend, she had dozens. She got to work on robots and heat treatment ovens, and laser etching machines. She held everything together with scotch tape and spit. She learned to manage an archaic copper wire phone system.
She moved up, and well beyond the income bracket of the Mantis.
She got a job at a software company, and made dozens of friends with the software engineers.
New predators showed up, and she fell into snares again.
But she got past it, and made real friends.
Butterfly's gastrointestinal problems got worse, so she got a colonoscopy. She had a precancerous polyp. She started medication to try to feel better, and cut out certain foods that make her problems worse.
Butterfly started speaking at tech conferences, and made friends all over the world.
But the darkness was still lurking in the background.
"Shut up Butterfly, the men are talking."
"The speaker was terrible and the talk was unhelpful." for the one technical talk Butterfly ever gave.
Butterfly got glowing reviews for her soft skills talks, about balancing life and work, on project management, on how to write documentation, and how to find the messages of hope in things you love.
But there's something threatening about a young woman being confident, and trying to change the world.
Butterfly had spent her life being plagued by bullies. Why did she ever think it would stop when she got to adulthood?
Butterfly started therapy after a well meaning but abusive boyfriend sounded too much like Mantis and it terrified her.
Butterfly was so happy and so excited to finally be making a difference. She threw herself into it too fully.
She tried her new wings too soon, and they failed her.
Butterfly circled back in on herself in defeat. She gave one last talk, and then gave up entirely.
She got a new job that she thought would be no alarms and no surprises.
It's turned out to be incredibly stressful.
Butterfly finally realized after election night 2016 that all the therapy and self-care and supportive friends in the world wouldn't be enough to survive having a president that sounds like Mantis.
Butterfly can't maintain a happy social demeanor without it cracking and her panicking that soon it will be a Handmaid's Tale in real life.
Butterfly is terrified. Butterfly's brain goes into hyperdrive and she tries to think of all of the possible solutions. Almost all of them are midnight black dark.
Butterfly decides to go back on antidepressants.
$120 dollars and four hours later, she has a prescription.
Butterfly is me.
This is my story. My life. Condensed down to the barest of bones.