Hello! And welcome (or welcome back!).
From 2002 to 2008, I operated a blog (known for a time as Blood and Guts) here at poethelena.com. In 2009, I removed the site without explanation. Those close to me know it was due to the reopening of my cold case—when sheriffs finally investigated the abduction and assault I experienced in the course of one horrifying, life-changing night in 1996.
After detectives informed me that they would be extraditing the man who attacked me, I realized that a trial would be next. I’d be asked all kinds of questions and potentially judged for my “character.” The idea of some sleazy defense lawyer combing through my intimate and candid (and sometimes also sleazy) writing to discredit me in court was too much. So I just took it all down, thinking I’d put it back up when things had been resolved.
But one thing they don’t make clear at the beginning of this process is how long it can take. One month turned into two, then five…in all, it was 16 months between the time the LASD reopened my case and the day that my rapist accepted a plea bargain (which, coincidentally, was 5 years ago last week).
That was a time I spent truly suspended. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe. When it was finally over, I collapsed into a depression deeper than anything else I had experienced before (which is saying a lot)—and stayed there for over four years. It was a debilitating, hopeless, all-consuming depression. When you feel like you can’t function in the world and have no reason to believe that will change, you begin to ask yourself what the point of remaining in the world would be.
Obviously, reviving poethelena was low on my list of priorities. But things have now shifted tremendously!
Although I’ve been doing public speaking for six years, I was never paid to do so until very recently. In fact, I didn’t make one red cent from any of the advocacy work I’ve done (with the exception of a single year-end newsletter, which I was given $100 to write). Quite the contrary, I took on significant debt working for non-profits that promised me a better future. This is why I had to file for bankruptcy. But the minute I did, and accepted the exploitation and betrayal that the filing represented, I felt deeply empowered. Like, OK Helena, the last few years have sucked. But now you have a blank canvas! A clean slate! Another metaphor for starting over!
And then, almost immediately afterwards, I had my first paid engagement. I was blown away by how different it was to speak for myself instead of being used as a fundraising prop by someone else. Even my demeanor while doing it was different; where I used to be stiff and nervous, I was now relaxed. I felt in control, I felt valuable. I had discovered something that really brought me joy, when I had felt only despair for so long. And I was good at it! The way people responded was different, too. I didn’t get the pitying, “I’m so sorry that happened, you’re so brave,” which always makes me uncomfortable (and comes off a bit condescending, if I’m being honest—which I am!). Instead, people were asking how they could get involved. Wow!
I knew I’d need to establish an online resource so that I could have somewhere for those people to land after future engagements; somewhere to find resources and connect with each other. That’s still in the works. Then I decided, while I was at it, that I was ready to reclaim my voice here at poethelena.
So, here we are! I have so many poems and essays I’ve written over the last year. What had once been reduced to an intermittent drip is now again a raging river of too many feelings! So get your rain poncho, because I can’t wait to share it all with you! (and please, for the love of God, do us both a favor and look at the Google Image results for Dog Poncho)