Reclaiming Space: The Truth Behind The Persona
Hey, my name is Adriana. Or at least that’s what you’re going to continue to know me as. It only feels right that I start off my blog by writing about myself more fully and authentically – outside of the parameters of marketing. If you felt inclined to make it this far to get to know me more I think its only fair that I give a little more of myself beyond 280 character snippets where I scream about politics, how gorgeous women are, or whatever show I'm fixated on that week.
For years I’ve maintained a somewhat polished, loud, and political ‘persona’. To be frank with you, at this point, my persona and marketing are all me. It’s just a bit more censored. What I often leave out is that I’m equal parts amazing and insane. That isn’t an exaggeration. If you want to keep a polished fantasy vision of me I'd suggest you close this window right now and never open my blog again. If you want to learn about the messier details of what lies beneath the mask keep reading.
You’re going to have to bear with me because revealing things about myself probably won’t come out in a linear manner. I used to worry what would happen if I wrote my truth and shared it with you all. I worried what would happen to my marketing, the new clients, my regulars…if I’m honest I really don’t care much anymore and even less so do I care to see anyone who doesn’t hold capacity to allow sex workers to be multi-dimensional. I don’t have the patience or desire to play a muted one sided version of myself anymore. It’s why I stopped marketing as one dimensional a couple years ago. To be clear, this isn’t to shame clients who desire something one dimensional – life is complicated, messy, complex, overwhelming. Hiring someone who won’t be those things and will opt to embody an immersive fantasy is a welcome reprieve for many. I understand the desire and need for escape. Bubbly California girl, feisty temptress, shy intellectual, dominant and seductive, insatiable bombshell, sadistic succubus – you name it there’s a persona for it. And I can play into all of them, I have. I just don’t care to anymore. Let me be all of them and more or don’t hire me. And while you can’t know my name, you can know more of the real me. This will be first of several blog posts. In some moments it will probably be depressing, messy, vulnerable, hot, infuriating, hilarious. It will be whatever I want it to be and I’m going to write whatever I want. I’ve spent years writing what I thought others would want ahora es mi turno (now its my turn).
Let's kick things off with some basic background information that I've yet to share with y'all. I’m neurodivergent and in the last decade I have been diagnosed with 5 mental illnesses. Yes, for real, five. Although let it be clear that I am not a fan of the DSM-V. Migration, capitalism, poverty, racism, colonization, slavery, intergenerational trauma, etc. are usually not considered in DSM-V diagnosis. The impacts of holding such experiences are quick to be pathologized in westernized psychologies and I believe that this is incredibly harmful. I won’t get specific into which mental illnesses I have or which flavor of neurodivergent I am...some things must be kept private after all, don’t get too greedy now. I don’t pay much attention to the diagnosis myself, I focus more on the healing and growth. Like I said the DSM doesn’t take into account the generational and systemic harms that haunt and fracture our psyches and nervous systems. Of course we get ‘sick’ in response to such experiences, we are humans not robots.
I have a lot of trauma. I have a score of 10 on the ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACE) scale. If you don’t know 10 is the highest you can score, and there are a ridiculous amount of studies and research on this that tell you how the higher your score the more likely your traumas are to impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. You’re also less likely to live as long as those with lower scores. When I was a three months old my biological father tried to starve me to death and from then on my life was a cycle of various forms of abuse, instability, homelessness, substance use, and suffering until I moved out on my own. According to the stats I very much should have been dead a while ago. Trauma trauma trauma. You get the point. I was dealt a horrifically crappy hand. And yet I had some amazing cards hidden in there. Life saving cards.
I was lucky enough to be born in the United States – first one in my family (so far the only one). While being far from my family came with its own pain, being born here offered me privileges I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I am able bodied and I am mostly conventionally attractive. I’m smart as hell too. Although the machista men who raised me would laugh and mock me when I said I was smart and could survive on my own. Whats up pendejos! It’s been over a decade now and I’m thriving while y’all are still sitting on your asses unhealed and mean as ever. The last thing I'd like to share is that I have a ton of grit and learned early on what people think of me doesn’t really matter! I spent my first 20 years of life in full blown survival mode…not being liked becomes very small potatoes in comparison. These are some of the basics that will help you know me as I begin to share more about myself. This first post is really about my reflections of the new Netflix series ‘Maid’ and what it elicited within me.
If you haven’t watched it you may want to stop here because there are several spoilers coming up. You've been warned.
While watching I found myself feeling disappointed that the story was about a white woman. And even more so I felt disappointed that the abuse and systemic harm represented was, in my opinion, PG-13. I’d feel my stomach turn seeing how heartbreaking people thought this story was and in some moments I even felt angry. I had to take a step back and trace my emotions. Pluck them out. One by one. Then slowly pull at the threads connecting them in order to understand why I was feeling this way about a story that was by all means a heartbreaking (and accurate) account of domestic violence, mental illness, poverty, and systems that let women down just as often as they save them. I quickly realized it was because my own childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood were all worse. Yes, the plot of Maid is heartbreaking no one can deny that. If you want to see a clear depiction of how intergenerational trauma can manifest itself and take hold of generation after generation before one even has a chance to remember what has been repressed. This show does a tremendous job of that. And yet the main character, Alex, has more than my family ever did. She was white, did not have to fear deportation, no one had broken her bones and left her in a ditch to die, and while the system at times mocked her it did more good than harm. Also what was up with the fact that every single person who helped Alex was not white? That’s probably a whole other post so I digress.
Regardless of my critiques and bubbling internal anger over a variety of things the show was well done. I felt an unraveling as I began to see parts of myself in most of the characters. ‘Here we go again’ I thought as I braced myself to be reminded of harms I’d lived, harms I’d caused, my strength, my fractures, my grit - the resilience I had no choice but to embody. Sometimes I’d cry, others I’d cringe, and in rare moments I’d fill up with shame holding an overwhelming desire to turn away and hide. Regardless of what I felt I never looked away from the screen. After nearly a decade of personal psychotherapy I’ve grown comfortable looking at unflattering mirrors that reflect uncomfortably ugly and painful truths back at me. In depth therapy, you get used to being uncomfortable in order to push toward change. As I watched I felt myself relating to:
Maddy, the toddler caught in the middle of abusive dynamics, growing fearful of things out of her control. Traumas going back multiple generations all trapping her before she can even read or write much less can she grasp what’s happening to her family. On my maternal and paternal side there are a ridiculous amount of unhealed intergenerational traumas being flung around. The violence, substance use, sexual abuse, poverty, dysregulation, gaslighting it goes on and on and on... babies and children who are defenseless inevitably get sucked in by the powerful cyclical motion of the vortex in the middle of their living rooms – it is the nature of the beast until someone does the work of stopping it. I am currently trying my best to change its trajectory, but PHEW.
Sean, the father struggling to heal from his own heartbreaking childhood traumas who has turned toward alcohol to cope. He becomes someone angry, callous, and cruel when he drinks. Every caretaker who raised me drank to cope and so of course I did too during parts of my life. Much like Sean my caretakers struggled paycheck to paycheck and had to work long hours. The long hours left them incapable of creating time to work on themselves or process. In the past I’ve also fallen into that trap. I’d drink in attempt to numb, escape, be fun, find a semblance of the myself there was before there was trauma – but I didn’t have one my trauma started in infancy. There was nothing to go back to. The more I looked for that ‘me’ the more I drank and from lashing out, to suicide attempts, to physical fights I caused a lot of harm to myself. It has been absolute hell to break this cycle that goes back more generations than I am probably aware of. To be clear this never came up at any of my jobs. I’m astonishingly good at boundaries with all my jobs. And lucky for all of the clients who have met me the worst of this struggle happened before Adriana though there was some overlap. I did what I could with what I knew and once I began to know better I slowly pulled myself out of the cycle.
Paula, the mother/grandmother who holds severe mental illness and has episodes so severe that she terrifies and traumatizes those who love her. I’ve had multiple suicide attempts. I’ve had loved ones pull me out of traffic, hold my wrists to stop the bleeding, hide medications from me, restrain me while I screamed, kicked, and bit. I’ve been ‘that person’. I’ve been ‘crazy’. For a long time I felt embarrassed of that, but now that I understand I don’t feel embarrassed. I feel pride, sadness, and empathy for myself and others like me. Life, history, and the systems have been unkind – of course I’ve gone crazy. Who wouldn't? If I’m honest I spent most of my life wishing I’d die, in a state of rage, delusional in attempt to survive, so impulsive I didn’t think from one moment to the next, or in some hellish combination of all of them (that’s usually when I went ‘crazy’). It was only in the last 5 years that this began to change and I’d say in the last 2-3 years that I’ve started to internalize that I never wanted to die – I just wanted a better life I hadn’t had. I longed for better. And I deserved better. Now, I’m finally doing better most days.
Alex, the daughter responsible for her mother with severe mental illness who herself has been traumatized by her mothers instability and continues to be. All while grappling with her own demons and need to pull herself into a better life. This one is a state I have flowed in and out of since I was 17 and is perhaps the most fitting for where I am currently. My mother has survived things far worse than I and she didn't have the privilege of being born here. She carries her traumas with her, afraid of healing because that means feeling and remembering, stuck in the cycles of generational trauma unable to move forward or go back. She is disabled and has been chronically ill since I started high school. She is radiant, kind, loving - I think I get my best traits from her. She worked herself into the ground in attempt to support our family back in her home country. She is the most successful family member out of her generation and when she fell I knew the responsibility would land on me. It had been an anxiety that consumed me when I understood what awaited me. The nuance in the privilege and burden of being the first US born in a family. The expectation and collectivist duty that I will pull everyone out of the thick mud that is poverty due to an entire country being destroyed by colonization and political greed...All while I start from scratch in a country where I have no biological family other than my mother and grandmother who I must caretake. I've navigated every system without guidance - housing, educational, financial, medical, mental health. The USA does not make it easy. It's a lot of pressure. My mother and I have been homeless. My mother has been homeless in my adulthood. I worry about housing her. I worry about her medical bills and my grandmothers. I worry about her killing herself in one of her episodes. I worry about one of her abusers killing her. I worry. I carry that worry with me while I try to navigate the systems, save money, heal myself, build my vanilla career. Some days it feels like an impossible task. I can not possibly be the only one everyone is counting on? And yet I am.
With all the weight of the lives I've lived and carry with me I realized the mask of the persona 'Adriana' held was growing too heavy, too tight, too small. I have outgrown her.
I'm removing my mask. I'm not sure what compels me to do so now besides the freedom of not caring if new clients flow in or not. Perhaps the additional desire to share with the world that behind the sex worker persona there really is a complex human. Sex work is what has changed the trajectory of my life, I couldn't have gotten where I am without it. I've spent somewhere around $50,000.00 on therapy in the last decade, housed myself and family members, obtained an undergraduate and graduate degree, paid off debts. I not only survived, but lived. All because of sex work. The systems were not built to see people like me thrive. So, I created my own path. With all the hardships I've faced I still have immense privilege in being conventionally beautiful in terms of Eurocentric beauty standards. I am educated, articulate, and when necessary poised. I am kind, loving, empathetic, and fierce. I embody many of the things people don't often associate with lifetimes of hardships and ugliness. I no longer want to wear a mask. Maybe its as simple as that and there is no deeper reason. What watching Maid showed me is that not enough women of color share their stories. Not enough of us can. How many non-white maids have been through this plot line over the last hundred years? How many have had their stories blow up? What about in other industries? I then began to notice the ratio of white to non-white sex workers who are writing books and blogs. I realized this is happening here too. Women of color aren't getting the same amount of space and many of us don't have the same amount of time and internal space to be writing up blogs, books, starting podcasts. The systems of oppression are stacked against us. If you made it this far I'm going to need you to keep showing up, keep paying attention, and buckle up because ahora es mi turno.