by The Bathtub Project
Date of Interview: March 26, 2018
Name: Lex Z.
Location: Chicago, IL
How often do you bath or shower?
I try to every other day. I don’t take baths as much as I want to.
If you were an underwater creature, which one would you be?
Well, I’ve been told by a psychic that I was a mermaid in a past life, but I would totally settle with being a manta ray. They’re beautiful and they’re so majestic and the way they just glide through the water is hypnotic.
What are you passionate about?
Everything. Love, art, teaching, connecting with people, fucking improving myself, family, friends, expression. This doesn’t manifest as fully as I would like it to. I get stifled by being human a lot, but I will take breaks to play guitar and write music. I will take breaks to write poetry. I will call somebody and talk about how I’m feeling and then hope that jars something artistic. I’ve done performing my whole life. So when I was in kindergarten, I told at the National Storytelling Convention, told two stories that I made up and that was really cool. I was like 10.
What is something that you still struggle with?
I struggle with a lot, but a lot of it is stuff that I’m starting to learn everybody struggles with, so they’;re not unique to me. Like liking myself. Who am I? What is my purpose? That kind of stuff, but then I struggle with, I don’t want to put myself into a box, but I have– just for practical use, I have PTSD, I have bipolar and I have just a fuck ton– I don’t even know, just a fuck ton of trauma. All right. I have a lot and I’ll try and wrap it up quickly. When I was in middle school I was bullied so badly. I was like the most teased kid and had no friends. I had maybe three friends but they never were there when the bullying was happening. I was cyberbullied. People told me to kill myself. Somebody made a screen name called KillLZSlowly and messaged me. Someone made a screen name like I Fucking Hate Lex and messaged me. I had a guy ask me out in front of a group of people and then break up with me in front of a group of people. I got punched in the face. I got canned food poured over my head. And I eventually had to switch schools because my parents were like, “You’re not doing this anymore.” And I didn’t want to leave because I was like, “This is the hell I know. Don’t give me something new.” Then I went to high school and the damage was done already from that, so I hung out with kind of a sketchy crowd because at least nobody would fuck with me if I hung out with tough kids.
And so then I met some boys, some really abusive men, and there’s nothing I can say that can paint a correct picture of what the abuse is like. But it was sexual, it was verbal, it was emotional, and with one of the guys, it was physical like choking, slapping. And then the emotional is crushing down into the size of a grain of sand and then leaving me with all of the pain that they had caused, mentally, then coming back when they felt like it. So I got really demoralized. And then I went to college and I stayed close because of the main abuser, David. And I started drinking, by the way, because I wanted to have fun. I was bullied. I had strict parents. And when my friends got to college, I was like,”I’m going to fucking drink now, all right.” And I partied really hard and I had a lot of fun, it wasn’t bad. Then one of my friends died of a heroin overdose, and that was the first time I had to see a 20-year- old dead body. The imagery isn’t as scarred in my head as it used to be. I’m close with his mom. But that was really hard because we talked the night before. I had a lot of friends die. I feel like that’s way too common.
So I dated this guy, Sunshine, and Sunshine was a damaged boy, but I was damaged too. So I thought maybe through love we could transcend our damaged-ness and become something great. But no, usually what happens is it becomes toxic. So it became very toxic. I put on some weight and he told me I look like I’m letting myself go. He ended up cheating on me. It was this horrible breakup. It took me two years to get over him, but he broke up with me and I was just devastated. My family and I– on Valentine’s day, he broke up with me two days before Valentine’s day. And on Valentine’s day, my mom and dad took me to Hackney’s and I just cried over my food. That was in February. And then April, I invited a guy over from my class to do homework with me, and he ended drugging me and raping me. And I was awake for it but I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t move, and I just had to– it was a battle. It was like a legit battle. And he had a knife and I had roommates that were really close and I could’ve yelled for help but I always think about that but on some level was feeling protective of them and I thought, well I’m kind of battling this guy in here, so I don’t want anybody else to get hurt. And that fucked me up.
After that happened, the way my brain worked kind of changed and kind of triggered like a manic thing. Like my thoughts were going really fast. And I tried to talk to people but we didn’t have the same MeToo culture back then. Back then, it was like, “You got raped. We don’t know what to do with you.” I lost a lot of friends because they couldn’t ride the lows that I was feeling and so I turned to getting high and drinking to make it go away and through that, I got raped more. One of them was my best friend at a Fourth of July party. Another one was at my birthday party I got stuck in a closet with a guy and I even told him, I had just been raped, I don’t want to hook up, and I had to literally grab his hands, pull them off of my body for three hours, and then eventually I was so beaten down I followed him to his place and the opportunity came for him to rape me, he didn’t have it in him so he let me leave. And then that night I pulled over on the side of the road and just started crying and a cop found me and he saw the state I was in, he saw my bruises, and he sent me to the hospital. And the doctor was a piece of shit. I had a torn nipple, I had everything, and he was like, “You know, I have people dying in here.” And that just created so much in me that I’m still working with. And then the drug use started to get more.
I remember listening to Lana Del Ray in a parking lot. There was like a firework show and there were families in this field but I just wanted to be away from everybody so I was in a parking lot and I had a convertible at the time, so I just laid back and I just looked at the fireworks and I just listened to this woman singing how broken her heart was and I just felt like I was resonating with her. And I had such a thing for Lana Del Ray. Like spiritually. Everyone else is like, “Oh yeah, flowers in our hair”. But it’s like, “No dude, Lana and me roll deep.” So I got abused a lot more. I started hanging out with shitty people because I thought, “Oh well, at least they’re not going to judge how low of a place I’m in.” I had a whole bunch of fair-weather friends. People that were drug addicts that I thought cared about me but they didn’t. I got raped by another guy, I was doing Xanax and there was this guy named Cole who got really close to me and I actually liked him as a friend and he started giving me drugs to put me in a state where he could have sex with me. So he started doing that to me. And I remember one day– I mean, I never told him about the rape. I wanted a friendship free of all of that. And he gave me Kolonipin one day and that really relaxed me so I told him about it and then we had made a fort and then I looked at him because he was looking at me kind of funny and I was like, “Do you want to have sex with me?” And he said yeah and he kind of overpowered me and I kept falling asleep and he kept waking me up and fucking me. And that continued because I thought that’s what love was. So he would do really bad stuff. He would do BDSM type stuff on me while I was drugged up so he would scratch me from the inside, snap his fingers in me, step on me, choke me.
And eventually I was so broken from it that I told him to fuck off and I started going into PHP programs and IAP programs and I was in PHP and I went to the psych ward for the first time. I had to move out of my parents house because I was so afraid of men I couldn’t be around my dad. I was terrified of him. I felt like– I was a little deluded and I thought that he was preying upon me. I couldn’t sit on a bed with my brother. I was in treatment struggling beyond what I could wrap up in those 15 minutes. And I ended up going to treatment for three rounds at TK – Timberline Knolls – and first time we went there, I was just a broken puppy, crying about trauma and I had a boyfriend at the time, so I wasn’t really dealing with it, I was just numbing out through him. And then the second time I went, I had a thing with a girl there and that kind of fucked up my whole treatment. And then the third time I went, I had to address my addiction issues and I had the support of a program and that actually really helped me make use of my time there. But I broke down. I went crazy in treatment. I didn’t think, “Oh, I’m going to rehab, I’m going to fix it.” No. I let shit hit the fan. And apparently that’s what you’re supposed to do when you go to treatment.
Have you learned positive coping mechanisms?
Yeah. I talk to people. I get out of my head. Because when I’m left alone with myself, I will torture myself and it’s not even me doing it on purpose. My coping skills are self-care like getting myself to the gym, doing esteemable actions to make myself feel like I have some self-esteem. I do distraction, but I don’t do that as much as I do doing the next right thing.
What do you feel like your narrative is like now? What is the narrative that you’ve written for yourself?
It only goes up from here. Still, like in the back of my mind, I feel like sometimes I should just kill myself, because it’s so bad, it can’t possibly get better. My narrative, under being all that my mind tells me, is I’m a badass warrior princess that has had her castle and comforts stripped away from her forcing her to face down the deep evil. I have gathered a cast of characters as companions on my travels to this great battle and each one has altered my heart to rejuvenate softness, humor, simplicity and strength back into it. What is my new purpose? To regain my peace to a deeper extent and free the land of an evil like the one I know.