Shortly after we moved to Clarksville, TN, we bought our first home, even though my husband and I were still struggling financially. Things continued to get worse in our relationship as the financial stress suffocated it. By February 1997, I began working as a preschool teacher again and managed to hold onto that job for a total of 6 and a half months before all the stress made me shut down. Even something as simple as my wanting to attend an Unitarian Universalist Church in Hopkinsville enraged my husband to a point that by the first of the year, he forbade me from taking our son to church with me with no real reason given. That was even worse than my sister calling me a “Satan worshiper” because I attended this church. I still have no idea where C.F. and my sister came up with such far-fetched ideas about Unitarian Universalists.
From this point on, the psychiatrists kept raising the doses of my medications and adding more pills, a pattern that continued up until the time I quit taking medication altogether in March 2008. At this point looking back, I sincerely believe the psychiatric medications were at least partially responsible for much of the uncharacteristic behavior that I was exhibiting; but there were many contributing factors. My mind was constantly in a fog. And my diagnoses changed as many times over the years as my medications did. A couple of weeks after I quit my job at the preschool, I ended up hospitalized a second time for about a week (Hospitalization #2 – suicidal ideation) due to suicidal thoughts. It was around this time that the diagnoses, Borderline Personality Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa NOS, were added. While I was in the hospital, C.F. made the decision to let his 19 year-old cousin, who I’ll refer to as L.T. or the cousin, come live with us, a decision that drove us further apart than anything else.
In one year – my year of Hell – everything fell apart. A lot of events and problems with mental illness led up to 1998 being the worst year of my life; but two particular instances stand out in my mind from that year that forever changed my beliefs, my reality, and how I perceived life. It was the year that destroyed my marriage. It was the year that resulted in lost custody of not only one child to my husband; but I also gave a second child up for adoption the following spring, 3 days after he was born. 1998 was a complete nightmare. I was “out of my mind” during much of that year. I don’t mean this figuratively. I am very much an introvert who requires more self-reflection and time to process thoughts and emotions than most. Chaos in my life makes it extremely difficult for me to stay present at any given moment. And 1998 was pure chaos. I spent a lot of that year completely dissociated because so much changed in such a short amount of time and kept changing that I was in a constant state of fight or flight where I simply froze.
Alcohol, in addition to the medications, factored into the mix. I had made a couple of female friends who took me out clubbing on a regular basis. I knew mixing antidepressants with alcohol could be deadly, but I simply did not care anymore – my illness would not allow me to care. My life was so chaotic at the time and the relationship with my husband, C.F., so bad that all I could think about was death and dying. Up until that point our marriage had been rocky at best. Our relationship suffered from serious communication problems and explosive arguments. His controlling behavior, even the inflection of his voice and choice of words, sent chills down my spine. I’ve often said that my husband was the only person I’ve ever met in my life who could say, “I love you,” yet sound like he’s saying, “I hate you,” at the same time.
We constantly fought about sex (he wanted it; I didn’t). Also, we fought over money or the lack thereof. Financial stress was taking its toll, and bankruptcy was inevitable. Shortly after L.T. came to live with us, I developed some serious issues with eating, not because I wanted to be thin but because C.F. and I were having such financial problems that I would forgo eating to be sure that our child had enough to eat. I think by this time C.F.’s brother also moved in with us; so there was a total of 4 adults and 1 child living in my house at the time, not to mention pets. I began stockpiling food under our bed to be sure there was enough food to feed our son. However, what began as an instinctive mother trying to protect her child (no matter how irrationally), resulted in my developing what my psychiatrist in ’98 termed Anorexia Nervosa NOS (not otherwise specified). She and my therapist just referred to it as anorexia, though… control issues, blah, blah, blah, whatever. Basically, after several months of restricting my food intake for the main reason – to feed my child – something snapped. I began obsessing about food – what I ate, when I ate it, how much I ate – until I dropped down to 88 pounds for my 5’3″ frame. It’s at that point that my therapist called Child Protective Services because she was concerned that my eating problems were interfering with my ability to take care of my son. My husband was furious with me! I was angry, but I understood her concerns and was happy to take the extra parenting classes that CPS offered me and C.F. He refused. I began having constant panic attacks that would last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours – gasping for breath, hyperventilating, and a racing heart that sent me to the ER one night.
Oh, but it gets worse….
The climactic night that changed everything was the night L.T. asked me to take her to a club, the day before Easter. I had eaten nothing for 3 days straight, was barely sleeping 3 to 5 hours per night, and spent that whole day doing yard work. That night was only the second time I had ever smoked marijuana, too, (I remembered the one other time was when I was, ironically, also 19 years old). I was so clueless that I didn’t even know she had it in the house! Not only had I smoked pot, but I had several drinks over the course of the night at the club (on top of my prescribed medications). The ER doctors even speculated that I had also been slipped a roofie that night because my memory was so sketchy about the events; but I think that if that was the case I would have no memories of the night whatsoever. And I do remember feeling like a limp rag-doll with little to no control over my body.
Needless to say, I was completely trashed. So trashed that I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when a couple of guys in the army that we had been dancing with that night asked me to go back to their hotel room with them to “party” for a while longer after the bar closed. They were Army Special Ops soldiers on TDY from Ft. Bragg, NC. Somehow, I remembered this tidbit of info to make a note of it in my journal while hospitalized a couple of days later. It’s possible that I was told this by the police who were investigating the incident. However, I ended up not filing charges because I felt that it was my fault. I still struggle with a lot of self-blame over this rape; and yes, by legal definition, what happened to me was RAPE.
My memory of events now is even less reliable than it was then. In order to write this, I had to refer to my journals that I kept religiously back then because much of those memories are locked away, probably for good reason. After leaving the bar, it was like I was in a daze. I don’t even remember the walk to the hotel. By the time we got out of the elevator on their floor, they had to help me to their room; but I barely remembered them taking me by the arms to half-carry, half-drag me there. I was in and out of consciousness for the rest of that night, until I finally, completely passed out. I know that there were 4 men in the car the next day when they dropped me off at my house, but I honestly don’t know how many of them I had sex with. I was that out of it. I don’t know if I was angrier at myself for being so stupid or angrier at L.T. for telling me to “go have fun;” but nevertheless, that night changed everything. This is part of my journal entry from April 14, 1998, where I wrote about the rape:
“As soon as we got to their room, it began. Both guys repeatedly had sex with me. Another guy came in the room later and watched for a while. After he left they continued. After about an hour and a half of this, I passed out. The next thing I know, it’s morning and I wake up to one of the guys having sex with me. A little while later the other guy did it, too. About 11:00 that morning, I got a shower. While I was dressing, the third guy came in to watch, again. They, 4 guys at this point, drove me home.”
C.F. was away, in the field on a training mission for a month. Thankfully, the sitter who I left our son with the night before was responsible enough not to hand him over to the drunken cousin when she got home from the bar that night. When I finally got home that afternoon, I somehow learned that L.T. came home briefly and then went to her boyfriend’s barracks room. The sitter stayed with my son until about 6:30 am; and then, she took him over to our mutual friend’s apartment. While this friend was at work that morning, her husband watched him. The shame I feel in regard to putting my son and my friends through all of this is greater than any other emotion I could express.
That morning was such a blur that I barely remember taking handfuls of pills (Suicide attempt #2 – overdose) and lying down with the hope that I would die. But I got a phone call from my very angry friend to come pick up my son. I honestly don’t even remember the drive to her house. I really could have hurt someone. I’m thankful that I made it to their apartment safely, in one piece. My friend and her husband knew something was wrong almost immediately and called 911 after talking with me for a few minutes. An ambulance came and took me into the hospital on post. I barely remember talking to my therapist briefly on the phone and having to drink charcoal; but then, I passed out. After pumping my stomach, oddly enough, the hospital released me into my friend’s care.
The following morning, I saw my psychiatrist who had set up a phone call to C.F. My psychiatrist forced me to tell him everything that had happened. He began crying, asking me how I could do such a thing to him. I didn’t know how to answer that. I still don’t. They were going to admit to the hospital then; but I bolted. I got scared. I felt trapped. I was so scared of what my husband would do to me and so confused that I literally ran out of the office. I drove around for about 6 and a half hours. Later, I found out that the police and even my friend’s husband’s Commanding Officer had been there looking for me.
The next day, my friend convinced me to go to our group therapy session; and they convinced me to go to the hospital for a 72 hour hold (Hospitalization #3 – 72 hour hold) where they finally did a rape kit and tried to get me to press charges against the 4 men in that hotel room. Even though I had many rips and tears and remembered telling them to stop over the course of the night and next morning, my guilt and shame of what I had done prevented me from even considering the possibility that it was rape. Even to this day, 15 years later, I have trouble saying that I was raped because I do feel like it was my fault. I put myself in a compromising situation that had extremely detrimental effects, not only for me, but for my entire family and friends as well. Were the 4 guys in the hotel wrong? Yes, they should have never taken advantage of my naivety or my drunken state which is a crime (being intoxicated takes away your ability to consent); but I still blame myself more than them for what happened.
A couple of weeks later, I left my husband and son due to the intense guilt and shame I was feeling. I didn’t know how to process those feelings or manage my life any longer. Hell, I still don’t. I struggle to this day. Needless to say, there were plenty of good reasons for C.F. to get custody of our son due to my well-documented psychiatric illness, let alone my indiscretions that ultimately led to our divorce, which became final in 1999.