My Story – Part 13 (Chaos Reviewed)

Continued from My Story – Part 12

I spent the last few years putting together a timeline of my life experiences and the last year writing out My Story here in order to make sense of everything that happened in my life and in an attempt to process the emotions attached to each event. I analyzed my inability to keep a job and maintain a stable lifestyle to the point of obsession. I struggled the entire 5 years that I received Social Security benefits to justify my need for them. I questioned the validity of my illness and berated myself for not trying harder. As the stigma of mental illnesses became a talking point for political bureaucracy, the voices of so many people commenting on social media and articles about the misuse of social services ran through my mind, saying things like, “Why can’t you just keep a job?” Or, “You need to try harder.” Or, “You’re just lazy.” It’s very difficult not to take things like this personally when I’ve struggled with mental illness for the majority of my adult life and heard friends, family members, and even professionals in the mental health field say those exact same things to me. The hopelessness of realizing that my life is somehow worth less because I haven’t figured out how to live in a world of chaos is devastating.

As more and more people spoke out about the traumatic consequences of having experienced rape and sexual assault, it became clear to me that the sickening display of public ignorance surrounding these tragedies is most certainly a contributing factor for the “rape culture” in which we live. The lack of compassion and victim blaming that occur in our society should give each of us reason to pause and question how our morals are serving us or if they are at all. It is with profound sadness and intense anger that I struggle to understand a callous society that feels so alien to me. A society that re-victimizes those who have already experienced horrible victimization through the criminal acts of rape and sexual assault by shaming victims when they are most vulnerable rather than placing that shame and blame where it belongs — on those who committed the crime of rape.

The effects of constant chaos in my life continued for years — one thing after another after another. I never knew what I was feeling because there wasn’t time to reflect. Much of the time everything felt so unreal that time no longer had meaning. I simply had TOO much life to process in TOO short of a time! In the years after I was raped, I had numerous other encounters of a sexual nature that tested my strength to survive. Maybe it was my naivety or maybe it was just plain stupidity on my part, but I was easily taken advantage of. For some reason, I have a knack for getting myself into situations that have serious detrimental effects on my emotional well-being and my ability to function as others do.

All types of relationships are extremely difficult for me, whether it’s family, peers, or intimate relationships. There’s a point of contention where most people would say that I don’t put forth the effort in which to “maintain relationships.” While I acknowledge some truth in this statement, I would also point out that most, if not all, people struggle with exactly the same thing. Out of sight, out of mind takes on a very literal meaning for me when so many people I was once close to told me to basically “buck up and get over it” during some of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

I’m like a feral animal who’s been kicked one too many times.

Trust most certainly does not come easy for me. It was for this reason that seeking therapy this last time was so terrifying. It took every ounce of courage I had in me to seek out help. I continue to reject the notion that psychiatric medication is necessary in the treatment of severe mental illnesses. I acknowledge that these medications might prove beneficial to some people, even life-saving as some would say; but for me, they were completely worthless, often more damaging than helpful. Therefore, I will continue to refuse medication. I did, however, accept therapy and case management. I still remain leery of therapy which, perhaps, hinders any progress as a result. Therapy is a slow process, one that I question relentlessly. I’m still not convinced that it “helps.” Or maybe I just haven’t found the “right” therapist for me.

Now, I doubt I will ever know because I simply don’t have it in me to start over with yet another new therapist. After a year and 4 months, my therapist and I parted ways, rather abruptly this past week. I’m still trying to process this sudden end, so I’m not really sure what I should say about it. I think my defenses went up when my therapist commented on the fact that a lot of my issues are financial in nature; so I should get a job, something I’ve heard so many times from so many people. If only it was that easy. I could have been a real smart-ass and said, “Well, nah-fuckin’-duh!” But I didn’t. Honestly, I’m not really sure what my response was other than maybe stunned silence. I simply don’t remember.

He asked a simple question, “What are your goals for this year?” I couldn’t answer. I have no idea. I really wanted to scream at him (but didn’t). If I could answer questions like that, maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have sought therapy to begin with! Then, he asked what my goals for therapy are. Yeah, same reaction — complete shut down. All I remember is the argument going on in my brain for me to SHUT UP! when I tried to fill the awkward silence by voicing my concerns again that therapy is a waste of time. And before I knew it, he was handing me his business card, telling me to email him when, for all intents and purposes, I was ready to actually “talk.” He literally said, “The ball’s in your court.” As if this, my life, is some sort of petty, manipulative game.

If the ball is in my court, I choose NOT to play the fucking game!!! Perhaps, by simply making that statement or writing about any of this publicly is indeed “playing the game;” but I take a very literal approach to my life, no-nonsense. I hate drama in real life. It feels like a waste of time. Drama is for television and fiction novels at best, just as games are for people who feel competition is a necessary part of life. The two go hand in hand and are part of the illusion that creates suffering.

I’m left wondering, “What the hell is wrong with me?!” The same question that has plagued me since early childhood.

I took his card. I left in silence without saying a word. I was livid; but more so, I was hurt. As I drove home in my car, I cried the tears triggered by a deep sorrow — despair that I may never heal, despair that I’m left to face it all alone yet again. One of my favorite parks in the area was on the way home; so I decided to stop at the last-minute to go for a walk and try to clear my mind. Nature walks typically quiet my thoughts to a more manageable level. Considering it was only 33° that day and I was wearing dress shoes rather than my usual hiking shoes, it may not have been the best idea; but I needed to test a theory.

Safely back home, I cried more. I vented to KR when he got home from work. I vented to my case manager the next day. The thought occurred to me that I should quit case management as well, but that small part of me whispered, “No, not yet.” Maybe my case manager is right. Maybe I would benefit more from a life coach rather than a therapist, but part of me feels that too much from my past still affects my conscious mind and interferes with my ability to move forward. I don’t know how to process any faster. I can only grow from that which I understand, at the pace my brain allows me.

The echoes of my past are as jumbled a mess as ripples on a lake, as hard to decipher as a nightmare in heavy sleep.

I’m convinced that depression is a grieving process — stuck grief. Most people don’t give themselves enough time to grieve losses, myself included. When we push away that grief by carrying on as always, it prolongs the grief. Having lost a lot in my life, I wonder if I will ever properly process all of the emotions that I fight to this day, particularly when the emotions themselves trigger such a strong flight response that I simply check-out for a while. It’s usually when I’m most stressed and depressed that I end up isolating myself the most. The majority of the time, I just want to be left alone. Solitude has been my one saving grace. However, it has its price as well. I meant for therapy to be my “reality check,” to assist me in coming to terms with my chaotic past. Sometimes, I need help in gauging what is rational and what is irrational. The anxiety that I feel daily as a result of this constant second-guessing is equally chaotic and overwhelming. Is it really too much to ask for one person who is willing to help me remain grounded, to help me recognize what so often I cannot — that I’m slipping too far down the rabbit hole?

I don’t know what the future holds or if I will ever be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, let alone successfully maintain employment. The only conclusion I have made from all of this self-reflection and introspection is that I am flat-out exhausted. My life is a minute-by-minute struggle on a daily basis to keep my head above water. I’m tired of bottling everything up. I’m tired of having no one to talk to about this incredibly difficult time in my life. I’m tired of feeling worthless. I’m tired of second-guessing everything I say.

And most of all, I’m tired of remaining silent.

This is my chance to tell my side of the story.

~ Finitoque ~

This is where I will end The Story of My Life (for now, maybe). It’s seems only fitting to end it where therapy ends. I apologize for the length and redundancy in parts. For those of you who remained loyal in reading My Story and those who stopped by for a briefer glimpse into my crazy world, my bizarre reality —

I thank you sincerely and wish you all the best. 


My Story – Part 12

Continued from My Story – Part 11

By January 2008, I was approved for Medicare coverage since I was receiving SSDI. However, for some reason, Medicare didn’t cover the therapist I was seeing at the time — who I saw for almost an entire year and liked very much. So, I had to switch to someone else. I never connected with the new therapist because she was so much younger than me. I continued therapy with her until the end of May 2008. By that time I was really struggling to go out in public (borderline agoraphobia) even to get to appointments. The bus rides were sometimes frightening. On top of the usual catcalls I experienced anytime I walked to and from bus stops, I witnessed a fist fight at the bus shelter downtown, a few shouting matches, and another day a man became violent when the bus driver told him to get off his bus for being disruptive and rude to other passengers, not to mention this one poor, old woman who was so lost in her own reality — so deeply down the rabbit hole — that she was carrying on a complete conversation with herself. It was a beautifully curious sight to see. No one would sit beside her, so I did. I empathized with her, yet she frightened me at the same time… because I worried I was her.

I scare so easily.

It was around that time that I remember feeling like I could take no more and stopped treatment altogether. I gave myself the break from psychiatry that I felt I needed for my own sanity. I felt that I had been a guinea pig for the industry long enough. I felt that I owed it to myself to find alternatives that would actually work for me rather than trusting another person to figure it out who doesn’t live inside this body. It’s difficult to know when treatment is doing more harm than good; but I sincerely believed that, in my case, the psychiatric medications and even some of the therapy I received in the past did far more damage than I realized. As a result, I simply no longer trusted doctors, psychiatrists, or any use of medication, not even for physical problems. Having been off all of the medications for well over 6 years, I’m not certain that the long-term effects of having taken them for so long will ever completely go away, like problems with memory and concentration; but it is possible that those could be an issue of malnutrition rather than an iatrogenic effect.

It was not my intent to give in to an irrational fear of medicine; but basically, my fear of medicine outweighs my fear of dying. Let me reiterate once again, the very nature of my disability is that I don’t do well under pressure and completely shut down when stressed. I have experienced this reaction since childhood with little to no control over it. I am overly sensitive to the point of non-functioning when I feel like my environment is threatened or I feel overwhelmed. Also, the original problem that sent me into therapy to begin with at the end of 1994 — anxiety — is still a major issue. I have experienced severe anxiety my entire life. It feels like all of my senses are in overload. While the depression comes and goes, the anxiety has worsened over the years. Given many of my life experiences in the past, I can honestly understand why. I do my best to not dwell on the past; but many of these experiences still affect me to this day. Processing the emotions and thoughts that go along with the memories of them is a constant battle.

Most weeks, I struggle to make myself leave the house just to do the shopping or go for a walk at the park. The latter I try to do with some regularity during warmer weather to challenge the anxiety and keep the joint pain to a minimum. In order to deal with a lot of the overwhelming emotions and sensations that I feel, I have many creative outlets that provide distraction. Distraction has been the single most useful tool in managing my mental illness because I am so easily distracted. Through music, art, photography, writing, and blogging, I’ve discovered that I can contribute something to society that helps me at the same time. However, there are times that my distractibility back-fires and works against me, causing a greater lack of concentration and focus. These are usually instances when I am feeling more stressed and overwhelmed; but the biggest problem I face with these creative outlets is motivation. Often, weeks go by with little to no motivation to accomplish anything.

I have no social life outside of the internet; and even on the internet, I find it difficult to carry on conversations with other people. Responding to a comment, writing a short blog post, or an email can take me hours to compose as I constantly second-guess every word I type. A lot of the time, I simply don’t respond at all. KR is the only person I interact with on a regular basis in “real” life. I haven’t really had any close friends for many, many years. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that I lose patience with people much more quickly than I used to. Being around even a small group of people for any length of time is incredibly exhausting for me. Occasionally, I speak with my son or my mother over the phone; but even those conversations lack any type of regularity.

I have found that it is imperative that my life be as simple as possible and that I must keep my stress level to a minimum in order to function with any type of normalcy. Normal for me looks very different from the expectations others seem to have of me. I’ve struggled my entire life to simply function and survive. It’s been over 9 years since I was last employed, held a “real” paying job. I have good days, and I have bad days; but I still have no consistency with which to give an employer a workable schedule. I really don’t know how to “work” with such fluctuations in my mood, let alone the recuperation time I feel I require when forced to be around other people. It was my hope and intent to support myself financially through my art; but the lack of motivation and inability to develop a consistent routine for myself interfered with my ability to focus on accomplishing career goals.

I’ve often thought the reason why I cannot place value on my artwork and photography is that I lack self-worth. More recently, I had several images published in a variety of different publications, from books, to magazines, to other websites asking permission to use certain images. I’ve never received monetary compensation for any of these uses. It makes me happy — no, thrilled — for someone to express interest in my work because this gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride; but I have to wonder if by not asking for payment, am I devaluing myself even more? The “business” aspects to having a creative career are lost to me. Unfortunately, I’ve never really considered myself a professional anything. I’m a “Jack of all trades, master of none” kind of gal for the simple reason that there are too many possibilities, too many things I’m interested in to settle on one. And because I get bored easily, I’m constantly moving from one interest to the next.

This struggle became clear to me throughout 2012. For the entire year of 2012, I worked on a photography project using the small point-and-shoot camera that KR bought me for Christmas in 2011 — one photograph for every single day of the year. I had to put forth some serious effort to complete this project; yet it taught me, proved to me, that I could start something and actually finish it. It taught me to pay attention to small details. It gave me a goal and a purpose. It was a creative distraction from a lot of the stress I was feeling from our living situation and the financial insecurities that began early that year.

At the end of January 2012, I learned that my Social Security Disability case was being reviewed. This caused me more anxiety than I could put into words. I didn’t know what to expect and the possibility that I might lose my only source of income was more than I could handle; so I put it out of my mind, didn’t think about it or tried not to think about it as much as I could. I did everything they asked me to, but in October 2012 I found out I would be losing SSDI and Medicare at the end of the year. No tangible reason was given in that dreaded form letter. It only stated in matter-of-fact terms, “After reviewing all of the information carefully, we’ve decided that your health has improved since we last reviewed your case. And you’re now able to work.” I was devastated. I don’t know why I didn’t fight it, appeal the decision. I think I must have been frozen in fear, an all too familiar life theme.

Life went on.

In the spring of 2013, one of KR’s nieces came to stay with us in an attempt to help her through a difficult period in her life. By the time she returned home to Michigan a few weeks later, I found myself emotionally triggered by the circumstances she was facing that were eerily similar to my life in ’98. I began having flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks again as my thoughts turned inward and darker, recalling past traumas that I thought I was over. Losing SSDI and depleting my savings account by summer triggered the financial insecurities that I struggled with for so many years. Mine and KR’s relationship began to suffer as we lost hope of moving from the shack we called home, away from neighbors who were causing us more and more stress. Physical problems (e.g. chronic fatigue, joint pain, occasional chest pain, my hair falling out in clumps, hormonal issues that put me into early menopause by the age of 44) worsened as much throughout 2013 as the depression and anxiety I was experiencing.

A bargain I made with myself when I was approved to begin receiving SSDI resurfaced — survive until I can no longer survive. The bargaining chip was my life. Part of me believed that I would follow through with the terms of this bargain, which I’m consciously choosing not to disclose here. I will only say that even though I was surprised by my resilience, my courage to defy, placate the darker side of myself, I feared for my life. Again, I felt like I was suffocating in darkness. By August 2013, not knowing what else to do, I began the Social Security Disability process all over again and reached out for help at a local mental health center. Seeking treatment again terrified me; but by this point, I was desperate.

To be continued…

My Story – Part 11

Continued from My Story – Part 10 (My Relationship with KR)

When I was around 2 years old, my family moved from the subdivision where we were living into an old 2-story farmhouse. This home is the home of my childhood memories, the home where I was raised, the only real “home” I remember. My family lived there up until the autumn after I graduated from high-school. I’m thankful to have experienced the stability and security of having grown up in one place, without the chaos of moving around so much as has been the case throughout my adult years. From the time I got married until present day, I received mail at a total of 27 different addresses. I lived in 4 different states over the years — Tennessee, Hawaii, California, and briefly Kentucky. I lived in 16 different cities over the course of my life, 12 of which were in Tennessee. I have been homeless a total of 5 times, 3 of which were in 1998, with the longest period of time spent homeless at an entire month.

As chaotic as my home-life became as an adult, my employment history was equally chaotic. From the time I began working at the age of 17 until July 2005, I had a variety of jobs. I worked as a cashier at a grocery store, a mail clerk on the campus of the university I was attending, a teacher’s aide, a ride attendant at Dollywood (probably my favorite job out of all of them), a preschool teacher, an American Red Cross Volunteer, a factory worker, a meat-wrapper at a grocery store, an inventory counter, a cashier at Wal-Mart, a Census Bureau enumerator, a framer at an art store, a telemarketer (I absolutely hated this one!), a bar-maid (by far my worst working experience), and finally, a graphic artist. And that’s just to name the most significant ones. Over a 15 year period, I had a total of 26 different periods of employment with 20 different employers. Seven of those different employers were in 1998 alone. The longest I ever worked full-time was 7 months. The longest I worked part-time was 1 year, 4 months.

And there were many periods of unemployment during those 15 years, too. The longest period of unemployment was 3 years and 7 months, during my pregnancy, son’s infancy, and his early childhood. I don’t really count this one as “unemployed,” though, because I felt I had the most important job of raising my son, even if my ex-husband and other family members didn’t see it that way. Call me old-fashioned, but I truly believe that young children need a parent at home during those formative years. I did, however, spend 5 months of that time period volunteering with the American Red Cross. I was able to bring my son along with me due to the nature of my volunteer position which was at a free child care facility designed for military families’ use while at medical appointments. After I finally went back to work after that, the periods of unemployment ranged from 3 to 7 months at a time (never with unemployment benefits), although many of the jobs I acquired were back to back or overlapping in some cases.

When I consider the original reasons for why I struggled so much to keep a job, the only conclusion I come to is that I simply become overwhelmed when trying to juggle too many things at once. Simplicity is paramount to my mental health and well-being. Part-time is better than full-time; but even part-time work left me exhausted and feeling smothered. After the rapes in 1998, I had the added anxiety — subconscious at the time — of associating work with being raped. This was further compounded by the stalker with whom I worked at Wal-Mart, and then finally, all of the sexual assaults I experienced at the beer bar where I worked a few years later.

Early on in 2004, I began the Social Security Disability process. In the state of Tennessee (maybe other states as well), this is a long, drawn out process where you are almost guaranteed to be denied at least the first two times. By the time you get to the hearing stage in front of a judge, I think the SSA is pretty much hoping that you kill yourself to save them the trouble. Several times during that 3 years it took me to finally be approved, I came very close to doing just that. Honestly, I’m surprised I survived it. Between the pressure PI (boyfriend at the time) put me under with his impatience for results from a system that prides itself in hurry-up-and-wait and my own despair in having to ask for help in this way — I only felt a hopelessness that life would never improve, that I didn’t deserve to live, let alone ask for help. It was really no surprise that the relationship with PI ended as a result.

In January 2007, a couple of months after I left PI and had been living with KR in Nashville, my Social Security Disability Income was finally approved. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally breathe. This didn’t solve all of my problems, but I had one less thing to worry about.

Around that time, I began seeing a psychiatrist and therapist again through Tennessee’s Safety Net Program since I still had no medical insurance. I had been medication free for about 14 months, but still experiencing severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. After the psychiatrist asked me all the usual intake questions, he diagnosed me as Bipolar, prescribing Lamictal. He also ordered blood-work to check my thyroid because it hadn’t been checked in so long. About a week later, he called to tell me that my thyroid was over-active, advising me to find a doctor and get a complete physical.

Again, without medical insurance, this proved to be quite difficult; but somehow (honestly, I can’t remember how I managed it), I finally saw a physician. This doctor sent me to an endocrinologist a couple of months later for further testing on my thyroid who began treatment for the thyroid problem. He also scheduled an appointment with a rheumatologist for the first time since high school. When their blood tests came back normal, the rheumatologist refused to do x-rays to determine if I actually had rheumatoid arthritis. Basically, I got the impression that I was wasting the rheumatologist’s time; so I was left to deal with the joint pain I was experiencing on my own.

On top of these other health issues, over a 3 year period, my teeth literally broke, shattered, and decayed at an alarming rate. Most had already broken to the gum line and others were missing all of the enamel by 2007. Many factors contributed to the sudden decline of my dental health; but more than anything, long-term malnutrition probably played the most significant role (starting in/around 1997 through the present time, I only eat one meal per day in order to save on food costs – usually, no snacks). My oral surgeon told me that even antidepressants contribute to dental problems. It’s difficult to explain the impact of dental issues on your self-esteem, confidence, emotional balance, lifestyle, and physical health. The detrimental effects of losing my smile were as devastating as the excruciating pain I constantly felt in my gums, jaw, and mouth, in general. The headaches and migraines that accompanied this were equally awful. Prior to receiving SSDI, I was financially destitute. I couldn’t always get antibiotics to treat the constant infections and abscesses I got. After 3 years of agonizing pain due to my teeth, I was finally able to get all of my teeth extracted with the help of a long-lost friend who showed me a great kindness. The oral surgeon was fantastic. Given the severe anxiety that dental procedures cause me, my oral surgeon put me completely under; so I didn’t feel a thing. I used a portion of the back-pay from SSDI to purchase dentures. I got my temporary set of dentures at the end of April 2007 and the permanent set about 6 months later.

From the time I began taking Lamictal in January 2007, I began having severe mood swings with bouts of anger that frightened me. The anxiety became so bad that I was having problems making it to appointments and leaving my apartment at all. For the first time since December of 2005, the obsessive thoughts of suicide and death increased to an alarming level. These issues could have been the result of the thyroid problem (or treatment of the thyroid problem) or it could have been the result of the Lamictal. Given my reaction to most, if not all, psychiatric medications in the past (and during times that I was not having the problems with my thyroid), I felt that the issues I was experiencing were a direct result of the Lamictal. I was also concerned that my “food issues” were causing a lot of my problems; but most, if not all, the doctors and mental health professionals I saw up to that point, with whom I did express these concerns, said I was a healthy weight. Therefore, the disordered eating habits were completely overlooked. Neither the psychiatrist nor the endocrinologist listened to my concerns even though I voiced these concerns regularly. As I experienced this type of negligence and apathy from medical providers for the majority of my adult life, I became increasingly suspicious of psychiatry, medicine, and medical treatment.

In March 2008, I quit taking the Lamictal due to these significant mood swings and emotional outbursts. I chose to stop taking medication for anxiety and depression because for the entire 13 years I was on them, none of those medications I was ever prescribed actually helped. When I very first started taking Prozac, the original medication I was prescribed back in June 1996, five weeks later I attempted suicide for the first time in my life. Every time the medications were changed or the dosage was raised or another one added, I fell deeper into a state of depression where I could not function at all or I became completely suicidal, ruminating constantly on thoughts of suicide and obsessing over methods to take my life.

I’ve often experienced my thoughts as loud voices, with or without medication. Prior to my adult years from as early as the age of 10 or 11 years old, these “loud thoughts” were mostly benign, more so creative expressions of my imagination; but as I grew older these voices became more sinister, often times screaming at me to kill myself. If (and that’s a BIG “if”) the medication quieted these voices slightly, the effect wouldn’t last long because I developed a compulsive tendency to obsess over certain thoughts, specifically death and suicide. While these thoughts do still occur (stress triggers this response and suicidal behavior in me) and I still feel the hopelessness that accompanies them, they happen no more or no less frequently than while I was medicated. The medications, however, made it easier to act on these thoughts as I had very little impulse control while on them. I also believe that the medication prolonged the periods of depression rather than improving the symptoms. The medication robbed me of life’s greatest treasures, my emotions and my creativity. Without those, life is not worth living, at least, not for me.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 10 (My Relationship with KR)

Continued from My Story – Part 9 (Relationships with Family)

When I began this blog at the beginning of the year, that very first post, The Year Rang In Like A Cyclone, described an atypical experience from mine and KR’s relationship, at least atypical up until that point. First, a little background info:

My current boyfriend and I met online back in 2000 while I was attending college. I’ve referred to him as KR in “My Story” and here. Quick recap since I didn’t go into much detail about our relationship in that post: We went on our first date in July 2000, and he moved in with me the following December. We dated for a little over a year and a half that first time we were together. The reasons for our break-up in March 2002 were complicated. I felt completely overwhelmed at the time and could feel myself slipping into a deeper depression. I had just been hospitalized for the fifth time at a psychiatric hospital. While I was in the hospital, he moved us out of my apartment and in with a friend because I could no longer pay my rent. In retrospect, this move was the final straw for me that caused me to break up with him at that time.

However, KR and I remained close friends even after the break-up and talked occasionally. In November 2006, I was facing homelessness again. KR offered to take me in when no one else would. I accepted, and we’ve been together for a little over 7 years this time [our 8 year anniversary is coming up in a few days]. I’m not going to say that it’s been any easier this time than the first time because each of us has our own issues that cause us to struggle financially as well as emotionally. I don’t blame KR for this any more than I blame myself. Placing blame does absolutely no good. I accept that our struggles are part of who we are, that the person he is and the person I am does the best we can in order to survive.

After I moved in with KR in November 2006, he became my rock, the one person I felt I could trust and depend on. He became the person who could bring me back to reality when I felt it slipping away. Even with all of my issues, he stuck by me through everything. Even after our relationship ended in March 2002 and we went our separate ways, he was there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on. With his help, love, and support, life for me became a little more stable during that first year and a half we were back together. We had our fair share of ups and downs during that time, but I finally found some breathing space to begin processing some of the chaos that I lived through for so many years.

When KR was fired from where he worked in May 2008, this triggered many of the same worries and insecurities that caused so many of the problems I struggled with previously. Lack of money and financial stress are a recurring trigger throughout my life. KR losing his job was a devastating blow. Like I said in an earlier post, the money I received from SSD benefits barely covered my student loan payments and child support. At the time, I had also received part of an inheritance from the sale of my grandmother’s farm; but I knew I had to make that money last for as long as I possibly could to cover my share of the expenses.

Another disaster struck in December 2008 when a fire broke out in the apartment above ours. Thankfully, most of our belongings were fine, even the electronics; but our apartment sustained heavy water damage, particularly in the kitchen area. A large portion of my inheritance money was spent to secure a new place for us to live and for moving expenses. We ended up moving into a different apartment complex, another gated community, right across the street from our old apartment. This was my second favorite apartment that I have ever lived in (it would have been my first favorite, but nothing beats living in Hawaii). This apartment was beautiful! Perfectly set up, a gorgeous kitchen, and even a screened in patio for our cats (and me) to get some fresh air. For the first time in my adult life, I felt contentment in that apartment. However, the constant sirens (we lived right next to a hospital) and the occasional gun shot were enough keep my nerves on edge.

KR remained out of work until October 2009. We survived on that first portion of my inheritance money until it was all gone. KR finally accepted work through temp agencies; but money was tight. Fear began taking over my life. I was terrified of losing everything again. I had already become increasingly fearful of leaving our apartment due to several incidents I experienced while riding the bus and during bus transfers downtown; but by this point, I rarely, if ever, left our apartment without KR’s company. He was my “safe” person.

Maybe it was the stress of travelling to my mom’s for the first time after so many years or being around other people for the first time after a long period of social isolation; but a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving 2009, I ended up sick, very sick. More than likely, it was the H1N1 virus that was going around at the time. I never went to a doctor. We couldn’t afford it. Delirious from fevers that spiked to 103° at night, I lost an entire week that I have no memory of. KR said there was at least a couple of nights that he thought he would have to throw me in a tub of ice water. The care and nurturing KR showed me during that illness were proof enough to me of his gentleness, devotion, and love.

Financially, things were getting dire by around May 2010. Rent was due and we didn’t have it. We were desperate for a solution. KR’s dad and step-mom, who had only recently reconnected with him around Christmas 2009, lived in Cookeville, TN. His dad wasn’t in good health, and I think he wanted KR nearby to mend their broken relationship before he died. (KR, as well as his siblings, suffered physical and emotional abuse by their dad and step-mom; but that’s his story to tell, not mine.) Since KR wasn’t having much luck finding a permanent job in Nashville, he stayed a few days there with them to check on jobs and housing. Then, Nashville flooded and he couldn’t get home for another couple of days (it was a bad flood!). On May 8th, 2010, we moved to Cookeville, TN.*

*I understand that this tidbit of information may give away my identity since I’m probably one of very few people who actually blogs in the Cookeville area — a little cross-referencing between my 2 blogs would give it away; but at this point, I’m less concerned about anonymityThis is, after all, my story; and I shouldn’t be ashamed to tell it. — With that being said, should you discover who I am, I ask that you, please, be respectful.

I liked the Cookeville area from the start. It reminded me a lot of my hometown, but they rival each other in beauty. I’m much more comfortable in a rural setting like this than a concrete jungle like Nashville. In that respect I was more in my element, but the new-found obligations to KR’s family stirred up quite a whirlwind for more than a year. I wasn’t accustomed to being around other people. I felt incredibly nervous and socially awkward, probably due to the prolonged isolation. Often, I found myself overwhelmed, shutting down from over-stimulation. It took me quite a while to work into somewhat of a routine to feel more at ease with my surroundings.

After KR’s dad passed away at the end of January 2011, KR’s step-mom was lost. Her grief consumed her. Later that year, she moved back to their hometown in Michigan where the majority of KR’s family still live. KR mourned the loss of his father in his own way while pretty much denying that it affected him at all. I’m sure that his dad’s death stirred up a lot of his own childhood insecurities because it was around this time that I first noticed changes in our relationship — nothing concrete, only an intuitive feeling that something was off.

That “feeling” was paralleled in our homelife. When we first moved into that old, decrepit trailer more than 4 years ago, we had no idea we would be stuck there for so long. It was only meant to be a temporary housing solution. In the beginning, we tried very hard to make the best of it and get along with our neighbors despite their odd behavior. For the most part, we did get along with them for the first couple of years. Oddly enough, you’d be surprised what you can get used to; but increasingly over the years there, our neighbors’ behavior became stranger and more bizarre as the living condition of both trailers on the property deteriorated.

I’ve written extensively about that trailer KR and I lived in prior to us moving this past June; so feel free to read any of the following posts from the last few months for a better understanding of what KR and I dealt with while living at our previous address:

  • Life Just Keeps Coming At Me 
  • Gunshots, Sirens, and Panic 
  • The End of Silence 
  • NO Trespassing 
  • Shattered 
  • The Roof Is On Fire

I’m so thankful to be out of that deplorable living situation. That rental was absolutely in worse shape than any place I have ever lived; and I’ve lived in a number of “bad” rentals over the years. I’m fairly certain that it was the reason for many, if not most, of mine and KR’s most immediate problems. While the move did our relationship a world of good, I find myself worried about KR’s recent moodiness over this past year. Many of our issues have been there for much longer, especially those concerning sex and the fact that I’ve been unemployed for more than 9 years. These are issues I’ve coped with my entire adult life; so I guess, that makes them more my issues than his.

I love KR with all my heart. I can imagine growing old with him. I want to grow old with him. Despite all of the struggles we’ve been through together, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would do it all again because there have been more happy times, more good times, than bad. It’s all the little things that I’m so thankful for. Things like:

  • Playing video games together into the wee hours of the morning.
  • KR making me sit through everything Monty Python because it’s just silly. 
  • Watching every episode of Star Trek: the Original Series together… and Star Trek: the Next Generation… and Star Trek: Voyager… and Star Trek: Enterprise… (we will make it through DS9 eventually) because Gene Roddenberry’s reality was so much more hopeful than our own.
  • Lying on a blanket on the ground during a neighborhood black-out, side-by-side, star-gazing.
  • Any of the hiking excursions we’ve taken, especially the one on my son’s birthday in 2012 because KR knew I was having a rough time and needed to “get away” for the day.
  • During our move from Nashville to Cookeville, I became so overwhelmed that I lashed out during a meltdown. KR safely restrained me, patiently holding me until I calmed down. (In my opinion, there’s no greater love than a person who can do this for another person without losing his temper.)
  • KR writing love messages on the bathroom mirror so that they “magically” appear after a shower.
  • KR leaving me with a kiss every day before work (even if I’m still sleeping).
  • KR painting my toenails because I impatiently make a mess of it and paint my whole toe!
  • The fact that he tries to understand me, my thoughts, my triggers as I try to understand his.

These are only the first 10 things that popped into my head. These are the types of memories I want to focus on, remember, because they are far more important to me. Emotionally triggered arguments that feed off of our insecurities only have power when I give in to the parts of me that obsessively ruminate over past resentments and perceived maltreatment. Perhaps, a few of those perceptions are justified; but it does our relationship no good to concentrate on negativity when the positive aspects of our life together suffer as a result. My continued goal for this relationship as it has been for the past 8 years is to focus on the positive.

Most of the time that’s easier said than done, but nothing worth doing was ever easy.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 9 (Relationships with Family)

Continued from My Story – Part 8 (The Relationship with My Son)

I grew up believing that it was unacceptable to express sadness, hurt, disappointment, frustration, or anger toward anyone or anything that provoked these emotions in me. For that reason alone, resentment built to an intolerable level that fueled my “running away from home” at the age of 19 when I married so young. I was never great at communicating with my family. None of us were. From an early age, I often felt as though I lived in a house of complete strangers who occasionally interacted. Sure, we watched TV together, ate dinner together every night, took trips together, and occasionally had fun as a family; but I often felt like something was missing.

It was like that emotional bond that’s supposed to be there between family members had simply been severed or nonexistent to begin with. No words could really explain it. No matter how hard I tried to make my family proud of me, it just never seemed to be enough. This felt like an impossible task after 1998. I felt like a colossal disappointment after that. I often felt like I did as a child, helpless to stand up for myself against an indifferent family whose expectations were completely contradictory to my own. It took years of therapy and a lot of distancing for me to realize that I’m not here to please my family. I have to make my life count for me.

As I discussed earlier, when I left Tullahoma in 2005, the feelings of rejection and invalidation I experienced at that time strained the relationships with my mother and sister. This was during a period in my life that I was struggling immensely, financially and emotionally. I asked to come home to stay, to live, if for no other reason than to have the emotional support of my family, but also to be closer to my son so that I could be involved in his life. I was told ”no” by both my mother and sister. Mom said she didn’t have the room for me and my sister simply said that I should stay where I was and work out my own problems. I felt rejected, abandoned — an abandonment that I felt so often growing up.

If you could ask anyone in my family, immediate or extended, they would probably tell you that I was an emotional child who demanded nothing less than to be left alone (little has changed in that respect). I remember on more than one occasion either a cousin or my sister would intrude on my “alone time” and bear the brunt of an almost cat-like attack, all claws and screams of rage followed by no less than 15 minutes of bawling my eyes out. These types of meltdowns early in life resulted in my exasperated mother silencing me often with the phrase, “Dry it up!” Nevertheless, by at least mid-way through kindergarten I had learned to control these fits of rage through self-soothing or completely dissociating from my emotions.

Dissociation, of course, is a less than ideal way to handle emotions; however, for the immature mind of a child, it allowed me to cope with emotions and situations that felt completely overwhelming and out of control. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why I so often felt overwhelmed or out of control, just that I did. In most cases, my emotional outbursts as a child were simply too difficult for anyone in my family to process or manage much of the time which left me feeling ignored — abandoned — and fueled resentment that I had no idea how to process myself — a vicious cycle.

The rejection of my pleas for help in 2005 triggered these same feelings and a response that I recognize now as all too familiar, reciprocating rejection. It resulted in me staying out of my mother’s and sister’s lives for the majority of 4 years, only speaking to Mom occasionally by phone. Emails between my sister and me in 2007 were harsh and bitter which strengthened the divide between us. She expressed her own resentment in emails, stating that I was never around when she needed help with either our mother or our father before he died and how stressed she had been that she had to do everything herself while caring for her own family and working a full-time job.

I understood that my sister was stressed and feeling overwhelmed with everything. I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed as that feeling has been a constant throughout my life. It’s most certainly not pleasant. She at the very least had most of Mom’s brothers and sisters there to help out and all of her friends to help her cope, as well as her husband and his family. For much of my adult life, I felt completely alone in my struggle to survive; but at the time of these emails, I had one person, KR, who I felt I could trust, count on — and no one else. When you’ve been kicked enough times by people you care about, trust in people no longer comes naturally. I needed her to understand that I had my own stuff to deal with and take care of. I felt like she completely disregarded anything that was going on in my life, considered my struggles insignificant and trivial to her own.

My sister once told me, “I feel like you feel like everyone owes you for something.” At the time I told her that no one owed me a god damned thing and that I didn’t expect anything from anyone else. I didn’t. I knew I was on my own and had been for more quite some time. Maybe I was wrong, though. Now, I feel like I am “owed” certain things. I deserve validation for my emotions. I’m justified in the expectation of compassion and understanding for my experiences. I’m entitled to respect for my boundaries. And I have the right of dignity to live my life any way I see fit without the added pressure of being someone I’m not. These concepts are hard for me to grasp, but I want to have enough self-respect to know when not to sacrifice my own well being for that of others. (Let me clarify here by saying: I don’t expect these things; but I feel I and every other living creature on this planet deserve these things in order to transcend spiritually and live in a civilized society.)

After those emails, we didn’t speak at all until around mid-July 2009 when, out of the blue, my sister called to tell me our mother was in the hospital. A week after that phone call, she called again demanding that I come home to take care of Mom while she recuperated (by this point, I no longer saw East Tennessee as my home; it hadn’t been “home” for more than 17 years).

My best guess is that agoraphobia began taking control of my life as early as May or June 2008. I rarely if ever left our apartment at all, sometimes for a couple of months at a time.

My mother has a lot of health issues from heart problems to Type II diabetes; but this hospitalization was due to bacteria in her stomach causing problems. Since I didn’t own a car at the time, I had to take a bus from Nashville to Knoxville where my sister picked me up. I stayed with Mom after she was released from the hospital for 2 weeks. Traveling in this way as well as the visit itself was stressful; but I felt that I handled it well despite the severe anxiety I felt.

It was a challenge to push the thoughts and memories out of my mind of comments family members said to me during my divorce and after the rapes and throughout my pregnancy with the child I gave up for adoption, let alone the hurt from 2005. Many of these comments made by family members were some of the worst I heard and only confirmed my childhood beliefs that I was worthless and bad. During that visit in 2009, both Mom and my sister simply ignored that they rejected my calls for help in 2005. Typical.

After Mom said she was feeling better, I became antsy to return home, back to Nashville. I stayed as long as I felt I could. The weekend that I decided to come home she was doing well or so I thought. The following Monday she had a doctor’s appointment to have blood work done. Apparently, she took all of her medications on an empty stomach and became violently ill as a result. One of the nurses fussed at her about driving in that condition; so my mother took it to mean that she could no longer drive.

Prior to me leaving from that visit with Mom, my sister began pressuring me to drop my life in Nashville with KR to move in with Mom permanently. I refused. My sister blatantly came out and said that Mom wanted me to move in with her to take care of her. I couldn’t even begin to express how badly this terrified me. I wasn’t even able to take care of myself. I would have NEVER given up my children had I thought I was emotionally stable enough and capable of caring for another person in the way she was asking of me. It made me angry that they would even ask this of me considering they had very little to no involvement in my adult life.

What about KR and my life with him? The fact that KR was unemployed at the time and we were under a great amount of financial stress as a result didn’t help matters any, either. My mother can be horribly judgmental when it comes to whomever I’m dating (or married to as in the case of my ex-husband); so it felt like she was trying to manipulate me into doing what she wanted by insulting not only KR, but me as well. I’m pretty sure KR was struggling with depression during the time he was out of work (though, I doubt he would admit it). I wanted to be there to emotionally support this man, who I loved with all my heart, who supported me emotionally when I needed it most — when NO ONE else would give me that emotional support that I so desperately needed.

But another part of me felt guilty because I felt like I was being selfish and unreasonable for even considering my own life. I felt even more guilt when Mom had a mild stroke a month later in September 2009. I couldn’t have prevented that from happening even had I been there, but the shame I felt was intense. Every time I talked to my mother for the next couple of months, the pressure built as she continued to use guilt in an attempt to manipulate me. She expressed animosity which led me to believe that she felt that if I hadn’t left when I did, she would have never had the stroke.

This was one of those situations where I totally don’t get how psychologists say, “No one can make you feel a certain way. You choose to feel that way.” If I had any choice in whether or not to feel guilty about these events, I wouldn’t have because I knew the stroke wasn’t my fault; but, nevertheless, I still felt guilty. Maybe this was just an example of cognitive dissonance. Whatever it was, it was crazy-making!

A couple of weeks after Mom’s stroke, my sister called to give me an update. Again, the hospital was preparing to release Mom, and my sister was demanding that I be there by Friday or Saturday to stay with Mom for at least the next two or three weeks. I flew into a panic trying to explain to her our situation and how I was feeling about everything. I don’t do well with short-notice. I need time to mentally prepare for a trip. The previous trip pushed my limits way too hard. Financially, my life was a mess at the time; and emotionally, I was a wreck.

My sister said, “I don’t want to hear your sob story!” She ranted on about how stressed she was dealing with Mom’s care, working full-time, caring for her kids and husband. Too late. I was already triggered. I didn’t hear much after that because I pretty much lost it and hung up on her before I screamed every obscenity I could possibly think of at the defenseless phone. I’m sure my upstairs neighbors must have wondered if I had lost my mind or something. My heart was racing. I could literally hear my heart beating in my head, and I was shaking all over. It took me the better part of an hour to calm down with KR’s help.

It was at that point in October 2009 that I decided I’d had enough. Once again, I stopped speaking to my sister after that volatile conversation over the phone; and I began limiting my phone conversations with my mother as well. I chose not to go to Mom’s at that time. I didn’t return there for about a year, not until October 2010 when I finally decided to introduce my mother and son to KR for the first time. We drove to East Tennessee for that day only, had an early dinner with them, and drove back home that night.

Since October 2010, I’ve made it back to Mom’s house a total of 8 times. That’s not a lot considering I live less than 3 hours away. I haven’t been to my sister’s house in many years, probably not since Daddy died in 2004. The issues with my mother’s health are of great concern to me. I worry about her living alone, especially with her being on dialysis now. The worst part is that my mother expressed concerns that she is a “burden.” I don’t EVER want my mother to feel that way. I dearly love Mom, and only want what’s best for her.

I realized quite some time ago that I cannot expect my family of origin to completely understand me, my thoughts, my life, or a lot of what I’ve experienced since I left home at 19. They don’t even know the half of it. I would be too ashamed to tell them much of what I’ve experienced or even thought about (part of the reason for anonymity here on this blog). Maybe it’s too much to expect my family to be emotionally supportive. After all, expectations lead to disappointment; and as my dad so wisely once told me as a little girl — my expectations were always so high that it’s no wonder disappointment followed me wherever I went.

Above all else, I remind myself daily that each and every person on this planet — my family members included — are simply trying to survive in the best ways they know how. It’s not my place to judge or criticize anyone else, just as it’s no one else’s place to judge or criticize me.

Everyone struggles in this life. No one is more worthy or less honorable than another. There’s no reward or punishment in the end other than what we create for ourselves.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 8 (The Relationship with My Son)

Continued from My Story – Part 7 (Chaos Relived)

For the past 8 (close to 9) months, present life has interfered with my ability to accomplish my goal of finishing My Story. Rather than attempting to process past problems, “present-day” struggles have consumed my thoughts and energy. These may or may not be an “echo” of past issues, but they’ve certainly triggered a lot of the same emotions and difficulties remaining present. I’m feeling compelled now to finish what I started here and hopefully move past this “need” to tell my story. 

I left off with the relationship break-up between PI and me after our move to Lebanon, TN, and my subsequent move to Nashville, TN, when KR took me in….

At the end of 2006, I received a letter from the Department of Safety telling me that my driver’s license had been suspended due to failure to pay child support. I rarely drove anyway because I found driving in Nashville to be very stressful; and my car was on its last leg, overheating any time I got stuck in traffic. I ended up selling the car for $40 (yes, I said forty dollars) just to get rid of it and chose to ride the bus instead. (I could, seriously, write an entire post on nothing but my experiences riding the bus in Nashville!) Still, I was stressed a great deal by this letter revoking my driving privileges. In January 2007, I received another letter in the mail, this time from the Social Security Administration. Finally, after 3 very long, stressful years of barely surviving while trying to get on Social Security Disability, I was approved. It was just enough to cover my student loan payments and child support; but at least, it was something. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally breathe.

For quite a while, I had completely lost contact with my ex-husband, CF, and our son. This happened several times over the years from the time I left. On a few occasions, cards, letters, and gifts were returned to me through the mail when they couldn’t reach my son at the given address (I held onto all of these things as proof of my devotion until I lost everything in my storage unit in 2005). Eventually, I gave up on communication through the postal service because I had no idea where my son was. The last time I had been allowed to even speak to him on the phone was in the summer of 2006. Often times, I had no financial means to make long-distance phone calls, which were pretty expensive back then with or without an “unlimited” calling feature. Other times, the number I was given by my ex-husband was “out of service,” probably for the same reason. By February 2007, the stress of not knowing was killing me.

By this point, I had accepted the fact that everyone saw me as an unfit parent. That realization is a humbling experience. The shame I felt (still feel to this day) led me to believe that my son was better off without me being directly involved in his life. However, I had the right, according to the divorce decree, to supervised visitation and updates on my son’s well-being and school progress. Enforcing these provisions of the divorce decree proved to be financially impossible and caused both me and my son an incredible amount of emotional anguish.

I began calling the last number I had for them. At first, I got the all too familiar operator on the other end telling me, “Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” Later, trying the same number again, it went directly to voice mail. I tried sending CF emails to the last known email address I had for him. As always, these went unanswered. It was at this time that I had also asked my mom for information about my son’s whereabouts. At first, Mom kept telling me to let it go and give up. My mind reeled at the notion of a mother telling her daughter to “give up” on anything related to her child. This didn’t sit well with me at all and strained our relationship further. Finally, she told me that my sister had CF’s current address. After a particularly disturbing and bitter email conversation between the two of us, my sister sent me the address.

At the same time that I was trying to get information from my family, the thought occurred to me to search the internet for CF. I tracked down his new wife on MySpace. I contacted her first, before finally finding CF elsewhere online shortly thereafter. It was at this point that CF finally answered one of my emails with an incredibly hateful, derogatory response. His wife and I had exchanged phone numbers; and I called numerous times to try to speak to my son, unsuccessfully. Finally, she called me back one day and told me that my son did not want to speak to me. I was crushed, but I didn’t blame him for this at all. She told me that he might email me at a later date. She also said that CF was very angry with her (and me) for the emails we had exchanged. I realized at that moment that CF was controlling her in the same way as he had me. At that point, for her safety and the safety of my son, I decided to break off contact — again.

April 11, 2007, was my final court appearance over the child support. A couple of years prior, I had obtained an attorney who took my case pro bono.  She never even showed up to this court date! However, because I showed proof that I had finally gotten Social Security Disability and sent in a large payment towards the arrears, the case was finally suspended due to “the obligations of the non-custodial parent being met.” CF finally showed up for the first time in the almost 6 years that I was being dragged through the court system. The district attorney told CF to go to the Social Security office to fill out the necessary paperwork so that my son would receive a portion of my Social Security check because the SSA told me that they had been unsuccessful in attempts to contact him through mail and phone calls. I honestly thought he had taken care of this; yet later in the year around the end of August 2007, I received another certified letter from the district attorney’s office stating that my driver’s license may be revoked again. I went by the Social Security office to see if CF did as the district attorney instructed him to and whether or not my son was getting a check every month. They told me he had not. This was also when I found out that I had to send the child support check out of the $475 SSD check that I received each month because I did not qualify for SSI. I never missed a payment again.

Eventually my son and I finally began exchanging emails; but I was cautious due to concerns that my ex-husband might be messing with my head since I couldn’t be sure who exactly was sending them. This may sound a little paranoid to most people; but given what I had been through with my ex-husband over the years, my caution was warranted. Honestly, I think the earliest emails in 2007 may have been my ex-husband; but by 2009, I was fairly certain that I was actually speaking to my son. In July 2009 I was able to see and speak to my son face-to-face for the first time in years. It was awkward at first; but I think we were both surprised by how much we had in common — from his love of art to his enjoyment of gaming. Even some of his mannerisms reminded me of me.

In February 2010 after CF and his wife divorced, she contacted me again through Facebook, confirming that she had gone through a lot of the same control, anger, and violence issues with CF that I had experienced. He even threatened to have her arrested because she took my son to church one day after they separated. My son was 15 or 16 years old at the time! She and I exchanged several emails, “comparing notes,” so to speak. My quest of writing down my entire life story in the way that I am sharing here on my blog began as a result of these correspondences. After I shared my side of the story with her, she wrote in an email to me:

“The story that I, and I believe [your son] has always heard, is very different from that story. We were told that you left the bar with them and then claimed rape. [CF] got flown back home because of it and then you changed your story. He went home to find out that [your son] had been home alone the entire time. I hate to tell you this but [your son] believes that he remembers being home alone all night. I never thought he could truly remember something like that at a young age, but he is determined that he does remember it. That is part of his anger towards you. I have no doubt that [CF] made up enough detail that over the years [your son] believes these are his genuine memories.”

Let me reiterate here: The vile things those men did to me and made me do to them was NOT consensual. I felt I had no choice but to comply. It was rape.

And secondly, my son was at home, safe, with a sitter that night — the entire night. Needless to say, this conversation with CF’s newest ex-wife intensified my concerns about my son and the amount of control my ex-husband had over him. I emailed my son after this conversation and spoke to him briefly about what CF’s ex-wife told me; but at the time, I didn’t want to overload him with too much information or any of the specifics because he was only 16 years old.

In the years since that time, my son graduated from high school with honors, joined the Navy, and most recently, married. He is now an adult, and we’re able to speak much more freely with one another than we could throughout his childhood. This past summer, my son and I were able to finally have that much-needed long conversation about everything that happened when I left him with his father. I felt that this was a discussion that we needed to have face-to-face. It was a difficult conversation, to say the least, but a necessary one for him to understand my life and the distance I kept for so many years. From my post, Tech Free = Less Stress, where I briefly discussed this conversation:

That was the first time I have spent that type of quality time with my child in many, many years. We had the opportunity to have a long, in-depth discussion about my past and the break-up with his dad, something we never had the chance to discuss prior to his visit. It was discouraging to hear the things CF told my son about me (mostly false), but not surprising. I’m happy that I can speak so openly around my son and his wife. That visit meant the world to me, and provided a small amount of closure that I’ve never felt.

It’s that closure that I so desperately needed. His (and his wife’s) compassion and acceptance were an added bonus, a seed of hope. I am so, so proud of my son and the man he turned out to be. He’s an intelligent, creative, kindhearted man with a bright future ahead of him. My son truly holds my heart and my soul. In a previous post, I said:

In moments of complete despair, thoughts of [my son] kept me alive. One day, I must thank my child for saving my life on so many occasions. Something, I’m certain, he’s completely unaware of.

I’m thankful that we were finally able to have that heart-to-heart conversation because more than anything in the world, all I’ve ever wanted, was to be a part of his life and to show him the love that he deserves. I love my son dearly and look forward to a future with him in my life.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 7 (Chaos Relived)

Continued from My Story – Part 6 (Trying to Survive)

I want to reiterate my trigger warning on this post because I discuss suicidal ideation and weight issues with numbers that could be triggering for some readers. Please, keep yourself safe. 

When my boyfriend, P.I., and I broke up at the end of 2004, he told me I could stay with him until my court date over the child support with my ex-husband. When that court date was postponed until April (court was continuously postponed for a total of 6 years due to the fact that my ex-husband never showed up), I was left in a state of limbo, having no where to else to go and no income to support myself. P.I. allowed me to continue living with him and his parents; but he was constantly picking fights with me, pressuring me to find a job and abandon my disability claim. I looked at my life and chastised myself relentlessly for not getting my act together. I began working part-time as a floater at a preschool. Working with kids made me miss mine even more. I continued looking for a better job until I found a great full-time graphic artist position at a factory in Tullahoma, TN, making $11.50 per hour (the most I ever made in my life). In April, I spent the first two weeks at my job living out of a hotel room, eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and cereal. After I received my first paycheck, I put a deposit down on a 2 bedroom apartment and moved in.

Tullahoma is a small rural community, about two and a half hours away from where I had been living in Clarksville. I was so lonely. I knew no one there. The depression worsened. By the end of May, I ran out of medication. I tried getting help through a local mental health facility, but the services were minimal and unhelpful. My life felt so out of control. I called the crisis call line more times there than I ever had. Prior to moving to Tullahoma, I gained approximately 60 lbs, which in and of itself was a huge stressor for me given my disordered eating habits. This brought my total weight up to 170 lbs by January 2005 – the most I had ever weighed in my life, even while pregnant. I believe the weight gain was a result of an earlier change in medication. My best guess is the Lexapro because after I ran out of medication that extra 60 pounds of weight fell off very quickly. By the end of 2005, I was back down to 105 pounds. By the middle of June, I was a nervous wreck, realizing that even though I was making more money than I ever had, I still couldn’t afford to pay rent, electric, child support, student loans, buy food and groceries, and gas, not to mention my car was also giving me problems. I was in over my head again financially, all while going through horrible withdrawal from medication. I began feeling suicidal again; so I went into the ER for help.

(Hospitalization #7 – suicidal ideation) That night, I was transported to Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute in Chattanooga, TN. This was another state-run facility like Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute; but this one was by far scarier! (I have to interject here that transporting mental health patients by police car, shackled, and handcuffed, as I had been on numerous occasions, is not only inhumane and dehumanizing, but incredibly traumatic.) Riding up to this facility in the back of a police car down a long, long road that looks like it’s in the middle of absolutely no where, my first glimpse sent chills down my spine. It is actually on a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the Tennessee RiverIt was lit up in the darkness of night with floodlights that made me think of prisons or the old-style insane asylums of the ’40’s and ’50’s. I had only seen pictures of places like this. I spent 3 very desperate days trying to get out of that hospital. They took me off all of the medications, except one, Effexor.

After this hospitalization, I tried to keep it together – I really did. Work was stressful. I couldn’t keep up with the pace my supervisor wanted me to work. I had missed several days due to the hospitalization and had a few tardies. My supervisor called me into her office to tell me that she was moving me to night-shift. I couldn’t object. I had no say. It was just done. A few days later, I walked out on my job. I just got up and left, in tears. As I sat at my computer that night trying to do my work, thoughts kept running through my mind. I’m not really sure what they were, now; but these thoughts had tears streaming down my face, panic quickly setting in. Humiliated that I was crying at work, embarrassed that I couldn’t make myself stop, worried that someone might see, feeling a despair that I had so often felt, and experiencing a panic like I had never felt before… I just got up and quickly walked out.

The move, the new job, missing work because of the hospitalization, the change in medication, no support system, no friends or family in the area, still dealing with child support issues and not being able to see my son, having transportation issues, not making enough money to cover all my expenses, even mourning the loss of my relationship with P.I. – it ALL became too much to handle. I didn’t even speak to my supervisor. I just left work and never went back.

That was the last time I worked.

I left Tullahoma. At this time, I asked my family for help, the first and only time I ever did so. I wanted to move back to my hometown to be closer to my son; but both my mother and my sister refused my pleas for help. My mother simply said she didn’t have the space. My sister told me I needed to stick it out where I was at and make the best of it. Fearing that I would go to jail if I missed the court appearance over the child support (now in July) and having no where else to go, I put everything I owned in storage and went back to Clarksville, TN. Again, homeless, I slept in my car for a couple of nights. I ended up losing everything I owned as a result of having no way to pay the storage facility.

For 3 days, I stayed at a place called Foundations Respite. Upon release, I was supposed to go to a domestic abuse shelter in Clarksville. It was the only place they could find for me since the homeless shelter was full. I dropped off the few belongings I had with me at that shelter and went to speak with P.I. over an unpaid water bill in my name. He convinced me to go to the ER that night because I expressed to him my suicidal thoughts. My plan was to speed down I-24 and crash into a rock wall. (Hospitalization #8 – suicidal ideation) I was in the hospital for a total of 24 days this time. My medication changed to Cymbalta, Risperdal, Remeron, and Adderall (for the newest diagnosis of ADD). After I was released from the hospital, I was supposed to go to a homeless shelter in Nashville; but P.I. allowed me to move back in with him. This was probably not one of my smartest decisions, but he was the only person who would take me in. There were so many people living in that house already – a total of 5 adults, 2-4 kids at any given time, 4 cats, and the constant traffic of friends and family coming over. It was crowded, to say the least, and totally overwhelming.

By the end of November 2005, I quit taking ALL the medications because I feared I wouldn’t be able to afford them any longer without insurance (I think this was around the time that TN was phasing out TennCare). I realized that I felt horrible and stressed whether or not I was taking them. This was when I first began to seriously question their effectiveness. Of course, that led to yet another hospitalization at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute in Nashville (Hospitalization #9 – suicidal ideation) because coming off of medication really is brutal. I seriously frightened myself this time as I sat there for what felt like hours (probably, more like minutes) holding P.I.’s gun to my head with my finger on the trigger. When I couldn’t force myself to pull that trigger (the thought of my son saved my life), I called my case manager. Like I’ve said before or meant to say before if I haven’t, ANY changes in my medication led me to suicide attempts or at least stronger than normal suicidal voices in my head. They became much harder to resist while medicated – I had little to no impulse control while medicated. Six out of 10 times, I was able to make myself seek help before I made a lethal decision. I can only say that my will to live was stronger than my will to die in those 6 instances. The 4 suicide attempts were the opposite, my will to die was stronger. Given the fact that I continue to experience suicidal thoughts even now, I honestly can’t say how to prevent them. The only thing I know for certain is that provided I can make myself “wait out” those thoughts and whatever emotions bring me to that point, I have a better chance of not acting on them.

Shortly after hospitalization #9, in January 2006, P.I. and I moved into a trailer that we had all to ourselves for a little while. Things calmed down some, but our relationship was never quite the same after we got back together. We argued a lot. He complained a lot. For the most part, I was vacant, in my mind. I could sit for hours just staring out the window in perfect silence, like I did when I was a little girl. My disability case had been reopened so many times the previous year that, at some point, I was told they had no record of me. I hired an attorney in 2006 to help me, but I had no hope of actually being approved. Shortly after summer 2006, P.I. got a job offer in Lebanon, TN; so we moved again. Not even a couple of months after we moved there, he met someone else and began having an affair with her. As he made plans to move in with this woman, I reached out to the only friend I had at the time, K.R. As I mentioned previously on my blog, even after our relationship ended in March 2002, K.R. and I remained friends and talked occasionally. He was the only friend to come see me while I lived in Tullahoma. He was always an ear to turn to when I struggled. He offered to let me stay with him in Nashville, TN; so I moved in with K.R. into his one bedroom apartment. Shortly after moving in, we decided to give our relationship another try; and we’ve been together ever since, just over 7 years, now.

As I’ve been writing out my story, I realize that it is growing far longer than I intended; but so much has happened in my life that I attribute to my mental health struggles. I don’t even feel like I’m going into as much detail as I could; but for the sake of brevity, as brief as I can get it anyway, I’m trying to establish a timeline here. Bear with me. I’m getting closer to the present day. 

To be continued…