I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.


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 4 (The Second Half of My Year of Hell)

Continued from My Story – Part 3 (The First Half of My Year of Hell)

In the months that followed the first rape, I became promiscuous, no longer caring about my self-worth or the consequences of my actions. I stayed with a friend for about a month, until she kicked me out of her apartment due to my bizarre behavior. I left the area and moved in with my mom and dad in my hometown. I was only there for a little over a month before I received the divorce papers. I don’t know why I even thought I had a chance of beating the “supervised visitation” clause that my husband’s attorney put into the divorce decree; but I knew I needed an attorney of my own. An attorney I saw in my hometown told me I needed to obtain an attorney where my husband, C.F., and our son were living; so I went back there, having no idea where I would live and no income or savings to support myself, let alone to obtain an attorney. I ended up staying in a homeless shelter for an entire month while working for an inventory service; but I was never able to afford an attorney of my own. Pressured by C.F. and coerced by his attorney, I signed the divorce papers as they were; and our divorce became final several months later.

This brings me to the second incident in 1998 that forever changed the course of my life. My job with the inventory service required us to travel to various locations in Middle Tennessee in order to count inventory for retail stores. The inventory service provided the vans we were required to ride in order to get to these locations. Depending on how many people were needed to count the store, we would take anywhere from 1 to 3 vans. Because of the nature of the job, we were required to work during the early morning hours, leaving sometimes as early as 2:00 am to get to our destination. The homeless shelter where I was living required its residents to vacate the premises during “normal” working hours, from around 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; so I was only getting maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep per night, if I was lucky. After about a month of this, it finally started taking its toll.

The morning of the second rape (August 11, 1998, the day before my birthday), was hectic. A friend I had made at the homeless shelter, who I will refer to as T.S., worked with me at the inventory service. We were late leaving the shelter that morning which got us to the van’s pick-up point just before the vans pulled out. For some reason, T.S. and I got separated onto two different vans. We normally, always rode together. It was an hour’s ride to our destination in Donelson, TN. I was completely exhausted and quickly fell asleep on the van on the way to the store we were counting that night.

The people who I worked with were an unsavory crowd, to put it mildly. For instance, I was asked to drive the work van one day while the girls in the seat behind me rummaged through my purse and stole my debit card right out of my wallet without my knowledge. Another co-worker had exposed himself to me, not only once, but twice! However, I never expected what happened that day I fell asleep on the van…. I woke up to someone inside me, the van still moving on its way to our destination. I was so exhausted that I didn’t even feel him pull down my pants. He had covered us in his jacket. I was frozen in fear. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even say “no” or “stop” or anything at all. I looked around the van embarrassed that this was happening to me and in disbelief that no one saw.

There were at least 4 or more other people on that van with me and my rapist that day, 2 of which were our supervisors at the time. One was driving and the other was sitting in the passenger seat. I remember looking at the backs of their heads screaming in my mind, “Help me! Help me! Help me!” But I could make no words leave my mouth. The two girls who stole my debit card were also there. To this day I find it hard to believe that no one saw anything out of the ordinary that day, that no one saw this man raping me. If anyone witnessed the rape, no one ever said anything; and I was too ashamed to ask.

I don’t remember my rapist saying a single word to me before, during, or even after. Prior to the rape, I never really spoke to this particular co-worker. I didn’t even know his real name, only the nickname Chug (and no, I don’t feel this man deserves the privacy of not having his name mentioned, at least the name I knew him by). He made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable from the first time I ever met him; so I avoided him. On the van, I couldn’t. I was sitting next to the window, and he pinned me in by sitting next to me, purposefully moving seats after I got on the van. And he was a very large man. When he finished, I felt completely mortified and sick to my stomach. When we arrived at the store, I ran to the restroom to get myself cleaned up… and vomited.

I’m not sure how I made it through that day. I was in shock and in a panic. But I had to pretend nothing had happened and concentrate on doing my job for the next few hours.

I only told one person about what had happened that day, T.S., the friend from the homeless shelter who would later become my roommate when we left the shelter. I found her when I finally left the restroom. Her response was, “I can’t leave you alone for a minute!” I don’t think she really believed that I was raped. Even my own family didn’t (still doesn’t, as far as I know) believe that I was raped in that van when I finally broke down and told them months later. I didn’t want to talk about it because talking about it made it feel too real. I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen. I pretended that it was just a bad dream. I tried to put it out of my mind.

Less than a week later, I quit my job. The humiliation of having to see my rapist every day was too much! A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. Can you say insult to injury?! I was still self-harming through promiscuity, so I had no idea who the father was. Three possibilities: 1 – my rapist, who obviously used NO protection; 2 – my, for lack of a better word, fuck-buddy who told me that he had a vasectomy; and 3 – a one night stand the weekend after my birthday (we used condoms). Could things possibly get any worse? I wasn’t even divorced yet. I was so ashamed of myself. And by the way, never ask the Universe, “Could things get worse?” because I guarantee you, they can and will while in this state of mind.

While I was pregnant, I found out that I had contracted genital warts from HPV. My doctor told me that my case was one of the most severe he had ever seen. He told me the worst case was a 3-year-old little girl (yeah, we live in a sick world). I had to have laser surgery to remove them, but not until long after the pregnancy. My life felt like a bad dream before the first rape, a nightmare after. But the second rape turned my nightmare into one of those night terrors, the type of nightmare that leaves you paralyzed in fear and gasping for every breath!

I wanted to get an abortion, but I had no money for that. I became increasingly suicidal and ended up at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute due to suicidal ideation (Hospitalization #4 – suicidal ideation). After a two-week stay in the hospital that relented only after telling the doctors I no longer wanted an abortion, I was finally released (what can I say, TN is the belt buckle). A couple of weeks later my car was repossessed. Hopelessness set in. My roommate pressured me about finding a job. One night the pressure was too much; I gave-in to the hopelessness and took all of the medications I had stockpiled. I attempted suicide for the 3rd time (Suicide attempt #3 – overdose). I woke up a few days later in a strange house, having no idea how I got there. I have no memory of those missing days. Only what I was told by the creepy acquaintance who found me passed on my bed and took me to his house rather than a hospital.

T.S. moved out of our trailer by the first of November, leaving me to face all of the bills alone, still with no job. By the end of November, I finally got a job at Wal-Mart; but it wasn’t soon enough to prevent my eviction from the trailer I was renting. Facing homelessness again, another acquaintance, who I will refer to as D.L., allowed me to move into her unfinished basement. It was so cold down there! I lived in her basement for almost three months in the dead of winter, sleeping on my sofa, and walking the mile and a half (one way trip) back and forth to work at Wal-Mart. There was one night in January that I walked home during a tornado, but at least it was unseasonably warm that night. When I received my W2 in the mail, D.L. handed it to me opened, telling me she had mistaken it as her own. A couple of months after I left D.L.’s house, I found out that she had stolen my identity, no doubt from that W2 she had opened. She had taken out a credit card in my name and maxed it out. I found this out later when the credit card company began calling me to collect for non-payment.

My divorce became final in January 1999. I wasn’t even present in the courtroom. C.F. told me to go one place, but I found out too late that it was in another. He found me on the courthouse steps, crying, after it was all over. And just like that, our marriage was over; and I no longer had a say in my son’s life.

Finally, at the end of February, I moved into my own apartment in Lincoln Homes Projects (government housing). This move put me 4 and a half miles away from where I worked, still at Wal-Mart; and I still had no vehicle of my own. Most days, I could simply take the bus to and from work; but on Sundays, the bus didn’t run. I either had to walk the entire 8 mile round trip (which I often did), hitchhike (which I often did), or ask someone for a ride (people get tired of that very quickly). And the bus quit running around 11:00 pm. There were plenty of times I had to walk that 4 and a half miles home from work late at night after a 6-9 hour shift because I had just missed the last bus. And keep in mind, I was also 7-9 months pregnant during all this walking.

Shortly after I moved into this apartment, one of the guys I worked with at Wal-Mart, became increasingly friendly, i.e. offering me rides home from work or to the laundry mat. Out of desperation, I often accepted these rides; but he became increasingly creepy at the same time (very strange behavior). I made it clear to him from the beginning that I was not interested in a relationship with him or sex or anything else, for that matter; but he was persistent in his advances. A neighbor mentioned to me that she saw him driving up and down our block at all hours of the day and night. He would often show up at my door unannounced. And this man, who I will refer to as “my stalker,” followed me over the course of 6 moves, where I was often told of his presence by neighbors or people who lived with me. Seriously, he stalked me for years. He still sends friend requests on social networking sites, which I always block! And NO, I never had sex with this man. Creepy is not a turn-on.

Now, all that walking I did throughout the entirety of this pregnancy must have seriously sped up my labor and delivery time. I called my contact through Caring Choices, the adoption agency I was using. I told her there was no hurry, but I thought I might be having consistent contractions. Half an hour later when she got there, she found me breathing heavy and barely able to speak. She quickly drove me to the hospital. My water broke in the elevator on the way up to labor and delivery. No sooner had the orderly gotten me out of the wheel chair and began undressing me, the baby crowned. The orderly yelled, “Somebody come quick, she’s having this baby!” A nurse delivered him because the doctor didn’t even have time to get there. From the time I called my contact until the time I gave birth was no more than 1 hour (April 27, 1999).

I got to spend 3 very emotional days with this little bundle of joy. His adoptive parents and I chose his name together. I felt honored that they would share this experience with me. His parents (and all the people at Caring Choices, too) were truly the first kind faces I had seen in a very long time. They showed me such compassion that I knew I had made the right choice. On May 15, 1999, I signed the surrender of adoption, giving up this child to his adoptive parents, who took him home from the hospital 3 days after his birth. This was truly one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made; but I felt that it was in his best interest to find more suitable, stable parents to raise him than what I, myself, could possibly provide. This was one very special gift that I was able to give in this lifetime, and I can only hope that karma rewards with compassion.

While I was in the hospital giving birth, my apartment in Lincoln Homes was broken into. They stole everything of value, which was very little, and ransacked the place. I still miss my class ring and the little golden Buddha statue. It wasn’t even real gold! I was furious; but I was also scared. My contact from Caring Choices took me home with her, and I spent the night. Then, my sister and her husband took me back to my hometown for a few days.

I tried to piece my life back together, making plans to attend Austin Peay State University that fall. I decided to major in graphic design in order to get back to my love of art. Prior to going back to school, on July 4, 1999, my apartment was broken into again. At this point a friend of mine took pity on me and moved me in with him and his roommate. Still, my stalker was following me. He even keyed my friend’s truck one day when I drove it to work. My friend chased him off several times from where we lived together. By spring semester, I moved into my own apartment close to the college, a small studio. When I got this apartment at the first of the year, my stalker began showing up on my doorstep again. With no help from management at Wal-Mart where we both worked and feeling overwhelmed with the unwanted attention from him, I quit my job. I changed jobs several more times after that, none lasting more than a couple of months at a time, until I began working part-time as a graphic designer for a local printing business in October 2000.

I could end the story here because things calmed down significantly in my life when I began focusing on me and what I wanted to achieve by going back to college. However, this wasn’t the end of my roller coaster ride of emotions, chaos, and battle with mental illness. Throughout the entire pregnancy, I was taken off all of the antidepressants. My mind cleared of the fog that deadened my emotions and my creativity. For the first time in years, I was actually feeling the emotions that were suppressed by the medications. By September 1999, my psychiatrist prescribed Effexor and Seroquel for sleep because these emotions became so overwhelming.

To be continued….

My Story – Part 3 (The First Half of My Year of Hell)

Continued from My Story – Part 2 (Off to College & Getting Married Too Young)

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….

Trigger Warning

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.

To be continued…