The Requiem

Maybe I indulged an unhealthy obsession today or maybe it’s a process of grieving a loss. Either way, the result was a form of obscure poetry that speaks to the pain so many of us feel in the wake of one more light going out in the sky of a million stars. Linkin Park’s music got me through many a dark night when my own suicidal urges were at their worst from 2002 through 2005. Chester Bennington will be missed greatly. My most sincere condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

Linkin Park Playlist Includes:

Valentine’s Day
The Radiance
Skin to Bone
Lies Greed Misery
Lying from You
The Catalyst
What I’ve Done
Guilty All the Same
In Between
Castle of Glass
Burn It Down
Burning in the Skies
When They Come for Me
Empty Spaces
From the Inside
Battle Symphony
In Pieces
Roads Untraveled
Leave Out All the Rest
Somewhere I Belong
A Place for My Head
One More Light
Wisdom, Justice, and Love
Until It’s Gone
Points of Authority
Wretches and Kings
Hands Held High
The Summoning
Robot Boy
With You
The Little Things Give You
Shadow of the Day
The Messenger
Keys to the Kingdom
Halfway Right
Breaking the Habit
Until It Breaks
Cure for the Itch
Lost in the Echo
Figure 09
A Light That Never Comes
Pushing Me Away
Talking to Myself
Nobody’s Listening
By Myself
Easier to Run
All for Nothing
One Step Closer
Nobody Can Save Me
A Line in the Sand
Final Masquerade
In the End
Given Up
Don’t Stay
I’ll Be Gone
Good Goodbye
Sharp Edges
Bleed It Out
Hit the Floor
Waiting for the End
No More Sorrow
In My Remains
Mark the Graves
The Requiem
Sorry for Now

If you are feeling suicidalplease, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out.


On Suicide and Suicidal Thoughts

I’m hesitant to share a post regarding the topic of suicide and suicidal ideation, but it may give others an insight into the “struggle/fight for life versus the wish to die/to end the suffering” of so many of us who live with depression. It is most certainly NOT my intention to trigger others into a similar mind-set, only to share what this line of thinking entails. A common misconception about suicide is that talking about it might give someone the idea. While this is not true — talking openly about suicide can often be one of the most helpful things you can do — I’ll err on the side of caution by stating: consider this a trigger warningPlease, keep yourself safe if you are easily triggered into suicidal thinking or behaviors. Other common misconceptions about suicide include:

“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”

Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

“Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”

Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.

“If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”

Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

“People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”

Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”

Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

[Source: SAVE | Suicide Awareness Voices of Education]

I do feel that it is necessary to educate the general public on the many facets of depression, one of which is the fact that depression can lead to suicidal thoughts/suicidal ideation, suicidal behaviors, and completed suicides. Remember, it is NOT helpful to shame or guilt the suicidal person into changing his/her mind. Just listen. Remind the person of his/her worth. For help in caring for someone who is suicidal, please, visit: Suicide Prevention — How to Help Someone who is Suicidal

“If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.”

If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out

For months, I’ve weighed the pros and cons of sharing such a personal admission of suicidality. I wrote this back in February of this year and placed it on the back burner because:

  1. It felt too personal to share.
  2. I didn’t want to risk being “forced” into medication again. As I’ve said before, I understand that psychiatric medications have helped some people; but my experience with them was arduously adverse.
  3. I didn’t want people to think I was being overly dramatic or attention seeking (I still don’t because that is NOT the case; more on this in a moment).

To be clear, I wrote this on February 6th, 2015, in regard to January 31st, 2015:

I wondered if I sat there long enough, would I freeze? How long would it take? Would I simply become tired and close my eyes, allowing the elements to finish a task that I could not myself? I stopped shivering. I had already been outside for more than 20 minutes, cigarette long since finished. The sunrise growing more beautiful as the sky lit up in a fiery blaze, would this be the last thing I saw? A perfect end. I closed my eyes no longer wishing to fight the cold, the temperature hovering right at 0°F. Could it really be this simple, so easy to die?

I heard his voice saying something or another, urging me to go inside. “Just let me sit here, please,” I begged. I smoked a second cigarette. My thoughts lost; my memory of the next few moments broken as I struggled to fight the impulse of giving in to one or the other.

In the end he somehow managed to get me inside, stripped of clothes, snuggled for warmth, as the shivering returned, until I fell asleep in his arms.

Seriously, I doubt that I would have frozen to death that night; but the fact was that I felt like ending it all for whatever reason — the emotional pain felt too overwhelming. I’ve experienced this type of despair, hopelessness, and helplessness for the majority of my life. One of my earliest memories from childhood, around the age of 5 or 6, involves these emotions accompanied by the thought, “If I jump out of this window, will I die?” I removed the screen from my second-story bedroom window and contemplated this thought on more than one occasion as a child.

As a teen, shortly after I was diagnosed with Lupus, I remember a moment when I stood in front of the medicine cabinet contemplating whether or not to down a bottle of Tylenol. Thankfully, I didn’t. I told no one how I was feeling. My family didn’t discuss emotions. I remember feeling mortified that I would even consider thinking such a thing.

Yet, the four suicide attempts I survived as an adult were all overdoses: #1, #2, #3, #4 (I didn’t provide much detail about each incident, only the events surrounding them). There was another instance that I held a gun to my head, praying for the courage to pull the trigger. I am so thankful for the thought of my son that stopped me. Numerous other instances come to my mind with detailed plans and other methods that crossed my mind. Years and years of emotional pain and turmoil built up with seemingly no end to the suicidal thoughts and my obsession with death.

Even the bargain I made with all the parts of myself at some point in 2008 to end this relentless insanity that is suicidality was fraught with an end to my life when the conditions were met. Survive until I can no longer survive. At the point when I lost the SSDI and my reason for not fighting to keep it was “it’s time to pay up.” In my irrational state of mind, I felt the Universe had given me an ultimatum, “Your debt is due. Accept this loss (the SSDI) and mourn your death (suicide) because the bargain — freedom to be you for however long you’re allowed to keep the SSDI in exchange for your life — is complete. The conditions are met (no longer have the means to support yourself, publicly tell your story, closure with your son and family).”

An amazingly remarkable thing happened as a result of this ill-fated bargain. No, unfortunately, the suicidal thoughts never completely went away. I fear my obsession with death will always be there, even as morbid and frightening as that is. However, the impulse to act on these thoughts faded considerably. The more in touch with my creativity I am, the greater likelihood I can cope with the internal thoughts, voices, and pressures that lead me to rumination. The Universe gave me the gifts of nature, music, art, and writing to help me heal, not an ultimatum. That ultimatum was/is the demand of a raging inner critic, a younger self, who I’m learning needs far more compassion and validation than she’s ever gotten in this lifetime.

The pressures of external forces in my life are still cause for concern. External pressures are the “make it” or “break it” factor. I understand I have no control over anything or anyone but myself; but I’m still learning to put to use the coping strategies that mental health services have taught me. Some days are far more difficult than others. Implementing changes in behavior and thinking patterns take lots and lots of practice; and unfortunately, I’ve been struggling with this for many years with little to no emotional support. I still struggle to recognize what triggers certain responses in me. I often have to fight like hell to remain in the present moment.

Recent events shook me to my core, caused these thoughts to return after a brief two-month respite. Hey, at least I got a couple of months of freedom from the suicidal rumination. I’ll take what I can get! A couple of days ago, I would have rated my level of risk at “high.” It’s the high and severe suicidal thoughts that frighten me most. “I won’t have your suicide on my conscience.” KR’s words still haunt me. He spat those words at me with such contempt and rage despite me having said nothing about suicide that night. However, I’ve had some time to process a lot of the distress while gently testing my will to live. It’s still intact. At the moment, I would put my level of risk at “low,” so no worries. These are the usual passive thoughts that occur almost daily when I’m feeling more stressed. I’ve grown so accustomed to these passive thoughts that I can generally let them go without too much effort, now.

Another tidbit of useful information to know when supporting someone who is suicidal — from‘s website > Suicide Prevention: How to Help Someone who is Suicidal:

Level of Suicide Risk
Low – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Moderate – Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn’t very lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
High – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won’t commit suicide.
Severe – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will commit suicide.

The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:

  • Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
  • Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
  • Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
  • Do you intend to commit suicide? (INTENTION)

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.

I read a blog post (How do you Cope with Someone’s Suicide Ideation) earlier yesterday that refueled my urge to finish writing this post as it related to my current situation.

The author of that post stated:

“What doesn’t sit well with me is when a person chooses to elaborate on the ins and outs of their half-hearted attempts at suicide without any apparent purpose to their testimony, other than to express how bad they’re feeling.”

One question I have for this author would be: Are there really EVER any half-hearted attempts at suicide? Thoughtfully, honestly consider this question.

Having been diagnosed with BPD in the past, I fully understand and acknowledge the point of view that borderlines use suicide as a method of manipulation or “attention seeking behavior” as I’ve heard so many people put it. The point is if you really think about it, suicide attempts almost always are attention seeking behavior due to the desperate measures that person is resorting to in order to scream out for help! This isn’t meant to “glorify” suicide. I’m simply expressing the human condition, the human necessity to seek out understanding, compassion, and love — a connection to another human being who is willing to validate the suicidal individual’s experience by simply stating, “I understand you are hurting. I’m here to listen.”

And “without any apparent purpose to their testimony, other than to express how bad they’re feeling?” Isn’t that enough? Contemplating and resisting suicidal urges is a life or death fight. Period. Saying it is anything but that is stigma and a huge factor in why so many people won’t discuss their suicidal thoughts and die by suicide each day.

Had I not read so many similar remarks to these online over the years, I probably wouldn’t have included this last section; yet I think we, as a society, have far to go in the fight for mental health and a better standard of care, not only from providers but also from our loved ones. It’s important that we treat individuals who are suicidal with as much respect as we would any other person, regardless of perceived motives which may or may not be part of the mask of their illness.

And once again, if you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call a loved one or visit My Mental Health Toolkit for a list of tips and tricks that I use to help me de-stress and self soothe.

My Story – Part 6 (Trying to Survive)

Continued from My Story – Part 5 (The Aftermath)

In glancing back over my old journals, I realized I may have my timeline a little confused in my mind. I rely on my journals to keep my memory in check because I wrote honestly and directly about the things that were going on at the time of each entry. Time has a funny way of distorting memories even for the most sane among us. When a person’s mind fragments in the way that mine always seems to during difficult times (this is very hard for me to explain, as I don’t even understand it), it makes life feel a lot more chaotic, leaving me to question reality and struggling to understand what feels like misplaced emotions. My emotions are very detached from my story because I simply compartmentalize emotions differently than memories. In my journals, however, the memories and the emotions are written together, in black and white, often times very raw with brutal intensity.

The particular journal I’m reviewing for this time period (the end of 2002 through 2004) is strange because the entries seem to lack any consistent order; and the entries are sporadic, at best. However, by November 2002, I had moved in with my boyfriend at the time, P.I., while struggling to attend classes at APSU. I dropped a couple of those classes early on in that semester. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I began missing classes and getting further and further behind in my school work. By the middle of November, I quit going to classes altogether which resulted in receiving an “F” in each one. Ten or so classes away from my Bachelor’s Degree in graphic design, I dropped out completely. I fear the debt that I incurred as a result of my mistake in going back to college will follow me to the grave. When I left college, I was a little over $20,000 in debt just on student loans. Even after making payments on these loans for much of the last 11 years, I still owe right at $23,000. I still struggle to understand how this is possible.

Sometime in September, I quit working at the beer bar where I had been working since May, following several instances of sexual harassment from bar patrons. One of these instances, I wrote about in my journal on August 11, 2002 (again, the day before my birthday):

I am getting so tired of working at the bar. Tonight Corona Bob pinned me up against the sink while I was washing dishes. He kept touching me and feeling me up. I got away from him and called [the owner of the bar] to close up early. Later, he did it again and I lost my temper after telling him to stop several times.

Unfortunately, this was a common occurrence while I worked there. Several different men who frequented the bar made similar advances. My guess is that this is fairly “typical” behavior in environments like these and even considered part of the job description. However, that does not make it okay (men, for God’s sake, look but don’t touch!!!). At the time, I really didn’t connect these experiences to triggers of PTSD, having very little knowledge of the condition (re-reading my journals, now, makes me realize that I was experiencing many of the symptoms of PTSD). In 2002, I was still in denial about having been raped in 1998. I blamed myself not only for the rapes, but also for these unwanted advances. I thought I deserved to be treated badly, confirmation that I was nothing more than an object. Looking back now, I can see why I was struggling so much to maintain my sanity and concentrate on college classes.

After dropping out of college that second time in 2002, the depression and anxiety continued to worsen. I became mostly nonfunctional through the remainder of the year. My therapist added either Schizoaffective Disorder or Schizotypal Personality Disorder. I just know I heard of both at different points in therapy with one of the two being added around this time. By this point, I wasn’t really keeping track of labels anymore because they changed so frequently. My psychiatrist continued to up the dosages of my medications and add more. At this point, I was taking a cocktail of Abilify, Effexor, Seroquel, and Lexapro. I found myself constantly exhausted with living, my mind in a hazy fog. I didn’t have the motivation to do anything, let alone find another job. I was also feeling extremely suicidal at the time, as expressed in a poem I wrote in my journal on November 12, 2002:

I pray that when I close my eyes,
Sleep will come and break the ties
To all earthly things that hold me here
And all the people I find so dear.
Never let me wake again.
Let my soul find freedom then.
Take me away from all the pain.
Give me peace, and break the chain.

By January 2003, my boyfriend, P.I. placed so much pressure on me to find a job that I ended up going back to work at the beer bar because I could find nothing else. This job was even worse the second time around. The sexual harassment from bar patrons escalated into my becoming very promiscuous again. As I completely lost the will to live due to the extreme situations I often found myself in, I gave-in to the pressures that surrounded me at this bar. Much of this time is lost with no memory, while other parts come back in frightening flashes. No journal entries exist, either. I completely stopped writing in my journal from June 2003 through December 2004. Because of the things I was doing to myself (self-harming through drugs and alcohol, starving myself, and promiscuity – even though I was in a relationship with P.I.), I knew that my lifestyle prevented me from having a relationship with my son. I had given up hope. I struggled through life the best way I could, the only way I knew how. Marijuana was my drug of choice, and I never had to pay for it because the patrons of the bar so often left it as a tip. I’m ashamed to admit that I also tried cocaine, crack, ecstasy, and snorting prescription drugs – each briefly, for the experience, hoping one would kill me. I self-medicated right alongside my alcoholic boyfriend almost the entire time we were together. (To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against marijuana. Honestly, I feel that it is far safer than prescription drugs and alcohol, and far more useful. The abuse of drugs and alcohol is in the mindset of the person using these substances in order to escape reality. And during this time period of my life, I was using anything I could get my hands on to escape reality.)

Then, on April 14th, 2004, my dad died from complications with diabetes. He had been on dialysis for many years, and his body finally gave out. P.I. and I were there at the hospital with him when he died. Everyone else had gone home for the night. I, honestly, did not realize how much my father’s death affected me until years later. His death truly devastated me. My dad always seemed to be the only person in my family who really understood me. We never really needed words because it only took a look to understand what the other was thinking or feeling. Daddy’s funeral was one of the few times that I actually got to see my son. In the years leading up to my father’s death, things between my sister and I became particularly strained. She blamed me for not helping her deal with Mom and Dad and their health issues. I had so much going on in my life (much of which I was too ashamed to even acknowledge); and I lived 5 hours away. Much of that time, I didn’t even own a reliable car, let alone being able to take time off from school and work. I know she became overwhelmed with caring for our parents, but I also couldn’t drop everything to go home every time she called. I did go home whenever I could manage it and when things became serious with Daddy, but I couldn’t go every time.

In May 2004, I quit working at the beer bar after a night of drunken brawls and an out of control crowd tested the strength of my courage. Life working at that beer bar became way too intense. I hated that job, more than any other I’ve ever had. It left me with far more emotional scars than I care to admit. The owner of the bar was furious with me for quitting (as was P.I.), threatening to report my under-the-table status to the district attorney who was handling my ex-husband’s child support case. I didn’t care anymore. I just knew I had to get away from the drugs and alcohol and sexual abuse that I was enduring while employed there.

The relationship with P.I. became increasingly unpredictable over the next few months, especially after his parents moved in with us. As he drank more and more, his words cut like knives. Our household became extremely chaotic. I began the disability process for the first time at some point in 2004 with his mother’s encouragement. I was denied later that same year. P.I. grew impatient with me, continuing to pressure me about finding a job. I felt I had no choice but to find work again; no one else would take care of me, despite my instability. The first job lasted no more than 3 days. The second attempt was not much better. I went back to work at Wal-Mart, only lasting two weeks. The stress of working with the public was too much. That evening when he found out I quit, P.I. was furious with me, scolding me like a small child. This scolding was reiterated the next night in a second round of beratements, pushing me over the edge when he basically told me to “get out.”

In an act of complete desperation (as is common in those of us diagnosed with BPD when faced with abandonment), I attempted suicide again (Suicide attempt #4 – overdose – and Hospitalization #6). The suicidal thoughts had been constant for the majority of 2002 through 2004. That’s a long time to feel suicidal. It’s difficult to explain the depth of despair and hopelessness that one feels at the moment of a suicide attempt, but this is the best description I have ever written of what I was feeling at the time:

Cold darkness fills my soul as death creeps closer to my inner being. Scratching, tearing, ripping away at the small amount of esteem that exists at my core. Swallowed by darkness, I feel ever so close to death’s grips, falling deeper, deeper into a hole of nothingness called Hell. The farther I fall, the less connection I have to this reality known as life. Life falls away as easily as leaves fall away from dying trees in autumn. Only, there is no hope of rebirth during spring. Mythical creatures loom in the darkness away from my sight, waiting patiently for the call of death’s screams. No light can be seen in this ominous abode, this destructive cavern of Hell’s inferno. Agony awaits my soul’s defeat. Perdition, the abyss of darkness, looms over me ready to devour my spirit. What affliction possesses me and won’t dismiss my pitiful essence to be free? Suicide is its name. Depression is the affliction. Death, the outcome of years of struggling to free myself from that spiraling hole that swallows me like quick sand. No hope left, I give in….

I think I’ll stop at this point today and continue my story in another post as this one has already reached over to 2000 words. I almost hope that no one reads this part of my story because it is very depressing, and I’m sorry for that. Unfortunately, suicidal ideation is part of my battle; and my story would not be complete without addressing it in this way.

To be continued….

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…