Dear Future Therapist

Dear Future Therapist,

I need to write you this letter because I feel I owe it to you to know what you’re in for. I’ll understand if you choose not to work with me. I can be a difficult client to work with. I recognize this and try my best to be open and honest; but sometimes, my triggers and my thoughts get the better of me. I ask for your patience. I’m not so easily persuaded to “speak my mind.” In fact, oftentimes, I struggle to speak at all. First and foremost, I will need your help in reminding me that I am there to work through difficult “stuff” and talking about these experiences will lessen their hold over me. At least, I’m assuming that this is the goal of therapy. Correct me if I am wrong.

I have a long history of psychiatric instability — a total of 10 hospitalizations for psychiatric emergencies and 4 attempts to take my own life. I have worked with more therapists than I can remember, but none have managed to break through that protective barrier I place between me and the world. I do not trust easily. It may take longer than we have to work together for me trust you completely. My only hope is that I find some benefit in working with you. I will question the process of therapy throughout our time together. Recognize this as an attempt on my part to avoid certain topics. Remind me that I told you this when the need arises. I can’t guarantee you that this will help because more often than not, I will “flee my mind” rather than confront the obvious. Help me understand why I do this.

I am stubborn to a fault. In this case I need a firm hand to call me out on such behavior. I guarantee you that I am more frightened to “express” my anger than you are to provoke it. I once had a therapist tell me that being strong-willed is not a character flaw. While that may be true, my stubbornness is not always a demonstration of strong will but sometimes, a defense mechanism to avoid taking responsibility.

I’ve lived through a great many painful experiences, some truly traumatic for me. I desperately need to work through these in order to “move on” in my life. I’ve been “stuck” for far too long. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to do that alone. I need help. I wish I could offer you some helpful suggestions or insight in this task, but I’m afraid that it is up to you to find an approach that will benefit my progress in helping me help myself. I’m out of ideas. I don’t understand the concept of “letting go.” It’s as foreign to me as “forgiveness” because I see no executable action in either. Help me understand exactly what these mean.

I’m overly sensitive. I rely on my intuition completely to guide me through this messed up world. I may not show them often but know that my emotions are locked up tighter than the vault at Fort Knox, yet I trust that these parts of myself hold great wisdom. If you can reach them, that is far more than most have been able to do. I do, however, need help in recognizing when I am being irrational. Too often I find myself drowning in the depths of that rabbit hole, unable to see the light of day. I’ve been told in the past that I dissociate from my emotions. I don’t recognize when I do this. In advance, I’m sorry. Please, again, have patience with me and help me recognize my triggers. Also, I may not always recognize exactly what emotion I am feeling. Continuously ask me to identify, label them. Teach me how to properly “process” emotions. I want to understand.

I often experience my thoughts as loud voices. I usually won’t express this or so much as talk about them. I haven’t in the past due to fears and anxiety surrounding the stigma attached to “hearing voices.” I leave it up to you whether or not to address this. I may never verbally express my concerns over this, but these fears are more disturbing than the voices themselves. My “inner voices” have an obsession with death, dying, and suicide. I’ve found that if I practice mindfulness, acknowledge but don’t engage these lines of thought, I can usually distract myself into a more positive mindset. I may or may not need assistance in guiding these thoughts to more productive areas of interest like art, music, or writing. Creativity is most certainly the most beneficial and rewarding avenues to divert my attention away from this line of thinking. Give me assignments to distract me when needed. Guide my thoughts.

At this time in my life, I won’t deny that I’m struggling. I know that I am. Most days, I don’t even care if I live or die; but I desperately need someone in my life to say, “Stop. Think about this for a minute. You are not (or are) thinking rationally about this. Let’s take a different perspective.” I’ve isolated for many, many years. Know that this won’t be easy for either you or me. But if you’re willing, I need — I want — the help.

Thank you for your consideration,

[gh0stwr1tertrixie]


This post was inspired by Girl In Therapy‘s post DEAR POTENTIAL THERAPIST… To her, I will say: Thank you for reminding me that letter writing is one of the most effective methods of purging the mind of frustration. It’s also an excellent healing technique. Truly, thank you. This felt good to write. Maybe, it will even help me when it comes to my next  therapy experience, should I ever consider taking that on again.


 

On a side-note, today I was asked, “How are you?” by a department store clerk. After answering my usual, “I’m doing okay. How are you?” She answered, “Blessed and highly favored.” I thought to myself and said as much to her, “What a wonderful sentiment. I like that.” In my mind, I see that statement as a faith confession. I’m often on the look-out for statements such as this. It’s not overly religious. Rather, it’s a statement of intention. And, yeah, I really like that. She told me to feel free to use it. I think I just might.

 

My Story – Part 13 (Chaos Reviewed)

Continued from My Story – Part 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


~ Finitoque ~

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

I thank you sincerely and wish you all the best. 

My Story – Part 12

Continued from My Story – Part 11

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

I scare so easily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life went on.

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

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

To be continued…

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

Continued from My Story – Part 1 (Childhood Background)

In 8th grade I was voted “Most Shy” along with a boy in my class. I was always very shy throughout school; but by middle school, I was pathetically shy. Despite my shyness, I made a few close friends in middle school who were there for me throughout middle and high schools. For them, I am forever grateful. They showed me kindness, compassion, and joy that made the last 3 years of high school fun and memorable. My freshman year of high school really wasn’t much fun because I was worrying with all of the medical tests and questioning life. I never really dated while I was in high school. Like I said, I was shy; so I didn’t have much opportunity. I went to the occasional dance with someone, but my first and only long-term relationship before marrying began the summer after I graduated high school.

On questioning my religious upbringing: By the time the new church was finished (not sure what year), the congregation at the Assembly of God we had been attending grew to over a hundred people. The music department included drums, a bass guitar, an electric guitar, piano, keyboard, trumpet, and the husband and wife song leaders. The “praise” service would sometimes go on for hours. There always seemed to be some drama going on with the music department (gossiping and fussing, mostly) to which the pastor said the devil was attacking the musicians and prayed for them. But then again, this is also the same church that laid hands on and prayed for my mom’s car, a Plymouth K car, because they thought it was possessed by a demon when, in fact, it was just a lemon! Daddy ended up replacing the car a few months later. Despite the craziness that was my church, I really looked up to my Sunday school teachers. I read my Bible daily and prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I thought for a time that I was (during my freshman year of HS), but I was still skeptical. At some point, I began asking questions. At first, I pretty much accepted the answers everyone gave me; but by my senior year in high school at age 17, I began having serious doubts.

I also had an excellent English teacher my sophomore and senior years (I dropped back from advanced English my senior year, just so I could have this teacher again). In our literature discussions about poetry, we turned to the Psalms briefly which led to a memorable discussion about the Bible and the Christian religion. My English teacher dared to tell us that King James added the parts about witches to the Bible or that it was, at best, a mistranslation. I’m not sure if this is actually true or not; but more recently I have discovered many reasons in the history of Christianity to warrant further skepticism. Nevertheless, my ever-questioning mind got me thinking, first about the people of other religions and their fate, and secondly, about the possibility that the Bible was not the “true and infallible Word of God.”

To make matters worse, I chose the topic of speaking in tongues (Glossolalia) for a research paper in this English teacher’s class. My research paper made me start questioning the validity of this experience that I witnessed so many Sunday services. I read that it was not actually a language, that it was a learned behavior, and most likely the result of a kind of mass hypnosis due to extreme emotion. I began watching the people closely who spoke in tongues and the ones who “interpreted.” Observing these behaviors in a few of the children at my church only seemed to confirm my suspicions that this research on the topic of Glossolalia was indeed true. I had no doubts that the faith of this congregation was very strong. These were kind, honest people. However, the doubt in God that I was experiencing caused me an enormous amount of shame. The answers I received to the questions I asked my Sunday school teachers and the preacher’s wife made me question even more, “If God would condemn all other religions to Hell, then how could He be a loving God? Why would He be worthy of my praise?” Questions like these made my doubts grow and my self-worth plunge. I thought, “If I’m questioning God, then I must truly be evil.” It was right before graduation that I took the first step in accepting my doubts by not attending church so regularly anymore; but this was also the beginning of an unconscious “rebellious” phase in my life.

During my senior year, I had already become interested in Hinduism and Buddhism, even tried out meditation for the first time, which many at my church frowned upon. A New Age bookstore had opened up at East Towne Mall in Knoxville, a store that I dearly loved from the first time I saw it. My Sunday school teacher and I often argued about this store. She swore that it was Satanic, as did most of the congregation at my church; but I found it spiritually enlightening and began reading as much as I could about the New Age movement. From then on, I continued searching through many different paths and philosophies, as I still do. Personally, I find the topics of religion, spirituality, and belief incredibly fascinating – to the point of obsession; although, I no longer consider myself Christian.

In the spring before I graduated high school, my dad had a heart attack. His heart attack actually, coincidentally occurred on the exact same day one of my best friends had a very serious car wreck. They were both at the same hospital in Knoxville. Things changed pretty drastically in my family life. My dad had to take time off of work to recuperate; and Mom went to work part-time at a local fast-food restaurant. I also found a part-time job working at a local grocery store. For the first time in my life, I had to concentrate on two things at once – work and school. Somehow, I managed to keep my grades up that last 9 weeks; but I remember feeling overwhelmed and pressured in a way that I never had before. 

Shortly after I graduated high school, *C.F. asked me out on a date. We both worked at the same grocery store (he was a stocker, and I a cashier). We dated that entire summer before I left for University that fall. That first semester of college was wonderful, exciting, scary, and overwhelming, all at the same time. I absolutely loved East Tennessee State University’s campus. It was beautiful. Even the library left a lasting impression with its secret hideaways on the upper attic floors. Sharing a dorm room with my best friend from high school and a another girl, who we quickly became friends with, I found it hard to get the level of alone time that I required to settle my nerves, to self soothe, and process emotions. In addition to being shy, I’m also an introvert (they’re not the same thing). About mid-way through the semester, I began feeling overly anxious and occasionally depressed; but I fought hard to remain focused.

An example of my mindset that first time away from home: When I took karate to fulfill one of my college physical education requirements my freshman year, I remember one particular day in class when we paired up, sparring. The girl I was sparring with hit me right in the solar plexus, not hard, barely a tap; but I started crying! Of course, everyone (including the teacher) thought I was hurt and gathered around me for assistance. And of course, that made it even worse! By the time the teacher sent me back to my dorm room, I was in a full-blown panic attack. I’m not a fighter. Dare I say that I’m a total wuss? Yes, probably so. Needless to say, that semester ended with me becoming so homesick (or lovesick?) that I returned home spring semester to attend a community college close by. I even changed my major from art, which everyone told me held no future, to early childhood education. Nearing the end of fall semester, C.F. asked me to marry him in my dorm’s common area, which probably influenced my decision to move back home more than anything.

EVERYONE told us we were making a mistake. To be honest, I had second-thoughts from the day he asked me to marry him; but I was rebellious and stubborn. And I felt like getting married was what “I was supposed to do” next. C.F. and I were married in the winter of 1991. Looking back, now, I agree. We got married way too young. We were only 19 years old. I realized early on, like within the first month after we moved in together, that the man I married was a real jerk. He was hateful. It was as if the tone of his voice was enough to just tear me away. It’s hard to explain. We moved into an apartment in Morristown to be close to the community college, where we both were attending spring semester. Those first few months of our marriage were stressful, to say the least. Financially, we were overwhelmed. Neither of us had a clue as to what we were doing or how to make things work.

In June 1992 C.F. enlisted in the army. While he was away at Basic Training and AIT, I moved back in with my mom and dad with the intent of saving money for the move to our first duty station, which was taking us to lovely Hawaii. I was so excited! By Christmas 1992, our household goods were packed and on their way. The trip for household goods took anywhere from 3 to 6 months to reach Hawaii. I found myself on a jet for the very first time in my life. I was moving 4,270 miles away from my home, my friends, and my family. Other than my first semester of college away from home, this was the first time I really left home, let alone moving out-of-state… so far away from everything I knew. I broke down into tears as the jet took off. I must have cried the first 500 miles, before excitement finally took over. From CA to HI, I had a sweet little girl sitting next to me who was absolutely captivated by my southern drawl. If I could, I would thank that little girl for lifting my spirits on that flight.

I arrived in Hawaii the day before Christmas. Getting off the jet, I immediately caught the scents of salty air and the most-heavenly-flower-gifted-to-humanity-by-Mother-Nature-herself, the Plumeria blossom. I spent Christmas Eve, 1992, sitting in the moonlight on the beaches of Waialua Bay. It was gorgeous. I absolutely loved it there! It was certainly a culture shock to a naive, very sheltered 20-year-old; but I was fascinated by everything. We settled into our apartment, and I began working as a teacher’s aide at a preschool. I didn’t have the chance to finish my Associate’s degree before we moved. By June of 1993, I found out that I was pregnant with our son. Financially, we were not prepared for this; but we were so excited and happy.

A few months after our son, M.A., was born in 1994, our names came up for military housing. It was a new townhouse unit in the middle of a pineapple field closer to the North Shore than where we were previously living. Especially with the move, our finances were out of control. Our relationship began to suffer. By December, 1994, we decided to try couples counseling on post because things between us had become so very tense. C.F. and I were racking up some severe credit-card debt; but he just wouldn’t listen to me that we were getting in over our head (I was raised to steer clear of credit, that it’s a trap.) Marital counseling only lasted briefly. After only 3 visits, our therapist said she could not work with C.F. To be honest, I think his abrasive nature intimidated her as it often did me. She told him to seek individual therapy through his unit division, which he never did, to my knowledge.

My therapist continued to see me alone. I was feeling very overwhelmed, having severe mood swings, a lot of anger towards my husband, and constantly second-guessing my abilities as a parent. Honestly, I was a complete nervous wreck. I questioned everything I did and had moments of total paranoia. I think this actually began while I was pregnant because I had this irrational fear that a worm was growing inside of me, something my friend and I laughed about in labor delivery after he was born and I counted all his toes and fingers to be sure. Nine months after our son was born, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and dysthymia. I refused medication at the time because I simply didn’t trust it.

Throughout several months of individual sessions, I questioned my childhood relentlessly, which to be honest, really wasn’t that bad. A lot of people have had it a lot worse. At my worst, I felt neglected some of the time; but there was no history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse that I could recall. However, in the course of therapy, my therapist concluded that I had been sexually molested at an early age due to memory gaps, problems with dissociating, anger and shame issues, and whatever other reasons she gave at the time, even though I had/have absolutely NO memory of anything like this ever happening (I have discussed this with no one since that time, not in all of the remaining years of therapy I received). Shortly after she reached this conclusion, my therapist had me attend a women’s group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I continued therapy and attended the group briefly, for only a few weeks, before I quit going to both altogether because I questioned the validity of her assumption.

A couple of months later, C.F.’s tour of duty at Schofield in Hawaii was over; and his second duty station took us from beautiful Hawaii to an isolated military post in the middle of the Californian desert. Sierra Army Depot had only 40 military personnel, total, and their families. This post has since been decommissioned. Everybody knew everybody. I seriously cried the moment I got out of our car when we arrived at billeting on post and saw a tumbleweed blow past my feet. The nearest town in one direction was Susanville, California, which was about 40 miles away; and in the other direction about 55 miles away was Reno, Nevada.

It was a demolition post, so that meant there was at least one huge explosion every single day while we lived there. You could set your clock by that explosion. It rattled the windows and shook everything in our house. I began to get severely depressed as the isolation began to wear on my nerves. At some point my husband had me see the PA on post who prescribed Prozac. I finally gave in and started taking them. Exactly 5 weeks from the day I began that prescription, the depression worsened to the point that I attempted suicide for the first time in my life (Suicide attempt #1 – overdose). I was hospitalized for two weeks (Hospitalization #1 – suicide attempt), diagnosed with Major Depression; and the army gave C.F. a “compassionate reassignment” to a post closer to home – Fort Campbell, KY.

*All names in my story have been omitted in order to protect the privacy of the people involved. 

To be continued….