I have been struggling lately with my emotions. I feel so angry and cheated out of my life. I finally have stability in my life and I think that’s why everything is coming to the surface. I try and write about it and my brain goes on the fritz. Almost like my brain just shorts out. I am angry that I can’t go back and change my life, I’m angry that I’ve lost so much time. I am angry that I can’t tell my mother how I really feel about all that she’s done. I need to get this stuff off my chest, out of my brain. But I don’t know how. Any ideas?
This post may be hard to read for some people. There are some graphic situations in it. Hell, it was hard for me to write, it may be hard to read. I needed to get this memory out of my head, if only for a moment and writing about it helps temporarily.
My memories are so fragmented that I feel like I have been sleepwalking through my life. When I reflect on my past, it’s like a movie that someone fast forwards through certain parts to where it’s all blurry and robot like. Here and there the “skip chapter” button is pressed, and huge chunks are missing. Some of the scenes that are clear make no sense. Like the part where I am washing my hair in a Wendy’s bathroom sink. There is no context to it, no idea how I got there. I’m just there, washing my long hair in the small sink. I look up in the mirror and see a face. I recognize the features, but it doesn’t seem like me. The tape gets fast forwarded again and slows down for the next scene: my mom’s boyfriend tells her that he hates me. I am sitting on the floor of the minivan that we call home. He says to her, “either that bitch goes, or I do!” His voice and his eyes dripping venom. She tells me to leave. I can feel my heart breaking. I ask him what I have done to make him hate me. He just looks at me coldly and tells me to leave, that he doesn’t like me. I don’t know anyone here, we only just moved to this town, this state. I am only 16. My younger siblings have a mixture of reactions. One of them has tears in her eyes, there is a hint of fear behind the tears. No one speaks up, they are afraid that they may be forced to leave as well. None of us kids chose to leave our home in Minnesota. We were whisked away in the middle of the night. I try telling my mom that I have nowhere to go, no money. She just looks at me with her cold eyes and tells me that isn’t her problem, she has her other kids to worry about.
Next thing I know, I am sitting under a bridge. My clothes are damp, my head resting on my tattered backpack which holds the few possessions I have left in the world. I hear cars whizzing by in the dark and I am struck with loneliness. I wonder where the people in the cars are going and if I will ever be where they are. I wonder if my incubator cares where I am, if she regrets throwing me out of our four wheeled home. I wonder if she will care if die on these unfamiliar streets. I feel like crying, but the tears won’t come. I decide then that I am so unworthy, I don’t even deserve to shed tears for myself.
Fast forward again. I am at a house, its dirty and there are people everywhere. They tell me I can stay for as long as I need. I realize it is a squat house, full of lost souls who dull their pain in various ways. A girl tells me that I can take a shower upstairs. I remember how the warm water felt on my skin, how comforting it felt to be doing something familiar and normal. The tears began to flow, hotter than the water that was washing away the dirt. I dried myself off and put on my dirty clothes. I went downstairs and thanked my new friends. One of them handed me a can of pop and I opened it as we sat and listened to music and for a while, I felt like a normal teenager. I stood up to grab an ashtray, lit a cigarette and then finished my can of pop. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. Suddenly, I felt strange. I thought maybe it was from not eating for a couple days and then drinking caffeine. I started to feel like my body weighed a ton and my brain was drowning in a thick fog. “I don’t feel right, something is wrong.” I said out loud to no one in particular. My new friends told me that I must be tired and two of them helped me upstairs to sleep on a mattress on the floor.
I come to in flashes: clothes being taken off, sounds of zippers and quiet chuckles. Hands on my body, roughly contorting my limbs to their satisfaction. I open my mouth to say, “NO. STOP.” Nothing comes up from my throat. I can feel someone inside me, hear another laughing. I can’t move, my body is too heavy, and it doesn’t feel like my brain is connected to it. I feel someone different using my body like they own it, violating me roughly. I blissfully fade into blackness for however long. I come to again, my vision is as fuzzy as my brain and my mouth. My body too heavy to even flinch. There’s the familiar sound of a polaroid camera clicking and whirring. Bright flashes and rough laughs. Then there is nothingness. I wake up in that room, with the knowledge that I was drugged, the voice in my head berating myself for walking away from my pop can for a moment. I gather my clothes that were strewn around the dingy room. I get dressed and grab my bag, thankful that it is still there. I want to burn all my skin off and scream. I bite the inside of my cheeks and taste blood, it has a strangely calming effect on me. A guy comes walking into the room and I slightly jump and then my body stiffens. I scan the room for anything I can use to protect myself and then he speaks to me. He looks at me briefly and says he is sorry for what his friends did, it wasn’t right. I see his face searching mine now, looking for a flash of recognition, memory, lucidity. I force myself to contort my face into a look of confusion and hope my voice doesn’t give me away as I tell him I dont know what he’s talking about. He mumbles some words: never mind, tired, slept hard. I fake a smile and tell him I need to go meet a friend. He laughs and my heart jumps… he was one of the guys who violated me. His laugh was seared into my soul. I force my feet to walk, one foot in front of the other as my heart starts pounding wildly. I walk down the stairs, he’s behind me every step. I swear my heart is so loud, whooshing in my ears… how can he NOT hear it? I open the door and am blinded by the sun, I don’t even know what day it is now. I walk as fast as I can, terrified that they will panic and come grab me. I make it a couple blocks and throw up for what feels like an eternity. I pick myself up off the concrete and keep walking until I get to my bridge. I wonder if people can see the shame on my face. I wonder if my incubator misses me. I wish I could cry and scream but I feel dead inside. I wonder why people hurt me: my incubators first husband, some of his friends, now these two guys. I decide that I must deserve it, that I am damaged goods. I tell myself I won’t leave this place for days. I feel safe under this bridge, clutching my backpack to my chest as if it were a stuffed animal.
Anxiety right now makes me feel like I am swimming. The ground beneath my feet feels almost like tacky marshmallows. My brain feels like its covered in stale Jell-O. My mouth, dry. My thoughts are like the static, white snow on the old television sets… buzzing, rustling and incoherent. My chest feels like it may burst at any moment, my heart and arteries bursting through my chest like an alien. I feel hot tears stinging the corners of my eyes, I try to help them flow but there’s an emergency brake hooked up to them. So, I try and smile, but my lips develop a tremor that makes me almost look on the verge of crying and kind of crazy. I don’t know what to think anymore. Are my meds making it worse? Is this what my “life” will be like forever? Are the meds helping and if I wasn’t on them, would I go back to the horrible mess I was before? I get so angry with myself. Why can’t I seem to get control over my brain? Why can’t I just deep breathe through life and be okay? Days like today, my brain is so foggy: I can’t remember the simplest things… did I take my meds? I feel like I am on a rollercoaster that I was forced to be on. I don’t like this ride anymore, I want off! I want to go on one of the kiddie coasters, feel the wind gently in my hair. Maybe the carousel, go ‘round and ‘round for a while. I’ll get to pick my own horse, feel him go up and down as we gently turn in circles. Pretend for a moment that I am carefree, maybe then the tears will flow, and a smile will come across my lips.
Recently, one of my biggest fears/phobias has come to the surface with a vengeance. Death, dying. I have always struggled with his since I was a little girl. I remember my first panic attack at age seven, I was afraid I was going to die, that I was going to suffocate from the ammonia my mom was cleaning the floor with like she did every Saturday. That day was different though. The fear of death and dying has always been a fixture in mt life and it has affected me in various ways since I was a child. As a young girl, I was afraid to go to sleep because I was afraid that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. I didn’t know any other little kids who thought that way, so I felt like my Mom was right, that I was indeed crazy.
At the age of 37, I had to be taken from work in an ambulance because I had chest pain and my heart rate was 185, I thought I was dying. That ER visit was the most terrifying 6 hours of my life. I was stripped from the waist up and hooked up to an EKG while doctors stood around and watched the screen. I couldn’t feel any part of my body at this point due to the fast heart rate lasting for so long, my body couldn’t get the oxygen around well enough. I felt so helpless and so scared. I didn’t want to die! I didn’t want to leave my children alone without a Mom. I asked the Doctor if I was going to die and he looked at me, pointed to the crash cart and plainly said, “I don’t know, but if you do, we will try our best to get you back.” They gave me Seroquel and it did nothing to help. They gave me Hydroxyzine and it did nothing to help. What I was left with was a feeling of being trapped in my body and unable to breathe. I felt so helpless and so scared. The doctor finally said, after five and a half hours, that he was going to give me Ativan. After that shot, I was “normal”, my heart rate went down, and it was like a bad dream. I remember a couple days later finding it strange that the Doctor never checked any blood work to see if it was a heart attack. But I was happy to be home and lived in fear of it happening again.
I got lucky and was referred to a brilliant Cardiologist who ran test after test. I found out that it wasn’t “just anxiety”, that I have a heart condition called inappropriate sinus tachycardia and need to be on meds forever. My Psychiatrist also began prescribing me Ativan and I have been on it constantly for three years now. Even so, I was afraid to sleep, afraid that I would die and not wake up. I’d cry myself to sleep holding tight on to a stuffed animal for comfort. After some time, I began to feel comfortable that the heart medicine would do its job and I would be okay.
This year, I turned the big 4-0 and was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma. I must have more skin surgeries done at the end of this month and have other areas on my skin biopsied as well. Now, my fear of death is front and center. I have been trying to figure out why the fear is so strong and why it has been so present in my life as long as I can remember. I know a lot of people have a hard time with death and dying, their own mortality. My fear has interfered with my daily life in a crippling way. It dawned on me that my fear of death began as a child, around the time my Mom and her husband would force my younger siblings and I to watch certain movies. I was five the first time I had to watch the “Faces of Death” series. My mom’s husband, Gerald, would laugh and tell us that is what the coroners are going to do to us when we die and that’s what we would look like if we got into a car accident. He would drive us by cemeteries and tell us that someday we would be in the ground with bugs eating us. He also made a point to tell us that people are most likely to die in their sleep between the hours of 3am and 5am. Gee, no wonder I am terrified to go to sleep.
Every little ache and pain are something catastrophic to me: an ache in my leg surely couldn’t be from all the stairs I took yesterday… it must be a DVT and I am going to die. That slight headache isn’t from my poor posture while watching TV, it’s an aneurysm and I’m going to die. Most people who are what they call “Hypochondriacs” go to their doctor over every little thing but not me. After that ER visit in 2017, I have developed a phobia of medical professionals… which makes having a heart condition and skin cancer even more stressful. So, now I fall asleep reluctantly, clutching a stuffed animal and dreading the medical appointments I have lined up for the next two months. Every morning that I wake up, I am amazed and happy for a few short minutes until the anxiety and fear sets in again for the day.
Emptiness cascaded down her throat and churned,
Ever so violently, within her dying heart.
It drowned her misery into deescalating waves,
Plunging deep into wallowed darkness relentlessly.
She laughed in mockery, in sadness, in man’s nature to deny
She laughed in warm trickles that had fallen silently.
Drying up on the graying, wooden floor,
To disappear soon after, like her very being.
Isolation coursed through in familiar pain,
Silently shrouding her with its gripping fingers.
It marred her memories, her feelings, her hope.
Into buried masks of facade.
Her shadow, her only companion, sat mutely beneath her feet.
It blended, fading softly at the edges, into the crawling blanket.
Her speckled orbs averted at what was left,
Knowing it would soon be destroyed into emptiness.
Today I took a step to help heal myself. I went in to see a new Psychologist. I had a terrible experience with a different one last month named Dr. C and felt really defeated after that encounter. I had such high hopes for this new one who I will call Dr. G. Upon meeting him, I immediately felt comfortable with him, which is rare for me with male providers. I felt like I could be open and feel safe telling him all that has happened to me. Better yet, he specializes in PTSD, OCD, anxiety and does the types of therapy that I need! It couldn’t have been a more perfect match.
Dr. G scanned through the short novel of notes from my previous Psychiatrist that I was seeing last year and said to me that he thinks I should go back to Dr. C from last month. I asked him why that would be a good idea when she was rude, uncaring and dismissive?! I mean, she even laughed when I told her one of my phobias. I’ll just shorten up the conversation with Dr. G and give you the highlight quotes from our visit. “Too many traumas” “This isn’t a one-off trauma like a singular rape” “We are talking intense repeated traumas, that will require more time than I have” “ There are just too many pieces” “Call 911 if you feel suicidal” “Sorry if it feels like we are just shuffling you around” “Maybe Dr. C will be less cold next time you see her”
As a person who has been traumatized, trust is something that is difficult for me. I need to feel safe and even though I hate to admit it, I can be fragile at times. I wasn’t asking for much in the way of “being fixed”, I just want to be a little less afraid of life and have a little more control over my fears. Most of my life I have been made to feel unworthy. First by the people who were supposed to love and protect me and finally now by the people who are supposed to help me. I am what I feared the most: unfixable. Too broken, too many fragmented parts to put back together to resemble a human. I have had three Psychologists this year tell me that my case is too difficult… if the professionals think that I am too broken, then I surely must be.
I guess I am officially a lost cause. Will forever be one of the walking wounded. So, for now, I will just swallow the Band-Aid pills they give me and pretend to be a person. No more hoping that I can be patched up. Just accept the fact that I am too fragmented. I am not the only one who walks the Earth this way. This is my life now.
Living with mental illness is like living with a little monster. Not a cute monster like in the cartoons, but a mean, heartless monster who knows all your weak spots. I have several of these monsters in my life: there’s the anxiety monster, The OCD monster, the monster who likes to panic, the insomnia monster, the monster of phobias, the borderline monster and the biggest one of all… The CPTSD monster.
The one I have been having the hardest time with lately is the OCD monster. He follows me everywhere and judges my every move, thought and decision. He screams at me to not touch the doorknobs, even in my own home. He tells me I will get sick if I touch them with anything other than my shirt sleeve. I spend countless minutes every day washing my hands like I am scrubbing in for surgery. If I slip up and set my purse on the floor, I must put it in my closet and not use it for at least a week so whatever germ is on it will die. I spend a lot of time at the hospital from my many physical health issues and that creates its own set of problems. I always carry my own pen, so I don’t have to use one from the desk to fill out paperwork. I can’t read any of the magazines sitting out on the tables. No shaking doctors’ hands. I scan the exam rooms over and over to make sure they have been cleaned and to determine what I absolutely will not be touching. Did I mention that I put on a mask as soon as I enter the hospital? Down the hallways, about every ten feet are these little stations that have an automatic hand sanitizer dispenser, tissues and masks. I use hand sanitizer from every single one of them on my way in and on my way out.
I miss having visitors and would love to invite my neighbor over to talk or play a dice game, but I can never get past the fact that then my home will be contaminated. Anything she touches will need to be cleaned and don’t get me started on dry skin flakes, dandruff or loose hairs. So, I have learned to accept that I cannot have people over.
I lay awake some nights, thinking of the slight crookedness of something hanging on my wall or fridge. I will lay there for hours, trying to convince myself that nothing bad will happen if I just go to sleep and don’t fix it. Then the anxiety gets so bad that I must get up and straighten it out until it’s just right. I crawl back in bed and start second guessing if I locked the front door, turned off that one light and then begins my nightly routine all over again. As I lay there, running all my actions from the day through my weary head, hoping that I have done enough to protect my loved ones from germs, sickness, unfortunate accidents and break-ins. I want so desperately to go to sleep and have my brain shut off for a while. All those things are easier to deal with than the intrusive thoughts. As I begin to finally feel sleepy, the next set of thoughts begin… the thoughts that tonight, I will surely die in my sleep. I have had that thought, every night before bed, since I was 6 years old.
The other intrusive thoughts make me believe that if I don’t do or say a specific thing, something bad will happen to someone that I love. If I forget to tell a loved one to “Drive safe!” my brain screams at me that now they are going to die in an accident. My brain will play this whole scene out in my head in graphic detail of them dying in a car accident, it’s so real I begin to cry. All this happens in a matter of thirty seconds. I frantically call the person back and tell them to “drive safe” and “make sure you are wearing your seatbelt”. After hanging up the phone, I think about whether I said it correctly, whether I did it in time. I will think about this for how ever long it takes to hear back from them that they made it safe.