#MentalillnessEducationFail

Saturday night I met with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for many years. He was travelling and happened to be in town for business. During our conversation I discovered that his girlfriend has depression. Of course this sparked my curiosity and interest! His main complaint was that she was less interested in sex. This began about a year and a half ago. They had maintained a 9-year relationship, of which several years was long distance between different countries. They saw each other every 6 months during that long distance period. Now they have been living together for a year. When I asked if he will marry her he replied, “Maybe next year, maybe never.” Apparently it all depends on the sex.

My friend revealed that his girlfriend used to cut herself. She did it once last year and instead of being supportive, he reprimanded her. “Who is this helping? You? Me?” he asked her. He recognized this as a form of “self-punishment” but does not understand it. I suppose that out of fear for getting another reprimand, she hasn’t done it again. But it’s just like me! I can relate. Horizontal not vertical cuts along the forearm. She’s Japanese and I’m, well, let’s just say, American. Depression transcends cultures, as do behaviours. When I first cut myself at the age of 16 I thought of it as a perfectly normal yet novel idea. I didn’t know that other people did this. I had never heard of it. And I don’t think that this young woman has any idea that she’s not alone. Instead, she is suffering alone in a non-supportive environment.

“She has mentioned wanting to see a psychiatrist,” my friend said. He claims that she has “free choice” and can do whatever she wants, yet he tells her with firm conviction that he does NOT want her to see a psychiatrist. I told him that he is doing her a disservice by telling her to not see a professional. I explained to him that, in relationships, one person wants to please the other, and that in not wanting to make him unhappy, she is choosing to not see someone for medications. “It’s her choice,” he maintains. “Yes, but it’s not her choice if you’re telling her to not go,” I said. “What am I supposed to do? Lie?” he strongly remarked. After that, I shut up, but I wish I would have continued, not that it would have made any difference. I wish I had encouraged him to lie to her, for her own sake. Tell her you want her to go see someone. Or at least support her. She’s depressed and self-harming and not on any medications. She lives in Italy, completely isolated from her Japanese culture, barely speaks the language, has almost no friends save the foreigners in her language class. She doesn’t work, doesn’t want to, goes to class for three hours a day and then sits on the couch for the rest of the day. She doesn’t get out. She’s there only for him, because she wanted to maintain the relationship, rather than having it end due to the distance. She’s shy. She “pretends” when others are present and maintains that she can “only be herself” around him. He doesn’t like that side of her and prefers the compliant, yes-saying, agreeable version of her, the fake version. He doesn’t like the “real” woman. Not to say that this relationship is abusive, but it is skewed to favour one side as the dominant side, which is a disadvantage to her. I can relate all too well. I remember the days of my relationship when I would smile although I hated my life, and the fact that most of my entire life for more than six years was a complete performance. I was on stage and I was the best actress ever. I should have received an Emmy. I made the jump of moving in with my ex-abuser only to “save” the relationship, at the expense of my educational goals. I know this scenario. I have lived it before.

I explained to my friend that depression is a real, medical illness. That it changes the brain chemistry. “It’s not like she has cancer” was his attitude. I told him that psychotropic medication will help her become less depressed. However, he is afraid she will become “addicted” and that she’ll have to take the medication for the rest of her life. “The medication is not addicting,” I said, “It helps alter the brain chemistry, and she may not have to take it for the rest of her life.” It’s not habit-forming. It’s not an illicit “drug”, damnit! It’s real, legitimate medication! My sense of urgency wasn’t coming across, and it’s not like I have frequent contact with this person. I tried, I really did, but I was up against a wall of prejudice toward mental illness.

He wants her to “deal with this on her own.” Those were his words. He doesn’t want her to see a professional and doesn’t want her to take anti-depressants. “I have depression. Have her contact me. I could help to let her know that she’s not alone.” I pleaded. “I want to help her!” His response? Stonewall. “She won’t open up to you since you are friends with me.” Turns out she doesn’t like his friends much and given the option to stay home or go out with his friends, she prefers to stay home. Did I mention he is an alcoholic and smokes marijuana? She might have picked up on his alcoholic tendencies, as she helps him polish off a bottle of wine each night, not to say that she might be drinking one glass and he the last three, but she does not smoke weed and he doesn’t force her to. Thank goodness for that. So if she doesn’t like his friends, he just assumes she won’t want to talk to me. I’m still going to encourage him to give her my email address. I want to help her. I feel as if I’m her only lifeline because I’m the only person in her life (though I’m not “in” it) who understands what she is going through.

I told him that her hormone cycle can also have to do with the depression. “No, that’s not a problem,” he said. “She’s horniest when she’s on her period,” he proudly proclaimed. I told him that “being horny” has nothing to do with depression. She could be having all of the sex that he wants her to have and still be suffering from depression. What changed in the relationship? She stopped wanting to have oral sex. “She had no problem for the first few years doing this, so why is this all of a sudden different?” he rants. She says she wants to have babies, and says to him that if she’s not satisfying him sexually, that he can find someone to fulfill that need for him, as long as she never knows about it. He attributes this attitude to the Japanese culture, where it’s common for older, married men, to have younger mistresses outside of the marriage. Luckily, he’s not into that. He’s with her because he only wants to have sex with her.

Then there’s my story. I tried to explain to him what I went through during my marriage. I couldn’t tell him everything, partially because of the shock factor, but also because I had this inkling that he just wouldn’t understand. I simply told him that I was raped a lot during the six years of my marriage. “How is that possible,” he asked. Apparently, and to my disappointment, he belongs to the population of the world that doesn’t believe marital rape is possible. If you’re married, you’re entitled to sex. I explained to him that the rape was traumatizing. “But why didn’t you want to have sex with him?” The only answer that I could come up with was that he was cheating on me. “He was sleeping with other women,” I replied. “Oh,” he said. That he understood. He understood that I didn’t want to sleep with my ex-husband because he was sleeping with other women whilst we were married. That didn’t mean I wasn’t having sex with him. I couldn’t explain to this friend that I had become a prostitute during my marriage and that my husband was “pimping me out”. I couldn’t explain to him that it was considered to be an “open” marriage and that we were both having sex with other people outside of the marriage.

“He wasn’t that attractive,” my friend reflected. “I know! Another friend told me that recently,” I replied. “She said that I was much more attractive than he was! Why didn’t you tell me?” “You wouldn’t have listened,” he stated in a matter-of-fact way. “I met him when I was 16 and he was my very first boyfriend. I didn’t know anything else.” I explained. I told my friend that in 2008 my ex-husband sent me to Europe for a month to visit family in England and friends in Italy. At that time this friend was living in America studying at school and we weren’t in contact. The reason my ex sent me there was that he needed to “focus on work.” Whereas that may have happened, he also acquired several girlfriends in that month and complained about having to break up with them when I returned. “But how could he have gotten so many girls if he wasn’t attractive?” asked my friend. “Unless he was paying for them?” “Yes, sometimes he paid for them,” I replied. “Prostitutes. That makes sense,” he said. And he shook his head. “Why didn’t you say something to me?” my friend asked. “We weren’t in contact! I had no friends. Nada. Niente. Zero. I was socially isolated,” I responded. “Not even your family?” he asked. “No! I didn’t even talk to my family then,” I desperately expressed myself. “I had no one. No one. They were all his friends and his contacts.”

This friend of mine, he isn’t without his own issues. He regularly drives drunk and said he has never been pulled over for it, because he “doesn’t make mistakes” while driving drunk. He’s only gotten a ticket once, and that’s for speeding when he was living in the U.S. In Italy, you don’t spend a night in jail for drunk driving unless others are involved in an accident. And they certainly don’t do random check points. They only ask you to pull over if you’re breaking a law. He used to drink all day long. “I’m not an alcoholic if I don’t admit I am,” he said proudly. When I met him he was in his early 20’s, living off of mom and dad like a “mamone” (mama’s boy, typical for Italian men) and he would have a shot of alcohol with his morning coffee. These days he only drinks at night, not during the day. He drinks a surprising 8 to 10 shots of espresso per day. He can have a shot of coffee just before bed and still be able to fall asleep. My friend also doesn’t consider smoking marijuana a problem. He does it regularly and it’s definitely not legal in his country. But “everyone does it anyway,” he says. He has also had multiple surgeries in the last several years for a tumorous growth in his abdomen. The first surgery was a noninvasive procedure in which the doctors killed the organ and skin cells. He ended up having an open wound for 10 months whilst he waited to regrow the dead skin after they took out his tumor so that they would be able to sew him up again, because the first set of stitches broke since there was no viable skin. In subsequent surgeries they cut out all of his right side stomach muscles, and because the left side muscles have nothing to attach to, they have bunched up and caused an abnormal lump on his abdomen under his skin. His stomach is not behind muscle and is directly touching his skin. He will have to have another surgery. See? He understands what it’s like to have a physical illness. He understands having to be on medications and what it’s like to be down for months at a time. But he doesn’t understand depression. He only understands physical illness, not the illnesses of the mind. I believe this is a pretty common stereotype. There’s even mental illness in his family. His mother used to take anti-depressants and she just “wasn’t herself” when she was on them, he said. As a result, because it made her sluggish and lethargic; she is no longer on the medication because she didn’t want to “live like that”.

I suppose I’m angry. My TalkSpace therapist pointed that out; I didn’t notice it on my own. I’m angry that this supposed “friend” of mine will not and cannot understand what I live through on a daily basis, what makes my life so hard. It’s not like I have cancer or some other debilitating physical illness. Some people just don’t understand illnesses of the mind. They are just as debilitating as severe physical illness. It is to be taken seriously. You go to the hospital to get a broken arm fixed, so why not a broken mind?

I’m upset on behalf of his girlfriend because I cannot imagine living in an non-supportive environment like that. I cannot imagine having to deal with this on my own, without the support of my psychotherapist, my psychiatrist, my friends and my family. It’s just not fair. It doesn’t have to be that way. She could be getting the help she so obviously needs. Instead, she is suffering, alone, in a foreign country where she doesn’t even speak the language. It’s not fair and I want to do something about it.

Just another Sunday

Sunday night late. In order to make myself feel somewhat normal I’ve decided to write. I’ve been wanting to write since last night but couldn’t bring myself to. I have a slight urge and desire to cut myself. Maybe because I talked about it over dinner last night. Maybe it’s because I know we have new sharp knives in our home which I haven’t used on myself yet. Maybe because I know that after my therapist and I create our new safety contract on Tuesday I will be morally obligated by an official promise and document to no longer harm myself, and to take action by calling someone before I do anything to harm myself.

I had a very active Friday night and all of Saturday helping a friend move from one house to another, and as such, I spent all day in bed today. It was agonizing because I wanted to get up but just couldn’t bring myself to. By 10 AM I dreamed of making myself an espresso with my moka. At noon I checked the time again to discover that my afternoon study partner had canceled our date due to feeling ill. So I stayed in bed. I woke up at 4:30 in the afternoon to eat two large bowls of cereal, which was the equivalent of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My roommate was listening to worship music and because I didn’t want to have to tolerate it, and also because I didn’t know what else to do with myself (I could have been doing laundry… no thanks!) I went back to bed. Now it’s almost midnight and I had been struggling for the last three hours to get the motivation to have a shower since the last time I washed my hair was Thursday night. Can’t go to work with greasy hair, though I’ve done it before.

I was brimming with stories to tell last night of my dinner out but as I discovered on my day of suicidality, I cannot write about it right away when I’m still so charged with emotion. I have to let the stories simmer for a while before delving into them.

My hair is wet and I’ve made it through another weekend. This weekend I did accomplish a lot, despite my full day of hibernation. I was up and out when I was needed, and the moment I wasn’t needed I discarded myself to depression. Tuesday I see my therapist and I’m so glad we already have the appointment scheduled. I feel unstable and edgy when we don’t schedule ahead of time.

My story that I’m going to tell, about my Italian friend, starts back when I was 19 years old. There’s tragedy and heartbreak and years of not being in contact due to my controlling ex-husband. And there’s memory loss of recent years due to the ECTs. But all of that I won’t go into right now. I’ll just try to make it through another day.

On Educating Others

I’m sitting here at my work computer on my lunch break with my aching legs criss crossed on the swively chair and my head cocked to one side. My phone headset is floating atop my hair and I’ve been taking calls even through my lunch hour. I rarely step away. Today is an easy day: there’s not much going on, and it gives me time to think.

The night of my reverse-suicide attempt I got the courage to confront my American aunt. I lived with her and my uncle for a few months after I had first escaped my abuser four years ago. She has known me since I was born. She’s been in my life sporadically, on and off, over the years. When we lived in Europe I didn’t think of her at all; I was so focused on the environment around me.

I’ve been frustrated because I want to have a relationship with her and I would like her support. The thing is, she doesn’t know how to “handle” me because of my mental illness. I send her a text message every few months to let her know how I’m doing but she doesn’t and hasn’t ever reached out to me proactively, on her own accord, without prompting from me. And that hurts ever so slightly. I like to think of myself as an amenable person.

Here’s our recent text message conversation verbatim:

Me: I was going to kill myself tonight. My therapist listened to me and talked me out of killing myself. I feel like you could care less either way. You probably just don’t know how to deal with it. Suicidal people just want compassion and understanding, someone to listen and to respond. Your last comment to me was insulting. Don’t you think I’d join a volunteer group or partake in a hobby if I could?? That would make my life just that much more worth living. When you’re suicidal you don’t have any energy to devote toward those things. I had hoped for too much when I thought you might be willing to listen and respond. I didn’t even get a response from you for the first two messages when I said I was going to talk to the district attorney. Nothing. Silence. Maybe you didn’t know what to say? Maybe you could have told me just that. It would have been better than unsupportive silence. I feel like you could care less about me even though you and your husband paid for a whole year of my college over ten years ago. I knew that you cared then. You even made the effort to come visit me in Italy. What happened? Did I do something to disappoint you? Maybe the fact that I’ve been suicidal for five years scares you and you don’t want to deal with it. I’d rather know if that’s the case. Something is better than nothing. When I made my safety contract with my therapist in 2012, you were one of the people I was supposed to call if I felt I was going to harm myself. But I know I can’t count on you for that now. The last time we Skyped was a long time ago and you never care to reach out to me proactively yet you visit with your own children all the time. And you visit your youngest niece. If I called you feeling suicidal you would probably just tell me to go get a hobby. Not only does that kind of comment make me feel worse, it’s confusing. Why would someone say that to a suicidal person? All I’ve ever wanted is your support and I hereby must apologize again for having had any hopes or expectations. It’s not my fault that my ex-spouse raped me, sexually abused me, psychologically controlled me and damaged me for six years. I had an emotionally abusive mother and I was vulnerable to falling into that trap again. I had no idea when I met him that he would turn into a narcissistic abuser. Living in that marriage was torture and hell and I put on a brave face for everyone just like I did when I was a little child. Killing myself was the only logical solution out of that mess because I didn’t want to leave him, ever. I never thought of leaving. I think I stayed with you for a while when I first separated from him. Thank you for that. I don’t remember any of that. Apparently I acted or behaved in a way that would never make you want to have me stay with you ever again. I don’t know what I did. I don’t remember that period of my life. Sorry for existing. I thought you should know how I feel, what my thought process is, and that my suicidality is not gone. Tell me that you can’t handle it.

My Aunt: I’m sorry I don’t know how to respond. I found it emotionally draining trying to help you in the time after your separation and I felt you were trying to manipulate me. I did not feel it was good for me to keep helping. I really don’t understand not wanting to be happy so the things I recommend are things I do when I feel down. I’m sorry if they are insulting to you. It just shows that I’m not qualified to deal with your problems. It is good you have a therapist who can.

Me: Thank you for saying that and for responding. I still desire to have a relationship with you. I know you’ve never felt suicidal before but it has been such a big part of my life. I’m sorry that you thought I was being manipulative. I don’t remember any of it. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just acting on instinct. How I behaved with you gives you a good idea how I was with my ex-husband at the end. It wouldn’t have just changed that quickly. It wasn’t you, that’s how I would have been with every person around me. I can understand needing to protect yourself first over helping me. I wonder what you would have been like had it been your own daughter. I’m not your daughter so you don’t have that sort of social or moral connection or responsibility. I have come a long way and I have had lots of support from other people. Sharing with you that I was going to the DA was a leap of faith because I wanted to include you in my life. When my grandmother died I broke my safety contract with my therapist and cut my arm with scissors. I took pictures of the wounds and shared them around. I said something to you and I think you asked your son to call me because it was right after that when he called me that week.

My Aunt: I didn’t respond because I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t think it would be good for you.

Suicidal Ideation

Instead of committing suicide on Tuesday evening, I went grocery shopping and prepared myself a nice dinner. My therapist talked me out of it. If I had to rate the intensity of my desire to kill myself, 10 being the highest, it was 10/10. I considered myself completely rational. “I know this is mental illness and not normal wanting to kill yourself, but I am completely clear-headed,” I said to my therapist. He gently corrected me by reminding me, “it’s a symptom of mental illness.” My plan was to park in the middle of our famous suicide bridge, on which there are suicide hotline signs for the length of the bridge, and then to sit on the edge for a bit, and then “accidentally” fall. My therapist said that officials wouldn’t consider this to be an “accident”.

What triggered me? I wasn’t supposed to go into the conversation with the district attorney with expectations, but I did. There is a part of me which wants justice, and wants to see my ex-abuser put in prison and to be held accountable for his actions. What he did to me over a period of six years was unspeakable, though I have found a voice. The purpose of me giving my verbal statement was to finally get the story out to the justice system, just to tell my story, so that I can continue my healing journey and start to leave the trauma in the past. Talking about the details of the trauma was bound to bring up feelings from the past. On Tuesday of last week, I celebrated. I was on an emotional high after an intense two weeks leading up to it of preparation and anxiety. I maintained that slight euphoria for a few days. I checked out over the weekend by hibernating in my bed so that I wouldn’t have to be awake and psychologically face the reality of the news I got on Friday: that we cannot move forward with the case for lack of evidence. One woman’s voice is not enough, but if another woman comes forward against him in the future, that would be the evidence we need to revive my case. So basically, I thought all of this was for nothing. What was the point of the last four years of painful struggling if it culminates in this very significant event and nothing can be done about it? What then? Why?

Tuesday morning upon waking, I had emotional difficulty in getting up, as usual. I wanted to stay in bed and to not face the day. I didn’t want to go to work (I know many people feel this, but my aversion to going to work is I believe stronger than others). A cloud set over my head while I sat at my desk. I began to think that I didn’t want to be here, on this earth, and that I would rather be dead, or not alive (it’s the same thing but it sounds different). By lunchtime I was actively feeling suicidal and talking to my TalkSpace therapist about those feelings, since I’m able to message her at any time throughout the day. By the afternoon I had decided that I wanted to kill myself and by late afternoon I had come up with a plan. I also had strong intent of carrying the act through, which is when we know the situation is dangerous. I didn’t care about keeping myself “safe”. I was tired of it. In the last several days I had already spoken with my mother and my brother, and even my grandfather, and I thought of those conversations as “goodbye’s”. I just needed to say goodbye to my dear therapist.

He was not willing to accept my goodbye. He listened to my plans, which I explained in detail. He came up with reasons for me to not kill myself, and I shot down every one of them. There were moments of silence whilst he allowed me to think and process my thoughts, and I attempted to force a smile, to let him know that I was okay with my decision to kill myself that night.

Halfway through our psychotherapy session was when he got to me. He said, “you haven’t been a mother yet.” I rationalized, “there are plenty of other mothers out there.” But then he said, “what if your brother had a child?” I caved in. I said, “I would be a pretty good auntie. If it were a girl that would be even better. I would visit often and spoil her.” My therapist knows that I like to knit, which I haven’t done in a while, and he said that the baby would need little socks, and mittens, and scarves. “And a soft blanket!” I chimed in. “But I’ve forgotten how to knit,” I protested. “You will learn,” he said confidently. “Being an auntie is something to keep in mind because it’s important to you,” he reminded me.

And that was it. I complained that he wasn’t making saying goodbye to him easy. He said, “that’s not my job, to make it easy for you.” I said that my therapist from the DBT program at the hospital would probably not want me to die. He agreed and said that he doesn’t want me to die either. I actually smiled. I agreed to not drive out to the bridge. “That’s what I was waiting to hear,” he said. He recommended I go to my favourite grocery store and buy myself something nice to prepare for dinner. “Do you like mochi?” he asked. “Yes, I do!” “They have chocolate and strawberry ice cream flavours…” “And green tea! That’s my favourite!” I was enthusiastic about this idea. He had gotten me from the point of being dead serious about having the police find my drowned and broken body in the bay, to agreeing (not wanting) to stay alive and to treat myself to a dinner that was nice. It ended up being a microwave-from-frozen meal but it was filling and lovely. Instead of having a mochi ice cream ball I had a chocolate lava cake for dessert, even though I wasn’t hungry any more. Because I could. Because I deserved it after a day like that day.

“So then I don’t need to go to a hospital?” “No.” he replied softly. We set up another appointment for a week from Tuesday, at the same time, and I parted with him by saying, “see you next week.” “Bye.” was his only answer, and the last thing he said to me before I walked out and pushed the squeaky door open in order to ride down the elevator and go out into the dimming light of the warm evening.

For the last two months I have been tracking my suicidal thoughts and ideation. Last month it happened twice. This month it has been once so far. Looking back, it actually happens to me on a monthly basis. Not weekly, not daily as it used to be, but monthly. Having recovered from Tuesday, my desire now is to even go one month without feeling suicidal. That would be an accomplishment, although it is not in my control. Not entirely. There will be days when I feel sad, just as there are days when I feel suicidal.

After I left my therapist’s’ office I stayed in the parking lot of his building in my car for an hour madly texting people. I finally had the courage to confront my aunt who has seemed to be so unsupportive. I stopped by a coffee shop to use their free toilet (in America we say “bathroom” but in Europe we just say “toilet”, saying it like it is). I stayed in the parking lot for a while texting. I drove the short distance to the grocery store. I sat in the parking lot sending out more messages. Two and a bit hours later I finally got home. I managed to have dinner before my completely unaware roommate came home. She has no idea that I suffer in this way. Later, two friends each called me for support and I remained on the phone with them until about 11:30 that night. I got a lot of positive encouragement, which continued for the next couple days, which brings me to today. I’m actually writing this blog on my lunch break at work, and I’ll have to pick it up later again.

A rant

It’s just after 9 PM. Three hours before my average bedtime. Last night I was unable to fall asleep until 4 AM. Was it the heat or the two cups of coffee I drank or the fact that I slept for 33 hours this weekend or my anxiety? I don’t know which. I’m glad I don’t take ten different pills any longer. Trazodone just makes a person soo sluggish.

The evenings are dreadful for me. Is it because I have nothing to do? Nothing that motivates me, at least. It was difficult going to school at night after work, but at least that provided me with some structure. Now it’s summer and I keep telling myself I’m supposed to be studying for this big exam, and there is but a faint spark of interest in doing the latter work. I am in my head in the evenings. I spend a lot of time thinking. I don’t pay attention to the self-talk I create, yet it must be there. Eating, feeding myself is therapeutic. I cooked cheesy gnocchi from a frozen pack on the stove. Listening to the tiny bubbles in the sauce come to the surface like the pitter-patter of rain on a window. Doing normal things helps me. Yes, I dressed in gym clothes when I got home from work, instead of into pajamas, because I thought I might be motivated to walk on the elliptical machine, but no, I’m putting that off for later in the week.

Can I just be frank here? Can I just say that it pisses me off that some family members know what I’m going through and aren’t supportive? I’m talking about one family member in particular. I thought she would have been more supportive, but I was wrong. What did I ever do to her? This is my white American aunt, who married into our Indian side of the family. She and her husband even supported me financially ten years ago for a year of my college. I guess she can’t do the emotional stuff?? I’m so angry that I just want to delete her text messages. Her advice to me of “try to find a club or volunteer group” seems like normal advice but I take insult to it. She has no idea what I go through every day, just to make it to the next day. She doesn’t know that I suffer in silence on weekends when I can’t get up out of bed, and when I don’t want to live. That advice was given to me after I exposed myself entirely, by telling her that I told the DDA about my abuse story. Her only other reaction? “Oh.” It was a monosyllabic response. The monstrosity of the fact that I will not get justice and that my abuser will not spend one day in jail, gets an “oh”.

On to happier things. My roommate is home and is playing at being a homemaker, as I do sometimes too. She bought a huge watermelon and cut it up and told me to “not be shy” so that I can have as much as I want. The only downside to this is that her sharp knife set finally arrived today. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they are very sharp. “Why would that bother you?” my therapist would say. “Because I might want to cut myself,” I reply after a long hesitation about whether to reveal the truth, even though he knows that’s where I’m going and he knows I need to say it out loud. “You don’t do that any longer,” he would say, “so why would that be an issue?”

All of a sudden it’s 10 PM. My brother called and we talked for over half an hour. He calls me during his long commute time in the car coming home at night. We talked about my weekend of hibernation, and about how I’ve been doing that for the last year and a half, and that it has become more of a “habit” and that habits are harder to break as we get older. He said if I do anything, even watch YouTube videos, rather than sleeping, even if I’m not studying, is better than sleeping. If I find friends, meet a man, or want to do anything, those things usually happen on the weekends and I am confined like a prisoner to my bed. It’s as if I don’t have the courage to get out of bed and face the day when I don’t have to be at work. To be honest, I don’t know how I have actually functioned for almost a year, barely calling in sick. I actually get up in the mornings and make it to work. Work is another issue I’m having with myself. I’m terribly behind in all of my tasks and the weight of the load at work is just weighing on me like a bag of bricks.

I have all of these issues! But, there are things to be grateful for. I’m now aware of myself and my body. I don’t have to let people use or abuse me. I’m learning how to make my life a life that is worth living. I’m not there yet and I still occasionally wish “I weren’t here” (on this earth, meaning, alive). With that mindset every day seems oppressive. My emotions fluctuate and I have to learn to bend with them. Some hours of the day I will feel fine, and then all of a sudden I’ll be struggling, making it hour by hour through the day.

I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow. That’s always a saving grace. Because when I’m with him, I feel alive, more than any hour of the week, I feel alive for the 50 minutes that I’m with him, once a week. He has taught me how to live in a meaningful way. There’s still a lot I have to work on, but I get through my life from one week to the next with him as the marker, the highlight, of my time here on earth.

Shoulders slumped, head cocked to the side, listening to my upstairs neighbour pace across the creaky floorboards. Not feeling okay, not feeling like myself. Feeling as if this evening was surreal, somewhat disconnected, despite my attempts to connect by doing everyday things like feeding myself. I’m so lucky I don’t have to shower tonight because I showered yesterday. I still struggle to find showering a pleasurable activity. It’s worse than a chore and I’d rather not do it at all.

Pick myself up from focusing on negative things. On the outskirts of my mind, and somewhere tucked deep within, there has to be a reason for all of this. There has to be hope.

A Two-Person Cult

Second blog of the day. I feel like I just can’t cope today. I did something “normal” and I acted normal. I went to see a friend. We studied together for two hours. She made me my second cup of coffee for the day. We ate fruit. We conversed. I drove half an hour there and back. Yet my torso is slumped forward, my shoulders rounded, my head in my hands. All this is too much. Although my abuser pervades my dreams as a mere presence, which I cannot control, it was much easier sleeping all day yesterday rather than coping with being present and alive and knowing the truth I learned on Friday. There will be no official justice unless and until another woman comes forward against him. But he can’t be so stupid as to rape another girl, could he? Yet make her believe that he loves her and would do anything for her, so long as she is a “good girl” and adheres to his prescribed behaviour routines, does whatever he wants her to do. It’s a really fucked up system.

Tonight I watched a long movie about a religion which is basically a cult. And everything that was said about the organization by the people who were in it for years, and finally got out, rings true about my relationship with my ex-husband and ex-abuser. I was indoctrinated and pressured into believing everything he told me. Every training session was a way of controlling me. I remember distinctly when I was 20 and I had just moved in with him, he bought me my first pair of high heels. He made me walk back and forth across the living room floor criticising the way I walked in them until I got it just right. I had never owned a pair of heels before that. They may have been what might be considered “fuck me” heels. They were elegant but that’s the best I can describe them. He needed for me to “walk sexy” in them. He needed me to walk confidently in them. Needless to say I no longer wear heels. Flats are just fine.

So it seems then that I was in a two-person cult. He was the leader and I was the follower. It was all about power and control. There was constantly a power struggle between us. I tried to break free of his control, and every time he would reign me back in under his control by controlling my mind with guilt trips and stories he would fabricate, how I was selfish and how I always “played the victim” when it came to our power struggles. Of course I was a victim! But he tried to make me believe that he was the victim of me. I also found out that his business partner told the police that I was “hostile” towards him. That’s the word he used. I’m sure I was hostile, verbally, because he had me cornered in every way. The only way out was to kill myself. It was logical at the time.

Where does this leave me now? I am supposed to just move on with my life? I am still healing! Four plus years later I am still trying to detach myself from the grasp of the horror I lived for six years. Six years of non-consensual sex. We were married and there were times that it was consensual. But I was also coerced and cajoled into thinking that performing sex for him on himself and others was the only way for me to gain his approval and keep his love. I lived my life for his approval. The sex was indeed a performance. I became a very good actress at pretending I liked it, for his sake. And it almost killed me.

I am supposed to own what happened to me in order to be able to move on. If I say “I was raped” over and over again, it validates what actually happened. I cannot grasp my mind around how demeaning it felt, how violating it was, for someone to own my body and do with it what he pleased. He knew that I wanted to please him, and he completely took advantage of that. Somewhere deep down I have to believe he knows that what he did with me was wrong. He knew that what he was doing was illegal, and that is why he got rid of any evidence of the abuse and the causes of my trauma. How he used my vagina as his personal playground. It was a traumatic experience and for three years I experienced PTSD symptoms of paranoia, nightmares, not being able to get out of the house, being afraid of men and other people, breaking down and crying at the most inappropriate moments, sleeping with the light on, anxiety, constant fear, being untrusting of others even if they meant well. I have now begun to trust the world again and I believe I still have issues with boundaries. I assume all people are intrinsically good at heart and that they have good intentions. I have come across the opposite being true, of men trying to get in my pants. I don’t have a good enough radar yet to detect suspicious behaviour. I am too trusting. It’s something I’ll be working on.

The present moment feels surreal. I feel as if I’m watching myself type from the other side of the couch. I’m looking at myself from the outside. I am not in my mind but outside of it. It’s detachment. It’s dissociation. Because the previous paragraphs were difficult to get out and now I’m paying the price for it. But I know I was raped. I’m not making that up. I was raped for six years and didn’t know it was rape until the end, in the last six months before he divorced me. I just knew I had to get out. The alimony was good. For three years it paid for my living expenses whilst I was in and out of the hospital, constantly. As soon as they would release me I would try to commit suicide again. Committing suicide but not succeeding is also traumatic. I have many memories of flashing lights and ambulances, people in uniforms all around me, being injected with substances, the electroconvulsive therapy treatments, trying to hang myself with my bed sheets while I was in isolation in the intensive care unit, scratching at my skin, cutting myself. There are some protruding blue veins on my right inner wrist and I was thinking earlier, head in my hand, what would it be like if I opened up that vein? My roommate is ordering large knives for our home in order to cut the big watermelon she bought, and they will be here tomorrow. I will have access to bigger knives in the house and that scares me.

“He’s insignificant and not worthy of another second of your breath,” said my helper friend by text message to me today. Yet I still worry. I worry he’s doing this to another woman. I was just now holding my hand to my mouth. What does that gesture signify? Remaining taciturn, not wanting to speak out, or shocked and surprised, perhaps perturbed and disgusted. Hand on my chest. A feeling of being constricted. I can’t analyze myself so much.

It has taken me nearly two hours to write this entry, because I’m horrified of what I’ve written, and even more horrified that I went through the experiences I went through. I’m sure I’ll be talking about them over and over again, until it has been enough. But as of yet, I cannot say it enough, though it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to tell my story, bit by bit. And thus concludes another self-therapy session.

Dry Tears

Why am I in tears again? I called my mom and amazingly she listened to me, and we talked for half an hour. My tears are now dry. She can be the mom I need her to be, if I really need her. She’s there for me. I have to remember that. I have to remember that my family loves me even though I live far away from them in a different city, and I don’t connect often with them. I want to stay in this city because, although it’s the same city which my ex-abuser lives in, it’s the city I have known for so many years and I have a lot of connections to it. And my dear therapist is here and I still cannot imagine ever leaving him. He tells me that even when I’m not with him, a part of him is with me. Everything that he has taught me over the years remains a part of my present self. The better part of me.

I called my grandfather for Father’s Day. He is hard of hearing. I had to repeat myself several times. I don’t know if he knows that my marriage was abusive. I told him today that I spoke with the DDA and that my case cannot move forward. He has his own opinions and said that, “unfortunately lawyers exploit the innocent.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. My attorney was kind and respectful, and did absolutely everything in her power to do what she could with my case. She spent hours and days going over the written material of my case, and hours talking with her supervisor, before they decided together that my case couldn’t move forward. Damn it! I want justice!! And I’m not going to get it. He is free to abuse other women. But as my mother said, I did what I could to protect other women. I came forward and the legal system heard my voice. I got a fair hearing.

I have to make this short as I’m meeting with a new female friend of mine to study for the GRE. At this rate, studying once a week, I’m not going to make it into graduate school. My mind has been 90% occupied with the prospect of my abuse case moving forward. It’s all I could think about. This friend now knows of my story, the whole thing. It took three hours one Sunday afternoon to tell her all of the details, and she just listened, non-judgmentally. I know I’m not supposed to tell anyone at work, to have word get out, but when I spent some personal time with a co-worker after-hours I figured I trust her enough and just told her about what I did this week, reporting the abuse case to the DDA. She said she won’t talk about it to anyone at work, and I hope this will be the case. She has no reason to. I would like to develop more of a personal relationship with her. Particularly because both of us don’t plan on staying at our jobs at the company forever. It would be nice to make another female friend. I want to surround myself with female friends, and gain strength from those relationships. I am not feeling strong today.

I know I already said this, but I spent 22 hours in bed. Now it’s the next day and I woke up before noon. I made myself coffee with my Italian stove top espresso-maker called a “moca” which every Italian household has. I bought the coffee grounds and they have to be kept in the fridge, for some reason. I sweetened the black coffee with cane sugar, and likely will have another coffee in an hour when I meet my friend to study. Coffee just doesn’t have a strong effect on me. I can do with it or without it, either way, though I prefer it remains a part of my daily life.

I don’t have a TV. I’ve been entertaining myself on my phone, scrolling through Facebook and Twitter posts. I love discovering that a new person has decided to follow me on Twitter, or that someone on WordPress has “liked” my post. I then go to that person’s blog and read about them. I have discovered that a few of my followers are sexual abuse survivors too. Not victims, but survivors. It’s horrifying to read their abuse stories, but I can also identify with every horrific detail that they describe in their accounts. And because I want to become a counselor one day, and deal with these stories on a daily basis by helping other victims of abuse, I figure I might as well expose myself to some of the stories now. All stories come in different shapes and sizes, as do women. We are different ages, at different points in our lives. But we suffer a common theme of mental illness induced by trauma, and we will have to deal with this for the rest of our lives. I want to make someone’s journey easier. The priest who took me on as a daughter four years ago, for two years before he moved to a different state, said that he let another young woman know of my blog. She is a teacher and had witnessed a child being abused, and has dealt with it in self-destructive ways. In reading my blog she realized she is not alone. That is enough in and of itself, to motivate me to continue writing. I hope my words resonate with others, that they can identify with me and my struggles, my hopes and my aspirations, and not look up to me, but look forward with me.

Disappointing News

I feel as if I don’t know how to express myself today and writing in my blog is a feeble attempt at trying. The last few days have been trying. I don’t know where to begin. Whenever I say that to my therapist he says something to the effect of “That means there are many places you could begin” meaning that I have a whole world of possibilities and the oyster is mine.

I have been crying and thinking about my therapist now helps to ground me. He knows me in and out. He knows everything about me. He knows how to talk to me. I wish I could be with him right now. He tells me that even when I’m not with him I can still hold a part of him in my mind, and in that way, he is always with me. Everything he has taught me, every single one of his comforting words, they stay with me. As I try to grasp onto this concept right now it has its’ way of “sfuggire” or dissipating and escaping me.

I notice that I am rubbing the skin of my neck and chest, trying to rub off the dirt that is on my skin. I have to stop and bring myself back to being present. I am not dirty. But doing that feels comforting.

My period just started. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I spent the last 22 hours in bed. I am having cramping and it’s painful. Normally my periods are pain-free. Why today of all days is my lower abdomen hurting me? It feels as if an elephant is sitting on my intestines.

My thoughts are sporadic and my paragraphs short. I am finding it difficult to reign in my thoughts. I want to tell of the extreme disappointment I am feeling. I heard from the Deputy District Attorney yesterday afternoon. She was so kind to me over the phone. I thought that she would want to just relay the verdict and then get off the phone as quickly as possible but she lingered. She stayed on with me. She told me that she sat with her supervisor for hours going over the case. But that there is no evidence that would convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt”. It hurts me to say that. The justice system has failed our country and another rapist gets to roam this earth free.

The DDA told me that the outcome of this case has nothing to do with credibility. She believes my story. The sheriff believes my story. The DDA said she can’t imagine a jury not believing my story, but that there is just no evidence. I am crushed. I feel devastated. I feel broken inside. I feel as if the world just isn’t right. How do I make it right? How do I go on with my life? I want to quit now and become institutionalized. I don’t want to deal with my life. Everything feels like too much. I need my therapist. He is my pacifier. He helps me. I don’t want to help myself.

The DDA told me how strong I am. She noted how far I’ve come since my abuse ended, and that I am financially independent now for the first time in my life. She said she is on a committee that organizes a rally every October for domestic violence awareness month, and that we can honour those victims who didn’t make it out alive, who weren’t so lucky. I forget that domestic violence can be deadly.

I keep taking breaks. I can’t go on like this. I can’t tell my story all at once. I’ve gotten up, spit phlegm from crying in the sink, drank my soy milk, crawled back into bed, have laid down on my couch, all in between paragraphs. I suppose I feel restless. I also feel helpless. How do I get my power back after this? How am I supposed to find my voice? Isn’t that what I’m trying to do by writing in this very moment?

My abuser got to move on with his life four years ago, as soon as I exited his life. He gets to go on to abuse other people. And here I am, four years later, still suffering in this mental prison of mine.

The case doesn’t just end there and get put on a dusty shelf. The DDA said she is keeping the case file in her office, because it’s her case now. And I know she spent a lot of time on it, reading all of my journals and becoming familiar with the details of the case. If another woman ever comes forward in the future, that will be the evidence which is needed to revive my case. Unfortunately, one woman’s voice is not enough.

My TalkSpace therapist has also been helping me. She fills me with encouraging words, pointing out that I am strong, and that I have come so far, and validating that the things which happened to me were awful and that I didn’t deserve them. It’s not okay that they happened, but in order to move on I have to own my experiences and let them become a part of me and be present, rather than dissociating.

My head is in my hand, my shoulders slumped, my back necessarily being supported by a firm pillow on my couch. My legs are cross-legged with my blanket over my lap. I can hear the murmur of the refrigerator in the background. The air is stifling hot. It feels as if no air is being circulated in this enclosed apartment. I wonder if my upstairs neighbour heard me cry? I am glad that my roommate isn’t home so that I could sob as loudly as I needed to.

My roommate just came home. It’s 11 PM and an hour has passed since I started this blog. I am not up for company. I am not okay with this. No one else knows what I am dealing with in my mind. No one knows that I feel dead to the world, that I slept all day, that sleep is a form of disconnecting to life. My family doesn’t know how I struggle because they have their own struggles as well. My mom has to work 6 to 7 days a week for a delivery company because she is unable to find a regular job. She’s constantly tired, stressed. I wonder if she’s depressed. I feel as if I am alone in this little life that I lead. That I am alone and that no one knows how I’m struggling. I just want validation that I exist. I just need to keep making it to the next hour and the next day, day by day, hour by hour. I can do this only because I have to.

Worthy

I made it to my birthday. I made it past my birthday. I made it to here. Here is where my true new road begins. The road where I can leave all of the bad things in the past and finally look forward. I have been humming along to an Adele song throughout the day. It just popped into my head this morning as I was driving to the Hall of Justice and repeating my mantra and prayers. I know the tune but the only actual words to the song that I know are “how bittersweet this could be,” and “and sometimes it hurts instead.” I could look up the lyrics but never mind that. I like the picture that is created in mind from my memory. Those quotes are very appropriate for describing my morning.

My day started at 7:00 with the sound of my first of three alarm clocks. I made time to eat strawberries which I had washed and cut the night before, and some yogurt. I made Earl Grey tea with the tea bags my mom had sent me. The sun had already been awake for some time by the time I stepped out of my front door. It was difficult to find parking downtown and it was also expensive. None of that bothered me. What was important was that I had arrived on time.

As the victim advocate led me into the conference room they had set aside for the morning, I saw two other women in suits. They stood up and introduced themselves and greeted me. I sat down and as I was listening to the intro speech I broke out in tears. It was intimidating walking into that room, with the door closed. There were tissues. I had my cup of hot tea to comfort me. I had dressed up but was still wearing comfortable clothes. I knew I was going to be okay.

It took about two hours to tell my story. That’s an hour less than during my practise run with my friend the week before. She hadn’t heard my story before then. The sheriff took occasional notes on a notepad whilst the district attorney was fully attentive, and ready to make eye contact whenever I was ready. I couldn’t for the hard parts. In front of the DA there was a two-inch neat and organized pile of paper which consisted of the documentation for the case. At the end, I was reassured that this documentation stays on file. It doesn’t go anywhere. It will even be scanned in for electronic files.

It was impossible to go in chronological order. The important bits came to mind sporadically and I jumped from topic to topic. I spoke of general trends of the abusive relationship and I also gave specific examples. Unfortunately coercion and manipulation and brainwashing are not illegal. Rape is. And the sexual abuse falls under the category of domestic violence, which is also illegal. But I didn’t make any reports to the police at the time that they happened, so there was no record of these events having happened. Driving someone to suicide also isn’t illegal. The justice system is not something that I would ever want to fully comprehend. How it works, why it works, why some rapists go free of any charges, how justice doesn’t always come to fruition.

Let’s take a break and enjoy the fact that I have hot peach tea brewing in one of my favourite huge Italian mugs, with saucer, of course. I hand-picked them at different stores back when I had money, that is, substantial alimony. All of which has been rightfully spent, because it needed to be. I needed to be able to sustain myself. Now I have a stable, full-time job, and I am supporting myself. I don’t have to rely on anyone. I have healthier relationships in the people with which I surround myself. There is a state fund for victims of crimes for which I applied today. They might be able to help me pay for some of my therapy. I wish I had known about this years ago. I am glad for any help I can get. However, it’s also nice to be able to have private health insurance. It’s a luxury that some people just cannot sustain.

By the end of the week I will learn the outcome of the case. The DA will contact me herself. It’s likely there will not be a hearing, during which I would have to face my assailant in front of a judge. It’s even less likely that from there it would go to trial. But I won’t know until I know so there’s no saying where this will go. My professor friend, with whom I spent the rest of the day, says that I cast a shadow upon him. No matter what happens, this case will always be on file, and if in the future he does something stupid and his victim gets out alive as I did, and they report it, there will be my case to reference.

Burden of proof. That’s a phrase ringing in my ear. It’s a new term. I’m not familiar with the courts. We, meaning those supporting me, would have to bear the burden of proof. I’m not going to meet up with a former rapist of mine, like I was planning on doing last week. He has media, photos and video, of sexual acts from eight years ago. But it does not prove that those acts were non-consensual or forced.

They said they believe me. Every woman in that room today believes my story. They repeated this several times so that it would stick with me. The outcome of this case has nothing to do with credibility. The district attorney said she read every single word that I wrote, my outline, my 20-page summary, all of the emails and journals from the past that I had forwarded. She knows my case inside and out, from my perspective. She knows what happened to me. Someone in the justice system finally has heard my story. This is where I am supposed to move on.

“No matter what happens today, my life will still move forward.” This was a mantra that one of my therapists suggest I repeat to myself. I did, on the drive down, and on the walk to the building. I do and I don’t want this to go further. I am not ambivalent. I am for and against it. I am for it because that would mean an evil abuser gets called out for his actions, and against it, because I would have to face him in person and become retraumatised.

I wish the sheriff had said more during the meeting. That wasn’t her job, it was to be a witness. But I wanted to connect with her too, the way I had with the DA. I thought that this was going to be guided and directed by them, but I had free reign of topic and conversation direction. The main thing that was important is that everyone was really nice to me and treated me with respect and gentle kindness. No judgements were passed. They just listened.

The rest of the afternoon was celebratory. I met my semi-retired professor friend at a park. We walked and talked and stood and talked. His glasses change shade when he’s in the sun, and I was wearing a hat I rarely don. We exchanged stories. I handed him my purse and ran ahead of him like a teenager might do. I stretched my arms and hands out for extended periods of time to signify that “I am free”. I am in an open stance, not closed up. Had I gone home and stayed home after this big day, I would have closed up, curled into myself on my couch, lost myself to a nap. I’m glad the day panned out so wonderfully. We went to the pier, had a fresh fish sandwich. He treated me. We went for a long, two-hour walk up and down the water. We talked about sex and relationships and abused children (he is a child development professor). He suggested I think about signing up to be a Big Sister down the road, maybe this Fall. Three hours minimum per week for a year. I can do that. It’s that young person’s therapy, but it would be so good for me too, to be a mentor to a teen who needs a role model. I would try to specifically request for a child who has been sexually abused. Because that’s where I want to go with my therapy training eventually.

I have this mere hour at home, before I drive to see a female friend whom I have known for eight years. She knew me when all of the bad things were happening in my life, although we weren’t close at the time. She has seen me come a long way. From spontaneously breaking down in sobs at the beach a year ago of being overwhelmed by the past, memories, and sensory stimulation around other people, to where I am today. Both feet are on the ground and I am standing up and walking forward, albeit cautiously with a wise mind. We are going to spend time together tonight to celebrate some more. Many people who know me know what a significant role today’s actions play in my life.

I am allowed to personify parts of my body. No one else may ever take that liberty again. And thus, I maintain that my stomach is “happy” (thus it emotes) and my mind is finally at rest, after two weeks of anxiety leading up to my statement today. I know who I am. I know who I want to become. I know where I want to go. I see myself achieving those goals step by step. I see myself in the field of psychology, and I know I can make it through the hard years of studying and training to get there. I can’t see myself doing anything else for a career. I want to have a career. Whereas ten years ago my biggest hope was to be a stay-at-home mom, and that is an endeavour which I so commend, it’s no longer something I aspire to. In addition to helping any possible future child of mine, I need to be helping other people. I need to pay my eight years of psychotherapy forward. Compassion for others and kindness to myself will help me get there at a healthy pace. I feel good, and although that feeling might not last for very long, as my emotions still go in waves, I am going to enjoy it for the moment. Because I deserve it. And I am so very worthy of this life I am living now.

Another Day of Self Care

While skimming through some of my older blogs I began to feel overwhelmed, of which feeling was then replaced with a mute kind of inner strength. I have finally found my voice, after all of those years of not having one. This is me. I am allowed to be me. I can say what I want and it’s okay to feel up or down without having to put a mask on. It’s not “fake” to smile at co-workers when I’m not feeling good. It’s merely a social courtesy, and a gift to the passer-by, because if you smile at them you are giving them a sort of positive, momentary human interaction. The ones that bother me are those two people at the office who say, “Hi, how are you?” They ask every time how I am and it’s pretty obvious they just want me to say “fine” so I’ve been ignoring the last part of the sentence and just saying “Hi” back. They don’t seem to notice the difference.

I am sitting on my usual spot on my couch, upright supported by a pillow behind my back, my cozy white blanket over my cross-legged lap and a brewed chai tea to my right which is no longer hot. (I hate water so I drink tea instead). My phone isn’t blowing up, but occasionally there will be a buzz, and it’s usually my cousin who posts on Facebook 12 times a day, nothing directed at me specifically, so I don’t read those messages. My roommate has been gone all weekend, but we rarely see each other anyway. I quickly did the dishes in the sink so she will find it clean when she gets home. Her life-sized teddy bear sits lazily on top of the small, white bench we never use. It is still light outside although it feels dark to me. That’s the cloud over my mind. I have this habit of rubbing my skin with my fingers to find dirt, because I’ve often felt as if I’m dirty. It started years ago. I’ll rub the skin on my upper chest until it gets red and I’ve managed to scrape off a minuscule part of dirt combined with dead skin cells. I’ve read somewhere that this is a form of self-harm like self-scratching to an unusual extent, which I have done before too. I just see it as a formed habit and I only do it when no one is looking. Like picking my nose.

I’m not sure what to do with myself for the next three hours before bedtime. I do have to shower, which as usual, I am not looking forward to. Tuesday is almost here. I needn’t ready because I already have sent to the DA’s office my 20-page written statement, which encompasses most of the horror story I lived through. I was abused, raped, tortured, manipulated, forced to drink, coerced, bound, kept, owned, encouraged to do awful things, received praise for doing those awful things, pimped out, prostituted, used, undignified, hurt, infantilised, objectified, put down, isolated, ostracised, stigmatized, hated, pressured, constrained, changed, ignored. I was all of those things and more. Those things defined me at the time, yet are now a part of an increasingly distant past, though the past is so real and often encroaches on my present healing. It is important for me to repeat to myself the truths of my story including, “I was raped” because it validates my past, which is a part of me. I’ve been repeating that one a lot lately, kind of like an unhealthy but necessary mantra.

I’m not feeling positive, but also not negative, but also definitely not neutral. I’m on both ends of the spectrum. I know that going into the interview on Tuesday will feel surreal and scary. I know that I will be mentally exhausted afterwards. I know that I have scheduled to meet with a friend afterwards to decompress and distract my mind of the difficult undertaking.

I didn’t go to the adult birthday party last night. Instead, I went to bed super early and stayed in bed for the next 18 hours. Pretty typical for my weekends. I would rather be in bed than be alive sometimes. I had some really vivid dreams, although I do not remember the content of them, just that at times my ex-husband was there and at other times my brother was present. I do remember dreaming that my ex touched my bottom with his hand and I smacked him hard. What I really did was reach out, extend my arm, and collide into the wooden frame of my bed. The pain on my wrist woke me up momentarily. I’m finally fighting back! Even in my dreams!! That’s great. Good for you. Good job. Kudos. You are strong. You can do this. You’ve got it. You’re good. You’re amazing. I’m so proud of you. I am in awe at what you’ve been through. Talking to myself in this way helps.

I ate half a bag of cookies for dinner. Earlier I ate cereal and soy milk for lunch. At some point I might microwave something a little more substantial, or not. It’s really up to me. I can do what I want in terms of self care. I am autonomous. Thank the Lord I did not choose to become institutionalized for my mental illness. My psychiatrist at the hospital, after my round of ECTs, gave me that choice. It would have set me back in my healing process. Or it could have helped me. But I think it would have taken me many more years to get back on my feet. I wouldn’t have the good job that I have now. At work, they have no idea what I’ve been through and what I’m going through, and it’s better that way. One day, though, I want to tell the world my story. This blog is a first step. And I’ll be known by my pen name. I want other abuse survivors to hear my story so that they know they are not alone.