Day 45 – If You Love Him Let Him Go.

One month after I turned 18 I got married to a boy I met in high school.

We didn’t date very long before we were engaged.

Having spent all those years in trauma and chaos, I couldn’t wait to get a fresh start. I found this gentle giant who was quiet and shy and respectful. I didn’t hestitate to say yes.

His life had been somewhat traumatic also, having lost his mother to brain cancer just before we met.

Anyway, I believe that we started out just needing one another out of desperation to give love and to be loved.

But even from the beginning of our marriage I had problems with intimacy.

In spite of all the difficult things we went through we loved each other with a simple kind of “we fit together” love.

The birth of our son brought us even closer and we matured a lot in our relationship at that time.

The only problem with our marriage is that we loved each other so much that neither of us wanted to see the other in pain.

I was hurting so bad in those days and the intimacy seemed to compound my feelings of shame. Whenever I would tell him about my nightmares or emotional pain, he would be so sad. But he never knew how to comfort me. And I couldn’t tell him what I needed.

By the same token, he had a lot of emotional pain and had no idea how to even voice it.

One day, after 11 years of marriage, I said, “Let’s get divorced”. He said, “Ok, when do you want to do it?”

And it was that simple. No arguing. No fighting. Just two people in indescribable pain and no way to express it.

We divorced less than one year later.

As time went on, we both remarried. But I can’t help but to think about the what ifs.

Childhood sexual abuse not only devestated my life but also my husband’s and my son’s lives.

That’s a guilt that I’m not sure I will ever be able to let go off.

I don’t know if I will ever find that kind of love again.

But if I do, I pray that I will be able to love and be loved.

Most of the time, it’s a struggle to feel worthy of being loved. I’m working on it. But first I have to learn to love me.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

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Day 44 – The Resort Part 3 – They Know

At the age of 15 and after being in a small psychiatric hospital for about 3 months, my life was about to take an even more drastic change.

I was admitted to this hospital after 2.5 years of sexual abuse by my uncle.  Only no one knew about the abuse.  I was admitted because I kept asking to move away.  Now that I was here, my only issues appeared to be depression and anorexia.  Most of my time there was spent on learning my diagnosis and hearing about alternative behaviors.  Still no one asked the question, “Why?”.

One Sunday evening, about 8 pm, I was sitting in a break room with a girl I knew from high school and one of the techs on duty.  My friend, Gwen, disclosed that she had an “affair” with her uncle and was feeling really sad about it.  My response to her was something to the affect that she shouldn’t feel terrible because others have done it.  Including me.  Mike (the tech) seemed to be a little shocked but really didn’t comment on our conversation.  Little did I know, that our stories would be reported to law enforcement the next morning.  Life as I knew it, however horrible it had been, was about to become more awful than it had ever been.

The next morning, the RN in charge came to my room and told me that my parents were being notified at that moment.  I was in shock.  I was so afraid.  I was embarrassed.  I was humiliated.  I felt like I had been tricked, even though I shared the information freely. I thought the hospital was my safe place.  I thought I could confide anything to the staff and be safe.

After hearing that my parents were being made aware, I waited for her to exit, and then began to barricade myself in the room.  I put my dresser and my bed up against the door. I was sobbing and trying to see thru the tears.  After that was done, I grabbed a soft drink can off of my desk, and pulled the tab off of it.  I began to cut myself with this tab, and I remember praying to God to please let me die.  But as I’m doing the cutting, I can hear numerous voices at the door and people yelling, “Let us in, Open the Door”, etc.  Since the doors didn’t lock, it wasn’t long before all of those people made it into the room.  I was wrestled down to the floor even though I wasn’t fighting.  I  was picked up and carried down the hall to a seclusion room.

Once in the room, I was given a shot with a very strong sedative.  My clothes were removed except for my bra and panties.  No blanket. No pillow.  Just a mattress on the floor.  Before I passed out from the drugs, I remember thinking how bright and cold the room was.

I was in there for maybe 24 hours. I’m not really sure because the hours felt like days and the days felt like an eternity.  All I knew was that it was Monday morning when I went in.  No other time seemed to matter after knowing the whole world knew about my shame.

On Wednesday evening, my cousin (my uncle’s youngest daughter), called to tell me that I had ruined her life and the lives of everyone in the family. I said nothing.  I just looked at the floor silently crying.  She was my best friend in the whole world and now she was gone too.

My parents didn’t come to see me until Saturday.  They said they were too overwhelmed. They were so angry at me for not telling them.

Two weeks later I was discharged from the hospital.  Since I had told the story, I no longer needed inpatient care.  I was ready to go home and be with my parents.  No therapy needed.

I was discharged early on a Saturday morning.  As we are driving home, my parents tell me that we are having a party.  These parties were not uncommon.  It usually consisted of Saturday thru Sunday night and lots of people drinking, doing drugs and eating. I remember thinking that I didn’t want anyone there.  I only wanted to hide and not be seen.  I think somewhere in the back of my mind I thought that this would be a one on one healing time for my parents and I.  How wrong I was.  Shortly after, friends and family started arriving and the partying began.

drinking 1

I cried all weekend.  I felt like I had lost my safety net and the few people who cared if I lived or died.  On Sunday evening, I told my parents that I wanted to go back to the hospital or die.  I think  I said die because I knew it would scare them enough to take me back. And they did.

I was re-admitted on Sunday night.  I was truly happy to be back to the crazy children and dysfunctional staff that made me feel like family.

The following Monday morning, I was notified by staff that I could not discuss the abuse with them and that I was being encouraged to share more with my parents so that we could work toward going home permanently.

I was there two more weeks basically in complete silence.  Now, when I needed to talk more than ever, I wasn’t allowed to unless it was my parents.  And, that was never going to happen.

Finally,  4 months after my original admission, I was sent home to live with my loving family and live happily ever after.

girl trees1

I tell this story because mental health has come a long way since this time, however, there is still so much family shame and secrecy surrounding sexual abuse.

I was a victim of sexual abuse, but also a victim of blame.  I was the person who made it all happen.  I was the person who wrecked the whole family.  I was the little girl with so much power to destroy lives.

As am I trying to figure out this healing journey, I have to make a conscious daily effort to forgive.  Sometimes I have to work hard at just blocking it all out so that I can complete my work day.  There are nights when I lay in bed with the reality of those days being manifested in nightmares or flashbacks.

I have seen him standing at my bedroom door on more than one occasion.  It sometimes takes me days to get over realistic nightmares that include family members or abuse scenes.   Talking or writing about it can cause those to happen.  Sometimes those things happen without any apparent reason at all.

But what I’m learning is that the secrets haven’t helped me thru my life.  They have only caused me to miss out on love and happiness.  I’m here now, trying to tell my story so that I can be free of shame and secrecy.  They are truly my greatest enemy.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 43 – The Resort II – The Inside Story

My first night in the psychiatric hospital at the age of 15 was probably one of the most frightening nights of my life.  Not only did my roommate threatened to kill me but there were 25 other adolescent patients with the same ideas going on in their heads.  At least in my mind anyway.

Being locked in was new to me. We had 10 acres of land at home,  and I was generally always hiding somewhere. Especially when the fighting and drugs or alcohol came out.  I never went inside until it was time for bed.

Anyway, I had no idea how this place operated or what was expected of me.  The first morning, everyone got up and went to breakfast and I’m still in the room. Swearing I’d never go out of the room.

One of the techs came to get me and said I wasn’t allowed to go back into the room until the evening time.  I remember some sort of speech about participating and earning points for privileges, etc.

When  I went into the lunchroom, everyone just stared at me.  They kept asking me the same question.  “What did you do?”  Apparently they all did something bad to get there??  Anyway, I just said “nothing” and looked at the ground.  Of course, in my mind, I’m thinking, “What did I do?”.

I had no idea meal time would be such a big ordeal.  I was admitted weighing 89 lbs. I was very thin.  I guess what we call now, anorexic.  I never ate at home.  I couldn’t.  Most of the time, I would try to eat and just cry.   Anyway, I was immediately ordered 3 meals and 3 interval meals a day.  Basically 6 meals.  I didn’t even know it was humanly possible to eat that much food.  But If I didn’t eat, I could not earn any privileges.  For the first 48 hours, I was on suicide watch.  I didn’t even know what the word meant. But what it meant there is one person following your every move.  One on one everything.  Including restroom breaks.

What a change from home.  No one cared if was inside or out.  No one cared if I ate or didn’t eat.  But here, I was really important apparently.

The third day that I was there, Marissa’s boyfriend Danny went crazy in the lunchroom.  He started screaming curse words and pulled his belt off and began swinging the belt buckle at everyone and everything.  He broke some glass windows. He turned over tables. And scared me even more than I was already was.

Danny was immediately wrestled to the ground by 4 or 5 people and taken to “seclusion”. I did not know what that meant but I soon found out.  I found this picture online and it looks exactly as I remember the seclusion room.

After breakfast, we would line up at the nurses room for medications.  No one told me I’d be on medications.  I was on anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, sedatives and sleeping pills.  I kept telling them that I didn’t take medicine and didn’t need medicine and everyone laughed at me.

The medicines were liquid and all in gallon jugs.  It was so strange to me.  It only took me a few days to realize that all of those meds would keep me zoned out and not feeling much of anything.

After meds, was group time.  Why in the world would you want to put 25 dysfunctional children in one room together? I had no idea what to say or do.  I would just zone out and let them do their sharing and crying, cursing, or whatever.

We would spend a little time outside and then get ready for lunch.  Lunch was more of the same suffering thru a  meal and sitting with the crazy kids. After lunch was occupational or art therapy.  Sometimes my psychiatrist would visit and I’d be with him for a few minutes.  He never said anything really, except that I would be there for another week.

Then it was dinner time.  More of the same lunchroom trauma.  I hated going in there.  I hated eating.  I hated breathing.

After dinner, we would have free time.  For me, that was my time to shut down.  I would sit in the hallway and just stare at the walls.  For those two hours, I didn’t hear or see anyone.  It was just me and the walls.  It was my only escape.  One last group session before bed and off to the room with scary Marissa.

Oh and part of our bedtime ritual was to recite our diagnosis and symptoms and discuss our treatment plan.  We had to say what we must accomplish in order to earn privileges.  I think my symptoms list was 20 or more.  I became a professional at identifying my flaws.  It made me hate myself even more.

Down the hall were the adults.  We weren’t allowed to speak to them.  But they could see us thru the window on the door and we could see them.  They seemed so creepy.  Also, they would bring adults thru our wing to take them for electro-shock therapy.  They would pass us looking so fearful and come out looking dead.  I would usually just look at the ground or block it out any way I could. I always wondered if my adult life would be that.  It made me dread becoming an adult.

The staff was another story in itself.  A couple of them seemed professional and genuinely caring.  But most of them seemed to have their own demons.  Several of them were sexually involved with one another.  Sometimes even making out in a seclusion room or a closet.   One of the men took a special interest in me, and was always trying to help me escape, or get special privileges.  Later, I will share more about him and how we remained friends after the hospital discharge.

The reason that I am sharing this part of the story, is that it truly was just as traumatic as all of those years of abuse.  I don’t know how I survived it.  But I did. I think I survived the same way I did everything else. Just shut it all out.  Zone out. Don’t think and don’t feel and it will eventually go away.

There is definitely more to share about this place but I’ll leave it there for now. I don’t know how psychiatric hospitals are these days, and I hope I never have to find out.  I definitely would rather die (or kill myself) than to ever have to be admitted to one of those places again.

Mental health care has come a long way.  At least my journey with PTSD is very different than the care I had as a teenager.  Mrs. A is respectful and kind and seems to genuinely care about me. She’s helping me become mindful and aware of my thoughts and self-talk.  It’s all very new to me and enlightening.  A lot of my behaviors were so programmed that I never even thought about my responses to people or sounds, smells, etc.  I just reacted in that same child-like way that I had always dealt with everything.

I am a professional at turning off feelings.  And even telling this story, I really feel like it’s not even a part of me.  Like I’m telling someone else’s story.

But I’m determined to feel again.  I’m determined to cry when I’m sad and laugh when I’m happy.  For most people, that is an automatic human response.  For me, it’s not normal and not done without a lot of negative self talk.

First, I have to conquer the freezing, numbing and zoning out.  And then I have to feel and not run from those feelings. Only then, can I begin to sort out all of these things and believe that this actually happened to me.

This is MY story.  This is MY life.  And It’s not a secret any more.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 42 – The Resort

At the age of 15 and after 10 years of childhood trauma, I was not doing so well.

I was withdrawn, depressed, anorexic and suicidal.

My parents kept asking saying “What is wrong with you?” I couldn’t ever explain what was really happening so I would just tell them that I wanted to go live with my older sister in another state.

The truth is that I was very sick physically and emotionally and I needed more care than any family could give me at that time.

My mother had been seeing a psychiatrist for many years. She said it would be best if we went to him.

I’ll never forget this day. Ever. It was 2:00pm and I sat down with this Doctor and he asked me what was wrong. I told him I didn’t know. I guess I really did not know.

After talking to him for the traditional 50 minutes, he called my parents in and asked me to wait outside. He told them I needed inpatient hospital care. They agreed. Im sure they were relieved to not have to deal with my issues for a while.

They called me in the office a couple of minutes later. The doctor says, “I know this nice place you can go to. It’s like a resort. You can play games and swim and meet other kids, etc. Inside I was thinking, “please just take me anywhere but home”.

The doctor said, “ok great, let me call and get you a room”.

I waited in his lobby for hours. At 7 pm my parents were finally driving me to the “resort”.

The resort turned out to be a private very small mental hospital. I guess it was considered advanced psychiatric care at that time.

It took two hours to go thru admissions and then came time to say goodbye to my parents. I don’t remember feeling sad or scared. I just thought I would finally be free.

They took me back to my room and all the other kids were just staring. I was introduced to my roommate, named Marissa. She said hi and then said this. “My boyfriend is Danny and if you talk to him I will fxxxing kill you!”

At that moment, any dream I had of freedom died. I went from an awful home environment to hell on earth.

I was there for four months. It literally was like watching a scary movie except I had the lead role.

What I had already endured was not going to be the end of the story. Going to the “resort” was not my happy ending.

As time goes by, I’ll share more about the “resort” and the things that happened there.

I’m happy to say that after 32 years of looking at that building it was finally torn down.

I pray to God that psychiatric hospitals are not like that any more. And God bless the people that have to go there for their own protection.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

Day 41 – Piled up

My son, Andrew, was born in 1986.  I was 22 years old.  I was so happy to be a Mom and I knew that I would do anything and everything in my power to assure that he had a better life than I had.

He got sick the first time when he was 6 months old.  He never really got well after that.  He had an undiagnosed immunodeficiency.  Which meant he picked up every cold or virus or infection that was going around.  Including some not so common infections.

I never was able to go back to work after he was born.  But I loved being a mom so staying home was ok.

At 12 months old, he had his first really big bout with pneumonia and had a really hard time recovering.  Again, he never really got well.  He just got better and then worse again.

When he was 2, I was driving home from church one Sunday night. Several other people were coming by for dinner after church and weren’t too far behind me.  My husband had been working so he wasn’t with me.  It was just my son and myself.

As we were heading home, we were in a horrible car accident.  Someone pulled out in front of the car immediately in front of me, which caused a chain reaction.  My car was in between two others so it was completely totaled. The front of the car was gone and the rear of the car was gone. The only thing left was our passenger areas.  Thankfully,  my son was fastened securely in his car seat so he was not injured.

I was injured pretty badly.  I had a lot of damage to my neck, back, shoulders and chest from getting whiplash in both directions.  There were two separate impacts so each gave me different injuries.  I also was bruised up pretty much everywhere.  I was taken to the hospital and released but had to begin intense physical therapy and wore a neck brace etc.

My first few moments in the ambulance, I remember thinking that I couldn’t be a mom to a sick little boy if I was broken.  The guilt was awful. How did I let this happen?  How was I so careless.  Yes, I thought all those things.  In those days, there was nothing I didn’t blame myself for.  I was just continuing the blame that I had always known.

The pain was so intense, but I could not take pain medications and care for my son.  At the time, my husband was working three jobs to for all the medical bills, medications, etc.  There was no way he could help me care for our child.

Some how, some way, I managed to care for this little boy and endure two years of physical therapy.  Holding him was painful.  Lifting him was painful. Bathing him was painful. Everything hurt.  And he was sick this entire time.

That meant caring for him as if nothing was wrong with me.  Doctor appointments, hospital stays, etc.

And some how, I did it.

I was thinking tonight, as I’m driving home from having dinner with my amazing son, how strong and brave I had to be during that time.  How did I do it?  How was I able to get up each day and push thru?

Of course, prayer was always a big part of my life, but a lot of times, when I was in the shower and in so much pain, I would cry and ask God why this was happening to me.

What I didn’t see then, is how incredibly strong I was.

The first miracle is that we were alive.  The second miracle is that I was able to care for him regardless of my physical condition.   And the  third miracle is that I did it with joy. I never ever resented having to care for him. I was just so grateful to be a Mom.

I started to compare that time to now.  Working thru PTSD and feeling so weak at times.  Many days, I have felt that it really couldn’t get any worse than this.  But how quickly I lose sight of all that I have survived.

Even though at that time, it seemed everything was piled up, I found a reason to live, love and have joy.

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When I first saw this picture, I thought it was so appropriate.  Even though the rocks were piled up there was a bridge to get over them. I just had to elevate myself.  I had to encourage myself.  I had to find a way to go forward.  And I did.

Now, if I can just remember this the next time I have a nightmare, or flashback, or memory that I can’t shake.  If only I can remember the next time I’m in therapy and am so overwhelmed with emotions, that I can’t even speak. If only I can remember my own strength and resilience.

I have it in me.  I am strong.  I am a warrior.  Piled up or not, I will survive.  Now, If only I can remember.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

 

Day 40 – Healing High.

Since the beginning of this blog, I could just sit down and write.  Never really had to think about it.

Today is Tuesday.  I haven’t written since Saturday.  Writing means I’m required to think and feel and try to put that in words.

I haven’t felt well. My stomach has not been feeling good.  One of the things that happens to me, is that when I’m really trying to avoid feeling emotions, is that my insides get all turned around. My stomach hurts.  My blood pressure gets out of control and I normally get a whopper headache.

This weekend I needed to cope with some deep feelings.  But I just couldn’t allow myself to even cry.  I’m sure that the people that were with me had no idea that I was thinking or feeling anything but happiness.

Why do I do that?  Why can’t I just cry like others do? Why can’t I just feel the emotions and not be afraid of them?

The truth is that yesterday, I kept thinking that this recovery thing sucks, and what’s the point?  I hate that I feel so great for a while and then can plunge so far down into that deep hole in a matter of minutes.

I used to be able to be so insensitive.  Now I feel like I’m sensitive about everything.  I feel like feelings are everywhere and I can’t escape them.

For 36 hours, I felt so awful and for 36 hours I felt so guilty for feeling awful.  Why can’t I just say, “that made me really sad” and just go with the tears or the anger or whatever. Instead is dissociate and numb until I can move on. There never really is a point where I deal with what happened.  I literally just move on.

I guess in a sense, it is the weakest way to deal with things.

There really is no point to this blog post except to say that I fell off my healing high and was so disappointed in myself.  Now I have to forgive myself and not be hard on myself.

I am not good at nurturing myself or forgiving myself.  But regardless, I must pick up the pieces and try to find some peace.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.

 

 

Day 39 – I Came Out Last Night

Last night I shared my story on blog talk radio. It was the first time I have ever share a synopsis of my life. I shared personal information on a national radio show.

Ten minutes before the show, I was pacing around the room. I knelt down to pray and asked God for the right words to say.

As usual, I was worried about saying the wrong thing or sounding unintelligent.

The show lasted about 90 minutes. I’m not even sure I was breathing during that time.

A lot of thoughts went thru my mind before during and after. Part of me wondered if people would think it sounded too unreal to be true.

In a sense I felt like I had betrayed my family by telling the “secrets”.

The truth is that they aren’t around anyway, so it shouldn’t matter.

I felt very strong and powerful for making it thru in one piece. I had a lot of encouragent from friends.

The purpose of the show is to bring awareness to and stop child sexual abuse.

This organization has become family. The support and tools that you can find there are priceless.

I have recently become an ambassador for NAASCA and I hope to serve any way I can.

Anyway, I did the show and finished and spent sometime watching a movie to try and forget all of the things I had just told on the air.

I had a very hard time settling. I was restless and anxious. I wasn’t expecting it to feel so real.

I had heavy sadness, last night and all day today. It’s such a mixture of emotions.

I don’t think that I have truly accepted it as MY life.

Today was my granddaughter’s birthday so it helped me to stay focused. She helps me to stay grounded.

She’s turning 13 tomorrow and it’s hard to watch her at this age and not feel some sadness for myself. I am scared to death for her because there are so many awful things happening in the world right now. I just want to lock her up at home and never let her be hurt by anyone.

She is beautiful and becoming such an amazing young woman. I hope she never sees the ugly part of the world that I grew up with. Here she is a few months ago –

Im so exhausted tonight. I have had 4 nights with very little sleep. I’m praying for a night of peace even if I can’t sleep.

I appreciate everyone that supported me doing the show. I do feel like the secret is out.

Maybe now, I can move on and prepare for the next time that I am given the opportunity to tell my story.

Until next time – I am being MJ every day.