Up to twenty percent of all men will be raped in their lifetime.
This is his story:
Three days ago, I went out with some friends. We ended up at a local bar where I used to work. Working there meant that I got to know the locals - one in particular, a older man named John.
I always thought he was a cool, chill guy who liked talking to me.
I was wrong.
I went over to say hi to him and he bought me a glass of wine. That's where my memory ends: I can't remember anything until I woke up vomiting in his bed. Then... nothing. Then I woke up in a panic, yelling at him to "take me back to the pub."
It's all snippets and blurs from there.
I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I know I was sore the next day.
My friend told me that when she spoke to me that night, I looked as though I was looking through her. I left my car keys, cellphone and wallet at the bar - which is not like me at all.
While my memory is still in pieces, I've managed to put together that he somehow got me to his car, took me to his house, and raped me.
Being a guy, I feel so ashamed, disgusted, not only about him but about myself, too.
I shouldn't have taken that drink from him. Never have I felt so violated by anything. I've gone to the doctor and I've told my parents; soon I'll be seeing a psychologist.
At the end of the day, I feel like no one is safe - no matter what - that we must be careful.
I will get through this trauma, it will not become my life.
Thanks for reading, The Band.
I graduated with my Bachelors of Psychology in December 2011 and in June, 2012, I got what I thought was my dream job, although, has nothing to do with my degree. In fact, I don't need the degree for the job.
The job offers good pay, good insurance, and has very little contact with the public - which I thought was a good thing, considering I have generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. As these conditions are exacerbated when dealing with large amounts of people or stress, this was a good thing, or so I thought.
I work in a small department - only nine people - coding insurance claims for a local medical company. All of us are women.
There were many red flags, which, in hindsight, I realize I shouldn't have ignored.
During my interview, my soon-to-be boss told me that the girl who I was replacing was leaving thanks to a horrible rumor about her husband that another girl (who'd been fired) started. I couldn't understand why she was leaving as the girl responsible had been fired, but I chose not worry about it.
I was a little surprised that The Boss was sharing this during the interview, but she said she wanted me to be aware of the environment I'd be entering. She wanted me to know that no one else started rumors; that she considered it an awful thing to do. I agreed with her; if you have a problem with someone, you should talk to the other and work it out, rather than talking behind their back, allowing rumors and half-truths to be spread.
She also said during the interview was that the two women had gone to HR and The Boss's boss to complain about her, which she was deeply offended by. She explained that if you have a problem with her, you should come to her first to discuss it. Another flag, but I figured that she was right; it was professional courtesy to take it to her first.
It wasn't long before The Boss asked me how I was enjoying my work. I assured her it was wonderful and during our conversation she began complaining about several of my coworkers.
I was shocked.
She'd been clear during the interview that she didn't like talking about others behind their back. Plus, she's The Boss - The Boss isn't supposed to complain about employees to other employees; it causes huge problems. Backstabbing from the top leads people to believe they're better than everyone else, and it makes the more paranoid among us wonder what she's saying about us behind our backs.
After that, I started avoiding conversations with her. I wanted to avoid hearing her complain about other employees so I wouldn't see them differently. Plus, I didn't want to give her ammunition to complain about me.
Soon, I got comfortable enough with one of my coworkers that I started talking about my problem: sometimes I wished we didn't have so much overtime, because it made my new husband upset that I didn't have as much time for him.
Shortly after that conversation, we learned that our department might be outsourced. I told the same coworker that I'd be updating my resume in case we didn't have jobs much longer.
Then, The Boss stopped talking to me entirely. The other girl who did my job began ignoring me when I said anything, gave me sideways looks, and started keeping her headphones on. Several times a day, she'd go into the back and whispering with The Boss.
To cope, I started listening to music - I figured it was okay as my coworker did it.
At the beginning on January, The Boss asked me aside for a talk.
She proceeded to tell me that everyone in the office hated me - no one wanted to work with me, because all I did was listen to music. They thought I was a snob. I'd made my primary coworker cry as she thought I wouldn't work any more overtime; she felt she was doing more work than me (not true). That I'd said to her The Boss was "ruining my marriage," and "I hated my job so much I was revamping my resume."
Everything I'd said to my primary coworker was repeated, and twisted to The Boss to make me sound awful. I was sobbing.
The Boss continued - she realized that I was introverted, and while I'm good at my job, and she felt I was highly intelligent, if she'd known, I was introverted, she wouldn't have hired me, as the position required an extrovert. Which is silly, because half the people in the office are quiet introverts.
Finally, she named the people who hadn't said anything about me; that she was guessing how they felt. I learned that the only person who has a problem with me is my primary coworker whose lies The Boss believes, as they're friends.
After that, I tried to change. I quit listening to music. I made an effort to talk more, even though my work suffered. I worked more overtime, and began working on some of my primary coworkers work to help her.
It hasn't been enough.
For a week, The Boss and coder coworker seemed to like me more, and now things at work are just like they were before I was taken aside by The Boss. What's worse, I absolutely hate my job. I have horrible stress headaches that radiate into my teeth. I can't sleep because I'm so sick with worry about the next work day. I get physically sick to my stomach at work. I can't eat. I'm having daily panic attacks. I cry all of the time.
I can't take it anymore.
My husband might have a job that may allow me to quit, but that might take awhile. We're likely moving in the next couple months, either for his possible job or to be near family.
In the meantime, I have bills to pay. I can't just quit my job. He makes enough now that we'd still make our bills, but the credit cards we stupidly got in college would go unpaid. I would feel awful. And, frankly, I don't want to try to find another job to have to quit in a month or two.
I just don't know what to do.
I just know I can't continue working there.
Someone whose opinion I respect a great deal recently told me I am the strongest woman she knows.
I wanted to tell her she was wrong.
How could I be the strongest woman she knows?
My mother was the strongest woman I have known, and she, to my knowledge, never had a panic attack. In fact, I don't think anyone in my immediate family has.
I can remember the first time I had a panic attack. I was at a band rehearsal after school, struggling with one specific measure in the music. I was also in college credit courses and working at Wendy's, so I had a lot on my mind. When it came time for me to play the measure, I flubbed it badly and got a lot of what I perceived as negative attention. I ended up in tears, hyperventilating, and shaking so badly the section leader told me it was okay to go home. I felt like a failure and that added to my panic.
How could I be considered strong?
My mother never to my knowledge battled depression. My brothers seemed impervious to those demons. Sure, my biological father lost his battle with depression, but knowing this only made me feel like I had some inherent flaw.
My descent into clinical depression was a slow one. A boss who gave me tasks almost guaranteed to fail. Units who "fired" me as their project lead. A job where a whole lot of nothing happened most of the time.
And then the proverbial straw - an injury that left me in pain sitting or standing. It hurt to move. Each diagnosis was something else and the pain continued. Suddenly I lost interest in everything. I could not focus. In a meeting the day everything fell apart, I spent the whole meeting fighting tears and repeating to myself to pay attention.
I felt like a failure.
A disappointment to a family rich in the tradition of military service. How could I be strong, when my mother, nor anyone else in my family had anxiety?
I never much liked riding or driving in cars, but when I was made safety officer for over 3000 people, I began getting daily emails from the main safety office regarding all the ways one can get hurt or die in a car. I became a very nervous driver and passenger. Additionally, being safety officer made me hyper aware of all the dangers that surround us in our everyday lives. Suddenly I experienced flares of anxiety doing things that had never caused me trouble before. Bicycle rides. Cooking. Doing my job as a number cruncher. Working out.
As I approached the end of my Air Force days, I started having chest pains. They were dull, in the wrong place for a heart attack, but scary nonetheless. I walked into sick call and got an EKG immediately. The doctor found nothing wrong, and when I explained that I was leaving the Air Force, moving to New York City, and getting married, she diagnosed the anxiety attack and scoffed, "Wait til you have children!"
I felt like my anxiety was being dismissed as nothing.
I was clearly weak.
What followed was mostly a fog. I remember little from the first three months we lived in New York. How could I be strong? I don't remember even in the hardest of times, my mother or family showing signs of any distress. But here I am regularly having to talk myself into a calm state.
My heart drops into my stomach, pausing before it races back up. My breathing speeds up, my stomach twists into knots, my teeth grind and my shoulders tense. In the subway, even with a vice-like grip on my toddler, I feel anxiety pulsing through. What if he slipped out of my hold? What if he fell into the tracks? In our neighborhood I see so many people and cars not following the traffic lights and even came within thirty seconds of getting struck myself by someone running a light.
So many what-ifs pass through my mind that if I stopped to listen to each one, I would be paralyzed. And that's just the danger-related anxiety. I am constantly worried about bothering people with my double stroller (in-line style). The judgmental stares if my infant is crying, never mind he is teething and we're out for a walk to soothe him. Some days I barely feel up to going out at all.
How could anyone think me strong?
Perhaps because I do go out on those days the inertia is pulling at me to stay home. Perhaps because I manage to be relatively free-range as a parent even though the world seems so randomly malicious. I let my three year old walk on the sidewalk up to the corner without holding my hand. He climbs the highest ladders at the playground.
Maybe because I made New York City my home. I had never lived anywhere with more than 300,000 people. My mother would regularly say she didn't think she could be brave enough to learn the subway system or ride the buses. She would call as I walked home from work and get nervous that I was walking alone. She couldn't imagine feeling safe with a full sidewalk of people walking with you.
Maybe because I adapted to my husband's culture even if the religious aspects are of no importance to me personally. Maybe because I make sure my sons are exposed to that religion and culture even though it does not speak to me. Maybe because I am married to someone on the spectrum, and while there are many wonderful aspects of loving someone with Asperger's Syndrome, I have supported him through his own times of crisis, just as he has supported me through mine. I provide a safe and comfortable home for him to help keep him steady. I recognize when he needs time to decompress and trade or take over evening chores with the kids.
Maybe because I became a stay at home mom when I was fired. It was not my first choice, but I have changed, have come to love this job, and can't imagine wanting to do anything else anymore.
Maybe because I am one of those women who experience depression during pregnancy. Maybe because my recent pregnancy included nausea, vertigo, and the loss of my father. I am an antepartum and postpartum depression warrior.
Maybe because I had to spend the last three years watching Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis rob me of my hero and mentor - my mom. Maybe because my second son was born as hospice eased my mother's last days. That she was gone the day we got home.
Maybe because I am active in support networks reaching out to people struggling with mental health challenges.
Maybe I am stronger than I thought.
You know things are getting bad when on the drive to work, even though they've done nothing to you, you imagine taking your teeth to your partner’s throat and ripping.
You go to work, violate the company policy about browsing all over the internet, then run to the bathroom to puke up your breakfast of chips, peanut butter crackers, and a cookie. Because you found a damned note to yourself about bulimia. This is after you mauled the inside of your left cheek last night to stave off another panic attack that would awaken and scare the living crap out of your partner.
And I can’t afford to get help.
I make just enough at a dead-end office job to give me health insurance, but the deductible is set so high that I’ll never reach it if I want to make rent and eat, too. The local mental health clinic? Won’t touch me because I do have insurance and am not 200% below the poverty guidelines, even though I’m $4,800 in the hole due to reckless spending and emergencies. Too rich to get help, but too poor to afford it, that’s me! The untouchable.
In this state, mental illness is something you brush aside or under the rug; our government has bigger fish to fry. Like trying to cure the meth-heads who keep cropping up because of the desperate measures people take when their hope has run out. If you’re a young woman with no children, no addictions and a job, move along, miss, you’re fine.
But I’m NOT FINE.
I was raised to tough things out by parents who barely believed in doctors. Friends had to drag me to seek medical help for a plethora of conditions I had been harboring for years. They had to force me to realize I could go to the urgent care center because I had gastro so bad I was about to black out from dehydration. It’s taken years to undo that strict doctrine, and now that I’m willing to get help, the door is slammed in my face and I hear the key turning in the lock.
Let’s break it down by a few layers. Outwardly, I’m doing alright. I avoid sunlight thanks to the vitiligo sapping the pigment from my skin, but sunblock and B-12 has tamed that little issue. The dermatillomania needs to take a damned hike, though, before it claims more than my ravaged left heel and various scars. Self-harming? Thankfully in check, thanks to my lovie, though the criss-crossing of past razors and needles remains.
Go inside, and the hiatal hernia is still there, a birth defect made worse by weight gain and eating too big of meals. Thank you, stress eating! I’m grateful that I can breathe, though; immunotherapy has freed me from a life of mouth-breathing, mucky throat and horrible breath. I do need to tackle that whole binge-and-purge issue, though, since it led to my drift away from size 10 pants.
That damned number is causing me too much grief. I’m at a 14, sometimes a 16 if the clothing company is feeling especially vicious. I HATE IT. That 14 may as well be a 24 for how I feel. I binge on processed junk at breakfast, then purge it back out within the hour, panicked that the spicy potato chips will adhere to my thighs. I’m sure the constant puking is great for that hernia! And maybe this is my new, quiet way of harming myself, where the scars won’t show. A scare with Barret esophagus was apparently not enough to deter me, and the pills I take reduce the acids that could scar my throat and mouth.
So what’s fueling the whole crazy engine? I’m hazarding a guess at bipolar, though I can’t afford to be a Real Girl with a diagnosis. The depression leaves me uncaring, slothful, crying over minutia and with a lack of interest in anything that isn’t zoning out. Mania brings some lovely racing and violent thoughts, voices chattering in unknown languages, panic attacks and spreading myself way too thin. Then there’s the whole nasty aggression in both states where I snarl and snap over the small stuff. Plus the reckless spending because that new pot and pan set will SURELY cure my ills and I can totally pay it back, easy as anything!
I wonder if I’m still in reality right now. I have ZERO focus at work (where I’m writing this) and it’s a wonder my ADHD hasn’t gotten me fired yet. I’m the pain in the ass who needs “accommodations” just to work, so I can fidget and dance away the constant excess energy. My own paranoia led to a huge bullying case that ended up being directed at the wrong co-worker, but she was LOOKING AT ME FUNNY. The constant high-energy marathon then crashes, leaving me stealing naps in the bathroom with a toilet-paper holder pillow.
These disorders are eating me alive and taking my loved ones with them. My parents deny that anything is wrong, not wanting to realize that the genetics of the family have targeted their daughter. My poor partner has to deal with constant mood shifts, night terrors, and aggression that talking it out and natural sedatives can’t quell.
I want out.
These violent thoughts offer ways out, to the Summerlands where I can try again someday. Clean slate.
I can’t. I have the key, but that tempting, nicely-finished door has to remain locked.
But what do I do when I don’t have keys for the other doors out?
My second full day on the G-Unit (otherwise known as the General Adult Unit) was when the fun with drugs began.
My psychiatrist took one look at my medication list and was quite surprised. He did a full medical history; questions and all. It wasn't until I was discharged that I found out his full diagnosis: Panic Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, Mixed Episodes.
THAT was when the fun with medication began. I'd walked in with four different types of medications, two of which were discontinued. Bye-bye! Poof!
He wanted to do away with my antidepressant until I informed him it was being used off-label to control my migraines. He agreed to keep me on that as well as my anti-anxiety agent.
That was a big change and it made me worse, which I expected - it was even worse than I'd thought. My husband visited that night. While he was there, he informed me that my step-dad had commented that he "didn't think I should be alone with my son when I got out," that "someone might call CPS on me because of what had happened."
I had a complete meltdown that night: crying uncontrollably, curled up in a ball, gasping for air, nearly screaming. The nurse gave me something to calm down, which I eventually did, but I was so goddamned ANGRY.
I don't think I can even explain the level of anger I felt.
How DARE he? Even now, I'm simply flabbergasted - I can barely look at him.
Visiting hours ended and the wonderful people on the G-Unit came in. I wouldn't have made it through the night without them.
Each night, we had "Wrap-Up," a part of the day where we tell the staff how we are doing - thoughts of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, homicidal thoughts... you get the idea.
My favorite tech, Herbie, told me I could bow out, as I was crying, but everyone on the ward had watched me lose it, so I spilled my guts.
That's when I turned a corner.
That's when I decided I had to fight for me; for my family.
According to my new roommate, I was still up all night panicking, so the doctor upped my anti-anxiety medication.
Friday, that night, I was finally able to see my son for twenty minutes. What a godsend. It was so hard to walk away from his outstretched arms when visiting hours ended.
That night, I began the ritual of calling him and singing lullabies over the phone.
I was fighting so hard, but the medications weren't working. Not yet.
And we were heading into the weekend. The weekend, which meant no regular doctor meetings...
...to be continued.
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