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Out Of The Frying Pan

Starting over fresh can be one of the scariest and most exhilarating things we can do.

This is her story:

“You need to get out of here. Now. While your self-esteem is still intact,” my nurse hissed at me as we pretended to be conferring over a particularly challenging medication pass.

I simply stared at her, my eyes threatening to fill with tears.

“I mean it. This place will chew you up and shred you into a zillion tiny pieces. Get out now!”

I nodded, afraid my voice would give my distress away.

“You okay, Boss?” another nurse came by our “difficult” medication pass.

I shook my head no.

“I saw what just happened – the whole dining room did. What she did was NOT okay, Boss. You deserve better. You’re a good lady,” she continued.

The tears spilled down my cheeks.

“I saw her hit you,” a CNA, also “conferring” on the “difficult” medication pass crept over to chime in. “That’s abuse.”

I nodded, trying to cling to the last vestiges of my leadership. They were right. I just didn’t know what to do: I loved my job, my staff, my building. It was just her.

“Why the hell did she hit you?” yet another CNA pressed some Kleenex into my clutched hand as she wandered up to see how I was doing. “That’s just NOT okay. You can’t work with an abusive boss. Why do you think so many of us leave? We can’t take her.”

“I-I-I,” I stammered trying to wrap my brain around it. “She’s mad at me. There was a misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstandings don’t constitute abuse. I heard her yell at you last week about being a “failure,” for something that was my fault,” the second nurse chimed in. “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I replied. “I’m trying to be the buffer between you and her.”

They all looked at me sympathetically. “That’s not your job,” the CNA stated flatly after a moment of silence.

“I know it’s not,” I replied. “But if I don’t, you’ll all walk out and you’re some of the best staff I’ve ever met. And I love my job…. when I can actually do it.” I smiled wanly.

They clucked around sympathetically before I gathered myself together, hugged them, then walked back into the fire, my head high.

Get in here,” she yelled across a dining room full of staff, residents and family the moment she saw me. “And shut the door.

I did.

I sat perched on the edge of her chair, waiting for the onslaught of insults and character assassination that I knew would follow. I loved my job, but I hated this part of it.

Nurses I’d noted, more than most professions, are more likely to accept abuse and ill-treatment thanks to the way they’re treated on the job. I knew this, and still I stayed, loyal to my ethically-challenged boss, or, at the very least, my amazing staff and the residents whom I adored.

Sure, I’d taken to vomiting on my drive to work from the stress of working with my boss. Sure, my anxiety about being even five minutes late because I dared stop for gas often led me to weep in the car. Yeah, I spent most days walking on eggshells and taking the abuse she loved to dole out. But I had a job! And I loved it! How many people could say that?

I sat there and listened to her berate me, my face impassive, as I allowed the words my coworkers had said to wash over me. Carefully, she’d documented any transgression I’d made from not signing my name on a particular document to daring to be several minutes late following a routine doctor’s appointment. It was all bullshit and I knew it.

I also knew from watching her do this in the past that she was building a case to ensure I wouldn’t see a dime of unemployment. That was her way. I’d been waiting, like the rest of the staff, to be fired during one of her outbursts. We often joked, when she wasn’t around, that we stashed boxes in our office to quickly pack our things because we never knew when the ax would fall.

She offered me probation, a salary cut, and various other indignities, all over being unreachable by my cell for several hours on my weekend, even though I hadn’t gotten a single call on my land-line. She, I knew from experience, didn’t have any desire to listen to me; she was in punishment mode.

And sitting there in her office, I stared outside at the bright blue sky as she continued insulting everything she could think of, then began to lie to fill in the gaps, tuning her out.

A lightning bolt hit me as clear as a bell: this was it. I could sit there and take her shit, continue vomiting into a plastic bag on my way to work and panicking every time my phone rang, or I could start over. I was a grown adult and I was damn good at my job. Certainly this wasn’t the only place I’d be able to work. If I’d learned anything in the past year, it’s that life is too short to be miserable all the time.

When she was done assassinating everything from my dislike of sandwiches to my coffee habit, I stood, shook her hand and looked her in the eye.

“Thank you,” I said, my eyes hardened and cold, momentarily knocking her off balance with my response, as I held out my hand to shake hers. She didn’t take it.

She stammered something cruel as I turned my back, opened her door and walked out, ready for the next chapter of my life to begin.

There’s Enough Blame To Go Around

One of the hardest things a friend can do is to try and help a self-destructive friend.

This is her story:

know that none of this is your fault.

I know that it wasn’t your fault for being depressed. I know that it wasn’t your fault that your parents emotionally and verbally abused you, or for having a severe anxiety disorder. I know that you were in blinding amounts of pain, and you were just trying to survive in any which way you could.

I know that you honestly never meant to hurt me.

And yet still, I still can’t help but be angry with you.

For a good seven months of my life, I was stricken with terror every single day. I spent countless hours talking you down from suicide; comforting you after you’d have a panic attack, and listening to you describe in detail how you’d hurt yourself that day.

I tried my best to be there for you, even as I was simultaneously dealing with my own self-harm, anxiety, and a crippling depressive episode – so crippling, in fact, that eventually, I had to be hospitalized.

I couldn’t walk away even if I’d wanted. Many times, you’d said I was the most important person in your life – if I left, you’d kill yourself. However, you also told me even if I stayed, you would eventually kill yourself.

I was trapped.

I pleaded with you to get help. Each time, you refused.

Once, I had to call the police to keep you from swallowing your prescription medications. Fortunately, they got there in time; unfortunately, it did nothing to deter you from attempting again. Over the course of six months, you went on to attempt suicide nearly two dozen times.

I was there for it all.

I can still remember the day my younger sister broke up with you. Like me, she’d been backed into a corner and didn’t know what to do. You called her names, accused her of lying to you, and threatened suicide. I spent two hours behind a computer screen trying to talk you down while my sister sobbed helplessly in the background. My mom called your parents. They did nothing to help the situation.

All in all, it was useless.

Later that week, I broke down. I climbed into the shower, bit down on a washcloth, and screamed at the top of my lungs. I screamed until my throat was hoarse and cried harder than I’ve ever cried.

Finally, months later, I attempted to walk away. You responded with aggression and hatred, and later made it known to me in a very marked way that you’d tried to kill yourself that day.

Even then, I recognized this obvious act of emotional manipulation, but that still didn’t change that you’d attempted to end your life… because of me.

When I did eventually manage to extract myself from your grasp, it wasn’t pretty. All my anger and hurt poured out all at once. I said things I shouldn’t have, no matter how sincere; I hurt you needlessly.

The guilt will never fade.

It’s been over two months since that day, and I’m still struggling with this insurmountable level of anger, hurt, and guilt I feel.

I remember the day you told me, to paraphrase, I was the worst thing that had ever happened to you. Ever since, I’ve questioned everything about myself. I’ve never believed I was a good person, but I’ve tried my hardest to do the right thing. It makes me wonder if all my efforts have been in vain, because when it came to you, I tipped the scales.

I blame myself for a lot of things: your descent into self-harm, several of your suicide attempts, and various slights I made along the way.

As I’ve been almost completely socially-isolated for the past five months as part of the aftermath my hospitalization, there isn’t much I can think about besides self-hatred. The same chorus of thoughts play throughout my head: an endless loop of guilt and self-loathing.

I keep trying to remind myself that you were just a sixteen-year-old boy in pain. You felt alone. To some degree, you weren’t entirely responsible for your actions. That does little to quell my anger. I’m not even certain that I have a right to be angry at you. After all, weren’t you the true victim here?

I guess I’m just not sure who I hate more these days: You, or myself.

I’m trying to forgive you for it all.

I’m desperately trying to forgive myself.

I just don’t know if I can.

The Rest Of My Life

Anyone who claims the teen years are the “best of your life” is lying.

This is his struggle:

I was born in 1998, and until fourth grade, I was the big kid everyone knew and liked; I was popular and well-respected. No one bullied me. That all changed in fifth grade when I moved to Arlington, WA and started over at a new school.

My first – and worst – mistake was mistaking a jackwagon of a “friend” (who’s not much of one now) for a girl I liked.

You see where this is going – I was called “gay” and “bisexual” until the end of seventh grade when people forgot about it.

In the summer before eighth grade, I had my first real girlfriend. Over that summer, she sexually abused me, and I was traumatized.

After I ended it with her, I was scared of girls, until I met my previous girlfriend whom I dated for seven months. She was too scared to tell me when I was doing something that made her uncomfortable, so she left me. She broke my heart when she told that I made her feel like a “slut.”

It killed me to hear that.

After that, I screwed up, continued texting her, tried to be around her. That was a colossally bad idea. Things got so much worse.

People who’d been my friends turned on me because I’d hurt her, even though I wasn’t aware I’d been hurting her. Only few people tried to comfort me, trying to help my broken heart.

One day after a long track practice, I was finally getting over her, and a few buddies were fooling around, relaxing and telling stories. We were chatting about cars, girls, and fishing and I brought up some stupid (yet true) things about my ex-girlfriend. One of those guys told her.

After a month, I texted her, asking who’d told her what I’d said. She confirmed it was one of the guys from my track team. I lost control and punched him in the mouth – not because he’d told her, but because he’d lied to me; telling me he hadn’t told her.

Her parents showed up at a fourth of July parade and stopped to pet my dog. I looked in her Mom’s eyes and shook her Dad’s hand. My ex hid her face behind her hair.

I learned that her new boyfriend is one of my most trusted (well, WAS trusted) and close friends. I have ADD, an unusual form of OCD, which means that it’s far harder for me to get over things. Something a normal person forgets about in, say a week, takes me months. Since what I’m trying to get over is heartbreak, it takes more than months to work through.

I was sentenced to eight hours of community service for juvenile assault. I’m finding ways to express myself – music, friends, and cars.

I’m now helping a friend who was sexually abused get back on her feet, and spending more time with my girlfriend. Wish me (and my friend) luck, The Band!

Thanks for reading, The Band.

Do you have any advice for me?

Teenage Hell – Where Is My Heaven?

The scars from childhood sexual abuse have far-reaching consequences.

This is her brave, brave story:

I’m a senior in high school – you’d think I’d be able to control my thoughts and emotions by now.

Nope. Totally incorrect.

I hate people, well, most of them anyway. For being judgmental. For being jerks and assholes when they have no idea what I’ve gone through. No idea what I’m going through.

I feel so alone because there’s no one to help me cope with my fucked-up brain. Now don’t get me wrong: on the outside I appear to be a normal, suburban, teenaged girl. On the inside…on the inside I’m dying; just waiting for death to overtake me.

This is my story.

I have two brothers who live with me at my Mom’s house. My brothers shared a room with bunk-beds until I was twelve. When I was six, we had a babysitter named Bradley, who happened to be some sort of cousin. When he’d come to babysit, we’d all hang out on the bunk beds – my older and younger brother on the bottom bunk while Bradley and I were on the top bunk.

One time, I was laying on top of him and he reached his hands into my pants asking me “can you feel that?” over and over. He’d do this again and again to me, only stopping when it was his turn on the video game my brothers were playing. Naturally he wouldn’t have a free hand to stick down my pants.

I thought what he was doing was sex, so I for one, wasn’t going to tell anyone – I was afraid I’d get in trouble. I’ve not seen him since. I kept this secret until seventh grade, when I told my best friend and cousin, Catherine, as well as my best friend at school, Kameron.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

We saw the counselor who called my mother. My mother initially thought I was lying, but finally believe me. She took me to my Dad’s, insisting that I tell him about the sexual abuse. I called Catherine over for support.

I’d already sobbed to the counselor and my mom, so by that point I was numb. My dad continued to question me; scrutinizing every detail. At one point he asked:

“Why aren’t you crying? If this actually happened to you why aren’t you crying? Why is your cousin the only one crying?”

That ended that.

Three years later was my sophomore year in high school, and everything was going really well. I had my first actual boyfriend, an amazing guy Daniel who he was all for God. On the outside, I looked like I was okay.

However, I’d begun cutting; self-injuring – constantly slicing my wrist open for relief of external pain. I was repulsed by anyone touching me – I couldn’t handle it. Not even my brothers. I even asked Daniel if we could stop kissing and he was okay with it; figuring we’d been moving too fast. Eventually, asked me if anything ever had happened to me.

I told him no.

I told my mom that I couldn’t kiss Daniel, and she knew that I needed to talk to someone. My Aunt Nina, Catherine’s mom, died the beginning of my sophomore year and I felt too guilty to bring my problems on her.

Three months into therapy, I finally understood that there was no possible way that I could’ve wanted what happened to me as a child. Despite the cliche from Good Will Hunting: “it’s not your fault,” but those words bring closure.

We were having a big family sleepover at my house with all the teenage cousins piled together on the couch. After I fell asleep that night, I felt something on my leg. I was so confused. I realized, it was my cousin Cole’s hand trying to pry open my legs. Baffled, I tried to close them; turned over and pretended I was asleep. That didn’t happen so I gave up.

My therapist asked me why I didn’t “wake up” and confront him. I was frozen, I explained, I was fifteen and my worst nightmare was reoccurring. He did finger me and when I “woke up,” he pretended he hadn’t done a thing. In the shower, I bawled my eyes out. When people say they never feel clean after rape or sexual assault, it’s true.

My therapist encouraged me to tell my mom, however, I knew our family would never be the same again – it would be my fault. Again.

For some reason or another I stopped going to therapy. I spent my junior year empty on the inside. Daniel and I had broken up before the Cole incident so I had no one but my friend Chance to talk to. The bullying began my junior year.

First and foremost, I’m not fat. I am five foot eight and 150 pounds, give or take a pound. I do have an unusual bra size, 32 FF. I’m “mooed” at for having “utters.” Eventually, jokes went around that I was on the cover page of a porn site. I’d never willingly done anything more than kiss my boyfriend on the lips and now people were making sex jokes about me for my fucking bra size? Absurd.

Then I met Chase. Weird dude, but mysterious. On our first date he forcefully unbuttoned my jeans and stuck his hands in my pants without my permission. I got up out of the movie theater, caused a scene, then left. Haven’t talked to that fuckface since.

I feel like I’m losing my mind.

I’ve become an insomniac, I’m always crying. I’ve prayed constantly, not receiving any answers. How can I be sure of myself? How can I be confident enough to trust not just others but myself? How can I tell myself over and over that I won’t let something like that happen to me again when it’s happened over and over?

I don’t know what to do.

He took my innocence. I dreamed that God would be kind. I dreamed my life would be so very different from this hell I’m living. Life has killed the dream I dreamed.


How have those of you who’ve been through childhood sexual abuse come to terms with the abuse? Can you give this brave girl some advice?

Home Life – From Birth to Age 8

A childhood steeped in hatred and abuse can threaten to break us.

And yet, we go on:

I was six months old when I was beaten the first time.

This beating required an Emergency Room visit. When you are beaten from such a young age, you learn that your body has no boundaries, you are not entitled to safety.

I was molested before six years old, my mother witnessed this at bath times…and did nothing. I was raped from six to eight years of age. Mom reminds me, regularly, that she was a victim, too. Therefore, I do not have permission to blame her for these things.

Back then, violence was a multiple days a week occurrence. Dad was quiet most of the time. And then, without rhyme or reason that I could detect (and I tried to identify the cause, to stop it), BLAM! Heaven forbid we did a normal kid thing that was bad.

Nighttime was parent fighting time. From my bed, I could hear the screaming, Mom crying. I could hear bodies tumbling and grunting, from him reaching for her and hitting her. He would rape her. He would break furniture on her.

By the time I was six until I was eight, he stayed in the guest room on a frequent basis. EVERY night he was in that room, I was too. I got to hear graphic details of Vietnam, before the touching and raping.

When Dad moved into his own home, this decreased to weekends.

But then Mom started. She was depressed and suicidal. She couldn’t handle our noise, our needs, or even us asking for permission to do things. She would strike out, smack us with books, knock our knees with her foot, pushing us away in frustration.

When our bodies were dirty, she would bathe us. She washed my vagina so hard, her nails or the edge of the washcloth would leave slices in my labia. She would pinch between my toes, hard enough to hurt. We had to “get the dirt out.”

Dad ran off when I was eight. Counselors had identified that I was suicidal; what he had done to me. He was confronted and fled to avoid prosecution.

By the time I was nine, Mom had started studying the Holocaust. We were made to watch documentaries with gruesome footage of violence. We had to see pictures of the piles of dead bodies.

We went to museums to meet Holocaust survivors, to hear their stories. The same graphic documentary pictures were always hanging on of the walls.

There were never other children to find, to play. We had to stay by Mom’s side, to witness these things.

We were not permitted anger, or to be sad. No tears, no screaming. We could smile. Or, we could be quiet.

When encouraged, we could explore mud puddles or play on the beach and laugh and giggle with Mom. There were the good times.

We’d always been very poor – with Dad around we were poor, but always had food. After he left, we’d have times of hunger. No food, or too little. I would dish out more to my sister first. Then Mom. Sometimes, I would sacrifice my food so that they could get more. I had become the family cook by the time I was nine. I cleaned. I helped with my sister’s homework. I helped with Mom’s college homework. I was an A-student on my own studies.

Mom used a wooden spoon to spank us. She hit so hard, she would crack handles. We had bruises and welts in the perfect shape of a spoon head on our bottoms and thighs. Sitting in a wooden chair at school was uncomfortable.

When she smacked our heads with her open hand, she would hit our ears. The ringing would startle me.

Her verbal abuse was astounding, sharp and biting. She told me that I was so annoying that it drove her to drink. (Subtext: Daddy was an alcoholic because of you, and I drink because of you too.)

All of these things struggled to silence me, shame me, and remove my human dignity. All of these things demonstrated that I had no rights.

And yet, I persist.