My therapist has asked me to write down a list.
A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.
Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.
So, here is my list:
Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.
Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.
As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.
Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.
When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.
I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.
I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.
I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.
I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.
I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.
My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.
Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.
I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.
I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.
Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.
I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself. Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.
I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.
I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…
…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I have waited a long time to write this. High school, college, my first job, my first apartment.
Your firstborn is finally an adult.
We’ve addressed the issues before. Usually at the kitchen table, or as you stand in my doorway while I cry in my bedroom. I have yelled. I have called you assholes, terrible parents.
I blamed you for fucking me up.
You did fuck me up.
I am an adult now, so it isn’t your job to parent me any more. To teach me acceptance of self. To tell me I am beautiful; perfect the way I am. To tell me I deserve only the best. To tell me that guy who broke my heart is crazy for letting me get away. To tell me I am a catch. A good person. A talented artist. A fountain of possibility. A woman with an amazing life ahead of her.
You weren’t there for me when I was bullied in middle school and high school. You wrote it off as “being a kid” or “well, that’s high school,” but I was a kid. I was in high school. That’s all I knew. I didn’t have your hindsight.
When I found the note in the garbage during science class, the one that was written about me by two girls in the class, you weren’t the ones who held me and told me it would be okay.
You didn’t acknowledge the pain that I felt when I read those words – ‘she’s such a stupid bitch. I wish she’d just like jump off a cliff.’
You told me they were being stupid and childish. You told me to brush it off.
You found the suicide note that I penned at 11 years old. You were going through my stuff. I was so mad at you. You sent me to therapy, and we never spoke of it again.
When I was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder, you didn’t help me shoulder the burden. You didn’t cry with me. You didn’t buy any books on the topic. You didn’t do the Walk for Mental Health charity 5k that I KNOW happened several years ago.
Why didn’t you do that?
When I overdosed in college and you came to pick me up, you silently drove me home to your house, two hours away, where I stayed the entire weekend to “get away from everything.” On Sunday night, you asked if I was okay.
I’m okay. Two days ago I tried to kill myself, again, but you know, sure, okay, I’m fine.
And then you put me on a bus back to school.
And we never spoke of that weekend again.
I stayed in therapy.
When I gained all of that weight, because of the PCOS, and I was sad, miserable, and feeling less than worthy of anything, you bribed me with a new car to lose 20 lbs. You didn’t tell me I was pretty. You didn’t tell me size was just a number. You didn’t tell me to go out and have fun with my friends, to not care about what I looked like, to know that it was the inside the counted the most.
You told me you’d buy me a car, and when I starved myself for two months, you handed me the keys.
You never told me it would get better.
But then there was your second child.
I know now that parents have favorites. Do you love all three of us? Of course you do. If something were to happen to any one of us, would it break you? I would hope. But when all three of your kids stand in front of you, you know who your favorite is.
He is your favorite child.
He grew up bubbly, fun, surrounded by friends. Smart, adorable, well-behaved. Charming.
I hated him from the beginning. Remember the time I spilled hot soup on him when he was three? Remember the time I yanked a huge chunk of hair out of his head when he was seven?
I was, undoubtedly, your angry child.
But somewhere along the path of growing up, he became my favorite too. When you guys didn’t care about my broken heart, he did.
When I needed help with stats, he always knew the answers.
When I was in my darkest moments, fearing the end, I remembered that while I idolized him more than he looked up to me, I had a little brother to take care of.
He encouraged me when you didn’t. He took me seriously when you brushed me off. He laughed at my jokes. He asked to spend time with me. He got to know me beyond being his sister and your daughter.
All the while, he shined. Confident, secure, compassionate; he encompassed everything you’d look for in another human being. He made for great company.
He is gay.
You didn’t bribe him to change. You didn’t encourage him to shy away from his friends because he was getting used to his new skin. You just didn’t.
He was still beautiful. He was still talented. He was still smart. No matter what he “was” – he was still your son. My brother. And you loved him for exactly who he was, exactly who he is, just as you did before, just as you always will.
The acceptance was instant. It was non-negotiable.
He was surrounded by your love – the same love I lacked when it came to my yearning for your acceptance. Your non-negotiable support.
I resented you. I resented him.
In the wake of the recent suicides within the LBGQT community, I am so thankful that my little brother was one of the few who was enveloped in love and support from the very beginning.
That he became so much more that could define him other than his orientation.
That his life was so filled with possibility, he never wanted it to end.
You did not grace me with an abundance of love at the times I needed it the most. Perhaps it was because I was your first – your oldest – your first “go” at all things parenting. Perhaps you had no idea what to do, so you chose to do nothing. I know that as a child, I was different. I had different needs. As an adult, I can understand that. And I can empathize.
But thank you for being exactly the type of parents my little brother needed.
If you had been different, if things had been different…well, I don’t know how to even write the words that follow. I can’t write them.
All I know is that I am grateful for him – the one person that in my darkest hour will tell me, “Caroline…it gets better.”
My little brother.
High school was not good to me.
I was the girl people didn’t want to be around. I was too “weird” for the goth crew, but too “goth” for everyone else. I had the dyed black hair and dark clothing, but I stuck to mostly satin, lace, and velvet skirts and long dresses. I was “Romanti-Goth” where the rest of the goth crew was “Manson-Goth,” and the rest of the school wasn’t goth at all.
The Columbine Massacre had just happened and was fresh on everyone’s mind. In my school, your average goth was popular enough to get through, and they had each other. I, on the other hand, was alone.
I vividly remember the day someone spit at my feet while I was walking through the halls. Yeah, it was like that.
It didn’t help that I didn’t have the high school mentality. I wouldn’t say I was above it, I just wasn’t into it. I was a mentally-ill loner who enjoyed role-play games and people older than me. I wasn’t into dating around, parties, or the latest group of girly giggles.
Even my boyfriend was eight years older. My husband, who was my next boyfriend, is six years older. Your average teenager repulsed me, so high school was hell. It wasn’t something I enjoyed; it was something I struggled to survive.
My mental health issues became obvious in high school. Most of that time is a blur, but I do remember going and seeing my guidance counselor, looking for a push in the right direction.
Luckily, a licensed therapist was in the school every Thursday for cases like mine. I only saw her seven times at school before I had to start therapy at her at her office, but that was enough to know she was the one. She was the one I could spill my guts to, the one who would be there for me. She gave me her cell phone number in case of emergencies. She saw in me what no one else at the time saw – I was special and in need of help.
At the time, diagnoses like “bipolar” were thrown around, but they never fit. The only thing she knew for sure was that I was getting lost inside my head, and our sessions were my only chance to get help.
There was one other key figure in my high school survival. We’ll call her Mrs. M.
She was my 9th grade English teacher (and then later, 10th grade Journalism 1 and 12th grade Brit Lit). Right away, we clicked. She was the type of teacher to give me a passing grade when I accidentally answered the quiz question with the key event in Chapter 4 and not Chapter 3, when the whole point of the quiz was to determine whether I’d read up to Chapter 3 or not. I had, in fact, finished the book. Yeah, I was one of those English students. And she was one of those teachers. She spent the four years of my high school life doing her damnedest to make sure I made it through and survived. She was always there for me, no matter the problem.
When I was in 9th grade, I made my first website – it was filled with my dark, depressive poetry and even darker thoughts. My mom somehow came across it and had a cow. She immediately sent the link to Mrs. M for her thoughts on it. In true Mrs. M fashion, she informed me and my mom that it was very well-written. How much I needed help was obvious without the site. Why did it surprise my mom? I’ll always wonder.
Shortly after starting my blog, I went back to the school to visit Mrs. M. I wanted to fill her in on my life and my family. I was also excited to say the words that burst out of me. “I’m writing!” I knew she, of all people, would be proud of me.
I knew she, of all people, would look past the darker times and see the beauty of my written word.
The first time I was molested, I was 6 years old. My step-dad was a controlling, abusive asshole and had been grooming me over the few years he’d been married to my mom. It started as tickling, then moved to a touch here, me touching him there, and everything you can imagine in between.
At 6, I had no idea this wasn’t normal interaction. He was the only dad I knew.
At 8, I knew how to give a blow job, at 10 he was attempting penetration (poorly), at 12 when I got my period, I got worried. A substitute teacher covered a chapter on sexual abuse in health class and I realized that this wasn’t normal at all. I told my mom that afternoon, he moved out that night, I got lots and lots of counseling.
At 14, I was raped by a 21 year old that was my “boyfriend.” We met through a mutual friend, he got me drunk on Everclear and told me if I didn’t let him put it in one hole he was gonna put it in the other, whether I liked it or not.
I thought it was a compelling argument.
I remember he had big speakers under his mattress and he put on something with a shit ton of bass and it made me so nauseous that I spent 20 minutes puking on his back porch. I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, I continued to date him for an additional 6 months.
During that time he fantasized about moving to Alabama (where 14 is the age of consent) getting married and having babies with me. At the end of those 6 months he nearly got arrested for threatening a secretary with bodily harm for not allowing him to bring me flowers to my class… in middle school.
My mom found out and then I spent 4 weeks as an inpatient at a juvenile psychiatric facility. I started my long journey of anti-depressants and self-medicating.
At 15, I walked over to a boy’s house that I had a crush on to “hang out.” We were making out and he got my pants off. I let him know I wasn’t interested in having sex so he decided that putting his belt inside me was a better option? I was known as “belt girl” (probably still am, honestly) for a number of years after that, to our group of mutual friends.
At 31, I got locked into a hotel room with a smooth talker (stalker) who had me convinced we were in love. The next 8 hours were filled with things I never want to remember and that my brain won’t recall. I left sore and mentally broken, but I never told a soul (until now).
These are of course only the major offenses. I’m not including the literal hundreds of unsolicited dick pics, “accidental” gropings, catcalling, and unwanted sexual advances that occur from randoms quite often.
Why didn’t I report it at the time?
Well it depends on the occurrence. The first time I didn’t know any better, the second time I was in love, the third I was embarrassed and ashamed, the fourth I was terrified of ever seeing him again. I definitely didn’t want a court case. I never filed charges on any of them. Even the long-term ones.
I remember vividly talking to a counselor who warned me of the long court process to press charges against my dad, how it was my decision (AT 12), and whether they should file charges with the DA. Seems like something an adult should’ve decided, no? That stayed with me through all of my assaults. I felt powerless and guilty. I blamed myself for my poor decisions. Surely, I mean, it was my fault, right?
So now PTSD is a real thing I live with every day as a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. The triggers are never expected or convenient. Depression and anxiety go hand-in-hand with that. Once, a psychologist mentioned her surprise that I didn’t have a personality disorder, so there’s that, I suppose?
This is why the #MeToo movement is so vitally important.
The shame, the bureaucracy, the headaches, the guilt, it’s not worth reporting. This is what I’ve been told time and again as a victim. Maybe not in those words, but certainly with that intent. Someone didn’t want the paperwork and i didn’t want the trauma of retelling my story time and time again.
Dear Gay/Bi/Curious Teenage Prankster Who Is Being Bullied By Bullshit Bullies,
Chances are, you don’t know me from a hole in the ground. In fact, a hole in the ground may look more familiar than I do, but I am Your Aunt Becky, and while we may not actually be related by blood, I have adopted you along with the rest of the Internet. It’s okay. Don’t worry. When I show up to your house for some family gathering and get rowdy and drunk and sing God Save The Queen, I’ll distract your parents so you can sneak some rum into your eggnog, okay?
Anyway, I hate to bother you with a boring letter since you kids like your text messages but what I have to say is important and I hope that you listen to it. Or parts of it. Tune out what doesn’t matter to you, but please, listen to at least a little bit of it. I may not be particularly smart, but I have lived about twenty different lives, so I’ve picked up some insight along the way.
Your teenage years are not the best years of your life.
What seems like a permanent and dire situation now, the things that make you hurt and ache inside, those things will stay with you, but the hurts and the aches, those subside over time. These are the things that will fortify you. They will strengthen you and they will make you a better person. Eventually.
I know that it seems like there is no other way out, believe me, I’ve felt that way before too. I’m willing to bet that most of the people who are reading this column right now have felt this way at some point as well. Maybe it’s not the same. Maybe we cannot understand precisely how you feel because we are not you. But even when things seem so bleak and so empty, even when all that you feel is a deep chasm of pain, it will pass. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but it will pass.
Things will get better.
Physically, my heart hurts when I see statistics like sexual minority youth are bullied two to three times more than heterosexual youths. In our lifetime, (yes, I am using the royal “our” because I am rightly assuming that you will be around to make fun of my obsession with bacon for a good long while) I would be willing to bet that this number will drop as bullying is taken more seriously by schools and parents alike. Certainly, that does not help you right at this very moment, as you are hurting from the devastating effects of verbal, emotional and even perhaps physical abuse, I know that. Let every unkind word, every insult, every horrible slur thrown at you strengthen your resolve to help the next generation.
You know that you must be part of the change the next generation of children who will grow up to be in your shoes some day. You can and you will.
These are not the best years of your life.
The best years of your life are yet to come. The years ahead of you will be long and they will be beautiful and they will be brimming with love. The suffering that you have withstood at the hands of cruel bullies and those who do not understand you will leave the sorts of scars that may never be visible to anyone but those who know you best. Those silent scars will only serve to help you as you can turn all of your pain and channel it into something greater, something positive. There is a whole world out there beyond your high school, beyond your small-minded town who will welcome you with wide arms, who will love you as you are, and who will accept you simply for being you.
It’s hard to remember all of this, I know, because even now, at age thirty, my high school years winking merrily in my rear view mirror, I struggle to remind myself that it’s not the end of things when I have a bad day. I have to take a breath and remind myself that it’s not going to break me when I’m bullied by someone. The days when I get harassed simply for being me aren’t bad days at all; because they make me stronger. Sometimes, I have to take a step back from the situation, let all of that hatred flung in my face wash over me and and allow it to strengthen my resolve to do more good.
These horrible bleak days are going to make the rest of your life that much better.
I want you to know that somewhere, Your anonymous Aunt Becky is rooting for you, kid, and she loves you dearly. You’ll learn that the world is a good place. High school may not always be, but the world is. I’m sorry that things have to be so hard for you and trust me, if I could take on those bullies, I would do it in a second (don’t doubt me on this). I have a loyal Prankster Army who’d back me up. Bullies are bullshit. No, let me rephrase that: bullies are FUCKING bullshit, and you don’t deserve the suffering they’re causing you.
There’s a big world out here, kid, and we can’t wait to meet you. Please remember that high school is temporary and the rest of your life, well, it’s wide open. We can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with it.
Please, do not give up hope. There is always hope.
If you’d like to talk to someone from the Trevor Project, here is the Phone Number: 866-4-U-TREVOR
And, loves, you know where to find me.
Your Aunt Becky
To the 2 year old little girl, Allison, with brown eyes that love everyone and everything you are perfect never change.
3 year old Allison:
The dog bite and 120 plus stitches you will need in your face will only hurt for a little bit. It’s what comes later that will really hurt you.
4 year old Allison:
The daycare teachers and other kids at daycare will call you the ugly duckling. Don’t cry to much about it because at the end of the story the duck ends up being a swan. But that’s just a story and stories aren’t true. Right?
5 year old Allison:
Now is when you should try and run away from people. Here is when you change schools for the first time and you have to deal with the bullies again. Now is when you will have to talk to the state police about your aunt sexually harassing and sexually assaulting you for a couple of years. But that’s okay because that’s how you show people you love them. WRONG!!!! Now is when all the nightmares will start and you won’t sleep for the next couple of weeks and, sleeping the next couple of months without waking up screaming will be a miracle.
6,7,& 8 year old Allison:
These years will be different right? Wrong! These years the bullies get worse because they make new friends and become “Popular”. Don’t worry about what popular means you’ll find out within the next couple of years. But on the plus side you make a few new friends too. The downside to these friends one will steal your things when you have her spend the night, one will hate you most of the time, and the other is a boy that only has you for a friend.
9, 10, 11, & 12 year old Allison:
Those boys who always “pick on you” as the teachers call it only do it because they like you. Let me tell you how wrong that is. Those boys don’t like and probably never will. They are rude and can get away with murder because their dad is the big man at the school. You will be hurt emotionally, physically, and spiritually because of these boys and the fact that no one will help you because their daddy signs everyone’s paychecks. The teachers will say money is more important than you. You can’t get help.
You’ve made it this far through hell. Don’t look anyone in the eyes and don’t speak unless spoken too. You will break down in tears because now the boys are sexually harassing you and it brings back the nightmares. But still no help.
13 year old Allison:
You move schools to a place where no one knows your name. You will feel relief but only till a group of girls start to bully you. Those girls don’t matter though because later on they will become so of your closest friends. What really matters is that at the end of the year there will be a boy who takes his junk out in science class and measures it to see how manly he is. He will blame you on telling even though you didn’t. He will tell you that he is going to make small but deep cuts on you after he beats you so you will feel pain and slowly bleed out. The nightmares will come back but now you have him and his “manhood” threatening to kill you after your aunt takes advantage of you. You start to cut.
14, 15, & 16 year old Allison:
You’re in high school. The first day will go okay until you run into him in the hallway and you have a panic attack. You will have a panic attack at least once a day and will end up with a few new cuts for every panic attack. The nightmares will start again and for every sleepless night you add a couple of new cuts. Your wrist will be stained red for awhile but that’s okay because you realize how poetic black is and you wear it almost every day.
17 year old (Present day) Allison:
You have stopped cutting and hopefully for good this time. You never see him at school anymore but that’s because he is in a different building now. You’re a senior in high school, have panic attacks, social anxiety, and migraines often. You are falling apart and you shouldn’t be. You’ve been through so much that you will be up one night at 12 writing this warning because the nightmares wont stop and you haven’t been able to sleep all week because of them.
Thanks to all the crap that has happened I don’t feel. The only time I ever feel anything truly is when I physical hurt myself or when I have the nightmares. Other than those times I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s not normal for a 17 year old girl to not feel emotions. I talk to my mom about all of this all the time; she just doesn’t know how bad all this actually is.
Am I the only one who feels this way? Am I the only 17 year old who questions life, God, death, and emotions?