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.
It’s one in the morning on New Year’s Day. I’m alone in my room savoring the last taste of mini-chocolate donuts before my medicine kicks in. Once it does, I get so nauseous that all I can do is lay still and hope that I can sleep.
When the clock hit midnight, I was lying in bed watching a documentary about obese people on my computer.
I was alone.
The only “Happy New Year” wishes I got were two texts. One was from a wrong number. The other was from one of my friends that I’m in the process of losing touch with; I suspect it was a mass message to everyone in her phone.
My mom and sister were downstairs, but they made no effort to come see me. I’d snapped at them earlier, so they left me alone. My boyfriend didn’t say anything either. I haven’t heard from him since seven, when he said he was sorry for not coming over because he was tired and in a meh mood. I’m guessing he fell asleep.
I’ve spent most of that time crying on and off.
You see, the problem is that I’ve spent the last three days with a pain in my left side, and while it fades in and out, it’s been getting worse. Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much, but in the last three weeks I’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices. I started off with a Urinary Tract Infection (my third since May), and after being off of those antibiotics for a day, I developed an ear infection. While I had my ear infection, my allergies ran amok, and I had to get a special nose spray to allow some sinus tube to open back up. I just finished the antibiotics for the ear infection yesterday morning.
All of this would be overwhelming enough by itself, but this happened after almost an entire year when I didn’t go one week without something happening to make me stop what I’m doing and curl up on the couch and wait for it to go away.
All of this has happened because I have fibromyalgia.
I’d explain what fibromyalgia is to you, but I don’t even know myself – my doctors don’t either. They THINK it’s nerves over-reacting and sending out false pain signals. But if that were all there was, it wouldn’t be associated with so many other things. If you stop by any fibromyalgia website, you can click on a page and find a long list of associated diseases and ailments. All of them aren’t even listed.
As if the pain and stiffness weren’t enough, now I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic fatigue and insomnia, sensitivity to temperature and certain chemical smells, loss of concentration, and worse, anxiety. I hope that my reproductive organs function properly, because I want children one day (Even though I already know this might not be true. I’ve had one cyst and irregular periods so my doctor threw me on birth control a few years ago and that was that.)
So I have my pill cocktails for this thing and that thing, and I have patterns I need to follow or else something will flare up. There’s an even bigger problem with all of these things: I’m nineteen.
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at sixteen, and for a while it looked like it was being managed by medication. I was able to function and go to school and go out with friends. It would flare up every now again around my periods and during the winter, but it was still manageable…until January of this past year.
My doctor decided to switch me to a new drug for fibromyalgia. This drug was hardcore. It came in a trial in this little book container. I had to ease into it because it carried some potentially harsh side effects. It was hell from the beginning. I was nauseous from the second pill, but my mom and I decided to give it a chance.
By the middle of the trial, I was so nauseous and weak that it put my new part-time job into jeopardy. I sat through the orientation trying not to throw up. When I started having heart palpitations to the point where my heart stopped beating long enough for me to panic, we decided to take me off of the drug, but of course, I had to taper down because there was a chance of seizures from suddenly stopping.
Ever since, the problems haven’t stopped. I’m more than a semester behind in college because I’ve had to drop classes. This next semester, I will try for the third time to finish Composition 2 and Intro. to Sociology, and at this point, I’m not sure if I will be able to do it on this try.
I did online classes last semester, and this semester was supposed to be my attempt at real classes again. My anxiety has been right below the surface for weeks. I keep thinking, “If I can’t even make it more than a few days without something happening, how can I make it through classes? How can I live a normal life and have a job when I can barely function for more than a few days?”
I’m very aware of how much my parents spend on my doctor’s appointments and medications – it isn’t a small sum. My mom’s stack of doctor’s bills and reports is easily over six inches. I know my insurance runs out when I hit twenty-five, so I know I have a time limit to finish school and find a job, but I’m going to school to be a high-school English teacher. My starting salary will be somewhere in the mid thirty thousand dollar range.
I don’t want to have to admit that I will have to rely on someone to help take care of me, but honestly, on a teacher’s salary, I will be stuck at home until I pay off all of my student debts or I move in with a boyfriend. I refuse to live with friends because I don’t want them to have to take care of me when I get bad. I don’t want them to have to bring me things when I can’t get up. I don’t want them to have to sit with me when I’m curled up in bed sobbing because I don’t want to be sick anymore.
All I can do is hope that it will go back into remission or I can find a way to manage it because I don’t know how I can ever have a normal life with it as it is. I always have the fear that people are going to leave me because I’m such a mess. I tell my boyfriend that I’m a mess; that I’m falling apart, and he tries to reassure me that the rest of me makes up for it.
It angers me when people don’t take my illness seriously. My sister laughs at me if I tell her why I’m feeling bad. I’ve had people tell me it was all in my head or look suspiciously at me when I can’t give them an adequate explanation of fibromyalgia.
I know I don’t look sick, but I like it that way. If I looked sick every time I felt bad, I’d always look awful. I get mad when I see all this research money being thrown at all these other manageable diseases or anti-ageing products when fibromyalgia has the potential to systematically destroy people’s lives. It doesn’t matter that it’s not deadly: if a disease has a potential to confine you to bed, it deserves funding.
My plans for my future are very tentative. Even if I’m only planning a week in advance, I have to add “I think” to the end of it because I have no idea if I’ll be up to it. I’m sick of having to add “I think” to all of my plans.
I want to have a job. I want to go to school full-time. I to live on my own. I want all of the things people my age complain about. I want these things because they’re normal. I want to know that I can be normal. It hurts to hear people complain about this stuff – I want so badly to do it all.
My political views are becoming more liberal. I’m okay with universal healthcare when we can afford it. I need it. I’d gladly pay extra taxes if it means I don’t have to pay for outrageous doctor bills or ridiculously expensive mediation because I react badly to certain generics.
I support abortion because if I were to accidentally get pregnant, I’d have to choose whether to put my body through excruciating hell and lose all functionality for nine months, or abort. I’m not even fond of the idea of abortion, but I still want that option.
I recently started supporting medical marijuana because my body is being worn down by pain medications. I get upset when people try to oppose me on that one. My favorite argument is that America doesn’t need more high people because people with chronic pain are already high all the time. People in chronic pain take pain pills to function, not to relax. (Also, the people who actually would need medical marijuana hate the people who want to abuse it just as much as you do.) I’d gladly eat a pot brownie instead of taking a pain pill that’ll leave me nauseous and weak for six hours and for half a day afterward because my body is already worn down.
Do I need to repeat that I’m only nineteen?
And all I can do is just sit, wait, swallow some pills, try to exercise when my body lets me, try to eat healthy when my stomach lets me, and hope that I can get everything into a manageable state.
I’m starting to feel it’s too much to hope for it to just go away.
I used to work as a planning engineer at a big construction company. I am a pure vegetarian. I didn’t like the non-vegegarian food near me, so I used to stay away from all the people who used to eat non-veg food. We all stayed in a company provided guest house, and they were the majority.
My roommate there tortured me physically where we were staying, and mentally at our workplace, on a daily basis. Since I was inexperienced and rather new to the industry, he used to bully me and downgrade me by calling me a clerk even though I was a Senior Engineer there. I wanted to report the physical torture to my superiors, but my roommate threatened that he would have people torture my family if I did.
In the same office I fell in love with a girl I worked with. I told her that I was being bullied, but she thought I was joking. My roommate’s bullying caused me to leave my job and kept me from having a healthy relationship with the girl I loved. He was telling her bad things about me, and I didn’t want to tell her everything he had been doing to me. I had thoughts of committing suicide and sometimes I even thought about killing him. These thoughts would run over and over in my dreams like nightmares.
Because of him, I am depressed, I lost my job, and I lost the girl I love. I want to report him to the police. I want to kill myself. I can’t sleep from all the nightmares. I don’t know who to talk to because I am afraid and embarrassed. Please help me if you have been through something like this.
I’m many things: a daughter, friend, a pet lover and a 4.0 student. I swim, volunteer, love the beach and enjoy music. I’m also a victim of a growing epidemic among teens and young adults entering the workplace: sexual harassment.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, I attended my first corporate event as a volunteer for a major media corporation. I dressed professionally in a long-sleeved pants suit and arrived early to Houston’s baseball stadium. Plastered on my face was the biggest, most secure smile I could find, in spite of the butterflies in my stomach.
This corporate event was a huge deal and I played a special role in it. Around sunrise, the radio station’s videographer arrived and began setting up his equipment. He spotted me and walked over to extend a handshake. Eager to make a good impression, I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Jill. I’m the poet,” I said, confidently.
“Hi, I’m Howard. I’m on-air each weekend and do video as a side-gig.”
“I know. I’ve heard you.”
“Well, I work at another station, too.”
Having varied musical tastes, I said I knew – I’d heard him there, too
When the brief, friendly banter had finished, we each continued our business, the discussion far from my mind… Until I arrived home that afternoon and discovered that within an hour of meeting me, he’d found my website and sent a highly personal email. It discussed his dating history, his taste in women, that he thought I was in my forties because “forty-something women are the hottest around;” because I was “hot.”
I wondered how he’d found my information, I told my instincts to “hush” – I was certainly overreacting. After all, the media must’ve given him my information. Pushing concern aside, I believed I needed to keep the peace for my new position and sent a simple, friendly reply.
The conversation continued as he told me he had a daughter my age and found my information through an internet search. The third day, he asked to purchase signed copies of books I’d written. I gave him my home address – easy as that.
The subtle signs of trouble were there from the beginning. The wishy-washy words to keep my feelings off-balance. On my birthday he said, “The world is a better place because you’re in it.” Not two hours later, he said, “You’d look good in black lace … and I’m not talking shirts.”
It took nearly five years for me for me to find the courage to accept that the harassment was serious and not the jokes I’d thought the man was making.
“Nice to meet you” slowly became “You’d look great in an adult film” and “The world is a better place because you’re in it” became a blend of comments like “My girlfriend is an iceberg in the bedroom,” which played to my empathetic side. Feeling “sorry” for his “plight” he claimed would “improve” if he could buy me lingerie and sex toys.
I never thought he was serious, I’d thought he was joking. I know now to trust my gut; this kind of behavior is not normal for the workplace.
By the time a box of lingerie he purchased for me was delivered to my home and I pursued action against him in 2012, I’d endured a lengthy history of requests for dates, pressure to pose for pictures and/or provocative video, cyber-stalking, emotional abuse, and calls and texts at all hours. The toll on my life was apparent – sleepless nights, stomach upset, and stress. I lived in constant fear of what the next step in his obsession might be.
My innocent response happens far too often among teens and young adults unprepared for workplace sexual harassment. Today’s teens and young adults are not alone in dealing with job-related harassment. According to Adolescents at Work: Gender Issues and Sexual Harassment, thirty-five percent (35%) of high school students reported they experienced sexual harassment in their part-time work. Of the 35% who were sexually harassed, 63% were girls and 37% were boys. In 19% of cases, perpetrators were supervisors, and 61% of the time harassment came from coworkers.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between flirting and harassment, but it’s never okay for an adult to flirt with a child. It’s not okay for someone in a position of power to flirt with or suggest improper behavior. Such behavior in the workplace is illegal and companies must have guidelines in place outlining zero tolerance for sexual harassment.
If you are going through something like what I experienced, I want you to know that this is not your fault. Nothing you did or didn’t do caused this to happen. This did not happen because of anything you said, your choice of friends, your appearance, or your personality. Anyone who harasses another is a bully. Bullies are cowards that pick on the strong and innocent, simply the person is there. No more, no less. You are not guilty of anything, even if you initially went along with the harassment. The blame is with the harasser; you are a survivor. You can heal.
You deserve respect.
From the minute that you feel awkward about a work-situation, tell someone you trust and begin documenting every comment, action, or event that’s left you feeling uncomfortable. If you’ve received e-mails, save screenshots. If you save the e-mails, don’t alter them in any way. If someone says that they don’t think what you’re going through is that bad,” remember – it’s not their place to judge. You own your truth. You own your boundaries. Only you know what you will or will not accept.
While someone else may tolerate behavior that bothers you, it’s your life and your decision. You’re allowed to end uncomfortable situations; no job is worth trauma, torment, or the health toll enduring daily abuse can cause, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. You cannot always leave your job, but you can stop the cycle of harassment. The harasser wants your silence; don’t give them the satisfaction.
Some may believe you’re weak for choosing to address sexual harassment and strive for change, this is not true. You are not weak; you are courageous and brave, trying to make the world a better place for others; that is an admirable aspiration for anyone.
As the result of my journey, I reached out to a therapist to help me understand what had happened. My therapist put the harassment this way: “The harasser is an annoying gnat you can flick away until the pest becomes smaller and smaller on your horizon. By standing up, speaking out, and refusing to accept abuse – you are a big flyswatter with the power and will to end the cycle of harassment.”
If your boss, co-worker, or friend demands your undivided attention, calls you five or ten times per day, follows your every move on and offline, or starts mimicking your style or words, there could be a deeper problem.
Stand your ground; know your boundaries; always listen to your inner voice. Respect, trust yourself and you will get through this. I told my story and put the spotlight on my harasser; you have the power within you to do the same.
Even on the darkest day in your fight against sexual harassment, always remember you’re worth so much more than workplace abuse. You will come through the experience with greater awareness and more compassion for others. You have a bright future ahead of you and you will survive this.
I believe in you!