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.
I am an only child – an accident. My parents were married, but my mom never hid the fact that she’d never wanted kids. She said she was glad she had me; I was the best thing that ever happened to her, but that she never wanted kids.
I guess when you’re young, you say things you shouldn’t.
My mom got married at 17, had me at 19. She says it wasn’t young at the time, but yeah, it was.
She got married to get out of her mom and step-dad’s house. Married a guy hoping another guy she had “loved” before would come rescue her.
She didn’t plan on staying married. But then I came along; she tried to make it work.
I was blessed. Two weeks later, she met, and we moved in with, the man who would become my step-dad – the only dad I’ve really known.
Life was good. I was loved. There were fights, but they stuck it out.
When I hit 5th grade, my mom started talking up boarding school. Started looking at different schools for me. Figuring out how to afford it. I didn’t understand, but I was young and it sounded like an adventure.
Talk of it fizzled out. Life continued.
One of my chores around the house was the dusting, which included moving all books and magazines to clean under them. One day, I found a spiral bound notebook with a green cover.
I flipped it open. It was my mom’s handwriting, full of information about boarding schools:
“I want to find a Christian boarding school for Charity so when I kill myself she will be with people who can take care of her.”
My world changed that day. And I couldn’t tell a soul.
I’d been snooping. I’d read my mom’s journal. But now I knew there were dark things in my mom’s life.
Honestly, I’d known that as long as I could remember. I don’t even know how young I was when she told me about trying to kill herself as a teenager.
But that was then…this was now. I had to take care of my mom, but keep our family secret. What would people in our Church think, at my small Christian school, how could I tell anyone without confessing that I had read my mom’s journal?
The years went on. I thought about it sometimes, but shoved it down. I graduated from school, went off to a small Christian college. Found out other families were messed up too. Maybe mine was pretty good.
I got a summer job at the same place my mom worked between during summer break. I hated it, but it was a job.
My mom wasn’t in good shape. She was sleeping and crying – a lot. She wasn’t eating much. I got her up for work in the morning, ate lunch with her to make sure she ate. She went to bed as soon as we got home.
I took care of the house, then would head off to bed until I heard my dad come in late at night. I would get back up and talk to him. I figured somebody in the family should be talking to each other, they obviously weren’t, so I decided I better.
A bright spot of that summer was dreaming about going to graduate school.
The end of the summer came; I went back to college. I went early to get settled in and start working. My dad drove down to help build my loft and get my stuff set up.
He had said he wasn’t coming; he didn’t see a point in going to college, I was old enough to do it myself (um, old enough, but definitely not big enough to build that loft).
The only thing I remember my folks talking about that summer was fighting about whether or not he would help me move back to college.
To be honest, I felt guilty, but free to be going back to school.
Then, I couldn’t get reach my mom. No matter what time I called, she never answered.
I tried other family members – no one answered, until my cousin did on Monday night. When she said, “Hi Charity,” I heard my uncle yell in the background, “whatever she needs, tell her we will help.”
That seemed weird, I didn’t need anything, I just wanted to ask my mom a question about my car insurance.
“Your mom is in the hospital. She’s in a coma. They pumped her stomach. I found her in the chair. She had taken 150 pills after I told her I was leaving her Sunday night.”
I said I’d drive home.
“No, just stay at college, there is nothing you can do.”
By the time I got off the phone there was nothing I could do. I just sat there.
Thankfully, my roommate talked me through getting dressed, each step. I missed my first class. All I could see was my mom sitting in that chair, taking those pills.
I couldn’t tell a soul. What would everyone think?
I went to class, I went to work. My roommate kept my secret.
Three days later I told a friend. In class. In a written note.
The demon of depression was alive and well in my family and now people knew my life wasn’t perfect.
She came out of the coma. She was in the hospital a few days. My dad tried to stick it out for a few months. I told him I would come home at the end of the semester to take care of her.
He didn’t make it through the end of the semester. She moved out.
When I asked him why he gave up, when I begged him to stay until I finished that semester, he said, “but you’d been talking about graduate school. I was afraid you wouldn’t come home and I couldn’t bear the thought of staying in the marriage that long.”
I worried about my mom. I cried, I didn’t sleep because every time I closed my eyes I saw her taking those pills.
Slowly, she got her feet under her. They divorced. She started dating and met her now husband. It seemed like third time was the charm.
I got married and had three kids. Developed severe postpartum depression and anxiety.
I was terrified of becoming like my mom, but at least she had beat the depression.
Fast forward 15 years.
I am battling my own depression, but unlike my parents, I am getting help. I am fighting. If my mom could beat it without help, I should be able to with help, right?
Just after Christmas, my phone rang. It was my mom. Her husband wanted her to tell me she’d been really depressed again. Crying all the time. Doctors wanted to put her in an intensive outpatient program, but insurance wouldn’t cover it.
My world crashed. Thoughts of reading those words in her journal came back.
Images of her taking those pills invaded my mind. She hadn’t tried to commit suicide – yet – but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
When will the phone ring again?
How do I protect my girls when that day comes?
I’ve lived in fear of my mom deciding I wasn’t worth living for as long as I can remember. I have lived knowing that I have to protect her.
I don’t want my girls to worry about me like that. I don’t want them to feel like they have to take care of me. I fight every day to change myself for them.
Tell me, Band, how do I rewrite my girls’ future when my past is coming back to haunt me?
More than half of all suicides occur in adult men between the ages of 25-65.
Suicide is how she lost her brother.
The Band is about breaking apart stigmas and blasting the shame away from the dirty, dark secrets no one talks about. My family needs a band. Or, rather, we needed The Band.
I like to think I’m an intelligent adult and that I ultimately know it’s useless to play the “what-if” game. But after stumbling across The Band, I wonder: what if Ty had The Band? If we, as a family, had been raised to talk about our problems, our feelings, would he still be with us?
I don’t know.
I do know that for every waking moment I have, I’ll have another where I wish I could go back to that night and ask him to talk to me, made him talk instead of letting him hide away in his room.
Maybe then he wouldn’t have called his ex.
Maybe then he wouldn’t have written that note.
Maybe then he wouldn’t have wound the noose around his neck.
Maybe then we wouldn’t have lost my brother.
I was in kindergarten and kissed a pudgy little boy beside me on the playground. My little friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I was in the fifth grade and my classmates noticed I had boobs. My friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I was in high school and suffered through the angst of a breakup. His friends pointed and laughed. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
I had a huge fight with my parents and disappointed them. I wanted to die. I did not, because I made a choice.
The choice? Tomorrow would be a better day if I lived.
My husband of twelve years stuck a gun in his mouth and made a different choice. He left behind three daughters under five years of age. He died because, to him, there was no other choice.
We were finally ending a long divorce – a divorce spawned from years of domestic abuse due to his mental illness. For almost 12 years – 365 days and nights of tears, I woke up and thought tomorrow would be a better day if I lived.
Often times, I felt it was his “grace” that allowed me to live. Every now and then, in the grips of pain from a fist or a kick, I wanted to die. Still, I always made a choice to live.
For weeks after he left this earth, I asked, “Why?”
I needed an explanation – a resolution – for his choice.
Most of us have had those moments in which we think we don’t want to live through the day. We think for a split-second, “What would it matter if I was gone?”
We think we don’t matter. We wonder if we’d be missed. I wish that, before he ended his life, I could’ve answered these questions for him.
Since I cannot, I will do it here:
“What would it matter if I was gone?”
Regardless of our marital state, you helped me create three daughters.
Before the first one goes to school, I will have to explain that her father is dead. Before she learns to write her name, she will understand what a grave is.
The two youngest daughters will not have a decent memory of their father to carry through their adult lives. They will look back and only know your face because there is a picture. They will only know stories – not through their own recollection – but because I will fill in the blanks.
They will never be able to take their father to a “Daddy/Daughter” dance. They will not have the man who helped give them life give them away on their wedding days. Father’s Day will always leave their hearts heavy. They will, one day, know that you didn’t consider living for them, loving them, that they were not enough for you.
“Would I be missed?”
A few days after your death, I had to sit down on the bed and explain to the children that their father would never come back. Ever. The day has not come yet that they haven’t cried for you in some fashion. The oldest has a picture of you in her room on her nightstand. She talks to you when she has something important to say. She tells you about her birthday, her missing tooth, her new puppy, and when Mommy has made her mad. When she is frightened, she screams for you to help her, because Daddies are big and strong.
The man who didn’t feel like he had a choice went into a rage that day. He broke things, he screamed, and he broke down. He walked into the room filled with all the children’s things and did not see any of them. All he saw was that he didn’t have another choice, that he didn’t matter, that he wouldn’t be missed.
In front of a rack of his children’s clothes, ranging from size 18 months to 5T, standing before a toddler bed and dozens of smiling stuffed animals on the floor, he thought that the only thing that mattered was taking himself out of everyone’s life.
Ceasing to exist.
Becoming a memory and nothing more.
Later, I stood in a funeral home to pick out a casket for my husband. I wanted to die. I did not.
I made a choice to live. Sitting in the living room looking at the Christmas tree, stockings lined up bearing the children’s names and a dozen smiling stuffed animals on the floor, I see the only thing that matters: making memories and so much more.
Tomorrow will be a better day because I live.
I make that choice.
I haven’t told many people about this. Very few know any details. My husband knows the gist of it, but not all of it.
I was around 15 years old and I’d already spent time battling my personal demon. It was named Self-Harm and it came armed with a blade and a lighter.
I swallowed a bottle of… something. I can’t remember what. They had me on so many different medications. They wanted to “fix” me. The mutilation scared my parents. Not, of course, enough to try anything beyond anonymous prayer requests to the church group and a random assortment of pills. That, along with attempts, pleading with me to just stop and shaming me for my behavior, was supposed to be my “miracle cure.”
I don’t remember what finally tripped the trigger and pushed me to that point. Was it an argument? A particularly bad day? I don’t know. I can’t remember.
I remember being rushed to the ER. I remember the staff being unable to get a tube down into my stomach. I remember vomiting, repeatedly, every time they tried. Eventually they stopped trying and handed me a big mug of some charcoal mixture and told me to drink it.
Afterward, I had to stay in the ICU for 24 hours. I should have been sent to the local Psych unit for 72 hours. But I wasn’t. The doctor came in and talked to me.
He made me promise not to do this again, patted me on my head, handed me another prescription, and sent me off.
And that was it.
I went home.
I saw a “Christian Counselor” (despite religion being one of the major things my parents and I fought about) a handful of times over the next six months. My medication was changed a few more times. I can’t even remember everything we tried.
And that was it.
I stopped taking the medication when it was “mutually decided” I should move out.
I struggled with depression and other issues off and on for the next three or four years. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son and my second bout of Paranoid Personality Disorder that I started taking medication regularly or seeing a counselor on a regular basis.
I wonder how things would have turned out if they’d been handled differently way back then?
I almost lost my best friend last weekend.
She tried to die by suicide. I received her text that she was in the hospital while I was tutoring.
“Call me ASAP.”
“I need you to come to hospital and spend the night with me.”
My response: “I know. Still working with a student.”
She: “Ok please get done soon! I need you.”
I: “What hospital?”
She: “I’m at ******. I had a suicide attempt. The nurses know me and hate me here, so they’re doing small mind tortured. Waking me every five minutes–saying duragatory things. They told my parents I’m hallucinating–I’m not, please come stay with me–I don’t feel safe.”
“Can you stay the night?”
I: “Yes, I can.”
She: “With me, please? ***** (her husband) won’t.”
I: “Yes, of course.”
She: “OMG- get here now!! Room **.”
Meanwhile, I am trying to do my online tutoring job. I can see the look of horror on my face on camera while the texts are displaying on my phone. I tell my student I have to talk to his dad. I inform him that I have to leave immediately due to an emergency. I explain while his son is out of earshot. He gives his sincere emotional support. I give a quick run-down of what his son needs to complete for the assignment, then I start packing. I text my husband to let him know that I have to help my friend, then I tell one of my twins that I’m leaving for the hospital.
My brain is racing at the speed of light. I am trying to cover all the bases: what would she need from home that she did not get since she was directly transported to ER? I text her to ask if she needs anything from home before I leave. She would like headphones. I grab my earbuds, but first I have my son help me find an extra set because I would like my own set. After trying a few sets (why is it that teenagers blow through so many earbuds?), I decide to bring my own to share. She might be too tired to listen to music.
I text her to let her know I’m finally on my way. I arrive and remind myself of several things: put on your own oxygen mask first, stay strong, and be her advocate.
She is in the ICU. She has a central port PICC line as well as two IV lines because the medical staff had a hard time getting an IV started. She’s bruised all over. She overdosed on a plethora of medications at her parents’ house while she was housesitting there, including painkillers and her father’s injectable insulin. Her kidneys shut down and the medical staff had to pump her stomach. The medical team pull her labs every two hours to make sure that her levels are improving. Thankfully, the PICC line is a saving grace.
My friend makes comments about the nursing staff. She says that they make comments about her, saying that she OD’d to get attention, that she is a princess and she is going to call her daddy, but when she confronts the nurses about it, they say that my friend is hallucinating. The hospital has a one on one person for suicide watch. This person has to document every little thing that the patient does while under their care. On Saturday night, the one on one person documented all of the unprofessional conduct. While I was there, she said that the nurses were commenting about her again, as well as me. I went up to the nurse and asked her about it. She denied it and said that my friend was “hallucinating and making things up”. I said, “You may say that, but when you talk about patients, others can hear it and that is breaking patient privacy. Everyone else can hear it, and that is not acceptable. It is not professional. You need to stop it.”
The nurse called her supervisor and she came down to talk with all of us. My friend finally voices how she feels. The nurses, of course, covered their butts and say that my friend had been hallucinating from her OD. I interject and say, “Even though that did happen, it is not professional for you to discount how she feels. Nor is it professional of you to talk about her while other people can hear. She does have recipient rights.” The minute I mentioned the term “recipient rights”, the two immediately changed their tune and started apologizing. My friend apologized as well for things (even though in my opinion, she didn’t have to, but it is part of healing the relationship). I asked if my friend could be moved to step down critical care since her levels were improving, and the nurses agreed. Two hours later, my friend was moved to a quieter, private room with a more caring team. Ironically, the bitchy nurse stays after her shift end to help us move.
We get settled in, and my friend finally has the best sleep she has had. Her levels improve so much, her kidneys are normally functioning, and the medical team clears her. The next day, she gets her PICC line removed. My friend keeps telling me to go home, that she is OK. All of a sudden, we learn that Community Mental Health (CMH) is on their way to start the intake process to find her a facility. Things start accelerating at an astronomical rate, and my friend has no idea how to process this. I stay to help her process things and to be her advocate. Her parents come to the meeting, as well as her husband. I ask the CMH representative if it is OK if I stay during the meeting to be her advocate and he said if it was OK with her it was OK with him.
Here is where I see mental health stigma magnified. Thankfully, the CMH person is neutral, asks all the appropriate questions, and takes my friend’s requests seriously. I was floored when my friend’s stepmom was blaming my friend for what happened. She said, “Your dad is so angry at what you did to him.”
I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I said, “I’m sorry. With all due respect, when you make comments like that to her, you are blaming her for her illness. We need to help her instead of telling her what she did wrong. She didn’t do this to you.”
The stepmom got angry at me and said, “Well, with all due respect to you, you haven’t been here for the past eleven years.”
I responded, “You’re right. I haven’t. But, you need to understand that constantly telling her how bad she is isn’t helping her heal.”
When her parents left, my friend said, “That is the first time that anyone stood up to my stepmom.”
I pack up to go home because my friend’s husband is there. I feel that she is stable enough now. Her husband made the comment, “Well, I would have come earlier, but I had a half talk of gas and no money.”
I looked him and smiled with my sweetest Southern smile and said, “I had only the change in my pocket, a quarter tank of gas, cancelled my tutoring job that I was doing, cancelled my other two tutoring jobs and packed up to stay the night with *****.”
He looked at me, laughed and said, “What is wrong with you?”
I said, “Nothing is wrong with me. My priority is taking care of those I love, and I love ******.”
I was hurt for my friend. It is hard enough battling mental health demons, but when you are alone with no emotional support from your family, it is almost insurmountable.
Once I got to my car, I video chatted with one of my friends, and I finally cried. I let it all out. I cried body rocking sobs for my friend, the pain that she is shouldering on her own, the fear of the unknown that she is facing, and the aching of wanting to heal. I sobbed in anger against mental health stigma, the blame people put on those with mental illness, and the broken system that is failing so many. No one should be blamed for his or her mental illness. It would be akin to being blamed for having cancer, diabetes, or asthma.
I received a text from my friend’s husband. It read: “Thanks for being such a good friend to ******. I don’t think I have ever witnessed such devotion from a friend of hers. I will try to keep you in the loop as much as possible ok” I responded, “Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I appreciate that. We all need to rally around ***** and help her to recovery and wellness.”
This is my prayer. I pray that we work on our recovery and wellness, be our best advocate, and remember to put on our oxygen masks first.