Longest. Post. Ever.
I made a deal with myself that if I got my latest tattoo that I had to tell the compact version of my story. And I know it sounds silly, I can totally break a deal with myself. But no, actually, I can’t bring myself to do that. But before I start, I am sure there are those of you out there that are wondering, what the tattoo has to do with my story. Well, my tattoo tells my story. It is representation of every battle I have ever fought, with others and with myself. And I’d sit here and type out all the explanations, but then my story would be useless. I need my story to be worth something. There are some terrifying parts to my story that have never seen the light of day; that I have never breathed to anyone. And many other parts that only a very select handful have heard pieces of. The fact that I can sit here and type this to share with you, is what makes it all beautiful. Ready to go on an adventure?
From the moment I entered the public school system, I became a victim. A victim of abuse at the hands of the authority figures that were supposed to teach me and guide me. To put it simply, with the understanding I now have as an adult, I would not conform. Which caused me to be labeled as a problem child. To make it as compact as possible, I’ll squish most of my elementary and middle school into one part. In any given year, they attempted to label me special needs and then gifted and back to special needs so quickly it’d make your head spin. Imagine being the child they were doing it to year after year. My mom spent so much time at the schools that most people thought she worked there. Year after year, meeting after meeting, she was told the same thing over and over. She was doing something wrong at home, she had to be, and it couldn’t possibly be them causing the problems. She took me to doctor after doctor, psychologists, psychiatrists, IQ analyzers, special needs facilities. You name it, I went to it. I never knew what they discovered, only what I was told. Eventually I was labeled as ADHD and medicated. Things improved, but not by much.
What about that abuse I was talking about? Yeah, that. I remember having a rope tied to my chair and being told to put “my seat belt on” if I couldn’t stay in my seat. One teacher would put so many check marks by my name that they went clear across the black board. More so because she refused to wipe my slate clean each morning like she did for everyone else. So there was no chance of doing better than yesterday, the deck was always stacked. There was another teacher that repeatedly put my desk behind a rolling cabinet so that I could not interact with the other students. They encouraged other students to mistreat me as well.
How I was never expelled from school is beyond me. I can only imagine that my mom played a huge part in this. At least once a week, if not more, I was getting beat up, or beating someone up for picking on me. On any given day I was being singled out, left out, drug down the bus aisles by my hair, shoe laces tied together, stabbed with pencils, called retarded, bitch, gum put in my hair, food dumped on me. You get the picture. I was absolutely the kid who should have grown up to blow up their school. I have been jumped more times than I can count, one fight in particular in the 6th grade, I was surround by 5 girls and beat unconscious.
There was that one time in third grade that I threw a desk at a kid though. We were trying to do our math work, and he wouldn’t stop talking. I knew I was falling behind because I couldn’t concentrate and asked him to be quiet. He responded by asking me if I was retarded. I was so sick of being treated like I was an idiot, I screamed at him, picked up my wooden desk and threw it at him.
Okay, now my side of the street. I was a thief. A horridly good little thief. I never really understood why, I just was. Never anything big, mostly just the other kid’s sweets in their lunches, erasers, pencils, stickers. It was a compulsion, an itch I could not scratch. All my life I have tried to make sense of it. I thought it had to do with my food restrictions due to the medications I was on for the ADHD. It got so bad that my parents resorted to locking most of the food behind a closet door. Nothing worked. Nothing. I honestly didn’t have an handle on it until roughly 6 years ago.
One “specialist” thought my behavioral issues had to do with the fact that I didn’t crawl as a baby. That somehow I missed a vital step my brain needed. And because of my fast nature, I didn’t cuddle much either, so they also thought the decreased physical stimuli messed me up. So I was given this insane routine of rubbing feather dusters and washcloths down my arms and legs over and over for a set # of repetitions. I crawled like a baby on my stomach and again on my hands and knees, up and down the hallway for 20 or so laps. I sat in a dark bathroom while my mom flicked different colored lights on and off. We did this for nearly two years with zero improvement. Until the specialist finally admitted that she had no idea what was wrong with me.
I remember once that my mother put me in “jail” for my disruptive defiance and stealing. She told me that if she didn’t I would end up in Juvenile Hall. In jail? Yes. In the morning I would get up, get dressed and go into the bathroom. The lights were turned off, the door closed and I sat there in dark until lunch. Lights came on for 30 minutes, then lights out until dinner. Then I went to bed, and the next morning we would do it again. I ate my meals in that bathroom and sat in the dark for three days. I was 8.
I always “hated” my mom for this. I finally got the courage to ask her once why she did it. Between her tears I finally understood that the school pressured her into it. The superintendents, principal, teachers, experts all told her that if she didn’t do this, they were afraid I would end up in Juvenile Hall. They pressured her by basically insinuating that she was an awful mother and if she didn’t do this and protect me from myself. They would report her to CPS if she didn’t do something to get her daughter under control. She told me that she had never forgiven herself for that. We were actually extremely close. I was fiercely protective of my mother all of my life. We talked about everything, and as an adult that included all the things I struggled to label abuse. But she gave me permission to label her behavior what it was. I don’t hold anything against her. She did the best she could with what she had.
I was never not in trouble, I was constantly doing something I wasn’t supposed to. The punishments my parents came up with weren’t anything to scoff at either, so you’d think I’d get my act together eventually. I’m talking hard manual labor. Let me give you an example. Picture a section of yard the size of a community swimming pool. Now fill it with weeds 3-4 feet tall, and tumbleweeds the size of a Labrador. And I don’t mean dried up tumbleweeds, no not those. Try them still alive, green and very thorny. And those four foot tall weeds, are three fingers thick at the base. Growing in rock. And I had to pull every last one and had no freedom to do anything until I was done. Another inventive task was for my mom would pull out evert last dish from the cabinets, and I would have to wash them all, scrub the cabinets out and put all the dishes back.
There were plenty of times that instead of the usual “chores”, I would have to write sentences. Hundreds and hundreds of sentences. That’s pretty basic, no big deal. Or I’d be grounded and have to sit in my room. Now grounded for kids today is really no big deal. When my parents grounded me, they were not fooling around. Picture a normal weekend and instead of going outside to play, I would sit on my bed. Sit. No reading, no video games, no radio, no toys, nothing. Sit. All day, every day if it was summer time. For weeks. There was one stretch where my parents removed everything from my room except my bed. I sat in a completely blank, white room for days on end. Even this didn’t generally phase me. I know it’s going to sound crazy, but most of the time, when my punishment was done I no longer remembered what I had done wrong in the first place.
There were plenty of whoopins too. Of all kinds, although I can say that I was lucky enough that it was never a belt. Switches, wood spoons, plastic spoons, hand. Those didn’t work either.
I can remember spending a lot of time in the “corner”. Although, it wasn’t a corner. It was a flat section of the wall in the hallway. And I had to stand completely still, with my nose touching the wall. For 20 minutes. And if I moved, mom added 5 minutes. So there were plenty of times I stood there for near an hour. Not sure if I can explain this next part adequately but I’ll try. With my nose pressed against the wall, it made breathing a little challenging. I can only assume that the CO2 built up, because it would start to smell weird and wet. Now, not every time, but often enough, I would start to get sick to my stomach. If I could manage it, I could stay still long enough to get out of the corner quickly and I would be okay. But there were plenty of times that I couldn’t. I’d end up throwing up, if I was lucky, all I’d have to do was clean it up. Sometimes I’d have to go back to the corner and start my time over. There was an occasion or two where my mom would be so angry with me, that she’d rub my face in it, then make me stand in the corner again before I could clean it up.
The pressure was overwhelming to be “good”. I could never understand why I just couldn’t behave. Nothing I ever did was right, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I thought before I acted, or tried to follow the rules, I just always fucked it up. Nothing ever clicked.
Fast Forward to High School, and puberty. You can imagine how that went for me. I ended up on Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) at 14. My mom always explained that they put me on it because I was crashing off the Ritalin. Junior year of high school I was enrolled in all Advanced Placement classes and enrolled at a California State University in the evenings. By the time I graduated high school I already had half of an Associate’s Degree in Psychology.
I was not a happy child. Looking at me you would never have known it, ever. I was smart, successful in academics, had plenty of friends once I made it to high school, I was involved heavily in the church, and I had finally grasped how to not destroy everything I got involved in. But inside, I was dead. I had no joy, no peace. Most of the abuse from my peers and teachers had trickled down significantly, although it never totally stopped. In some cases the fact that there were less kids picking on me didn’t matter much, because teenagers can be far more inventive and cruel. I can remember this one moment, sitting in my dad’s truck, shortly after my birthday and realizing that I was 18. I had this empty feeling inside, wondering why? Why was I alive? I didn’t think I would make it to my 18th birthday. It’s hard to describe, but I had a very strange emptiness that made me feel like I didn’t even really exist. Never a concrete, ‘I should be dead because of such and such’, just an sense of pointlessness. I don’t think the suicidal thoughts had blossomed fully yet, but the seeds were there. I had no understanding of why I felt I should be dead.
I went to prom only because my boyfriend of 2 yrs. asked me. I didn’t want him to not have those memories, and I guess I wanted to make sure I didn’t regret fully checking out. I was never involved in any extracurricular activities, never went out with my friends during the summer months or holidays, mostly because I was honestly never invited. I didn’t spend hours talking on the phone, cause no one ever called. I didn’t have pen pals, because they never wrote back. I went to school and went home, day after day. I was good at that though, good at school, so it was easy to get lost in it. I didn’t even want to attend my own high school graduation. I remember getting angry when people congratulated me on graduating. I did not want to be celebrating. I did not want to be there.
Within 6 months of graduating I was involved with a man 10 years older than me. I did not know he was when we started dating, and when I found out he had lied, I should have bolted, but I didn’t. In school I had always gotten along with either the custodial staff or the kids much younger than myself. So it seemed natural that he would be interested in me. Things quickly escalated and despite my parents desperate attempts to get me to stay, I moved in with him shortly after. I did not yet see the pattern for what it was. Truthfully, he didn’t treat me any differently than anyone else had for most of my life. But the verbal and emotional abuse was as plain as the nose on my face to everyone else. He repeatedly told me that I was stupid, worthless, useless, ugly, etc. I was big into drawing and painting and he made sure to squash that too. Everything was very carefully manipulated. He would build me up, just a little, just a little more, then blow the whole thing out from under me. And I was dumb enough to run to Vegas and marry him.
He would hide in the shadows of the single wide trailer and jump out and scare me, repeatedly. He would lunge at me when I least expected it just to watch me flinch.
He would drop me off at the grocery store so I could do the shopping, then come back and pick me up. Sometimes he left me waiting for him for hours, simply because he could. On the way home he would accuse me of talking to other guys while I was in the store. During one such interrogation, I remember turning away from him to look out the window. He grabbed a fist full of my hair and slammed my face into the dash board. He said he did it because I was “checking out” the guy in the car next to us.
I had no phone, he monitored my emails constantly and eventually turned off the internet connection as well. We lived in the middle of nowhere in a trailer park. I was isolated and cut off from everyone and everything and part of me didn’t care. Very shortly after the dashboard incident the physical violence became a common occurrence. I fought back once, and only once. I slapped him after I warned him to stop calling me a bitch. I woke up on the bathroom floor with the shower curtain and rod broken on the floor with me. He was a MMA fighter (wannabe) and trained in Jiu Jitsu three times a week. He often made me his sparring partner, under the guise that he was teaching me self-defense. There were several time when we got into an argument he forced me to settle it with sparring. These moments never went well for me. One night in particular, he was especially wound up and got me in a choke hold, I felt the blood pool in my head and start to throb, a pop, and then nothing, everything went black.
He tried to smother me with a pillow in my sleep on several occasions if I had told him that I wanted to leave him. Every time I would come to, he would remind me that he could end it all if he wanted to. That I was only alive because he allowed it. I screamed for help once, knowing the neighbors could hear every little thing. Again, I only made that mistake once. He held me hostage at gun point that night and would click the magazine out of the gun and slam it back in if I nodded off.
I can look back at my behavior with disbelief. I was never a meek child, I was not a go with the flow kid, I did not allow anyone to control me. So how did he manage to submit me when no one else could? I often wonder if a part of me wasn’t trying to make my mental and emotional pain end. I wonder if a part of me was hoping he would succeed in taking my life.
I attempted suicide four times in the brief but tortuous year we were together.
And that was a year total, we’d only been married and living together for 8 months, the physical violence only spanned 5 months. In 5 months he had escalated from 0 to 60. In the few group therapy and one on one therapy sessions I had after I escaped, the domestic violence counselors told me that what I had experienced in 8 months usually took most men 7-10 years to build up to. I had experience 7years of trauma in less than one year.
He tried to take my life at least 5 times. I tried to take my own 4 times. And he took 2 lives from my womb.
Within 2 months of escaping from him, I was involved with a guy that I’d had a brief but intense relationship with in high school. He was a lying sleaze ball and I was naïve enough to think he wasn’t. We were like fire and fire. But we thought it’d be a good idea to give it another go. Why? Because I was a very broken girl trying desperately to run away from anything that reminded me of all my failures as a child, and the demons that now haunted my sleep. Soon, I was pregnant. Soon after that, his family showed their true colors as well and threatened to take the baby from me. And they would have had a pretty good case too. Before they had taken me in, I had been working three jobs and living in my truck. I now had no jobs, no money, no home, no insurance, nothing. I ran away. I fled to Arkansas where my “sister” took me in and got me set up in a Maternity Home for Wayward Girls and I gave my beautiful baby boy up for adoption.
A decision that I will never forget, and will never regret. That little boy was not my son. He wasn’t meant to be mine, I was just the vessel chosen to bring him to a family desperate for a child of their own. Things didn’t go well with my sister and within a month of letting go of my son, she once again walked out of my life.
I returned home to California and wandered. I lived with my parents for a while, but that didn’t last long, I couldn’t stay still long enough for it to be helpful. I was constantly on the go, constantly losing jobs and disappearing for days at a time. I’d go to my girlfriend’s dorm, we’d hang out and I’d go to sleep. Only problem was, the next morning she couldn’t wake me up. I’d sleep for nearly 24 hours straight. It was as if my body was shutting down, turning off in an attempt to heal.
I’d drive my truck up a winding mountain road and park at an overlook. I’d stand on the edge and want to jump. I’d think about driving my car onto the wrong side of the freeway, driving it off a bridge, in the river, etc. All I wanted to do was die.
I meet the man who is now my husband at a friend’s get together. Shortly thereafter, I was living in said friend’s living room because my parents had had enough again. Eventually I managed to get a decent job and get myself in to see a doctor. I was diagnosed with Anxiety/Depression and put on meds. My boyfriend moved out of his grandmother’s house and moved in with me and helped pay the rent. I cannot remember how much he knew. I know I told him about the ex-husband and the baby. But I don’t think I had told him about all the suicidal thoughts and depression.
He was a god send. He’d hold me when I would wake up screaming from the nightmares of my ex. He’d talk to me and rub my back when I’d have my panic attacks. I couldn’t hide the depression for long though. I had to confess it all when he came home from work one day and had to pull me out of the tub. #5
He didn’t walk away. He should have, he would have been justified in doing so, but he didn’t. 13 years later he still helps keep my feet on solid ground. I did well for a while, but I was always on and off meds. There were several more close calls, #6 and #7, although he will tell you he doesn’t remember them. Then came our son, and we got married. Then we were surprised again with our daughter.
Fast forward to now. I haven’t attempted anything in 10 years, not since the day I found out I was creating life. I cannot say that I have not sat and looked long into the face of that desire, because I have. I have allowed the thoughts to freely dance in my head, and I’ve danced with them. I have wanted on so many occasions to just walk away. And keep walking. Never looking back, never stopping until I walked myself into my grave.
I have a sister that has turned her back on me and abandoned me when I needed her most more times than I can count. I have had friends stab me in the back and walk over the top of me when I fell. I have had people come into my life and leave just as quickly. But the demons within never leave. They are always there.
It’s hard to describe depression to someone who doesn’t experience it. It isn’t just “sadness”. It’s a state of being, a state of existence. I am never not depressed, it doesn’t go away like a cold does. It ebbs and flows, and constantly changes. Sometimes I cry at the smallest of things. The simple act of losing the Sharpie I just had can put me on the floor. Weeks go by in a blur where I can’t remember how many days it’s been since I last showered. I don’t always remember to eat, most days don’t even care too. Or, I’m in the kitchen every 10 minutes pulling open every last cabinet desperate for something to make me happy. There are days where the energy required to breathe is too heavy to bear. Days that I have to actually make an effort to pull air into my lungs and push it out again. I end up breathing with this sighing rhythm for most of the day. Like I am constantly trying to catch my breath. Because I am. How do you explain to someone what it feels like when your own body doesn’t even want to keep you alive? How do you explain what that does to your head? To your heart?
Being on the right medication helps a lot. It quiets the voices, slows the spinning of the mind. Makes the lows seem normal, and they don’t last as long. I’m able to get out of bed and take care of my kids, run in the yard and play with them, enjoy their giggles, actually soak it in. I can usually finish a few projects too.
I found something recently that made all my moments pop into startling clarity for me. Something my mother saved for me. I know she saved it for me, because she knew one day I would find it and it would tell me what she never could.
A huge binder full of every IEP meeting, every Dr. she ever took me too. Every psychiatrist, every behavioral therapist. I could not believe what I was reading.
Not one single doctor ever diagnosed me with ADHD. NONE, never. At the age of 7, 9, and 11 I was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Depression. By 4 different doctors no less. So why was I treated for ADHD? I saw a Dr for nearly my entire childhood for ADHD and took medication for it that actually helped.
I researched ODD and was blown away by how much of my life made sense for the very first time. All the times as a child that I felt powerless to make good choices, even though I clearly knew right from wrong. Every time I had a compulsion to steal or lie made sense. My refusal even as an adult to do anything the way anyone else is doing it. My inability to, would be more accurate. I can’t even follow a dress pattern or recipe fully. I have to tweak or change something, always. I take painting classes, and I always flip something to the other side of the canvas, or change some colors or both. I can’t not do it. If I’m coloring in a book with my kids, nothing is the color it is “supposed” to be. I just can’t.
And all those morbid thoughts as a preteen and teenager wasn’t me crashing off the Ritalin. It was the depression leaking through when the stimulants left my system. I believe whole heartedly that my mother finally allowed a Doctor that the school recommended to diagnose me as ADHD because she knew it was the only way to get me the help that I needed. There is no treatment for ODD, and it is not recognized by the school system as a learning disability. Once I was labeled learning disabled, doors that were bolted closed suddenly opened. And the medication did help. It calmed me enough that the behavior therapy I went to was able to work. I do not think I would be a functioning member of society today without it. I can never confirm this though, as my mother passed suddenly a year ago.
Every single damn day of my life, I earn it. I fight for it. I battle for it. I am a Warrior. I am alive because I say so, because I choose so.
I am a sentence that could have ended, but didn’t. I am a story that is still being written, and a damn good one at that too. I am not finished yet.
I am a coloring book full of scribbles and bright colors that don’t match. I am all the things we are told we can’t be. I am loud. I am bright. I am vivid. I am passionate. I laugh more and louder than I ought to. I dance in the rain and in the grocery store. I sing to a tune you cannot hear. I try anything at least once.
I am an arrow, straight and true. I am always going forward, toward a better me. Once I set my mind on something I cannot be moved. If I have decided you are family, nothing you do will ever change that. I am fiercely loyal to those I love. If you are on the right side of this loyalty, I will move heaven and earth to do what needs to be done.