Battle of the Body

She lay upon her bed, the only sound is the gasps of air as she sobs. Praying for sleep, she found none. She just wanted to make sense of the emotional pain that she had been feeling for as long as she can remember.

Freak, Fatty, Nerd, Worthless. The words rang repeatedly in her mind. No, she wasn’t being bullied, or maybe she was, but if she was, she was the bully and the bullied.

Her mind began to race, she was inundated with ideas, and it was just an impulse when she went to the kitchen, took the knife, and wildly slashed at her arms. In a flurry of activity and pain she felt the great release that comes with self-harm.

She had managed to turn the emotional pain that she couldn’t understand into physical damage that she could see and make sense of.  The endorphin rush was short, and the blood stains told her that she better hide the damage. She ran to her room to hide the knife as she cried for the stinging of the of the cuts.

Little did she know that her mind was hiding the knife for future use. She swore out loud that she would never do this again, as she placed the blade in her night stand drawer.

Washing up the evidence she had placed upon her body she allowed the tears of pain to turn to continued sobs.

As you read this, maybe you imagine a broken family, a victim of sexual assault or some other sort of crime, maybe even a mental patient.

Not once did you consider that maybe she’s just a normal girl, with normal emotional growth. Not once did you consider that her scars are caused by inappropriate coping skills. Not once did you consider how you might help her.

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Destined for Greatness

What if I told you that each of us is born destined for some sort of greatness? That God created YOU to be an amazing individual, but from the moment that you were born your environment has catapulted trauma onto you, thus resulting in your lack of luster?

I’m asking you to consider the above, I’m not trying to shove my beliefs on you, I’m just asking you to consider it as you read this post.

In my last post I briefly discussed the death of my brother over eight years before my birth. I also discussed how my siblings often consider me lucky, because I didn’t have to try to survive during the horrific time in the lives of my parents and family. Or, did I? Did I in some way endure the consequences poured upon their souls by society?

Some will have an easier time imagining this than others, but for a moment … imagine that you have had to bury a child, specifically an infant; imagine the torture, pain, and questioning your faith in God.

Now, you find out that you are going to have another child. What if this one passes away? What if there is another investigation? Or if the children are removed out of fear that I’m not a good parent? What if … a million other things run through your mind?

In the midst of all of the chaos your father says, “You’re pregnant.”

You respond with, “Oh, Dad, I am not.”

“Don’t tell me, I know when one of my girls is expecting!”

With in a couple of weeks of this conversation your dad, your hero, passes away. You grieve, you deny, you hide and five months in you find out that Dad was right, you are pregnant. Three months later the baby is born a full month early.

Every stressor that you endure during this time is flooding your infant with cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal gland during times of stress. Stress, upon stress, and yup, more stress, and your baby is fighting this intense hormone that is being directed right to him or her.

The child’s environment is already changing the child before birth, the infant is ultimately fighting a war in utero. The destiny for greatness suffers, the child is born not knowing who s/he is, just a baby, already tainted by society.

I hope that you were born to achieve greatness, but the truth is … I was not. If you were, you have a fighting chance to find you, your true destiny, yourself. However, there are many just like me, born lost and fighting a war that no one knows about, we can reach greatness, we just have to put up a bigger fight.

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Unblaming My Parents

October 16, 1965, a day that forever altered the progression and growth of my life.

How can that be when I wasn’t born until December 8, 1973?

I always thought that I was spared the pain of my brother’s passing, by being born many years after his death in infancy, but was I!?

Trauma has followed me through out my life, and when I told my parents in a desperate attempt to get help I was told things like, “Well, if you wouldn’t dress like that …” “Don’t tell anyone.” Or even just the silent treatment. One thing was clear, police and investigators had no place in our lives.

I learned to sit down, shut up, and take the blame. For a short time I was very angry that my parents were unable to be more supportive and less blaming in these matters, but today I had an epiphany.

When my infant brother passed away the media found them guilty almost before they were even questioned, and the inquest must have been horrific to endure. Everyone was pointing fingers, all but one detective that took the time to not only hear my parents, but to fight for them. One person out of all of those that were involved in the case, the odds were clearly stacked against my parents. God willing, they survived the tension of that chaos and moved forward to not only raise three older children, but to have two more.

Now there’s me … repeatedly raped … but the odds are stacked against my family, so I go to no one, it’s a risk too great to endure.

I acted out in ways that made me pure hell to raise, when life got to be too much I even tried overdosing … having your stomach pumped is not for the weak. I ran from my problems, leaping from a cliff with no parachute into a valley of lava.

I tried everything I could to be the better person, to be stronger and more resilient than I was raised to be. With each passing trauma I realized a tiny bit more that my reaction is my choice, not that of my parents.

My parents must have been really scared during the loss and investigation into their son’s death … sort of like me … deep in the brush of the old race track during the state fair. No one to turn to, no one to help, no one to guide me … No one, but God, and I missed it. I was so busy blaming my parents that I forgot about the faith I’d been raised in, besides, God didn’t want a dirty hoe like me in His house!

Today was different though, today I was driving past a location where I had once been severely beaten by an ex-husband, and I experienced a flash back. I had one of my children in the car with me … and I realized I had to keep myself together, or risk freaking her out. I can’t blame my parents anymore, they are both deceased and can’t fight back, I can’t blame my ex, because if I got that close I can’t be responsible for my reaction. The only person to blame for how I handle this situation is me, and this time I turned to the faith I’d been raised in and somehow I just knew, it’s not what happens to me, but how I react … I own that, so I am unblaming my parents for lifes traumas.

Applying God’s Word to Abuse

When I decided to move from Pennsylvania to Michigan, a single mother with three small children, I remember my mom’s tearful, parting words, “You are breaking up the family that you created. God doesn’t look kindly on that.”

In that very moment I not only questioned God’s love for me, I also accepted that any and all bad things that were about to happen were God’s punishment for my sins. I had felt this way for a very long time, to be honest, I had been attoning for my sins since I was about eight years old. I never knew what the sins were, just that the world was about me and all bad was caused by my failure to follow God.

The idea that an eight year old has so many sins to atone for may seem unjust to you, but at that developmental stage a child is unable to see the world beyond themselves, thereby accepting all grief and pain as their fault.

Many years prior to my move to Michigan I had pulled away from church, I was ignoring everything that God put before me. I only saw the bad, because I was looking for it, and when you look for something, not only are you bound to find it, chances are that you will find it in the last place that you look. So, here I am; almost eighteen years later, trying once again to figure out what I did wrong in life to deserve all of this.

Recently my daughter has been attending church, and placing loving pressure on me to attend as well. I can think of a million excuses not to go, but I have one reason to go; God really does have my back, He always has, and He always will.

My biggest reason for turning my back on my faith and religion is that much of scripture is twisted by individuals to meet their own needs.

You have heard it said, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” Matthew 5:38

This passage is used many times through out the Bible, but I choose Matthew 5:38 to demonstrate what often happens …

But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. Matthew 5:39

Matthew 5:38-42 discusses the topic of biblical contraversy elegantly. Often times, an abuser will stop reading at verse 38, because they have met their own needs, but continuing on we can see that it is not man’s job to bring us to repent for our own sins.

I am definitely not a theologian, but maybe that’s something I should study, because one of the reasons that I have made the decision to turn my back on religion is the mass confusion concerning this. Every swing that has ever connected with my body has touched my soul and allowed me to turn it into this is my repentence for past transgressions. My assailants have grasped onto my thought and torn me apart with words from the Bible about how women are less than man, how we are meant to be a man’s slave, how divorce is against Christianity.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:18-19

Now, it’s time to face the cold, hard truth; I’m watching some of my children suffer from control and abuse of others. Their take is that it is their penance for past transgressions, one of the “gifts” that I have given them, which I must now take back. We are not placed on this earth to repent for our sins at the hands of evil, for we are here for a greater purpose, and our sins will be judged by God, on the day of His choosing, when we are brought before Him, our shell encapsulated in a grave, and our soul standing before Him.

 

To Bipolar or Not to Bipolar

Has anyone every tried to suffocate you with a pillow? What about dangling at the ends of another’s hands by your neck, your feet just inches from the floor, and no air getting in, nothing left but the telltale signs of his fingerprints etched in bruises upon your neck? Or, has anyone ever struck you as you held your infant child in your arms, with five other young children looking on?

My answers to these questions are yes, yes, and yes. These are just a few of the instances of abuse that I endured during my second marriage, and they left me spent, fearful, dare I say paranoid!?

In order to survive in a home like this everything has to be perfect … children shall be seen and not heard, the wife is in control of everything … or at least everything that causes his anger to be triggered.

The night that this beast was arrested he called me over a dozen times, from the county jail, to try to persuade me to drop the charges (the calls were collect of course). Finally, I had to call 911 to contact the jail and make him stop calling.

Within two years of this horrendous relationship I was preparing for another marriage. The stress was high, though a good stress, it triggered negative memories and behaviors within me. I became fearful of “being owned by a man.” Scared that the old one would hunt me down to be sure I never had happiness. Most of all, I was pissed off, yes, I was angry that my past could taint my future, and every little thing that I viewed as out of place was cause for screaming, and in some cases even throwing things.

My fiance sat me down, “Laura,” he said, “this isn’t normal, you need help.” He ran me to the doctor who said that I had bipolar and started me on medication.

That was in 2002, and for the past 14 years I have had endless amounts of counseling and when things weren’t perfect my husband would report it and doctors would throw more medication at me. We never decreased or altered, we only added more medication.

When I was raising five children, working full-time and attending college part-time I slept about two or three hours every night, but when college break was on, this mama bear was curled up in bed trying to catch up on lost sleep. No one said a word about my illness when I was setting the world on its ear, but when I slept for more than five hours, suddenly I was considered depressed and whoop, look out, more medication down the throat!

Through all of this I have tried to tell others that I am in control of this, that it was an enviromental reaction, not a chemical imbalance, but no one listened.

NOW, finally, after 14 years of medication I have someone that is listening to me and is considering the fact that I might have been misdiagnosed and over medicated. Now, think this through, I can’t just stop taking my meds, the withdrawals would be pure hell … bad things could happen. So, first I am weaning off the medication that causes: weight gain, high cholesterol, and diabetes … my three biggest concerns since starting this medication path so long ago.

We don’t know for sure if I’ve been misdiagnosed, the only way to know for certain is for me to be off medication, and I have a lot of weaning to get there. I can tell you, that I believe my earlier bouts of anger and throwing things was pure fear of anything less than perfection. Now I know, I’m not perfect, my children aren’t perfect, and neither is my home, but the world won’t end because of that … no one is going to kill me … because those that I surround myself with know that each of us is in charge of our own happiness.

Finally, I have found a doctor that listens and is in this field to help me rather than possible kickbacks. Woohoo!

A Nightmare from the Past

Written on: March 28, 2015

A teen’s dream, no parents, just a friend and me going to the State Fair. It was a warm May day in southeast Pennsylvania. In 1988, neon colors and big hair were all the rage, and I was very in touch with the 80s, as I sported a pair of neon green and black spandex with an oversize t-shirt to match. My childhood friend, Janelle, was with me, we each had $10 to spend, and a day of oversize fun was about to be had!

Janelle found food, especially carnival food, to be an extremely important part of her life, so first she and I walked around looking for the perfect junk food meal. With her being just 13 years old, I was an entire year older and felt a certain responsibility to her. As she scouted for food I kept my eyes open for cute boys.

“Step right up!” a deep voice shouted to us from about fifteen feet away. “For a single dollar you could win one of these adorable stuffed animals. Come on, ladies, give it a shot!”

I smiled at him, he was sort of cute, with a baby face, and bright blue eyes. “Hi,” I said, raising my voice as I closed the distance between us, dragging Janelle along with me to see this hottie close up.

“Hey, how are you?” he questioned me as his eyes seemed to smother my body from top to bottom.

“Okay,” I responded.

“Would you like to give my game a try? All you have to do is ring the milk bottle with one of these,” he held up a ring barely big enough to land around the neck of one of the bottles.

“Nah,” I looked at Janelle, “Do you want to give it a try? I’m not good at the ring toss game.”

“No way,” she said, “I’m hungry, I want to go eat.”

“No surprise there,” said the carnie as he shot me a smile and for the first time I noticed the rotting spaces that once were teeth. His smile reminded me of something out of a Stephen King novel, and I grabbed Janelle’s hand to escort her away from the fear I had rising in me.

He grabbed my free hand, “Hey,” he said, “not so fast. I have some pot, want to catch up later and smoke a joint?”

Feeling the nausea in my stomach I ignored the sensation. I could easily be described as an avid toker, but I never purchased my own. The only time I would smoke was if a friend had some.

“Sure,” I said.

“I’m not sure if I have enough for everyone though,” he nodded in Janelle’s direction.

“No worries,” I laughed, “she’s pretty righteous, she doesn’t do anything like that.”

“Perfect, come on back in a half hour, and we can enjoy the smoke on my next break.”

“Awesome!”

Janelle and I continued the great hunt for good carnie food, until it was time to meet the ring toss boss. Picking our way through the games we finally found his station. He took my hand, and I grabbed Janelle’s hand. Together he led us to the back of the fair, behind the semi’s that brought the many games, rides, and food trailers to our home town.

“Ready?” he asked.

“You bet,” I smiled as I eyed the ground between us, trying to avoid the gaping holes in his mouth.

As he lit the fat joint I watched his eyes smile and his lips curl around the hand rolled paper. Eager to take my own toke I reached out for his hand to receive the pass.

As I held the deep inhale, he looked at Janelle, “Why don’t you go get us a soda?” as he handed her two dollars.

“Oh, I better go with her, I’m responsible for her today.”

“Ah, she’ll be fine, just let her go,” he stepped a couple of steps to his right, pointing he showed me that the soda trailer was just about 20 feet away.

Janelle looked scared, “No, I’ll go with her, just let me get one more hit.”

She didn’t make eye contact with me, but she began to walk away. “Don’t go, she’ll be fine, besides, I can’t smoke all of this by myself.”

“No, I need to stay with her.”

“Please, stay?” he seemed quite pitiful, I looked for Janelle, but she was long gone, and the carnie had pulled me back behind the semi.

“Take another hit?” he asked as he held out the bit of joint that we had just about smoked to completion.

The roach was hot, burning my fingers. “Here,” he pulled the feathered clip from my hair and used it to hold the bitty paper that was left.

With no more smoke left, I smiled at him, “Thanks,” and I took a step away, with Janelle really having me worried about where she could be.

I felt him grab my shoulder, “Not so fast, that shit ain’t free ya know? You owe me,” he said as he shoved my back against the semi.

“No,” I yelled, but his rotting mouth smothered my cries. Tears streamed through my make-up as he furiously searched me for my button breasts. Pushing at his chest I managed to put enough space between us that I could escape his touch.

In a flash I realized that I couldn’t run toward the crowds, I was too high, and a minor. Instead, I ran toward the eight foot chain link fence, topped with barbed wire. On the other side was a brief stand of trees, then a road, and my best friend’s apartment. If only I could make it. Leaping toward the fence I felt the barbed wire etching future scars into my body, but I didn’t care. Reaching the top I fell to the ground in a heap of relief and pain on the other side.

Stumbling to my feet I heard the brush beside me give way to the carnie’s weight. He had jumped the fence as well. My screams again muffled, but this time by his hand covering my mouth as he dragged me deeper into the brush.

Struggling against his grasp I felt him pulling at my clothing, as he carelessly ignored my tears. Somewhere, deep in the woods of the state fair he penetrated me, alternating between his hand suffocating my screams and his rotting mouth. “Oh,” he said, “isn’t that just wonderful? Mmm, I love you. You’re so hot,” his words were endless, as if he had planned this day for years, as if we were young lover’s exploring long awaited, raging wants and needs.

Succumbing to his ravaging needs I weakened my fight, glaring at the leaves, and the occasional glimpse of passing clouds. My body weak, my mind struggling, there was no escape; my head still swarming from the fat joint we had shared, the only thing I wanted to share.

Years seemed to pass before he was done with his invasion of my body. When he completed the task he gently kissed my mouth, “Mmm, now was that so bad?” he asked.

Tears continued, “No, no, it wasn’t.” I knew it was, but I also knew I had to tell him what he wanted to hear. This was no longer a task of saving face, it was a task of surviving this unfortunate encounter.

He helped me back over the fence, laying his denim jacket over the barbed wire to help protect us. Landing on the other side I felt weak, his feet again hit the ground beside me. I shook as he said, “Goodbye.” I feared him and I needed to find Janelle, she could be my safe haven in the midst of chaos.

I searched the fair for over an hour for Janelle, careful to avoid my assaulter, and the police, in my stoned state I was sure to find time in juvenile hall for this.

My search for Janelle proved useless, so I called home to have Mom pick me up. “Where’s Janelle?” Mom questioned when she picked me up.

“She ran into some friends and left me.”

“Bullshit!” she cursed far different from the Mom I knew. “She’s at home, you left her to take off with some boy! You’re a little slut.”

Sitting in stunned silence I realized, my circumstances were my fault. That rotting carnie had done nothing wrong, it was because I was a girl, the way I dressed, too pretty for my own damn good.

Struggling from my slumber, years later, I realize, it was just a memory, a nightmare that happened too long ago, but it seemed so immediate, the scars are still there. Will I ever heal?

Mental Health Then and Now

Written by me on March 27, 2015

I smash my face into the pillow, grabbing at my husband’s pillow I cover my head and ease the mental pain with the distraction of physical pain. My head sandwiched between two pillows, the bottom one catching my sobs.

No, not today, I don’t have time for this, my sobs go unheard by everyone but me. The thoughts continue to bluster through my mind. Exactly how does one tie an effective noose? Who will find me? Would they care? Medication, where is my medication?

Welcome to the world of bipolar, coupled with severe anxiety. This is my world, the world I love and hate all at once. It was passed down to me by my ancestor’s, whom chose to self-medicate with copious amounts of alcohol and other illegal substances.

In their time of living the choices were simple, be the town drunk, or be in an asylum. I choke and sputter on my tears, imagining life without proper mental health treatment; and I realize this very state that I hate so much is what it would feel like at the end of a noose. My body swinging in the breeze as my mind does daily.

If only my forefathers had understood, could they have gotten the appropriate help? Could their actions have saved me from this Hell that I live? Probably not.

I pull myself from my bed, my body weighted with exhaustion. I rifle through the filing cabinet for the newspaper articles I have carefully collected from the Internet. Possession of marijuana, corrupting the morals of a minor, attempted robbery, drunk driving, and assault, just a few of the charges logged against the family members that came before me.

And then there is me a law abiding citizen that suffers daily. What makes me different? What makes me the same?

My father is the answer, he fought a long hard battle of being clean, of being the sailor that defied the “drunken sailor” stereotype. The man that brought me up to understand others, to treat others well. The legend that still, at 88 years old, tells me he loves me, tells me he’s proud, and loves me unconditionally. He is the teacher of all the lessons that keep me around, for him, for my husband, children, and yes, even for me, because I deserve a life worth living.

I fight daily, to live the life that I deserve, knowing that one day I will attain a better understanding of who I am and what I am here for. Never giving in, never tying the noose, just getting by in loving memory of those that have suffered before me, and teaching those that come after me, what mental health is really about, the person and the heart within each of us.