It’s not over

“At least you don’t have to live in fear anymore”

“At least it’s all over”

“At least you’re safe now”

On October 15, 2010 the son of my father took a plea bargain for a 7 year sentence. He had been arrested June 1st. For 4.5 months he prolonged his trial. Between June and mid September he enjoyed playing games of intimidation with me. This was his usual tactic with his victims. Finally by mid September, I couldn’t take it anymore. I left the small town in Oklahoma where we both lived, quit my job, and moved in with my parents in DFW.

Between the assault and moving, I went to work and the grocery store when needed. Otherwise I stayed home. When I came back to Oklahoma for the trial, he finally got a deal that worked heavily in his favor. You see, this was his 3rd violent felony. He was on probation for his other 2. Since he violated the other 2, he got to combine sentences to just serve 7 years with possible parole after 4 years.

When the news broke that he took the deal and I didn’t have to continue with trial, those phrases started. It’s over now. You’re safe. You don’t have to be afraid anymore.

What people fail to understand, it had only just begun…. it wasn’t over. I lived in torment daily. I wasn’t safe. I still was afraid. The damage that was done could not be simply erased.

I can still feel his hand grasped tightly around my throat. Clenching tightly as he watched the life drain from my eyes. My heels digging into the carpet. My arms flailing towards his face to stop him.

Go ahead. Fight back. See what happens.

I still can feel him lift my dead weight to the upright position as I am crying uncontrollably.

 

 

Why the fuck are you crying?? Stop crying!!

 

I can still feel the punch that hits my left eye after he yells at me to stop crying.

I still feel my hands grip the carpet to flip back on my stomach and crawl under the coffee table. I still feel the wind brush my hair as he flips the coffee table over when I’m under it.

I can still feel him gripping my shoulders as he slams my head repeatedly against the floor.

I can still feel my tight belly as I tightly clutch my stomach as his knees are locked on the outside of my hips. As my fingers slowly get pried from my soft skin, I feel a barrier leave that was protecting my unborn son.

I can still feel my screams releasing from the depths of my gut. Traveling up my throat. Escaping my mouth. His hand immediately covering my entire mouth and nose.

Once again I watch him under my droopy eyes as he enjoys seeing me fade.

I wake in the middle of the night unable to breath. I get touched a certain way. I hear a certain phrase. I see certain things.

It only takes one thing to be brought back to that moment. The exact moment of laying limp and helpless on the floor. Broken. Done. Given up. Destroyed.

So please tell me. Is it over?

The answer is no.

Domestic Violence doesn’t end when you leave an abuser. It doesn’t end when he gets arrested. It doesn’t end if they die.

My abuser served 25 months out of a 7 year sentence. Year 6 he had a warrant out for his arrest again. He was arrested last month. Slap on the wrist. $2500.

The story is never over. But I get a choice in how it is written now.

Advertisements

Lonely

Lonely. A word I hate admitting. 

Alone and lonely are two different words with two different meanings. I rarely am alone. But lately I’ve been lonely.

I spend my weekdays mostly without my son. I work with kids 4-18 on a daily basis talking about what’s wrong with them. Their insecurities and fears. Their shitty lives.

I don’t usually realize reality until I stop compartmentalizing and turn off my work brain while I’m on my way home. A wave of lonliness hits. I just spent 12 hours talking with boys and girls, writing notes, or thinking about others and their needs. Where did my cup get filled? How was i caring for self?

I don’t have many in my corner, that’s okay as I know that those who are, choose to be there. Yet when my people ask how I’m doing, I still find myself smiling and stating “fine” or “okay” “no, I’ve got it”. I still can’t seem to honestly say, “I’m lonely, I need a hug, be held, something…..” 

You see, my eating disorder was always my constant “friend”. It held me. It comforted me. It made me feel secure. I never had to reach out as it always knew when I needed it. It was there immediately when I was having those feelings. So recently this week, while I’m utterly losing it on my way home in the car….. my old best friend whispers in my ear. I immediately get reminded how much of a bond I had.

It’s easy to get sucked back into the thinking of “one time will be okay” “I’ll feel better after”. Truth is, I will feel better after but unfortunately after that better feeling is over…. guilt, regret, and reality set in. One time may not hurt. Or it could.

Towards the “end” before going to Remuda, I was vomiting blood each time. That became scary and realistic to me. After an endoscopy, it was found that I had tearing in my esophagus. (Big shock right?) I went to treatment less than a week later and was on medication for months to heal the tissue on my esophagus. The thought of my esophagus rupturing at any point during purging still didn’t stop me. 

The thing with self induced vomiting, one time can hurt. Your esophagus can rupture after one time. You can go into cardiac arrest. You can choke. 

The past 2 weeks I have been struggling hard with the automatic urge to slip into that old comfort. I’ve had too many feelings creep up from the hurts, pains, and chaos that I listen to. 

I haven’t listened to that small voice. But I haven’t spoken out to anyone around me on just how alone and lonely I have been feeling. This is just asking for it…..

Childhood Abuse

Three times in 6 days I have had to file CPS reports. 
The one yesterday happens to be a little 8 year old girl who I adore. There has been suspected sexual abuse but no confirmation. It took 7 weeks to build a soild therapeutic relationship with her and building trust trust with her to finally speak about her biological father. There is no way to truly prepare yourself to look a mother in her eyes to tell her, “I’m sorry to have to say this…. but “Susie” has been sexually abused for years”. To call the mother the following day with an update that a report has been filed. That her child will get questioned yet again. That even though I am the only person she has told this to, she will be interrogated by another CPS case worker. 

The good news is, I can advocate for my girl and be there for her during the process. She trusts me and I know she will not open up to get another new stranger asking about her father. I can help her continue to find her voice. I can be there for her when she’s scared through this process. I have yet to help a child through CPS actions, but I will do whatever I can to help her get through it with the least amount of trauma.

I hope I can continue to help be her voice and she stays open with our therapeutic process. I hate seeing kids hurt. 😢

mental illness

Mental Illness….

Most people assume that means someone is unstable, crazy, sick, psycho, disturbed, mental, disturbed, insane, nuts….. the list can continue for days.

Statistics regarding how prevalent mental illnesses among those in the United States are:

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Statistics

Mental Health Statistics

I personally believe the numbers are higher but many still lack the self disclosure due to the negative stigmas still associated with identifying with a mental illness.

20 years. More than 20 years I have been struggling with various mental illnesses. At times I still feel shame stating that. I hate coming to terms with the fact that there are some things that I will deal with, probably until I die. It took about seven years for me to get formally diagnosed with clinical Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) aka depression. I remember feelings of severe worthlessness, loneliness, suicidality, sadness, and just plain emptiness by the age of 8. Age 11 was when I first wanted it to be over. Done. Finished. I found a release for my pain at age 14/15 when I started self-injuring (cutting). That was the same age I was finally diagnosed. Things started to make sense.

Depression is one of the things that I may struggle with for the rest of my life. I am classified in the clinical aspect, meaning it is not situational, it is the way my brain is wired. I have tried going off medication before to have horrific events occur.

Last November, I decided to give my body a break from birth control/artificial hormones. December I started going into severe lows for 4-6 days. I hadn’t had that in a long time. Starting in January I started going bed bound for a couple days with it. I was at a complete loss as my depression hadn’t hit that low in a few years. In June I had gone to my doctor, I had realized that there was correlation between my severe lows and hormone levels. Considering I will soon be a clinician, I knew it meant….. PMDD aka Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Leave it to me to still get severe symptoms like that WHILE on antidepressants 😐

Fortunately, I am able to state that I am in full remission with polysubstance dependence and bulimia nervosa which means they technically don’t have to be on my diagnosis anymore. PTSD usually still climbs onto my list as my symptoms still technically qualify me there but I manage.

So, even though I have been able to eliminate some diagnosis from my label…. it doesn’t mean I still cannot have my struggles.

The thing about me, I hate admitting my struggles. I have come so far that I want to be fixed damnit. I should be able to say that there no more problems ever! Even when I was sick, I severely struggled asking for help or assistance in any form or fashion. Every clinician asked me to come up with people to reach out to when I struggled. Every time, I would list off people. Every time I had a battle going on, I couldn’t call someone.

It took me years to identify why I couldn’t call on people to help me when I needed it. I always was there for others when they needed help. They offered me their help, why wouldn’t I take it? The answer became simple. I am unworthy. Every time my excuse would be, “I don’t want to bother them, they have to deal with their own things in life.” Now, my AA friends it was easier for me to reach out to them when I struggled with the desire on using. But when it came time for when I was literally dying from my eating disorder and I attempted to get help from my sponsor, “who are you trying to get attention from?”

Now as a mother, mental health worker, and counseling student I don’t have the time to lose my shit. So when I have my days where I am struggling, I don’t know who to call. I have a best friend who has been nothing but supportive for me. She doesn’t understand one ounce of my issues and that is okay! But she is there for me. I still feel like I overwhelm her and I feel utterly guilty for that as I know how much my past and life shit can be for someone. It’s hard for a “normal” person to hear, “hi, I am having a rough day… I really want to eat as much food as possible then go vomit until I taste acid because I know it will make me feel better for the 20 minutes.”

I know how overwhelming I can be. So because of that, I choose to stay silent. So when people ask how I am doing, if I am okay, what’s been going on, if work is going well, etc…. I smile and say it’s fine. It is much easier than trying to scare someone by stating, “I’ve hit my limit for right now. I need someone. I don’t know what I need, but I need it.” I physically cannot express my needs 99% of the time because I blatantly don’t know how. Whenever I have expressed my needs in the past, they have followed with a “no”.

Getting raped. Saying no. It happening anyways.

So many things stem from this it’s quite comical.

Several severe injuries. Expressing physical pain. Told to play sports anyways.

My first form of understanding that my voice doesn’t matter.
So, I sit here today as a clinician and tell my clients to reach out to others to prevent themselves from acting out on negative coping skills. Yet I cannot reach out to others. I cannot tell someone when I am struggling. I cannot tell someone when I need help. I cannot tell someone that I need a hug. I cannot tell someone that I am not okay. As I type this, my brain automatically goes to negatives as that is how it was originally trained. “You’re worthless to not even be able to do it yourself, yet you expect others to listen to you?”

This is why I state that some mental illnesses I may struggle with for a long time. I have to consistently remind myself that, I am enough.

 

Scars

I choose not to hide my self injury scars. Granted, a large tattoo covers my upper arm-

Those were the scars that I was the most self conscious about as they were keloid scars. I have scars on my left forearm, only 2 on right forearm and about a dozen on my ankles/calf. The rest, most people do not see as they are on my upper thighs, hips, lower stomach, and ribs. Some blend in with my copious amounts of stretch marks from my pregnancy… thanks kid…. but many are just blended in with my skin tone-uber white. 

Most people see my one forearm and assume I went through a “teenage emo phase wanting attention”. If people assume things, I never correct them unless they say something. When I was actively self-injuring, people would ask often, “what happened?” More often than not, I was a smart ass and responded in a manner such as “I got in a fight with a bear and lost.” Or something of the sort….

Even though I am not ashamed of my past or my story, I know many do not understand. I would much rather have an individual ask questions than assume. 

As I went to visit a kid today in a school, one of the staff members noticed my scars and my tattoo on my forearm.

She had asked to see the tattoo, I showed it. She then stated, “I like your scars”….. that’s one comment I have actually never heard from my scars? She had stated she had them too, but on her legs. I understand if you aree trying to connect but that was definitely the strangest way I have ever had someone try to connect with me on my self injury scars!

Moral of the story, you never know what someone is going through. Just because I have external signs of pain doesn’t mean my pain is any different than the next person. Many people live their pain alone, some choose to but some have no other options. 

Just because someone has a smile on their face does not mean life is full of rainbows and butterflies. Reach out to someone you might not normally speak to. Talk to someone about deeper things than the weather.

You never know. Your words may save someone one day.

Crazy

Crazy.

Psycho.

Unstable.

Mental.

The list can go on for labels for those who are diagnosed with a mental illness. What constitutes someone as crazy? 

While co-leading a group the other day, a gentleman spoke about the label of crazy. Many clients who step in the doors of th county mental health clinic fight negative stigmas not only within self, but within their community as well as people from the ‘normal’ world. Just because someone has a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, PTSD, Depression, etc does that automatically make someone crazy?

While some can embrace a diagnosis and not place it as their identity, some can grasp on too tightly and hold too much value to it. As I reflected after group, I realized I had placed too much emphasis at times. I feared labels at times. I was scared what people thought at times. I no longer care what other people think about me and my life. I hid my story. I had always been open identifying myself as an “addict, alcoholic, junkie, coke head” you name it. Identintifying as one with bulimia? Self-injurer? PTSD? Depression? NO. Know what’s also wrong with those labels? They are for an individual to identify. “I am bulimic.” Instead, the phrase needs to be “I have bulimia.” The disorder does not take on to the individual’s identity. 

I now try to channel my energy towards helping other individuals get to the place in their life where they can embrace who they are, even if they have a mental illness diagnosis. 

Prayin’

I have started and stopped a blog post about 258964.77 times over the past couple weeks. I just haven’t been able to find the words to put together to sound…. right? It’s hard because no matter what, this blog is for me.

This all being said, August has been… rough for me. Not only have I started a brand new job, I have had some difficult anniversaries.

8/8/10 was the original due date for my first pregnancy. That was one of the posts that I attempted to write multiple times. I will end up posting something about it but wanted to touch base on it. It is a bitter sweet date for me. While it hurts my heart knowing that I would have had a child on that date, I wouldn’t have Asher.

8/16/05 & 8/18/05 were first dates of sexual assault. These are the most difficult for me to talk about and even admit to this day, 12 years later. Unfortunately, there was a strong grip on me from this and I held a lot of responsibility from this.

8/18/06 exactly 1 year later from the first guy, I was sexually assaulted again by a different male. In other words, “how did I allow myself  to become a victim again?” is the spot I found myself in. Which is why I chose to not speak about those two men.

So when I had my son’s father come about, 3.5 years later, and abuse me mentally, emotionally, sexually, AND physically? NOPE…. no thanks. How can I admit that I was THAT stupid to become yet victim again yet towards something 10x worse. The damage that was done from people around me, I was scared was irreversible. While it has taken me years, I still have areas that will never be fully healed over. I still have things that cannot be said or done to me.

When I originally heard the song Prayin’ by Kesha, I immediately fell in love.

Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become

‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come
‘Cause I can make it on my own
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name

You brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

These stood out to me tremendously:

No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done

The reason being- “no more monsters, I can breathe again” stands for, for me, that I no longer have to deal with the demons of abusers. I have the ability to notice my value and worth as a human. I know how to stand up for myself. While I can still find my voice to be shaky, I know how to express my needs and wants even if I have a fear of repercussions. “And you said that I was done” the night that R had his final attack on me, I knew I was done. The type of abuse that R had escalated to, suffocation and strangulation, causes a victim to go unconscious within 10 seconds and will die within 4-5 minutes. That night when I escaped one of the rounds of the strangulation and beating, I finally sat down on the floor admitting defeat. The look in his eyes stated that I was done. I was not going to get out alive. As he rocked back and forth, I asked him why he was drawing my death out. His only response, “it doesn’t have to be this way, Nicole”. Right then….. I started praying my goodbyes.

Today, I drove my 200 miles around DFW. I have felt “off” all day. This song came on at least 7 different times today on various stations. Finally by the 7th time, I remembered that even though, as the song states, “you said that I was done….” “Well, you were wrong and the best is yet to come….”