survivingmyboyz

tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

The giant Teddy Bear that ended my marriage

 

Like most people, my wedding day was one of the best days of my life. It was full of hope, magic, and love. My own wedding caused me to cry at all weddings that I attended after that because it brought back the feelings of happiness and love that I felt on that day. Nothing is better than the way you feel on your wedding day. You hope those feeling will last forever. Things change with time, however, and not all marriages last. That is the reality I am currently trying to deal with in my life.

I love my husband, I always have, pretty much since the day I meet him. After 17 years together and 13 years of marriage though, I am no longer in love with my husband. Our years together have not been easy, especially in the last few years. There has been a lot of pain and disappointment that has taken its toll on our marriage. I continued to stick out the relationship for many years, thinking that if I just hung in there and kept loving him that things would change and get better. They never did, at least not for very long. So, when I told my husband last December that I wanted to sperate, it wasn’t me trying to get his attention in a last-ditch effort to save our marriage, it was me telling him that I was finally done with the marriage. The catalyst for this choice all comes down to a giant stuffed bear.

As I said before, things weren’t good for a long time between my husband and I. I had become a single parent despite being married. He was rarely there, and I could never really depend on him. It had gotten to the point where I would just plan life without him and hope that he would choose to show up. It was easier this way, it relieved some of the constant disappointment that I felt. Last December, when I planned a pre-Christmas trip to Portland for the family, I really didn’t expect my husband to join us, but as it got closer, he seemed so excited to go. I began to include him in the plans and the boys were excited to get to spend some time with their dad. However, when the day came to leave for our trip, my husband was not in our car as we pulled out of the driveway. I was sad and disappointed once again, but I was determined to make this an awesome trip with my boys that they would never forget. I think I did just that. They seemed happy and I definitely spoiled them, probably a little too much out of guilt. I figure that kids are resilient and that I’d kept them so busy with fun that their dad not being there wouldn’t affect them much. I was wrong about that though.

While we were I Portland, we visited Santa, and he told me to take the boys to a special toy store to let them pick out anything they wanted from Santa, so we obeyed. My second oldest, who is currently 9, picked out a giant Teddy Bear that was almost as big as him. He was so excited about his Teddy Bear and still sleeps with it in his bed. As we were driving home from Portland, we talked about our favorite parts of the trip and how much fun we had. My 9-year-old commented that he wished his dad had come and that he couldn’t wait to see him when we got home to tell him all about the trip. All the other boys agreed that they had missed their dad and wished that he had joined us on the trip. They were all very excited to see their dad when we got home. After an extra-long weekend away, they were all very eager to get home. My 9-year-old said that all he wanted to do when he got home was to give his dad a big hug with his giant new Teddy Bear and to hold them both. It was such a sweet idea that really showed how much he’d missed his dad. Then we got home.

My husband came down to greet us and help bring in the bags, but within five minutes of us being home, he had returned to his office to play more video games, something he had been doing all weekend long while we were gone. He disappeared into his office for several hours, only reappearing after the two youngest were already sound asleep and I was about to put the two older boys to bed. He didn’t spend anytime with us that evening, he didn’t listen to the stories from our trip, and he didn’t help me bathe or settle children in after a very exhausting weekend. Instead, he did what he always did, he took care of himself and did what he wanted, which didn’t include his family. It broke my heart to know that his boys were so excited to see him and had missed him so much, but that he clearly didn’t feel the same way. I could see the devastation in my 9-year old’s eyes that he didn’t get to share that hug with his day and his giant stuffed Teddy Bear like he had wanted to so badly. That’s when I knew it was time to for things to change and that I finally needed to make the hard call of ending our marriage.

Over the past few years, I felt like my husband was drowning and I was constantly trying to save him, but instead he was pulling me under with him. In those moments, after our Portland trip, I looked around and realized, we weren’t the only two drowning in that pond. Our kids were there too, and they were barely treading water. I knew I had to let my husband go and get my kids and myself back to the safety of the shore. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I knew it was the right one and felt such relief after I told him.

Now we are in the messy processing of figuring out how to move forward while trying to keep our kids afloat. It is strange that I struggled for so long about what to do with my marriage, how to fix it, and what was best for my kids only to figure out what we all really needed because of a giant Teddy Bear.

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Strong

I am not a Disney Princess. I don’t need to be rescued. I am strong, stronger than I get credit for.

I don’t sit patiently, waiting for permission. I don’t quietly obey. I am my own person. I live life on my own terms. I will not let limitations be set for me or be told what I can and cannot do. I will not be restricted in this life.

I will not willingly spread my legs at your command. I will not be controlled. I will not be guilted into continuing in a broken cycle. I will not be broken.

I will rise-up, out of the ashes, like a Phoenix. I will move on and beyond. I will survive because it is what I do and it is all I know. I will be strong because that is what I am.

I will not play the damsel in distress. I will not let a man define me. I will break free of these chains you constantly use to bind me.

The other side of the coin

Sometimes I feel like I am talking, but no body is listening. It is a very lonely feeling. It hurts even more when someone I love is the one not listening. No matter how often it happens, it still seems to cut. I know I should be used to it by now, after all, I talk a lot and I am overly-passionate about things. My passion, though I love it, is often a huge turn off to people though. I tend to feel things much deeper and strongly than most people because I am bi-polar.
We live in a world where people really don’t want to feel anything. People become addicted to technology and consumerism as a means to dullen their feelings. We self-medicate with prescription pills that we over use and drugs, and alcohol to avoid pain and facing our problems. No one wants to be introspective, they all just want to live in some fantasy world like the ones on the tv. That is all a nice escape sometimes, but then people miss out on all that is around them. Sometimes I try to dull my senses like everyone else, but it never really works, at least not for long. My feelings, emotions, and passions are too great for me to contain and that’s when people stop listening.
I’m very open about talking about my depression and often write about it because it is a big part of me, and I think it is important for others out there to know that they are not alone in their loneliness and despair. I don’t often talk about the fact that I suffer from mania though. Most people don’t even realize that this is a part of me. I’m very up front and say I have depression, but I rarely say that I am manic-depressive. Maybe that’s because I don’t have frequent manic episodes or when I do, they are minor in comparison to my depression, or because mania seems a little more crazy than just straight up depression. My mania is part of what gives me my passions though. It is part of what makes my emotional capacity so great. It is a part of who I am, just another part that most people don’t seem to care for.
I work hard to maintain an even keel in my emotions. Sure, people see I’m passionate, but they don’t usually see the full range of that passion, that would be too scare. I keep close tabs on my emotions, careful clamping down when I feel they are getting too big. It would be so easy to go off the deep end and end up in a full manic state, which can be scare and always leads to a debilitating depressing afterwards. I try to tap into that manic side just enough to do the things I need to do; have that extra energy for something, to keep me going when on empty, or to be creative when I feel the need, but most of the time I keep that lid closed shut on my own personal Pandora’s box.
When I think of true, full blown mania, I think of being 19 and the beautiful chaos that was my world. Looking at it from a nostalgic view, it feels like a wonderful crazy adventure, but from the view of reality, it was a terrible, dangerous time for me that I can never ever allow to happen again. Being manic back then meant experiencing the world in such a vibrant way that could probably only be replicated with massive drug use, like tripping on acid (I can only assume, since that is not a drug I ever tried). In fact, I felt so high on life all the time that I refused to use any drugs back then, for fear it would dampen my senses, I didn’t even drink. I lived in a house full of pot heads for part of that time and I never once was tempted to use because what I was feeling was so much better than they could ever possibly feel by getting high. I was uninhibited and daring. I pulled all-nighters in college, writing papers or painting at the studio into the early morning. I went days without sleep and hardly needed food. I would dance naked in the rain and jump from highway over passes into rivers below to skinny dip in the moonlight. I had an insatiable sexual appetite that no person could quench, and I wielded my body as a sexual weapon. I had no shame, no fear, no limits. It was amazing! Expect that it wasn’t.
Not only did the mania make me reckless (I still count my blessings that I never contracted an STD during that time), but it led me to a crash. Multiple crashes, actually. Mania can’t last forever, no matter how wonderful it feels. What starts off as fun and exciting for the people around you quickly becomes too much when you are manic. They don’t experience the same euphoria you feel, and the adventures become a little too much, a little too scare for them. They eventually jump ship and you are left on your own seeking that high alone. Being alone turns into loneliness as the mania fades and the other side of it eats you alive. That’s when the crippling depression sets in. That’s when it becomes even more dangerous.
The biggest problem with being manic-depressive is the heat at which your emotions burn. Whether I’m manic, depressed, or just me, I am never able to escape the huge range of feelings that I feel. I am forever doomed to feel things at a level that most people never will. It can give me wonderful passion, but it is passion that no one else seems to share or even wants to hear about. Having such great passion and no one to share it with makes for a lonely world to live in. If only people were more interested in letting a little more passion into their lives.

The villain

I am a villain. I am a bad guy. In fact, I’m not just a bad guy, I’m the worst bad guy ever. I am mom and I am the worst. I ruin everything.
It doesn’t matter what I do or how much I sacrifice or love them, I am still the worst person ever to my children. I’m the one that says no. I am the one that lays down the law and gives out punishment. I am the one who yells when all four are screaming at me in a cacophony of noise, demanding that I do something for them at that exact moment. I am the only one and I am the one to blame.
You know who isn’t the bad guy, isn’t the one they demand things from, or blame for ruining their lives? Dad! Dad is never at fault. Mostly because Dad is never here. Even when He is here, it isn’t His job to deal with the screaming masses, that’s my job. They walk right past Dad to come ask me to do things for them as if I am their servant and it is beneath Dad to be bothered with their needs.
Today I am terrible mom because I have spent all day carting kids around where they need to be and talking my oldest to three dentist appointments in one day, and then spent over an hour at the grocery store fighting the crowd of people trying to stock up before the impending snow storm tomorrow. I fought traffic to get home and be greeted with great joy that quickly turns to complaints and hatred toward me when I tell them no. No, they can not go outside at 5:00 at night as the temperature is dropping, it is getting dark, and people are coming home from work not expecting to see three young children sledding into the street. I am an awful mother because I want to keep my kids safe and warm, knowing the snow will be there for the next few days. I have ruined everything though because they have waited all day for me to come home so they could go outside and sled, despite the fact that the one hour I had at home today, the older of the three refused to go outside, so the 7 year old wouldn’t stay outside to play by himself with me watching him from the window. Despite the fact that their Dad has been home all day with them, and they could’ve asked Him if they could go outside. So, I am the bad guy yet again, as they scream and yell at me before I can even unpack the groceries. Meanwhile, Dad is upstairs napping, free from abuse.
So, call up Disney and tell them that they have a new evil, horrible, villain to draw for their next movie and she is the worst one yet. Her name is mom and she is me and she is a villain worthy of hating.

Feeling small in a big world

It is hard to fathom that there are over 7 billion people on this planet yet a person can still feel so alone in the world. You would think with all those people out there that we would all be able to find at least one to connect with, one person who would truly know us and see us for who we are. However, global depression rates stand at over 300,000 million people and there are probably more that aren’t accounted for in those numbers. That makes this planet an overwhelmingly lonely place to be.

We can stand in a room full of people, but still feel completely isolated and alone. We can talk and even laugh with people, but still feel unheard. Who really sees us? Who really ever knows us? Some people are lucky enough to find that someone or even several someones, but over 300,000 million of us never truly find that joy. Instead, we are isolated and alone.

Loneliness can make you do a lot of things. It can cause you to start a conversation with a complete and total stranger in hopes of finding a connection. It can make you retreat into a fantasy world that is not real no matter how much you want it to be. It can make you pour your inner most thoughts out onto a public forum in hopes that just one person will read it and connect with you. It can make you retreat into isolation in hopes that you will be able to protect yourself from some of the pain that hoping for and not finding connection brings. It can make you ache so much and feel so invisible that you feel you have no place on this earth. Loneliness can make warp the way you see the world and yourself.

So what do we do to feel less lonely, to easy that loneliness for all those people out there suffering from it in-spite of being surrounded by some many people? Clearly I don’t have an answer for that one. If I did, maybe I wouldn’t be one of those 300,000 million people feeling trapped in my loneliness.

The text that saved me

Today was not easy. I don’t know why, there was nothing in particular that happened to put it on this track, but it happened. I woke up today and within 30 minutes of being out of bed, I wanted to crawl back into bed and never get out again.

Things are a bit overwhelming in my life right now, to say the least, but in reality, that isn’t anything new. The darkness, that I fight daily and usually beat, it took over me today and I couldn’t imagine going on. Living life just seemed impossible and I was done with it. I sat in bed a good hour and a half crying. I prayed to God to forgive me if I chose not to go on. I asked for a sign that my life was of any value, that it was worth continuing. And then my phone buzzed. It was my best friend, who lives in another state and I haven’t seen in years. She texted me to tell me something and that was the life line I needed.

We texted back and forth for a half hour and it was enough to get me out of my bed and to will myself into the world again. The day wasn’t great. I still felt dark and off, but I made it through.

Sometimes just making it through a day is a big step, it was for me today. Had my friend not texted me at the moment she did, I might not have made it through. It is so important for people to reach out to loved ones when they think of them. That random thought about a person might be the world’s way of telling you that they need you right then. Something as small as a text could be the difference between someone making it through the day or not.

Why this is “the year of me”

It feels a little selfish to say I’m going to make this year about me. Putting myself first isn’t something that I typically do. In fact, it feels a little weird to say I’m putting myself first and even weirder to do it. That, however, is precisely why I am making this “the year of me.”
I am a care taker, I always have been, that is just my personality. I’m always worrying about others, trying to solve other people’s problems, and putting everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. I had my first child 11 years ago, so it made sense to put my son ahead of me, he was just a helpless baby after all. As time went on though, I had three more kids, meaning I had three more little ones to put ahead of myself. I had no problem doing this, until it started to affect my health. Everything I did to try to be healthy, stay active, and eat right went further and further out the window with each kid until, by the last kid, I had such high blood pressure that it put both our lives in danger and I never recovered from it.
It wasn’t just my kids though whose needs I put ahead of my own (not that their needs weren’t enough for one person to struggle with). I put my husband ahead of me too. My husband has issues and they seemed to get really bad after our fourth child was born. I tried to help him and encouraged him to seek help as well, but things seemed to only get worse. His needs were greater and greater, and I took on more and more. Somewhere in there, my dad got sick with cancer. That was hard because I no longer lived near my parents, so I flew back to help them a few times with a toddler in tow. They had cared for me my whole life and there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to care for them in their time of need. Of course, that help was cut short when my husband’s needs and inability to care for our over three children for a week overshadowed the needs of my parents. I hopped on an earlier flight home to save my husband and children. Things like this went on pretty much non-stop for a good five years. At one point, I even took a teenaged stranger into our home to try to help him, ultimately letting him go when I realized that he needed to be on his own and struggle for awhile to figure things out.
About a year ago, I started having strange symptoms. They started off once a week or so and got progressively more frequent. My doctor had the hardest time trying to figure out what was going on with me and ran several tests. Eventually I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. All my years of taking care of everyone except me had finally caught up to me. My body decided that it had had enough and completely gave out on me. For at least two weeks, last spring, I could barely get out of bed to use the bathroom and I would sleep for hours on end. My body hurt all over. After those two weeks, I was able to get up some, for small amounts of time, but I couldn’t really take care of myself and I definitely couldn’t take care of my boys. I did the best I could with help from others, but it was very difficult and incredibly frustrating. My whole life had to slow down, and I had to take it easy and say no to things I would normally say yes to. It took me months to fully recover and even now, if I start to over-do things, I can feel the symptoms start to creep up on me, telling my body to slow down.
During this struggle, I had given up all exercise and became the heaviest I’ve ever been (even heavier than any of my pregnancies). After the initial bout of Adrenal Fatigue, as life began to settle back in, my eating habits took another hit because I had yet again gone into survival mode and would eat whatever was easiest to make and whatever the kids liked. It was all about making life as easy and stress-free as possible for myself in an already super stressful and busy life. Admittedly, once I was feeling better most of the time, I began taking back on more responsibilities (though less than before) and I continued to put everyone else first. I continued to enable my husband’s lack of progress with his issues, I did 98% of the parenting, I drove kids to multiple activities 6 days of the week, I worked every other 7th day of the week at church, I hardly slept, and I felt overwhelmed and very alone. That’s when I finally decided that something needed to change.
So here we are in a new year and it is the perfect time to make that change a reality. The first thing I did was tell my husband that we needed some time and space apart. I told him that I loved him, but that he needed to get his shit together on his own now and come back when he was a better husband and father. That alone has been hard because it is really hard to watch someone you love fall apart and then fall apart more because they are afraid of losing you. I just know that I couldn’t put him first anymore because it was affecting my health and our kids needed at least one functioning parent. It also means that I had to face the reality that he might never pull his shit together enough for us to be a couple again and I had to be okay with letting him go if I it comes to that. Despite the inner struggle of wanting him to stay, but knowing he should go, I’ve been really strong at sticking to my guns and doing the hard thing, which I know is the right thing.
My next action for my “year of me” was to get myself healthy. That means eating healthier, exercising, and losing some weight. I’m totally addicted to sugar, which is a terrible thing. My dad has battled with his weight for as long as I can remember, and we would constantly beg him to take care of himself and do something about the way he ate. He never listened and ended up with diabetes and esophageal cancer. I don’t want my kids to be begging me to put down the cupcake, so I don’t get diabetes, so I’m determined to make myself healthy and kick the habit before it is too late. I know I can do it, I’ve done it twice before for a good amount of time and only stopped when life became too hard to handle. So, this week I am on a food detox and then for the next two weeks I have meal plans made up for me to get me back on the road to clean eating. I also got an elliptical that is up in my room and ready to use. I have promised myself that I will get on it, even if for just 10 minutes a day to start, after I am done with my detox (right now I feel like my body is starving and am too tired to do much). Despite my mother’s scoffs that it will become a clothes rack in my room, I am determined to do this. I figure I can get a quick exercise in before I shower.
My third action that I plan to put into place is to remove any negative people from my life. This one shouldn’t be too hard because one, I have amazing people in my life, and two, I don’t tend to put up with a lot of people’s crap anymore. I need people in my life who see me for who I am and love and support me. I need people who see that I’m wonder, loving, giving, passionate, and deserving of appreciation. I think the hardest person to get to see this was myself, but I have recently taken a hard look at myself and realized that I am better than the way I have been treated and I deserve more. The next hardest people to deal with will be my parents, who have a tendency to nay-say everything I do and constantly underestimate me (like the clothes rack comment). I’m going to have to figure out a way to minimize my interactions with them and only allow positive up-lifting conversations. That’s going to be hard because I usually talk to my mother every other day and because my mother and father watch way too much Fox news which just breeds negativity.
I know I’m only days into this promise to myself to make this “the year of me,” but I’m feeling positive and know I deserve it. I’ve spent so much time putting everyone else first, it is time I come first for a little while. I don’t want to run myself into the ground again or end up with something more serious than the health problems I had last year. I need to be healthy and be there for my kids, so this year I’m putting my own oxygen mask on first. I guess, in a way, my motives for my “year of me” aren’t even completely for me like the should be, but mostly for my kids, which means, even in a “year of me,” I’m still putting others first.

Stuck on the outside looking in

Facebook can be a great thing. It can reconnect you with old friends and keep you in touch with family, but it always has the downside of showing you all the things you are missing in life. I don’t mean all the fabulous vacations others are taking that you can’t afford, the the beautiful clean houses that you don’t live in, or the great restaurants that you are not eating at because you’ve got four kids to feed. I’m talking about the plans friends make with each other that you don’t get invited to.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to be invited along every time friends get together, but there is definitely a tinge of sting that I feel in my heart when I repeatedly see groups of my friends getting together and I’m left out. It bothers me to know that I’m not an official part of the group, that I’m just an extra when there is room. It hurts me to know that I’m not anyone’s go to friend when they need something, have news to share, or want to go out. I don’t have a got to friend either. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in middle school and everyone has paired up, sharing their “best friends forever” necklaces with each other, but I have no one to give the other have of my heart charm to.

In Some ways I get it. I don’t live five minutes away from anyone. I have way too many kids and they are all boys. I’m also painfully aware that my oldest and his issues exclude me from a lot of plans and is a big reason I never get invited to family events with friends. He is a handful and there are times I don’t even want to be around him, so why would people who don’t have to be around him want to be around him? I’ve even had a best friend who ended our friendship completely because she didn’t like my oldest, despite knowing that I was struggling to try to help him. Of course, he is older now and stays home alone frequently to play video games, so it shouldn’t even be an issues. Then there is the issue of my husband though. Most of my friends have husbands who are also friends. They hang out as families, they hang out as couples. Well my husband isn’t exactly a social guy. He doesn’t enjoy going out, has social anxiety, and often backs out of doing group and couples things with me at the last minute. Then I end up as the odd woman out in a group of couples.

So even if I do my best to be a good friend, care for others, and try to make others smile, I’ve still got the deck stacked against me when it comes to being someone’s go to friend. Even though I’m the person that will talk to anyone, will find the loneliest looking person in the room to invite into the group, and would do anything for a friend, I’ve got lots of friends, including on Facebook, but I never get to be the friend in the picture, the friend with the other half of the heart charm, the best friend. I’m always just the person on the outside looking in.

My Story

Many women have been coming forward with their own stories of unreported sexual assault in support of Dr. Ford’s claim against Brett Kavanaugh. Many men, especially men in power, doubt Dr. Ford’s claim because she didn’t report it and view her allegations of sexual assault as a political ploy to undermine the nomination process. I fear that even men within my own family believe this to be a political ploy and dismiss Dr. Ford’s claim. I’m here to say that if they dismiss her claim, then they are dismissing my claims too, the ones I never reported and never even spoke of after they happened.

Unfortunately, I have been sexually assaulted various times, in various ways, and to various degrees; the first time happening around the age of eight. I don’t think I’ve ever confided in my parents about any of it but have spent many sessions in therapy discussing some of them. One experience kept creeping back into my consciousness as I listened to a discussion today on NPR about why women do not report sexual assault. This story, my own story, seems most closely aligned with Dr. Ford’s story and I’m guessing, many other women’s stories from their teens and 20s.

I had just finished my junior year of college and had been invited to visit a college friend in Long Island for the fourth of July weekend. This was a big deal for two reasons, one: I usually liked to be home for the fourth because my family always did a big celebration and 2: I was going to be going into NYC with my friend for only the second time unsupervised. We were going to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted and do whatever we wanted in the city. I drove out to long island to meet her and our exciting weekend began. We took the train into the city, caught up on what was going on since school ended, and she introduced me to her friends, who she had gone to high school with. It was one of those friends, who seemed so nice, that would later sexually assault me.

One night during my visit, one of her friends threw a party and we were all drinking. I’d been hanging out with these people for a couple of days now and they were some of my friend’s closest and oldest friends, so I felt safe with them. I was drinking and flirting with the boys at the party like I often would at a party in college. One of the boys showed an interest in me and I flirted even more with him despite having no real interest in him. I had a bad habit of toying with boys for attention, pretending to be more interested than I was, it made me feel powerful. Maybe that was one of the reasons I didn’t tell anyone what happened, I had felt like it was my own fault, like I deserved what happened. At one point during the party, I went off with the boy who was showing an interest in me. I think we were walking to someone else’s house in the neighborhood to get something, I don’t remember. I also don’t remember how I ended up of the ground, on the berm, between a parked car and a sidewalk. It was dark and late, and the boy was on top on me pinning me down. I was small, maybe 110lbs, and had had way too much to drink to fight someone off me. I remember him telling me that I wanted it, that I’d been flirting with him all night, and that I was a slut. I repeatedly told him no and to get off me, but he was fumbling with his belt buckle and every second I struggled he was closer to penetration. One of my greatest fears was about to happen, but then I was saved. A front porch light flipped on at the house we were in front of and an angry woman appeared at the door yelling at us to take it to our own yards or she’d call the police. I’m not sure if she realized what was really happening or ever knew that she saved me, but she in that moment was a distraction and I was able to jump up and run back to the party where my friend was.

When we got back to the party, I knew I couldn’t tell my friend. Everyone was drunk and having fun. No one was going to listen to my story. I just convinced her to take me back to her house. When I tried to leave, the guy, had taken my shoes and thrown them somewhere so I could only find one. I had to walk back to my friend’s house embarrassed with just one shoe. I didn’t sleep at all that night. I tried to decide if I should tell my friend. Would she believe me?  Would she blame me? Would she be mad at me? The next morning, I tried to approach the subject with her, but she seemed mad at me for “fighting” with her friend and sided with him about throwing my shoes, so I knew telling her that he tried to rape me was not an option. Instead, I just told her that I was homesick and wanted to go home early to be with my family for the fourth.

I drove home that morning and never said anything to my parents about what happened to me. I’m not sure I ever told anyone. I felt so ashamed, embarrassed, guiltily, and stupid. I blamed myself for putting myself in that situation and not being smarter. I felt bad for driving a wedge between my college friend and her high school friends. I felt even worse that she had seemed to side with him. I hardly spoke or eat for the next few days as I tried to come to grips with what happened. Eventually, I managed to bury the memory, push it way down inside so that I didn’t have to feel all the awful things I was feeling about it.

My friend and I didn’t talk again the rest of the summer and the following fall we started to hang out less and less until we just stopped seeing each other all together. I hated that seeing her would often bring up those memories and feeling from that night. It was just easier not to see her and to drink instead, so that’s what I did. I turned 21, started drinking more and smoking pot to escape what bothered me. I tried to take charge of my own sexuality, so I would never feel out of control of my own choices again, which lead to bad choices. At one point, I even shaved my head in an attempt to make myself a less likely target of the sexual assault and problems with men. None of that worked though and I continued to be affected by the assault even to this day.

That’s my story, or at least one of them. Some boy, who I don’t even remember the name of, a boy who probably doesn’t even remember me or this story, a boy who may or may not have done the same thing to other girls before or after me, attempted to force himself on me when I was 20, affecting me for the rest of my life. I’m sure he is out there somewhere today, a husband, a father, a little league coach, or employee of the month. His neighbors probably think he’s a really great guy and maybe he is now, but that doesn’t change what he did to me over 20 years ago or the effect that it has had on me every day since. I never reported his crime, his life wasn’t ruined by some stupid mistake he made as a teen, but parts of my life were. So, yes, I believe Dr. Ford and any other woman who is brave enough to stand up and admit that she was once sexually assaulted. Because women do not admit to sexual assault as a political ploy or for attention. They admit to sexual assault in an attempt to raise awareness and make the world a better place for women.

Surrounded by people but completely alone

Tonight I went to a church event with a bunch of people in attendance. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, but then my friend said she was going and one of the people hosting it reached out personally by text to ask me if I would be attending. Even as I got ready to leave the house, I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea, but I’d already told the boys that we would be going and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I wasn’t feeling very social and I have been struggling a lot the last few days, but I figured I just needed to go and put myself out there and maybe I’d start feeling better. The moment we walked up to the gathering though, I knew I had made a mistake.

I wasn’t in a good place and realized that no one there was a person I could muster up the strength to put on a brave face for and hold a conversation with. The kids were sent off into groups for child care, something that I’d normally be excited for, an opportunity to be with other adults kid-free, but tonight I longed for the days when they used to cling to me, giving me an excuse not to talk to others. My husband didn’t come with me because he hates social things like this and has horrible social anxiety. One of my good friends showed up with her family and I thought for half a second that I might be able to get through this, but before I could even really talk to her, an ice-breaker game was announced and everyone was told to pair up. Being there alone, I immediately felt iced out by the ice-breaker game. All the pairs were told to find seats at the dinner tables and I was left standing alone. I tried to look busy on my phone, but my husband wasn’t answering my texts as I went looking for reassurance. I was left on the outskirts completely alone.

Normally, I would have been fine in this situation. Usually I’m the person looking for the person in the crowd that looks lost or alone. I march right up to them, introduce myself, and ask if they want to be my partner. Having spent so many recesses, lunchtimes, and parties alone and overwhelmed by shyness, I am all too familiar with how it feels to be on the outside looking in, so when I finally found my confidence, I made it my mission to make others feel included. That wasn’t the case tonight though. I was back in elementary school, watching all the kids at recess playing together, too scared of rejection to ask anyone if I could join in.

I was back in a position of weakness because of my mental illness, my depression. It was messing with the messages in my mind again. Knowing that it is just my wiring sending me wrong signals doesn’t help make it better though. My head is filled with poison and just knowing this doesn’t make an antidote. The worse part is, I know I slip back into these horrible places sometimes, but I can never remember how I have gotten out of them in the past. It isn’t like there is some trick that works every time. My mind isn’t a sticky door that just needs a jiggle and hit in the right place to open so I can be set free. Every time is different. Adjusting my medicine dosage is always a piece of the puzzle, but it isn’t the only one.

So there I was, left trying not to break down with all these people surrounding me. I wanted desperately to just grab my kids and leave, but they were having fun. I thought about retreating to my car and just sitting there and crying until it was over, but I knew I couldn’t do that. I tried, unsuccessfully, to fight back tears, as a few leaked out and even more threatened to escape. I did anything I could think of to try to distract myself from the situation, checking the time ever couple of minutes. Somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to make it through those two excruciating hours. I collected my kids the second I could and preformed an Irish goodbye, hurrying to my car without so much as a wave to anyone. At least the kids had fun, which made it somewhat worth it, but not really. When I got home, I locked myself in my bedroom and binge watched Netflix while folding clothes, trying to lose myself in somebody else’s story because my current one isn’t any good right now.

Right now I am not in control of how I feel and that sucks. This is not who I am or who I want to be. Except, it is who I am. It is a big part of who I am. It is the side of me I never want anyone to see. The side of me I wish didn’t exist. It is the part of me that makes me feel isolated and alone, even when I’m surrounded by people.

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