survivingmyboyz

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

Archive for the tag “surviving”

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.

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Confession: everything is not ok

I have a confession to make: I do not like myself, I never really have. In fact, I pretty much despise myself the majority of time. I detest my existence so much that I’ve attempted suicide more times than I can count. The only thing that keeps me going are my boys. My boys have been my saving grace for the past 11years.

I live with depression. Everyday, every hour. I have all my life. I was finally diagnosed when I was 19 and put on medicine, which for the most part helps. That doesn’t mean though that the depression is gone, it is still there. I feel it everyday. Some days more than others. There are many days when I almost forget about it, but it is always there, lurking in the back of my brain.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mom, more than anything else in the world. When I got pregnant, my life became about someone else, someone who needed me. Being a mom gave me purpose. I knew that little baby needed me even if I didn’t need me. I was no longer disposable and I knew I had to keep going no matter what for the sake of that little boy. Now I have four little boys and they count on me more than anyone else in this world, so I soldier on, no matter how bad things get sometime. I even pride myself on my strength to keep going. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some days I just want to check out completely, I just know that I’m not allowed to anymore, at least not right now. There are many days that I cry in the shower, binge on tv shows in attempts to escape being me, or try to sleep more so I can be someone else in my dreams (unfortunately, the hate I feel for myself follows me into my dreams and everyone in my dreams hate me). When things get really bad and I feel like I just can’t do it anymore, I lock myself in the bathroom with a razor blade and cut myself in hopes that the physical pain will relieve some of the emotional pain. Of course, most people that know me have no clue about this.

I don’t hide that I have depression, I’m very open and honest about that, but I’m less open about when I’m suffering from depression. Like most depressed people, I have a very hard time expressing that I’m struggling or asking for help. In fact, I’ll probably never even post this despite my desire to be frank and honest about things no one likes to talk about. When famous people commit suicide, people often say that they had no idea it was coming and that the person seemed happy and fine. That’s because that is the act depressed people put on everyday. We live our lives stuck inside of our own heads, which is a nightmare. Our brains are dark and evil and feed us images of ourselves that are distorted like a fun house mirror reflection. I’m sure many depressed people learn, as I did early on that no one likes depressed people. When I was first diagnosed, I lost many friends and was literally told by a few that they didn’t like when I wasn’t happy and couldn’t be around me if I wasn’t going to be happy. I’ve also discovered over time that if you show your weakness to someone and ask for help, they will punish you for being weak. Yet another reason this will probably never get posted. Depression isn’t something people want to talk about or be around, so we put on an act. The thing is, we aren’t trying to fool others as much as we are trying to fool ourselves. Maybe if we act happy and pretend to be ok then the monster in our minds that wants to devour our souls will stay quietly caged in the back of our minds a little longer. So each day becomes a battle. Most days we win, we hold back the monster, we live life. But doing battle everyday is exhausting and eventually cracks start to form in the cage and the monster gets free. Over time, you figure out ways to push the monster back into the cage (a good cry, cutting, small self destructive behaviors, upping meds, etc) . Sometimes it is over quick and other times it takes a few days or weeks. This is often when depressed friends will be MIA, but people don’t tend to notice because everyone is busy with their own lives. The problem is, it only takes the monster getting out once to become too much for a person who struggles everyday and for them to finally give up. That’s where these suicides that people think came out of no where come from.

When people do kill themselves the response is often that the person was selfish or weak or took the easy way out. All of that is bull shit though. Many times a person commits suicide because they feel like the world doesn’t need them or would be better off without them. They want to save their loved ones from having to deal with them. Even famous people who are remembered as “beloved”feel this way. Their brain doesn’t allow them to see reality, it distorts everything. That person certainly wasn’t weak either. I guarantee that they suffered with depression for years before they took their own life whether they were diagnosed or not. People don’t kill themselves on a whim. It is something they have repeatedly thought about and fought many times before. It isn’t an “ease out” either. Like I said, this person has thought about it many times before, thought about their loved ones, thought about what comes after death if anything, thought about nonexistence, and still decided that this was the better alternative. There is no easy way to kill yourself either. Before I had kids, I attempted several different ways. Pills aren’t painful, but they give you lots of time to think and possibly change your mind before they take affect. Slitting your wrists is painful and takes a lot of pressure on the blade, making it difficult to work against your bodies reaction to the pain. In fact, the body’s natural desire to survive is so strong that it makes just about any choice extremely hard to follow through on, it takes real determination to be successful. Only one of my attempts was successful. I flat lined, but I’d already confessed to taking too many pills to someone, my self-perseverance instincts kicking in, and they sought help. It only takes one successful attempt without interventions to be the end of someone. One missed sign that a person needed help. One person too scared or unable to ask for help.

So why am I writing this? It isn’t a suicide note or anything, but it is a cry for help. A cry for help for all people who are suffering from depression. After a couple of recent famous suicides there was a lot of talk about suicide and prevention. It got me a little angry because people kill themselves everyday. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Statistics say that 123 people commit suicide everyday in America and for every successful attempt, there are 25 failed attempts. That means that 3,075 people attempt suicide in America everyday. More than likely, someone you know was one of those failed attempts at some point in time and you probably don’t even know it. If you know me, then you know someone who has tried to commit suicide. So why is it that suicide and depression are only really talked about when someone famous dies from it? Why are the 1,122,375 suicide attempts each year never discussed? For the same reason that people suffering from depression don’t tend to share that they are suffering from depression, because of the stigma, because no one wants to be around the person with depression. According to the APA, “one in four primary care patients suffer from depression,” but only a third get diagnosed. If that is the case, we are all surrounded by people suffering from some type of depression so it is time we start being ok with talking about it. I’ve always been honest about my depression because I don’t want others suffering to feel like they are alone, but I haven’t been as open about my past suicide attempts. However, I’ve decided it is time to be open about them and my still daily struggle with depression, despite the risk of rejection, punishment, or ostracization I might face, because I’m not ok and neither are a lot of people and we shouldn’t be afraid to say that.

Am I suicidal? No. Have I been struggling with depression? Everyday, all my life. I tell people I was diagnosed with depression at 19 and many assume that means I’m ok now, but that isn’t how it works. I constantly struggle with it whether I show signs of it or not. Should that make people worried? Not really, but it should make people aware. You can go online and look up signs of depression and suicidal behavior, but in reality, that isn’t going to help as much as being open and honest and willing to talk about depression. Someone you know is suffering from depression right now and afraid to talk about it. Open up a dialogue, normalize it, make it no big deal to talk about depression, then maybe people will feel safe enough to get help or you might find out who needs it. If nothing else, people who are suffering from the isolating effects of depression might feel less isolated and stigmatized.

It is ok to not be ok! I’m not ok most days, but I’m still here.

Disclaimer to my mom and loved ones: please don’t call all worried and asking if I’m ok. I’m not struggling anymore than any other day. This isn’t about my current state, it is about the message that no one should be depressed alone. I love you and promise I’m taking care of myself.

The parting of the storm clouds

This past Sunday, my husband and I had the rare opportunity to get out of the house, sans kids, for a date. With family coming in and out of town over the past few months to help us out, we’ve actually managed to escape kid-free a few times, but, as enjoyable as some one-on-one time with my spouse was, those dates weren’t really relaxing, until this past Sunday. Before this past Sunday’s date, our past few dates were marred by heavy hearts over the struggles of our youngest son during his young five months of life. This past Sunday’s date was different though because the clouds that have darkened our lives since a few weeks before his birth have finally lifted.

On the sixth of this month, my littlest guy celebrated his five month birthday by leaving the hospital with no plans of returning. After struggling to live, breath, and eat from the time before he was even born and through his entire little life, my son is finally able to invest his energy in more age appropriate activities, like discovering his hands and feet. Only a little more than two weeks ago we were sitting in the hospital again with my littlest guy, facing a calendar full of surgeries and hospitalizations through at least the end of the year and even the possibility of a permanent trachea tube. Today, we are home, enjoying all of life’s small moments of happiness and feeling blessed.

Our littlest guy struggled through a respiratory virus, with the assistance of steroids and some extra oxygen, and was healthy enough to go under general anesthesia for a more comprehensive scope of his airway last Monday. My husband met me at the hospital the morning of the procedure and we sat together with our littlest guy, comforting him as they prepped him for the procedure, trying to prepare ourselves for what we were about to find out and what the future held for our son. The doctor promised that the procedure would only take minutes to get in and evaluate his airway, then we would be told how they would proceed to attempt to fix the problem. We were prepping for a long tough road. We waited nervously in the waiting room ,for what seemed like hours instead of minutes ,for the call. When the OR nurse called, I spoke with her on the phone as my husband and I held hands. Soon tears streamed from my eyes as I felt the oppressive storm clouds that had been hanging around me for so many months finally part and I could breath again. There was a minute chance that when the doctors got in to get a better look at my son’s airway, instead of scar tissue, it would be a cyst. The chances were so small that they didn’t even mention the possibility the first time we saw the ENT doctor. If this was the case, they would be able to pop the cyst and clean out the airway with minimal work being done and little recovery needed, it was the absolute best case scenario, though highly unlikely. We had so many people pulling for us and praying that it must have worked because the nurse said those words we were not prepared for, “it is just a cyst”! We were overjoyed! I couldn’t stop crying from relief, excitement, disbelief, and happiness. My little guy was not going to need the multiple procedures and surgeries we were mentally preparing ourselves for; he wasn’t going to spend his entire first year in and out of the hospital! We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. When we talked to the ENT doctor, he expressed how excited and surprised he was to find just a cyst; it was so unlikely. He was so excited that he told the nurse to call us immediately with the good news. All the nurses and doctors on my son’s medical team were so happy and even better, they were in shock by how great my son was doing as soon as he woke up in the ICU. When I first entered his ICU room, my son was sleeping. He was so quiet, unlike his normal, loud, labored breathing, I had to check for myself to make sure he was still breathing, despite all the machines he was hooked up to telling me he was fine. When my son woke up, it was like he was a totally different kid. He went from eating 40-65mls of milk over the course of a half hour to downing 70-100mls of milk in 10 minutes! His breathing was quiet, not labored. This gave him extra energy to discover his tongue, talk more, exercise his arms and legs, and just be more, overall happy and alert. He seemed ready to go home within hours of the surgery and the ICU staff said they would’ve discharged him from there if they could’ve, but ENT made us spend a night in ICU. Once we moved to a room on a regular floor, my son kept setting off all the machines by being so active that his sensors kept coming off, so nurses relieved him of wire after wire relatively quickly. We were able to convince the doctors to only keep us one more night after leaving the ICU.

So, to celebrate his five month birthday, my son left the hospital (again) able to breath and without a feeding tube! He is home and happy and doing the things a five month old (3 month adjusted) should be doing. At his last doctor’s appointment he had gained 1pound, 1oz since she had seen him a month earlier, not bad considering he had lost some weight when he first went into the hospital. At last check he was a hefty 9lbs 8oz.

In the coming weeks my littlest guy will still need to do some follow up visits. He is done with OT, but still needs to see the nutritionist. We are hoping that she will allow us to send back all his feeding tube equipment by the end of the month and that he will come off the fortified breast milk and be able to eat just regular breast milk within the next two months. He goes back to see the ENT doctors in a few weeks and in the middle of next month, he with go under general anesthesia again for another look, to make sure the cyst has not returned. If there is no sign of regrowth, he is home free! Despite those follow ups, I feel like this is finally, truly over.

I now find myself enjoying an ease that I have not felt for a very long time. I have been able to stop holding my breath and don’t have that constant worry at the back of my mind. I find myself fully enjoying the moments in life, big and small. My favorite moments right now, are the ones in which I am able to watch my three older boys playing while holding my wiggling, giggling littlest guy. The storm clouds have finally parted and I am enjoying the sunshine in the form of a toothless, drooling smile.

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The before and after picture of my son’s airway. He was basically breathing through a straw sized hole that went even further back than the picture shows.

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