The Most Humiliating Experience of My Life

Today I’m doing something rare for me…two posts in one day! I didn’t plan to post this second entry today, but I feel compelled to do so and get something off my chest that I’m tired of hiding. For a long time I debated whether to tell my real story or not, because even when our family hurts us, we still feel a need to protect them.

So this post is about the most humiliating and potentially traumatic experience of my life. It happened when I was 15 years old. At that point I had already endured a rough childhood of turmoil, including being surrounded by and sometimes the target of verbal, mental and physical abuse, my parents’ constant instability in relationships, and the death of my father when I was 12. So, I was already pretty banged up emotionally and mentally. Not to mention the fact that I had undiagnosed high-functioning autism, which made it really hard for me to find my place in the world or understand it.

Anyhow, when I was 15, a boy who was I had been school friends with for years started showing interest in dating me. He was two grades ahead of me and 17 years old at the time. I agreed, but wasn’t sure if I really wanted to date or just be friends. So, I did bring him to my house a few times to hang out with him. In the end, I decided I just wanted to be friends and we decided not to date. Ironically enough (as you shall soon see), my mother actually helped me officially “break up” with him. We never kissed or anything like that, but the kids at school thought we were together and he was technically the first boy I ever “brought home”.

So after deciding to just be friends, I thought life would just go back to normal. But I was wrong. My mom started acting sort of weird. She was sneaking around having mysterious phone conversations and I even once caught her hiding outside, smoking, something I had NEVER seen her do before! I knew something was up, so one night I quietly picked up an extra phone extension to see who it was she was talking with at night. I was shocked to hear her and the guy I had been “dating” exchanging “I love you’s”. I confronted her after the call and she admitted to being in a relationship with him. I was angry, humiliated, shocked, and sickened.

After that, she quit hiding it and started taking off on dates with him pretty much every night, leaving me all alone night after night after night, or even dumping me off on random people so they could go away for days at a time. Before long, she moved him in and I had to live with them. By this time, everyone at school knew that he was dating my mother, which brought me a lot of uncomfortable questions about the situation, since they had all thought I had dated him. I even overheard teachers talking about my mom and the boy. Everyone treated me like my family was insane, and I felt like they had a right to do so because we WERE insane. It felt like Jerry Springer type stuff.

One of the most hurtful incidents I remember during this whole time was when I got into a fight with my mom’s new boyfriend. It was just a verbal fight, but I made him so mad with what I said that he punched me. I was so hurt by this that I jumped on my bike and rode away, even with my mom yelling after me to stop. Eventually I came back home, and instead of making him apologize to me for hitting me, my mom threatened to send me away to live with relatives. At this point, I felt like I was nothing and no one wanted me.

My mom married this boy the very day he turned 18. So I was going to the same school with my new “step-father”. Even though school had always been a refuge for me in the past, now it felt like torture every single day. I started skipping constantly and barely ended up graduating in the end because of all of it. When I was 16 we moved to another state and I went to a new school, but the feeling of shame followed me and I had given up on caring about school or about anything else. I was soon diagnosed with depression for the first time (not surprisingly!)

To this day I still hold a lot of resentment, anger, feelings of betrayal, and embarrassment about the whole thing. I have a relationship with my mother, but it is precarious and not the most trusting.

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Rages and Paranoia

The past couple months I have been all over the place emotionally and mentally. I plan to go over all this with my psychiatrist when I see him later this month, but felt I would share here some of what I’ve been going through.

It is kind of weird because I have had several bouts of certain types of emotions/feelings that were overwhelming and lasted at least a few days to a week. For around a week last month, I had a real issue with rage. Not just anger, but pure rage. I hate it when I have these rages, because I normally end up taking it out on myself or my things because I don’t want to inflict it on anyone else but have to get it out somehow. Sometimes during these rages I destroy personal things that I later regret. I don’t cut or do anything physical that leaves real scars, but I do sometimes pinch myself or dig my nails into my skin as hard as I can, just to get the anger out and because acute physical pain can be a way to distract yourself from intense emotional pain.

A few weeks after the rage phase, I went through an odd type of paranoia. I just kept having nightmares every night, one after another. All of the nightmares were either about home intruders or something scary chasing me. The first night it started I had a full night of nightmares about home intruders. I became so paranoid I had to get up and double check all the locks in the house and make sure every door was closed and locked between the outside doors and my room. I was tempted to sleep with a knife nearby (which I actually have done in the past when I was afraid of something like this), but instead, I settled on sleeping with my phone next to me. I have never been a victim of a home invasion and currently live in a safe neighborhood, so this paranoia seems odd to me.

This past week I have actually had a positive upturn, where I have felt fairly happy and almost a little hopeful. These extremes of emotion I have felt recently do make me wonder if maybe the bipolar diagnosis is correct. I have never really understood why I had these rages and paranoia episodes, but if I am truly bipolar, that probably would explain it (although my PTSD could easily be a culprit as well I suppose). It is tempting once these episodes are over to make excuses for them or to try to convince myself they weren’t as bad as they really were, but that is being dishonest with myself and won’t help me learn to deal with these problems in a healthy way.

Art vs Mental & Chronic Illness – Please Give Feedback!

Hello everyone! I’ve actually had a few good days mentally, which has definitely been a welcome reprieve! Today I wanted to talk to my blog readers about whether they think I do a good balance of art vs mental or chronic illness posts. I have a passion both for art and for advocating and spreading awareness of mental and chronic physical illnesses. Sometimes I worry that maybe I am sharing too many posts about one subject or the other and may drive off readers who are interested more in the other topic.

So…it seems the best thing to do is to ask you guys. Do you think I strike a good balance? Do you have a preference for subject matter or do you just like to read whatever I share? I have thought about separating into two blogs, one focusing more on art and the other more on mental and physical illnesses, but I honestly don’t want to have to juggle two blogs. Sometimes I struggle just to keep up with one (mostly because of the chronic illnesses I suffer from).

Flaking Out Due to Sickness

Yesterday I was supposed to go to therapy, but I was feeling really sick and ended up calling off. Whenever I have to do that, I always end up feeling bad, like it is my fault that I have these health problems and often have to cancel appointments or activities.

Honestly, nowadays I don’t even schedule much of anything outside of medical appointments because I would rather not plan anything than have to feel like I’m letting myself or others down if I’m too sick, depressed, or anxious to go. It really isn’t a fun way to live, and it frustrates me. I often feel like I’ve almost given up on living a normal life and that saddens me.

On the plus side, I am fortunate to have a supportive husband and still have a place to live and food to eat even though I am too sick to work a regular job. I really don’t know how people like me make it without support, especially since it can often take years to get any help from disability. If I had tons of money, I would spend it helping out those who are in similar predicaments, whether they struggle with autism, mental illness, physical illness, or a combination of all of the above like me.

Feeling Torn in Half…

Last night I had a really bad panic attack. The situation that triggered it is a complicated one that has me feeling rather torn in half. As I have probably mentioned before, my husband is a special education teacher. He is extremely devoted to his work and his students and loves what he does. This past Monday, he found out that one of his prior students, a girl who is now 19, needs a place to stay. My husband would like for us to take her in. I am really conflicted about it.

My husband and I used to do foster care, so I’m not unfamiliar with taking in strangers and looking after them, but the reason we had to quit foster care was my deteriorating health. That worries me about taking in a new, adult person who has both emotional and developmental issues. It also worries me because we recently downsized into a much, much smaller house and the autistic side of me is deeply worried about having no privacy or time alone which is essential to my well-being. Plus, I don’t know where we will move all the stuff that is now in the extra room.

On the other hand, I do feel deeply for this girl who has been through A LOT. My heart aches for anyone who already struggles with physical or mental disabilities and then has to add the weight of being abandoned or alone. She is living my worst nightmare in many ways and I can’t help but feel compassion for her. However, having never met her myself, I also worry about whether we would be a good fit or not. Often, that is something you just can’t tell until you live together, and if we do take her in, there is a good chance we would need to keep her at least a couple years until she graduates school and is moved into some form of independent living housing.

I feel so conflicted and anxious.

Suicide Isn’t My Biggest Fear

Recently I had kind of a weird realization. If you follow my blog closely, you probably know that I have written posts about how I fear I would be driven to suicide if I lost my husband, mainly because I fear I wouldn’t be able to support myself with all my health problems, and if I lost him I feel like I would lose 90% of my support system.

The other day though I realized something that rather shocked me at first, even though it may not seem such a big thing to others. And that realization was that my real fear isn’t that I WILL commit suicide if I were alone, it is my fear that I WON’T. Maybe that sounds crazy on the surface, but let me explain further. If my husband were to die, that would leave me utterly alone, and I honestly do not believe I could continue to live this life all by myself. If I found myself in that situation, I would have to either A) Give up and commit suicide or B) Find others to trust and rely on.

Option A isn’t my real fear, it is option B. I am terrified of trusting others and letting others in. I don’t trust my ability to choose people who will not take advantage of me or end up abusing me. I feel it is almost a kind of luck that I avoided marrying an abuser in the first place. Most people who grow up like I did, in horrific abuse scenarios (physical, sexual, emotional, or mental) tend to end up surrounding themselves with people who perpetuate the cycle of abuse. I also fear that if any of my past abusers are still around, if I found myself all alone, I would be so weak that I would turn to them. Which horrifies me more than anything. It took me a long time to get free from it all (and I’m still not 100% there), but the thought of returning to hell is far more frightening than the thought of death.

However, deep down I doubt my ability to actually take my own life. I do have a strong survival instinct and an immense amount of anxiety when it comes to any form of danger. Perhaps that is why I always told myself that if I did commit suicide, it would have to be a form that is instant and leaves no chance for reconsideration, because I know if I gave myself time to rethink it I would freak out and seek help.

So, with this odd realization, what is the point of it all? I guess it is some reassurance that maybe I am stronger and more resilient than I always told myself. But more importantly, I need to work on my fear of opening up to and trusting others. It is funny that here on this blog I can be so open and bluntly honest, but in interpersonal relationships I tend to build walls and push people away before they can get too close. Somehow I need to learn to trust myself to be a good enough judge of character to give people a chance. But I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know how to trust myself, let alone others.

Negativity

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Sometimes I worry that I come across as too negative or focused only on the bad on this blog. It is really a fine line to walk, because as someone who is chronically ill, constantly feeling sick, and dealing with several mental health issues, it can often feel like the negative in my life does far outweigh the positive. Most of the things I used to love to do (hike, play tennis, roller skate, go dancing, etc.) are now virtually impossible for me. I haven’t been able to work in a couple years and even when I did, I was constantly in trouble for missing work due to health issues. I used to find a great deal of meaning in being a foster parent, but there is no way I could handle that anymore either. I feel like I’ve lost SO MUCH that it is hard to cope. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, but since becoming sicker and sicker physically, the levels of those mental issues have skyrocketed.

I want to be honest on this blog above all else. Even when it hurts and even when it is ugly and dark. However, I don’t want to give the impression that there are never good moments in my life. There are times my husband makes me laugh uncontrollably. There are days when I do feel well enough to go out to eat or browse through a bookstore. Sometimes I get to watch a tv show I’m addicted to and excited to see. I still get to paint and play with art materials. My crazy cats continue to be crazy and adorable. It isn’t all bad, and I am grateful for the good times, but most days are a struggle and I don’t want to lie about that either.

* Art by Maranda Russell