September 7, 2011

What it's like

In September of 2008, I was raped on a date. I never told anyone. I mean I never told ANYONE. Not a doctor, or a therapist, or a best friend. No one. I was so embarrassed and ashamed this had happened to me, and I felt so stupid that I had not kept myself safe. I felt like all that money for all those fucking degrees ought to have been good for something, and here I couldn't even take care of myself. Normally so forthcoming and expansive, I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to be told what to do or who to talk to. I didn't want to be asked any questions. I didn't want to explain. I just wanted to forget. Up until that point I felt like I'd been a fairly healthy woman with a fairly healthy sex life, and I was convinced I could maintain that through sheer will.

By the end of the same month, I had started to completely fall apart.

Anxiety seemed to ooze from my pores. I couldn't relax. I had recently started my first job and bought a car and suddenly I felt like I was losing control of everything. I couldn't sleep. I would be awake for three days straight. Not just awake, really, but AWAKE! I needed to talk, I needed to write, I needed to make things. Things to say were erupting out of me and I was unable to control them. I made greeting cards and little boxes. I started writing. I wrote all over my walls, in fact, and pounded out long missives on my computer in ALL CAPS because I WAS RUNNING OUT OF SPACE INSIDE TO PUT ALL OF THIS SHIT.

The lack of sleep made me wild-eyed and crazed, and the long commute to work (not to mention actual work) because impossible. The panic attacks started in earnest around this time, and they made me feel desperate and doomed and frantic. I had them everywhere--in my office, in my car, alone in my bed, in the shower. No place was safe.

I can remember driving home from work, my fingers clutching the steering wheel for dear life. I rocked back and forth furiously chanting:

"I'm sorry," she said, "I have nothing left to give."
"I'm sorry," she said, "I have nothing left to give."
"I'm sorry," she said, "I have nothing left to give."

One day on the drive home I felt so terrified to go home and be alone that I phoned ahead to Nannette and pleaded for her to let me come over as soon as I was back in the city. She told me I was welcome to come, and I fiercely held onto that as I drove. But by the time I got back to San Francisco, I was frantic again and couldn't bear to be around anyone. To her confusion, I told her I couldn't come.

Some nights she let me sleep on her couch because I didn't want to be alone.

I became obsessed with the Golden Gate Bridge. I needed to look at that bridge! I needed to see it, to drive on it, to read about it, and watch videos of people jumping off of it. I needed to know just how deep it was in the bay underneath. It felt important to know just how far down there was to go. I read, "San Francisco Bay is relatively shallow but reaches depths of 100 feet in some places." I had dreams about it. I dreamed of what it felt like when my feet left the side, and I dreamed of what I saw on the way down. I dreamed of the sound my back made when it broke upon hitting the water, and I dreamed of the light disappearing above me. I decided that the exact point at which I would jump off would be 98 feet deep, and I needed to keep that number in my head constantly. I wrote the number 98. I cut the corners out of books that showed page 98. I made a box I called "98 feet deep."

The awful part about it was that I didn't WANT to jump off. I didn't want to! It terrified and horrified me to think about it. But I was obsessed with it. My brain wouldn't leave it alone.

The days without sleep were punctuated by complete crashes. Depression and sobbing and apathy, days I called off work because I just could not function. After Nannette pleaded with me to see someone, I sent my doctor an email. All I could think to say was, "I'm going down fast." On my 32nd birthday, she had me come in for an appointment.

My doctor is wonderful, and she urged me to apply for disability and to see a psychiatrist as well as a therapist. I was getting in deeper and deeper shit at work, but I insisted to her that I could still work--didn't need the time off. I regret deeply that I didn't take her advice, but I was determined to hold on to the balls I was trying to juggle by the skin of my teeth.

Eventually, I got fired. I lost a lot of friends when they didn't understand what was going on or the decisions I made. I made a mess of relationships. I lost my baby.

These days I struggle with leaving the house, with seeing people. It feels like the only place I can be remotely safe is in my apartment, because the outside world is much too scary and unpredictable. The last time I tried to have brunch with a friend, I had to force myself to go. I threatened and begged and cajoled myself to go, and when I got home, my beloved bird was dead. A voice inside of me whispered, "I knew this would happen." It is a lonely existence.

I am taking medication now--slowly--and I have told exactly four people what happened to me. It honestly didn't occur to me until a couple months ago how all these things might be tied together. I'm sure I've told portions of my story in this venue before as I recounted my struggles with mental illness, but it has never been told in this complete fashion. I feel somewhat horrified as I type these words that now it will be OUT THERE and PEOPLE WILL KNOW and I CAN'T TAKE IT BACK.

But I needed to tell my story.

1 comment:

AnnaMom said...

It takes a lot of courage to tell your story - Thank you for telling us. As a survivor myself, I feel for you and want to tell you that it will get better. Little steps and one day, one minute, one second at a time is sometimes a useful way to move forward. I promise you it will get better - I absolutely promise you that it will!