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My Story of Abuse, Disorder and Getting Well

WARNING: The following may be triggering material. Please proceed with caution and leave this page if you feel like hurting yourself.

My Life...

I have told this story so many times, so many different ways. The last story was in December 2007. It's now June 2008 and I find myself needing to completely change this story again. So here it is. Currently some of the selections below are in a book in progress called How To Save A Life. So here is a little bit of what happened to me and how I am who I am today.

To begin, I would say that I was born into hell. While I don’t remember my first few years of life, I remember what was told to me. I was born a military brat to a nineteen year old mother and twenty-two year old father. I also had a two year old brother already in the family. I’m pretty sure my parents hated each other by the time I came along. The one thing I strongly remember about my childhood was anger. So much anger in the household. So what’s a brother and sister to do? Imitate our parents. My brother and I also became angry, at each other and I paid the price. My mom and dad fought constantly, so we did too. After all, that’s what was normal, right?

I do not remember much of my childhood, which I suspect was to help protect me. But I do remember certain events. I remember on one weekend my parents got into a very big argument. The next thing I knew, a lot of smashing was going on in their bedroom. Suddenly my father comes out and slams the door. I hear my mom lock the door and my father begins pounding at the door. “Damnit Tim, leave me alone. Just leave the house.” “Tammy, open the damn door.” I hear my parents yell back and forth. I peek out of my room in time to see my father lift the white wooden chair. That is the end of that memory. It picks up again later that night while we are all watching TV. My Dad is in a lot of pain and my mother finally convinces him to go to the hospital. Eventually, it turned out that he had broken his wrist. The next day my dad takes me aside and explains something to me. “You know how I broke this? What you need to tell other people?” I shake my head. “Remember Erin, we were playing basketball and I slipped on the ice. Okay?” I nod my head, the lie ingrained in my mind. I’m being asked to tell a lie. And my parents were the ones who told me to do it.

Yes, lying became second nature. How else was I to persuade the rest of the world that my life was perfect and I was the one fucked up?

Now let me present this paradox. I was, from a young age (I was about six when this occurred), given various lies I had to tell to the outside world; lies for which I wasn’t getting in trouble for. So tell me, why I should get in trouble for any other lies I would tell. I keep thinking back to my six year old mind. I think I was constantly troubled by what constituted a lie that I would get in trouble for and one that was okay. How, in steady reasoning, could my parents punish me for some lies when they themselves made me keep one every day. This was one of the many paradoxes in my life that I struggled with, which would set the stage for many core beliefs I held on to that eventually let me to suicide.

Another memory is of when my father locked everyone out of the house. So the next thing I know, my mom has put her fist through the window on the back door. There is blood everywhere and glass in her hand. I remember helping her with her wound. That was another scary time. I didn’t understand why I was locked out too. And why I suddenly had to put my questionings aside and care for my mother. She was never good with blood, but I was her helper and her protector, so I would help.

Another instance was when both of my parents went around the house with a hammer, threatening to break each others things. Or the time I sat up in bed and just listened to them argue downstairs. They argued about everything, from money to relationships with others to our family.

So much anger it seemed. To this day, my mother always questions me and asks why I don’t remember the good times enough, why I always remember the bad. I know the reason why, but she’s still not prepared for the truth. There is not much good and the feelings of anger over shadow anything else by its sheer force and volume.

Physical abuse has also been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was abused to the extent that I considered it normal. To not have pain in my life, that is what I couldn’t stand. Pain had become my security, my normal, my ‘home’ and my life. I don’t know which abuse was worse- physical, emotional or sexual…each took its own toll in different ways. But I have a feeling the physical abuse has led to many of my self destructive behaviors that I later engaged in, most specifically self injury. And it’s the physical abuse that can give me nightmares and make me feel so helpless.

When I think of the times I was hit, it hurts so much. My eyes can close and my body still shudders as I recall being hit. My father is who I recall hitting me with the formal beatings. Formal meaning when I did something bad or my mom tells him I did something bad, there is a specific ritual. And there would be my mother hovering, watching and providing direction. My father used his belt mostly, or at least that is what I remember. I don’t even know how many times we were hit…but I remember how much it hurt and stung. My family, my parents, the ones who were supposed to protect me from pain and hurt…well they were the ones hurting me now. And I look back and wonder for what? What did I ever do that was so bad to make them want to hurt me? Get in a fight with my brother, that would be an automatic belt spanking. Knock some pictures off the wall and that got a bare bottom spanking. Not cleaning my room, another spanking. Having a smart-mouth got me a hit on the bottom or the spoon somewhere…or even a slap across the face.

The most humiliating beatings occurred when we were forced to pull down our pants and underwear. Then we were hit on our bare bottom. Often I’d fantasize of ways to protect myself (putting towels or toilet paper in my pants, so it wouldn’t hurt), but given that we’d never know if it was a bare bottom spanking or not- if we were found out- the spanking would be so much worse. Any heroics on our part, standing up to them or refusing to do as we were told would mean a worse beating. Thus ultimately, we learned to submit no matter what.

While my father mostly did the formal beatings, it was my mother who was the driving force between spankings. She’d employ whatever was handy, chiefly her hand or a wooden spoon. The spoon would be used on our bottom or upper arms or pretty much anywhere. Her hand was reserved for slapping us across the face or occasionally our bottom. As I look back to the frightened little girl, I don’t know what was scarier- the actual spankings or look of rage in my mothers face. It was if her soul was taken over from a woman I loved so much, who I’d crawl into her lap after naps…into a woman I fear and hated so much. And a dislike toward my father, wondering why he never helped or stopped her.

Both of my parents had raging tempers, but no one will ever match my mother. She could turn from loving mother to raging monster in about two second flat. Being hit by your own mother, no matter what the situation, is bound to leave a lasting mark.

I don’t even remember what I did, but it must have been worse than awful. While my father at times showed restraint, my mother did not. She began beating me with the spoon, first on the butt. Then she just moved on, striking me on my back, arms, and legs. That was the moment I wondered if I was going to die. The wood stung each time it met my skin. I felt it as each strike left another welt. She neared my neck and head and I finally dropped down and covered myself. She continued her assault again and again and again. I tried to take my mind to a different place and be far away from this scene of a small child laying silently on the floor as she continues to hit away. She’s yelling through all of this, but these days my memories of pain are only silent. I do know that she eventually just stopped and walked away.

What I find really interesting about remembering the abuse, is that everything is muted. I hear no sounds, not even my own crying. I do not recall what was said, or the sound of the belt hitting me. I just see it occurring, feeling the shudder of my body and the tears streaming down. I don’t even feel the stinging pain; I just know it’s there. It’s strange, I don’t know why, but all of my memories are like that…fractured pictures with no sound.

The physical abuse was not limited to my parents. My older brother also learned to take his frustration and anger out on the youngest of the family- me. Though he never really out-right pummeled me, he preferred a more helpless method: smothering and holding me down. I know of few things worse than being held down, a pillow or blanket over your head- running out of air, never knowing if your next breath would be your last.

I really don’t know how to explain it to someone. We could be playing nicely together and then something can make him mad and the next thing I know, he’s holding me down and putting a pillow or blanket over my face. I’m screaming and trying to breathe or get him off me, but he is much stronger. I fight and fight this time and again because I do not want to give up my pride. But eventually I go limp, unable to fight him and I suppose then I lose my appeal because he finally lets me go. His abuse never left many marks that you could see, but they left their scars nonetheless. Those feeling of helplessness, hopelessness and weakness have never left me. Anytime I get in a situation where it feels like I’m enclosed or it’s a situation I can’t get out of…I lose it, I have to get out.

Almost everyday I lived with either heavy criticism or being hit. I don’t know which was worse. Needless to say, growing up with such abuse every day, I thought this was normal. For most of my life I thought my life was perfect and I was the one so screwed up. It’s pretty amazing what your mind can convince you of when things like trust, love and security are taken away from you by the very people who should be providing those things.

And to the outside world, I have often appeared to have everything going for me and considered one of the best and brightest in anything I attempted. No one ever thought for one moment I would be one of the millions of children abused or that my brain would suddenly turn against me at the start of my adolescence. This fear surrounding my mental well being was personal and a secret I kept for most of my childhood.

Sometimes, as a child, I wondered if my parents would just beat me until I died. You fear this when all you know is pain. I wondered if they did that, would that be a blessing to me? Do abused children go to heaven? At the time, I believed I might go to hell for all the bad things that my family said I did. I was a bad child and I deserved the beatings. That was the line my family gave me and the line I believed all the way down to my soul. That was a heavy burden for a child of seven. I learned my addition, I learned that I was bad, how to tie my shoes, a family meant painful love, writing contractions and fear was a way of life. A well-rounded education for an abusive childhood.

The memory of pain is long and deep. It knows no bounds and is etched in your mind forever. While I do not remember every time I was hurt, I remember how I felt and the pain it caused me even years after some of the physical abuse stopped. Scars are often thought of as the body's history. I look at the word angry scrawled upon my forearm, etched in the skin by my own hand, and know that sums up my childhood better than any paragraph. The scars of the beatings have long since faded, giving rise to the pain I eventually caused my own body, in search of the only thing I knew that was comforting: pain. I didn't get the rules of an abusive childhood from the start, but in the end they became all too clear. The betrayal of my family and the long history of the pain I endured under their care may be dulled, but never forgotten. My memory of pain is felt through every scar, every memory in my mind and every tear that falls.

I began being thirteen with moving to three middle schools in about as many months. I went from being one of the most popular girls in school in the beginning to a lonely outsider in the end. I went from making straight A’s to making straight C’s or worse. I went from loving life to wanting to end my life. No way would I let abuse ruin my new life. But it wasn’t as cheerful as I hoped. My mother still continued her verbal assaults and occasional slap across the face. My older brother, when he visited, also continued his verbal and physical assaults.

Thirteen also began the year that I stopped speaking to my father. Over the three years they had been divorced, she started a slow brainwash against my father. I was made to believe that he had multiple affairs during their marriage, that he drank heavily and that he was a bad father. If I exerted any mannerisms that he had, my mother would tell me about bad it was to have those mannerisms. The tough part of all of this, as I later understood, was that I looked exactly like my father and despite no influence on his part, I acted just like him. We had the same look, the same laugh, and the same strengths and weaknesses. I knew my mother hated my father and thus I began to hate myself because I was just like him and knew it. I think my mother also hated me a little because I was almost a carbon copy of him. So at thirteen, in order to save myself a little, I stopped talking to the man she hated so much. I couldn’t take the negativity any longer.

As a result of making awful grades and having no friends, my mom began her verbal assault in these two areas, now that my father was out of the picture. She thought that I wasn’t trying hard enough and that is why my grades were poor. In reality, that was my best. This school system was much different and harder than the ones I had come from. She also yelled at me for not trying hard enough to make friends. In reality, we moved to suburban hell and if you weren’t born there, you were an outcast. I also happened to excel in softball, but all the girls were mad at me for taking their friends position. I was still a bit of a tom boy and I hated to pretend to be someone. I had my mask, but I could never conform to those around me. At least not there where everyone was supposed to be perfect. And I never seemed to measure up, not even with my mother’s pressure. So instead I stuck to being the best big sister ever to my little brother and the best babysitter around. That was the only place I fit in.

At 13, I just couldn’t hold it together for very long. With the move, my academics slipping, my family broken apart, and no friends, I took the word failure to a whole new level. I held my mask up high if anyone was around, but hurt so deeply the moment I was alone. There was no pretending anymore. And that is where my major dissociation appeared. I just lived outside myself and I took everything internally, never letting anything out. This is when my first depression appeared and my first serious suicidal thoughts. I was building my path to suicide quickly. I would later think that I should have killed myself then and saved myself the trouble of what I would later go through. It could have stopped the later two attempts if I had just done it then. At least that is what I always thought.

That year every night I went to bed thinking of ways to kill myself. This was the time before internet searches, so my ways to kill myself were the basics. First there was jumping off the house, then I thought that I would only just break something. I thought of other tall buildings, but they weren’t practical. I thought maybe I could hang myself in the closet. This was certainly viable. I thought about a gun. Except we didn’t own one. I thought about drowning, but again not very viable. Slitting my wrists was the most popular option for me. For whatever reason, the idea of overdosing was not in the list. I think because I hadn’t yet started on the psychotropic medications that help give you that idea. I think one of the things that scared me the most was that I had a death dream where I thought I had died. As I went through each method in my head every night, eventually I decided that maybe I could endure these dark thoughts and come out the other side okay. I don’t know how I got this piece of hope, I just know it was the saving of me.

Every night I also berated myself for any mistake I made, no matter how small. There was always this deep pain I felt to my soul, but couldn’t name. It was heavy and was so intense; I curled up into a ball and rocked myself to sleep. I constantly threw the covers over my head and then yanked them off. My visual hallucinations started here, as I would see menacing dark figures come to my bed and so the covers went over my head to wish them away. I yanked the covers off because I’d suddenly be thrown into a flash back of my brother suffocating me under a cover. It was a no win situation and made my anxiety that much worse.

This first depression of mine was dark and deep. I felt that killing my body was only killing my shell. I reasoned that I was already dead inside, so killing the outside was easy. This dead feeling was unlike anything I had ever felt before. At times it resembled the dissociation I felt during moments of extreme abuse. I always “went away” so to speak until it was all over. Sometimes I would pretend to be in another room or floating above my body. Other times I just blanked out, pretending that nothing was happening and I wouldn’t remember it later. It was this time that I learned that it was possible to feel nothing inside.

I woke up each day to a world set to mute, with each image fading to darkness and each face becoming more faceless. I was a living ghost, moving through each day as if I was alive, but nothing was real. Nothing could touch me. This was my depression. It was not the blues or a kind of sadness. I would have loved to feel anything inside. Instead I was just dead inside. There was no anger, no sadness, no melancholia; only a numbness and a deafening emptiness to my heart.

This was my path to suicide and mental illness. This depression threw me into a whole new world where darkness was my comfort, numbness was coveted and I preferred to stay lost in my destructive mind. I was hiding so many secrets, yet I never breathed a word of what had happened. I kept my mouth shut and had a fantasy world thriving in my mind. Then, I made that decision to just get better, to keep thoughts of the good times close by. I always name this time that my little brother saved me. It was thoughts of him and the love and bond we shared that got me through the darkest days and seemed to sustain me for several years after that. I breathed in, gathered my strength, and decided to make the commitment to get better. Though, for brief moments of time I would still find myself with depression lingering, each depression taught me something new and each depression unlocked a furor of emotion afterward. When the numbness was replaced with feeling, any feeling, I met life with renewed vigor. This vigor was enough to satisfy the outside world that I was well. It was also enough to convince me that I was not going mad.

At thirteen I still took so much abuse and as a result of all past and present abuse, I had my first depression. This first depression eventually led to a stronger mask of mine, but it also gave me the first moments of hope through all of the darkness. This also gave me both a path to suicide and a reprieve. My path to suicide was paved but rocky.

A computer engineer for the National Security Agency (NSA). That would be a sweet job after college. I wonder if they have an internship. Let’s see, I need a computer engineering degree. George Mason is perfect for that. What a perfect fit. My parents keep asking me if I am smart enough to get the degree. They think my math skills are too weak. I only got a D in Trig because I had Mono. Besides, you can always turn a weakness into strength. I mean differential equations, how hard can that be? At college, all I will do is eat, sleep, study and go to class. That is all I will do, no sweat. I wonder if I could be great enough to do code breaking. Surely I could study enough. God put me on this Earth to do great things. This must be it. George Mason has the computer security degree. Then I can apply for the NSA. This must be it.

At seventeen years old I believed that I could be a code breaker for the National Security Agency. At this time I barely passed the Algebra’s with a C and Trigonometry with a D. Math was not my strong suit. Yet I believed in my mind that I would overcome that by only studying, sleeping and eating in college- nothing else. I believed it so much, I applied to colleges with computer security programs. My parents barely got me to apply to a few other colleges without such programs. I also sent away for a packet on the internship program at the NSA. I believed this fully despite others attempts at getting me to see how illogical it all sounded.

Along with this line of thinking, I thought very specifically that God had put me on this planet to do something great and special. At the time, I was barely going to church and just a few months before I was atheistic and had been since I was a child. Then I began blindly believing. This line of thinking would carry on through many of my future manic episodes.

At the start of my senior year in high school, I felt on top of the world. This is a welcome change from the girl who hid in her room every day. I had set my sights to date a new friend of mine. With my friendship with him came friendships with the people he knew. I felt awesome for just, finally, being accepted. Along with friendships, my grades also improved substantially to almost all straight A’s. This with not as much studying and I was taking almost all college courses. I also began to excel in the Model United Nations club. I became a leader in the club and often won awards. I was even asked to go to the Harvard MUN conference. I could accomplish everything because I did not sleep. At most I had about two to four hours a week. I felt there was no need for sleep and I got so much work done.

My rise began to increase even more, heading into winter. By that time my friend was my boyfriend and it was a relationship I enjoyed immensely. He was my best friend and we did everything together. My leadership accolades kept on going. In the winter I was asked to go to the National Young Leadership Conference. For a high school senior, this is an incredible feat and honor. I went to this conference feeling nothing short of euphoria. I thought I was the best of the best, and during this time, I think I was. If you ask my mother how she felt about my senior year, she always references this conference. How she dropped me off, and watched me turn away from her and walk with confidence to my leadership group. She said that was one of the proudest moments of her life with me. I took that conference by storm, instantly making friendships. I was not shy at all and at times uninhibited. This conference often required speeches to be given without prep time and unrehearsed. I never backed down from the challenge and often won. My speaking skills were noticed and I was asked to give a speech in front of the entire leadership conference during the mock congress. I felt powerful, loved, and ecstatic. Life was wonderful and I was doing everything right. I came home from the conference, ready for whatever life threw at me next.

In what happened next, there was no leadership conference or award that could prepare me. My racing thoughts previously were great and often helped me in my studies and social life. Then one day they began to go too fast. I would become flustered and have trouble catching any thought. My euphoria became agitated and I started fights with everyone in my life. The high I had experienced a month earlier was waning to an uncomfortable hostile existence. I lost my best friend and boyfriend to anger and with that, all of his friends. I pushed my family away, and instead enjoyed time alone. I was irritable and could lose my temper at the drop of a hat. As January faded to February, the vivacious and well-liked Erin became once again alone and quiet.

My euphoria gave way to a restless depression. Once again the darkest thoughts that consumed me at thirteen had come for me again. Every day I would berate myself for any mistake made. It became harder to keep my grades up in these courses because I couldn’t focus for long enough. I stayed up all night, still, but instead of productive work, I would just stare at the computer screen thinking about how bad of a person I was. My family could not believe the change and arguments were frequent. Where were my friends? What happened to them? Your grades are slipping, what are you doing? What’s wrong with you? Pull yourself together!

Suicide again became a predominant theme. I could think of only one way to kill myself: hanging. So one day I went down to the garage and found a rope. I took it secretly to my room. After everyone went to bed that night, I tied a knot in the rope and cleared a place in my closet. I tied it to the highest clothes rack. I pulled at it, testing its strength. I pulled a chair into the closet. I stepped up on the chair and put the noose around my neck. I let my feet go limp and feel the rope tighten around my neck. I quickly put my feet back on the chair. The noose would work.

The prospect of killing myself scared the shit out of me. I put the rope in a hiding spot for now. The next day I looked at a pin I used to wear on my sweaters. It had a sharp point and so I grabbed it. I could only think of one thing: pain. I took the sharp pin and first dug it into my finger tip. It drew some blood. I took the pin again and dug it into my wrist. This hurt and I was seduced by the pain. I realized after a few days of doing this that it was not enough. I needed more blood and more pain. After shaving my legs one night, I realized that my shaving razor would cause that kind of destruction.

At the time, I wasn’t sure where my downfall began. Was it the last move, not fitting in, the stress of perfection, my past, or something inside? I didn’t think I would ever no the for sure. I know when I hit rock bottom. Prom night: Social pinnacle of senior year.

There’s the blade…maybe its time, what does it feel like? Next thing I know the blade is against the flesh… no pain…what the hell am I doing, I’m cutting…things are clearer…I can face the world…

My first cut is made on my right wrist and immense release follows. My prom sucks. I hate myself the entire night. I stay away from everyone and hide in a bathroom all night long. I knew my life had been changed with that one cut.

I cut, what am I going to do, who do I tell…If I hold out my wrist, will someone notice. My guidance counselor will be there…will she notice? God, I feel dark, I just want to crawl up in a ball and be left alone…so many people here, why am I here? I need to get away, I need to go…I cut, I can’t believe I cut…what will happen now…

The next morning, I cut again and I begin my new journey.

I can’t go to school…I feel too awful…the razor, yes the razor…look at the blood, just seeping out, all my worries following suit…oh shit…I don’t feel so well…I feel light headed. I take a seat on the bathroom floor…My God, this feels so surreal…I’ve cut, I’m alive...

I made it through school everyday, often with the help of my guidance counselor. She would speak to me each morning, giving me a pep talk. One day I forget to hide my cut with my watch. She asks what happened, thinking not much of it. I couldn’t stop myself and I told her I cut it. I meant that I had cut it accidentally, but she looked at me and knew that I meant what I said. She spoke softly and asked how. I told her I used a razor. She gives me a pass for class and tells me she’ll talk to me later. When we talk later I tell her everything: the depression, the loneliness, the suicide thoughts and the self cutting. She tells me what I’m doing is self mutilation. I get a name for it finally.

That night at home I look up self mutilation online and find that I am not alone. I read everything that I can. The next day I beg my counselor to not tell my parents because they wouldn’t understand. They would think I’m weak. She agrees but I have to see her every day and call her at night if I’m in trouble. I agree and keep my end of the bargain. But I still have the rope and I still knew what I wanted to do with it. My guidance counselor found out and told me she had to tell my parents. That night I planned my suicide for a Friday. Friday would be the last softball game of the season and was senior night. I didn’t want to miss that and I didn’t want to let my team down. My date was set and I began the letters.

Then one day my mother began a fight with me after school about my grades, and finally about my counselors call to her about being depressed and my lack of friends. This was Tuesday and I planned for death on a Friday. Once you decide in your head the way you are going to die, it is very difficult to shift modes of suicide. It’s very deliberate and does not leave room for change. The next day, a Wednesday, my mom began this fight once again. I just stood there looking at her in silence. She yelled about that too. After dinner she starts in again. She tells me to pull myself up, that I have no reason to be depressed. She asks me why I’m hurting her. I say nothing and go to my room. I tie off the rope again. I put it around my neck. I walk up the stool and then let my legs go limp. Instantly I began to heave for breath and the rope cuts through my skin. After a few moments, I step back on the stool. This would have to wait until Friday. On Thursday my mom engages in similar arguments as the previous day. We have two arguments before it’s time for bed and homework. She comes into my room for another verbal assault. She leaves and goes to the laundry room. I follow her. I face her and finally tell her that there is nothing she can say or do to make me feel any worse than I already feel. I’m not hurting her; I am hurting me. I rush back to my room. I want to die, but it is not the time. I spend the night curled up in a ball. In the morning I go to my guidance counselor. I sit in a ball at her door waiting for her to come into work. She takes one look at me and knows I’m in trouble. As she opens the door to her office I blurt that I want to kill myself and begin to cry. I stay with her all day. She calls my parents and tells them about my wish to die. She makes another call and it’s determined that I will go to the local psychiatric hospital. My parents come get me at the end of the day and we drive in silence to the hospital.

I spent two weeks at this psychiatric hospital. Many of the issues I wrote about would last years for me. What’s amazing to me is that the hospital never thought I was abused and never asked me about it. Of course, at seventeen, I had no memory of abuse. I thought my family was perfect and that I was this huge failure and I found nothing wrong with taking my anger out with cutting. I took the Zoloft for my “depression” and went on my merry way. Welcome to the path I took to my future suicide. It’s not that hard of a conclusion to reach with a fragmented self and a true history of much abuse. You would think the outside world would see my pain and then look at my family and understand where it came from. Most just bought into the theory that my family was relatively good and by genetics only, I became mentally unhinged. People looked at my new family and wondered what they did to deserve such a messed up daughter or ask what I did to become so crazy. Everyone bought my exterior self I so meticulously crafted and had a hard time seeing anything else. At seventeen, I was misdiagnosed, a mistake that would almost cost me my life and no one realized I felt empty inside because of the abuse I suffered years early. I felt fragmented and no one seemed to be able to help me.

I received my admission letter for college in this hospital stay. I was released from the hospital already going on a manic high and ready for the trials of college. Never did I suspect that the college years would also be the fight for my life.

My college years proved to be some of the best times I have ever had and the worst. I went from misdiagnosis to right diagnosis, from mania to depression and back again, from being alone to having friends and back again and the wrong meds to the right meds and back again.

At eighteen I started a website to help others stop self injury. This also became the place for my journal. For my college years, I will be speaking through the journal entries I wrote at the time, in chronological order. At times when I go back and read, I still can’t believe no one suggested I had bipolar and AD/HD. The signs and symptoms are clearly there and it’s scary sometimes. I also see my own immaturity about both life and mental health. I suppose I was still a teenager in those days, but sometimes reading about my optimism sickens me. I guess mainly because I know how sick I was in those days. I don’t know how I put on a happy mask so strongly when I was so strongly ill. But I guess for most of my college career that was the only way I could live through the hurt. It was the only way I stayed away from suicide for so long.

I knew I wasn’t just suffering from depression, but my high times had to be questioned and answered. I prayed and hoped my doctor would understand and we would straighten my diagnosis out. But before I would see my doctor again, I played out various self injury scenario’s in my head. The most popular was one of me lying on my dorm room floor bleeding profusely from both arms. By that time I had graduated from shaving razors to straight edged razors. Fighting this image would prove rather difficult, as was fighting period.

With all of this confusion and hard times, I made an appointment to see my doctor. I thought we would discuss the idea of bipolar in a rational manor. The moment I brought up the word bipolar my doctor slammed me down and told me that I was just jumping on the bipolar bandwagon. Given that my self esteem was already in the basement, I said nothing for the rest of the appointment. All he managed to do was switch me from Zoloft to Celexa. This doctors unwillingness to discuss all of my illness put me in mortal danger. Anti-depressants increase my risk for suicide and throw me into a manic episode. My thoughts are clear at this point, “I'm just...very confused right now... do I live, do I die, do I cut, do I not... what do I do? I'm in the land of...ok the uncharted territory and I have no map, no compass and no direction. So where does that leave me?”

By April, fantasy became reality. I managed to cut up my arms and pass out on my dorm room floor. My roommate found me and eventually all the troops were called in and I was sent to the ER to fix myself up. Just a month into trying out Celexa, I thought I was going mad. Depression came and seized my heart and didn’t want to let go. I lived in hell every day and began to plan my suicide once again. It seems that Celexa was not the miracle drug my doctor thought it would be. I realized at the time that this had everything to do with anger, “With one flick of the wrist everything changed. And I think some part of me knew that. I kept on cutting and I think some of them were just plain anger cuts. I was so angry. Angry that I had to go through this, angry that I still wanted to cut, angry that I was cutting, angry that I wasn’t normal anymore.”

Two days after I self injured I saw my doctor again. He decided to change meds again and realized that I was too dangerous to be on the outside while I changed meds. He asked me to take a trip upstairs, meaning the adult psychiatric ward. I agreed, hoping that this new med, Wellburtrin, was again a miracle waiting to happen. This turned out to be a relatively smart move by my doctor because I became increasingly suicidal. By the end of my stay I had hope back, “Because I know one day, one day, I won’t have to deal with this. One day I will look at a razor and not think of what it can do to me. One day my bad days won’t drive me to suicide. One day.”

My optimism did not last long. By the time April rolled around I felt lost again. Wellbutrin through me into a hypomanic state for one month but then quickly threw me into a depression by the middle of April. I was doing only enough school work to get by and barely holding on to those I could still call friend. My life was all about survival at this point and I felt myself slowly slipping away.

Summer went by and saw more meds and doctors and the same old depression crap.

One of the best decisions I made toward the end of the summer was that I knew I needed to get a counselor. I could no longer face my own private hell alone. Once school began I went to the school counselor and she gave me three names on a sheet of paper. I called all three offices and left messages. Strangely enough, only one counselor called back, Kiandra. I always say that it was God’s way of making sure I didn’t screw up in picking a counselor. And so on September 24th 2002, I began counseling with Kiandra. Both she and I remember our first sessions because it was when I coined the term, “my life is perfect but I’m fucked up.” That remained the corner stone of my therapy for quite some time. When she gave the intake I told her I had never been abused in any way and that my parents were perfect. I just happened to be a screwed up daughter and I didn’t know why. She also saw my daily living habits were awful. I ate awful, I didn’t exercise, I didn’t have time to myself and I was always doing too much. When I look back at everything she had to overcome to get to me, it seems quite mountainous. How do you tell someone that everything they knew life to be was false? That the fantasy land of family was completely inaccurate. And how do you do this without scaring them away or having them lose hope too early? I don’t know how she did it, but she did.

Very slowly I just talked about how much of a burden I felt and how I didn’t feel that I was worth anything. And I was self injuring and couldn’t stop. So we began the long walk to wellness that would take us to the edge of death for longer than either one of us ever wanted.

Another momentous occasion in the Fall of 2002 was landing a job working with children with autism. Sam asked me several times to try it and I agreed one day. Within a week of working with three children, I knew I had found my life’s work. Having this job gave me greater worth than I could have ever hoped for. And working with one child gave me the love that protected me during so many suicidal bouts. Teaching Julia everything she would need to live in this life, like her neurotypical peers, would test the limits of my own healing and my love for her. Teaching all of these children would give me the strength to live.

By February 2003, I began to question what the difference was between my life and a normal person’s life. Not only that, I began to question my diagnosis heavily. Somewhere deep inside my soul, I knew I was bipolar.

All the while struggling with depression/bipolar, things were shook up at home. Suddenly I had no faith or love in my parents. And in March 2003, my father found me again. After many emails and phone calls, I got to know my dad again. He even came to visit. I found that many of the horrors that were told to me about him were really my mother's doing. And so I loved my father and he loved me and I had a new strong relationship upon which to lean on.

At the end of being nineteen, my life took a drastic turn. From believing that I was fucked up and my life is perfect to giving myself worth and realizing the true nature of my past. I went from idealizing my mother to finding her to be a monster. And from no father to one that loved me and began proving that he loved me unconditionally. My life took a complete one eighty and it was only just getting started.

At the end of being nineteen, my life took a drastic turn. From believing that I was fucked up and my life is perfect to giving myself worth and realizing the true nature of my past. I went from idealizing my mother to finding her to be a monster. And from no father to one that loved me and began proving that he loved me unconditionally. My life took a complete one eighty and it was only just getting started.

During my twentith year things kept getting crazier. At least with my moods. Sometimes I was "up" and the star of the world. Other times I was so down I wanted to kill myself. I also was going through therapy where I just said yes I had been sexually abused. With that revelation, I was sent to a day treatment facility.

I raged in Day Treatment and it was a safe place. I was able to talk about the sexual abuse every day to get some practice. I was able to come out of my shell. Two weeks later, I was discharged, ready to face the days again. I was also given new medication and the same depression diagnosis but with the added diagnosis of AD/HD. Finally someone could account for my distracted self. I started Effexor for depression, Concerta for my AD/HD and Seroquel for sleep because I hadn’t been sleeping. Since my last doctor did not even allow me to speak of bipolar, I didn’t mention my high periods to this new doctor, who I liked and would be seeing again. Even though I would self pay, he was worth it.

Within two days of starting Effexor, I began to cycle violently between mania, depression and mixed episodes. First I wrote about the choice between living and dying. I hated how bad my life seemed, with all the abuse and the bad grades and the not being stable. I wanted the voices to leave too. It would take more years before I admitted I saw and heard things. I eventually lacked the will to live and didn’t know what to do. Sam told me that she would have the will to live for both of us. I never forgot that statement or her many kindnesses. I lived through the next few days because of her support.

The day after being suicidal, and three days starting Effexor, I cycled to mania and wrote about it on my website. What follows is the exact account of what I said and how I felt manic:

Somebody stop my fuckin mind…besides being super de duper hyper, my freakin mind is racing like it’s on nascar. But now not just good thoughts are going through, but bad ones too…omg…how do you stop your head from swimming in thoughts, how do I get my foot to stop shaking and get my hands to stay still. And how in the world do I get my head to stop spinning long enough for me to hang onto a thought!!

I feel as though I can walk on water right now, but at the same time I’m telling myself I need to go pick up a razor and have fun? WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?

Well, here comes another hundred thoughts racing by…not to mention the stupid freakin idea’s I’ve gotten…at least I’m creative! I’m sure I’m about to commit myself to a hundred things and then not be able to do it…but hell, I feel like doing tons of stuff, I’m going to do them. Alright, I’m out to do more work!

I feel fucking HYPER right now!!! Wahoo...My mind is racing, my fingers can hardly keep up (and let me tell you- that rarely happens!) I feel so freakin high- for no reason at all...this is great!!! High on life lol. I love this mood- it's also the time when I get the most accomplished...let's see, I did major updates to my message board, some to my website...done my rounds of a thousand emails and its not even late yet! Hell yeah! I can do anything right now...let's see today...I had to give a battery of tests to a child, meetings, classes, dinner/talk, emails, everything! Can't wait for tomorrow- I have tons to do and this weekend as well. More work is good work....ugh, can't keep my thoughts straight now...freakin going to fast...anyone know how to stop them? Then again, this is when I am my most productive and creative, better get a shit load done while I can. I'm outta here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Road trip anyone? I wonder how far I can drive in one night? I am tired of sitting around doing nothing right now. Since I lost all of my freakin friends when I was depressed and suicidal...I don’t' have much to I am off...I wanna see how many miles I can drive from now until tomorrow.

Or, maybe I will get drunk for the first time...I've been wondering about that, maybe its time I tried it.

Okay- who wants a new brain? Mine is currently up for auction to the highest bidder. :-) Seriously...who wants it- because I don't!!!

After this manic entry showed up on my website, I woke up the next morning with three phone calls: Kiandra, Dr. Change (new doctor) and the Day Treatment Program I just left. They were all terribly worried about me and wanted me to go to the doctors office immediately. Still raging, I went to see Sam and told her what happened. She suggested that I made a timeline of my life, beginning with my first manic episode at seventeen. I did this and talked about it with her. She believed fully that I was bipolar. After all, she has seen me almost every day since I began college and has seen me go back and forth through the moods. With her support, I went to my doctor and gave him that timeline. He took one look at it and said, “of course you’re bipolar.” I couldn’t believe it. I was diagnosed finally, with the right diagnosis. I was so happy I could have hugged him. He gave me a pamphlet and a new med: Depakote, the mood stabilizer, plus the other meds.

This changed everything in my mind. Getting to normal would have to be a slightly different path. And Kiandra was right there to help me with daily living, as well as the family stuff we were going through. But at least now I might get some stability so I could actually talk about such things and not lose my head.

Over the next few months I would find out the curse of people who are bipolar: rarely is the first medication the right medication. My moods were stable, but to the point that I felt numb. I couldn’t even feeling anything when working with the kids. Secondly, I started losing my hair and I didn’t know why. I finally looked it up online after I looked like a cancer patient and found out that hair loss was a rare side effect of Depakote. I was so angry. I couldn’t believe that I was losing all my hair because of my mood stabilizer. I was also had started the process of starting and stopping Effexor which made me continually sick.

And so basically....that was the rest of my early twenties. Going on and off many different medications, going to the hospital every six months, going to therapy, listening and then screwing everything up. Sure, some good things happened when I was manic- I even got on TV for a bunch of shit.

And then I took a turn for the better when I was 22/23, mainly 23. I seemed to finally be on the cusp of great things. I was finally doing well in school and looked to graduate. I was doing awesome with treating autism and had lined up a great job. Everything seemed to be going for me. Except, it escaped most people's notice that I was manic nearly 95% of the time. And one cold day in Feburary 2006, I realized finally, that I was indeed manic. And the only way for me to continue to be manic and never feel the fall....was to kill myself.

On March 2nd 2006, I made my first suicide attempt, ten years after this disease first started to ravage me. For more information about my suicide attempt and all of the many things that encompassed, go to my journal section ( and look up the date. I wrote extensively on this experience.

In the end, I didn't graduate and I got in over my head in so many things. I even tried moving to Alabama to be with my dad, but I attempted suicide again in October and had many more hospital visits. For more information on what happened then, see the journal section. life went to shit for many years as I fought bipolar. Then on one cold November day in 2007, I hopped a plane bound for Phoenix, Arizona and my life changed forever. And that is where this story is right now. Me, healthy and happy in Arizona. I am almost 25 years old and I have finally gotten a hold of my life and I am living it well. I have a section called The After Life that talks about my life now, in the journal section.

And that is my story...all of the abuse, the disorders and now the wellness. And I think in the end all of this happened to get me where I am today and be the person that I am today. I love who I've turned out to be and I wouldn't want it any other way. Though Bipolar took so much of me and my life away from me...I wouldn't be who I am if I did not have it. And while there were so many bad parts and close calls with death and sometimes I lost way more than I gained...there was also exciting times and wonderful times and awesome bonds I made with people and places. And if I gave up bipolar and all of those sorrowful times, I would be giving up all the good things too. And I just couldn't do that. I am who I am...and I wouldn't want it any other way.