Category Archives: abuse

Suspended in Amber & Slipping Through Cracks

11 years ago I had a total psychotic break. It lasted for 4 months. I was never hospitalized.

Instead, I ended up homeless and living in a garage where, my first morning there, my adoptive sister tried to choke me out and had to be pulled off of me. This was because I was not able to drive her daughter to the bus stop less than a block away. Because I was in psychosis. I got choked because I could not drive because I was in psychosis and therefore not safe to drive, because you kind of need a sense of reality to drive, at least in some cases.

I lived in the garage for 2 months, sleeping on a couch with bad springs, surrounded by my boxes of possessions that had come from the apartment I’d lost, the nicest apartment I’d ever lived in, the place I still think of as home. It was winter, and the electricity was shut off because this garage was attached to the house my adoptive sister was renting, and she decided to move out. No, she didn’t care that there was an ill person subsisting in the garage. She left, and I was there with no electricity, freezing cold in the dark, still coming down from the psychotic break.

I was given medication that made me sleep over 15 hours a day and gain 50 lbs. There was no therapy. That would come later, in false starts, with bad therapists, including one who would tell me, based on my history of chronic abuse and trauma, “You will never be happy, and you will never be functional”, because that was apparently her version of therapeutic. Those words still haunt me to this day. I wonder, was she right?

I moved from the garage into an attic apartment that was infested by rats that ran by me as I slept on the floor. From there I found an apartment that I was able to afford on disability – I could afford exactly rent and electric and nothing more. My adoptive sister tried to have me evicted from this apartment, by calling and lodging many false complaints against me, saying that she could smell my cats in her apartment next door – she of course did not live next door and the entire thing was a lie – and had a couple of her friends call pretending to be other neighbors with the same complaint. She did this because I caught her stealing my mom’s Oxycontin on Christmas Eve, and I was honest with my mother about what had happened. What would you have done? Protected the person who broke into your mother’s home to steal her pain medication that she desperately needed, or be honest about what happened? I did the latter, and was nearly homeless again as a result.

Over the next decade, a lot of things happened. Doctors denied me my medication. I couldn’t find a psychiatrist – none in the area were taking patients – there literally was not a single psychiatrist taking insurance who would accept a new patient in the entire city. A psychiatrist fired me, because I complained about the therapist who said I’d never be happy or functional (she worked in the same office, and I told the office manager, who yelled at me. I was fired for “noncompliance”.) My adoptive sister systematically brought my elderly parents down with a thousand tiny cuts and several hundred deep ones, a constant supply of stress and threats and ultimatums if they did not do as she wished. My father died suddenly. My mother dissolved into profound grief and heartbreak from which she never recovered. I could do nothing to help, because I was so sick, and because I had no control over what happened to her, no way to stop the machinations of evil that my sister (and now her daughter) perpetrated on my fragile mom.

And I had no financial means to help, either. My father had died leaving only a very small insurance policy that was quickly eaten up by cremation expenses and bills and an ill-fated used car purchase that my mother insisted on making because she wanted me to have a safe vehicle. The car was a lemon. I should never have let her do it. I tried to argue against it. I look back now and I am sickened that I allowed her to spend money that should have been kept for her own well-being on something to benefit me. It makes me disgusted with myself, and ashamed.

My rent increased each year, and continued to increase. Each year the struggle to get by became more difficult.  A dear friend offered to move in to help out. I accepted, giving him the bedroom I never used, because due to my PTSD, I could only sleep in the living room, where the front door is, because what if someone broke in and I didn’t hear it? My hyper-vigilance demanded this accommodation, even though now I really wish I had a bedroom.

Then my mom died. I lost my best friend.

None of the therapists I saw could help me. None of them ever even brought up my psychotic break. You’d think that would be a topic of conversation at some point, but apparently, no. I went therapist to therapist, searching for someone who would understand, and also, for someone who would fucking listen. Because these therapists all shared the same trait: they’d listen to the first part, then assume they knew everything, and ‘give advice’ based on that. Which, you know, first off, giving advice is not really therapy. Anyone can give advice. If that worked, no one would need therapy. Secondly, I’ve been through so many things, and there is so much detail to all of them because of the way my mind has processed these things, that I am like an onion, with many layers, and all of those layers need to be taken into account. You can’t read a few pages of a book and know the story.

They would also try to fit me into some pre-fab notion of what a “normal person” is, instead of helping me to understand and accept who it is that I actually am, and work with THAT person, with the person I actually happen to be and not the person they thought I should be. Any treatment plan based on changing who I am as a person will fail. A successful treatment plan is one that works with my strengths, works on my weaknesses, gives me tools to deal with real situations that arise. A treatment plan based in reality. None of these people had it. One therapist even told me that my treatment plan was “none of [my] business”.

During all of this time, I have not once had the time to recuperate, to heal, to process what I went through. I have not been successful in efforts to build a routine again, to be part of the world again. Because I have been struggling financially, always stressed about how to pay things, how to get heavy things like kitty litter HERE because I have no car, how to supplement the unsustainable amount that has not grown commensurate with inflation. And I have been struggling, every day, with just how to get through the day, when I am plagued by flashbacks of lifelong abuse by so many different people, and jarred by so many bad memories, and self-recriminations for things I should have done differently, things I did wrong, things for which I should be and am ashamed. In short, struggling to stay on the planet. To stay alive.

Through this I have been fumbling, trying in vain to create a routine to follow, to do things that are healthy and “self-care”, to right my thinking on my own since I have no professional assistance that is not derelict*; trying fruitlessly to fight the bad voices that make me despair and try to convince me to just give up. I have kept going, my knuckles white from gripping onto whatever might tether me to this realm.

The truth of it is, though, that I have spent 11 years in this living room, not getting better.

I have tried so hard to get better. I have done so many different things. I have adjusted my attitude – as much as someone with severe mental illness can – so many times.

I’m not getting better. I have never had a chance to get better.

I have never heard of someone who had a psychotic break who was not hospitalized. But then there’s me. This makes sense, though. Because I was in a car wreck where I was thrown 75 feet and no one even bothered to check me for a concussion. And all the bad experiences with doctors in general – from psychiatric to medical. A continual pattern of disregard.

Things like this, they give me the message that I really, and truly, do not matter.

I wish more than anything I could have just a few months, where I didn’t have to worry about financial survival, where I could actually and finally focus on getting well, or at least better. Where I could look again for a therapist and hopefully find a good one, and concentrate on going to therapy a few times a week. Focus on building a new routine, a new life. Find myself again, in such a way that I don’t disappear and I don’t fall apart every morning, the way I do now.

Because right now, every morning of every day, I wake up a sobbing shambles, a complete mess, paralyzed, not sure what to do, and haunted by so much bad shit in my brain that it physically hurts. The anxiety is so bad I have to take a benzo and then I have to ingest huge amounts of caffeine to stay awake, and also to keep myself awash in enough temporary dopamine that I don’t just say, “That’s it, I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.”

I’m on all the medication that they can give me. So many pills. It does work. It does its job. But it isn’t enough. You can’t just medicate trauma away, you can’t medicate your brain into processing and parsing things and assimilating them into your narrative in such a way that you can go on comfortably.

They always say, if you are down, ask for help. Reach out. I have done that, over and over again. I have done that to the point where I now wonder, have they changed the spelling or the pronunciation of the word “help” and I just didn’t get the memo? Am I speaking the correct language? Or is it as I suspect, deep down, that when it comes down to it, I really don’t matter?

Eleven years have passed away, been wasted, sitting in this living room on this futon upon which I sleep. I don’t want it to be this way. I am willing to put in the work, and I have been from the very start – ever since I tried to kill myself the first time when I was 8 years old, and no one believed that I was depressed because a person is supposed to pull themselves up by those bootstraps, those fucking bootstraps that every mentally ill person would love to brandish at the people who suggest that the Road to Wellness is merely a matter of eschewing some indolence they seem to think we have.

Motherfucker, if I could pull up some metaphorical out-of-current-parlance item to fix myself, don’t you think I would have done that ELEVEN YEARS AGO? Because who among us wants eleven years of their life to just disappear with nothing to show for them? Who?

I have spent time focusing on small problems in order to avoid the biggest one, the hydra-headed one that follows me around like the dust cloud follows Pig-Pen from Peanuts. But all problems lead to one end, and it is this one. The Big One.

I never had time to get better. And so I never have. And things just keep getting more and more log-jammed, in my head, and in my life, and I am overwhelmed.

I am studying coding, in an attempt to make something of this life. But I know that unless I get the actual Life stuff sorted out, it’s not going to help. I have to be a person who is reliable and focused, not someone who has to put themselves back together every morning from scratch.

How the fuck will I ever get there, when my main focus must be survival? What I have to do to survive, it’s not healthy for me in myriad ways. And better still, people judge me harshly for doing it. A cherry atop the melted sundae of all the thoughts of the potential I had as a child, and the possibility of what might have been.

It’s hard sometimes to hear parents discuss parenting with other parents. They are all so focused on their children’s welfare. Their lives appear to be centered around parenting, and being parents. They think about things like which school is best, and how it will affect their child’s future. Their kids are involved in school activities and have friends and don’t have to lie about the stuff that happens at home. And their kids don’t seem to be randomly insulted by people on the street for no reason. It’s like, if I squint my mind’s eye I can almost see that kind of life, where every day is the same, there is a routine and you follow it, and you make progress in things, and your parents know what’s going on in your schooling, and the idea of you going to college isn’t considered ridiculous or impossible or simply “off the table” but instead a real fucking thing. Where you say “I want to do this creative thing for a living” and you don’t hear back, “You’ll never make a living doing that” as the very first response to your giving voice to a dream. Where you know how to plan out things, because you have confidence that the future you are planning is actually going to happen.

Oh, yeah;. And where no one hits you or beats you with a belt or molests you or psychologically tortures you day in and day out. That, too.  And where you can have friends over and know everything will be okay, that there won’t be some horrible scene coming out of nowhere that will end with someone threatening to throw you out of the house to live on the street. Where you can say, “Yeah, this teacher was kinda a jerk”, and know that later on, no one in your family is going to be calling that teacher and threatening to put a bomb in her car.

My parents loved me. But my dad was psychotic for most of my childhood, and neither he nor my mom protected me from the adoptive sister, who was and is a violent sociopath. And they were so busy reacting to her every fucked-up move, that there was no room for anything, or anyone, else.

I don’t know what else to say. I have to try to figure out how to make this day worth something now. I have been crying all morning. I am surrounded by used tissues and I can no longer breathe through my nose. And these tears and this Everything has fucked up a day where I needed to try to do something to earn some money to pay for the ever-growing list of things that need to be paid for, some of which – like redoing my teeth so my facial bone structure doesn’t cave in – will probably never be possible.

This is the truth about my life. Along with so very much else that remains unsaid.

 

*ETA: my shrink is a good shrink. It is the 15-minute hour, though, and just medication, so I didn’t count him among the therapists and doctors I grouped together as derelict. But I wanted to acknowledge him, and say that without him, I would not be here.

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The Body Indeed Keeps The Score

I can’t do it anymore.

I tried to force myself. I tried so fucking hard to force myself. And I became physically ill. It’s like my body is saying, Enough.

This happened once before. I was doing so poorly mentally at the time, and in a bad environment, and my body rebelled, Suddenly, I was projectile vomiting like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. For weeks. I couldn’t even keep down Gatorade. And my therapist at the time – I was fortunate enough then to actually have a good one – said that my body was literally trying to cast off all of the bad things I had internalized.

Well, it’s happening again. I’m not projectile vomiting, yet. But I’m nauseated, my body aches, all of the energy feels drained out of me, I’m getting insanely intense headaches that don’t respond to NSAIDs. So now it’s not just the panic attacks that have been hounding me as of late. It’s not just the feeling of being creatively dead, of being a hack with no integrity, of never being able to speak my actual mind, of losing my identity to this thing I don’t even enjoy doing (but that I have to pretend that I do enjoy doing, because when you sell your soul for pennies on the dollar, you need every fucking penny.) It is literally physical shit that is PREVENTING me from doing this.

I seriously tried so hard. Because I need the money to pay my bills. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills. I am not well enough to work outside my home. I was never even hospitalized after having a four month long psychotic break. I am sitting here sobbing because I don’t know what the fuck I am going to do. This job has wrecked me. I am not well at all. I straight up need help, I need healing. But there is none of that for me. I have to figure out what to do. I have to figure out how I’m going to feed my cats, pay my utilities, pay the vet bills, pay for Milhouse’s insulin and Tramadol and thyroid meds, how to pay for my SHRINK.

I was in the middle of doing a clip and I just could not finish it. I couldn’t because I was about to throw up. I’ve never felt like I felt yesterday. It was frightening. And what this experience leaves me with is frightening, too. I needed to work my ass off the rest of this month. I need the money so badly. I have to get Tiny to the vet. I have to pay the part of my rent that my disability does not cover, and my utilities, and my shrink appt is at the beginning of the month. But now I am completely fucked. I needed to make miracles happen this last week of the month.  But now, they are not going to happen.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m in a panic. I’m trying to think of options, but what options does a severely mentally ill woman, who isn’t able to work outside her home and is still trying to get better so actually shouldn’t be working in the first place, have? Because I can’t think of any realistic ones.

All I know is that my body won’t let me do this. It no longer wants to actively participate in an endeavor where the main draw is that I am slowly dying.

A woman gets sexually harassed at work – hey, maybe by a famous comedian who whips it out, let’s say – and the world is in an uproar. But a disabled woman has to work a job where she is objectified and where she is told on the reg that her only value is damaged lungs and mortality. Crickets.

You know, when people want you to die, and you’ve got a long history of trauma and abuse, and a few co-morbid mental illnesses, that isn’t good for you. That makes you turn in the “Let’s walk into the waves” direction. The “Hey, that ledge looks pretty fuckin’ good” path. Because hey, if that’s my only value in this world, should I not have at that then? It’s a really hard thought to fight. Particularly when I have no idea how I’m going to survive now.

And in this, too, is the knowledge that some people, upon finding out that this is my situation, that I am a (reluctant as FUCK) smoking fetish girl, will judge me harshly and unfollow me, block me, isolate and ostracize instead of understand that this is all I could do to get by. They make me feel like this is what I deserve. And the people that want me to die make me feel that’s also what I deserve, because THAT’S ALL I’M GOOD FOR.

And I probably do deserve it. I pandered to them, because I needed to survive. I have no family. There is nowhere to go if I lose my place on the couch, nowhere for my cats to go. I’ve been trying hard to learn to code, have gotten a couple of certificates but don’t yet know enough to work as a web dev, but my focus is annihilated because the issue of survival is pressing, and even if it weren’t, I simply cannot learn quickly enough to solve this immediate problem.

I need help. I need to get better. I can’t do this anymore. But I have no idea how the fuck I am going to keep me and my kitties going. And panic is not something that helps you think clearly.

Fuck.

There is the panic about the future.

And then there is the fact that this, all of this, hurts more than I can ever describe.

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And Then There’s Maudlin

 

I am trying to correct something that cannot be corrected.

I am a product of my experiences.

I am a product of being beaten and psychologically tortured. I am a product of being chronically bullied and belittled. I am a product of rape and ongoing sexual abuse. I am a product of domestic violence and false imprisonment. I am a product of doctors and therapists who not only did not care but actively made things worse. I am a product of unknown origins, of sealed birth certificates and shameful secrets. I am a product of the inability to properly communicate my inner life.

Sarah Silverman says that, if you are a product of your experiences, then the best way to change yourself is to change your experiences. And that makes a lot of sense. So I am trying to do that.

The present moment though, that’s the rub. And there is that inability to communicate my intrinsic experience, which I chip away at but which seems at times an insurmountable thing. This lack robs me of voice, of words. It traps me in the amber of the abstract.

When I do find that voice, which is rare, there is not of a lot of land it can claim. Because I also lack what is known as an informed witness – someone who is able to comprehend the different levels of experience, who can understand the full gravity, and who will listen, or literally bear witness.

I can’t explain why this is so important. I can only tell you that it is. It is impossible to live a full or even a half full life under the dark cloud of a traumatic past. In fact, a therapist once told me, “You will never be functional, and you will never be happy”. She was of course a terrible therapist for saying that and I never saw her again. But, even though I rebel against that statement and strive to prove it wrong, it haunts me.

How much is the mental illness, and how much is the trauma? Where is the line of demarcation in between the two? How much of the mental illness was due to brain changes caused by the trauma?

I cannot afford good therapy. I can barely afford rent. I can go to a cattle call “mental health services center” where I will be treated as though my IQ is 70 because hey, if I am poor, surely I must also be an imbecile. At such a center I will be assigned a therapist who is either an undergrad trying to log hours or a social worker who for one reason or another is unable to work in private practice and who certainly would not specialize in co-morbid conditions or the treatment of trauma. So this is my problem, and mine alone.

It is a very lonely problem to have. Perhaps that is where the import of an informed witness reveals itself. Maybe it is just enough to have someone in there with you, in that Sunken Place, so that you feel less alone.

I don’t know. And every day I see more and more that I just do not know.

I know that Sisyphus smiled as he neverendingly pushed that boulder up the hill, only to have it roll back down each time. I know that Victor Frankl was able to find a meaning to existence while captive in a death camp. So I try to smile, and I try to find meaning.

Too often, though, it gets the best of me.

I need help, and I have no idea how I will get it. And like the Sword of Damocles, over my head looms Trump’s budget, which would slash the living allowance that pays my rent, and strip me of the coverage needed to pay for my seven required medications. And I am not the only one whose life this will upturn.

If you support Trump, I’d love to hear the reasoning that explains how taking away a disabled person’s home along with their anti-psychotic medication among others Makes America Great Again. No, go ahead, please explain this to me. I’ll wait. I’d love to hear how actively psychotic people are improving our lives daily, to really understand how tax cuts for the rich outweigh human life. (Actually, if you STILL support Trump after all that has come to pass, perhaps YOU are the one who requires anti-psychotic medication. But I am not a doctor. I’m just a Person Who Wants To Help.)

Anyway. For someone with an already exaggerated sense of impending doom, this budget thing really throws a scary new angle into the parallelagram. Or panopticon, depending upon your view of the situation.

And the situation itself is the figurative landmine that I step on every morning, the corner I am painted into. It’s the rock, the hard place, and the discomforting space in between.

 

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Update on The Denying Doctor

So my former primary care doctor has gotten away with lying, because when I switched doctors on August 6, it wiped the slate clean and retroactively placed me with my new doctor, so the system erased everything back to August 1 and said I was with my new doctor since then. Since I didn’t visit the lying doctor in the beginning of August and only called, everything in the system backs her up instead of me. SO for all intents and purposes, the evidence that I was her patient disappeared despite the fact that I was actually her patient, so she and her office manager are using this technical loophole to make me appear to be a drug-seeking weirdo who was not her patient, and implying I was never a patient.

But I was her patient: from May 1, 2015 until August 6, 2015. She even gave me a breast exam, for crying out loud. I got bloodwork done for her office, so Quest Diagnostics has her listed as my physician on my lab results, which are independently accessible.

Kristen Marsonek was in fact my doctor when I requested repeatedly that she prescribe the psychiatric medications that I was out of and suffering withdrawals from, medications that she refused to refill because she did not “feel comfortable”. Despite the knowledge that I was suffering withdrawal symptoms, including severe depression, anxiety, rage, hallucinations, panic, paranoia, nightmares, insomnia…she refused.

She knew I could not get in to see a psychiatrist for months, but still, she said, “Go see a psychiatrist. Go to a mental health center.” Even the mental health centers had waiting lists. You could go and wait all day and hope you’d be seen, with no guarantee, and no guarantee, either, that you’d be treated with any sort of decency. With agoraphobia and general fear of people I couldn’t chance someone being cruel to me. So many medical so-called professionals had been already. So a mental health center was not really an option. Besides which, the ones I had already visited had refused to prescribe my ADHD medication. (I have been back on it a month, and while the dosage needs to be adjusted, there is already such an amazing difference in my mood and my outlook. It is integral to my medication “cocktail” and to my mental well-being, and mental health centers just don’t get that.) So again, not an option.

I could understand not wanting to prescribe a controlled substance like Adderall so I even gave her the option of Strattera, also approved for ADHD, and not controlled because it is an SNRI class drug. But no. She would not even fill my anti-psychotic. Feel the gravity of that. She would not even keep someone from having a psychotic break. Hippocratic Oath. Above all else do no harm. I feel like this goes beyond not doing her job, and into being a bad person. But that’s just my opinion. You may feel differently. You may never have lost everything to a psychotic break.

And so, after refusing to help me at least try for some semblance of stability or hanging on to what little sanity I possess, so that I might hopefully one day try to start building upon that little block of sanity and make it bigger, she then lies about why she refused me the medication. And makes it sound as if I’m just going through the White Pages or Google, calling up doctors insanely demanding crazy pills. Demanding medication that doesn’t even get you off, for crying out loud. I mean, who the hell gets high off of Abilify?

As if there isn’t enough stigma for being mentally ill, now my records probably have an Elaine Benes-esque mark on them with this lie, which was perpetrated by the office manager, according to the letter from the Grievance Department at Staywell  (whose parent company, Wellcare, apparently SPONSORS THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW. This is who I am dealing with here.) Basically, I was told, I can do nothing. They can do this and that is the end of it. Oh, but wait. If I wasn’t a patient, do I even have records with their office now? Or did they burn them in some skylarking pagan ceremony?

Whatever the case, if they can lie,  I can write this blog post, and have it serve as my review of my experience with Dr. Kristen Marsonek in Tampa, Florida. I find it very lacking in compassion to let a patient suffer, and allow a patient to actually beg you for help, and to not only refuse them, but then, when the patient tells someone, trying to cleanse themselves of this psychic damage that comes from a caretaker being neglectful and unfeeling, actually lie about the patient and exploit that patient’s mental illness to put yourself in a good light is just egregious. It is entirely antithetical to the idea of healing, and it is wrong. This is my honest review and assessment. I would not recommend a doctor who would do that to a patient. I would not recommend a doctor who would allow a patient to suffer and then deny that the patient was ever even a patient of that office. Therefore I cannot in good faith recommend Dr. Kristen Marsonek to anyone.

This is my personal opinion, based on my personal experience. I have a letter from Staywell which backs up that Dr. Marsonek’s office said I was not a patient, and I have proof from Quest Diagnostics and Staywell that I was a patient of her office.

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Memory Fades But The Scars Still Linger

Big chunks of my memory are missing. It’s my understanding that with certain mental disorders and trauma that this is “normal”. The things I tend to remember are usually the bad things, the traumatic events, the painful memories. However, one instance that I should remember very clearly completely eludes me, no matter how hard I try to bring it to the surface of my temporal lobes.

I only remember a few key details. The knowledge of them does not feel like something I possess, but rather something that someone gave me, or something that I am carrying for someone else.

I had a gun to my mouth. I know that much. He said he was going to make it look like an accident. Then he changed his mind and said he’d tell police that I had killed myself. And I thought about ballistics and how that wouldn’t work, but how it wouldn’t matter if it didn’t work, because I’d already be dead. The gun was loaded. I know that. The safety was off. He was yelling at me about something. I don’t know what triggered him. He was calling me a zombie because I was a calm person. Back then I was a very calm person. I had gone through everything I’d gone through and still had not yet developed PTSD.

It took him to give me PTSD.

Somehow, some way, in a manner I do not remember, I talked the gun down, away from my mouth, and then onto the table. I do not remember doing this. I don’t know what I might have said. I know I didn’t use any sort of threat. I did not mention ballistics. What could I have said to make him stop? I remember he was friendly for the rest of the time I was there. I remember he didn’t let me leave until sunrise. But he didn’t hit me again, and he didn’t pull the gun on me again.

I wish I could remember what the hell I said that saved my life.

I do remember my boss at the time saw my bruises and said, “That’s what you get.” She was the one who had “fixed” us up. “That’s what you get for sleeping with a client.”

He wasn’t actually a client. He was a mortgage broker who’d done one closing – his own home – with us because my boss was crooked. I didn’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I heard “You didn’t see this” as someone used the glass door to trace a signature onto one form or another. Yeah, okay, I didn’t see you just forge something. Good thing you brought my attention to it by announcing that you were doing it.

But hey, anyway, that’s what I get. Bruises, a gun in my face, body-slammed, false imprisonment, rape, my head slammed into a concrete block wall, a chair yanked out from under me, my foot stomped on, punched in the ear so to this day I have loud-as-bombs tinnitus, grabbed by the hair and dragged into a truck, the list just goes on. That’s what I get. That a woman could say this to another woman is just incredible.

I’m not surprised, having been raised with a woman who probably helped decorate the circles of Dante’s Inferno. I am disappointed. There were several people who knew this was going on. Not one person ever came to my defense. Not one person ever spoke to me and said, “Hey, what’s going on?” or “You need to get out of this. How can I help?” It took a complete stranger who recognized immediately the deep shit I was in, and she gave me advice that to this day I’m grateful for, even though I can’t exactly remember what she said. But whatever it was gave me the strength to get out, and stay out, and never speak to him or see him again.

Thank you to that stranger for doing what all the people around me didn’t. Thank you for caring enough to say something. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for helping me save myself.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or via their online chat, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673).

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