Okay, so I’m going to start this out with a very clear warning so that no one reading this can say that I didn’t warn you. *ahem*
This post is going to contain a lot of profanity and handle a lot of very sensitive topics, including but not limited to violent and non-violent sexual assault, mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and BPD, cutting, suicidal ideation, psych ward admissions, and a myriad of other such topics that might be a bit too much for sensitive persons to stomach. If that sounds like you, I strongly advise that you stop reading now, because it’s only going to get more real from here.
Now, for those of you that read or used to read my blog on a regular basis, I apologize for how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything on here. If I’m being honest, it’s partly laziness, but it’s also partly that I have been dealing with some serious shit over the past few months. So, let’s recap, shall we?
It started at the end of March. The 26th, to be specific. On March 26th, 2018, I was sexually assaulted for the fourth time in my life, but for the first time ever violently. It rocked my fucking world. I mean… I’m a psych major. I know people are fucked up and they do terrible things to other people, but this? This was a new low, a new bottom to the barrel of humanity that I had never experienced. Two days after the assault, when I was still experiencing some pretty severe pain, I finally gave in to the (positive) peer pressure of my friends who I’d told about the incident and went to the ER at the Navy hospital where I am currently employed.
After sitting in the ER waiting room for a good half an hour crying my eyes out, I finally got called back and escorted to a safe room by a forensic nurse. There were two of them on duty that day and, when I relayed the story of what had happened to me to them, they proceeded to further rock my world and blow my damn mind by telling me that it sounded to them like what had taken place was more of a physical assault that had “happened to take place during sexual intercourse.” Because that’s how consent works.
Now, for those of you who aren’t super familiar with the way the Navy handles sexual assault, you should know that we do training on a minimum of an annual basis on the topic, and that one of the things that is always harped on is that if, at any point during the sexual contact, consent is withdrawn, that constitutes assault. So you can imagine my head was spinning at this point, because I had a Navy nurse and a retired Navy nurse telling me I hadn’t been sexually assaulted when every Navy training I’d ever had and every fiber of my being was screaming that I had.
As it was, I wound up filing an unrestricted report, interviewing with NCIS, and talking to a victim advocate who has continued to stay in touch and support me through the entire process. But needless to say, the whole thing was – and continues to be – a nightmare.
The only reason that I was able to pull through the whole thing as well as I did was because of my boyfriend, my rock. We’ll call him Dave. Now, when this whole thing went down, Dave was on leave, so I had to tell him about through digital communication; while this was less than ideal, he was absolutely perfect about it, checking in with me at least daily to make sure I was okay and doing everything he could to let me know he was there for me. The day he came back from leave, I spent the entire day with him and wound up living with him in his apartment for a whole week. He supported me emotionally, was never shy about letting me know that he was there for me, let me cry on his shoulder many times, and did whatever he could to cheer me up when I was down. We’d been together for two months at that point and he’d never been anything but sensitive, supportive, and caring. He and I were already somewhat at the point where we suspected we were basically It for each other. We were the other’s Person, capital “p.” He was everything I never knew I needed and never realized I’d been searching for in my life.
And then, this past weekend, he showed up at my apartment at eight AM after I’d come off of a night shift to tell me that, for no discernable reason, he didn’t love me anymore. We spent three hours together, alternating between crying, silence, talking and crying, talking and laughing, listening to music, watching YouTube videos, cuddling in various configurations, and generally just trying to figure out what the hell was happening to us. I made a pot of tea and we sat in the floor and leaned on each other and just tried to sort our emotions out. Not much headway was made, not even in three hours. Finally, he had to leave – he had lunch plans – and when he was gone I sat in the floor and cried like my heart was breaking because, well, it was. I had no idea how to process what had just happened to me, especially since he either couldn’t or wouldn’t give me a reason for why he had just stopped loving me. All he said was that the feelings had just faded away and suddenly he didn’t love me anymore. It was probably the most hurtful thing he could have ever said to me, because honestly it was a realization of my worst fear.
In relationships, I don’t worry that people will cheat or lie. I worry that one morning they’ll wake up before me and look over at me asleep in bed and instead of kissing me awake or cuddling me like usual they’ll suddenly just think to themselves, “I don’t love her anymore” whether there’s a reason or not, and that is, evidently, exactly what happened.
The next day, I went out for brunch with some friends and I had been doing pretty okay, but when I got home I suddenly wasn’t anymore, and I needed to do something about it. I fought myself, but eventually what it came down to was this: over the past two months, I had been on the receiving end of just a ridiculous amount of pain over which I had no control, and I needed to experience pain that I had control over. So, I cleaned the blade of my razor sharp pocket knife with an alcohol pad and made two parallel incisions in my left wrist. Then I put gauze over it, got dressed, and went to work.
Well, turns out that I’m still bad at picking people to trust in my life, because the person I chose to confide in chose to tell me that if I didn’t go to the ER under my own steam, that she would call my Chief. I tried to explain to her that that was a terrible idea on so many levels and that I wasn’t suicidal at all and that if I got admitted to the psych ward that it would make my mental state worse, but she didn’t give a damn what I had to say, so I wound up walking my happy ass down to the ER and self-admitting for self-harm without suicidal ideation. I’m not proud of what I’m about to admit here.
I lied. I lied through my damn teeth to every single person who interviewed and assessed me in the ER. I told them I was fine, that I had never been suicidal in my life, that my mental health history was no big deal, that I would be fine to go back to work or even go home right away… because I knew if I told any of them the truth about what was going on in my head, it was a one-way ticket to a long-term stay on 5E, the inpatient psych ward, and I also knew that – to be perfectly honest – that would make me worse. The absolute best way for me to manage my mental illness has always been through outpatient psych. The problem has been getting set up with them at my new duty station.
In spite of all of my lying, either they saw through it or they just wanted to do the whole “better safe than sorry” thing, because they admitted me. And so began the worst 36 hours of my entire life. I have no experience with civilian psych wards, so I don’t know if they’re the same, but if you’ve never been admitted to a military psych ward… there are no words. There are no words to express the feelings of depersonalization and dehumanization that you experience when all of your belongings are taken away from you and you’re given these pajamas that have probably been worn by a million other basket cases and a pair of disposable, slip-proof socks because you’re not allowed to wear shoes and asked the same questions repeatedly by a myriad of different people about how you’re feeling and how your mood is and if you feel like hurting yourself or anyone else and if you’re seeing or hearing things that maybe no one else is? You can’t do anything without permission, there’s set times for everything and if you miss them, well, sucks to suck I guess you don’t get to shower today, and of course you’re not allowed outside, so there’s that. Who the fuck came up with that, anyway? Let’s take a bunch of clinically depressed kids who tried to kill themselves and stick them in a concrete building and deprive them of fresh air and sunlight. That seems like a great idea. And of course, me being a psych major, I spent most of my time just quietly listening to everyone else and feeling shitty for being there because I was 100% positive I was taking the place of someone who probably really needed to be there, especially after listening to these other kids talking about why they were there. Over half of them were there because they had actually tried to end their lives. Another half of the remainder were there for suicidal ideation. It was ridiculous. I definitely did not belong there and the more time I spent there, the worse I felt, but I pasted on a happy face and, through probably sheer luck, managed to get myself discharged in less than 48 hours.
And then, when I got home, I reached out to Dave, who had been intending to visit me on the ward, to let him know I was discharged so he could just come by the apartment. The conversation didn’t go well. Apparently, at this point, I’m handling the breakup better than he is (can someone please explain to me how in the fuck THAT works?), so he’s not ready to hang out with me yet. I really thought, hoped, that I could count on him for support, but to be honest, that was my bad. I should never have set my expectations that high. I keep forgetting that people are, generally, a disappointing group of meatbags and, if I set my expectations of them super low, they can meet or exceed them instead of constantly letting me down. That’s something I should keep in mind more often, I think…
But at any rate. It was later that same night, after crying over Dave’s inability to man the fuck up and be there for me considering that it was him that had ripped my heart out and smashed it to pieces in the first place had motivated me to reach for a bottle of whiskey, that I stopped myself. That was a bad idea and I knew it. So, I put a message out on Facebook, asking if I had any friends in the area who wanted to hang out. A few people answered me, but most of them weren’t actually in the area, which was frustrating. Why do people do that? I mean, I get that they mean well, but come on. And then, it happened. My cell phone started ringing. One of my old friends from corps school – for the purposes of this narrative, we’ll call him Thom – was calling me on Messenger. I answered, slightly confused, and as soon as he asked me where I was and what I was doing, I remembered that he was also stationed in Virginia. He wound up inviting me to go hang out with him while he closed down one of the local branch clinics and, as I had nothing better to do (clearly), I gratefully accepted.
Thom is… Thom is not like anyone else I’ve ever met in my entire life. I have a little bit of a schoolgirl crush on him, but it’s less that I find him attractive and more that I look up to him and kind of want to be him when I grow up. … not that he isn’t a good-lookin’ dude. He cute. But more importantly, he’s wise – largely through trial and error, just like the rest of us who learn from our mistakes – and kind, and a good listener, and just in general a good PERSON. He’s more honest than anyone else I know, always willing to help anyone who needs him and who will truly let him help, and one of the only people who I would really consider to be a ride or die. I hate using terminology like that because I feel like I’m too old to say things like that, but that’s really truly who and how Thom is. He’s the kind of friend I could ring late at night and just stay on the phone with for hours. In fact, in the wake of the most recent election, that’s what he did to me. He called and we cried on the phone together.
So, we sat in the back office of this small clinic and just… talked. And I told him everything – every single thing that I’d been through and how (badly) I was handling things and how I didn’t know what to do with my life anymore and he… well, he did what Thom does. He gave me insight and advice and read me some stuff he had written that was poignant and moving and just awesome and shared some experiences with me that he’d had recently that resonated strongly with me and we talked for hours.
What I left that clinic with that night was a handful of things that are, quite frankly, invaluable. First of all, there was the reminder that I really do have some really good friends out there, which I really needed. And then, there was one of the perspective shifts that he offered. We talked about how instead of learning a lot about terrible people, we’d rather learn about badasses; the example he cited was the Guthrie Park in Texas that was originally named after one of the dragons of the KKK and then later changed to be dedicated to a badass World War II photographer, and, as he put it, “Why would I read up on the original Guthrie it was named after? All I really need to know is that he was one of the dragons of the KKK, so… an asshole. I wanna know about the other Guthrie! The World War II photographer! I bet he was awesome!” So I pitched in with my own, succinct summation, which was simply this:
Why would you read about Hitler when you can read about Schindler? Focus on the badasses, not the assholes.
The next thing he offered up that I am trying to fully embrace was this: do one badass thing every day. Now, as someone who struggles with major depressive disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and struggles with executive dysfunction as a result, sometimes just getting out of bed seems like a badass thing to me. But, the more we talked about it, the more I realized that he was making some good points. On my days off from work, I don’t do anything. I stay in my house and just do introvert stuff. So he told me he wants me to do my introvert stuff, by all means, but do it in public. Go to a coffeehouse or SOMETHING. And so, I agreed that he had a point. Not going out and expanding my horizons isn’t doing me any favors, and if I don’t ever leave my house, I’m not gonna make any new friends, so… yeah.
And the last big takeaway from our conversation, possibly the most important one, was the new philosophy I’ve embraced courtesy of Thom: Love or nothing. If I can’t love you, you get nothing from me. “Learn to be monosyllabic,” he tells me. “People say, ‘you look mad’ you say, ‘yep.’ They say, ‘you wanna talk about it?’ ‘Nope.’” Don’t GIVE them anything. You don’t OWE them anything. If people push you away and hurt you when they know what kind of sensitive, empathetic person you are, fuck them. Cut them off, immediately. Don’t give them anything else, any more access to you, any more of your time. Do you know what my new favorite monosyllabic answer to people is? ‘And?’ When people from your past try to hit you up with the ‘we haven’t talked in ages blah blah blah’ you respond with ‘And?’ And it’s hard – especially if it’s someone you used to be close to. It’s easier with newer acquaintances for sure. But little by little you start to cut the toxic people out of your life and you realize you can breathe again.”
And some of that is paraphrased because I don’t have an eidetic memory, but you get the gist, you know? I love this idea. I LOVE the idea of love or nothing. And the thing is, too, that just because I love you doesn’t mean I have to like you. There are plenty of people in my life who I love but don’t like and when people try to tell me that that’s not how that works, I have the perfect rebuttal, courtesy of one of the wisest people in my life, my good friend Jon from my time in Spain. “Love doesn’t mean that you have to like someone or that you have romantic feelings for someone. All it means is that you wish them well and hope good things happen to them.”
A perfect example is my middle sister. Our relationship has always been a bit tenuous and sometimes I don’t necessarily like her but I have NEVER stopped loving her. It’s just that simple.
My first psych appointment is on May 1st. I am on track to be okay. I have some great advice under my belt from friends who care about me and a laundry list of people who love me and will answer the phone for me any time if I need someone to talk to. So, all in all, as not okay as it still feels right now, I know I will be okay. Eventually. Someday. Maybe…
Well. I think this has gone on long enough, but I think it also served as a pretty damn good update and maybe explained why I’ve been so aggressively absent lately.
Until next time, stay frosty, nerds! Excelsior!
Edit: I just realized this is my first post of 2018. Holy hell. Welp, happy SUPER belated new year, I guess?