Saying it is wrong to air a family’s dirty laundry is detrimental to those who are trying to heal within that family. I will not cover stuff up while I am healing to protect a family that didn’t protect me. My writing is also not inclusive of every experience I have had. If a picture is worth a thousand words and pictures capture only a second of someone’s experience, how do you expect me to write all of the words to inclusively describe thirty years of my life?
I was very young when I first thought about hurting myself. There was a tall chest of drawers that stood in my room; I imagined what it would be like to pull the furniture down onto my arm. I wanted to break my arm, for the attention, you know? I was eight years old, and my thought process wasn’t fully developed (obviously). “Maybe they will love me if I am hurt. Yeah, I’ll do that…then they will care. I’ll show them.”
I just ended up with a very sore arm.
The use of self-harm for attention is a manipulation tactic that, for someone SO YOUNG, isn’t malicious. It is a desperate plea for love and care. We turn to our parents to comfort us when we are scared or sad or hurt. Physical harm seemed to be the only way my eight year old brain believed I could be comforted. As an adult though, I look back on the times I was physically in danger and how that was handled by my parents. Would they save me as I was dangling off of the back of the deck stairs? Yes. Would they dive into the water after I had been knocked by the sailboat’s boom into the water and under the boat? Yes, of course…and then I would get in trouble and called a “dumb fucking kid”. If I got hurt, I wouldn’t have my tears wiped. If I got in trouble and whipped or paddled, I wouldn’t be comforted after…I would be told that I was hit because they loved me. That isn’t comforting at all!
I was diagnosed as depressed when I was 11 years old. I was put on Prozac…which made my suicidal ideations MUCH stronger. It was during one particular meltdown when I realized I had been molested when I was five or six…I had suppressed those memories for years and broke down when I realized what had happened. I immediately wanted to kill myself, and that was when the visits to the psychiatrists and psychologists began.
I don’t remember all of the doctors I went to…I just remember at one point the diagnosis shifted from depressed to bipolar in an office that was too dark and had too much “gentle music” playing…like gentle music makes the news that you are batshit crazy any easier to digest. I was placed on Lamictal and Celexa (and a few other things before that). Every day was a science experiment on my emotions to see what needed to be adjusted so I would become “normal”. Forget the fact 9/11 had just happened, forget the fact I was moving four schools in four years, or that my parents were going through a weird separation/get back together thing, or that I went through a bout of bulimia, or the fact my parents had a drunken fallout on a family vacation that culminated in my dad bicycling back to my hometown because my mom left him on Jekyll Island. Forget that my dad shot the TV or threw his wedding ring through a window or kicked the refrigerator so hard it left a huge dent. No, the problem was clearly my emotions as a pre-teenager. I was not allowed to laugh or cry without seeing my family get nervous. One time I laughed and my mom asked me if I was taking my medicine. It was suspicious for me to laugh.
By the time I was 16, I had no connection to my emotions. My dosages were constantly changed and upped. I didn’t have a therapist who stuck around long enough to help me talk and work anything out. When my first boyfriend dumped me for another girl, he said “you’re like a robot.” I stopped taking my medicine at once…the medicine I knew was making me emotional-less. I hid the pills for a few weeks…while completely spiraling out of control in a “cold turkey” detox. When I called my ex to tell him I had emotions and we could be together again, he laughed at me. Evidently Kaela was everything I wasn’t (ah, teenage love). I hung up the phone and took every one of the sequestered pills.
As I started to lose consciousness, I crawled down the hall to the bathroom to try and throw up the pills. I knew I was in serious physical trouble…and I was terrified to go to my parents’ room. I knew they would be angry at me for waking them up. But I was blacking out and rapidly losing motor skills. I crawled to their room and fell against their door…and my dad was angry. I was able to say “I took some pills”…and I don’t really remember a lot after that. I have flashes of images…of my mom throwing me in the car…in a van that I was trying to vomit in the back of on top of some plywood…blue dust was all that came out of me; the stain was in the headrest for months as a stark reminder of what I had done. My dad stayed home that night, of course. My mom screamed at me that I wasn’t going to die…we made it to the hospital…And I mainly remember my legs and arms not working. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t have a bra on and the hospital was tearing my clothes off….there were a lot of bright lights…my heart rate was over 220…some seizures.
You know, normal teenage things.
I was sent to a mental hospital (in a cop car) after a stay in the intensive care unit. My parents were SO angry at me. They visited the hospital once, and my dad said if they had it their way, they would leave me in there.
So I guess hurting myself never got me the attention that eight year old me wanted. It only brought more anger, more disbelief, more ostracization, and more problems, like getting the door removed from my bedroom.
Luckily I had a therapist who I saw once a week for a year. He got me through my next boyfriend dying, and told me I needed to leave my family immediately. He said I was never bipolar (yay for years of bad diagnoses and emotional numbness) and that my family’s fucked up behavior was getting placed onto me. It was the first time I was validated. I wasn’t batshit crazy…I was simply trying to grow up in a hurting family.
I left for the Marine Corps a year after trying to kill myself.
As my current therapist would say “out of the frying pan and into the fire”…