TW: Self harm, rape, suicide
2018: the year from hell. That’s how I’ve come to think of the last year, and I am so thankful it’s finally over. I know that a new year doesn’t just magically make all of your problems go away, but there’s something refreshing about starting a new year, like it’s wiping the slate clean.
So, as you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been fairly absent from my social media platforms over the last few months. I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to manage myself, let alone anything else, and I think it’s important to know when you need to take a step back. I needed to take time for myself, to recuperate, to heal, and to isolate myself a little, but as time goes on, I’m feeling more and more able to reconnect. That’s the thing with storms, isn’t it? Eventually, they do pass.
I want to write about my 2018 so that I can reflect on everything that’s happened, as well as have it written down somewhere, but honestly I’m a little bit worried to do that. Who really cares, anyway? What if people just think I’m doing it for sympathy, or for validation? But then I told myself that this is my blog, and while it’s something I started in the hopes of people reading what I have to say and of being able to help others, I started this blog for me, as a place I can write about my own mental health journey, a place I can share my story, a place I can reflect and document. So here it is, this was my 2018.
My 2018 didn’t start off great right from the get go, and to understand why, I need to go back to the last few months of 2017. My husband was the sole income earner at the time, but because of his mental health, he needed to take a step back from work. The thought of going into work for him was enough to cause terrible anxiety attacks, and he experienced temporary agoraphobia. We were struggling financially since neither of us were currently working, and so, to take some of the pressure off, we asked my husband’s brother and his fiancé to move in with us October of 2017 – this was the worst possible decision we could have made. I knew going into it that it wasn’t a great idea because my brother in law and I have personalities that clash and he’s always been somewhat toxic to me. He was always either too hot or too cold, there was no in between. He was inappropriate, and I’m fairly certain he has narcissistic tendencies. He singlehandedly brought back all of the emotions and memories that I’d kept carefully locked away, he brought back the feelings of living in a toxic, emotionally abusive home during my childhood, and he brought back the memories of my sexual trauma. A week before he moved in with us, he sexually assaulted me as a ‘joke’ – he grabbed my breast while I wasn’t wearing a bra. I was embarrassed, and it brought back the memories of being touched against my will, because that’s exactly what he was doing. He seemed to think that because he is gay, it made it okay, and for a time, I even told myself that. I told myself I should have been wearing a bra, that I should have told him off for touching me, but certain people have a knack for making others feel powerless, and that’s exactly what my brother in law could work to his advantage.
The next few months my home became a toxic place that I had no control over, he took control of how things were set up in the house, he took control of the garden, he started trying to take control of mine and my husband’s lives. I was so unhappy, and my husband would never be on my side, he would always make excuses for my brother in law, and tell me that I need to put up with it. He’d never stand up for me against his brother. On New Years Eve 2018, he even managed to ruin the plans that my husband and I had. He began to grow unhappy living with us, too, which made him all the more hostile, and eventually the situation blew up. My cat came to me one day, and he had all of his whiskers cut off, and of course there was only one person who could have done that. While my husband and I were sitting in the loungeroom, my brother in law walked in, and my husband asked him if he knew what happened to the cat’s whiskers. We received a blunt, “yep, I cut them… I read that trimming a cat’s whiskers can deter bad behaviours,” and then he left the room. I was trying to grow more assertive, and while my husband didn’t think we should confront him over it, I needed to confront my brother in law about what he did, I could not just stew in my anger. So later on, we tried to talk to him about it again, and he went wild and began to yell hurtful things about our “miserable lives”. I told him that I was really upset by what he did to my cat, and in response, with a look of pure hatred on his face, he grabbed a cushion and punched me in the side of the head with it before storming off to his room. After we’d left the house to get some air and talk about what happened, we received a hurtful message from my brother in law, what we called the ‘fake apology’, made up of complete lies. We were chased out of our home, we couldn’t stay with him anymore, and we left the city to stay with my husband’s parents.
I tried to seek comfort from my mum, but honestly I should have known better. When I spoke to her on the phone and told her about what happened, she told me that she knew it wouldn’t work out, and then it didn’t take her long to bring up the fact that my husband and I needed to be working. I told her this wasn’t helpful at the time, which only made her angry at me, and when I told her I just wanted a bit of support, she grew angrier, saying that she was being supportive and I just didn’t want to listen to her. Honestly, this phone conversation was not what I needed at the time, and it broke me. I spent the time away from my home trying to get drunk as much as possible, because I just needed to forget everything, and for the first time in six years, I self harmed, which has brought about a year long struggle with it.
When my brother in law and his fiancé were finally out of our home, we were able to return, but my husband told me that we needed to move out of that house. It wasn’t what I wanted, but for his mental health, I knew it had to be done. I also began seeing a psychologist, which in itself has proved to be a challenge. I’ve had so many realisations throughout my time seeing my psychologist, and there was a time that it felt like he was my only support. My husband is not the most emotionally intelligent person out there, and he was too focused on his own problems at the time, while I was trying to deal with his problems, my problems, financial struggles and moving house.
There were three tough realisations that I’ve had since starting therapy: my parents were emotionally abusive, I was raped when I was 12, and I was raped when I was 16. But the toughest realisation was that what happened to me when I was 12 was rape. For so long, I’d had myself convinced that it was my own fault that it had happened, that it wasn’t sexual assault in any form. I’d kept the trauma of it locked away for so long, but it had finally broken through and the flashbacks that came with it were awful. It had happened 12 years ago, and only now was I realising what had happened and how it’s affected me. And then came the realisation that what happened to me when I was 16 was also rape. I’d been drunk, so it had felt like my fault, and it had felt like I’d consented, and while I may have consented to some things, I didn’t consent to everything. But with this new realisation also came new memories and new flashbacks, ones that I hadn’t seen for, ones that implied another guy had been involved. On top of this, I’d found the courage to tell my mum that I was seeing a psychologist and that I had depression, something I really shouldn’t have done. When I told my mum that I had been depressed since I was a child, she told me that I hadn’t been, because I’d always been bubbly. She grew angry at me, and blamed my lifestyle as the reason I was depressed. She told me that I shouldn’t be getting someone else to fix my problems. She couldn’t understand why I’d had a difficult childhood, and out of desperation I told her that having an abusive, alcoholic father didn’t help. I was just hoping she’d hear me, but still, she wouldn’t. After the phone call I cried for an hour – my mum has this great way of breaking me every time I talk to her. She proved that again a week later; she called me on the phone and said that my dad wasn’t abusive, and the only reason he was the way he was is because my sisters and I always baited him. Great, more invalidation. But despite all of this, I was finally started to feel better. I felt like I was beginning to accept the things in my past, that for the first time in my life I was beginning to see good things about myself. I’d joined Twitter as well as joining the MH Crisis Angels (a peer support group on Twitter). I was making new friends. I was feeling happier.
But now I think I was just in the eye of the storm.
A week after I joined the MH Crisis Angels, I was feeling strong enough to write down the flashbacks I’d been having about what happened when I was 16, and I remembered everything. I remembered the other guy involved, what he did to me. If I remembered them because my brain thought that I’d be able to handle them now, then that’s a sick joke, because everything has been bad ever since. With the new memories came awful nightmares that lasted for months, to the point that I was too scared to go to sleep. I would see everything that happened to me, and sometimes the nightmares made new things up, like having all three guys involved at once. I wasn’t coping. And neither was my husband. He’d also needed a fresh start, so along with moving house, he also changed jobs, and he was struggling with that. He was missing large chunks of work, and it was beginning to take it’s toll on both of us individually, as well as on our relationship. Maybe this is just me looking too far into it, but I always tried to support him, he was always my first priority, but it was never the same case for me. He couldn’t handle the emotional sides of a relationship.
And you know how when things are hard, life just likes to keep piling things on? To break you? To see how you manage? Because you’re strong enough to get through it? Who knows. But a month after things started going downhill, I found a lump in my neck, and upon further tests, it was diagnosed as a tumour in my thyroid gland, it could be cancerous, and it could not be cancerous, I won’t know until I have it removed. But the hits just kept on coming. Two days after finding out that I’d be needing surgery and that I could have cancer, my husband and I broke up. While it was somewhat mutual, he made the final decision, and it broke me. This man had been there for me since I was 18, we’d been together since we were 19, he’d gotten me out of my hell of a home with my parents, we’d been each other’s rock for so long. And now it was all over. Everything we’d been working on building, the future we had planned for ourselves, it was now non-existent. In the end, my mental health struggles were just too much of a burden on him. I don’t hate him (that’s a lie, a little part of me does), he’s a good guy, and he still wants to see me get better, but seriously, it was the most inopportune time for me to lose everything. But life waits for no one, I guess.
I was going to kill myself. I’d decided. Screw life. It was nothing but pain, and I wanted out.
The day we broke up, my sisters came and got me from my house and took me back to their house with my stuff and with my cat. The plan was that I’d stay there for the week, but I lasted one night. When I woke up in the morning, I just needed to go home, and my sister was kind enough to take me. Just before we left, I had a phone call with my mum, and she was, of course, angry with me about the break up. It was the final straw, that was the moment that I decided that I was better off dead. I had an hour long drive to consider how I would do it, but I guess a tiny part of me still wanted to hang on, because I told a friend my plans, who encouraged me to tell my psychologist. And by some miracle, my psychologist managed to fit me in for an appointment that day. I would at least hold off from doing anything until after I’d seen my psychologist. I don’t remember much from my appointment with him, it’s all a bit of a blur. The only things I remember are that the appointment went half an hour over time, he wanted to either call me an ambulance or take me to the hospital himself, and that we’d agreed that I’d at least hold on until Monday. That was the plan. I could do that, I could hold on for a couple of days. At least, I thought I could until I walked out of the building and saw a text from my husband, asking how I’d pay my half of the debt, and saying that we needed to end the lease on our house. Again, the final straw.
This was it. I was going to do it this time. Sorry to my psychologist and to my friends, I’d tried, but I was done. I caught the bus home thinking about nothing else, saying ‘thank you’ to the bus driver was going to be the last words I ever spoke to a human again. I picked flowers on the walk home to keep with me while I take my final breath. I was done. Except I wasn’t. I walked through the front door, and my cat, my baby, meowed at me, and I just couldn’t. I broke down in tears, and I tried to get myself to do it, but I couldn’t leave my cat behind. I managed to calm down eventually, until I spoke on the phone with my husband and heard him say he couldn’t be with me unless I’m better, which set me off all over again. I didn’t want my life, I now had no income, no home, and no husband. Life is pain. For a reason I’m still not sure on, I called Lifeline, the Australian crisis hotline, and the lady I spoke to told me that either I could call an ambulance for myself, or she could call one, which would mean the police would also be involved, because she was concerned for my safety. Somehow, I managed to call the ambulance for myself.
The hospital stay was good, but I’m going to leave that for another post, as this is already getting a little long. I suppose the end point is that I’m still here, still struggling, still feeling hopeless about life, but still alive. I’ll get back to you on whether that’s a good thing or not.
But it’s a new year, a fresh start, right?