When my parents divorced, I was nine years old. My mother and I moved from a very remote area to suburban Detroit where she had grown up. We lived with my grandparents for a year before moving into our own house. At a time when my mother was weakest, she also was back in an environment that brought back adolescent insecurities: in a family of doctors, she had decided to go into teaching. My mother expects a lot from herself and those around her. She shows her love for me by believing I can meet those expectations. And while I was very nurtured and supported by my grandparents in the traditional sense, my mom began to adopt the verbally abusive and compulsive behaviors that I am certain contributed to my mental state.
I went through high school involved in everything: track, swimming, cheerleading, President of the Spirit Committee, Secretary of the Italian Club, supporting lead in school plays and musicals, playing violin in the orchestra. I never thought about it then that it was a lot. I maintained a very high GPA. Outwardly, I was just a very active teenager. At home I was sleeping 3-5 hours a night and beginning a very horrible eating disorder. Everything felt so out of control.
I went off to university and maintained the same pace, getting involved in student groups and plunging into my studies as well as becoming what my friends lovingly called “Party Princess Barbie”.
My grades were fabulous. My friends were fabulous. I was starving myself. I already was feeling like I needed help…some kind of something…when I was sexually assaulted in my own room by a boy who was a central person in my new group of friends. I felt like the guest star girl in some 90210 episode. I didn’t tell anyone. Who would believe me?
And so began the anxiety that I still deal with today. I couldn’t sleep unless every light (including a flashlight) was on and all my drawers were open so I could make sure nothing was hiding. Afraid I would develop a fear of sex, I adopted the mentality that I should just “get back on the horse”. There are a lot of terms people may use about a girl like that. I choose ‘sexually indiscriminate.’
I met my husband 18 months later. I started seeing a nutritionist, and things got better with the eating. The OCD and agoraphobia got worse, but I had no idea what it was. My husband just thought I was quirky–having to sleep with the lights on or not sleeping at all. By my student-teaching year, it was just a way of life.
That year, after being accused by the principal of smoking pot with my students and being “a Satanist”, the anger mutated to paranoia and then turned to panic. I had no idea what was happening. I just wanted it to stop and sleep. That was my first active suicide attempt. Two weeks in the hospital and a month in PHP.
My husband (boyfriend at the time) was wonderful. We got engaged a few months later. I started working at a financial services firm. Two years went by without incident. I was in therapy, on meds. We got married and moved to Ohio. Away from my family, friends, and doctors I knew, I became despondent and isolated. My doctors kept increasing my meds until one day my husband came home to his wife bleeding all over the bathroom floor. That attempt put me into the hospital again.
It was a lot of work to get back from that place. My husband got a new job and it began to control his life. We moved back to Michigan. Despite the problems in my marriage, my recovery was going really well until last summer.
The panic returned, the disorienting depressive episodes, I couldn’t focus or think or sleep. I couldn’t leave the house. Somehow, I managed to sing in my cousin’s wedding and that night went to my mother’s and took an entire bottle of Klonopin. I began to write a letter to my best friend and something was triggered–I knew I had done something I didn’t want to and managed to stumble downstairs and mumble incoherently to my mother that I needed to go to the ER.
I woke up at 5 AM the next day with my husband holding my hand and being told that I almost didn’t make it through the night. Another couple weeks in the hospital and PHP. My husband and I made it through this rough time together. It was a lot of work on both our parts. My biggest mistakes had been not taking meds like I should and not following up with my doctors and therapist. I will never make those mistakes again.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to www.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.