Hit Me Softly: Because Sometimes You Have to Bleed in Front of Others

The next morning I went to see the psychiatrist. It was hard to listen to what he had to say about me and my condition because I had already “bounced back.” I was feeling like my normal self.  Survival skills, we all have them. I had them. I had had a “bad day,” that’s all. There were others in the world far worse off than me, right?Bleeding Heats 1

From there I went to Group Therapy – and proved my point {to myself anyway}.  The group consisted of about twenty other patients and the counselor. I sat and listened to their stories. Stories laced with drug and alcohol addiction mostly. I couldn’t relate. I had never succumbed to either alcohol or drugs of any kind. Instead, I found myself doing what I always did – listening and offering help.  I never spoke about anything personal, personal to me. There just wasn’t much to say. After all, I had handled it. I was not an addict. I held a job. I was responsible. I didn’t have issues like the rest of the group. Or so I thought.

When I wasn’t in session with the psychiatrist, or in group therapy, I walked around the grounds in my Michigan Wolverines sweatshirt, jeans, and high-top tennis shoes {non-brand name}. I attended crafts and made ceramic mugs. I played basketball or volleyball with the other patients in the gym.  And I went to the dining hall to eat my meals, alone. Or so I thought.

At some point, I began to notice that every time I went to the dining hall, I was followed by an orderly or nurse. They always sat quietly at another table near me.  One day I mentioned it to another patient and she said, “Oh, yeah, they are monitoring your eating pattern.”

“Why?” I asked.

“They probably think you have an eating disorder,” she said.

Eventually, what they concluded was that I did not. Without hurrying from one job to the next and then to classes, I remembered to eat.

Bleeding 3

During this time, I decided to nickname Charter Oak, Club Med. It felt as if I was on the vacation that I could never afford to go on.  Someone else made my bed every morning, I could watch T.V., play board games, go to the gym, make crafts, and eat three meals, plus snacks, without making them myself. All I had to do was visit the psychiatrist daily and attend group therapy.

One day in group therapy another patient asked the counselor why I was there. “She talks like she’s a doctor,” he said. “Not a patient like the rest of us.”

Each room had its own personal restroom with shower. One day when I was showering, something on the door frame across from the shower caught my attention. When I exited the shower and reached up to the ledge, I found a white, plastic, serrated knife. After I had dressed, I walked down to the nurse’s station, handed them the knife, and told them I had no idea how it got there.

That was when they informed me that the nice woman bunking next to me was suicidal and a repeat patient.

Bleeding 2

I was about halfway through my stay when IT happened. It was a day in group therapy like all the rest. Until it wasn’t. Someone in the group began talking about their father and, before I knew it, I was crying again. Sobbing. Wailing. The wall I had built so carefully around me cracked wide open and all the things I had so neatly piled up inside began spilling out all willy-nilly everywhere. All over my body. All over my chair. All over the floor around me. Words were spewed into the air. Some hung there. Some fell hard. No drugs. No alcohol. Just pain. Pain had found a way to make me a member of the group. Pain was what I had in common with everyone else.

Bleeding 4

Everything. Everything spilled out over my lips. My parents divorcing when I was only four years old. Running after my father’s car in the snow. Him leaving because I was ill and my mother wouldn’t let me go with him for his visitation. Being molested by my stepfather the night my sister was born. Finally going to live with my father and my stepmother. Learning my stepmother’s dirty little secret – she was an alcoholic. A violent alcoholic – beating me because I was another woman’s child and she couldn’t have any of her own. Telling me not to tell my father or the next time would be worse. My father’s death when I was fourteen; he just thirty-nine. His dying without a will. My stepmother inheriting his entire estate because, at that time, Michigan law dictated that everything went to the surviving spouse upon death. Listening to my stepmother tell her attorney not to list his death in the local newspapers for fear my biological mother would find out and come take me. Church. My church, refusing to include his name in the list of the “Dearly Departed” during Sunday Mass. He wasn’t Catholic. He was Lutheran. Although his Lutheran money, which he gave generously, was good in the church. Turning away. Not from God, but from church. Running away from my stepmother in Michigan to a paternal grandmother I hardly knew in Southern California. Packing. Boarding my first airplane. All.by.myself. New home. New friends.  Going from attending a Catholic, parochial high school to a public high school. Being told that, although I had already completed many of the classes already, I could not advance to higher courses. Being given two P.E. classes to fill the time. Signing on to graduate in three years instead of four.  Going to night-school and attending high school in the morning, just to graduate in three years. Being told by the counselor that he was wrong, I needed a few more credits to graduate after all. Attending my grandmother’s church. Studying the religions of the world at sixteen. Modeling. Signing on with a modeling agency. Hoping for a better future. A pregnancy.  Dropping out of school two months before graduation, disappointed and disillusioned. An abortion. Having blood taken for the first time. Fainting. How can other women do this? Repeatedly? I.can’t. I won’t. Catholic guilt. Lots of guilt. Alone. Always alone. Praying for forgiveness. Knowing God was there. Always there. Another relationship. Going back to high school. Local beauty pageants. Rose Bowl court. . Marriage at seventeen.  A miscarriage. Twin babies at eighteen.  Secrets revealed. His secrets. A divorce. Child abduction by parent. Hunting.him.down. Tahoe. Falstaff. Santa Fe. Austin. Bringing.them.back. Moving to Michigan. Moving back to Southern California. Another relationship. Another miscarriage. Two more babies. He had an affair. With our youngest daughter’s Godmother. Another divorce. Going back to school. Obtaining my high school diploma and beginning college courses. Are you still there God? Knowing, somehow, yes, yes He was. But wondering nonetheless. A gay relationship. Short, but long enough to make me realize that, regardless of gender, I wasn’t good at relationships – but I loved my daughters. Loved them painfully. Trying so hard to be a mother, a good mother, though I had no blueprint to follow.  Teaching myself, reminding myself, to hug, to kiss, to embrace. Always working. Going to school to try and make a better future for us. Falling in love with someone who I hoped loved me back. A good man. An intelligent man. A God-fearing man.  And not thinking I deserved him. Going to the welfare office seeking help because, although I was working fulltime with a part-time job, I was struggling financially to make simple ends meet. Being told that I made $9 above the cutoff limit and, therefore, I was only eligible for $6 in food stamps. Thanks but no thanks? Calling my biological mother and asking for help. No money. Just a new start. Her saying, “Sure, you can come, but not the children.” Her new husband wouldn’t want the children around. Nix that. Nix her. God, please?  Thoughts of suicide. Yes. Who wouldn’t.  But, suicide was not an option. I had responsibilities. Four of them.  I had love – times four – and so, no, suicide was not on the table. At all. The good daughter. The good stepdaughter. The good granddaughter. The good student. The good friend. The good wife. The good mother. The good employee. Always seeking to be fair. Always striving to be just.  In all things, in all ways.  And I’m sure I’ve left several things out. A lot of things out. And I’m sure that this whole paragraph was difficult to just read. But what I’m most sure of is that this, THIS is exactly how pain in words collides with the silence carried long and deep. The sucking it up and shoving it down when you’re thirty-years-old and your soul screams from shattering everywhere.

Bleeding 5

I wasn’t strong. I wasn’t weak. I wasn’t faith-less. I wasn’t faith-filled. I wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be.

And there, in the chair, in the midst of the group, surrounded by those addicted to drugs and alcohol, my addiction came out. I was addicted to being the good girl no.matter.what.

There. There, emptied of every word, the healing began.

Continued here.

 

 

12 comments

  1. Robin. This is a brave story you share with the world. All of this pain, your story is what connects us to each other. It seems every one of us share these “Open Secrets” and if only we all would put down our fake walls and just share our burdens and struggles, we would not have to close up our hearts.

    I’m so proud of you for where you are right now – the journey is long – reach out to us and we’ll hold hands along the way.

    Because we are all broken.

    Shari 🙂

    • Oh, Shari, thank you for stepping up and commenting on this post. It was a hard one to write. When rereading it, I started to tear up. Not because the pain is still vividly felt — but because it was immensely releasing. There comes a time when we have to let our life-experiences surface and dissipate into the universe. A time to finally just do it and let go of the fear of how others’, especially family (that group is the hardest, isn’t it?), will react or say. If we submerge too much of the past, no one learns. If we kill it, those around us never really get to know us fully, deeply. If we bury it, someone who needs to connect with kindred spirits can’t. Thank you, again, Shari. ~ Blessings

  2. Robin, Thank you so much for sharing so much of your life experiences…the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can relate to so much and truly understand the pain you’ve struggled with and are healing from…God bless you.

  3. wow. so fast and so furious I’m just stunned. I don’t know if I should cry or… or anything. I can identify with some, but holy crud woman, im just stunned. speechless. you’re immensely brave. and I’m glad.

  4. That took quite a bit of courage, Robin. I know what it’s like when life hits you hard and sometimes relentlessly — at least that’s how it feels like when it’s happening. And it’s even harder when we set standards for ourselves that seem to always be at arm’s length. To me, the important thing is you’re a survivor and you’re doing this not just for your own healing but to help everyone else who’s walking the same road. You are brave, you are unselfish, and you have so much love in you. I think you are a blessing to the people who have you in their lives. ❤

  5. Oh Robin I hardly know where to begin. Riveted by your story , bowing to your honesty to get it out, letting go of a long carried load no doubt. If you have given even one person out there the belief that your telling of your story will move them in a way to seek support, you are an amazing woman. Hugging you as hard as I can.

    • I truly do hope that someone out there who comes across my blog and these postings will be sparked with the hope that the winds of change are just around the corner. Thank you for coming in and joining me here in this space. Let’s keep the conversation going. — Blessings.

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