Friday, February 4, 2011

Crawling Out

One thing shrinks always do when you feel like killing yourself is make you promise not to hurt yourself without calling them first.  At least, that's what my shrink always did and the few others I visited during my lifetime.  It's annoying because once you make the promise, you're kind of stuck.  I imagine shrinks feel like failures when patients kill themselves.

There was one shrink who I only saw once.  It was about fifteen years ago on this very day when my mental state was such that a psychiatric evaluation was required.  My regular therapist, A.T., recommended an associate of hers but Buzz Kill wanted me to go to somebody on my HMO list because it was substantially cheaper.  I never told that man I felt like killing myself because he was convinced I was uberdepressed on account of PMS.  I will concede that PMS can exacerbate any emotional situation - but it's not the root cause of said situation.  I did tell the man that I felt like I should be in the hospital since AT told me to say that, but he said I couldn't get the rest I believed I needed in a psych ward.  He prescribed Zoloft and sent me on my way in under fifteen minutes which is the amount of time HMO psychopharmacologists allot for their patients.  It was raining that day, and I sat on a bench in Central Park after the appointment thinking I should kill myself to spite that son of a bitch.

There must have been a follow up visit, though, because once I got out of the bin, AT made me have an appointment with him to tell him why I didn't call him when I was fixing to go to the hospital.  Apparently, it's protocol to call your psychiatrist when you're being committed, but since I hated his guts, I wouldn't call him.  Maybe the hospital did, though, because at that appointment, he said he was surprised to hear I had been to Four Winds especially since I had told him that I liked the Zoloft because I wasn't eating as many carbohydrates as I had been.  I must have talked to him after I started taking the medicine or he wouldn't have known about the carbohydrates.

The reason AT wanted me to go see that fool is because I rarely told anyone I how felt about anything unless I believed that person would understand my feelings.  It was a troublesome situation for my parents because if I had an issue with anything at all, nobody heard about it for weeks and weeks.  When the situation finally became so intolerable that I could no longer pretend everything was fine, I exploded.  In my own defense, I have to say that I'm pretty sure that behavior developed because the whole time I was growing up, if I didn't want to do something - like do something with the Beaumont relatives - I was told that it didn't matter how I felt, I would smile and be nice.  So I smiled and was nice until I fell the fuck apart.

It was pretty much standard operating procedure back in those days, so I don't blame my parents. In fact, they surely heard the same thing from their own parents in the unlikely event that either one of them thought they had a right to express their feelings on any topic at all back when they were kids.  By the time my mother was seven, Granny had run off somewhere and left my mom and her brothers with their own grandparents.  Anyway, I had an entrenched behavior pattern that involved not talking to people unless I thought they would understand my point of view.

When Velvet was around three, Buzz Kill started going to therapy.  I can't remember why - but he went to an HMO shrink, a young woman who had just gotten out of school.  He liked her, though, and asked me to come with him one day.  The young woman, who was maybe 25 years old, proceeded to tell me that I was overly attached to my child and that my refusal to lock the bedroom door at night proved I was overly attached.

She had no clue that at my grandparents' house in Beaumont, nobody was ever allowed to lock their doors.   That house had a garage apartment where my parents lived when I was born.  My dad had two younger siblings - my uncle who is eight years older than me and is now my aunt, and my aunt who was three when I was born.  We moved to Houston when I was two and my sister was born because my dad graduated from college and got a job there.   When we came back for regular visits, we slept in the big house with everybody else.   I never once thought to lock a door, so the lock thing must have been one of those unspoken laws.

Looking back, though, I'd say the reason we couldn't lock the door is because my grandfather would have had trouble getting into our rooms at night.  At the time I went to that little shrink with Buzz Kill, I hadn't remembered about my grandfather.  I was only three at the time so it's no surprise I didn't remember until Buzz Kill shut the bedroom door one morning around dawn.  The sound woke me up, and when I opened my eyes all I could see was Buzz Kill's blue boxers.  The sight of those boxes triggered the memory.   So my grandfather had nothing to do with why I wouldn't go back to Buzz Kill's little shrink.  In my view, she shown she had no idea what it was like to have a kid so I wasn't going to talk with her about how I felt about mine.

I was about eight or nine when I first remember thinking I'd like to kill myself.  I was in the bathtub and pondering drowning.  I never mentioned that I felt like killing myself, though, until I was married and my mother admitted that she thought about killing herself sometimes.  At the time, Granny the Ho was visiting the California relatives, and my mother was composing a letter to her brother saying that since Granny had lived in her house for sixteen years, my uncle could keep her for the next eight.  I helped her write the letter, and Granny stayed in California.  Then my mother told me about the time she wanted to kill herself by letting the car run in the garage, but that old Pontiac station wagon was so long that the garage door wouldn't close.  My sister was at the kitchen table that day, a married woman herself, and she admitted that she occasionally found herself in the garage looking up at the rafters wondering if she had a rope somewhere.

Evidently suicidal ideations run in the family.  Must be in the gene pool because I don't think my grandfather ever visited my sister, although she could still be keeping that secret.  I know my mother has her own history with step-fathers and uncles.  Granny had her own episodes - most notably with her uncle, The Deacon, who raped her when she was twelve.  My mom told me about that when I was in the looney bin and finally told my mother what happened with my uncle when I was fifteen.  He was still my uncle then and not my aunt like he is now, and I still hadn't remembered about my grandfather - who apparently perpetrated some unspeakable act on my uncle when he was still a kid.  That house in Beaumont was weird.

When I'm spiraling downward into suicidal despair, I always find myself back in that house, alone and afraid and convinced nothing will ever change.  I live in that place for a while and then start pulling myself out of it - kind of like how you turn a cork screw the other way to remove the cork.  If I were a hopeful person, and I guess I must be or else I'd be dead by now, I'd hang on to the image of a staircase that spirals out of sight, like Peter Gabriel sings about in Carpet Crawlers. Gotta get in to get Out.


Courtney said...

For what it's worth, I just wanted you to know that I'm glad you wrote this out. This is a very powerful post.

mac said...

Oh my.
This is so disturbing and powerful at once. You must, indeed, be a strong woman. And, brave.

Call me if you feel like doing anything stupid ;-)
I'd miss you!

Anonymous said...


This is an incredibly brave piece. I like you have thought about killing myself at different periods in my life. To me, there are the thoughts then the action, but that is what always stops me, the actual action.

I find it interesting that in the 21st century, talking about mental illness, depression and suicide make people uncomfortable.

You do have to get in to get out.


P.S. - Spoken like a true Texan - "fixing to"

Susan Tiner said...

I had no idea and am so sorry, so terribly sorry you have to live with those God awful Beaumont memories. As far as I'm concerned, you're a saint. I sending warm hugs.

corticoWhat said...

This piece certainly explains a lot, and yet it opens 20 other doors.

How regretful that children can be born into such dysfunction, but how miraculous that you have learned to cope.

From "Hotel California:" "You can checkout anytime you want, but you can never leave."

Vancouver Voyeur said...

It's funny how much peoples' lives overlap. I grew up with sexual and physical abuse. I thought I was the only one. Then when I was an adult and finally opened up about it to friends, I discovered way too many of them had similar experiences. Which makes me wonder if such things are more common than we think. Have females, children, and the weaker always been preyed upon by these monsters? I remember being in that loop of guilt, fear, remembrance. I lived there for too many years. I slowly broke free from it all in my 30s and I haven't been back in that ditch since. I don't know really how I got out, or why those dark lows no longer visit me. I suspect my brain chemistry changed with having kids, which combined with my life changing 30s where I divorced an abusive husband, got an education and got into a fantastically healthy relationship, all might be factors for why I healed. I no longer have fears or secrets and no longer get pulled back to those scary spots. I wish I had a magic pill for you, but the best I can do is tell you, it is possible to step away from all that. I sometimes think I kept going back to all that because I needed those strong emotions for my writing, and I needed to prove to myself that my then current suffering was somehow my fault, and that I deserved the bad things that happened to me. I no longer believe any of that, so maybe that also helps me to never go back. I'm glad you are able to write about this. Shining a light on such things takes some of their power away.

Liberality said...

Wow. Hey, I've been there in that place you speak of one too many times to count. When I was 15 I overdosed on sleeping pills. I was found and rushed to the hospital. I was told I died and they brought me back. I don't remember though.

I went to therapy for most of my 20s just to get over all the shit that happened to me. You know that drill, the molesting and the secrets. I still have PTSD from all that but I've learned how to manage it better over time I think.

One important thing I've learned is that if I start remembering that crap I am going down, down, down until it is all remembered--every fucking detail. It's like my mind has been hijacked by a thought virus that won't stop until it's ran its course. So I try very hard to cut off such thoughts, should they occur to me, before they get a foot hold. Really--just whatever it takes to go away from there.

I offer this because I have learned it over time and I hope you are in a better place soon. I think it's better to write about or talk about it then to keep it bottled up.

PENolan said...

Muffy, I'm nothing if not a True Texan, and you're right about how it makes folks uncomfortable even though I'm pretty sure almost everyone feels suicidal at one time or another.

mac - email me your number and I will. But I warn you, I like to play on the phone when I'm high.

Courtney, I'm glad you're out there. Thanks

V.V., It's funny because many of the folks I've become friendly with here in blogland have various abuses in their histories. I'm glad you've got M.

Susan, now that I've followed a link to the beginning of your blog, I'm thinking you're a saint yourself (even without the choir robe).

Cortco, twenty more doors? Now I'm curious.

Yep, Libs, just like a virus. I'm glad I spewed the venom over Buzz Kill this morning instead of turning it further on myself. It's just a drag right now since I've been doing so well until recently. I thought I was out of the woods forever. The good thing is that if I've got to get stuck in the woods, there are folks in there like all y'all.

Again, thanks for finding my message in a bottle.

Lisa said...

That's a lot of stuff to carry around. I hope writing about it eased the mental burden a bit.

I often wonder what's the difference between thinking about it and acting on it. I watch for the trigger, not quite knowing what it looks like and hoping I'll know when I see it to avoid rather than take the bait.

Cali said...

I'm really glad that you are both standing up to Buzz Kill and as someone else said shining your light into the dark places. I have to agree that the last two entries have been extremely powerful and touching.

I can relate to where you are and where you have been because I have been there, too. I was very lucky in the fact that my bogeyman (if you will) was not a member of my family. I felt safe at home, but not at church. Unfortunately, I'm not Catholic so I can't get a big hunk of the Pope's pie for myself. Too bad for my bank account.

PENolan said...

Cali, every time I say something about my history, I am stunned by how many people I already know who have been through something similar.
I'm not sure what the statistics are - if 25% of everyone has been sexually abuses or 30% or what. Seems like more to me, but maybe it's just that somehow we find each other.

Lisa, I don't know if it's true for everyone, but there are physical sensations in my body when things get serious. Like my blood is flowing differently so that the pace of my walk changes subtly. It's almost like the bait is taking you whether you like it or not.

tnlib said...

Oh my God, PEN. You are an amaing woman to have survived this - strong and with a sense of humor no less. I don't know if I could have lived through this; your inner strength speaks volumes. I'm glad you're speaking out and writing about it - another sign of your courage. It helps others who've been through this and it helps those of us who haven't to have at least a glimmer of understanding of how incest violates and ravages a person's body and soul for the rest of their entire lives.

And only someone who writes so beautifully could capture the horrors of it in such a powerful way. You done good.

Cali said...

Statistics say the percentage is somewhere around 30 per cent, according to the counselor I talked to at my local crisis counseling center. We talked about that number for a long time and we agreed that the number seems very low, but we also agreed that survivors do tend to forge friendships with each other, even without discussing it. It probably has something to do with having a shared reference point-- whether they realize it or not.

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