VERY MIXED FEELINGS TODAY

Five years ago, on Saturday the 24th of September, my life changed in ways I could never have predicted.  And though my life now, 5 years later, is amazing, the road to where I am now has been challenging.  Understatement of the year.  All in all, for the majority of the time, I am happy, healthy, newly married (in May) and ‘completely’ healed from my attack.  I have to put completely in quotation marks because I am not sure I will ever be completely over what happened.  That has been very apparent this last week.  Physically I have been a bit of a wreck.  My body seems to understand what my mind is incapable of grasping:  my attack is still stored in my cells, in the muscle memory of my physical self.  Well, crap.

On Monday I decided I needed to know exactly when DCD was being released from prison.  According to my calculations it should’ve been right around now.  He received a 6 year sentence and has to serve 85% of it, less time served at sentencing, which was 317 days.  When I put his name in the ‘who’s in jail’ web site, I got nothing.  I remembered he had used another name, looked through my files to find it, put that name in, and got the same result…not in the system.  I thought I had signed up to be notified when that happened, but, it turned out, I had not.  Crap, again.  So I called the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to find out his status.  The officer I spoke with asked for his prisoner number, which I did not have.  He asked if I was the victim.  I told him I was.  He gave me the number I was lacking and told me where he is now housed and that he would not be getting out any time soon.  He also suggested I call the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services to find out more information about his release date.  I did this and that’s when I found out I neglected to actually sign up to be notified when he would be released.  It’s not that I am afraid he will come after me once he is released.  I simply want to know when he is out.

Life does go on, and as much as I’d love to never have had this happen, it did.  The following quote pretty much sums up how I feel about it now:

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We all get to choose how we react to what happens to us.  I choose to see it as a blessing, and to share my ongoing, ever-changing story.  My hope is that I am making a “difference by being the difference.”

THE LETTER

I realize this is a super long post, but it is very important to read the words of the survivor of the Stanford rape in their entirety.

 

 

From BuzzFeed News:

One night in January 2015, two Stanford University graduate students biking across campus spotted a freshman thrusting his body on top of an unconscious, half-naked woman behind a dumpster. This March, a California jury found the former student, 20-year-old Brock Allen Turner, guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Turner faced a maximum of 14 years in state prison. On Thursday, he was sentenced to six months in county jail and probation. The judge said he feared a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner, a champion swimmer who once aspired to compete in the Olympics — a point repeatedly brought up during the trial.
On Thursday, Turner’s victim addressed him directly, detailing the severe impact his actions had on her — from the night she learned she had been assaulted by a stranger while unconscious, to the grueling trial during which Turner’s attorneys argued that she had eagerly consented.
The woman, now 23, told BuzzFeed News she was disappointed with the “gentle” sentence and angry that Turner still denied sexually assaulting her.
“Even if the sentence is light, hopefully this will wake people up,” she said. “I want the judge to know that he ignited a tiny fire. If anything, this is a reason for all of us to speak even louder.”

“Your Honor, if it is all right, for the majority of this statement I would like to address the defendant directly.
You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.
On January 17th, 2015, it was a quiet Saturday night at home. My dad made some dinner and I sat at the table with my younger sister who was visiting for the weekend. I was working full time and it was approaching my bed time. I planned to stay at home by myself, watch some TV and read, while she went to a party with her friends. Then, I decided it was my only night with her, I had nothing better to do, so why not, there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house, I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked that undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian. I called myself “big mama”, because I knew I’d be the oldest one there. I made silly faces, let my guard down, and drank liquor too fast not factoring in that my tolerance had significantly lowered since college.
The next thing I remember I was in a gurney in a hallway. I had dried blood and bandages on the backs of my hands and elbow. I thought maybe I had fallen and was in an admin office on campus. I was very calm and wondering where my sister was. A deputy explained I had been assaulted. I still remained calm, assured he was speaking to the wrong person. I knew no one at this party. When I was finally allowed to use the restroom, I pulled down the hospital pants they had given me, went to pull down my underwear, and felt nothing. I still remember the feeling of my hands touching my skin and grabbing nothing. I looked down and there was nothing. The thin piece of fabric, the only thing between my vagina and anything else, was missing and everything inside me was silenced. I still don’t have words for that feeling. In order to keep breathing, I thought maybe the policemen used scissors to cut them off for evidence.
“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Then, I felt pine needles scratching the back of my neck and started pulling them out my hair. I thought maybe, the pine needles had fallen from a tree onto my head. My brain was talking my gut into not collapsing. Because my gut was saying, help me, help me.
I shuffled from room to room with a blanket wrapped around me, pine needles trailing behind me, I left a little pile in every room I sat in. I was asked to sign papers that said “Rape Victim” and I thought something has really happened. My clothes were confiscated and I stood naked while the nurses held a ruler to various abrasions on my body and photographed them. The three of us worked to comb the pine needles out of my hair, six hands to fill one paper bag. To calm me down, they said it’s just the flora and fauna, flora and fauna. I had multiple swabs inserted into my vagina and anus, needles for shots, pills, had a Nikon pointed right into my spread legs. I had long, pointed beaks inside me and had my vagina smeared with cold, blue paint to check for abrasions.
After a few hours of this, they let me shower. I stood there examining my body beneath the stream of water and decided, I don’t want my body anymore. I was terrified of it, I didn’t know what had been in it, if it had been contaminated, who had touched it. I wanted to take off my body like a jacket and leave it at the hospital with everything else.
On that morning, all that I was told was that I had been found behind a dumpster, potentially penetrated by a stranger, and that I should get retested for HIV because results don’t always show up immediately. But for now, I should go home and get back to my normal life. Imagine stepping back into the world with only that information. They gave me huge hugs and I walked out of the hospital into the parking lot wearing the new sweatshirt and sweatpants they provided me, as they had only allowed me to keep my necklace and shoes.
My sister picked me up, face wet from tears and contorted in anguish. Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain. I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here. My hair is washed and clean, they gave me the strangest shampoo, calm down, and look at me. Look at these funny new sweatpants and sweatshirt, I look like a P.E. teacher, let’s go home, let’s eat something. She did not know that beneath my sweatsuit, I had scratches and bandages on my skin, my vagina was sore and had become a strange, dark color from all the prodding, my underwear was missing, and I felt too empty to continue to speak. That I was also afraid, that I was also devastated. That day we drove home and for hours in silence my younger sister held me.
My boyfriend did not know what happened, but called that day and said, “I was really worried about you last night, you scared me, did you make it home okay?” I was horrified. That’s when I learned I had called him that night in my blackout, left an incomprehensible voicemail, that we had also spoken on the phone, but I was slurring so heavily he was scared for me, that he repeatedly told me to go find [my sister]. Again, he asked me, “What happened last night? Did you make it home okay?” I said yes, and hung up to cry.
I was not ready to tell my boyfriend or parents that actually, I may have been raped behind a dumpster, but I don’t know by who or when or how. If I told them, I would see the fear on their faces, and mine would multiply by tenfold, so instead I pretended the whole thing wasn’t real.
I tried to push it out of my mind, but it was so heavy I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone. After work, I would drive to a secluded place to scream. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t interact with anyone, and I became isolated from the ones I loved most. For over a week after the incident, I didn’t get any calls or updates about that night or what happened to me. The only symbol that proved that it hadn’t just been a bad dream, was the sweatshirt from the hospital in my drawer.
One day, I was at work, scrolling through the news on my phone, and came across an article. In it, I read and learned for the first time about how I was found unconscious, with my hair disheveled, long necklace wrapped around my neck, bra pulled out of my dress, dress pulled off over my shoulders and pulled up above my waist, that I was butt naked all the way down to my boots, legs spread apart, and had been penetrated by a foreign object by someone I did not recognize. This was how I learned what happened to me, sitting at my desk reading the news at work. I learned what happened to me the same time everyone else in the world learned what happened to me. That’s when the pine needles in my hair made sense, they didn’t fall from a tree. He had taken off my underwear, his fingers had been inside of me. I don’t even know this person. I still don’t know this person. When I read about me like this, I said, this can’t be me, this can’t be me. I could not digest or accept any of this information. I could not imagine my family having to read about this online. I kept reading. In the next paragraph, I read something that I will never forgive; I read that according to him, I liked it. I liked it. Again, I do not have words for these feelings.
“And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times.”
It’s like if you were to read an article where a car was hit, and found dented, in a ditch. But maybe the car enjoyed being hit. Maybe the other car didn’t mean to hit it, just bump it up a little bit. Cars get in accidents all the time, people aren’t always paying attention, can we really say who’s at fault.
And then, at the bottom of the article, after I learned about the graphic details of my own sexual assault, the article listed his swimming times. She was found breathing, unresponsive with her underwear six inches away from her bare stomach curled in fetal position. By the way, he’s really good at swimming. Throw in my mile time if that’s what we’re doing. I’m good at cooking, put that in there, I think the end is where you list your extracurriculars to cancel out all the sickening things that’ve happened.
The night the news came out I sat my parents down and told them that I had been assaulted, to not look at the news because it’s upsetting, just know that I’m okay, I’m right here, and I’m okay. But halfway through telling them, my mom had to hold me because I could no longer stand up.
The night after it happened, he said he didn’t know my name, said he wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup, didn’t mention any dialogue between us, no words, only dancing and kissing. Dancing is a cute term; was it snapping fingers and twirling dancing, or just bodies grinding up against each other in a crowded room? I wonder if kissing was just faces sloppily pressed up against each other? When the detective asked if he had planned on taking me back to his dorm, he said no. When the detective asked how we ended up behind the dumpster, he said he didn’t know. He admitted to kissing other girls at that party, one of whom was my own sister who pushed him away. He admitted to wanting to hook up with someone. I was the wounded antelope of the herd, completely alone and vulnerable, physically unable to fend for myself, and he chose me. Sometimes I think, if I hadn’t gone, then this never would’ve happened. But then I realized, it would have happened, just to somebody else. You were about to enter four years of access to drunk girls and parties, and if this is the foot you started off on, then it is right you did not continue. The night after it happened, he said he thought I liked it because I rubbed his back. A back rub.
Never mentioned me voicing consent, never mentioned us even speaking, a back rub. One more time, in public news, I learned that my ass and vagina were completely exposed outside, my breasts had been groped, fingers had been jabbed inside me along with pine needles and debris, my bare skin and head had been rubbing against the ground behind a dumpster, while an erect freshman was humping my half naked, unconscious body. But I don’t remember, so how do I prove I didn’t like it.
I thought there’s no way this is going to trial; there were witnesses, there was dirt in my body, he ran but was caught. He’s going to settle, formally apologize, and we will both move on. Instead, I was told he hired a powerful attorney, expert witnesses, private investigators who were going to try and find details about my personal life to use against me, find loopholes in my story to invalidate me and my sister, in order to show that this sexual assault was in fact a misunderstanding. That he was going to go to any length to convince the world he had simply been confused.
I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted. And that distorted me, damaged me, almost broke me. It is the saddest type of confusion to be told I was assaulted and nearly raped, blatantly out in the open, but we don’t know if it counts as assault yet. I had to fight for an entire year to make it clear that there was something wrong with this situation.
“I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. “
When I was told to be prepared in case we didn’t win, I said, I can’t prepare for that. He was guilty the minute I woke up. No one can talk me out of the hurt he caused me. Worst of all, I was warned, because he now knows you don’t remember, he is going to get to write the script. He can say whatever he wants and no one can contest it. I had no power, I had no voice, I was defenseless. My memory loss would be used against me. My testimony was weak, was incomplete, and I was made to believe that perhaps, I am not enough to win this. His attorney constantly reminded the jury, the only one we can believe is Brock, because she doesn’t remember. That helplessness was traumatizing.
Instead of taking time to heal, I was taking time to recall the night in excruciating detail, in order to prepare for the attorney’s questions that would be invasive, aggressive, and designed to steer me off course, to contradict myself, my sister, phrased in ways to manipulate my answers. Instead of his attorney saying, Did you notice any abrasions? He said, You didn’t notice any abrasions, right? This was a game of strategy, as if I could be tricked out of my own worth. The sexual assault had been so clear, but instead, here I was at the trial, answering questions like:
How old are you? How much do you weigh? What did you eat that day? Well what did you have for dinner? Who made dinner? Did you drink with dinner? No, not even water? When did you drink? How much did you drink? What container did you drink out of? Who gave you the drink? How much do you usually drink? Who dropped you off at this party? At what time? But where exactly? What were you wearing? Why were you going to this party? What’ d you do when you got there? Are you sure you did that? But what time did you do that? What does this text mean? Who were you texting? When did you urinate? Where did you urinate? With whom did you urinate outside? Was your phone on silent when your sister called? Do you remember silencing it? Really because on page 53 I’d like to point out that you said it was set to ring. Did you drink in college? You said you were a party animal? How many times did you black out? Did you party at frats? Are you serious with your boyfriend? Are you sexually active with him? When did you start dating? Would you ever cheat? Do you have a history of cheating? What do you mean when you said you wanted to reward him? Do you remember what time you woke up? Were you wearing your cardigan? What color was your cardigan? Do you remember any more from that night? No? Okay, well, we’ll let Brock fill it in.
I was pummeled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, past life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find an excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name. After a physical assault, I was assaulted with questions designed to attack me, to say see, her facts don’t line up, she’s out of her mind, she’s practically an alcoholic, she probably wanted to hook up, he’s like an athlete right, they were both drunk, whatever, the hospital stuff she remembers is after the fact, why take it into account, Brock has a lot at stake so he’s having a really hard time right now.
And then it came time for him to testify and I learned what it meant to be revictimized. I want to remind you, the night after it happened he said he never planned to take me back to his dorm. He said he didn’t know why we were behind a dumpster. He got up to leave because he wasn’t feeling well when he was suddenly chased and attacked. Then he learned I could not remember.
So one year later, as predicted, a new dialogue emerged. Brock had a strange new story, almost sounded like a poorly written young adult novel with kissing and dancing and hand holding and lovingly tumbling onto the ground, and most importantly in this new story, there was suddenly consent. One year after the incident, he remembered, oh yeah, by the way she actually said yes, to everything, so.
He said he had asked if I wanted to dance. Apparently I said yes. He’d asked if I wanted to go to his dorm, I said yes. Then he asked if he could finger me and I said yes. Most guys don’t ask, can I finger you? Usually there’s a natural progression of things, unfolding consensually, not a Q and A. But apparently I granted full permission. He’s in the clear. Even in his story, I only said a total of three words, yes yes yes, before he had me half naked on the ground. Future reference, if you are confused about whether a girl can consent, see if she can speak an entire sentence. You couldn’t even do that. Just one coherent string of words. Where was the confusion? This is common sense, human decency.
According to him, the only reason we were on the ground was because I fell down. Note; if a girl falls down help her get back up. If she is too drunk to even walk and falls down, do not mount her, hump her, take off her underwear, and insert your hand inside her vagina. If a girl falls down help her up. If she is wearing a cardigan over her dress don’t take it off so that you can touch her breasts. Maybe she is cold, maybe that’s why she wore the cardigan.
Next in the story, two Swedes on bicycles approached you and you ran. When they tackled you why didn’t say, “Stop! Everything’s okay, go ask her, she’s right over there, she’ll tell you.” I mean you had just asked for my consent, right? I was awake, right? When the policeman arrived and interviewed the evil Swede who tackled you, he was crying so hard he couldn’t speak because of what he’d seen.
Your attorney has repeatedly pointed out, well we don’t know exactly when she became unconscious. And you’re right, maybe I was still fluttering my eyes and wasn’t completely limp yet. That was never the point. I was too drunk to speak English, too drunk to consent way before I was on the ground. I should have never been touched in the first place. Brock stated, “At no time did I see that she was not responding. If at any time I thought she was not responding, I would have stopped immediately.” Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand. You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?
You said, you would have stopped and gotten help. You say that, but I want you to explain how you would’ve helped me, step by step, walk me through this. I want to know, if those evil Swedes had not found me, how the night would have played out. I am asking you; Would you have pulled my underwear back on over my boots? Untangled the necklace wrapped around my neck? Closed my legs, covered me? Pick the pine needles from my hair? Asked if the abrasions on my neck and bottom hurt? Would you then go find a friend and say, Will you help me get her somewhere warm and soft? I don’t sleep when I think about the way it could have gone if the two guys had never come. What would have happened to me? That’s what you’ll never have a good answer for, that’s what you can’t explain even after a year.
On top of all this, he claimed that I orgasmed after one minute of digital penetration. The nurse said there had been abrasions, lacerations, and dirt in my genitalia. Was that before or after I came?
To sit under oath and inform all of us, that yes I wanted it, yes I permitted it, and that you are the true victim attacked by Swedes for reasons unknown to you is appalling, is demented, is selfish, is damaging. It is enough to be suffering. It is another thing to have someone ruthlessly working to diminish the gravity of validity of this suffering.
My family had to see pictures of my head strapped to a gurney full of pine needles, of my body in the dirt with my eyes closed, hair messed up, limbs bent, and dress hiked up. And even after that, my family had to listen to your attorney say the pictures were after the fact, we can dismiss them. To say, yes her nurse confirmed there was redness and abrasions inside her, significant trauma to her genitalia, but that’s what happens when you finger someone, and he’s already admitted to that. To listen to your attorney attempt to paint a picture of me, the face of girls gone wild, as if somehow that would make it so that I had this coming for me. To listen to him say I sounded drunk on the phone because I’m silly and that’s my goofy way of speaking. To point out that in the voicemail, I said I would reward my boyfriend and we all know what I was thinking. I assure you my rewards program is non transferable, especially to any nameless man that approaches me.
“This is not a story of another drunk college hook­up with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident.”
He has done irreversible damage to me and my family during the trial and we have sat silently, listening to him shape the evening. But in the end, his unsupported statements and his attorney’s twisted logic fooled no one. The truth won, the truth spoke for itself.
You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty ­six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt. And I thought finally it is over, finally he will own up to what he did, truly apologize, we will both move on and get better. Then I read your statement.
If you are hoping that one of my organs will implode from anger and I will die, I’m almost there. You are very close. This is not a story of another drunk college hook­up with poor decision making. Assault is not an accident. Somehow, you still don’t get it. Somehow, you still sound confused. I will now read portions of the defendant’s statement and respond to them.
You said, Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she.
Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. Having too much to drink was an amateur mistake that I admit to, but it is not criminal. Everyone in this room has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much, or knows someone close to them who has had a night where they have regretted drinking too much. Regretting drinking is not the same as regretting sexual assault. We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.
You said, If I wanted to get to know her, I should have asked for her number, rather than asking her to go back to my room.
I’m not mad because you didn’t ask for my number. Even if you did know me, I would not want to be in this situation. My own boyfriend knows me, but if he asked to finger me behind a dumpster, I would slap him. No girl wants to be in this situation. Nobody. I don’t care if you know their phone number or not.
You said, I stupidly thought it was okay for me to do what everyone around me was doing, which was drinking. I was wrong.
Again, you were not wrong for drinking. Everyone around you was not sexually assaulting me. You were wrong for doing what nobody else was doing, which was pushing your erect dick in your pants against my naked, defenseless body concealed in a dark area, where partygoers could no longer see or protect me, and my own sister could not find me. Sipping fireball is not your crime. Peeling off and discarding my underwear like a candy wrapper to insert your finger into my body, is where you went wrong. Why am I still explaining this.
You said, During the trial I didn’t want to victimize her at all. That was just my attorney and his way of approaching the case.
Your attorney is not your scapegoat, he represents you. Did your attorney say some incredulously infuriating, degrading things? Absolutely. He said you had an erection, because it was cold.
You said, you are in the process of establishing a program for high school and college students in which you speak about your experience to “speak out against the college campus drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that.”
Campus drinking culture. That’s what we’re speaking out against? You think that’s what I’ve spent the past year fighting for? Not awareness about campus sexual assault, or rape, or learning to recognize consent. Campus drinking culture. Down with Jack Daniels. Down with Skyy Vodka. If you want talk to people about drinking go to an AA meeting. You realize, having a drinking problem is different than drinking and then forcefully trying to have sex with someone? Show men how to respect women, not how to drink less.
Drinking culture and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Goes along with that, like a side effect, like fries on the side of your order. Where does promiscuity even come into play? I don’t see headlines that read, Brock Turner, Guilty of drinking too much and the sexual promiscuity that goes along with that. Campus Sexual Assault. There’s your first powerpoint slide. Rest assured, if you fail to fix the topic of your talk, I will follow you to every school you go to and give a follow up presentation.
Lastly you said, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin a life.
A life, one life, yours, you forgot about mine. Let me rephrase for you, I want to show people that one night of drinking can ruin two lives. You and me. You are the cause, I am the effect. You have dragged me through this hell with you, dipped me back into that night again and again. You knocked down both our towers, I collapsed at the same time you did. If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering. Your damage was concrete; stripped of titles, degrees, enrollment. My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.
See one thing we have in common is that we were both unable to get up in the morning. I am no stranger to suffering. You made me a victim. In newspapers my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All­ American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.
My independence, natural joy, gentleness, and steady lifestyle I had been enjoying became distorted beyond recognition. I became closed off, angry, self deprecating, tired, irritable, empty. The isolation at times was unbearable. You cannot give me back the life I had before that night either. While you worry about your shattered reputation, I refrigerated spoons every night so when I woke up, and my eyes were puffy from crying, I would hold the spoons to my eyes to lessen the swelling so that I could see. I showed up an hour late to work every morning, excused myself to cry in the stairwells, I can tell you all the best places in that building to cry where no one can hear you. The pain became so bad that I had to explain the private details to my boss to let her know why I was leaving. I needed time because continuing day to day was not possible. I used my savings to go as far away as I could possibly be. I did not return to work full time as I knew I’d have to take weeks off in the future for the hearing and trial, that were constantly being rescheduled. My life was put on hold for over a year, my structure had collapsed.
I can’t sleep alone at night without having a light on, like a five year old, because I have nightmares of being touched where I cannot wake up, I did this thing where I waited until the sun came up and I felt safe enough to sleep. For three months, I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning.
I used to pride myself on my independence, now I am afraid to go on walks in the evening, to attend social events with drinking among friends where I should be comfortable being. I have become a little barnacle always needing to be at someone’s side, to have my boyfriend standing next to me, sleeping beside me, protecting me. It is embarrassing how feeble I feel, how timidly I move through life, always guarded, ready to defend myself, ready to be angry.
You have no idea how hard I have worked to rebuild parts of me that are still weak. It took me eight months to even talk about what happened. I could no longer connect with friends, with everyone around me. I would scream at my boyfriend, my own family whenever they brought this up. You never let me forget what happened to me. At the of end of the hearing, the trial, I was too tired to speak. I would leave drained, silent. I would go home turn off my phone and for days I would not speak. You bought me a ticket to a planet where I lived by myself. Every time a new article come out, I lived with the paranoia that my entire hometown would find out and know me as the girl who got assaulted. I didn’t want anyone’s pity and am still learning to accept victim as part of my identity. You made my own hometown an uncomfortable place to be.
You cannot give me back my sleepless nights. The way I have broken down sobbing uncontrollably if I’m watching a movie and a woman is harmed, to say it lightly, this experience has expanded my empathy for other victims. I have lost weight from stress, when people would comment I told them I’ve been running a lot lately. There are times I did not want to be touched. I have to relearn that I am not fragile, I am capable, I am wholesome, not just livid and weak.
When I see my younger sister hurting, when she is unable to keep up in school, when she is deprived of joy, when she is not sleeping, when she is crying so hard on the phone she is barely breathing, telling me over and over again she is sorry for leaving me alone that night, sorry sorry sorry, when she feels more guilt than you, then I do not forgive you. That night I had called her to try and find her, but you found me first. Your attorney’s closing statement began, “[Her sister] said she was fine and who knows her better than her sister.” You tried to use my own sister against me? Your points of attack were so weak, so low, it was almost embarrassing. You do not touch her.
You should have never done this to me. Secondly, you should have never made me fight so long to tell you, you should have never done this to me. But here we are. The damage is done, no one can undo it. And now we both have a choice. We can let this destroy us, I can remain angry and hurt and you can be in denial, or we can face it head on, I accept the pain, you accept the punishment, and we move on.
Your life is not over, you have decades of years ahead to rewrite your story. The world is huge, it is so much bigger than Palo Alto and Stanford, and you will make a space for yourself in it where you can be useful and happy. But right now, you do not get to shrug your shoulders and be confused anymore. You do not get to pretend that there were no red flags. You have been convicted of violating me, intentionally, forcibly, sexually, with malicious intent, and all you can admit to is consuming alcohol. Do not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.
Now to address the sentencing. When I read the probation officer’s report, I was in disbelief, consumed by anger which eventually quieted down to profound sadness. My statements have been slimmed down to distortion and taken out of context. I fought hard during this trial and will not have the outcome minimized by a probation officer who attempted to evaluate my current state and my wishes in a fifteen minute conversation, the majority of which was spent answering questions I had about the legal system. The context is also important. Brock had yet to issue a statement, and I had not read his remarks.
My life has been on hold for over a year, a year of anger, anguish and uncertainty, until a jury of my peers rendered a judgment that validated the injustices I had endured. Had Brock admitted guilt and remorse and offered to settle early on, I would have considered a lighter sentence, respecting his honesty, grateful to be able to move our lives forward. Instead he took the risk of going to trial, added insult to injury and forced me to relive the hurt as details about my personal life and sexual assault were brutally dissected before the public. He pushed me and my family through a year of inexplicable, unnecessary suffering, and should face the consequences of challenging his crime, of putting my pain into question, of making us wait so long for justice.
I told the probation officer I do not want Brock to rot away in prison. I did not say he does not deserve to be behind bars. The probation officer’s recommendation of a year or less in county jail is a soft time­out, a mockery of the seriousness of his assaults, an insult to me and all women. It gives the message that a stranger can be inside you without proper consent and he will receive less than what has been defined as the minimum sentence. Probation should be denied. I also told the probation officer that what I truly wanted was for Brock to get it, to understand and admit to his wrongdoing.
Unfortunately, after reading the defendant’s report, I am severely disappointed and feel that he has failed to exhibit sincere remorse or responsibility for his conduct. I fully respected his right to a trial, but even after twelve jurors unanimously convicted him guilty of three felonies, all he has admitted to doing is ingesting alcohol. Someone who cannot take full accountability for his actions does not deserve a mitigating sentence. It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of “promiscuity.” By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.
The probation officer factored in that the defendant is youthful and has no prior convictions. In my opinion, he is old enough to know what he did was wrong. When you are eighteen in this country you can go to war. When you are nineteen, you are old enough to pay the consequences for attempting to rape someone. He is young, but he is old enough to know better.
As this is a first offence I can see where leniency would beckon. On the other hand, as a society, we cannot forgive everyone’s first sexual assault or digital rape. It doesn’t make sense. The seriousness of rape has to be communicated clearly, we should not create a culture that suggests we learn that rape is wrong through trial and error. The consequences of sexual assault needs to be severe enough that people feel enough fear to exercise good judgment even if they are drunk, severe enough to be preventative.
The probation officer weighed the fact that he has surrendered a hard earned swimming scholarship. How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment. If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be? The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.
The Probation Officer has stated that this case, when compared to other crimes of similar nature, may be considered less serious due to the defendant’s level of intoxication. It felt serious. That’s all I’m going to say.
What has he done to demonstrate that he deserves a break? He has only apologized for drinking and has yet to define what he did to me as sexual assault, he has revictimized me continually, relentlessly. He has been found guilty of three serious felonies and it is time for him to accept the consequences of his actions. He will not be quietly excused.
He is a lifetime sex registrant. That doesn’t expire. Just like what he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.
To conclude, I want to say thank you. To everyone from the intern who made me oatmeal when I woke up at the hospital that morning, to the deputy who waited beside me, to the nurses who calmed me, to the detective who listened to me and never judged me, to my advocates who stood unwaveringly beside me, to my therapist who taught me to find courage in vulnerability, to my boss for being kind and understanding, to my incredible parents who teach me how to turn pain into strength, to my grandma who snuck chocolate into the courtroom throughout this to give to me, my friends who remind me how to be happy, to my boyfriend who is patient and loving, to my unconquerable sister who is the other half of my heart, to Alaleh, my idol, who fought tirelessly and never doubted me. Thank you to everyone involved in the trial for their time and attention. Thank you to girls across the nation that wrote cards to my DA to give to me, so many strangers who cared for me.
Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget.
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”

JOE BIDEN’S OPEN LETTER TO THE VICTIM OF THE STANFORD RAPE CASE

From UPWORTHY.COM:

“The case’s convicted perpetrator, Brock Turner, was given just six months behind bars, despite sentencing guidelines that could have resulted in him facing up to 14 years.
Why? Jail could have a “severe impact” on the 20-year-old criminal, Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky had determined.”  Really?  REALLY???

“I do not know your name — but your words are forever seared on my soul. Words that should be required reading for men and women of all ages.

Words that I wish with all of my heart you never had to write.

I am in awe of your courage for speaking out — for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity.

And I am filled with furious anger — both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth.

It must have been wrenching — to relive what he did to you all over again. But you did it anyway, in the hope that your strength might prevent this crime from happening to someone else. Your bravery is breathtaking.

You are a warrior — with a solid steel spine.

I do not know your name — but I know that a lot of people failed you that terrible January night and in the months that followed.

Anyone at that party who saw that you were incapacitated yet looked the other way and did not offer assistance. Anyone who dismissed what happened to you as “just another crazy night.” Anyone who asked “what did you expect would happen when you drank that much?” or thought you must have brought it on yourself.

You were failed by a culture on our college campuses where one in five women is sexually assaulted — year after year after year. A culture that promotes passivity. That encourages young men and women on campuses to simply turn a blind eye.

The statistics on college sexual assault haven’t gone down in the past two decades. It’s obscene, and it’s a failure that lies at all our feet.

And you were failed by anyone who dared to question this one clear and simple truth: Sex without consent is rape. Period. It is a crime.

I do not know your name — but thanks to you, I know that heroes ride bicycles.

Those two men who saw what was happening to you — who took it upon themselves to step in — they did what they instinctually knew to be right.

They did not say, “It’s none of my business.”

They did not worry about the social or safety implications of intervening, or about what their peers might think.

Those two men epitomize what it means to be a responsible bystander.

To do otherwise — to see an assault about to take place and do nothing to intervene — makes you part of the problem.

Like I tell college students all over this country — it’s on us. All of us.

We all have a responsibility to stop the scourge of violence against women once and for all.

I do not know your name — but I see your unconquerable spirit.

I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman — full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.

I see you.

You will never be defined by what the defendant’s father callously termed “20 minutes of action.”

His son will be.

I join your global chorus of supporters because we can never say enough to survivors: I believe you. It is not your fault.

What you endured is never, never, never, NEVER a woman’s fault.

And while the justice system has spoken in your particular case, the nation is not satisfied.

And that is why we will continue to speak out.

We will speak to change the culture on our college campuses — a culture that continues to ask the wrong questions: What were you wearing?

Why were you there? What did you say? How much did you drink?

Instead of asking: Why did he think he had license to rape?

We will speak out against those who seek to engage in plausible deniability. Those who know that this is happening, but don’t want to get involved. Who believe that this ugly crime is “complicated.”

We will speak of you — you who remain anonymous not only to protect your identity, but because you so eloquently represent “every woman.”

We will make lighthouses of ourselves, as you did — and shine.

Your story has already changed lives.

You have helped change the culture.

You have shaken untold thousands out of the torpor and indifference toward sexual violence that allows this problem to continue.

Your words will help people you have never met and never will.

You have given them the strength they need to fight.

And so, I believe, you will save lives.

I do not know your name — but I will never forget you.

The millions who have been touched by your story will never forget you.”  ~Joe Biden
And if everyone who shared your letter on social media, or who had a private conversation in their own homes with their daughters and sons, draws upon the passion, the outrage, and the commitment they feel right now the next time there is a choice between intervening and walking away — then I believe you will have helped to change the world for the better.

Biden’s words — as well as the survivor’s letter she read aloud to her attacker — are rippling across the internet for one very important reason: Millions of us are disgusted, fed up, and demanding change to a culture that’s allowed this atrocity to happen.

To every warrior with a spine of solid steel: We hear you, we support you, and we stand by your side.

What I know for certain is as violent as my attack was and as hard as it was to recover from it, it was incredibly lucky.  I had a judge who understood that I was not at fault, that what my attacker did to me was not okay by any stretch, that he made a choice to sexually assault me and because of that decision, he would be sentenced to the maximum allowed by California law for the crimes he was charges with.  I am grateful every day that my case went the way it did.  If he had gotten just 6 months or probation, as his attorney asked, my healing process would have been that much more difficult and lengthy.  My heart goes out to the victim of Brock Turner’s rape.  Understand this, though, she is NOT a victim, only the victim of a rape.  In time, with a lot of support and hard work, she will recover.

CRASH INTO ME

While trying to decide on which book to choose for today’s post, this one practically jumped off the bookshelf and into my hands.  CRASH INTO ME, by Liz Seccuro, was published in 2011, and that’s when I read it.  How I was even able to at that point, I’ll never know.  The only thing I can think is I was still in shock and my brain simply shielded me from the horror of what I was reading.  (It continues to amaze me how my body and brain protect me when I don’t even realize that’s what’s happening until much later.)

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From the inside dust jacket:  “Dear Elizabeth:  In October 1984 I harmed you.  I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, in your eyes, my behavior has affected you in its wake.

In September 2005, Liz Seccuro  received an apology letter from William Beebe, the man who had raped her twenty-one years earlier.  Liz was only seventeen when she was assaulted at a fraternity party at the University of Virginia.  Although she reacted as best she knew how–going straight to the hospital and taking her story to the college administration–the school’s deans discouraged her from going to the city police, and effectively denied her the kind of justice she sought.

For years, Liz struggled to put the trauma behind her and lead a normal, happy life.  The letter brought it all raging back.  Terrified that her rapist had tracked her down, Liz began an email correspondence with Beebe, and became determined to pursue the criminal investigation that should have happened years earlier.  She wanted justice, and the case seemed clear-cut: she had a confession from the man whose face had long haunted her.  But as the highly publicized investigation progressed, a narrative unspooled that was darker than she had believed: a gang rape with at least two other assailants and numerous onlookers, and a wall of silence among the fraternity brothers that persisted two decades later.

Liz Seccuro’s experience of campus assault and justice deferred is an all-too-common one, but it is a story we too rarely hear.  In CRASH INTO ME, Liz tells her story with candor, courage and hard-won hope.”

 

Truly, I do not know how I read this book, as I was right at the beginning of my ordeal.  It is easy now, though, for me to see and understand that as difficult as it was and as hard as I had to fight the justice system to make sure my attacker was convicted and sentenced to prison, I actually had it better than a lot of women who suffer similarly.  I had the support of family and friends.  I also had the maturity to not let anyone keep me from what I knew was right and necessary to do.  The ignorant comments from the police (Are you sure it wasn’t a robbery? I HAD NOTHING TO STEAL! and Are you sure you didn’t just trip? YEAH, I TRIPPED AND MY CLOTHES FELL OFF!) not withstanding, there was no way, NO FLIPPING WAY, I was letting this drop.  It was too late for me to be safe from him, but getting him off the streets and keeping other girls and/or women safe was my responsibility.

Although Liz Seccuro’s book is a difficult read, I do recommend it, especially if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted in any way.  It is also another example of how it is possible to go on and live a normal, happy life after surviving a horrendous event. In the end, getting the justice you deserve is its own reward.  It may not be easy, but is it ever worth it!

YES, I SURVIVED, AND NOW I’M READY TO THRIVE!!!

Three years ago today my life change in ways I could never have imagined.  Two years ago today I started this website to tell my story.  From the very beginning of this incredible journey, I was always very clear on what had to happen in order for me to move forward, to be able to truly put this behind me and get on with my life.  It has taken far longer than anyone ever thought it would.  I like to think I’m completely finished with my healing process, and then BAM, something happens that shows me I’m not quite there yet.  Apparently there isn’t a formula that I can plug all my info into and get a read out that tells me exactly when I’ll be all better.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Perhaps it is something I will be dealing with, at least to a degree, and when I least expect it, for the rest of my life.  As much as I’d like it to be something that I can simply forget, that doesn’t seem to be the way these things work.

In the interest of honoring myself and my body, on this day of all days, I chose to hike up Cowles Mountain this morning.  I have only done it one other time, 3 1/2 years ago, and today seemed like the day it was important for me to do it again.  At 1593′, it is the highest point in San Diego.  The hike is only 1.5 miles, with an elevation change of 950′.  I got to the top in about 25 minutes.  The picture below is the view part way up.

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This is the view from the top looking west.

IMG_3452 And this is the view to the east.

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It was a beautiful morning, though I wish I had started just a bit earlier.  There were tons of  people going up and down.  I saw several that did the climb more than once.  I thought about it, but decided there was no need in overdoing it, as I am ever so fond of doing.  Tonight I will go to a restorative yoga class at Mosaic in Golden Hill.  Tomorrow I will do my beloved beach yoga with Danell Dwaileebe.  And then I have another appointment with Marsha Bliss, an extraordinarily gifted energy healer.  This is what I posted on Yelp about my session with her last week:  “I have been dealing with the after-effects of a sexual assault for the last 3 years, and though I am almost completely through it, there is still some residual ‘stuff’ hanging on. Since I have been to Marsha a couple of times in the past, knew that she would be able to help me again. My appointment yesterday exceeded even my wildest expectations! I do not understand HOW it works, but trust me when I tell you that it DOES work! By the time she was finished with me, I was literally floating. The only ‘bad’ thing was I had to get in the car and drive home. The feeling stayed with me the rest of the day, and I am still feeling it this morning. Whatever your issue is, I highly recommend that you go and see Marsha Bliss of Bliss Connections.”

(You better believe I am looking forward to my appointment tomorrow!)

This is what I wrote in my journal this morning, part of which I shared on Facebook:

6:28a  After reading my email and posting on Facebook, I’m off to hike Cowles Mountain.  It is a tribute to myself and to all those who have suffered a sexual assault.  Today is a GREAT day!  It is a testament to those who have survived and those who are still struggling to heal.  Today is the third anniversary of my sexual assault.  I honor myself for surviving, and I honor all those who are still in the process of reclaiming their lives.  I am proof of what you can do if you don’t give up.  I celebrate the new me, who is stronger and more determined than ever to not let the worst few minutes of my life determine the rest of my life.  With enthusiasm I choose to move forward.  I choose love.  I am love.  I am loving.  I am lovable. I matter.  My attacker matters.  (Hard words to write, but nonetheless true.)  Without him I would not be where I am right now.  And where I am is in a very good place.  As the title of this post says…I did survive, and I am now ready to thrive!

Going all the way back to one of my very first posts two years ago, I put this quote:

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I have been changed.  I am anything but reduced by what happened to me, though.  I am so much more than I was, and as I already said, without this traumatic event, without a violent sexual assault, I simply would not be who I am today.  All the way up the mountain this morning I repeated STRONG, HEALTHY, HEALED and on the way down I said, I now release all my trauma, I now accept all my good.  It does feel like something has shifted in me.  I smiled the whole way home.  It feels like whatever might still be hanging on will be energetically erased by Marsha tomorrow.  Best of all, I can honestly say that I forgive DCD for what he did to me.  And even more importantly, I FORGIVE MYSELF!!!

 

FINALLY, THE LAST PIECE FALLS INTO PLACE

I have been trying, for over 2 years, since the D.A. showed it to me at one of the court dates, before we ever got to the sentencing, to get a copy of the letter that DCD wrote to me, at the urging of the police, after he was in custody.  When I first read it, I did not believe a word of what he had written.  When I read again last week, I still do not believe a word he wrote.  And I’ll get to that in a moment.  Getting a copy of it proved to be far worse than pulling teeth.  At least with that, you go to the dentist, tell him to pull your tooth and he does it.  At the time, March or April or May of 2012 (who can remember?) I was told that I could not have a copy because it was not mine to have.  Well, that wasn’t exactly correct, but, then again, so much of what the D.A. told me wasn’t exactly correct.  So, I waited.

When I was told by the Probation Department that I was entitled to the file pertaining to DCD, I requested a copy.  I thought for sure the letter would be included.  Nope.  So, I waited some more.  After the sentencing hearing, I waited a few days before going to the Coronado Police Department to request a copy of the file.  That’s when I found out that he (his attorney) had filed an appeal, and because of that, the case was considered ongoing and could not be released.  Okay, eventually, his appeal was settled and I went again to request a copy of it.  Again, I was put off.  I was, however, told that technically the letter was mine as it had been written to me, and I wanted that letter.

More months went by, and I’d go again to the Police Station, and, again, no one could seem to make it happen.  There was always some excuse about why it could not be released to me.  I’d go away for a while, but I never gave up wanting it or biding my time until I’d try again.  Then a few weeks ago I thought it was time to make my seemingly pointless trip to the Police Department.  The day I went the Sergeant was out of the building because of an incident on the bridge, which is code for a jumper.  That was fine, I didn’t need to talk to her, I just wanted a copy of my letter.  I had been asking for a copy of the file, but the truth was I already had that.  I only lacked the letter.  So, I once again filled out a request for MY letter.  I left, expecting I’d hear back that afternoon or the next day.  Well, that didn’t happen.  It took about a week,and honestly, I had kind of forgotten about it.  Again.

I was uptown and my cell phone rang.  I did not recognize the number, but knew it was a Coronado number, so I answered it.  “This is the Coronado Police Department.  We have a copy of the letter you requested.  Do you want to pick it up?  Or do you want me to email it to you?”  I told her I’d pick it up on my way home, thank you very much!

It was in a sealed envelope.  I did not want to open it until I was at home, glasses on my face so I could actually see to read it.  When I finally did open and read it, luckily, I felt nothing.  In this case, nothing is good.  Then I read it again, and thought, he is such a liar.  I don’t believe a word he wrote.  This is what he wrote:

 

“I would like to tell you that I’m deeply sorry for the way I treated you.  I had no intention of assaulting you.  I knew you were terrified.  It also hurt me inside, I was doing something to you that I’ve never wanted to do to anybody.  After the incident I ran over to the police department because I knew what I did was wrong.  Please find it in your heart to forgive me.

Sincerely,

DCD”

 

Okay, let’s take this line by line — ‘I would like to tell you that I’m deeply sorry for the way that I treated you.’  Well, you may be sorry, but I’m guessing only because you got caught and you didn’t get to do what you actually intended to do, which was rape me.  And the ‘way you treated’ me was you slammed me to the pavement, ripped my clothes off and were preparing to beat the shit out of me when my guardian angel arrived.  ‘I had no intention of assaulting you.’  Ah, yeah, you did.  You were out trolling, and when you saw me and I fit the ‘type’ you were hoping to find, my fate was sealed.  You turned around and followed me, getting up your nerve to attack me, and when you decided the time was right, you ran at me as fast as you could, hitting me, taking me down, where you had every intention of raping me.  ‘It also hurt me inside…’  Oh, please!  You never wanted to do something like this to anyone?  Of course you did.  You planned it and I fit very nicely into your plan.  What you didn’t count on was me fighting back.  And you sure did not count on someone coming along and saving my life.  ‘After the incident I ran over to the police department…’  Another big, fat lie.  While it is true that the police picked you up in the 700 block of Orange Avenue and the Police Department happens to be in the 700 block of Orange Avenue, they picked you up 12 1/2 hours after you claim to have run over there.  You expect me to believe you sat there for 12 1/2 hours just waiting for them to notice you?  Hardly.  ‘…because I knew what I did was wrong.’  No shit!  Of course you knew what you did was wrong.  As for me finding it in my heart to forgive you, well, I am still working on that, though I have to say that I am pretty close.  This feels like the last piece of the entire puzzle and because it is now in place, I can finally put it all behind me.  Well, as far as I can while still talking and writing about it in the larger context of my life.

 

DEPRESSION…AND HAPPINESS

Is it possible to be both depressed and happy?  Common sense would tend towards no.  But I’m thinking that it is possible to be both, at the same time, without even being aware of it, especially if your ‘normal’ state is some degree of depression.  I think that depression runs the gamut from mild sadness occasionally all the way to severe clinical depression.  I cannot honestly remember a time that I was not depressed, though if asked now, I would say I am happy.  What does that mean?  Being happy?  Obviously, happiness is subjective.  What makes me happy will not necessarily make you happy, and vice versa.

I can remember clearly the first time I was aware that I really didn’t want to be in this world.  I was 14 years old.  As I am thinking about this, though, I suspect that this idea occurred to me when I was far younger.  I simply do not remember.  Much of my childhood is a blur. I have very few actual memories, but knowing myself as I do, it makes sense that it would have come up long before I was 14.  So much more is known and understood these days about depression and the genetic link.  I am definitely predisposed to suffering from it.  My brother and uncle (my mother’s brother) are both diagnosed bipolar.  I believe that my grandmother, though not diagnosed, also suffered from it.  And plain old depression runs rampant in my family.  Two of my brothers have died as a result of it.  It is something I continue to struggle with, though certainly not to the degree I have in the past.

I think part of the reason that depression is still so misunderstood and seen by many as some kind of weakness, is because it is possible to live with it and function almost normally.   I did it for many years before I finally took the antidepressants I needed to get my chemicals back in balance.  I’m sure I even had times that I felt happy in the midst of my suffering.   I remember when my grandmother found out I was taking an antidepressant, she said, “You’re not depressed.”  Ha!  I told her that just because she didn’t see it did not mean it wasn’t there.   I was very good at hiding it from everyone.  I knew for years, and other than a few attempts at therapy, I did nothing about it.  My mother’s attitude was, buck up and stop feeling like you do.  Oh, okay.  Too bad I didn’t think of that.  Unfortunately, that is the attitude of a lot of people.  If you were stronger you could do it.  It does not work that way.  If your chemicals are truly out of balance, no amount of wishing, hoping, talk therapy, exercise or anything else is going to change it.  You must get the help you need.  What made me finally break down and admit I had to go on medication was being in Key West, the sun shining and I was feeling nothing but darkness.  I thought, oh crap, my therapist is right, I do have to take something.  I was always able, when I lived in Chicago, to blame it on the weather and the lack of sunshine, which were definitely contributing factors.  But when I was in sunshine and warmth and still had such negative feelings, I knew the time had come.

When I got back to Chicago, I asked my therapist for a recommendation of a psychiatrist so that I could do what needed to be done.  When I first went to him (I do not even remember his name now) and he confirmed that, indeed, I needed medication, I asked how long I would have to take it.  He told me that usually a year, maybe a little longer was considered ‘normal.’  I said, “Okay, but that’s as long as I plan to take it.  No longer.”  He agreed, and I continued with my therapist and once a month saw him as well.  All I can really say about the drugs were they accomplished what needed to be done.  I have always described the process of being on them as hateful.  I was first prescribed Prozac, which just about killed me.  Every bad side-effect that was possible to get, I got.  Finally, he changed it to Wellbutrin and though I hated it too, it was not quite as bad as the Prozac had been.  In the end I took it for 14 months, and when I was done, that was it.  Luckily, he agreed, and I went off of it.  I felt better than I had in years.  At the time, too, I asked if I would ever have to take it again.  He told me that I might, that there was no way to really know, sometimes people did and sometimes they didn’t.  There have been times when I thought maybe I should probably be on something again, but until my attack, I never seriously considered it.

If you’ve been reading this blog all along, then you already know what happened when I attempted to take something for my depression, post attack.  Because I had had such a negative experience with antidepressants, even though they did help me, I really did not want to take one if I could somehow do it more naturally.  So, Suzie, my amazing therapist, recommended St John’s Wort, which is an herb.  I thought this was a suitable compromise.  Well, just as the prozac almost killed me, the St John’s Wort almost made me kill myself by jumping off the Coronado Bridge.  Thing is, I did not realize it was the pills, I just thought I wasn’t getting better.  I did not tell anyone, including Suzie, for a couple of weeks.  I finally told her and she immediately knew it was the supplement that was causing the problem.  I had to wean off of it, but because of that and the fact that every other thing I had tried taking and had had such a bad response to, I was afraid to try anything else.  I had to white-knuckle it the rest of my therapy.  As I’ve said before, my depression after my sexual assault was situational, not clinical, and I was able to do it.

Ask me if I’m happy now, and I’ll say YES.  Some times I am happier than other times, and I still have issues that definitely challenge me, but, over all, I am happy.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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