The gun went off, a deafening sound. He ran out in the dark of night from his rental guest house, located on the owner’s property. Frantically, he scanned for lights to come on, for people to emerge in search of the gunfire. He prepared to act like another bewildered bystander, but no one ever came looking.
Or so he told me.
My abusive partner asked me to come over one night, selective of when he allowed me to visit. His behavior was more nervous than usual, erratic. We were watching a movie, making little eye contact, but he saw my eyes drifting to a random sheet hanging on the wall. …
A sharp pain took my breath away. My body seemed paralyzed yet was writhing helplessly. My abusive partner had multiple fingers digging between my ribs, his weight on top of me as if we had rolled around atop a mattress.
“Stop, stop!” My words came out in chunks, broken, because his fingers dug so deeply into my diaphragm, painfully pressing my organs, that I could hardly speak.
With a menacing grin, he blurted, “What? I’m just playing!” Not a single laugh exited my throat, “But it hurts! You’re hurting me! Stop! Please!” My voice fumbled each word, begging.
My hand desperately searched to grab his wrist to remove his fingers from my torso. His snickering intensified, and my panic increased in tandem. He had pinned me, and as I tried prying off his wrist with all my might, he pressed even harder. I was frantic, and he was stronger. …
A work day riddled with anxiety or premonition
I know, all healthcare workers experience stressful events. It comes with the territory. Saving a life at 10 AM, instead of attending a meeting, is just another day at the office.
My transition from “the girl who faints at the sight of blood” to “registered nurse” had just completed. With chronic anxiety brewing underneath my calm exterior, I was never truly ready.
I applied to work within the childbirth specialty. Straight B’s and determination earned me this position, a profession to compliment my caregiver heart. …
I woke up to an empty bed. Stumbling to the bathroom, a pea-sized object embedded in my foot. A small, blue pill.
My boyfriend, who refused to use that label, came and went. If we weren’t together, he mandated I be alone as I was in that moment.
Confused, I searched a pill identifier: blue, circle, M, 15.
He blurted an exonerating response, “Must be Ben’s. He came by last week, remember?” This occasional friend was advertised as a careless junkie, trickling drugs in the apartment.
“Where’s the pill?”
I did what any straight-laced girl would do with a misplaced narcotic. I flushed it down the toilet. Wrong answer. His eyes glitched, withholding rage and incriminating words. …
Finally I had saved enough cash to buy a privacy screen room divider. I imagined this “wall” in front of my bedroom door would protect me from the violent, angry teen who moved into my father’s home.
My stepbrother was my first exposure to overt abusive behavior. We were the same age, strangers swept together without a choice. He invaded my home with wrath, and I was terrified. So I set up a screen, an illusion of safety.
My family was not poor, but I was impoverished of guidance, lacking the wealth of attentive parents. …
When losing my original life intersected with saving his
My identity was insidiously stolen by a toxic man, a narcissistic abuser, a man with undiagnosed mental disorder(s). It was not theft of my license or credit cards, but of my mind.
Less than a year in, he began sneaking me into his house late at night so nobody would see us together. He insisted, without explanation. I didn’t know why our “relationship” required the secrecy of a CIA mission.
I had already evaporated into the ghost of a woman. …
And I’m about to step on the gas
“Writing for therapy helps erase the effects of trauma.” -Chris Whoolston
The concept that writing can expunge some of the effects of trauma, though not delete trauma itself, is an outcome worth chasing with a pen or keyboard.
Research has found that psychological improvement, less sickness and trips to the doctor, and a stronger immune system are positive results from writing out traumas and stressors.
In 1988, a study published by the “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology” shared that college students had more active T-lymphocyte cells six weeks after therapeutically writing about personal stressful events. …
It is a discreet, ongoing fight for our attention
The “smart phone” has become our modern day compass. It tells us where to go, what to read, what to eat, what to think about, what to believe. Search engines and social media apps collect data on our searches and suggest that we click on an engineered cluster of information. We want all the answers, and our phones dazzle with the magic of a mouthy response in seconds.
Social media apps are vibrantly sprinkled across our screens, each a rabbit hole to fall into. As a society it seems we fall willingly. What a thrill, jumping into rabbit holes, a psychedelic ride into Wonderland. Remember the hype when “Virtual Reality” devices came out? We strapped headsets over our eyes and transported our minds elsewhere. …
When life’s rug was repeatedly pulled out from beneath me, perfectionism became my first line of defense. I used it as a tool to develop myself, generating ways to avoid letdowns and mistakes. I was eager to control my surroundings and the future.
I prefer predictably. Such as predicting if the road ahead will have a sinkhole. And if so, can I have a map of multiple routes around it?
But there is not much we can control in life, a blow to my perfectionistic gut.
I had no tolerance for errors. But to live is to err. When perfectionism teams up with anxiety, I end up judging my journey, especially if it seems less than impeccable. …
Carrying the weight of the world in a diaper bag
The first time I googled “post partum anxiety,” the results condescendingly corrected me, “Oh you meant post partum depression!” No, Google, but thanks for implying I imagined a rare condition. Years later more resources have surfaced, but that chapter wasn’t ready when I first needed to read it.
My mind had been racing in an effort to manage non-stop crises, trying to keep up. Because if you stop running on a treadmill while the pace is still set on high, won’t you end up catastrophically tumbling off?
During both of my children’s deliveries, I despised the command to hold my breath for 10 second intervals of pushing. I could barely hold my breath past 4 seconds, a shocking failure for someone who had lung capacity to run for miles. The nurse barked, “keep holding it!” I wanted to hyperventilate. …