I want to be very clear, right off the bat: My goal is not to be vindictive. My goal is not to hurt anybody. I simply want to set myself free from this burden I have carried for most of my life and that has been the reason my mental health has been as bad as it’s been. I also want to make sure the truth gets out there to set the record straight. I refuse to live my life suicide attempt to suicide attempt, treatment program to treatment program. I’m regaining my voice and taking control of my story. I’m setting myself free today. I am moving forward from this moment on and I’m not letting anything or anyone stop me.
Also this is going to be a long one, but it all needs to be said.
I’ve been very open about my struggles with my mental health. It’s no secret I struggle with depression and anxiety and that I had to go inpatient at Community North’s adolescent psychiatric ward for a suicide attempt when I was 16 and have struggled with self-harm since a little before then. Now looking at my genetics and what sorts of things run in my family, I know I would have probably ended up with some form of depression and anxiety, but for them to the level where they’re at is a little extreme (especially my depression).
The last time I wrote about my suicide attempt, I mentioned that I had experienced a childhood trauma, and that’s been the big thing that threw me so off balance. I’m currently coming out of a significant mental health dip where the passive suicidal thoughts (like, “I want to be dead and these are ways I’m could kill myself” not “I’m going to kill myself and this is how I’m doing it”) had made their way back into my brain for some time. I recently finished intensive outpatient therapy at the St. Vincent’s Stress Center, and each assignment I worked on showed just how much this trauma and the aftermath of it has truly affected my life and my mental health.
I’ve learned keeping it in has been detrimental to me. In the past few years, I’ve started to become more open with people I trust, but I still have family that won’t speak to me and parts of my hometown still feel like a battleground. In one of my sessions, I realized that the only way I could lift this burden would be to talk about this publicly, which would also be the best way to make sure the truth is what’s out there, and not the lie that the other side has been floating around.
So what happened, is my oldest brother John sexually abused me when I was nine and he was 16. It happened once. I would prefer not to have the details out publicly as sharing them is difficult. Again, the abuse happened and it happened one time.
For anyone that’s confused about the weight this has been on me, I have a timeline written out.
He told me he would kill me if I told anyone about it. When you’re nine and your big brother is really scary, you tend to take that to heart. About a year later I remember first having a passive suicidal thought. Yes, that would be age 10. They continued up until my attempt at 16. When I was 14, I first opened up to a friend that had been sexually assaulted when she was younger. I could show you where we were sitting if we walked into the choir room. When I was 15, I entered into a relationship where I was sexually assaulted. I know that can happen to anyone, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d have had more strength to stop the situation if it weren’t for what happened with John.
Obviously, 16 is when I started turning to self-harm and eventually attempted suicide. When I told the nurse doing my intake paperwork at Community North, though, she said that I “didn’t seem that affected by it” and it didn’t seem related. I remember feeling confused and dismissed, but this was also significant because I didn’t receive any sort of counseling for it during my time inpatient. When I got out, I told a few more friends, my boyfriend at the time (who for all of our faults, was so supportive through the situation) and my counselor at the time. My time inpatient mostly scared me out of any suicidal thoughts or actions.
Right before senior year is when it started to get very rocky again. When my grandpa died, I had to ride up north with John, and he and I talked a bit. Between our conversation and us cleaning out my grandpa’s apartment with my dad, it became increasingly evident that time around him was suffocating me and I was going to need to speak up soon. That September, I had my first self-harm relapse. That Thanksgiving, John and I got into a big blow-up fight where I came so close to telling my mom about what happened but panicked thinking she wouldn’t believe me. Instead I sat outside and figured I’d kill myself that night, but calmed down before bed. In January or February, I told a trusted adult what he did so I could have an ally on the inside. They were instrumental in helping me recognize when my emotions when he would berate me and they could tell I was close to blowing up. This helped me get out of stressful situations with him. That spring brought my second self-harm relapse.
My graduation open house was the match that lit the fire. I didn’t want an open house in the first place, but the one bright spot was that John wasn’t going to be there. When he ended up showing up, it threw me into a panic. I couldn’t handle it. The next day, my mom and I had some sort of argument (I don’t even remember what about) and she wouldn’t listen when I kept trying to tell her I didn’t want John there. I tried to just walk away, but something tugged at me telling me to say something, so I did. It came out and I couldn’t stop it. That was June 15, 2014, and I’ll tell you I did not feel a single emotion for about two weeks after that. The aftermath was bad and stressing about the future was worse. About three weeks before I was set to move into Ball State, I planned to kill myself because I couldn’t handle this new life with everyone so on edge, but then I heard that ever important quote for the first time: “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.” That’s why that quote is so important to me, for anyone who’s ever wondered.
I hate that my mental health controlled so much of college for me. I look back and regret not going out more, not being more involved, but I was drowning and should have reached out for help. When my niece, John’s daughter, was born in September 2014, I nearly went catatonic for the entire day because I knew that was going to add a new element to the mess. My mom drove up to Ball State to stay with me that night, and I’m so grateful she did because I truly don’t know what I would have done if she didn’t. I pushed myself to start seeing a counselor in the spring of 2016 (and my counselor is AMAZING), because I had just had my third self-harm relapse. I stayed mostly okay until the fall of 2016, when I was ready to kill myself yet again. I had a relapse that I had been planning for two days because I knew if I cut when I wanted to, too many people would notice.
The spring of 2017 brought not only another (but my last!!) self-harm relapse, but also a suicide attempt. I was headed to an on-campus meeting and saw my opportunity. I drove out in front of oncoming traffic. The cars barely stopped in time and I got screamed at (and then promptly had a breakdown in the commuter lot because I really realized what had almost happened) but I truly wanted nothing more than to be dead. I’ve not revealed that attempt to anyone other than my parents before (and they’ve only learned recently) because my fear of having to go back inpatient was that strong.
Not too long after this I found out that John was going to family members to tell them that I was spreading a lie about him and that’s why he doesn’t speak to me. I still don’t know how this didn’t trigger me beyond belief at the time, but the fact that my own family was so quick to believe I’m a crazy liar and cut me off has been the cause of a lot of stress and depression over the past couple of years. Flash forward to December 2018, when my Uncle Jimmy died and my depression took a major nose-dive for about a million family-related factors. This was the most recent time I thought of suicide with an active plan (and what prompted me to get rid of anything lethal in my apartment) because I could not handle the betrayal, the grieving and the pain all wrapped together. Every time I felt like I got over this dip, it reared its head again in another way.
Which brings us here.
I was already thinking maybe I should change my meds, as I was still not feeling quite like me. Then one day about a month and a half ago, my mom and I ran into someone from John’s “side” (I hate thinking of this in sides but I don’t know how else to say) that I’ve always considered a kind person. She spoke to my mom warmly and caught up with her, but refused to even acknowledge my presence. And that, my friends, is when the storm really kicked in. About a week later was when I called my mom and told her I was going to check myself inpatient because I didn’t trust myself alone in my apartment. So my mom came and stayed with me for a week, I changed my meds and was enrolled in intensive outpatient therapy. IOP has been such an incredible experience for me, and I am so glad I took that step to better myself. Like I mentioned earlier, it also showed me just how much what happened has been weighing down on my life.
I’ve been in counseling for three years (plus a few years in high school), and I’ve spent the past seven years heavily involved in church retreats in some way–I’m not saying I’m perfectly healed, but I’ve put in the work to move past this. I would love nothing more than for everyone to put in the work to be able to move past this–including John.
I don’t even know if he’ll read this or get this far, so I’m not going to bother writing “to him” but make no mistake–I have so much empathy for him. I know he has his own demons, everyone does. That does not make what he did okay, and I would still like an apology some day or at least an acknowledgment that it wasn’t okay. I know we’ll never be best friends, but I would like us to be able to be in a room together for the sake of our family. While I don’t know personally the personal battles he fought in his life or things he’s trying to overcome from any age, I know that facing those things takes work and it hurts. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time in IOP (and while writing this) it’s that holding things inside and not facing your problems only makes the problem worse. I sincerely hope he’s okay and can get to a place where he isn’t carrying any weight from past issues, because I know how much that can literally kill you.
I have been so overwhelmed with support from the people I love as I’ve navigated this trauma. I would not have survived without my family (you know, the ones that do believe me and speak to me), my amazing friends, my church family (of course God is included in that family!) and my incredible coworkers, especially my bosses for being so flexible with me while I was in IOP. I love all of you with all of my heart.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, I want to thank you for hearing my story and for letting me get this weight off of my shoulders. Thank you for believing me. I still ask for prayers and good vibes for everyone involved, as I don’t know what comes after I hit “publish,” but I know one thing’s for sure: I’m taking care of myself, and I am not going back to that dark state of mind. I’m moving forward, starting today, and I’m only taking positivity with me.
And make no mistake–I do not see myself as a victim in any way. This situation does not define me. I have a wonderful job, incredible friends and a strong faith that have kept me going. If his intention that day was to destroy me, he failed. I’m a survivor who is intent on making a beautiful life for myself. To anyone else who has struggled with something similar who is wondering if they should tell their loved ones about what they’ve been through, please do. The people in your life want to help you and they care about you. Take it from me.
And as always, “You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are options. The suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, or if you’d prefer to text someone instead of call, you can text CONNECT to 741741. You don’t have to go through this alone. There are always people that will listen to you. The national sexual assault hotline’s number is 1-800-656-4673. Please do not hesitate to reach out for help if you need it.