Semi Sweet Freedom

Content warning: Suicide, self harm, sexual assault

I’m way too big of a dork about anniversary dates. Good ones, bad ones, I can’t seem to shake key dates from my life out of my brain (though almost anyone who’s read my blog knows that already). The past few days, my brain (well, and Timehop) has been taking me back to where I was last year at this time, which for the most part was pretty rough. However, recently I had an an important anniversary, one I’m so excited to be acknowledging.

One year ago at this time, I was attending intensive outpatient therapy at St. Vincent’s Stress Center.

img_8426Some of what led to this was in my blog from last year (which went up on my graduation day) but last year was a worse low than I’d felt since I was 16, and even more dangerous with me being an adult living on my own. The stress of trying to heal from what happened when I was a kid was piling up. I’d reached out to patch things up and was not only dismissed, but told to apologize for finally speaking up. I felt like I wasn’t receiving support from some key parties in my life. Going home to Plainfield felt like a battleground—who would I run into that would be ugly to me? Even though that group is a minority, it kept me living in fear. The realization that nothing had really changed in the five years since I finally spoke up about what happened weighed on me. Though other aspects of my life were incredible, it still felt like I was suffocating, running out of places to turn.

I was driving home from a friend’s house a few days earlier when the wave suddenly hit. The passive suicidal thoughts turned to active and I cried nonstop for the second half of the trip. It took me saying, out loud, “Get home and you can figure this out. Just get home.” To stay centered. I walked into my apartment, didn’t even put my purse down and dialed the crisis hotline for St. Vincent, where I scheduled an intake day. Even with that, though, I called my mom and told her I was going to check myself inpatient that night because I didn’t feel safe alone. My mom (being the wonderful person she is) calmly asked if it would help me if she drove up and stayed the night to sit with me and be with me the next morning when I saw my psychiatrist. I took her up on her offer, jumped in the shower and tried to talk myself down. When she arrived, she held me while I cried for I don’t even remember how long. I think I headed to bed around 1am.

My psychiatrist, who is amazing, and I had a fifteen minute appointment scheduled, but as I explained what was going on he talked with my mom and me for over half an hour. For starters, my antidepressant was changed to something a bit stronger. He then explained the different programs the Stress Center offered: Inpatient, Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Therapy. I knew inpatient held the chance of doing more harm than good for me thanks to good ol’ PTSD, but I knew that whatever they recommended was the route I needed to follow. Truthfully, when my psychiatrist suggested IOP, I wasn’t sure that would do the job.

My intake appointment was terrifying for me, as the second I walked upstairs toward the waiting room everything from psych hit me in the face. I know I freaked my mom out when I was working on paperwork and she got up to use the restroom and I grabbed her arm with a strength I didn’t know I had and begged her not to leave me, since my only experience with one of these rooms was her leaving and me not being allowed to. I spoke with one of the therapists and she recommended me for IOP, three days a week, three hours each morning, a group therapy setting. The timing even worked with my schedule for work and to this day, I cannot thank my bosses enough for being so understanding during this time.

I’ll admit, I was apprehensive going into my first day. While I’m open about my experiences (hello over half of this blog) I’m an introvert and didn’t usually speak unless spoken to. I was afraid group therapy wouldn’t do a thing for me.

I’m so happy to say I was wrong about that.

The month I spent in IOP was one of the most healing, eye-opening experiences of my life. For the first few sessions, I was a bit more of a wallflower, taking in what everyone had to say. Especially on Tuesdays when we could have our parents come, I didn’t talk too much. I was so nervous when the counselor told me it would be time for me to explain my story, as sometimes it makes me feel like a “train wreck,” especially since there are so many pieces to it. When I shared, I was met with so many kind words and expressions of empathy. It was truly overwhelming not only then, but thinking back on it today.

I hold on to my journal from that time with dear life. I learned so many things that stuck with me to this day. I learned that I need to channel the empathy I have for others to myself. I learned that when you hold the truth, you don’t feel the need to defend yourself (okay my regular counselor told me that, but it was during this time!). I learned that I’m so much more than my trauma. I learned that the situation I was in would not be my forever situation. I learned that you can’t always stop the bad thoughts, but what you can change is how you respond to them. Most importantly, I learned that I am NOT responsible for how people react to my story.

That last bit was how I came to the decision that my story needed to get out and get out soon. As I referenced in last year’s blog, it was weighing me down to the point where I couldn’t properly think. My biggest fear about sharing it was wondering what people would think, if they’d think I was weak or needed to be pitied. Much to my surprise, no one had that sort of reaction. In fact (knocking on wood here) I didn’t receive any sort of negative reaction; I only received a flood of support (see what I did there?).

img_8428
This is my favorite picture of the three of us–Gives me hope sometimes

Yes, it’s extremely frustrating to me that we’re almost a year out from that day and most of my situation has not changed. My counselor urges me to try and accept when I’ve done all I can, but my mind keeps turning for other things I can try to repair the damage I’ve been so scarred by. I refuse to give up hope, though. Just last night I took one of my favorite pictures of my brothers and me as kids and placed it in the center of my freezer door—a reminder that things may have been strained and vicious for a long time, but it wasn’t always that way.

So here I stand, almost a year out from setting myself free, feeling incredibly different yet somehow unchanged. Different with the strength I’ve found and my eyes opening to the support I have. Unchanged with the ugliness of where the situation sits and my hope for that to be amended.

What I do know, however, is that I am enough. In case you’re still learning as well:

You are enough. You are so enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.

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