Dare to Tell – Day 25
I thought I was going to talk about the sexual abuse I experienced when I was 12 but that’s not what’s showing up right now.
It was when I was about 16. I was suicidal and had been diagnosed with bi-polar depression and borderline personality disorder. I had decided to kill myself. I felt I wasn’t worthy that I didn’t matter, and it wouldn’t make any difference to anyone if I wasn’t there.
I lived out in the hills in a gorgeous scenic area. I had decided that I was going to drive my car over the guard rail. I was frightened and not at the same time. I mean the idea was scary, especially the free-falling, but the overriding thought was finally having peace, not to be tortured by my thoughts any more.
I had been in therapy for quite some time and on this day I had an appointment with my therapist. We talked about suicide as a friend. It was because I thought of suicide as the only way to find peace so that was our language.
She asked me, “How close is your friend?” I replied, “She’s sitting on a chair right here.”
She told me that she wanted to have me committed to a psychiatric hospital and she wanted to give me a choice. She explained that if I agreed to commit myself, then I would have some control over my treatment. Or she would commit me.
I decided it was more important to have some control so I agreed. I don’t remember the drive there but I know I was terribly panicked. What was going to happen to me? Could they possibly help me?
The first 24 hours were terrifying. I was at level 5 risk, that’s the highest risk that they can bring you in without putting you in a straight-jacket. I had to have someone arms distance from me 24 hours a day, to keep me from harming myself. It was unnerving and terrifying and bewildering but after the first 24 hours, it felt incredibly comforting.
For the first time I didn’t have to worry about what I thought. Someone else was going to take care of me. At least while I was there I was safe. It was in the institution that I realized that I did want to live.
I don’t share about being institutionalized; I’ve never really known how to talk about it. I felt shame about it for years and years. I was told I could never tell anybody. My family insisted that if I spoke about it, it would destroy my chances of success.
The hardest thing for me was not being able to share what had happened. It was the family secret, this thing I was never to share, never to tell anybody, a deep dark secret. I have blacked out a lot from that time.
I don’t know if my family knew that the illness was related to the abuse. I don’t think they understand the extent to which they helped perpetuate the illness before I went in to the institution.
By the time I told them about it, the abuse had stopped. I didn’t tell anyone because the guy threatened to kill me. When I told them, I had decided it didn’t matter if I died; I just had to stop it.
When I told my mom, I’m sure she said a lot of things to me, but all I remember was the last thing she said. “What do you want me to do about it?” My perception was that they didn’t think it was so serious and they did nothing. Now I know they did but we never talked about it, we never talked about anything.
So I was left on my own to deal with it. That’s what started me spiraling down. I doubted myself, what I believed and thought and how serious things were that had happened to me. It’s not a good thing to doubt yourself at that deep of a level.
I didn’t talk to my mom for years but now we’re very close. 4 years ago I wrote a book and sent a copy to my mom. It was incredibly difficult for her to read it. Her perception of events was so different from mine. But it changed everything; we could say things to each other now that we couldn’t say before.
For years I believed that I was limited in terms of what I could succeed at, what I could achieve. Now I know it’s a lie. You can completely reset your life.
One day, while I was still in the institution, my therapist came to visit me. It was towards the end of my stay. I had permission to go outside and I had more autonomy. I don’t know if she said this to me or I imagined her saying this.
She looked at me directly and said that she saw herself in me. I had such deep respect for her, I so admired her. I felt that she really cared about me. She gave me a hug and I thought if she can see herself in me, then maybe I can be like her one day. So I’m going to be okay.
She accepted me for who I am and she knew all my dirt. She knew all my worst thoughts and yet she still embraced me. You can completely reset your life.
– Deidre Hughey http://www.Deidrehughey.com