There’s just so much abuse one living creature can take before their spirit breaks
For as long as Nancy can remember, she says, she has had “one foot in wanting to die and one foot in wanting to live.”
And it’s a really strange paradox to be in.
Nancy was born into a family of alcoholism, violence, sexual abuse/molestation, and neglect. She recalls taking care of her mother when her mother drank to the point of vomiting and remembers her father’s drinking binges in which he would beat her mother. Nancy was always terrified; she never knew what was going to happen next. She felt out of place and unwanted. She long suspected the man who raised her wasn’t her biological father, and she confirmed this with a DNA test two years ago.
Nancy, now 65, has been diagnosed with severe trauma-induced PTSD and moderate borderline personality disorder with suicidal ideation. As part of her mental illness, she also experiences rage.
She says even though she has love in her life—from her son, grandchildren, and great grandchild—she feels a “disconnection.”
There’s just so much abuse one living creature can take before their spirit breaks.
When Nancy was 14, a boy she dated spread rumors about her.
He went around telling everybody I was pregnant, even though it wasn’t possible. I hadn’t even kissed a boy. I hadn’t even kissed him, but I became a ‘whore,’ a ‘slut,’ and a ‘tramp’ in the town. It got so bad that when I walked down the street, I’d have to look at who was walking on the same side, and I’d either have to turn around and walk the other way or cross the street.
Nancy’s distress escalated one day when her friends taunted her for poor hygiene that was a result of neglect.
My mother didn’t provide the hygienic care I needed. I didn’t have anyone—not siblings or school staff—telling me when to take a shower, wash my hair, how to shave—and to have people who claimed they were my friends humiliate me publicly—that was it for me. Up until then, all I wanted to do was fit in. I wanted people to like me.
She attempted suicide.
With pills in one hand and the bottle in the other, I looked in the mirror. I remember hearing a voice say, ‘This is not how it’s going to end,’ and then another voice saying, ‘If I have to stay, there’s going to be hell to pay.’
The next day I walked into school a different girl. I became combative, argumentative. I did as I pleased. The bullied became the bully: a title I didn’t deserve or want. Over the years, I became a very scary person. My son has stated he was frightened of me.
Nancy feels she did not receive the help she needed, even in the times she asked for help. She remains frustrated and disappointed with her experiences in the mental health care system.
When she was in her late forties, she asked her son to take her to the emergency room because she was in danger of harming herself.
For several hours, I had a ‘babysitter’ with me but no other interaction until the ER staff called the police. They handcuffed me and put me in the backseat of a cruiser until I convinced them to release me to the custody of my 20-something son. What a burden to place on a child.
They should have found a bed on a psych unit or had me be seen by a therapist while I was in the ER, but instead, my son drove me home. I got a $6,500 bill for nothing.
Another time, when Nancy asked for help with her rage, a hospital bed was available, but she had to be seen in the ER to be admitted. The ER intake worker wouldn’t admit her, even though Nancy explained she needed to be admitted for three days to stay safe and effectively deal with her rage. The intake worker told her to she should enroll in intensive outpatient anger management.
I knew I needed to stay in the hospital before I would be ready for outpatient treatment. My rage flared up, and I was allowed to leave in that state.
Nancy says the intake person didn’t understand the difference between anger (“flipping somebody off and moving on”) and rage (“an out-of-body experience in which I have absolutely no control”).
When someone is asking in a lucid moment, ‘I need help with my rage,’ and the mental health field ignores it, they’re creating a bigger problem. They minimize rage to anger, and it’s two vastly different animals.
Nancy says she is doing better now. She has learned to set boundaries with unhealthy people, and she expresses herself through dance. She works with a therapist who is understanding of Nancy’s frustration with the mental health care system and who is helping Nancy work through trust issues with the mental health field and her personal life.
Nancy still struggles with the paradox that has haunted her since childhood: she believes that while she is meant to be on earth, she sometimes wants to die. She says the unknown is what keeps her from attempting again. The “what if” scenarios play out in her mind daily.
It is rare for people to talk about the ramifications of attempting suicide, such as what happens if you fail. Therefore, I won’t attempt again because I don’t want to be arrested: suicide is against the law, and you can be charged. I also don’t want someone saving me, only to feel good about themselves but leaving me in the same bad place or an even worse place because I have injured myself by attempting. When asked if I ‘have a plan,’ it’s difficult for me to answer, as in reality, I don’t. It’s not that I don’t have a concrete plan. It’s more like I wonder what would happen ‘if.’ Such as, I’ll be driving down the road and wonder what would happen if I hit that tree. What if. What if. It’s the ‘what if’ that keeps me alive.
So, I am here to stay until the end but I want to make each moment I am here count, and if I can help one person along my life journey, then it’s all worth it. It has to be … otherwise I suffered for absolutely nothing. And that is unacceptable.