I have thought of how to write out these memories time and again. Gone back and forth about why I should or shouldn’t write them. Why I should or shouldn’t post them for the world to see. Because I have no idea who will read it. And I have no control over what they will think. But I guess, after all these years, I finally feel ready. I’m ready to talk about the most painful memories of my life.
In a way, it’s difficult for me to think of ways to write this out. Because there is so much background I have to leave out on my blog. For one, there isn’t room. For another, much of it has been blocked out or trapped. I’m unable to recall certain details of these years. I think it is my brain’s way of protecting me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I try to think of how I can describe the hell that was high school and college. I will form a sentence in my head and think there is no way it would do this story justice or give anyone even a small glimpse of the pain that I went through at the time. But I want to write about it. I need to write about it. I find women every day in the blogosphere that are brave enough to write the posts that they fear the most. And honestly, I’m terrified to press publish. But fear never gets anyone very far.
And so I will begin to tell it. I will attempt to give my readers a glimpse of the dark memories of my past. I will try to write simply. I cannot go into detail. No, the details will be saved for my novel. The novel that I am determined to finish someday. But for now, these few posts will have to do.
I graduated high school in 1997 and shortly after, the friendships that were most dear to me fell apart. At that time I had no idea I suffered from a mood disorder. It would be years before I would receive the correct diagnosis. All I know is I had been diagnosed as clinically depressed and was prescribed Zoloft. I had been taking it from the age of sixteen. With no real idea of what I was putting in my mouth. I was a kid. My parents sent me to a therapist because they were worried. I went. I talked. I cried. I took the medicine I was prescribed hoping it would make me feel like living. Because for most of high school all I wanted to do was die.
I met my first boyfriend during my sophomore year. I was fifteen. I fell in love with him. I fell hard. He was cute, charming. He told me he loved me. And I believed him. What 15-year-old wouldn’t?
Fast forward a few months and the fairy tale was over. He was breaking up with me and charming a new girl right in front of my eyes. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I was no longer the happy-go-lucky teenager with a 4.0 GPA. I could barely pull myself out of bed in the morning. I was constantly late for school. I fell asleep in biology class. My grades dropped. I didn’t care about anything except getting the boyfriend back. I told myself I would do anything to make it happen. When I look back now it makes me so sad. The girl that I once was disappeared in an instant. She was replaced by a girl who could not be recognized.
Not only was I experiencing the depths of emotional depression. I was also suffering from extreme physical pain. I began having periods that lasted an entire month. The blood loss was terrifying to a young girl who had no idea what was going on. I was doubled over in pain. Taking bathroom breaks during class only to find myself soaked in blood. I was constantly nauseous. I never felt like eating and while at school, I usually didn’t eat.
My parents thought it was a made-up ailment relating to the break-up with my boyfriend. I don’t blame them. I had become so withdrawn that I barely spoke. It made sense that I would make this up. But I wasn’t. The pain in my side was excruciating. It hurt to sneeze, laugh and at the end it even hurt to breathe. After months of wondering what was wrong my mom took me to the doctor. They found a cyst the size of an orange on my right ovary. Birth control was prescribed to regulate my periods and tame the growth of the cysts. It healed the physical pain but my mental state continued to deteriorate.
I look back now and I can honestly say the only reason I survived high school was because of three friendships that formed in the midst of the worst depression of my life.
I had been best friends with Breanna since we were 12-years-old. We met at a band camp and the rest, as they say, was history. But I believe it was fate when Breanna and I asked two other girls in our band class, Amy and Jessica, if they wanted to go to the mall with us one night. Thankfully they said yes.
The four of us, me, Breanna, Amy and Jessica, instantly became inseparable. I had never laughed so hard in my life than when we were all together. We all clicked, each one of us bringing something to the table. Jessica was so adorable with her quirky teenage wardrobe and dyeing her hair different colors each month. Breanna was shy but determined at everything she did. Amy was hilarious, always making us laugh until we nearly peed our pants. None of us were really in the “popular” crowd. We weren’t really “geeks” either. Labels didn’t matter when we were together. We accepted, supported and loved each other completely. It was exactly what I needed. So many times the depression would suffocate me. I would run to them and I could finally breathe again.
We were all in the marching band together. I, on the dance team, and all three of my friends in the band. The summer of our junior year the marching band took a trip to Hawaii where we were marching in a parade. It was an amazing opportunity. The four of us were ready to make new memories together on the gorgeous island of Oahu. Unfortunately, the only memories I brought home are the memories I wish with all my heart I could forget. Oh, how I wish I could forget.
Ex-boyfriend was on the trip too. After the parade we reconnected. I was shocked that he was even speaking to me, let alone flirting. But I soaked it up. I don’t know what it was about him that always sucked me in. I was desperate for him to relieve the loneliness I felt.
He held out his hand for me that night. Heart pounding, I accepted it and let him lead me to an unfamiliar location far from the hotel.
There I stood in a dark alleyway behind a stranger’s house. There, in the dark, he asked me to do something I never wanted to do. I was so young but I buckled under the pressure. And I went to my knees for him. Because I trusted him. I trusted that if I wanted to stop he would understand. But that trust was broken. I feel I was forced to continue on even though I wanted to stop. Even though I said no. My innocence ripped and manipulated from me by his hands and his words.
It was not intercourse. It didn’t have to be. The fact remains that I didn’t want to do what he wanted me to do. At one point I was very obviously no longer a willing participant. Afterward, we walked silently back to the hotel. I was hurt and confused. Shaken to my core. Oh, how naive I was. I wanted to sit and talk with him. I wanted to make sense of what had just happened. I wanted to hear him say he loved me. Because if he told me he loved me than maybe, just maybe, what had happened in that alley wouldn’t be the nightmare that I knew it was.
The next day he ignored me. He would not speak to me and pretended not to know me. I begged and pleaded to see him. But my pleas went unanswered. The shame and guilt burned a hole in me until there was no air left to breathe. I remember running the stairs of the hotel until I reached the very top. The seventeenth floor. I very carefully pulled myself up onto the ledge. I looked down at the pool’s blue water beneath me. I was going to do it. I was going to jump. I wanted to release myself from the shame. Release myself from what I knew would be a lifetime of trying to get over what had just happened. There I was, sixteen-years-old, two seconds from ending my life with a thud on the cold concrete beneath me.
And then I heard a voice. I felt a pair of arms around my sides. One of my sister’s friends pulled me from the ledge. We both sat on the balcony crying. She smoked a cigarette and gave me a puff. She hugged me and didn’t let go for a very long time. Because of her I survived. I didn’t tell my three best friends. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell my sisters. I have lived alone with these moments for more than fifteen years. Carried the burden of what happened on that island in the crevices of my body and soul.
I am so far from that moment now. That moment where I contemplated death. That moment where my life flashed before my eyes. That moment where I knew with a stinging certainty that there was not a future for me without pain.
When we returned from the island I suffered even more. I had to see him nearly every day. It was torture. I withdrew from my family. I couldn’t stand to be touched. People would try to hug me and I would pull away. A hand on my skin felt like fire. I begged my parents to let me go to another school. Each day was worse than before. I daydreamed of ways to make the pain end.
Finally, a reprieve. My senior year meant freedom for me. Freedom from the one person who could send me spiraling to hell in an instant. The ex-boyfriend was one year older, which meant he was gone and I never had to see him again. I could finally have one year of high school that wasn’t tainted with terrible memories every time I saw him.
It was supposed to be perfect. But it wasn’t. As the year went on my friends and I talked less about what we were doing together that night and more about college. Breanna decided to go to a different college in a different city. Whereas, Amy, Jessica and I decided to go to the same college and be “roomies.” Not only that but we let another girl join our group. We’ll call her the fifth girl. Breanna kept insisting that it remain only us four. That the fifth girl was not a good person. But we did not heed her warnings. The fifth girl became my future roommate for college. After all, I needed a roommate if Breanna was going somewhere else.
As the year came to an end we were all arguing more and decided to take a break from one another. Jessica had a new boyfriend and was spending more time with him and less with us. I had a new boyfriend too. One who would prove to be poison just like all who came before him and many who would come after.
And then Amy’s parents went out of town one night. She decided to have a party at her house. We had never been girls who went to parties and drank alcohol. No, we found fun in going to Fazoli’s and stuffing our faces with free bread sticks. We laughed until our sides hurt. We didn’t need parties and alcohol.
But my sister’s boyfriend was older and offered to buy alcohol for Amy’s party. And this is where the story takes an awful turn. It was one of the first times I had ever drank. I was still taking antidepressants and had no knowledge of the dangerous side-effects that could happen when antidepressants combine with alcohol. The night is still a blur. The details are not very clear.
I do remember trying to jump out of a moving car. I remember cops being called. I remember running when I heard the sirens and hiding under a parked boat in someone’s driveway. I remember grabbing a knife and threatening to kill myself. I remember my parents coming to pick me up. I remember blacking out.
The next day would change my life forever. I knew I had made a mistake in drinking so much. But I had no grasp on reality at the time. Especially since I couldn’t truly remember the facts of what happened that night.
The doorbell rang at my parents’ house. There stood Breanna, Jessica and Amy. Naively I thought they were there for a hug session and to give support. And in a way, they were. But I was too sick and stubborn to see it at the time.
We sat down at the kitchen table. And they laid out an ultimatum. They wanted me to get help in the form of inpatient therapy at a hospital. If I chose not to they would no longer be a part of my life. They were not going to go down with me. They couldn’t stand by and watch me self-destruct.
I sat, mouth wide open, shocked and offended. I could not believe our friendship had come to this point. There were many tears shed by all of us. I yelled, cursed, told them how unfair it was that they sit there and judge me. Who were they to tell me I needed help? And besides, I was already taking the medicine and going to therapy. Never mind that neither was helping me heal. Never mind that I was still a tortured soul. Unknowingly suffering from a mood disorder as well as post traumatic stress disorder. I thought I was doing what I should to rid myself of the web I had been stuck in for so long. How could they not see that?
They left my house and my temperature began to rise. Through my legs, to my stomach, to my mouth. And suddenly I found myself calling Amy’s house where they had all gone afterward. I told Amy that if they truly felt the way they did then I no longer wanted to room with them at college.
She started crying. Asked me not to do this. But I did do it. I will regret that phone call for the rest of my life. Because without a doubt, that phone call changed the course of life.
What came next was the beginning of college. The beginning of the lost year.