“The feeling of being doubted…is an ever-present background noise…”
Did you ever wonder if people believe you? Is that only the mental stomping ground of the addict? The alcoholic?
The feeling of being doubted, of my integrity being questioned, is an ever present background noise…especially when I am sick. I was even afraid, just now, to write the word ‘sick’. (wouldn’t it be better to minimize?)
One very HUGE contributing factor to this constant was the years upon years of describing extreme pain to a plethora of physicians who could find no ‘easy’ or ‘obvious’ condition to label me with. There were no broken bones, I had a history of drug abuse, I had a history of a mental illness diagnosis, and I am a woman. I was also very strong, working difficult physical jobs normally held by men, which may or may not have been a factor.
My experience has not been an isolated one when it comes to women who have Fibromyalgia and/or similar diagnosis. During the years before the medical profession widely recognized this condition I was one of a multitude who went thru years of mental anguish and physical agony before finally being given a smidgen of relief.
Finally a Diagnosis !
It took real determination (and very real disability and pain) to keep pushing on towards a diagnosis. I was told it was all in my head, that I was just overweight and needed exercise and that what I was experiencing was just a consequence of aging. At this point I was crying every night from the burning in my joints, in my muscles and in my spine. My best description for that time was as if I were wearing a dense heavy coat that was soaking wet, all the time. A coat that weighed about 100 pounds and was crushing me.
At this point my work was suffering, a kind boss had taken me aside after noticing my wincing, and suggested a Rheumatologist. Initially even he was sceptical until he got back the results of the CT Scans and MRI’s. (He was the first to order these types of tests!) I distinctly remember the initial shock at him gently taking my hand and apologizing, so sincerely, for not believing the severity of my discomfort. He went on to ask me if I had been in a car accident, the images showed that level of damage to my spine.
There were a myriad of issues the films brought to light, and from that point on my care finally addressed them. The physical relief was matched and even surpassed by the rush of validation! I was taken seriously!! I was, finally, believed!
…there was nothing…but to keep chasing the high, reality became too painful…married you so…you could not testify against him?…
I’ve been busy trying to find some balance. It has been a difficult issue all my life. I can be impetuous and impatient, wanting things to happen yesterday. In the past I hated discipline, and yet needed it desperately. I rebelled against everything, and prided myself on living outside the lines.
But I yearned to have the life I saw others living. I was always on the outside looking in-at families sitting round a dinner table, or gathered in front of a fireplace. Friends having lunch in a deli, or laughing at a movie. I was standing just outside, in three feet of snow, higher than a kite…and crying. Wishing I were in that house, sitting down to a hot meal, my heart full of love and surrounded by kindness. Full of joy. Full of hope.
After certain traumatic events I thought I could never be in the presence of ‘normal’ people again. Or in the company of ‘nice girls’. These feelings are common to those of us who have been forced to walk on the dark side…and that is exactly what kept me stuck on the outside looking in. As someone who had been sexually abused it was easy to believe that no one could understand me, I was different, warped somehow, out of line and irreparably broken.
These lines of reasoning are what kept me stoned, drunk and living on the street. A perverted sense of pride kept me “out there”; I was terminally unique and no one could understand me.
(I shut my eyes and drift back to those dark days when my husband and I were getting close to the end, an end that I knew was not going to have me walking out alive…)
The world I had immersed myself in was squeezing me dry. No true happiness, just oblivion. Once the money and the dope were gone, so was the glamor. Now there was nothing for it but to keep chasing the high, reality became to painful. To realize the person you left your family for never really loved you at all? That he married you so that you could not testify against him? Wait..what? What?…
The collect calls home, just to hear Mom’s voice, ” Are you alright, Susan? Do you have enough to eat? “
“Sure, Mom, no problem…we have work now, good work…Cement Plant shutdown…lots of money. Come up and see us sometime…”
They better never come visit. See me with black eyes, track marks. Find out we are living in a tent. Holidays coming round again, and I’m too strung out to visit. Oh, the bitter tears I cried that year, and the one after, and the one after that….endless rivers from red, swollen eyelids, dripping off the end of a snotty nose, wiped on dirty sleeves. Sleeves that roll up to purple scars on blue veins, sitting in a gray cement bathroom holding a syringe between tobacco stained teeth, ready to ride that white pony into blue, blue blue blue blue blu
That is not the way this story ended. It could have soooooo easily, except for one thing. One thing that I never would have believed if you had told it to me then. During those last few dangerous days of my marriage, days when he would get so high he would wire all the doors in the trailer shut from the inside, while creeping around with a hammer…days when I was so afraid of what he would do that I would hide in the bathtub hoping he wouldn’t find me… days when he beat me unconscious…when he shot wildly in a drunken stupor, missing me by inches…when he flushed a half ounce of coke down the toilet then dug up the septic tank and pulled the package out…days when he would OD and I brought him back to life, pounding on his chest and screaming, “Don’t die you #@$!%*!”…Then on our 7th anniversary he went to work at the naval shipyard, I made his favorite dinner and waited eagerly for him to come home, ready to forgive him one more time. Waited and waited, as the hours passed…losing hope I broke down, and prayed, not knowing what had happened but sensing something was wrong.
I remember lying in the dark , begging God for forgiveness as memories moved thru my mind, memories of all the hatred in my life, the drugs, the violence, all the pain I had caused, and abuse I had endured. I poured myself out to God, like I had not done in nearly 20 years. I really felt at that time that I was doomed, doomed to never get out of this situation alive. The violence and depravity were so overwhelming, and he had made sure to impress upon me, in no uncertain terms that if I were to ever try to leave, it would be my family who would pay for my error. And pay dearly. After pouring out my heart to God, I slept, drained of tears and exhausted .
It was a strange dream , and many years have passed, so I won’t attempt to relate it now. I was then awakened by a pounding on the door. My heart sank… Was this the police telling me some terrible news?
It was Jim, my husbands coworker, they rode to work together. He was beside himself… ” Sue, I have some bad news, really bad… I don’t know what happened but there was a SWAT team! The FBI, my god, it was terrible! They had their Guns drawn, told us all to get out of the van, get on the ground!”
Jim! (I heard myself yelling) Jim! Where is Marty? Is he ok? IS HE DEAD?
“what? Oh, no,no, he’s not dead, but they took him away, they cuffed us all, we were freaking out, questioned us all, but let us all go, except him!”
Oh, thank God, I remember feeling so relieved. He wasn’t dead on the highway, or shot by police… But what was he arrested for?
” Sue, it’s really bad, they were asking about guns, said we were stealing guns or something? They charged him with something to do with weapons, I don’t know…”
We talked on thru the night, and I was all wrapped up in how to deal with this new reality… So wrapped up that it did not dawn on me till years later that God answered my prayer that night, and he answered it in a BIG way. I survived my marriage to that man, I survived the addiction to cocaine and got clean, survived all the beatings, survived the alcoholism, the pain, the sadness, the insanity… Thanks to God.
I prayed for help and He heard my prayer… I am so very, very grateful to Jehovah, for his Son, Jesus, and for all His wonderful Wisdom , Power, Justice and Love. He is the Sovereign of the Universe and the Right to Rule belongs to Him, and to those whom he chooses to give it.
The Kingdom is in place, let it come!
Life is so good today. I am isolated, but I am never alone. I feel sad sometimes, but I am not without hope. There is nothing anyone can do to me that my God cannot undo. I do not need to cower in fear, because “there are more who are with us than those there are with them”(2 Kings 6:16b) I hope that you find some comfort knowing that God is the hearer of prayer, and the He wants us to talk to him, and share our feelings with him.
“For I well know the thoughts I am thinking toward you,” declares Jehovah, ” thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future, and a hope. And you will call me, and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11,12
“You will call, and Jehovah will answer; you will cry for help and he will say ,”Here I am!” Isaiah 58:9″
“Jehovah is close to the broken-hearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit” Psalms34:18
I just attended one of my meetings on Zoom, for Worship. It amazes me how much these 2 meetings per week have become my greatest source of comfort, by seeing all my loving friends. It’s wonderful to feel the warmth-it even comes in loud and clear thru the computer!!
Isolation can be a killer for the mentally ill. There have been times when the only thing pinning me to this fabric of life was contact with another human being. The worst part of being so deeply depressed and out of hope, for me as a Bipolar person who used to have suicidal ideations, was that all I could see, ALL I COULD SEE, was the abyss. I had absolutely no ability on my own at that point to make a decision to reach out of the blackness for help. When you are in the dark, it is difficult to see a friend. The emptyness seems to stretch endlessly away, I had no thought of how I would hurt my loved ones.
I thank my God that someone saw my despair, and made a move, even though I said I was fine. Over and over and over…I would paste on a smile, because we of the depressed masses are SO GOOD AT ACTING, and repeat the phrase, “Oh no, I’m really fine, just a little tired…”, or “Nothings wrong, seriously, I’m fine.” Especially as a teen, I knew just how to shut my Mom down with a roll of my eyes and an exaggerated sigh of frustration. A slammed door worked well too.
At the time in my life when I was suicidal, I was not yet diagnosed with any mental illness. I was a teenager, had been sexually abused routinely, had been drinking and taking drugs for years, and felt so sick inside, mainly with self-loathing. Up to that point, say around age 13, I was starving for love and attention at home. I know now that it was largely in part due to my parents’ exhaustion at working constantly. But there was more. My Dad was tired, constantly, and angry, and he was very grouchy. I was SO sensitive that every word he said was rejection. I was not at all at fault, but I was acting out my need for love in promiscuity. Of course , having been sexually abused by trusted adults beginning at age 8, I’m sure I needed serious counselling even that early, but those were the years before it was ok to talk about such things.
I had many experiences where I heard my best friend and I being blamed for causing the abuse, even at the ages of 8 and 9, by the abusers co-conspiring wife, in the courtroom!!!! Also, the old-fashioned Protestant attitudes exhibited by Grandparents and Aunts and other family members told me in no uncertain terms that these abuses were never to be mentioned again.Nice girls didn’t talk about such things! Nobody will ever want to marry you!! You are “spoiled”now!!
These lies and the ensuing actions of not being cuddled, or hugged, or even being allowed to accompany my beloved little cousin to gymnastics class seared my little heart and mind. How does a child process rejection? She doesn’t know that her family is perpetuating the trauma, or that they are sick too, or just plain mean. She believes the lie that she is unlovable . Imagine for a minute: An eight year old believing it is HER FAULT that she was violated . That Daddy and Grandma don’t love her anymore…
So clear to me now, how wrong they were. And it also so WONDERFUL THAT I understand now. I hope so much that someone out there sees this who has a loved in a similar situation, and reaches out to the child, or teenager, or adult…Tell them IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT !!! You are LOVED, AND CHERISHED, AND NOT TO BLAME!!!
The circumstances that the abuse happened under were not caused by you. You absolutely DID NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN, NOR DID YOU MAKE THIS HAPPEN!! Repeat these truths over and over, until you can truly believe them. You must try, even though it may seem to be the hardest thing in the world, to find someone safe to talk to. For me, this was a Doctor at the emergency room, where I wound up after jumping out of a moving car. He really cared, even though I refused to talk initially. He did not judge me, or act shocked, or even run and get my Mom. Today, after years of treating sexual assault the fault of the victim, I would hope that ALL Doctors would give help and comfort to assault victims. This most likely is not the case, so don’t give up in seeking help. There are suicide prevention hotlines you can call, also 911 and 211 in the US. In the front of the phone book, if they still make these, there are lists of helpful organization, also safe places to go.
I know how hard it is to reach out, but you can do it. If you don’t feel up to talking to a human, there is still the BEST FRIEND you will ever have, who you can talk to, Anytime, Anywhere, out loud, or silently from your hurting heart… This person is God. Jehovah is his name, and he is Jesus’ Father. He knows you are hurting, and he wants you to call on him…
I did not believe that God could love me, and I suffered on my own for 20 more years. You don’t have to suffer that long!
Psalm 34:18 says, ” Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 94:19 reads,”When anxieties overwhelmed me, you comforted and soothed me.”
Psalm 27:10 also says, “Even if my own father and mother abandon me, Jehovah himself will take me in.”
For me, praying to God has been my lifeline. Even though I live alone now, I know He hears my prayers anytime and every time. I say, “in Jesus name.”at the end of all my prayers because Jesus tells us at John 14:6 , “No one comes to the Father except thru me.” Thus is because God made Jesus High Priest and God requires that we acknowledge this when we pray! So Jesus also states this truth in the Bible at John 16:3,
” If you ask the Father for anything, he will give it to you in my name.”
One of my favorite verses in the Bible offers me so much insight into God’s love for us . It is in Isaiah 41:10, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes I will help you, I will really hold onto you with my right hand of righteousness.”
I hope this brings you comfort and hope. Know that you are loved…
Life on the southern Gulf Coast of Florida is pleasant for a portion of the year, when on the subject of weather. When I moved to South Florida in the early ’80’s we enjoyed it most of the year, and the few hottest months were July thru September. Then the most refreshing, crisp and dry air would blow in and it would be blissful. Cool mornings, maybe a light sweater , warm afternoons in Tee Shirts and Tank tops, and shorts – always shorts. Then in mid-December thru the beginning of February, a cold snap, which in Florida means below 50.
In the first 20 years I lived on the east coast of Florida, in a “little” town called Port Saint Lucie, which no one had ever heard of. (It now has more people than West Palm Beach.) Anyway, that fact is only significant to this post in that the climate may have been a tiny bit different to where I live now. I did come over to this city fairly often, tho’, because my Grandparents lived here. When I did, it was always pretty much like what we had across the state. Bearable, enjoyable, habitable.
I spent about 10 years away during my marriage, but visited often enough to know that the summers seemed to be warmer, and the winters colder. I never thought much about it – everyone has air conditioners here, and I was young enough not to let the temperature effect me, one way or the other. But then I moved back to Florida, to PSL, in the late 90’s. We had never had a hurricane in that town, going back 50 years, then in 2004 we had 2, back to back, and suddenly we all were faced with the reality of climate change. Sure, I had been thru major Tropical Storms and Depressions, and many torrential rainfalls. I thought a hurricane was pretty exciting stuff…at first. Then I lived thru one.
The thing is, one can not really accurately convey the real experience of living thru a hurricane. You can get close to it, thru video footage these days. However, you only see a snippet. These things go on for 10, 12, 14 hours at full peak sometimes, when it hits dead on. You go mad with that squealling, screaming, demonic wind tearing at your dwelling. You think you are prepared as you hunker down with some snacks. You watch the progress of the storm on TV as it marches closer, and the rain begins, and a little knot of tension niggles in your tummy.
Oh, it won’t be so bad, Dad says with a pat on your shoulder. Just a little blow… Then the power goes out and the hours go by in eerie flashlight glow, until you decide to conserve battery. As the wind starts to pick up more, you peer outside thru the hurricane shutters, and your nerves start to fray as you see your favorite hibiscus totally denuded, and your palm trees bending in impossible ways. More hours pass, the lack of AC has caused everyone to drip with sweat, and you must not open the fridge because all the food will spoil. Hopefully the coolers you filled with ice and provisions will last.
Then you try to sleep. But that wind, that screaming wind- you realize that other sound you hear is your shingles blowing off, and your neighbors shingles pelt you house like gunfire. A tree falls with a horrible crash onto the porch, but you are helpless. Mom is crying, the dog is frantic, the heat is sweltering, the noise is deafening. When will it end?
You doze for what seems like a second, than a horrible loud creaking begins. You realize with horror that its the roof starting to go, or the plywood giving way, or maybe the metal carport being ripped off and flying around like some nightmare vision of hell. You huddle closer, then decide its time to go into the saferoom, your tiny bathroom where you have already stashed a mattress. Dad shouts, Get Mum under there, and you pull her from where she clings and help her under the mattress. The dog won’t come, he’s run away, but you can’t look because you ,too, are terrified. Shoving in under the mattress you hold tight to your Mom while the wailing wind, like a banshee, rips away your new addition like matchsticks. Dad, you scream, but the wind rips your words away, you hear yourself praying, begging for the storm to end, for your Dad, your Mom, your dog to live….but it just keeps going. Finally Dad pushes his way thru the door in a burst, soaking wet, holding the dog, you can’t see but feel the fur and smell its hot breath. Then Dad, swearing presses in with you, and you all silently cling to each other as the hours slowly tick past.
Later, after the wind subsides, you all find places to sleep, couch, bed, recliner, sleeping and sweating and grateful. Until daylight comes. And you see the aftermath…
. Fall in a heap, exhausted. Then get up, clean up, and do it all over again.
. There is joy in this. This “living” we do. No matter how sweaty, or dirty, or ugly, this “living” is a beautiful thing.
. There is no ‘give up’ here, no ‘quit’ , no ‘over it, no ‘packing it in’.
This is where every. breath. matters.
. DO YOU HEAR ME?
EVERY BREATH MATTERS.
Right now, in my little trailer in the middle of down, down, way down and out USA, I am deciding to care. I am deciding that my sufferings will amount to something, that all this silence and fear and worry in my heart will be done away with, that with this breath of life my Creator blessed me with will be used to help someone else live, too.
. I know I’m a rag-tag mess. I can’t think straight most of the time, and there are days I can’t leave my house. I am oppressed by an illness that tells me I don’t have it, and that feeling like I’m sick is a sin. I’m not exhausted, it tells me, I’m lazy. I’m not in excruciating pain, I’m a dope seeker. I was not abused, assaulted and raped, I was promiscuous.
. I am here, I am now, and with my God’s help, I will reach out to someone else. And with my God’s help, I will not believe the lies. Instead I believe the Bible, God’s own letter to me, and to all his children. I want to live.