"It all started in 1989, worst year of my life. It was just before my 8th birthday." -me, very often
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last updated: 01/01/02
draft #2: 01/02/02; draft #1: 06/24/01
That year, several traumatic events occurred: we moved to a new state for reasons which soon became nonexistent (due to traumatic event #2:), I witnessed a major problem blow up in front of my face which caused me to almost completely lose my trust in people, school politics where I now lived were radically different than what I was used to.
I was born in Washington D.C. and spent the happiest years of my life there. I was exposed to many different nationalities and there were no problems whatsoever regarding differences in "race".
For reasons I can't go into, we had to move to South Carolina, where schoolkids still fight the Civil War. I couldn't understand the concepts of rascism or why it even mattered. While I didn't hate any race, I did come to hate the way I was being forced into the southern culture by everyone. The school forced everyone to sing about how SC is the "very best state in the USA", they made us study the Civil War as if there was no other significant history to be had, my 3rd grade teacher proclaiming that "The purpose of school is to make friends"...but worst of all, no one wanted to be friends with me without taking advantage of the friendship. It was a very bad situation in school, and it was only going to get worse.
I was already upset at having to move away from my beloved home (what 7 y.o. wouldn't be?) and I was barely treading water emotionally because of school. Then something happened that scarred me forever: I found out that dearly loved ones had been intentionally hurting us. Apparently it was something that had been brewing since before I was born (I never had any inkling that something was wrong) and when it all came to a head, I was dumped right into he middle of it. I was an innocent bystader. This event caused me to lose almost all of my trust in people, and I was already a distrustful person. I also became bitter and resentful because one of the reasons we had moved in the first place was to thelp these very people! I felt that we should return to DC after this, but it was now impossible (can't elaborate). So I was trapped in SC: pissed, angry, upset, sad, bitter, resentful, and untrusting. And I was just barely 8 years old.
While we dealt with the familiy crisis as a family, I started seeing a guidence councelor at school regarding some major teasing troubles and the racial stuff, but before the year was out, she died of epilepsy. I also lost a most beloved cat that same year. All 5 of these events happened within a space of less than one year.
After 2 years at this first school, we moved to Columbia SC and I naturally changed schools. Things got worse- much worse. I was in 4th grade now and the family problem was nowhere near resolution. It was being discussed often and there was no way I could not not hear about it. It made me very sad and uncomfortable. At school I had my first assult: a black boy strangled me on the playground when my arms were caught in some play-tires. I still don't know why he did it, but it put me in physical therapy for 6 weeks. I got teased by the 5th graders for doing my 'special exercises'. Little did I know these same 5th graders would soon become my worst enemies.
You see I was held back a year before Kindergarten because I was shy. I was, in a way, home schooled ever since I was born. (I LOVE to learn things!) So when I finally entered school, I was very bored because I was ahead in so many areas. I, myself, asked the school I if could skip a grade- they said no. When we moved to SC I asked that school (both years I was there) if I could skip a grade cuz the boredom was getting worse (I was straight-As and they meant nothing to me) and I was dying to learn cursive- I even got reprimanded in first grade for writing my name in cursive on my work. That school didn't believe that me, a kid, would want to skip a grade. They thought it was my parents and said 'no'.
In Columbia this reached its peak. One February morning I stormed home, threw my books on the floor and ranted a riot act: I was bored to death and I wanted to skip a grade. So we tried our luck with that school. After a few interviews, they said YES! I would be going from 4th grade to 6th. I should have been happy about that and until I actually entered the 6th grade, I was.
Remember those 5th graders? They now became my classmates and they were jealous and they were militant! The year I entered middle school was the year that that particular school integrated its social classes. Everyone from the trailer park to the gated communities could go to this school now (it was a public school) and the Civil War was still going full blast. In that year, I had my purse seized, stuff stolen from me, and got a death threat! I told my guidence councelors about this and they didn't do very much at all! One even said to my Mom "There is nothing we can or *will* do about it." Which meant I was on my own, and yet these same people told me to my face "Don't try and do this my yourself." Now just what the HELL am I supposed to DO?!?! They said don't try to handle it by myself and to got to them- they who can not and will not do anything about it! ARGH!!!
Did I mention I have a major thing for justice? I've been flaseley accused for doing things I didn't do and then receiving the full blame for it when I've tried to defend myself- either against personal attack or when explaining it to the teacher. Now most of that happened in in my pre-k to 4th grade years, but dammit I expect teachers (all authority figures) to look at the *whole picture* and allow for *all* parties to have their say. No wonder the USA has a poor school system! Many of the teachers I've dealt with seem to think that justice is optional. Anyway...the middle school authorities "could not and would not do anything about it." The person who threatened to kill me apoligised very sarcastically and sure enough they slammed me into a locker the very next year (7th grade).
So with all of that hitting me harder than a ton of bricks, I retreated inwards that year: I stopped speaking. I'm naturally shy anyway, but whith all of the adversity at school, I didn't have any true friends except for a few who like the 2dn & 3rd graders just wanted to take advantage of a middle-upper class white girl's friendship. I could go an entire day at school and only speak 1 word 7 times: "Hi" to each of my 7 teachers. There were weeks when I wouldn't even say that much. My jaw began to get tense and set because I never opened my mouth except to eat. I remember having to move it around a bit to keep it from hurting and to keep it from falling asleep. I also began to clench my teeth during this time.
PSTD, Depression, Disthymia: The events of school so far, coupled with the 'family event' finally began to eat away at me. I began to have nightmares of being attacked and other things. Talk at home about the family issue never stopped and I couldn't get awawy from any of this. This was the root of my post-truamatic stress disorder, disthymia, and depression. The locker-slam in 7th grade wasn't the only thing to happen to me that year. I also got a very hard punch in the arm and more teasing (more like tormenting by now) and a few other nasty things. I became suicidal by Chirstmas that year (1993). I never actually harmed myself- but I did attempt to attempt (yeah you read that right) to commit sucide. The instrument which would have been my death was a letter opener shaped like a dagger, indeed it was sharp. The next day after the attempt to attempt I asked Mom to hide it from me.
Me and my suicidal self began experiencing a really weird thing during that 7th grade year. I became paranoid- not in a normal sense. I got this weird notion that people could read my mind, so I spent entire classes keeping my thoughts in check. I couldn't think about saving myself for fear that those who were out to get me (which was a very real threat) could stop my escape and kill me. Other stuff too. In later years I would learn that this kind of thinking is part of OCD, but I didn't have full OCD at that time, and besides they went away during the summer. I also developed the hollow stare in 7th grade. Remember the scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, where Sarah Connor's in the asylum and is being told that the Terminator has been spotted? You now how quiet she was, how lost she looked, how she never even blinked? Well that's how I looked those days, it was a defense tactic. I tried to make myself as invisible as possible so no one would hurt me. It didn't work.
If 1989 was the worst year of my life, then 8th grade (1993-4) was rock bottom. This quiet, hollow-looking, suicidal person damn near died a few times that year. The school itself was plunging into anarchy as the crime rate began to rise on campus, so I was VERY MUCH in harm's way every minute of every day there. It was like the movie Dangerous Minds, and it was only by the Grace of God that I did survive.
The girls that had bothered me for the past 2 years finally got a chewing-out by the school (at long last) and left me alone, however there were now several guys and other people (mostly black) who were wishing me harm. I still can't imagine why they would do such a thing as all I ever did was study, stay quiet, and keep to myself...as it turns out, that was the precise reason why some of them were bothering me. I was assulted twice, was the target of 2 false racist rumors, went to the ER a few times to get x-rayed after some incidents (at least 2 bone bruises), was "sexually assulted" (school's definition- not mine) by a classmate, and was mere seconds from being jumped by a classfull of 35 students. During that incident someone grabbed my full head of hair and yanked- hard, nearly snapped my neck from behind. There was also this boy there who liked to torture me by talking. What bothered me most was that me seemed to enjoy it.
That year, the school started having 'devotion time' in the morning. I spent devoltional time every day praying that I'd get thru the day alright. I also tried to sleep during homeroom as my sleep was finally beginning to suffer. My hair had also grown to shoulder-length and I used it to hide my face. This is the only time I've ever 'hidden' from anything. I started seeing a pdoc that year for my suicidal depression and I still see her to this day. It's also a truth that depression makes your immune system less effective. I can't tell you how many times I went home early due to various allergy, pain, and cold/flu problems that year.
Even what should have been a happy reprieve turned into a nightmare. The gifted-talented program I was in, went on a field trip to Willimasburg VA which is right near where I used to live...indeed I know the area *very* well! I should have been happy to be so close to home, but I caught the flu (or at least a very bad cold) while we were there. Never stopped raining and I had a really weird spinal spasm. My lower spine flared up all of a sudden and that was the worst pain I'd ever felt in my entire life up until then. I was crying out loud, and of course everyone thought I was making it up, so they turned their backs on me.
High school was mixed emotion for me because there was an advanced science program at the nearby high school which I *REALLY* wanted to go to, but I knew that if I went, a great many of my middle school classmates would be attending that school (those that weren't pregant or in jail). I have NO doubt that I would have been raped, maimed (stabbed, shot, or broken bone), murdered or any cominbation of those three had I gone to that school. 8th grade taught me more than any other year just how dangerous those kids were. I certainly didn't need to make my situation worse by going to school at a hostile place all over again. It was evident that for my safety I would have to go to school in another city, thus we needed to move.
Where we had to move was the biggest blastphemy of all: it was the very town where we were originally to have moved in the first place...the same town where the still-unresolved family incident took place. Just about the whole town knows about that family thing and gossip (or at least questions) were inevitable. So obviously, I was in major pain and anxiety about living in the very town that is my personal Hell.
On the other hand, the school I was going to go to was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of the one I'd just left!!! That school saved my life!!! No kidding, no exaggeration!!! It was a college prep private school (k-12) with lots of tradition, lots of family, not too many students, and almost complete shelter from the horrors of the outside world. I still maintain that most of the students who go there have a false sense of security regarding the outside world: not a one of the incidents I witnessed or had happen to me in middle school have ever happened here. They're pretty naïve I think- they certainly couldn't fathom the extremely few things I told them about my past experiences. Indeed I told them less than what is written on this page and this page doesn't say much about what all has happened!
Naïvety aside, the school was wonderful!!! I had a comfortable niche: not too bored, not too overchallenged (I did start getting C's tho. I didn't have to throw myself into my homework to keep me alive anymore.) I still didn't have a social life, which doesn't surprise me as I came from a totally different world. But I didn't have a really bad experience there. Sure I still got bullied a bit, but they shut up after awhile. They actually shut up!!!
Now that I was safe, I had to come out of my shell. The suicidal depression subsided after my freshman year, but I was still a clam. A good friends of mine re-tinroduced me to the music of "Weird Al" Yankovic and I even participated in 'school spirit days' at school. I even warmed up to the ideas of football and basketball was even voted the Senior Superlative for most school spirit! (how's that for a complete 180°?!) But now I'm getting ahead of myself here... Even tho I was safe and no longer suicidal, I was still suffering from major depression/disthymia. It was decided to put me on an SSRI called Anafronil... BAD MOVE!!! I had a S-E-V-E-R-E allergic reaction to it! See the Anafronil page for more details... <timeout to read>
After a month of that it began to fade into the background a little bit. We thought I would be alright after that, but the symptoms and their effects kept creeping up on me. the only indications my schoolmates had that anythign was wrong were: I had to carry my books in a roll cart instead of on my back, my arthralgia was more prone to bother me so I kept splints with me at all times, I became hyper-super-sensitive to cold so I wore more clothing than they did, and often I would have to either excuse or accomodate myself due to the pain.
My pdocs then thought that Prozac might help with the depression, but now we had a new problem, a big ugly beast called OCD. See OCD History and Obsessions page for more details. <timeout to read> So no thanks to Bram Stoker and genetics- I'm now in a mess! Knowing how badly I reacted to Anafronil, we started me out on microdoses of Prozac and the doseage varied up and down (3mgs to 30mgs) over the next year and a half.
While the Prozac didn't do squat for my OCD, it did improve my mood a bit. I would feel unusually happy...I mean I *was* happy in that I was safe, but it felt a bit artificial. It was like I'd headled to quickly by stipping a setp or two.
-=TON OF BRICK?=-
I don't know if the brick had anything to do with it or not and I may never know. But it sure as hell wasn't 'Senioritis' (what happens when high school Seniors start slacking cuz school is nearly over for them). I had made a trmendous effort not to succumb to that mindset, but sure enough I started slacking all of a sudden. I thought it was burnt-out on account of all those years of hostile and challenging school, and I was now this close to having it all over with.
I had been SO devoted to my work for various reasons (including to help me stay alive) that whenever I *did* allow myself time for fun, I fell behind. And now it was all catching up to me physically. I was now pulling all-nighters regularly because of the schoolwork was getting harder and because the OCD was killing my concentration. I had to take extra time to deal with the obsessions and to re-read everything because I was less and less able to absorb what I was reading. I was already planning on taking a break in between high school and college to rest and have some "me time", but things never turn out the way you plan.
The brick was an accident. It happened about 2 months after schoolstarted back up and I was already having a little trouble with what we thought was Senioritis and the ocd was neutralizing the Prozac again. Please don't ask me why or how it happened, but I unexpectedly ended up with a falling brick hitting me -quite literally- head-on. It only fell from about one foot over my head, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been and it was a well-worn brick so I didn't get a concussion. The very next day at school I experienced my very first bout of confusion. At school the next day, I all of a sudden started getting very sleepy and getting weird residual feelings from the brick. I went to the office to lie down and we tried to phone my Mom to come take me home. I spent the whole day on the school's office couch while they kept calling the house. It never occurred ot me that she'd be at her office- it was a foreign concept and the idea never occurred to me. This never happened before.
The "residual" feelings in my head were like a pressure that made my brain very foggy and yet totally empty. After that, my short-term memory began to fail and I began to lose my ability to learn things. You'd think it was Senioritis until I began to do things backwards and in the wrong order. All of this caused me to obsess about it so my OCD got worse. None of this was normal and I still haven't been cured of it.
-=THE LAST DAYS=-
I remember my last day of school very well. There was a chemistry test last period and I really needed to pass it, as math and chemistry got the brunt of the awkward learning. I studied the night before, during study hall, and again in the hall just before class. I had it down pat perfect. But when I went in to take the test nothing made sense: every feeling I had told me that I was getting things right. The only thing was that everything seemed out of order somehow, like the order of the question itself was all screwed up, but my calculations checked out ok by me. I knew my OCD was borthering me, but this was different. I finally realized that everything I had been doing, I had been doing backwards. Exactly two seconds later, the bell rang. The test, the class, and the school day were over.
I already had a parent-student-teacher conference set for after that test anyway and I explained what happened to the teacher. I don't remember anything else other than what happened as I got into the car. All of a sudden, I got a very unusual headache. It started out to be similar to the one I got the day after the brick...I'd gotten that same kind of headache a few more times...but then it began to change. It was like a fog and electricity. I call it a headache because there's really no way to describe it, even tho it's not the usual kinds of pain. When I got home I started to take a nap on the couch. That's when my life ended.
What happened next can only be described as possibly a complex partial temporal lobe seizure. Even tho that is most definately NOT what it was, it is the only way I can describe what happened. It so tired me physically and mentally that I exhausted myself to sleep. When I woke up, I had NO short-term memory (I'd forget Mom's question before I could answer) and I couldn't do my homework so I went to bed. I was unable to get up for school the next day so I stayed home. All day and all thru the weekend I kept having several of those just-like-it-without-actually-being-it complex partial temporal lobe seizures each day. No pain medication helped so all I could do was sleep it off. We decided that I should at least try to go to school come Monday.
When I got up on Monday, everything was completely normal except for the fact that I'd never been so thouroughly exhausted in all my life. When I walked in the school door and did not know where I was! Not only did I not recognise my surroundings, but I had no grasp of the concept of school. I did not know what I was pushing around (my cart w/my books) and I did not know where I should go or even what "go" meant. After a few dazed moments, I staggered into homeroom. I was almost completely alone in first period because the rest of the class (all a year behind me) was at picture day. I couldn't keep my head up so I pulled up a second chair and attempted to sleep. My computer teacher tried to get me to carry on a conversation but I was just too out of it.
Next period was French, my forté - I never passed up a chance to read aloud and was the 'human dictionary' for that class (mostly due to scheduling mishaps as I'd been in french since 7th grade). I dearly love languages and even tho I was bored for most of the time (being ahead once again), people expected me to always be there for them. It was like I was second to the teacher or something (no kidding, you should have seen what they did when we had that sub). So you can imagine how surprised they were when that day I declined to read aloud. Not only was I still completely out of it and horribly dazed, but when I looked at the paragraph, I couldn't read it. I didn't even know what a "word" was! The concept just didn't stick or even occurr to me. Something was very seriously wrong, but I was too out of it to do much about it. Obviously I should have gone home during first period. Instead, I went home after second period (French) and never returned.
I never stepped into class again and I withdrew from school altogether within 2 weeks. I would have graduated with Honors as a member of the Wilson Hall Class of 1999.