Thursday, December 21, 2017

#MeToo

Dear Dr. REDACTED,

I don't know where to begin this letter. 

Do I begin 19 years ago, when at the age of 17 I met a sexual predator on the campus of REDACTED College, that fateful weekend in October 1998 when I visited and made the decision to enroll? It was at a dance. "A Night in Old Vienna." He was #5 on my dance card. He was so polite. He praised me for being so intelligent for being so young.The word that my three different therapists used was "groomed." He started grooming me at that point.

Do I begin 18 years ago when the sexual predator became my rapist? When four weeks into the school year he put his hands up my shirt and brushed aside my protestations saying that "couples had rights over each others bodies." Or do I tell you how over Thanksgiving break he forced me to go down on him in the front seat of his car? I cried and I begged him to stop. I was choking. I couldn't breathe. I thought I was going to die. And when my tears did nothing to satisfy his frustrations he proceeded to finish himself off. I have no memory of what happened after his ejaculation hit the steering wheel. I don't remember what I did after he returned me to campus. I've recovered a lot of memories over my years of therapy, but that one has evaded my recall. Which is probably for the better.

Do I begin 14 years ago when a private investigator for the REDACTED Department came to REDACTED for a week and interviewed dozens and dozens of students, all who ultimately pointed the finger at me? I didn't want to be interviewed by this man. He asked difficult questions that I couldn't really answer but from my evasive responses he pieced together a picture of the type of person this man was.

Do I tell you how ludicrous I found the email that was forwarded to me suggesting that I share any stories of an old college professor if he bothered me? How I laughed when after 18 years the college was going to pretend to suddenly give a care about a professor when they did nothing but continually cover up and harbor a student who had committed numerous assaults on women before I arrived at REDACTED and continued the entire 4 years I was on campus.

My rapist held a party off campus one time. Everyone invited was supposed to wear lingerie. He wore a pink woman's nightie. At that party he attacked an under-aged female student. He locked her in a room and shoved her onto a bed and he climbed on top of her. She was saved when a male student broke down the door and punched him. That student was too scared to say anything at the time.

Word got around. I heard the cops were called on that party. The college knew about it. But REDACTED continued his education at the school his daddy helped found without any ramifications. The college allowed a sexual predator, a rapist, to walk the halls of that institution for 4 years without a single thing being done to halt his reign.

Want to know how I survived my assaults and the aftermath of 4 years of stalking? (Sometimes I would find him watching me shop at K-Mart in town). Because when I finally escaped his clutches after 4 months he couldn't let go that I had got away from him.

I drank.

A lot.

And I got into a co-dependent relationship which led me to being pregnant and abandoned when I was 20 weeks along. But it turned out that getting knocked up and left was the one thing that would save my life. 

I've been contacted by two different journalists who want to interview me about how small colleges handle sexual assault on campus. One works for REDACTED. Another works for the REDACTED. Someone mentioned that I talk to REDACTED. I know she ruffles a lot of feathers.

Everyday a new story emerges about another man in power abusing his status. No one ever stopped REDACTED. No one ever brought him to justice. 

I had hope that maybe the sexual assaults would stop once he left campus, but I get contacted by women who have left REDACTED in shame. Too afraid to speak about what happened to them. Too stigmatized. 

It's time for this to stop. It ends now. 

I won't got to the press. Yet. 

I want to know what you and the board are going to do about the sexual assaults that occur to the females of REDACTED.

I want changes.

Nothing can take aware my nightmares that still haunt me. I will live with PTSD my entire life. Until the day I die, I will have to battle anxiety attacks that occur when a man of similar build, dark hair, and glasses walks by me. 

I will be on medication the rest of my life. Medication that is so powerful that I am not allowed to get pregnant while I am on it. Medication that if I don't take, I have a 66% chance of committing suicide. And since I'm a Catholic who isn't on birth control, I'm not the greatest marriage material for most Catholic men.

REDACTED messed up my life but I chose not to let it destroy me. I've fought too hard. I'm too strong for that now. 

But I never want another young, stupidly innocent girl that walks through the halls of that campus to ever go through what I went through. 

Always, 
Caroline Elizabeth Pollock
c/o 2003

Monday, June 22, 2015

And So It Begins Again. . .Come October

Having a nervous breakdown was so 2014.

Long story short. My kid went away for 3 months last summer, I devoted a lot of time and energy into fixing some of my broken bits. It went harder than I expected, but I emerged out on top. In the end, he came back a week after I last wrote here, I got on with life.

Last week I reached a huge milestone in therapy. I signed off on one part of my treatment plan. For those uninitiated to the awesomness of therapy when you first start up, you and your therapist discuss what sort of problems you are aware that you are dealing with, how they impact your daily living, and you put together an action plan about how to best deal with this issues.
It was 2 years in the making, but I am fucking proud of myself. So much of the bullshit and inner turmoil that decimated my self-worth has been pounded away. I feel like throwing my hands in the air and saying "Behold, all of the fucks I no longer give!"

With that in mind, as my son makes his annual summer trek down to FL to visit my parents and siblings, I've got a list of accomplishments to work on. Most notably is finishing my new novel. I had always hoped and expected my Southern Fairytale novel to be out first, but I've struggled with it and re-shelved it so many times. It's gonna get out there someday, but I was plagued with so much doubt and hatred at time when I wrote that it's painful. 

About a month ago I started writing some silly fanfic as an exercise in creative writing, yet the writing had a mind of it's own, took a left-hand turn into the realm of fantasy and has been pouring out of my brain non-stop. 

With almost 8K words, my goal is to hit 60K by Sept 30. That's about 500/day which I can definitely do. So I've got that to work on while my son is running around in the hot FL sun. And once I complete my novel, I get to move on to the next scary ass step in my life. Today my therapist agreed with me that I've made such significant, positive progress in my development, that I can try out something I haven't done in long time. 8 years to be exact. 

A date. 

Cthulhu is my co-pilot.
I'm going to try my hand at dating again, hopefully with less disastrous results. Have the rules changed much since 2008? 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Confessions of a Guilty Mommy

I thought I knew everything I needed to know about my illness.

I take my medicines.
I see my therapist.
Some days I'm more happy.
Other days I'm a bit sadder.
Sometimes I'm really hyper but that's usually when I've forgotten to take my medicines for 2 days in a row.
I tell myself to calm the fuck down, take my meds, and then clean the house like the Queen is coming for a visit.

I understood being bipolar.

But then my son went out of town for a month and I told my therapist that I wanted to work hard on some of the things I've kept buried for 30 years. And not knowing that you can't undo 30 years of pain in 30 days I plunged into the murky sea.

I soon began experiencing rapid, wild mood swings. Bouts of anger, coupled with a deep desire to physically harm myself worse than I have before; these new emotions frightened and overwhelmed me.

21 days passed, my son begged to stay down in Fl longer. He was enjoying playing with his cousins, aunts, and uncles. That was fine. He had flown on a one-way ticket, so I didn't need worry about plane change fees.

A month and a half went by. "Mom, I'm having so much fun. I'm sorry, I know you miss me but can I stay longer?"

"As long as you are having fun. You can come home whenever you want."

We talk at least once, sometimes 3 times a day. I email him every night links to funny cat videos, pictures, jokes, random articles about subjects he likes.

The mood swings have continued to be unpredictable. I'll have 48 hours of stability followed by 36 hours of pain, fear, hatred, and crushing loneliness. Then a week ago, thoughts of engaging in risky behaviors filled my head. Things I haven't done since before I had my son.

These thoughts filled me with so much sorrow and confusion. Why was I wanting to backslide? Intellectually I knew those would be bad decisions, but why was I filled with these desires.

All Tuesday I was curled on the couch crying. All fucking day. I felt so lost, so confused, wondering if I was going through a nervous breakdown and everyone was just too nice to tell me that I've lost my shit entirely. I couldn't open my eyes completely when I happened to answer a phone call.

I spilled my guts to my friend. She's understanding of mental illness and I figured if anyone could possibly identify with the feelings I was having it would be her. She pointed out that it's been six years since my meds have been adjusted and my body probably doesn't find the drugs or dosages useful. She said that my desire to devolve into risky behaviors were a side effect of hypermania.

I hadn't thought about that. My shrink asks each visit if I had been taking my meds which I have. But I didn't think they would stop working on me. I quickly emailed my shrink, "PLEASE, HELP ME. I NEED HELP NOW. I NEED A DOCTOR."

I have an appointment for October 8. Waiting these next 18 days will feel like an eternity, but coupled with hope. Hope that I can get closer to getting stable again.

It's not something I want to recognize, but some family and friends have pointed out that I'm not entirely well enough to take care of my son yet. I'm not a harm to him, others, or myself, but point out that switching up medications can be difficult. As the body adjusts, no one can firmly predict the outcome. All the labels say in some cases usual thoughts or thoughts of suicide may occur.

I'm torn. Do I try to pull back on the progress that I'm making, put on a brave face, and undertake the reins of single motherhood again? Or do I accept the suggestion that my son stays in Fl for a bit longer while my meds kick into place and my moods get under control?

A mother cares for her child, providing the best she can: food, water, shelter, love, affirmation. I know my son is having these needs met. He's continuing his unschooling while he's down in Fl. He's so excited that next week he'll be making a paper mache replica of Stonehenge. He's not unhappy. He's surviving without me.

But I'm his Mommy. I fear that this time apart will render me inconsequential to his life. I know I need to take care of myself. So why do I feel guilty if I decide to continue fighting my illness?

It's now 2 months, 7 days since I last saw my son. And it hurts like hell.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pandora's Box - Fear

My therapist has asked me to write about one of the emotions that has been holding me back. I fear that if I dig deeper I will find that I'm an imposter and that I'm really not bipolar. That I'm making things up.

I know I'm broken, but I fear that I will find that I'm more broken than I expected. That no one will ever see past my brokenness to love me.

I fear I will always be alone. Alone like when I was pregnant and fell violently ill. When I told my son's father that I was pregnant, he never touched me again. Not so much as a hug. 

Women's bodies are strong, but pregnancy is so mysterious and confusing. You inhabit a body that becomes quite foreign. There were times I thought I was miscarrying because I had no idea what was supposed to be normal. I needed someone to hold my hand, even if I wasn't going to be alright. I wanted someone to hold me. 

I was so lonely, sick, and frightened.

I had to drive myself to the ER three separate times because I was so violently ill. My ex couldn't be bothered to drive me. 

The first time I was admitted to the ER, a tube was shoved down my throat and the vacuum switch thrown. The nurse left the room. I was alone watching the blood that had pooled in my stomach come flying out into a container on the wall. The machine should have been switched off after 2 or 3 minutes, but the clock in front of me showed each painful minute that went by. When the nurse finally came back in 10 minutes later, I was hysterical. She offered me a sedative but I refused it afraid that I'd caused so much damage to my unborn child, he probably couldn't stand the extra stress on his system.


I was sent to the high risk maternity ward where I promptly forgotten. No breakfast or lunch was delivered to me because no one remembered I was there. No one remembered me. The buzzer was broken so I stumbled down the hall, dragging a long empty IV bag behind me. The doctor didn't come until the evening of the second day because no one had told him I had been admitted.

In those three days I was in the hospital my son's father visited me once for an hour before stealing a box of gloves so he could paint his model figurines.

I had the love and comfort of friends and family at that time, like I do now. But you can't curl up at night in your friend's bed. And I stopped seeking refuge from nightmares in my parent's bed by the time I was 7.
Jeremiah's first Christmas. All six pounds of him.
I want someone to love me, someone who wouldn't be repelled at hearing the words, "I'm pregnant." Someone to talk with, to laugh with me and at me. To argue with. Someone to say, "I love you and I want to be with you."

But I fear that I will never hear those words. I am afraid that my illness will prevent anyone from ever loving me.

I was robbed of a happy pregnancy. Yes, I was fortunate to have a great joy once my son was born. My life was forever changed. But that vast loneliness was so painful.

It sounds strange and a bit perverse, but on some level  my ex's repulsion of me was more painful than my rapist's obsession with me. At least he had the courtesy to stalk me for 4 years.

I fear that I will always be alone.
My fear isn't irrational. I was left alone once. I fear I will be left alone forever because I'm not fixed. 



Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1-800-273-TALK

These past 2.5 months have been brutal since my son has gone down to visit my family. Without the responsibility of him around my therapist has been pushing me to dig deeper into the recesses of my cluttered, dark mind.

And there are emotions in there.

So many emotions.

Some emotions welling up are so new, frightening, and overwhelming that my chest physically aches. So much so that the one night I found it necessary to make a phone call to help me get through the night.
Source: http://wonderbandalice.deviantart.com/
Not all self-harming is obvious to the naked eye. I've struggled with this illness for over 24 years and up until 2 years ago, I've never had the courage to admit this problem openly. Over the past three months I have worked extremely hard with my therapist to develop cognitive behavioral coping skills and calming techniques that I have used successfully to stem the tide of crazy that swirls in my brain at times.

But that night, the night before Robin Williams would end his life, I had so many painful emotions bubble to the surface that for the first time in years I was scared of myself. Each coping skill I tried to implement failed to have a desired impact; I grew more anxious. I couldn't breathe.

All I could think about was hurting myself. Badly. Really, really badly. I wanted the trapped pain to be outside of me. The pain was so bad this time I wanted to drive a knife in my thigh. Stab and twist. Because a twisted wound can't heal on it's own.

I've never had feelings that intense before.

I had no desire, no intention, no plan to end my life.

I just didn't know how to cope. It was 1 AM and I needed to talk to someone. I just needed to say the words, "I'm in a lot of pain right now. My therapist is helping me work through some difficult things and these feelings make me feel like hurting myself. I'm not suicidal, I'm not going to hurt myself. I just need to tell someone I'm having these feelings."

And the voice on the other end of the line, Noelle, listened patiently to me. I rambled for a few minutes and felt so much of the tension flow out of my body. It was as if allowing myself to say these things out loud took the power away from overwhelming feelings. My pulse returned to normal and I thanked Noelle for her kindness.

I sent a text to a couple of friends letting them know that I had been feeling harmful, but I had made a call and was feeling better. One night owl friend called me within minutes and kept me on the phone for the following hour and a half. We spent the time criticizing and deconstructing The Silver Chalice, Paul Newman's debut film. (If you are sad and need a laugh, I highly recommend this film. From the Sharpie drawn sets and bending metal swords to the costume department's liberal use of drapery tassels, there is not one part of the movie that isn't hysterical.).

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. If you or a loved one needs help please call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. I am so fortunate that there was a voice on the other end of the line.