The Story of Me

My parents found me in the produce section of the grocery store, mixed in among the corn on the cob. At least, that's what my older brother and sister told me. I believed them for a long time. My brother & sister are each 9 and 7 years older than me, so their words were gospel truth. It wasn't until I got older that I learned the true story: my mother always waits until December 24th to go Christmas shopping. Well, in 1982 that bit her in the butt because I decided to come on December 23rd . Getting another sibling for Christmas was not what my brother and sister were expecting.

My early years were the days of legend. Eventually my siblings came to like me and I become their play thing. We played many games, but our favorite was circus. When I was about 4 or 5, we had our greatest circus ever. My sister and I were acrobats. She would lay on her back with her feet in the air. I would climb atop her feet and as soon as I was somewhat balanced, she would launch me in the air. I flew! The wind rushed by as I soared through the air. Sometimes I would even flip, but I always landed safely across the room on a pile of pillows we had stacked up. It was awesome, until the day my brother decided that it was his turn to be the launcher. Being young and naïve, I trusted him. That was my first mistake. When it was time to launch me, my brother bent his legs all the way to his chest and fired as hard as he could. I was a rocket. Speeding through the air, I didn't have time to flip, yet alone scream. It felt like I burst against the wall at full speed. Before that even registered, I fell among the pillows, my limbs spread out like a starfish, except for one. My left arm was bent underneath me in ways an arm should never be bent. And this is where my memory gets fuzzy. I remember my siblings calling my mom at work. They tried telling her my arm was broken, but apparently she had heard that before. She told them to put ice on it and she would look at it when she got home. Several hours later, my mom got home. She looked at my arm and decided it was okay. So off to football and cheerleading practice we went. After practice, (which I have absolutely no memory of; I have no memory of anything else that happened that night) I begged my mom to please look at my arm again. My mom noticed it wasn't quite bending right and it was a little warm. She was faced with a dilemma every single mother is faced with. Does she risk going to the hospital to only be told that it was a sprain and being out the copay? I guess my tears won her over because off the emergency room we went. After a few hours, we were told my arm was fractured in 3 places. I got pain meds and an ugly white cast (that eventually yellowed to an even uglier off white). Needless to say, that put an end to circus.

My mom and dad are my everything, especially my daddy. He kept me during the day while my mom was at work and my siblings were at school. He taught me how to ride the city bus downtown to the Tandy Center. I loved watching the people ice skate. He would wrap his arms around me to keep me warm. Then there was the Tram. I could spend hours riding back and forth from the Tandy to it's parking lot and back. I remember grabbing my daddy's hand every time it would go underground and the car would go dark. I was safe with him beside me. We also like to walk around downtown. Daddy was a photographer and he loved taking pictures of me in front of different buildings and sculptures. We even have shots of me posing in the Water Gardens. Those were some of the absolute best times of my life, spending time with my daddy. My mom was a whole another matter. I knew my mom was under a lot of stress. She was a single mother of three kids who worked long hours in order to provide for us. She has suffered from migraines for as long as I can remember. She also had constant body pain. Life was hard for her, but she tried not to let us know. She would take us places, like Shakespeare in the Park, the rodeo, and even the real circus. And we always were around family. That was a constant in my life. My cousins were my best friends. I would rather play with them than any other friends I eventually made in school. We were a very tight knit family. So imagine my surprise when suddenly both my mother and my dad got remarried to complete strangers. My dad married a nice woman who had 2 children of her own and eventually had a daughter with my father. My stepsister and I got along extremely well and she became my new best friend. On the other hand, my new stepfather . . . my stepfather was an asshole and he came with an asshole daughter who luckily lived with her mother. My time with her was few and far between. Unfortunately, I had to spend every day with my stepfather. I don't remember if he ever did anything to me, but the hell he put my mother through was more than enough. Whenever he was upset, my mother became his punching bag. Whenever he was happy, my mother was his punching bag. I can't count the number of times I woke up to the police in our house. This went on for a while until my mom finally had enough when she nearly lost her eye at his hands. We moved from the only home I had known and she divorced him.

School was a roller coaster for me. When I first started, I was bored. I got along alright with the other children, but the whole learning thing- that was a pain in my young, yellow ass. After some testing, it was determined I was gifted and talented and needed more challenges than the typical class room provided. I was switched to a Montessori school and things got a lot better. School wasn't nearly as boring, until I reached the third grade. Things started getting boring again and I was moved to an applied learning center. I did well, but I think it was hard to do bad there. Everything was catered to us, the students. We called our teachers by their first names and we decided what we were going to learn. It was fun, but I don't know what I actually learned there. But life goes on, as it tends to do, and I found myself in the 6th grade attending the same middle school my sister had attended. I was taught by the same teachers who had taught my sister and they did not let me forget the brilliant student that was my sister. From day one, I was Little Tonya and that was a hard yoke to bear. I tried hard my 6th grade year, but by the time I reached 7th grade, I had decided enough was enough. I gave up. Homework was forgotten, school work was done only if it absolutely had to be done. I knew I was a failure and that was that. I tried to kill myself by overdosing, but I failed at that as well. We didn't talk about it, nor did I receive any help. After failing the 7th grade, my mom moved me to a new school district. I was able to start the 8th grade on time due to taking 8th grade classes in the 7th grade. It was a new start, with new teachers who knew nothing of my sister. I excelled. I allowed myself one "B" a semester and the teachers loved me for who I was. I was in heaven, academically. At home, things were quite different.

By this time, it was just me and my mom. Both my brother and my sister had graduated and moved on. So it was just my mom and I in the house. Maybe it was the hormones, maybe it was the beginning of mental illness, I don't know. What I do know is that my mom and I just couldn't get along. My mom had always disciplined me with spanking and grounding, but it just wasn't working. In her frustration, she turned to an extension cord once and another time slapped me several times across my face in front of some of our extended family. It may have been overkill, but I deserved it. I had absolutely lost my mind and was doing all kinds of things like talking back and . . . I don't know what else, but it was enough to drive my mom crazy. By the time I entered the 11th grade, my mom wasn't doing well physically. She had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and still suffered from migraines. My mom had remarried again to an old cowboy from Louisiana and we had moved to the middle of nowhere on a 35 acre ranch. My mom retired from her job and stayed at home, in bed. I became big in theater during the 11th grade but my mom didn't come to a single performance. My dad made the drive from Fort Worth to Stephenville often to see me perform or just to say hi. Every Valentines Day, he showed up at my school with roses and chocolate and would take me out to eat. My mom never left her bed until my 12th grade year. Then she became super mom. She made my lunches every day and ironed my clothes before school every morning. It was awesome. Our relationship improved and sanity was restored for awhile, anyway. The day after I graduated, I kissed my mom goodbye and moved back to Fort Worth to live with my dad. I was starting at TCU in the fall and I wanted to be closer to my dad. I had been offered a full scholarship plus stipend from a school up north, but I turned it down. My stepsister who had become my best friend had begged me stay and go to TCU with her. This became my 2nd big mistake. Once we got on campus, things began to change between us. The girl who had begged me not to leave her, didn't even stay in the same dorm as me. She stayed across campus in a dorm with her new best friend. We had one class together that I eventually dropped. We were once inseparable, but now I hardly saw her once a week. I was stuck in my dorm room by myself, lonely, craving human contact and she couldn't care less. She had used me and then she was done me.

I sought attention the only place I knew, the internet. I was heartbroken and reckless with my emotions. I would hook up with guys almost every night, but it was never enough. My heart still hurt and after the sex, I'd still be alone. Until one night in January, the guy I was chatting with, didn't mention sex. He didn't even mention meeting up. He was smart and funny. To top it all off, he was a virgin, saving himself for marriage. I was intrigued. We exchanged emails and numbers and were in contact with each other every day. About 2 weeks later, we finally agreed it was time to meet. Our first date was sweet. We met at a restaurant where we did more talking than eating. At the end of the date, we had the typical awkward first date hug. We continued seeing each about once week until we finally had our first kiss. From that moment on, we were never apart. We met every night at IHOP and spent the night together talking about everything. We even spent some time in his car making out. By the end of March, we had moved in together. By October, we were engaged. It was fast and wonderful, and the following August we were married. I was the happiest I had been in a long time. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

Time passed quickly for us. We settled into a happy routine of work & love for several years until we realized something was missing. Our love was spilling over and we needed something to catch it. We wanted a baby, so we tried. And tried. And tried some more. And finally, by the grace of God, we succeeded. The world opened up for us. But the happiness soon faded. Before I could be seen by a doctor, I miscarried. We were devastated. It felt like all the joy we felt had been ripped away. All I could do was lay in bed and cry. I turned inward, and pushed everyone away. Eventually, I was able to move on with my life and we gave up on our dream. Well, not exactly gave up. We weren't trying, but we weren't preventing either. Nothing was happening so we carried on like good little soldiers until the day my sister called me and asked when I was due. I laughed at her and told her that there was no way I was pregnant and hung up. I chuckled to myself until I realized, I was late. Not just a few days late, but weeks late. I raced to the store and bought a trifecta of pregnancy tests. Then I peed on everything I could get my hands on. Before I could set them all on the counter, an army of lines and +s staring up at me. Best of all, I had a digital "pregnancy" stick. I fell down crying. Other than my wedding day, it was the happiest day of my life. I couldn't wait to tell my husband and my family. The days until my first doctor's appointment flew by. I was nervous as I peed on their pregnancy test, but by golly I did it again, I got another line. I followed the doctor's direction and began my regimen of prenatal vitamins. My mother would tell me that I absolutely beamed and I did. I was at my best for the next few weeks until my 12th week when I discovered a spot of blood. I prayed and pleaded, but to no avail. An ultrasound confirmed what I already knew in my heart. My baby, my amazing little Monkee, had died about 3 weeks earlier. Heartbroken didn't begin to describe the pain I felt. I couldn't leave my bed for weeks. I isolated myself from everyone, including my husband. I couldn't believe this was happening to me again. I wondered what I had done to offend God so greatly. I eventually quit my job and went to bed permanently. I stayed that way for a long time. No one could say anything to comfort my broken heart. I don't know how long exactly I was that way, but finally my husband broke through the fog. I was able to get out of bed and again move on with my life. A life that would remain childless. I saw my doctor and requested birth control. I didn't want to risk getting pregnant again, only to lose it. And that was how we lived for several years. Both too heartbroken to try again, but still secretly hoping for a miracle.

My husband has always been impulsive. It was something I loved about him. He was passionate and even a little hot tempered. But he could also be cold. He could shut someone out in a heart beat. It was those times I hated. The apathetic husband was my worst fear. Eventually, it got to be too much-for him. He came to the conclusion that his behavior wasn't normal and he sought help. He was diagnosed as bipolar with general anxiety disorder. He started medication and things improved vastly. I, on the other hand, was slipping down a slippery slope. I was becoming more and more depressed. I was mourning the deaths of my unborn children as well as the death of my grandfather. I was dealing with my newly diagnosed husband and the roller coaster that is medication. Day to day activities were beginning to be too much. My grief overwhelmed me. I lost all hope. The only way to ease the pain was to cut myself and even that wasn't enough. I planned to overdose on my heart medication. Luckily, I had a moment of clarity and sought out help. I learned some techniques to cope and started working with a therapist. Things started to come together. In the 8th year of our marriage, our hope of having a child won out. We went to see a fertility specialist. Our fears were confirmed. The chances of us conceiving were extremely slim. Our best chance would be to use ivf or have a surrogate. OR we could adopt. After looking at the cost of each, it was too much to hope. We didn't have the finances to do the first 2 options and we didn't think we could pass a home study with our history of mental illness. We were done. Our 2 dogs would have to be enough.

Life marched on and things were back to normal. I started working again and I was happy. My nieces and nephew got older and I became the best auntie I could be. My mother & stepfather moved to a house on the lake and my dad divorced his wife. My brother and sister were flourishing with families of their own. Things were good. Fast forward a couple of years to November 6th , 2011. It was a day like any other but it changed with just one phone call. Things happened so quickly. My daddy had been rushed to hospital with a possible heart attack. By the time we arrived there, he was being taken to the heart catherization lab. Me and my siblings were on pins and needles, but eventually the doctor came out and said everything went fine. He was going to be okay. I thanked God for saving my daddy. We went in to see him and he was like his old self. He talked and joked with us for awhile and then we decided to let him rest. I went home and hugged my husband, thankful my daddy was still with us. I went to sleep. Only to be awaken a few hours later to my panicked husband. I asked him that was going on and he would only tell me we had to go to the hospital. I was still in a state of confusion, so I called my sister. "He's gone". Somehow I hung up my phone and the most guttural, primal scream rose escaped my lips. I couldn't believe my daddy was dead. We rushed back to the hospital and up to his room. His bed was surrounded by family. I held his hand, hoping and praying it wasn't true. But he never moved. It was over. My daddy was really gone.

Life as I knew it was over. I didn't receive anymore texts from my daddy. I felt so alone. I retreated again. I couldn't face a world without him. I was scared to death that my mom was next. In my delusion, I saw my whole family dying around me, leaving me alone. I couldn't escape it. I wanted to die. Both my therapist and psychiatrist saw the warning signs. My psychiatrist admitted me to an outpatient program and that's where my true journey in the hell that is mental illness began.