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I Hate the window

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I Hate the Window 

Written byStephanie Flesher

None of this book in whole or in part may be reproduced without special arrangements with Stephanie Flesher

            This book is a reflection of my yesteryear, my love of the present, and my hopes for the future. I have included excerpts from my diaries and although sometimes graphic in nature and occasionally childlike, they are a significant part of who I was and who I have become.

 

            It is important for me to stress that the writings here are by no means intended to offend or discredit those mentioned but merely a way for me to continue my search for inner peace for a better future. Many of my viewpoints, feelings, and beliefs when I was an adolescent were extremely distorted by my lack of experience in life and therefore I would like to believe that with age I have acquired a greater wisdom.

            My psychiatrist analyzed many of my journals, written when I was younger, and I have included many of his thoughts throughout this book. I think between his viewpoints and mine you, the reader, will have a greater understanding to the person I once was.

           

Suicide is the answer, the only way to go. No, it is not running from my problems. It’s just the only way for me to be happy.  I know you believe I am playing games. I realize I laugh about the things I shouldn’t. It is just the only way I can deal with my feelings.            When I laugh about dying, it is because it is truly what I want, I am not playing games, and I am scared.  I am so very scared right now. Part of me wants to die, while the other part of me just wants to sit, cry and be loved.  I feel as though no one understands me, not even myself. If I can’t understand my own self then how can I understand?  I know I get angry real easily, and I walk out on people a lot. I am not sure why I am this way. I just know that I am confused.   I feel as though I am crazy, it is difficult to explain. All I see for my future is bad things. There are so many things stressing me out, but I have no one to confide those things in without being judged. Since my time is almost up here, I have nowhere to go; the best thing for me is to die. I am sorry if you don’t understand.

            Steph

 

This was an epistle I left to my psychiatrist in 1986, while residing in the psychiatric hospital in Seattle. I was sixteen years old at the time; I loathed my life, and was told by the hospital staff that I was going to be released. I had nowhere to stay, my mother didn’t want me back at her house, and even if she had, I didn’t want to go. The hospital gave me a sense of security, a place to call home, and I had friends there that understood me.

 Chapter1 The Beginning

            Born July 7, 1970 in Bellflower, California. My parents newly married, resided in Cerritos, California. My father adopted my mom’s three-year-old son, Rick. Being my father’s first-born child, I immediately became daddy’s little girl. Within six years my family would grow from four to six but my position as daddy’s little princess remained the same.

            I don’t recall many memories of the first eight years of my life. The memories I do have are biased in that they’re only the stories my family have told me. My parent’s favorite tale of my youngest years describes how sickly I was as an infant. My parents hopeless and frustrated from my uncontrollable bouts of crying from high fevers, would put me in the car in the middle of winter, with the air conditioner on, to soothe me and put me to sleep. (Sounds almost like a similar story I heard growing up where my parents walk to school, barefoot in the snow, up hill both ways.) I remember being brought home from the hospital after getting my tonsils removed and asking my dad to get me a strawberry shake. My mother insisted I was fine and didn’t need anything. My dad got me the shake but to no avail, it left a great hostility between my parents. I remember there being many struggles between my mother and me, but I didn’t understand those struggles until much later in life.

            Most of my birthday parties as a child were spent watching the party from my bedroom window. Although I am sure this didn’t happen every year, unfortunately, I only remember the years I was on restriction for some reason or another. It’s no surprise that I still do not enjoy celebrating my birthday, although I am slowly trying to change this mind set.

            I remember when I was about seven; I was holding the neighbor’s baby outside their home. A neighborhood boy came over to us with these huge tree limb cutters. He said he had to kill the baby. I remember turning quickly to protect the baby. Although the baby was safe, I had been stabbed. There was a huge gaping hole in my upper arm. My mom was frantic and rushed me to the hospital. The most traumatic part about this story for me was that my parents just put in a new swimming pool and due to the hole in my arm, I was not allowed to swim for three weeks.

            It is so funny to me the things you remember when you get older. I remember those incidents like they just occurred, yet, other things are such a blur.

            My mother did not tolerate sick children. When I had the flu, she forced me to stay outside and play. Even when asleep by the garage because I ached too badly to move, she insisted I would dirty her house and that it was a beautiful day. She would always end with the same phrase, “you’ll be just fine.” One time when I was about 11, I fell off the curb and sprained my ankle, or so my mother told me. My mom insisted I was fine, even though I was unable to walk. Two or three weeks after the incident, my mom took my sisters to get their vaccines updated. My ankle was severely swollen, and the doctor asked my mother if he could have it x-rayed. We learned that my ankle was fractured in three places and that there was a good reason I was crawling around on the ground. My mom felt guilty for not taking me to the doctor sooner, and she did eventually apologize. My anger toward my mother was so overwhelming by this time in my life, I never thought to question why my father never brought me to the doctor; it was just easier to blame my mother. I remember trying to cuddle up to my mother, but she wouldn’t have it.

I always believed my mother, loved my brother and sisters more than me, but as a young child, I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling.

My parents fought quite often. When I was about seven, I walked in on my parents arguing. My father on all fours, my mother over top of him with a knife in his back. The room was dark; my father was crying and yelling, “Just kill me.” There were always two popular topics for an argument with my parents, money and me. When money was no longer a problem, it was just me. My mom on several occasions would say to me, “When you die, I am going to throw a party.” If she didn’t feel satisfied enough with those words she would add, “You are always causing problems for your father and me!”

As I look back now on my life, I realize I wasn’t the easiest child. I learned to manipulate at a very early age in order to survive. According to my psychiatrist, I became a master of manipulation by the age of sixteen. I knew that in order to get lunch money or go to a friend’s house, I would have to play my parents. I knew my mom would always say no, so I would just ask my dad. My dad’s response would always be the same, “Ask your mom,” but we knew what she would say. This would usually cause an argument between my parents, and I would go off and do what I wanted to do.

I was very promiscuous growing up. I was caught, “playing doctor” with the neighborhood boys more than once. Looking back now, I realize that this behavior stems back to being molested at an early age, but as a child, everyone called me the slut and I was proud of it. I made it a point to sleep with every boy in the neighborhood. Many of the boys would threaten to tell my parents that I was a “being nasty with the boys” if I didn’t touch them, that fear eventually led me to becoming a pursuer. I would get to them before they got to me in order to have some sense of control.

             Mr. Jones 

You are the dirtiest man in the whole world. Steph

 Chapter 2 The dirty man next door

            Mr. Jones, an elderly man, was well liked in the neighborhood. He liked to sit in his recliner in his garage. All the kids loved to go over and visit him. He loved the little girls to sit on his lap and was always sure to apologize when his fingers accidentally slipped and ended up inside their panties.

            One day while out playing I found a bag of pictures by a garbage can. The pictures were of a neighbor lady, posing in positions that even Playboy would find tasteless. I brought the pictures to Mr. Jones. He insisted I sit on his lap as he went through the pictures, slowly, one at a time. He then suggested that he would pay me twenty dollars if I would let him, “lick my lollipop.” He assured me that twenty dollars would buy a surplus of gum. He caressed my chest, and reminded me that if my parents were to find out, he would kill them and it would be my fault. I assured him that I knew the rules and ran off.

            I was unable to sleep that night. I was afraid of getting in trouble and decided the best way to handle the situation was to write Mr. Jones a note. I had a boy in the neighborhood deliver the note to Mr. Jones.  Somehow my mother found out about the note. When she finished beating me with a chair for humiliating her, I confessed and told her what was happening. My father was so outraged when he found out; the police had to pull him off Mr. Jones. My father was almost arrested that night. I would spend the next ten years of my life fearing being alone with any man, including my father.

            The next year consisted of what seemed to be endless meetings with lawyers, court appearances and total humiliation. My mother couldn’t handle the stress of dealing with the incident. She didn’t want to know what happened and she had my dad deal with all the court proceedings.  Mr. Jones told everyone about how I was a nasty little girl, and several kids in the neighborhood teased me. Mr. Jones was sentenced to two years in prison, with the possibility of early release for good behavior. It was not long before my parents decided to move out of the neighborhood to Lakewood, California. I felt so refreshed, as though I was being given a fresh start. I just knew I was going to be good for my parent’s this time.

 Chapter 3 A Fresh Start

            After just three days in our new home, my hopes of a fresh start quickly faded. My brother, unhappy with the move, found himself in trouble. My father arrived home one evening to a very distraught neighbor. My brother had a confrontation with her son earlier in the day, which led to a fight, where my brother beat up her son. My father held a family meeting that night. The words he spoke that night would change my perspective toward life forever. My father said, “I don’t want the same shit happening here that happened in our last house! Is that understood?” Hearing these words from my father put me in a whirlwind. I only heard the part where he said, “I don’t want the same shit happening here that happened in our last house!” I was so confused. My brother got in a fight with the neighbor and my dad was brining up the, at least to me, the incident with Mr. Jones. I had this sense that my dad was angry with me. Angry that I inconvenienced his life, caused the family to move and start over, and leave their friends behind.I look back now and realize I took those words out of context, but to a child of only eleven who already felt as though the incident with Mr. Jones was her fault, the words my father spoke that night were devastating and would come to haunt me for several years to come.  I no longer felt as though I was daddy’s little princess.

            As weeks went by, I tried to be on my best behavior. My parents both spent a lot of time away from home, at work. My parents left my brother in charge when they were away. In turn my brother left me in charge while he was away. I felt as though I was the Cinderella of the house. My parents expected my brother to make it to school everyday in order to receive an allowance. I was expected to have dinner on the table by five, the house cleaned, and my homework done. My mother was stern about my chores. If I missed a spot on one dish, then all the dishes in the house were put in the center of the kitchen for me to start over. This only happened twice, and I must admit I have become a pretty good housekeeper.

            Friday nights were the best in my family. When my parents arrived home from work we’d pile in the car and go out to Fiddler’s Three for dinner. I remember how much I loved the clam chowder, but the best part was splitting a mushroom burger with my mom. I felt, at least on Friday nights, as though I had some sort of connection with my mother.

            Rick, my brother was a big guy, and at 6’4” he loved to push his weight around. Rick enjoyed games of torture. His favorite form of torture was to have me pop the pimples on his back. When I would refuse and say no, he would drag me by the hair to the bathroom. Here he would force me to look in the mirror and drink down a glass of Alka-Seltzer, while he gleefully sang, “Pop pop fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.” This particular form of torture went on for about a year. To this day I cannot even look at a box of Alka-Seltzer without getting queasy.

            I started getting into the routine of things within a few months of our move. The neighbors next door had three kids: John, Jennifer, and James. Jennifer, 13, and I, would sneak off to play whenever we could. Jennifer’s parents didn’t like me or my family. They went to Catholic Church; my family didn’t go to church. Jennifer went to private school, I went to public school. They felt as though I wasn’t a good influence on their daughter, but occasionally I would be allowed to go over and play at their home. Jennifer’s older brother was John. John was sixteen, and I had the hugest crush on him. I introduced my brother to him, and they quickly became friends. It was not long before my brother told John about the Mr. Jones incident and how I messed around with the boys where I used to live. They both found great humor in teasing me daily. Although other kids found John to be cool because his parent’s allowed him to live in the mobile home parked in their driveway, I found him to be an asshole, equal to my brother.

             The dark is upon me. I watch out my window, pretending to sleep. Knowing that the demon will soon be here, creeping through the window, like a cat sneaking up on its prey. Oh how I hate the window. The demon comes every night. He thieves me of my youth, leaving only enough so that I can rejuvenate for the next night. Oh how I hate the night.  I scream as loudly as I can so that no one can hear me. I know if the demon is caught, the princess I used to be will surely be gone forever. Oh how I hate that princess. When the demon leaves, I feast on my tears of shame. I know I am nothing, I know I will never be worth of freedom.  Oh how I hate freedom.

 Chapter 4 John

            Late one evening there was a knock on my window. It was John. I asked him what he wanted and he said he just wanted to say hello. When I asked him why, he explained how he was sorry for being mean to me and then turned and walked into his motor home which was parked outside my bedroom window.  I found this extremely weird but I did, once again, regain my crush on him. I remember peeking out my window to watch him every night studying at the table.

            After a month or so, John was back at my window. John wanted to know if I wanted to play truth or dare. Excited, but scared, I shook my head yes. I picked truth and he asked me if I like him. I told him, “Yes.” I asked him if he liked me and he said, “Yes.” Truths went on for about an hour before I got enough nerve to say dare. John’s dare was for me to put a pen into my vagina. When I asked why, he said it was so he could see how deep I was. When I told him, “No!”, he said, “You wouldn’t want your parents to find out about the other boys you used to mess around with, would you?” I hesitated for a minute as my life flashed before my eyes. I remembered those words my father spoke just months earlier. I obliged John’s request. He returned to his motor home, with the pen. I remember lying in bed crying most of the night. My goal was to avoid John at all costs.

            Two nights later there was a knock on my window. I was so scared; I just laid in bed and pretended to be asleep. I remember hearing the window open. I couldn’t believe he was just going to come into my room. All I could think was, “What if my parents come in?” I told John to get out of my room. I explained to him if my parents found him in my room they would go crazy. That night John insisted I tell my father to put a lock on my bedroom door or he would have a talk with my parents about my past. The lock was on my door when John came to visit the next night.

            John’s visits became nightly. I asked my sisters to sleep on my floor at night but not even that would keep him out. He would threaten me, and quietly do what he wanted with me or what he wanted me to do to him. I hated the night but not half as much as I hated that window. When John left at night, I would cry for hours, asking myself why I was the way I was?

            I felt as though my father and I were drifting farther apart. I wished for him to hold me, comfort me, I remember pushing a sewing needle into my hip. Screaming for my dad to come and help, he ran into my room and pulled the needle out. I explained to him that I must have rolled onto it while sleeping. My father held me and told me everything would be all right. This self-destructive behavior became an addiction that would haunt me well into my adult life.      

            Conflicts between my father and brother would soon start to escalate. At the age of sixteen, my brother was kicked out of the house. My brother never came back home except to visit.

 Dear Dr. B  I keep thinking about our last discussion. To tell you the truth, I feel peculiar about our discussion. The things I told you, I have never told another soul. If my parents were to find out, my father would never speak to me, please keep this between us.            You ask me if I am embarrassed to talk to you about what happened, if I am embarrassed to use the word anus. Well actually I am completely humiliated. The things that happened between John and me, well, they are unnatural and I do not want you to think I am some sort of freak. I remember my life with John as if it were just yesterday. I remember lying in cat feces underneath his motor home, while he left with his parents to go out to dinner. The pain was so excruciating. I cried silently for my father to come and help me, but knowing that he was the last person I wanted to know. I just knew that I was going to die. When John’s parents finally drove off, I tried to get up. I could feel the warmth of fluid running down my leg. I just knew something was not right. I crawled back through my window and crept down the hallway to the bathroom. My clothes were saturated in blood. I wiped myself off with toilet paper; the blood was coming from my rectum. I went back to my room and put my cloths in my backpack so I could throw them away at school the next day. I crawled into bed and prayed for God to take my life that night. John decided that it would be better to have vaginal sex with me after that night because I would bleed every time he tried to have anal sex. I would also always cry and he would get frustrated because he thought someone would hear me. His ritual for performing vaginal sex was for me to perform oral sex on him and then he would place a plastic baggie over his penis in order to keep me from getting pregnant. John would ask me before he finished, “So tell me, when you going to grow up and become a woman?” When John was through he would leave his mess and go back to his motor home. My relationship with John would last for about two years before it happened. Aunt Flow came to visit me; John insisted now that I had my period he could no longer be with me because I had a greater chance of getting pregnant. John and my brother would stand at the front window, and as I would walk home from school, they would take my sanitary napkins and paste them to the window to torment me. Two months went by and John was back, nightly. I savored the day my parents came to me and said we were moving to Riverside, California to be closer to their friends.

    Chapter 5 Washington

            My parents lived in Riverside for a year before my father took a job offer in Tacoma, Washington. I arrived in Washington six days before my fifteenth birthday. My parents were absorbed in their own misery and I, with no friends, fell into a deep depression. Already an unattractive teenager, I was plagued by acne, and was over- weight. I spent most of my time sleeping or crying. I didn’t leave my room unless it was time to eat.

            On my sixteenth birthday I begged my parents to let me get a job. They agreed to let me work as long as I maintained my grades. I applied for a position as a courtesy clerk at a local grocery store. It was not long after being hired that I met Jenna, who was to become my best friend. Jenna and I spent everyday together. We both shared a similar past and both needed someone. It wasn’t long before my mom accused Jenna and me of being lesbians. My mom was jealous of Jenna and would find any reason to keep us apart. I would assure her that I was not a lesbian, even though I really had no idea what a lesbian was.

            Jenna and I would go out every chance we could. Every Friday night we went out on the prowl. First, we found a pop can to use as a marijuana pipe; our mission was to get stoned. After getting good and high we would rent a room at a motel to use for the few hours I was allowed out. When the motel was secured, we would search for guys. When we were through with the guys and the room, Jenna and I would go to Taco Bell and fulfill our junk food needs and then I would go home, making sure to never be one minute past midnight. The wrath of my mother was not worth it.

            The relationship between my mother and me was non-existent. She talked down to me and I did the same to her. The more I pulled away from my family, the more she felt I was rebelling. Any interaction between my father and me would cause great stress on my parent’s relationship. My father spent most of his time at work, and my mom spent most of her time depressed.

            Jenna and I would eventually have our lives changed forever. We discovered that our store manager, Beeland, and co-worker, Diane, were having an affair. When Diane found out that we knew, Jenna and I became her excuse to leave the house, leaving no suspicion for her husband (which was weird being that we were 20 years younger than her?)

            Jenna and I decided to skip school to spend the day with Diane and Beeland. When I arrived home that day, my dad asked if I went to school. I told him, “Yes!” My father explained to me that the school had called and before he finished, I confessed that I had ditched school. After changing my clothes, I told my father I was going out for the night. After arguing for about five minutes, my dad got up and grabbed his car keys. I went somewhere that night and it was not out with my friends. My father took me to the police station. When my dad found out the police station was closed, he slapped the back of my head, pushing me back into the car. When he got in the car he said, “You are such a little bitch.” He drove until he found a cop. He flagged the cop down and told the cop he didn’t want me anymore. I cried as I watched my father pull away. To this day, I still remember the Mariner’s game playing on the radio. It would be a year before I was allowed back home.

 Chapter 6 Psychiatric Ward

            While out on my own, I discovered that freedom was not all that it is cracked up to be. I moved in with Diane and her husband. The situation was uncomfortable because by this time Diane’s husband knew about the affair, and he knew I had helped Diane get out of the house to meet up with Beeland.

            Diane’s day consisted of trying to find Beeland. The scenery always changed but the mission never did. We would drive for hours, usually out to the woods; Beeland was usually there waiting for our arrival. Diane would leave me in the car and she and Beeland would go off to his Bronco. They would spend the next few hours fulfilling their sexual needs and I would journal about their affair and my life. When they were finished, Diane and I would drive off to the nearest grocery store, she would purchase a douche, go to the bathroom, use it, and return home to her husband. School was impossible because I never knew what part of Washington State we would be in. This went on for about two months.

            My father decided to set up a counseling meeting with a psychiatrist for our family. The first session with Dr. B was a complete disaster. My mother glared at me and screamed how much she hated me. She told Dr. B. that she was not going to take the blame anymore. She insisted that all the problems in the family were because I was a “spoiled little brat.” My mother stormed out about 10 minutes into the session, never to return.

            I continued seeing Dr. B. for about a month before my life caught up with me. I had spent many nights in the street trying to make money for cigarettes and food. I would sleep with whomever just to make a few bucks. Jenna would visit when she could but Diane was coming between us. Diane would tell me that Jenna was a bad influence but looking back now, I realize that Diane knew I was easily influenced and would go along with whatever she wanted, whereas, Jenna was more strong willed and was able to set clearer boundaries. I began to really hate myself at this point.

            One night while Diane and her husband were out, I decided to call home. My father answered the phone, I was thankful it wasn’t my mother. I asked my father if I could come back home, he explained to me that it was not a good time. I needed to wait for my mother to calm down. I told him I understood and hung up the phone. As the tears poured down my face, I could only think about how much my dad hated me. I kept telling myself that he hated me so much, he couldn’t even stand up to my mother and tell her I was coming home.

            As I walked around Diane’s house, this blank feeling came over me. I started going through all her cupboards, searching for any pill I could find. When I rounded them all up, I opened the tops and swallowed every one of the pills. From pain medication, to pills for their dog, I took them. It was not long before I started to feel queasy, and I got scared. Realizing what I had done, I called Dr. B. and explained to him what happened. He called the police, who sent an ambulance out to pick me up. Jenna happened to stop by Diane’s house as the ambulance was there and she freaked out. She drove with me in the ambulance to the hospital.

            My mother was waiting at the hospital when I arrived in the ambulance. She was screaming, “How can you do this to me?” The nurses had to ask her to leave. I do not remember much about that night, but I do remember vomiting for two days straight. I was transferred to Providence Hospital in Seattle, where I was put in the psychiatric ward.

            It was at the hospital that I was diagnosed as bi-polar. The days were lonely and very few people came to visit me. My mom came just two times; she said it was too hard to see me there. My father would bring me cigarettes and Mc Donald’s on the days he came to visit.

            It was not long before the nurses caught onto my self-destructive behavior. I often had cigarette burns on my legs and arms, or my face would be bashed in from punching myself repeatedly.  They would not allow me to have a razor for shaving because Dr. B. had already informed them that I liked to cut on myself. They kept me drugged up in the hospital. I eventually began saving all my pills by hiding them in my cheek. I would save them in a cup on the rail underneath my bed. I was starving for someone to love me, and too young and screwed up to know how to love myself.

            When the nurses found the pills, I was immediately moved to a more secure part of the psychiatric ward. The people were so strange. The guy in the room next to me told the nurses, during one of our group sessions, that he saw helicopters flying around his head. He sat there swatting at the air for ten minutes. When the nurse left the room to get him medication, he leaned over to me and said, “God, I love to mess with them like that.” I still laugh about that today.

            After about a month, I learned to tell the nurses what they wanted to hear. I wanted out of the hospital but was warned if I left without the advice of my Dr., I would be put back in against my will, and the hospital stay could be for up to one year.

            When I was told I was going to finally get released, I got scared. I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t and wouldn’t go home. I then decided to run away from the hospital. There I was, sixteen, in downtown Seattle, and scared to death. It did not take me long to go back to the hospital, where security guards were waiting for me.

            Dr. B. had me sent to Fairfax hospital in Redmond, Washington. Dr. B. decided I needed to get back to school and they offered school at this hospital. When I entered the hospital I was horrified. A girl was strapped down, naked, on a board. Dr. B. said they had to do that to her to keep her safe. I was out of my league here and home was sounding pretty good.

            It was not long before the other kids started to accept me. I had two female roommates, and they took me under their wings to show me around and help me to fit in. The hospital was very loud, with people screaming at all hours of the night. One girl even smashed down a wall in the middle of the night. The staff said she was dreaming about her father raping her and when she woke up she flipped out.

            I spent my days wrapped in a blanket, no matter how hot the day was. The guys at Fairfax scared me, because they often reminded me of John. It was here that I came out about John, and agreed for Dr. B to tell my dad. I don’t really know how my dad responded to Dr. B telling him about John. Although I remember sitting on the picnic bench with them, I checked out of the entire conversation they had. My father never spoke to me about it until later in my adult life when I pursued a conversation with him about my childhood.

            One night the kids decided to break out of the hospital to get some food. There were rumors that I was to be released soon and I didn’t want to screw it up. I decided to stay behind but swore to them I wouldn’t say anything. I went back to my room to hide out until they returned and that is when I discovered I was not the only one that stayed behind. My roommates also stayed behind, and it was this night, watching their silhouettes on the wall, that helped me to discover what a lesbian was.

            Finally the day came, after three long months; the staff decided I was okay to be released back into society. I was excited to get out. My father picked me up, I was so happy to see him but the happiness was short lived. My father explained to me that my mom was not ready for me to come home yet and therefore he was taking me to the airport. My mom had arranged for me to stay with my junior high friend, Maggie and her family. I cried all the way to California.

 Chapter 7California

            The summer days dragged on forever during my stay in California. My old friend and I had drifted away from each other; I was different now. I smoked cigarettes, and cussed, a lot. She was very intelligent and very into sports; her goal was to become a doctor.

            One night while out driving we met some ambulance drivers. One thing led to another and Maggie and I ended up at the station they worked at. I left with one of the guys to the room he was staying in. When I came back a few hours later, Maggie asked me if I had slept with the guy, I told her, “No!” but she knew I had.

            I stayed with Maggie and her mom for a few more days before Maggie’s mom came to me and said I had to leave. She said she could not handle the pressure of taking care of me; it was too much responsibility. So back to Washington I went. I was so excited; Jenna was going to pick me up from the airport.

            Jenna arranged for me to stay with Brent and Chrissie. I worked with Brent at the grocery store, and they had offered for me to stay with them when I first got kicked out of my home.  Life with Brent and Chrissie was good. I loved their children, and it was my first experience at seeing how a healthy family co-existed together.

            After a week or so back in Washington, I decided to call my father to let him know I was back. He was upset with me for causing problems for Maggie’s mom, but I didn’t care anymore. I knew he was more upset that I caused more problems between him and my mother. I knew my parent’s didn’t want me and I felt as though he was lucky that I even called him.

            Jenna and I spent a lot of time together. We never talked about my time in the hospital, as I think it was too hard for both of us. Diane and Beeland were still together and rumor had it they were going to get married. I went to Dr. B’s once a week. My mom would not pay for the visits so Dr. B would meet me on his lunch break. Dr. B. always insisted that I had no childhood and therefore I needed to learn how to have fun, we would meet on the weekends at the street fair, go to the mall, and just hang out. I always waited for him to make a pass at me, but he never did.

            Summer was slowly coming to an end. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had already missed the entire 11th grade at this point, but Jenna would be going back to school and I would be alone all day. I finally got the nerve up to call home. My mother answered the phone.  I didn’t know what to say to her and after several seconds of silence, I asked her if I could come back home. She told me my father would be home later in the evening and I could stop by to discuss the matter with them at that time.

 Time(10:04:38)Date (11-17-87)Name (Stephanie)Code (90839)Med (Lithium, Nipromine)                

 Stephanie is quite literate and has a command of English, combined with insight.  She perceives herself as being at odds with the world, and having paradoxically, a fear of moving on and giving up the habit.   On the one hand, the habit is an ‘old friend’ that alleviates her anxiety; while on the other hand, it is a ‘monkey on her back.’ She can’t just shake it loose, since the ‘tail is wagging the dog’: namely, the habit has control of her.                                               

When in doubt cut.                                                When anxious cut.                                                When depressed cut.Reframing:     

                   Stephanie, you need to begin to look at things differently, through rosy colored glasses, not gray glasses. Imagine a picture frame around an ordinary picture. By changing the frames one can accentuate or diminish the appearance of the picture.      The same applies to your cutting last weekend. On the one hand, you look at the negative…’I cut on myself Friday and Sunday.’ The positive would be ‘I did NOT do it on Saturday.’   Then by comparing the two days, one can also develop strategies as to how to diminish it happening on other days.A Buddy:    You are so isolated, that you have no one stable to whom you can turn to with this problem. Jenna is superficially supportive and does not understand. She is also weak.    Your boyfriend, James, romanticizes suicide and is unreal. The two of you could be a dangerous mixture at this time. Suicide pacts are grim. I know, I have had to deal with them (One person survived, and was devastated).    You and your parent’s are in the process of disengaging. You do have my number, use it! Anytime!The Future:  You talk of your interest in psychology. Let’s face it, you’re demonstrating such insight, and such strong verbal capabilities that if you were to continue, you could make a damn good counselor. Or more, having been where you have been, felt what you have felt, you could one day contribute to the understanding of how people think, behave. Presently, you’re using only some of your capacity to deal with emotions and behaviors. As your knowledge and skill grow, this will be enhanced.               

Once I read a report from the Menninger foundation on what test predicted who would become good psychiatrists. The best correlation? Verbal IQ! You are clearly an intelligent person.The Limbic Brain:    Currently your neo-cortex, the new thinking part of your brain, is thinking through, trying to do the right thing.   But you cannot change the way you feel. That is because your emotions are embedded in your positive brain, in the limbic area, and this is non-thinking. It takes time and patience to undo this part of your brain. But it will, in time, change.               

The lithium does not seem to be doing the trick for your biological depression and we should add something else.T-Charts                Remember to keep charts, as we discussed, of your emotions, actions, at certain times. These will help us to reconstruct past situations and to devise strategies to help you control your self-destructive patterns.              

Continue your notebook. As I said, you are literate. 

Dr. B.

  Chapter 8 Home Again

            After just a few days of finalizing things with my parents, I was allowed back home. The journey was going to be hard, and I was forced to suck up a lot of pride as well as give up pieces of myself. My mom allowed me to return home on the stipulation that I no longer had contact with Diane and Beeland. My mother felt as though all my problems stemmed from them. My father insisted I go to school. My parents knew I wanted to graduate on time and so they offered to pay for me to go to the community college while attending high school.

            My days were long; I started school at 7:00 AM and was through at 9:00 PM. My mom allowed me to spend time with Lisa but she still enforced my midnight curfew. My dad was only home two weekends a month; he spent the rest of his time at work. My dad was very good at providing material things but was weak when it came to emotional needs. I believe this stemmed from his own upbringing.

            My mother disagreed with me taking Lithium and the other meds I took for my depression. She also didn’t like me seeing Dr. B. She insisted that I couldn’t see him any longer and so I would sneak off to see him every couple weeks.

            My self –destructive behavior began to get out of control at this time. I cut on my self nightly; never to kill myself, but to release the anger and pain I felt inside. It soothed me, gave me a sense of safety and consistency. I was always very ritualistic when it came to cutting on myself. I would first get the razor blade and bandages. I would typically cut three times. The first slice to feel the burn of the razor blade across the skin. The second and third cuts were to watch the different layers of skin separate from each other. I was easily able to dissociate from the pain. Most times I cut, I never even realized I had done it until I was bandaging up the wounds. I always took great care in the wounds. I would typically re-cut the same wounds over and over. My parents hated this part of me. My father would ask, “How new is that one?” I’d always respond my shrugging my shoulders and walking away. My mother would just remind me not to bleed on her carpet. My legs were usually covered in bruises as I would take the wire hair brush and bang in against my legs until they bleed.

            Most of the kids at school found out about my hospital stay. It was the daily ritual to walk down the hallway and be asked, “How’s the freak doing today?” This didn’t bother me much as I had learned to dissociate very well and before long, I started giving them what they wanted. I would scream in the middle of class, and then announce it was a stress reliever. I was famous for getting kicked out of class for this type of behavior. I hear teachers still talk about this today. I also would overdose myself with medication to get attention. The reaction of too much Tegratol left me in a drunken state. One day I was so out of it, the school wanted to kick me out for coming to school intoxicated. Dr. B. had to call the school to get things straightened out.

            Well June finally came and to the surprise of my parents and me, I graduated on time. My parents were very proud. I left after graduation on my senior trip to the ocean. The day I arrived home from my senior trip my parents needed me to take them and my sisters to the airport as they were leaving to Europe. Although I was invited to go with my family, I chose to stay home and work. This proved to be a big mistake. I cried the entire time at the airport. They insisted they would pay for a ticket and just buy me clothes later, but I was too proud and still too angry to accept this kindness from them.

 Chapter 9 Independence

            With my parents away in Europe, the world was mine to explore. Jenna and I went to the skating rink several times a week, and it was at the rink that I met Phill. Phill was thirty-nine. Most of the kids at the skating rink insisted he was a child pornographer. Phill, to me, was absolutely perfect. When he skated, he was like an angel, floating through the air. He intrigued me but I knew he was way too old for me. Jenna and I skated with Phill and eventually he gave me his phone number. I was so excited that I told my parent’s  friend who had been checking in on me. What a mistake!

            My parents arrive home from their trips on my eighteenth birthday. I was so happy to see them. My sisters told me about how much fun they had with the exception of hating the food. After talking with my family for a while, I had to leave for work. When I arrived home from work my mom told me she had talked to her friend and that I needed to get out of her house. She insisted Phill was too old for me and that she wouldn’t have me living in her house if I was going to see him anymore. I tried to explain that I only saw him at the skating rink, but she didn’t want to hear it. I was allowed to take some of my clothes but was not allowed to take anything else.

            I called Jenna to see if I could stay with her but she was not going to get her apartment for another month. I was scared and knew I didn’t want to go back into the streets. I thought about calling Phill but was scared. I was afraid that what the other kids said about him might be true. I drove around for several hours and then finally decided to take my chances. I called Phill.

            Phill came to get me at the skating rink. He stopped and bought me a toothbrush and some other things I would need. He then drove me to this house in Gig Harbor. He was very kind to me, which made me even more nervous. I tried to sleep with Phill that night to pay him for his kindness but he wouldn’t have it. When I awoke the next morning there was a house key for me and a note reading, “I am at work and will be home soon.” He signed the note, “Love, Phill.” I couldn’t help but to wonder, does he really love me?

            The next month with Phill was very exciting. Phill would take me shopping by the water; we would eat in little restaurants by the marina and take long walks on the beach. I felt as though I was really special. Jenna was angry with me; she insisted things were too perfect. I did not care, I knew Phill cared for me and I cared for him.

            Phill arrived home from work one evening and said that we were going camping for the weekend. I don’t know what happened that night but my gut ached, I became extremely frightened. I called up Jenna and asked her if I could move in with her. When Phill went to work the next morning I packed my things and left. I never did tell Phill that I was leaving and I will never know why I just left like I did. I now know that everything happens for a reason and my reason was just around the corner.

 Chapter 10 Deli Shoppe

            After unpacking my clothes at Jenna’s house, I left for work. I was an appointment setter for a photography company. On my lunch breaks I went to the Deli with my co-workers. It was our daily hang out. It was a tradition to hassle the store manager about giving me a job. He always insisted I was way too obnoxious to work for him and would walk off. One particular day he came to me and asked if I really wanted to work for him, when I replied, “Yes!” he informed me that I needed to start the next week and would be working grave yard shift. I was so excited; I hated working on the phone. On my way out of the deli, I noticed a new employee stocking cups, his name was Lonnie. I approached him and told him I would be working with him soon. He just smiled.

            It was not too long before I became the night shift manager. Lonnie was put on graveyard shift with me. Several of the employees and me would laugh at Lonnie as he was always wearing headphones and singing as he swept the floor. He was a hick boy from Montana, and he was an easy target to tease. I would always insist Lonnie cut the onions when he was working, he never questioned what I wanted him to do. I just like to watch the tears pour out his eyes while he was cutting.

            One evening Lonnie needed a ride home from work and I agreed to take him home. We talked for a while and then listened to some music. We both liked rock music. He laughed because my ashtray was full of ashes and no cigarette butts. He asked me if I wanted to have a beer with him sometime and I told him yes. The next day we decided to go out together.

            Lonnie and I spent the day at his friend’s apartment where he was staying. Lonnie came to Seattle to play music, he loved to play guitar. We talked for hours. We talked mostly about relationships and what we thought would be the ideal relationship. We both agreed that we hated people groping all over each other in public. It wasn’t long before Lonnie asked me to go to the park with him. We groped each other so much that some old ladies insisted we ruined their lunch. We just laughed.

            Everyday I would come to work attacked by butterflies in my stomach. As soon as I saw his truck in the parking lot I would get excited. I would go to the cooler to say hello to him and then I would smile and walk away. One day he came to me and insisted I should not come around him at work anymore. I was devastated and began to cry. He just laughed; he insisted that when I was around he couldn’t concentrate. We laughed and I left him alone as much as I could.

            I called Dr. B. to tell him about Lonnie. Dr. B insisted that I not get into a relationship; he insisted that I not have sexual relations with anyone for at least a year. I didn’t care though, because I really liked Lonnie.

            Three weeks into our relationship, Lonnie found out that he had to move from his apartment because his friends were going back to Montana. I’d been looking for my own apartment so we decided to just get one together. My parent’s were not happy about me living with a guy before I got married but they also knew I had no where else to live. Jenna and I drifted apart by this point. She was using drugs, and had new friends and I had Lonnie. Lonnie and I weren’t able to get our own place because we had no credit, so my dad co-signed for us.

            Just three months after graduating high school, we had our own apartment. Our apartment was only six hundred square feet, but it was ours. My mom helped me decorate the apartment and she also let me have my belongings back from her house. I was surprised how nice she was being to me, but I took my things anyways, even knowing there could be a price to pay later on.

            Lonnie eventually went to day shift at the Deli and we saw less and less of each other. We had many arguments, sometimes physically fighting. The arguments were to be expected because we really hardly knew each other. Lonnie liked to drink, a lot, and he had a bad temper when he drank. I was very controlling and needy; emotions that he didn’t tolerate well. It wasn’t long before we both left the Deli and took new jobs that would have us both working day shift.

            Jenna started to spend a lot of time with Lonnie and I. One night we all sat around drinking, which led to a game of truth or dare. What started out as fun and games soon led to sexual dares. I agreed to the sexual dares but deep inside I was devastated. I believed that if Lonnie wanted to sleep with my friend, then who was I to keep him from it. I was afraid that if I said anything, they would be angry with me and so it was just easier to go along with it. Although we both regretted what happened that night, I became very depressed. I didn’t trust Lonnie and Jenna together anymore and I started doubting Lonnie’s love for me. Lonnie insisted that I was a willing party, and all though I was, I had still wished it had never happened. I wished that I had been strong enough to stand up and say “No, this isn’t okay with me.” But I was always in constant fear of Lonnie and Jenna leaving me, not wanting to be apart of my life, not loving me.

            Lonnie eventually was laid off from his job and we were broke. Jenna suggested that we move into an apartment together to share living expenses. I wanted to refuse but knew there was no other choice. I was always scared that Lonnie and Jenna were having sexual relations and I also always knew it would be my fault. It was not long before Jenna and I had a blowout and she moved out. Lonnie and I were eventually evicted from the apartment. With no money, we decided to move to the state park and live in a tent.

 Chapter 11 Tent Life

            Lonnie and I moved all our belongings into a storage unit, and scrapped up enough money to buy a tent. We stayed at state parks, moving every two weeks, as these were the rules of the park. Lonnie finally got a job at the airport and I was working as a nanny for a family in Kent, Washington. When our workday was through, Lonnie would start a fire and we would fish for perch. Although our life was not much, Lonnie always made me feel safe and let me know we would be okay. Lonnie would play his guitar for me a night, singing me to sleep. I truly loved this man.

            Winter was coming and the nights were getting colder. Lonnie became very ill. When I arrived from work one afternoon I noticed that all Lonnie’s things were gone. I caught up to him as he was driving away and asked him what was going on. He explained that he couldn’t live in a tent anymore and that he was moving in with a friend from work. I cried, but he insisted I just go home to my parents. He insisted he wasn’t good for me. I told him I didn’t care where I lived; I love him and wanted to be with him.

            Lonnie decided to stay and we moved in with some friends that we met at our first apartment. They gave us a couple weeks to get on our feet and then we needed to get our own place. After three weeks I found a condo for rent by the lake. Lonnie and I were finally in our own place again. Although we often only had cookie dough for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we were happy to be in our own place again.

            It was not long before Lonnie and I were back to normal. We would stay up for hours at night playing video games and spying on people across the lake with our binoculars. We were simple but we loved life and each other.

            One day at work I became very ill. It was like a brick was inside my stomach. Similar to what I felt when I was with Phill. To this day I don’t know what came over me but I now know to always listen to that feeling of sickness I get. I told my boss that something was wrong with Lonnie and that I needed to leave early. When I arrived home there was a note on the counter: “There is $140 in the bank and my check in on the way, please forgive me, Lonnie.” I was panicked. I ran through the apartment, looking for clues that proved to me that he had left, again. I called my father in tears explaining to him that Lonnie moved out. He had gone home to Montana. My father encouraged me to come over to his house and talk to him.

            When I arrived at my parent’s home I explained to him what happened. He asked if we had gotten into a fight and I told him we hadn’t, that I thought everything was going really well. When my mom arrived home, she asked, “What’s wrong with you?” I explained to her what happened and she just replied, “Well what did you do to piss him off?”  I was devastated by her lack of compassion. I left to go back to the condo. When I arrived home I went to the bathroom and cut on myself. I called Lonnie’s mom but she said that Lonnie didn’t love me and that I needed to leave him alone. I hated her so much. I knew she didn’t like me, but how could she keep me from the man I loved?

            Lonnie finally called me that night and apologized. He explained that his mom called crying and said she needed him and he felt that he needed to be there for her. He realized on his way to his mothers that he loved me. Lonnie told me to get a ticket for the train and he would pick me up at the train station in the morning. I was so relieved.

            When Lonnie and I arrived back home, it didn’t take long for things to get back to normal, again. The only thing that wasn’t normal was me. I had no self-esteem. I was scared all the time that Lonnie would leave me again. I constantly asked him if he was happy, if he had intentions on leaving again. He would comfort me and tell me how much he loved me.

            One of our friends, Dee, was a nurse. Although I was not very close to her, I needed her expert advice. I explained to her that my breasts were hurting. She laughed and told me I was pregnant. I told her it was impossible, that I couldn’t get pregnant. I explained to her that I had been having unprotected sex for years and never got pregnant. She insisted I buy a home pregnancy test.

            Lonnie and I awoke the next morning at 5:00 AM to take the test. There was a pink line and Lonnie screamed, “What the hell does that mean?” Fearing that Lonnie would get angry, I very delicately explained to him that I was indeed pregnant. Lonnie started screaming, but not because he was angry, he was excited that he was going to be a dad. He insisted we go to the pay phone and tell my father. When we called my father and told him, his reply was “Are you happy?” when we said yes, he then said, “Then I am happy for you.” I had not talked to my mom since the incident when Lonnie left, so I just left it for my father to tell her.

            Lonnie asked me to marry him and I told him I would. We decided we would get married in November. We were so very happy. Lonnie took very good care of me. I still wonder why they call it morning sickness. I was sick morning, noon, and night. This finally went away after my third month.

            When I was three months pregnant my mom came to my house and told me that her and my father was getting a divorce. She said she had met a man at jury duty and that she loved him and was moving in with him. She told me that my father was in his own apartment and that she needed Lonnie and me to move into my parent’s home to care for my sisters. She then handed me a gift for her grandchild to be and left.

            The move back to my parent’s home was great for Lonnie and me because it gave us a chance to get ahead financially. My youngest sister was still at home but Monique came and went over the next year. My youngest sister, Kim, was very traumatized by the divorce of my parents. When we moved into the home, we found her in the closet, sucking her thumb. Kim became very dependent on Lonnie and me.

            My father moved back home when the lease was up on his apartment. It was a very good move for my little sister as she needed my dad and Lonnie and I couldn’t give her what she needed. My mother stopped by often to collect her belongings and this would often turn into a screaming match between my parents. My mom would usually leave screaming for me to get the hell out of her house. Even as an adult, I still was the source of my parent’s arguments.

            The birth of Anthoni changed my life so much. Although I continued to have occasional conflicts with my mom, they happened with less frequency. I was growing up and able to understand her more, understand what would trigger her and what wouldn’t. My mom spent a lot of time with Anthoni; she was a very proud grandma.

            Lonnie eventually joined a band and this would be our life for the next five years. We traveled to different areas in Washington so he could perform, usually for no pay. The money didn’t matter to me as much as seeing Lonnie smile while he played his guitar. When Lonnie played his guitar he was secure and proud, something I knew I could never give him.

            Lonnie and I eventually moved out of my father’s house in order for me to start an in home daycare. Anthoni was a year old when we moved and I was 21 and ready to be out of my dad’s home. 

 Chapter 12 Matthew

            Lonnie and I decided when Anthoni was about three to have another child. I went to the doctor to see if he thought fertility treatment would work for me. After many tests, I was put on a fertility drug. Lonnie and I were so excited. Every month I took a pregnancy test but every month it was negative.

            My doctor then increased my dose of the medication and within two months I was pregnant. Lonnie and I were so happy. In my third month I started having this feeling that I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Lonnie told me that I was worrying about nothing, but I knew something wasn’t right. I went to the doctor’s office and they discovered that I didn’t make enough of the pregnancy hormone to maintain the pregnancy and that the baby absorbed back into my body.

            The loss of my pregnancy put me into a deep depression. I spent a lot of time alone and began cutting on myself quite regularly again. This would go on for about one year before I decided I needed to get back on my anti-depressants again. After a few months of taking the medication I was back to normal and ready to try for another baby.

            My doctor put me back on fertility drugs again and within one month I was pregnant. I was very nervous but knew that everything felt okay and my doctor had me come in weekly to check my hormone level. I felt as though my life was back on track.

            The birth of my second son, Matthew, was a very joyous day. I will never forget Anthoni holding his brother and saying, “My brand new baby brother.” I knew that day, that they would be very close.

            With the birth of Matthew came many changes for Lonnie and me. Lonnie decided to give up his life as a musician. I felt as though he felt he had to give up his music to be a father, even though he insisted he had done all he wanted to with his music. I wanted to go back to school but knew that it would put a big stress on our relationship. The lack of communication left Lonnie and me drifting farther and farther apart. Lonnie and I began to argue, sometimes physically, in front of Anthoni.

            About six months after Matthew’s birth, Lonnie decided he was going to leave, again. Lonnie explained that he was not in love with me, and I cried like the helpless woman I thought I was. I was completely devastated when Lonnie left. The words, “I AM NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU,” went through my head over and over again. Anthoni would sit on the couch holding me while I cried myself to sleep. Anthoni had become the parent of the house. I was too busy living in my misery, I had begun sleeping with another man, and cutting up my body.

            One week after Lonnie left he decided to come back. Lonnie insisted he had not been with any other women, but I knew differently. Lonnie asked to come back home, and I happily agreed. Lonnie told me that he was only coming back for his children but maybe in time he would love me again.

 Chapter13 Third Time’s a Charm

            It was not long before our lives were back to normal. Although I was always scared that he was going to leave again, in time, this thought slowly started to drift from my mind. Lonnie and I decided to buy a house. In 1996, Lonnie and I were finally homeowners. We were so very happy; we felt as though we were raising our children the way we were supposed to raise them.

            In 1998, I decided to go back to school. I was working full time, but Lonnie said if I thought I could handle working and going to school full-time, he would support me. My mom decided to go back to school with me. We went to the community college and enrolled. I was so excited to be able to go back to school, but not as excited as being able to spend time with my mom. Our relationship had blossomed so much since my younger years. My dream had come true, my mom and I had finally become friends.

            School proved to be very challenging for my mom and me. I was not good in arts and she was not good in math. Although at times we would get frustrated and maybe a little jealous of each other, we were now friends and were able to talk to each other about how we felt, at least some of the time. When I was ready to just give up and quit school, my mom was there to push me and I did the same for her. My mom and I walked down the aisle together at graduation. This was one of those perfect moments.

 I looked in the mirror today, wondering who is this person starring back at me. I feel as though I am depressed today, but know that it is really just life catching up with me.Looking back over the past year, so many things have happened. I have grown tremendously and at the same time regressed a little.I was at Anthoni’s basketball game yesterday and the woman Lonnie had an affair with last year was also there at the game. She and her friend found the need to mock me and give me looks from across the court. As I looked away from them, I felt me start to slide, start to drift from the person I have become.  Later in the day yesterday I felt myself drifting into my quiet little world, the place I tend to go, when I feel as though I am helpless or drowning. I started wondering why people feel the urge to hurt others. I wondered why this woman that my husband had relations with had so many issues with me. I then started really feeling sorry for myself and began dwelling on all the hurtful things people had said to me over the years.I do not have many friends in my life, well actually other than my family, I have very few people in my life that I would even associate with. My family has often told me that I am different. Although no one really ever defines to me how I am different, I know that deep inside, in some twisted way, I am different.

I realize I may never be a beautiful super model and I may never be considered normal to those around me, but when I got to sleep at night, I can say there is a lot I do know. I know that when the going gets tough, everyone calls me because they know I am dependable. The most important thing I know is that when I lay my head on the pillow at night, I have lived the day with pure respect to those around me and I sleep with a very clean conscience.

 Chapter 14 Who am I today?

It has been 5 years since I wrote those pages prior to this one. I have changed in so many ways. In 2006, I graduated from the Leadership Institute of Seattle/Bastyr with my Master’s degree in Systems Counseling/Applied Behavioral Sciences. I have started my own counseling practice with emphasis in trauma related issues.  I have learned to be honest with myself as well as set clear boundaries with others. Over the past years of my life, I have made many choices that kept me in a victim role. It was in my graduate program where I discovered my inability to be intimate with anyone, even my husband. I learned how I would use sex with other men as a means of inflicting self harm and a way to continue my story that my body was not mine.  I had several sexual experiences with and without Lonnie as a way to continue my own story that if I was to be in relationship with another person, I needed to sleep with them. I am not proud of the choices I have made in the past but I also always remind myself that I was not responsible for what I didn’t know, and now that I know, I am responsible for my actions.

Surprisingly, Lonnie and I are still together 19 years later. Lonnie and I were a very dangerous mix together for many years. We both had a lot of baggage we had not dealt with, which led to many verbally abusive fights. A few years ago Lonnie was arrested for pointing a gun at my head. He was arrested and spent a few months in jail. It was the first time in our lives we had ever really spent apart. Yet, it was probably the most beneficial thing that could of ever happened to us. Lonnie spent 1 ½ years in counseling, domestic violence counseling, and drug and alcohol classes. I spent two years doing my own healing work.  We had to recognize that we are two very different people, not one. We try very hard to support each other on our own journey, understanding that our individual journey’s will not always cross paths. We no longer find the need to paint the picture but let the picture be filled in as we go along in life. We have had to do a lot of work with our children and still apologize for all the hell we put them through. We can only hope that we have broken the cycle of unhealthiness for our children, but only hard work and time will tell.

I have finally learned to love myself, to desire myself. I am so proud of the work I have accomplished and am open to the work still left to do. I have been blessed by being given the opportunity to tell my story to others and help lead others to their own, safe healing journey. My biggest learning…I can choose to not be a victim…

I now offer seminars and presentations around the United States. I work with survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Native Country, as well as present for company’s on topics relating to conflict management, leadership, domestic violence in the workplace and a variety of other issues.

I have finally found my calling in life. I guess I didn’t realize it was there all along, I just needed to shout a little louder..

 

Often times we hear stories and wonder how one sided they are. I asked my mom to tell my story in her own words. I know this was hard for my mom, and that she did it to help me heal, as well as herself. Thank you mom

 Chapter 01 A mother’s viewpoint

July 7, 1970 a beautiful little girl was born in Bellflower, California. Her name would be Stephanie Louse Bernardin. Stephanie would be bottle-fed and her formula would be changed many times before they found one that would not make her sick. The final formula, soymilk. Stephanie was colicky as a baby and cried most of the time. Stephanie’s crying would come at the most terrible time, always late at night. Her father or I would have to put her in the car and drive around until she would fall asleep. Her sleeping habits were backwards, sleep all day and up all night. Stephanie was a difficult infant leaving little time for me to spend with her older brother Richard and her father.

            As the days past, I became more irritated with Stephanie’s crying, I decided to go back to work. At least when I worked I could be away from the stress at home and I always enjoyed working. I think that being pregnant and having Stephanie’s brother plus a new husband had not prepared me for what the future would hold for our family. The other problem was I had come from a family where I had to raise my sister and brother for my mother who had been married five times and was single most of the time. I found myself resenting the time I had to spend with Stephanie and Ricky because I wanted to have some fun and do what I wanted to do without kids.

            Stephanie started having tonsillitis by the time she was six months old and would have her tonsils removed by the time she was two. Stephanie’s crying and sleeping habits would not be normal until the time she reached three. This is when I really started enjoying and bonding with my little girl for the first time since she was born. Our family life became more normal even with my working 40 hours a week. Steph’s dad was working 50 hours a week and was attending college to obtain his MBA, but as a family we always seemed to find time to go out on Friday nights. On Sundays, my husband and I would put the kids in the car and go for long rides to the park or to look at model homes in the area. I was really getting into the role of a working mother and wife and as I look back on those few years they were really fun for the family and me.

            Stephanie started talking saying the famous first words “DA-DA” at ten months old. Her father was so excited that she had learned his name first. After those words, Stephanie’s vocabulary expanded rapidly.

            As a toddler, Stephanie had her shares of falls, bumps, bruises, and sibling rivalry, but she survived. Stephanie was the apple of her dad’s eye and each day a bond grew between them that would carry on long after Stephanie became an adult. The closer Stephanie and her father got, the more I started having those old feelings that I experience when she was an infant. I would find fault with everything Stephanie did, and when I let her know, her father would step in and stand up for her, which would cause me to become jealous and dislike Stephanie even more. I started feeling like Steph’s father loved Steph more than me. I felt threatened and had no idea of how to let go of those feelings.

            As a mother I felt guilty for not loving Stephanie enough and never having a father, I was having an awful time trying to understand this bond of father and daughter. How dare Stephanie take my husband away from me and make my life miserable.

 Chapter 02 Jealousy

            September 1975, Stephanie started kindergarten. She was a model student always ready to help the other children in her class and around the neighborhood. Stephanie’s life would be fairly normal, with me still finding fault with her, but normal for her. During this time I became pregnant, giving Stephanie a sister. Not long after giving birth, I got pregnant again, having another little girl. I found bonding with Steph’s younger sisters easier, the reason being Stephanie’s father was working long hours and still attending school. Also, Steph’s dad did not show the younger girls the attention that he shared with Stephanie. A day would not go by that Stephanie’s father would not shower Stephanie with some kind of praise. The rest of the family would get what was left over, which was not much. This caused resentment between Stephanie, her siblings, and I. Everyday Steph’s dad and I would argue about him loving Steph more than me. I remember saying more often than I would like to admit that if Steph and I were in a car accident and he had to choose, I would always say that he would choose Stephanie over me. Looking back I would say that the insecurities I had about myself caused my family so much unnecessary pain. It would take me many years after Steph left home to figure out that no one can make us happy but ourselves. Also, I would find out that when we are happy with ourselves life becomes so much more fun. But, it would take me many years to reach that part of my life. I would continue to blame Steph for all of my unhappiness for years to come.

 Chapter 03 Growing Up

            Steph’s life would take a drastic change when she was in the 4th grade. An older couple would move into the house next door. This older grandfatherly type man began molesting Stephanie and other girls in the neighborhood. One day while getting ready for work I happened to see a note that she had written about the man next door. The note said that the man next door was mean and she hated him. After much screaming, trying to find out why Stephanie would write such a terrible note, Steph finally revealed what no parent ever wants to hear from their child “I hate him because he makes me pull down my pants and touches my private parts.” I called her father who came home from work with fire in his eyes and he had to be restrained by the police to keep from killing this older man. It was later found out that this man had molested other little girls in the neighborhood along with Steph’s sisters. The man was arrested and Stephanie, her sisters, and the other little girls went to court to testify against him. In the meantime, children in the neighborhood teased Stephanie and some even went as far as to say that the man had not committed this act towards Stephanie and the other girls. Because of the problems in the neighborhood, Steph’s father and I decided that moving would be the best option for our family. Maybe this would make our family whole and I would find out why I still resented Stephanie so much.

            Life became normal again; Steph and her siblings were adjusting to the new house and neighborhood. I was working and had become an Assistant Manager for a drug chain, which meant more money for the family fund. Steph’s father had finally graduated and had received his MBA. Steph’s father was making great money as well as promised promotions in the future. Life was good but I still had a feeling that Steph’s dad loved her more than me. I still had a feeling that something was missing in my relationship with Steph’s dad. I was not happy and even though the money, house, and job was going better than anytime in my life, I still found myself searching for something. I still was finding fault with Stephanie and could not bond or find the love that I had for Steph’s other siblings. Even my relationship with her brother was deteriorating; he started having problems at school and finally quit school before graduating. I just could not get through the day without making Steph and Rick pay for my unhappiness. I found myself spending more and more time at work and would volunteer extra time even though we did not need the money.

            By the time Stephanie was in the 10th grade, her father was offered a job in the Seattle area and we decided that a change might help our relationship. I hoped that Steph and I could find some kind of bond of love. I really wanted her to be my little girl and have a relationship with her. Steph’s brother would not make the journey with us as I had pushed him out of the house and he was living with friends. Steph’s brother would not be a part of our family for many years, and to date, he still floats in and out.

            Life has to be better in Washington than in California, after all this is a new beginning for the girls, Steph’s dad and me.

 Chapter 4 Washington

            The move to Washington was not the utopia that our family had hoped for; instead it was Hell on earth. I became moody and unhappy, as I had no friends or family in this part of the world. So guess who received my un-happiness- Stephanie. If she wanted to be with friends, I became jealous and would not let her. I would put unreasonable requests on her. I yelled and screamed if she was five minutes late from her curfew. If Steph’s dad wanted to buy her anything, I objected. I always felt threatened by anything that Steph would receive from her father or her friends. The more I objected about Stephanie and her father, the more he protected her, which only made me angrier.

            Steph and her dad would get closer as the days went by and I would get closer to the younger girls. I was not working when we moved to Washington and didn’t work again until Steph’s dad and I separated. I would be home when the girls came home from school. The girls and I would go for long drives without their dad, as he was traveling all the time. Steph and I were almost strangers by this time. She would spend most of her time in her bedroom alone. She became reclusive and spent less and less time doing anything with the family. When I was able to persuade her to come with us, she would be moody and do everything she could to make the event an unhappy one.

            Steph’s dad would blame me if Steph or the girls argued with me, making sure to mention it in front of them. It would not take long for Steph to find my buttons and get me to start yelling at her and her dad would yell at me saying I couldn’t get along with anyone. Again the wedge between Steph and myself was getting larger and I found myself resenting her more everyday. I believed that if she was not a part of the family, Steph’s dad and I could have a perfect marriage. I also believed that without Steph, I could find the happiness that I longed for.

 Chapter 5 Hospital

            Stephanie left home when she was 16 years old to live with another friend; I felt guilty that, again, I had failed my child. But way down deep, I was happy that she was gone. I just knew that her dad would learn to love me as much as he loved Steph. I still had not realized that I was the main cause of the deteriorating relationships I had with my husband and children.

            Steph’s dad and I received a phone call one evening from one of Steph’s friends saying that she was in Providence hospital in Seattle, and that she had tried to commit suicide. When I walked into the emergency room, I could not believe my eyes. I saw police with men handcuffed and street people. I insisted that Steph be sent to another hospital. Steph’s doctor, Dr. B., said that Steph would be better at Providence. I again insisted and Steph was taken to another hospital by ambulance that night. Steph refused to see me. She allowed her dad to go into her room but the nurses said that Steph would not allow me in. Talk about a rough awakening. I really had lost Steph and felt that I was the worst mother in the world. Steph’s dad would concur with that thought, saying that I caused Steph to try and commit suicide as well as being responsible for her other problems.

            That night I stayed awake wondering why I could not get along with Stephanie and why I couldn’t be the mother she deserved.

            Steph was transferred back to Providence Hospital and remained there for two months. She allowed me to visit but the wedge between us was so large, I chose not to. Steph’s dad and I didn’t have a strong marriage by the time that Steph was allowed to come home, which would cause my hostility toward Steph to rise. Steph and her dad always seemed to have a secret. I felt that the bond between them was stronger than ever and my relationship with the two of them was at the point of no return. I decided to put all my energy into taking care of the younger girls, trying to be the perfect mother.

            Steph graduated with her class and I was so proud, but I could not allow her to see that I was beaming from head to toe. Steph was my first child to graduate from High School and she did it by going to the Community College at night to make up the classes that she missed when she was in the hospital. Yes, I was the proudest mother that night, crying like a baby in the audience, seeing my child beat all the odds of her youth and pull herself out of the pit that I had pushed her into to.

 Chapter 6 My First Grandchild

            Steph’s and my life changed again in the next couple of years, but this time for the better. We continued to have many tough roads to travel, but nothing like the nightmare of our past.

            Steph got married and gave me my first grandchild. That was the happiest day of my life. Holding that little life that Steph and her husband created was like God giving me another chance to show Steph that I could be the kind of mother she deserved.

            Stephanie and I started bonding from that day on and really started talking. We also started listening to each other, which was hard for me, as I am so “black and white” about life. I would still find myself falling into the trap, of the old feelings, that Steph and her father loved each other more than me. The green monster would appear and Steph and I would go weeks or months without talking.

            When I finally realized that maybe I was the problem, I went to see the doctor. I explained how depressed I was. She sent me to a counselor and started me on anti-depressants. It was not long before I found the happiness that I had always been looking for. I found out that it had to start with me before it can be shared with others. I eventually had all three of my daughters come to the counselor’s office to let each of them know how very sorry I was for all the hurt I caused them throughout their lives. That is the day I started my own healing.

            Steph’s dad and I were eventually divorced and I remarried a wonderful man that helps me to be a better person.

 Chapter   7 Friends

            Stephanie and I have come so far in the past years. She is my friend and my daughter. I don’t feel threatened when she and her dad get together. As a matter of fact, I encourage it. The bond that Steph and I have is deeper and wider than I really deserve. I am the luckiest mom in the world as I was given a second chance with Stephanie to make up for all of the hate, hurt, and lack of childhood that I was responsible for.

            Steph and I graduated from the Community College and received our AA Degree. We walked up on the stage and received our diplomas together. Steph has made me proud and I will never be able to put into words how much she means to me. My heart swells when I think of this daughter of mine that I used to be jealous of. Steph and I have grown so much over the years and I know that we will continue to grow and that the pain I caused Steph will hopefully decrease in her heart. I have to believe that it will or I would not be able to keep my own self going.

            I am writing this story, not to have you stand in judgment of me or feel sorry for our family, but to save other children from going through a more difficult time in childhood than need be.

            I will offer some suggestions that might help during those difficult times when life seems to be going in the wrong direction:

1.  Respect your child. How can you expect to be respected if you don’t show respect?           

2.  Tell your child that you love them every single day. Remember they are on loan from us from God and could be taken away at anytime.           

3.  Do not let the green monster rule your life. When we are jealous we are really only hurting ourselves.           

4.  Love yourself. How can you give love if you do not love yourself?           

5.  It is okay to be angry. Talk about it instead of holding it inside. You might find out that your child feels the same way.            6.  Listen. The hardest thing for adults to do is listen to our children. We think we have all the answers because we have lived longer. But I will be the first to admit I am still learning not only from my children but from my grandchildren.           

7.  Be fair. If a child does wrong let him/her know it, but also let the child know when he/she has done good.

8.   Don’t always believe what you think. If only I had known that years ago, so many problems would have not been created.

 Chapter 8 My Baby Girl

            In closing I just want to say that “My Baby Girl” is so important to me. We have traveled a long hard road, but in the end we have accomplished, and taught each other so much. We have reached the point that we can respect each other’s opinions even if we don’t always agree. We can talk without feeling the pain that we both felt so many years ago. We truly have a bond and I have the daughter I have always dreamed of having.

            Steph you will never know the joy I had when I was pregnant with you, and the excitement I had the day you were born. I wanted to have a daughter and to love her so much, not like my mom. I failed you when you were little, but I will work hard to make up for the pain I caused you. I may make many mistakes along the way but I know that the bond that we have is strong enough to carry us through the difficult times.

            Steph thank you for being such a special person. You have grown into a woman who knows what she wants in life and you are lucky enough to know how to achieve what you want. Steph keep following your dreams and in the end you will find it.

            I love you so much sweetheart and I am so lucky that God loaned you to me. I would not change anything about you.

 

Love MOM

 

           

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