From the Inside Out

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Opening Up

Once the media sensationalism died down and the phone calls from TV show producers stopped coming in, it left me a lot of time to think about how quickly things had spiraled and how horrible everything really was. Everyone was so focused on the sentimental aspect of Ryan wanting to see his sister happy and no longer bullied that nothing was done about the fact that Amber suffered tremendously and I couldn’t even help her. All of my efforts were for nothing and I felt like I’d failed her.

I had sought help for Amber back when she was just four years old and began to exhibit behaviors that I knew weren’t normal. I brought her to a psychiatrist that specialized in treating children. I was open and honest with this psychiatrist. She was under the impression that Amber was just being manipulative. One day during a session that Amber, Ryan, and I attended, this psychiatrist told me I needed to spank Amber. Once I explained that I’d decided not to use that method of punishment, because I had in the past––it was really the only form I knew how to do––but I didn’t like it and said I wouldn’t so it anymore. I also explained how I didn’t want to abuse her. I questioned what if the state became involved if I spanked her? The psychiatrist told me that if that were to happen, she would have records to indicate that Amber wasn’t being abused, but that Amber was a manipulator.

She even told me that Amber should go into foster care so that she could see what real problems looked like. She said, “Let her get beat and raped in foster care. Those kids have real issues. She doesn’t.”

I sat there in disbelief at what I just heard. Not only was it said to me, but it was also said in the same room my children were in. She even said, “Amber, I know you hear me and understand what I am saying.” Amber didn’t appear fazed by the comments, but for two weeks after that appointment, Ryan begged me to not let anyone take his sister to foster care because he didn’t want her to be beaten or raped. He didn’t even know what being raped was, they were only five years old––but he knew it was bad. Not only was the mental health care system failing my daughter, but the public school system was too. I should have been the stability that she needed, and yet I was falling apart.

I spent many weeks doubting my ability to be a good mother. Maybe some of those people online were right. Maybe it was all my fault that Amber was being tormented. Maybe I didn’t deserve to be a mother. Seeing mean things written about me online really hurt me, but now that I think about it, it probably hurt me because there was truth to it all. Sure, there were more people who were being positive and supported me, but when you are depressed, it is hard to see the positive. I wanted to avoid falling into the dark abyss of depression. I had been down that road before and I didn’t want to go there again. I tried to use my free time to do things I enjoyed to do, like listening and dancing to music, and writing. I wrote so many poems, but they were only dark in nature since I always write my true feelings.

Writing has always been an outlet for me. I depended on it and, much like my love for music, writing was my buoy that had kept me from sinking a long time ago. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that simply listening to music and writing would be enough to help me maintain the small amount of sanity that I clung to with every ounce of strength that I could muster on any given day. I knew that it took strength; strength that wavered as the days turned into nights and turned once again into days. I knew it was probably time for me to see a professional again.

I remembered that when I was a child, I struggled daily to discover my self-worth. In my mind, my self-worth was measured by how well I performed oral sex on any man who asked or forced me to, or how often some grown man wanted to bed me. Or even how happy I could make someone else by doing any and everything that was asked of me, even if it was at the detriment of my own well-being. I secretly yearned for the day that when I grew up, I could put all of those days behind me. Imagine my surprise when even after I grew up, I still couldn’t place an attainable value on my worth.

My experience with therapists in the past revealed that I didn’t have the best track record when it came to mental health professionals. I am willing to admit that some of the blame for that fell on me. However, I can’t help but cringe when I think about the psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s who told me that my pattern of self-mutilation was just a call for attention. I didn’t agree since most of my injuries were able to be well hidden by my clothing, but it didn’t stop him from judging me. Not to mention the very ignorant way he dismissed my coping methods by saying I shouldn’t be using self-injury anyway because only “rich white girls” did that.

Then there was the one therapist who had me committed to a hospital any time I would answer honestly about whether I had suicidal thoughts––which I experienced on a regular basis, even though I didn’t have a concrete plan to carry it out.

So I sought out a different therapist. This led me to a company called CareShare and to a therapist who would be retiring the following year. He was hard of hearing and spoke a little too loudly for my liking––especially since loud male voices caused me to experience extreme anxiety. I remember the first time I met with him, I walked into the room and took a seat in an empty yellow armless chair. The therapist looked at me for a moment before getting up and grabbing a chair identical to the one I was sitting in, except this chair was blue. He slid it next to me and asked if I would be more comfortable sitting in two seats. Now, while I was very overweight, I had no problems physically fitting comfortably in the chair that I was sitting in. Then the whole time of our session, the therapist was more focused on my size and commented on my weight so that I couldn’t even get to the root cause of why I was there to see him that day. Couple his insensitivity about my weight with the fact that I felt like he was yelling each time he spoke and my comfort level was pretty non-existent. I knew this wouldn’t work out and I couldn’t handle that.

Then there was the therapist I saw who would not-so-discreetly check her watch no fewer than 6 times during our sessions together. It would distract me because I always felt like I was inconveniencing her. I wanted to ask her if I was keeping her from something pressing, but I wasn’t the confrontational type. Her distracting way of clock watching also made me wonder if I was talking too much or if I was in danger of running out of time. There were also a few times I caught that same therapist falling asleep during our therapy session. That was so uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say. If I mentioned that she was dozing off I might make her feel uncomfortable. Instead, I just pretended not to notice and every time her eyes closed, I would advert my eyes to something else in the room and just continued talking like everything was normal. So needless to say, I stopped seeing her.

It wasn’t until years later, when I gave birth to Ryan and Amber and began suffering from what I suspected was postpartum depression, that I sought therapy again. This was when I met Joan.

Joan was a lovely lady. Very nice, friendly, and warm. After years and years of failed attempts, I’d finally found someone I felt comfortable with. I only opened up to Joan about the superficial stuff because I wasn’t prepared to divulge anything deeper yet. Besides, experience had led me to be skeptical of therapists. During sessions, Joan actively listened, comforted me, and was just a non-judgmental, pleasant person. I loved it. My mom noticed the difference with me when I saw Joan. Even Crystal noticed the positive change in me from over three thousand miles away. But like I did with anything positive in my life, I discarded it, believing that I didn’t deserve someone who listened to me. I didn’t deserve healing. My cross to bear was the pain I was in. The pain that seemed insurmountable most days.

After Joan, I decided that I was done with therapy. But I noticed that I was not only having suicidal thoughts, but also making well-developed plans to carry it out. You see, once I gave birth to Ryan and Amber I knew that I could never kill myself; even though the suicidal thoughts were there, the thought of leaving my children behind was suffocating. I actually had a reason to live, no matter how badly I felt. I had these two beautiful souls that depended on me to provide for them, care for them, protect them, and love them. Their birth, quite literally, saved my life. This rationalization didn’t stop the suicidal thoughts from eventually returning. The suicidal thoughts then began turning into well-devised plans, and before I knew it, I began to convince myself that my children would be better off without me anyway.

When the twins were born, I was reborn. I had a reason to go on. I had a reason to try. I had two beautiful reasons to win at this thing called life. I knew eventually the day would come where my love for my children wouldn’t be enough to sustain me. Selfish, I know. I decided I needed help. I didn’t have much luck in searching Rocky Mount for therapists. There were plenty of therapists here to choose from, but none of them had the qualifications to help me with what I needed to work on, and the ones that did didn’t accept my kind of health insurance.

I decided maybe I needed to expand my search area, branch out a little bit. I searched the internet for a few days. I narrowed down my potential-therapists pool to the location of Raleigh, which was only about a forty-five-to-fifty-minute drive away from Rocky Mount. I have horrible anxiety and usually had panic attacks driving somewhere new, especially if it called for driving on the highway, but the situation was becoming dire and I knew that if I didn’t make the effort trying, I would make the effort dying.

Thanks to the Psychology Today website, I found a few therapists that had impressive credentials and experience. I called a few and left messages for them. One of the top three therapists that I was considering ended up reaching out to me very quickly. His name was Andrew. Now, I’d had male therapists in the past and it didn’t bother me too much because as long as someone would help, I couldn’t care less what their gender was. Andrew responded to my email and set up a time for me to come to his office for a consultation. As the day of my consultation grew near, I was less confident about seeing Andrew. It was around the time of my birthday and I get very depressed that time of year anyway. That time of year would dredge up extreme anxiety and increase the intensity of my nightmares. I was always a basket case around that time of the year. I decided to just forget the idea that seeing a therapist again would help and I sent an email to Andrew to apologize for wasting his time, but I’d decided to forget about starting therapy again.

It didn’t take very long at all for Andrew to respond back and tell me that he offered twenty-minute free phone consultations and that he could call me to help me cope with whatever happened for me during my birthday. I was surprised that he picked up on the offhand comment I’d made about how I feel during my birthday. I didn’t even really mean to bring it up; I didn’t think it had any real significance, but at the same time, I was touched that he cared. I thought that his twenty-minute phone consultation was very generous of him and I accepted his offer. I figured it couldn’t hurt, right?

Andrew called me and the first thing I noticed was how at ease I felt talking to him. His voice was soothing. Andrew’s free twenty-minute consultation ended up being a forty-six-minute phone call where he helped me find coping skills to help me survive my birthday weekend. Not once did I feel rushed or feel like I was inconveniencing him. In fact, Andrew acted as if I were the only person that mattered at the time and he skillfully provided me with methods of coping with the feelings that I was experiencing, and he didn’t even know the source of those feelings. By the time I had hung up the phone with Andrew, I knew right then that not only would I reschedule my appointment, but I would also definitely show up.

The first meeting with Andrew was hard. It always is. The drive to the office was uneventful for the most part. I only had three anxiety attacks on the way. Once I pulled into the driveway, I had trouble locating the building because it was part of a bunch of other buildings that was similar in size and color. I called his office and the director guided me to the location and instructed me to go up to the second floor. After I parked and walked inside, I walked up a flight of stairs and I could hear my heart beating on the way up. Not because of the exercise of the stairs (I won’t lie, those stairs tried to kill me) but because I was so scared to meet Andrew. It was uncomfortable and unnerving. But I reminded myself that there was something familiar with him and I didn’t know what it was right offhand.

Andrew greeted me by shaking my hand and I followed him to his office. His office was tiny. The room had four white walls, a lamp in the right corner behind the door, a large brown desk, and two black office chairs, one behind the desk, where Andrew sat, and one directly across from him, where I sat. Andrew started out by asking me questions about my age, my family, where I lived, etc. I couldn’t pay attention to his questions because the room appeared to get smaller and my breathing became quick, shallow breaths. I should probably have mentioned to him that I was claustrophobic. There wasn’t even a window in this office and the door was closed. Jesus, the room is closing in on me, I thought. I have to say something. Instead, I closed my eyes and tried to slow down my breathing; it didn’t work. I began to sweat.

Andrew wasn’t talking anymore. I looked at him. He asked me if I was OK. I had to tell him. I told him that I was feeling like the room was closing in on me. He immediately stood up and opened the office door. He instructed me to come with him. We walked down the short hall to another room. I guessed that this room was used as a break room. It contained a sink with counters above it. I also noticed a small dorm-room-sized refrigerator. There was a water cooler in one corner next to a thirteen-gallon trashcan. The table was long and had about six or seven black executive-style office chairs around it. This room was bright and had four large windows that gave lots of sunlight. When Andrew closed the door to this room, I didn’t feel closed in. The room was much bigger, there was more space between us, and there was plenty of natural light. A much more comfortable setting to tell this stranger about all of my life experiences.

Andrew began asking me about my mental health background. Any hospitalizations, any medications that I might be on. I told Andrew I had stopped taking my medications in November of 2013. It was now March 2014 and I realized that being off of my medications had a lot to do with why I was feeling so bad. But the medication made me feel numb. Even taken as prescribed, it would also make me sleepy. I was a zombie. On the days that I did feel good and have so much energy, the medications would make me lifeless. That was no way to live. I didn’t want that. I decided that maybe with therapy, and going to therapy consistently, perhaps I could learn to cope with these feelings. I was taking something to help my depression, taking something to help my mood swings, taking something to help me sleep, taking something to help my anxiety, taking something to help my nightmares, taking something to help my obsessive compulsiveness. It was ridiculous to be on so many medications.

After the questions about health and medications, it was time for the more personal questions. I hated these questions. You would think I would be used to being asked these types of questions, and I was, but I hated it. Well, it was more like I hated one question in particular.

“Have you ever been sexually abused?” Andrew asked me.

“NO!” I said, a little more forcefully than I intended to. I said no again, but this time in a much calmer and more normal tone of voice.

Andrew looked at me and with his hands up in a gesture of surrender, said, “OK, OK.” He moved on from there to ask me what my ambitions were, what my strengths were. I told him I didn’t have any strengths, but he disagreed. He thought that intelligence was a strength of mine. I disagreed. Here I was, newly thirty-four years old, and all I had was a high-school diploma. Although I had earned two associate degrees––they just weren’t earned in my name. A family member came to me to take classes online for them because they worked full time and didn’t have the time to do it. As always, I wanted to help. So I did it, twice. However, when I would go to college for myself, I would take a few courses and then quit because I lacked the confidence that I could actually earn a degree. Even though I had already done so, twice, for someone else, I couldn’t do it for me.

Not including that awkward exchange with Andrew about the abuse, I realized that I liked him. After the very first meeting. This was rare. I never liked anyone after just the first meeting. Not even Joan. And I loved Joan. The ride back home to Rocky Mount after our session was enlightening. I did so much thinking. Could I trust him? Should I return? Will he think I am crazy? Does he think I am stupid? I worried about all of these questions and decided that the second session would provide some clarity for me. I knew before even pulling into my driveway at home that there would be a second session.

I was in a good mood for the rest of the day. I felt that there was a chance that things could change for me. For the first time in months, I was hopeful. I was hoping Andrew would be beneficial in helping me to find the answers that I needed.

A few nights later, I had gone to bed pretty early. I was exhausted since I usually didn’t sleep too well anyway. Sleep and I always had a love/hate relationship, but my problems with sleep had escalated when I was robbed by a gunman one morning while at work. I was sitting at my desk at the clinic where I worked. Part of my job entailed greeting clients and informing potential clients about our program and what we had to offer. A male walked in one morning and I didn’t find it odd that I didn’t recognize him. At times, we had random people come in to inquire about signing up for the clinic. He walked in and came up to my window. I smiled at him and asked if I could help him. I couldn’t even see the gun in his hand pointed at me at first. Even when he demanded the money, it still didn’t click with me that I was being robbed. I had a brief struggle with him, I tried to avoid giving him the cash, and he threatened to shoot me, and I ended up giving him everything out of the register. Once he had the money, he walked out quickly and silently.

Since the armed robbery at my job I would jolt out of a sound sleep with my heart pounding, struggling to catch my breath. I hated nights like that because I wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep. But this night was different. This nightmare was different. The sound of me crying out woke me up from my sleep. I looked frantically around the room. It took several seconds before I realized that I was at home. In my own bed and not back at St. Mark’s hospital in New Jersey. I was disoriented and felt like I would be sick. I wanted to self-harm. I needed to self-harm to feel better. Instead, I decided to send Andrew an email. I don’t know why I wanted to do this. I didn’t even know if I was allowed to email him. I had his email address because it was provided on the website in order to contact him. I wasn’t feeling good emotionally and I wanted to reach out to him. It was a new feeling for me to want to reach out for help before resorting to hurting myself. Maybe this was a sign of change already? I didn’t know, but I threw caution to the wind and I began my email:

I can’t sleep. Actually, I think I’ve managed maybe six hours since Thursday. I don’t know. The days are a blur right now. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. For the first time in my life that I’ve been in therapy I’ve wanted to be open and honest because I figured that things won’t change if I keep hiding huge parts of me. I am not intentionally trying to hide things, it’s just I don’t know how to ask for help––or even how to talk about what I need help with. My head is filled with thoughts that are racing and going in a million different directions. Like hundreds of angry wasps buzzing around. At our first session, you said something about sexual abuse and it threw me off, like it usually does when a therapist mentions it. I must wear a secret scarlet letter because it’s always guessed that I experienced that. I remember one time as a teenager at St. Mark’s hospital, the psychiatrist asked me if I had been sexually abused. I just nodded, and then he said “Well you’re a pretty big girl, so your attacker had to have been awfully large for you to not be able to protect yourself.” That was all that I needed to hear to know that I couldn’t trust anyone. Especially considering that I was assaulted by an employee at St. Mark’s. I eventually stopped participating in group meetings, I wouldn’t eat during meal times, I stopped talking to the psychiatrist, so they transferred me to the state hospital because I was being “non-compliant” with my treatment. So that was that.

When I was 19 and had already moved to North Carolina just a few months earlier, I got a job at a popular chain pizza restaurant as a delivery driver. At the time I was living with my roommate who was a 52 year old woman I met while we were in a program together called PH. PH stood for Partial Hospitalization and it was for people like me. People who had serious mental illnesses and needed skills to lead a normal, productive life, but were just short of needing more acute care in a hospital. My roommate Linda had many physical ailments on top of her psychiatric ones. Linda ended up having a below the knee amputation of her right leg during the time I stayed with her. But I digress––while working at this pizza restaurant, I had to shadow my co-worker Joe. He was 38 years old, married and had 2 boys. I rode along with him on his deliveries for the first few weeks and then I was on my own. Well, on my second day going at it all alone, I made pretty good tips and was pretty happy. I got off work about 11pm. I was exhausted and my roommate was in the hospital so I was alone. After I got off I went home and showered. I was starving having not eaten the whole day and I realized there wasn’t anything at home really to eat. There was a Food Lion about a mile down the road but then that would have required me putting clothes on and I was in my PJs and not willing to do that. Then I remembered my pizza restaurant where I worked didn’t close until 1am on the weekends so I called and ordered a large pizza with pepperoni and cheese bread. I turned on my CD player, and just danced around in the kitchen, singing and entertaining myself. About 30 minutes later the doorbell rang and it was Joe with my order. He said “Hey Karen, how are you? I didn’t know you lived here.” I said yeah, I live here with my roommate. So he asked if my roommate was my boyfriend and I told him no––she was an older lady who was in the hospital right now. So he asked if I was home alone. I told him yes. All the while, I am paying him for my pizza. I tried to tip him. He said, “No. No tip. Keep your hard earned money Karen.” I said no, please. I insist. Take it. So then he said “I tell you what, what if I take this, go pick us up some beer and then come back here and keep you company? You are my last delivery and I can be back in about 30 minutes.” I told Joe that I wasn’t old enough to drink. He just laughed and said that it was OK, that he wouldn’t tell anyone. So I agreed. He left and I ate 2 slices of pizza and then danced and sang some more and sure enough 35 minutes later my doorbell rang again and it was Joe. He wasn’t in his pizza uniform anymore and he had a bag of beer with him. I invited him in and we sat in the kitchen, which was close to the back door. We talked for a few minutes while I sipped on the beer. Oh my god, beer is so nasty. Ugh. Anyway so after a while Joe got up and stood behind me and started to massage my shoulders. At the time, I was holding a deck of playing cards in my hand that went everywhere because I nervously dropped them when he started touching me. He asked me if he was making me nervous and I said yes. Then he asked me if I wanted him to stop, and I said yes please. So he stopped. But he never moved from behind me and not even 30 seconds later, he had his hands on me again, but this time he was rubbing down the front of my chest and almost reached my breasts when I stood up abruptly and excused myself. I just realized that I was sitting there, in shorts that were kinda short and a tank top. I figured I might be giving him the wrong idea. So I went down the hall to the bathroom, which was directly across from my bedroom. I found my work clothes on the floor from when I had showered a little earlier and threw them on over my PJs. I opened the bathroom door and was startled to find Joe standing there. I tried to squeeze past him but he grabbed me and turned me around and was backing me up in my room. I don’t know if he knew it was my room he was taking me in. I guess he would know it was my room because my door was open and my walls were basically wallpapered with Backstreet Boys posters, Linkin Park posters, and other musicians. So in my head I’m thinking oh my god, not again. I said Joe, wait...stop it’s getting late you should go. But he didn’t go. He had me on my bed and was on top of me. Before I knew it he was inside of me and I just closed my eyes really tightly. He wanted me to open my eyes and look at him. I wouldn’t look at him. I could feel the full weight of his body on me and he was panting heavily in my ear and saying something but I couldn’t hear him because at this point, my head was fuzzy and it’s like I had an out of body experience because I saw myself standing at the side of my bed watching what was happening but not doing anything about it. That’s not the first time that’s happened to me but it’s hard to explain the feeling. After Joe was done, he left. I laid there, and I don’t think I went to sleep. I had to work the next day. I laid there and stared at my clock. Before I knew it, it was time to get up to get ready for work. I just got the job so I had to go or else I would get fired. I convinced myself that I would avoid Joe like the plague and I would be OK. Well I got to work and when I walked in, Joe and two of my coworkers were standing next to each other talking. They got quiet when I walked in and I refused to look in their direction. I walked past them to where the time clock was and clocked in. As soon as I turned back around to walk away, one of them said “Hey Karen, can I make a special delivery to your house tonight?” and then they all started laughing. My head started buzzing and the floor felt like it was being pulled out from beneath me. I ran out the store and back in my car. I don’t even remember the drive home but when I got there I went straight for the fridge and ate the rest of the pizza from the night before, plus a whole apple pie, and a few small handfuls of frozen peas out of the freezer. I noticed my roommate’s bottle of vodka in the freezer and I grabbed it and walked to the bathroom. I found and opened my bottles of Prozac and lithium and poured it out on the bathroom sink. I grabbed a handful and swallowed it with some vodka. I was surprised that despite how cold the vodka was it burned my throat really bad on the way down. I took another handful and another and then went to my room. The next thing I know I am in a hospital bed and my wrists were being restrained by these brown belt buckle looking things. I started trying to get free when a male nurse grabbed my hand and told me to relax. He told me I was in the hospital. Apparently, when I got out of my car when coming home, I left the driver door open, the car running, and the back door open. A neighbor came in to investigate and found me on the floor in my room. She called the ambulance, they brought me to the emergency room and the doctor pumped my stomach. He told me that I was lucky because most of the pills that I swallowed came back out whole because I had a lot of food in my stomach as well. After they pumped it they attempted to give me the charcoal elixir when I pulled the tube out of my mouth, getting the charcoal elixir all over me, and the nurses and doctor. So they restrained me. After he explained, I was just about to tell him not to fucking touch me and to let go of my hand when I realized that it was me still holding on to his hand...and he never moved it away. Then he rubbed my hair back away from my face and told me that I was going to be OK. Then I noticed a female nurse on the other side of the bed and she gently patted and then rubbed my arm. Then even though they were talking, they started to sound far away and I went to sleep. Next thing I know I woke up in the ICU a few days later.

Fast forward to when I was working at the homeless shelter. I was 26. The managers were out of the office for the weekend because they had a conference in Washington DC to attend. I was put in charge but it wasn’t the first time I was left in charge. They all liked me there. One of my co-workers would always tease me because he said he wanted me to be his girlfriend but he knew I exclusively dated white guys and he is black. So anyway, we would joke about running the building and how much better we run it together when he suddenly grabbed me by my hair from behind––not in a forceful or painful way, but still inappropriately. I laughed nervously at first and he pulled it until the office chair that I was sitting wheeled me close to him. He turned me around in my chair and pushed my face toward his crotch area. I used my hands against his legs and pulled away and told him to stop and that it wasn’t funny. Fortunately, the phone rang so he let my hair go and I turned back to my desk and answered the phone. As soon as I hung up from the call, he had me by my hair again and swung me around in the chair and this time he had his penis out of his pants and was pressing it against my lips in an attempt to put it in my mouth. He was using his genitals to try to pry open my mouth. I tried to pull away against his legs again but this time when I did he pulled my hair really hard and when I let out a small yell, my mouth opened just enough for him to put himself inside of my mouth. In the process, he hit my lip accidently and I started to taste blood. He held my head and mouth in place on him until a loud noise distracted him and I was able to pull away. He looked to the source of the noise and realized it was one of the residents of the shelter banging on the glass window in order to get our attention to gain access to the office. My co-worker tried to run into the conference room off to the side in hopes that the resident didn’t see what had just happened. I composed myself long enough to open the door. As soon as I opened the door, the resident asked, “Miss Karen are you OK?” I supposed she saw enough to know that I was not OK. I was humiliated that there was a witness to this event and not only that, it was from someone I was supposed to be an authority over. I assured her that I was OK, but I called my mom to come get me from work. I went back to work for less than a week after it happened. I was transferred to work at the other location but I only stayed there 3 months before I couldn’t handle the pressure of what happened anymore.

So, all of this stuff suddenly came flooding back to me with a vengeance after our session on Thursday and my friend Candace told me it’s because maybe I am ready to talk about it. But really I wanted to ask you, why am I such an easy target? I mean, do I have vulnerable, stupid, and nasty whore written on me somewhere that everyone can see? And if so––how do I make it go away? I can’t even be in a normal relationship. I had two long term relationships and one was when I was 23...with the father of my twins. He was 51. And the other ended on my birthday in March 2011 and he was in his 50s also. Both of them were married too. What is wrong with me? I don’t like feeling this way. I just want the nightmares to stop. I want to be able to look in the mirror without crying. I want to like who I am. I want to find someone who can actually like me and not want to use me. I want someone to just be there for me. I just want to talk to someone without wondering if they think I’m useless, damaged goods. Is that even possible at this point? It’s too late for me isn’t it? It’s OK to be honest; you don’t have to spare my feelings and tell me it’s not too late. Some people are just too destroyed to ever get to a place where they can be good for anyone, let alone themselves. I just want to sleep without having nightmares. How can I do that? ––Karen

I wasn’t thinking as I wrote the email. I hit send, and just five seconds after sending it I said out loud, “What have I done?” I searched for ways to unsend the email. Is that even a feature of gmail? I didn’t know. Oh man, Andrew is going to read that email and think I am a basket case, I thought. Why did I send that? I decided that maybe I should write him another email. The subject of the email read: Andrew, please disregard my last email.

Hi, OK so...I don’t know why I sent you that email but I am praying you delete it without reading it. I’m really sorry. I spent about an hour trying to figure out how to unsend it but there is no way to do that.

So, now I’m extremely embarrassed and horrified and can only hope you don’t read it. I am so sorry and I won’t email you again. I am sorry. ––Karen

I couldn’t believe how I totally lost control of the situation. I had only spoken to Andrew once over the phone and only had one session with him in person. What was I thinking telling him so much? I didn’t even intend to. I didn’t have a subject in mind when I wanted to email him. My head was spinning and I was dangerously close to throwing up. I always had the urge to vomit when I was embarrassed or anxious. I needed to go to bed. I prayed that Andrew would listen to my instructions from my second email. I fell asleep minutes later, hoping that he would delete my email. I didn’t know what I would do if he read it. The thought was too embarrassing. I would never be able to face him again. It’s OK, I told myself. He won’t read it. He will perhaps just mention at our next session that he saw the first email, but deleted it before reading it like my follow-up email instructed. It was no big deal. Everything will be OK.

I woke up a few hours later to an email notification from Andrew. Shit, he read it.

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