I am in emotional pain. Certainly not as much as so many others, but I am hurting. I bargained my way out of being admitted to the psych hospital by agreeing to attend an Intensive Outpatient Program online. I ended up going for 8 days and then left because it was causing more distress than healing.
This is my Farewell Letter with minor distinguishing factors left out:
There was a time when I loved Group Therapy. I was in several at a time sometimes. Knowing myself now, it was 1) because I loved to talk about me and my issues 2) because it was voyeuristic hearing others talk about their issues 3) because, eventually (after 30 years or so), I knew enough to help others.
I cannot do any more group therapy.
I am meticulous with what goes into my brain. My tipping point for my Bipolar and Depression (and now PTSD) issues are low. I cannot watch the news, scary movies, hear scary stories… you get the gist. The world is filled with terrible things and I can only help in fractions of fractions of fractions of .000001%. The feeling of helplessness is a constant low hum in my existence.
In Group, I did not have control over the input into my brain and psyche. The PTSD trigger, we already talked about. But yesterday, the group was talking about someone who had been “Baker Acted”… as if she was some ‘thing’ to be acted upon instead of “helping her get treatment.” And when I asked that we not talk about someone who was not in the room, I was chastised that 1) it was not HIPAA non-compliant (which was not why I requested they stop) 2) that I “need to get used to these kinds of discussions because that’s life.” When that second statement was used was when the group had informally begun to discuss suicide and ways it can be done. I had to log out. That comment was also said to me when I had the PTSD trigger last week. No, I do not have to get used to people talking about exploding body parts or the terrors of war or looking at meat in the freezer and seeing their friend’s thigh.
I do not need to get used to these kinds of discussions because they do not happen in regular life. When someone talks about killing themselves, action occurs. If someone is put in the hospital for their safety, they are not “A Baker Act,” they are a human being in pain who needs help. The issue was not HIPAA, but kindness and understanding for a person unable to defend themselves in the room at the moment. When someone talks about the horror of war, I can find them some help to be in a safe place to unpack those memories. These topics are not in my every day world.
I talked to my therapist last night as well as my adult girls about what I should do and they all agreed with my self-assessment, that I would do better alone.
Therefore, I am withdrawing from the Program and will work on my own to heal. I will do SMART Recovery (which I love… that program helped me detox from opiates 5 years ago) and read… in the rotation right now is The Mindful Way Through Anxiety. Mindfulness and meditation have also been crucial in my substance abuse issues as well as pain relief, mental stability and finding joy in sad situations. I say this paragraph so you know I have a plan. I am not just going to drink or fall into a hole of incapacity. I am strong and power-full and intelligent. I can do this.
Thank you all for trying. I am just not a good fit for Group Therapies anymore and will be aware of that in the future.
Lastly, thank you for being there for those that need your knowledge and support. It is hard, hard work… being a therapist. Thank you.
Please be safe, stay healthy, wear your masks… and know you are all amazing.
As I write this, I am waiting to explain to my psychiatrist why I left and why I no longer feel I need to be hospitalized. It seems standing up for myself had a positive impact.
I wrote this in the midst of the Stanford Rape Case’s travesty.
(Note: I am purposefully capitalizing the sexual assault Survivor’s pronouns and any words relating to Her to offer Her some of my respect for Her ordeal and perhaps, give Her a smidge of Power back.)
I’ve been following the story of the Stanford former champion swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, and the Woman he sexually assaulted as his sentence (if you can call it that) was handed down byJudge Aaron Persky. You simply must read the entire story to get the picture of the horrific injustice that was inflicted on an innocent Woman as She was unconscious from drinking too much at a college party.
Much has been said about the Survivor’s drunken state… that She deserved it, that it really is so common as to be irrelevant. She was unconscious when She was assaulted. Even if She was conscious (which she was not) still, She was in no shape to consent.
The incredible Survivor’s letter that was read aloud in court can be seen here: Here IsThe Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker. She recounts how Her life has been ruined by this attack and trial. Yet the judge, in his comment during sentencing said about Brock Allen Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Fuck the impact on the Survivor.
As can be imagined, the backlash from women around the United States has been swift and intense. A brilliant piece by Katie J.M. Baker of Buzzfeed, entitled We With Pitchforks, aims to shame Brock Allen Turner, imprisoning him for life, all over the Internet, with shame because he never expressed remorse, apologies or was given an appropriate sentence.
What Happened With Me
I feel a kinship with this amazing Survivor because I, too, was young (I was 18-years old), very, very drunk and was raped with very little memory of the experience.
The legal drinking age in Florida at the time was 18 and I took advantage of that, spending inordinate amounts of money I made at a fast food restaurant on alcohol. I had loads of cash because I was still living at home. I felt free for the first time in my life.
I went to a local restaurant/bar (a famous chain) almost every night after work, drinking a few drinks, eating appetizers and socializing with the boys and men at the bar. The bartender and servers got to know me well because I was (and am) an awesome tipper. I would get delightfully tipsy, sometimes drunk, but could always get my bicycle-riding ass home at the end of the night.
However, this one evening, I met three men and they asked me to join them at a table. I jumped at the chance… they were adorable! I had just been paid and bought round after round of drinks for all of us. I shot tequila for the first time, several shots on top of the amaretto and creams I regularly drank.
One minute I was at the restaurant and the next memory was being on a bed, a gun to my head and being raped by each of the men, one by one. Then memories disappeared again and the next time I woke up I was at one of the guy’s houses, in his arms and hurting so bad it took me a great deal of energy to unwind myself, get up, call a friend (no cell phones) and get myself home.
Where I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a face I did not recognize. My lips were bruised and bloodied, cuts exposed the trauma I’d endured on my face. My eyes swollen, not quite black eyes, but I expect I was slapped or punched in the face more than once.
I turned from the mirror and stepped into the scalding shower. And scrubbed my body, including the cuts, scrapes and many, many bruises I had all over my stomach, neck, arms, thighs and, most especially, my breasts. It looked like they had used razor blades? Sharp knives? Definitely fingernails. The bruises looked like they had grabbed my flesh as if it was bread dough, squeezed and twisted it. I could see finger mark bruises in several places. When I washed my bottom, the washcloth turned red; I was bleeding out of my anus.
And then, while showering, the image of the gun flashed into my head. Had I tried to fight and they felt they needed to threaten my life to make me lay still?
I especially scrubbed my vulva and vagina. My sore, swollen and bruised vulva. I used a washcloth and tried to shove it inside myself so I could get their filth out of my body. I soaped my fingers and used them to swipe the semen out of me. I know I was in the shower a very long time.
I didn’t cry at all. Of course I know now I was in shock. It took several days before I could think about it enough to feel.
And then cry. (Which I continued doing for years.)
But that day, I did not cry. I was due to go to work at the fast food restaurant so got myself dressed and had my dad drive me to work. (He kept asking, “Where is your bike?” I didn’t know.)
When I got to work, my manager took me aside and asked where I had been the night before. I was confused. Did he know something happened? My friend who came to get me that morning also worked with me, told our manager I had been raped. As if that part of my privacy being exposed wasn’t enough, the manager of the restaurant I had been at the night before called and told my manager that I stiffed the waitress and bartender over $300. Suddenly I remembered I gave one of the guys cash to pay the server when I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he pocketed it. And the server saw me leave a hefty tip… and one of guys grabbing it as he left the restaurant. I was so embarrassed and promised to pay them back immediately.
Talking to my manager, he asked if I knew anything about the guys. I actually (somehow) remembered they were servers at a local Mexican restaurant. My manager and the manager at the restaurant paid their management a personal visit and got the three of them fired that day.
That was the extent of my vindication.
Nowhere along the way did anyone suggest telling the police. It never even crossed my mind. If it happened today and I saw what happened to this assault Survivor, I would never dream of reporting my rapist. Why? It doesn’t change a thing. And, if anything, it smears, smashes and humiliates the Survivor even more… again and again.
It took years of therapy and rape survivor support groups to forgive myself for being drunk that night, to finally believe it wasn’t my fault, that I had not asked for it. The cuts and bruises healed over the first week or so. The inner torment lasted over a decade.
I no longer cry about the experience, have integrated it into a part of my life story and share it when I see a woman beating herself up for putting herself in that position. I beg her to see the reality that we never ask to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if we were out-of-our-minds drunk or drugged. It might take her years and years to grasp even a seed of what I say, but at least I offered her a counter to the screaming voices in her head… and the fucking crap “friends” and family might be saying.
So I share here for the Woman who was terrorized by Brock Allen Turner and Judge Aaron Perksy so She might know She is not alone. I am another woman who knows and understands the shame and humiliation they try to push into our Souls via our vaginas. I also want Her to know there can be joy in Her life again one day. I want to tell Her how proud of Her I am She faced this animal in court even if the judge buried Her in shit with his sentence.
She is not alone. I will think of Her and send Her healing light every single day.
I initially wrote this on my Navelgazing Midwife blog, but it needed to be shifted over to here. It was written on July 4, 2016. I remain endlessly in awe of those that responded to the call for help in saving lives on June 12 and 13, 2016.
I have wanted to write this since 3am on June 12, and every day since, but it took awhile to even begin to formulate the right words; there was simply emotion and incredible sadness hindering my fingers.
I was a midwife and doula for 32 years, holding lives in my hands many times, resuscitating babies and stemming the tide of postpartum hemorrhage in mothers. Yet I have but a whiff of what our First Responders (and others named below) experienced the night of June 12 and all these days since. I have tried to think of a way to thank these people, have an intense urge to seek each one out and hold them close to my heart while whispering, “Thank you,” over and over again.
The scope of actions from those that were there… are there… for my gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer and straight family, Latinx or Anglo, (for they are family to all of us) is enormous. The incredible amount of love, care, detail, sweat, tears and even shock must be acknowledged. As a care provider myself, I listened to the incredible unfolding of the hospital staff’s descriptions of their work as the waves of dying and injured flooded through their doors. I sat through their first press conference with survivor Angel Colon front and center, enraptured, yet sobbing with gratitude and awe at their choreographed and executed dance to save lives.
I know I could never begin to thank every agency that pulled together those first 24 hours, but I need to try. Each profession or organization I list is a thread in the whole, beautiful tapestry that is #OrlandoStrong.
Please feel my overwhelming love and gratitude… and know there are thousands and thousands of others who feel the same. You people, my Superheroes, are a gift to humanity. Never, never let the finger pointing touch you. Do not claim that bureaucratic static that will certainly grow to a cacophony before too long. Stay true to your knowledge that you did everything right, you saved so many. You did the very best any of us could ever have done. No, you did far, far better than most of us.
Thank you a hundred million times plus 102 to those mentioned below. If I have forgotten you, just add yourself to the list; it was merely an ignorant oversight. You, too, belong here.
Thank you to:
– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.
– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.
– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.
– All the tireless Paramedics who used their minds and skills, even when the solutions were unorthodox, to help save lives.
– All the Ambulance agencies that responded and tended to the wounded while getting them to the hospital as fast as possible.
– All the EMS personnel who had many roles to fulfill in saving lives.
– All 911 Dispatch Operators… my heart aches for you wondrous folks who comforted the injured and dying throughout the several-hour ordeal. You gave genuine love to those that died while you were on the line with them and helped keep others alive until help arrived. Your professionalism and note-taking will not be forgotten as the information continues being disclosed. I send you special wishes for emotional and spiritual healing from this horrific experience.
– Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital, especially for their readiness drills that helped set them up for success with extreme situations such as this. No words can possibly express my pride in your response, care, and skill when you were least expecting it.
– The ORMC Trauma Team, all those years of study, school and thousands of hours working in the hospital and learning specialized skills culminated on June 12, 2016, saving untold lives.
– The Emergency Room Team, thank you for always being ready for anything. You were there. You were there for all of us that night.
– The dozens and dozens of Doctors – ER, OR & ICU – for utilizing everything you’ve ever learned (and things you surely had only heard about) to save so many. There really are not enough words to offer my gratitude and love for you all.
– The Orthopedics teams… your amazing skills working with the back and muscles was most assuredly crucial that night. I am sure you saved so many from being paralyzed with your gift during surgeries. Thank you so very much.
– The Microsurgeons, your extremely specialized skills surely saved so many from bodies that would be unable to feel or move properly once healed.
– The Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgeons, your specialization was crucial with the horrific injuries to the chests of too many. Thank you for keeping so many hearts pumping.
– The beloved Nurses – Trauma, ER, Triage, OR, ICU & Surgical Recovery… it is beginning to sound trite, but I promise, I am absolutely speechless with gratitude for your gifts of kindness and skilled caring. Nothing that night (and since) could have been done without you incredible human beings. You are the Angels of Mercy.
– All the Surgeons of an endless variety, thank you for specializing in your individual areas and to the General Surgeons, thank you for attending to the multiple types of injuries that night. Thank you all for remaining strong and focused during the assembly line of cases that surely seemed never-ending at times. Your hands, in the most direct way, saved so many lives that night. Thank you.
– Residents – who used every moment of training to step in wherever you could.
– OneBlood blood bank personnel including Blood Collection sites, thank you for assuring there was ample blood at the hospitals for all the cases that needed it. Thank you, too, for opening up sites on Sunday to collect blood and organize getting that blood back to those whose lives depended on it.
– The Phlebotomy team, your job had to have been incredibly challenging that chaotic night of terror, finding veins and arteries, keeping the vials organized and then running the thousands of stat samples to the lab, over and over again… thank you for your skills and dedication.
– The Radiology team – your job was infinitely complicated by the sheer numbers of people working on each person, yet crucial to examining the patient in a life-saving manner. Thank you for knowing how to peek inside the bodies that needed so much help.
– The Respiratory Services team who were called into action to keep massively injured people breathing, either from the assault or the incredible shock and fear they were experiencing. You all are wondrous healers for those who cannot breathe.
– To Environmental Services, who were said to have cleaned and set up a room in 30-45 seconds; miraculous! It is challenging enough to keep things pristine and safe from cross-contamination under normal circumstances, but that you worked with all that blood, tissue, drapes, gauze, tubes, gloves, and then cleaning beds, rails, the floor and emptying the contaminated trash while patients were waiting for a place to lay… doing all of this in mere seconds, really is worthy of immense gratitude.
– To you amazingAnesthesiologists and Nurse Anesthetists… while I know you are highly-trained for emergencies and working with people in dire pain or unable to communicate their medical history, I am sure this night multiplied the need for your skills and knowledge dozens-fold. That you were able to anesthetize our precious friends and family so they might be saved under such circumstances is a miracle to behold. Immense gratitude.
– ToORMC Laboratory Services, the tasks thrown at you June 12 and the days immediately after had to have been enormous, yet you were there as the backbone for the entire health and safety of the injured, getting blood to whomever needed it, organizing the lab results so all providers could coordinate proper care, the list surely continues endlessly. Thank you for your amazing skill and meticulous attention to detail under extreme duress.
– To the Orlando Medical Examiners, especiallyJoshua Stephany for your immense sensitivity in keeping that madman separate from our lost souls. The unbelievable task you all gently and respectfully undertook is appreciated beyond words.
– To the Physical Therapists who began working with the survivors almost immediately so they could have as full a life as possible once they are recovered, thank you for your skills and knowledge of the body and its nuanced possibilities through movement and touch.
– To theChaplains of the Orlando Police Departmentand the others around Orlando, thank you for rushing to the spiritual aid of our First Responders, the families of the injured and dying and praying with the mass of disbelieving friends and relatives in their moments of spiritual questioning and anger towards God. Thank you for your love and patience with so much inner pain.
– To our Mental Health Therapists & Psychiatrists who flooded the different locations where families waited for news of their loved ones, knowing crisis counseling was an immediate need and you provided it, with zero regard for payment of any kind except knowing you were helping someone in emotional pain. Mental health needs will reverberate for years and years for so many of us, so thank you in advance for all you will do for everyone as time unfolds the mental and emotional anguish of this horrific night.
– To the Pharmacists at ORMC, your enormous task of providing the correct medications for scores of critically injured patients has not been overlooked. Filling order after order in the middle of the night had to have been daunting, yet when you, too, called for help, it came in in droves. Thank you for your education and extreme attention to detail.
– To the LGBTQ Center of Orlando, who immediately opened their doors to anyone who needed a place to talk, be held, cry or mourn. No words can express my gratitude for all you have done, are doing and will continue to do for our incredibly awesome and diverse community. May our Center grow as much as our hearts have for you after this disaster.
– To the Cell Phone companies for keeping those injured and dying in touch with loved ones and 911 operators.
– To those inside Pulse that struggled to save lives as the horror unfolded, who shielded others with your bodies, who comforted the injured and dying as you hid anywhere you could, who held friends as they bled to death in your arms… no amount of tears and thanks can explain how full my heart is for you beautiful people. Your unspeakable pain will never be forgotten or taken for granted. You are incredible human beings who were in a horrible situation, but your soaring kindnesses outshone any evil that man tried to snuff out. Bless all of you.
– To those who work at Pulse for your belief in human rights and dignity – you will never be forgotten… especially Barbara Poma – you are so loved.
– To the civilians who just happened to be in the area and helped the injured, comforted the dying and transported anyone they could to the hospital, thank you. Clearly, we needed you there that night.
– Special note to the Religious Community… Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and many denominations of Christians… who pulled together to pray and offer support to all who needed it. In the days afterwards, church services were held to assist the mourners who found solace in religious healing.
One national speaker, Victoria Kirby York of the National LGBTQ Task Force, spoke at a local church service and she must be held aloft and applauded. In a sea of religions not understanding the LGBTQ community, Ms. York stunned everyone with her ability to use Scripture to affirm the LGBTQ experience and right to love who we choose. Her words were a spiritual salve for so many who have been alienated by the religions in our neighborhoods and the policy-makers’ pens.
To the hypocrites among the religious folks (you know who you are), I hope you are able to rectify the doublespeak you drooled off your tongues after our tragedy because our LGBTQ family keeps dying because of your hate and damning judgment. It needs to stop. Now.
Ongoing Love & Support
While the above list, surely not complete, reflects the care and love from only the first day or two post-massacre, I could continue for another three days thanking the multitudes of restaurants, airlines, hotels, businesses, those that brought Comfort Dogs to love on those that needed a tender doggie hug, and then the ongoing monetary donations to the Pulse GoFundMe Page.
I must also thank the rest of the United States and the World for their endless support through vigils and moments of silence for our 49 beloved murdered friends and 53 recovering victims.
Please take a moment to offer thanks to everyone I’ve mentioned and those I have forgotten to name.
And lastly, please remember the families of those who have died and been injured. Their lives are forever changed. May they find at least a moment of peace through all of our love.
To our most precious doves, we will never forget your names or who you are: