My depression last year started with a sense of being haunted, haunted by the abuse of my past. In January 2017, I was injured. The injury technically occurred while practicing martial arts, but my ribs had been weakened by past abuse.
Haunted by Past Abuse
I heard his threats echo over the distance I had gained from my time as his victim. “Even if you leave me and think you can have some other life, I’ll be there. Just when you feel nice and safe, I’ll come knocking at your back door.”
There I was, feeling like he still had a say in my life, seven years after the last time he had attacked me. The happiness and sense of self I had worked so hard to establish fell away.
Due to my new physical injuries, I dropped out of my university classes and stopped working. My ghost of marriage-past was soon joined by the ghost of childhood trauma. By the start of summer, I moved twice and had a couple stress-filled trips to CA. A family issue had gone to court, and I wanted to offer what support I could. There, I was all-too-reminded of my father’s belief that he owns me.
By late summer, I wasn’t taking care of myself financially. I struggled to get back into the workforce, and I wasn’t in school. Echoes from my past filled each moment of every day. “You’re worse than worthless. You’re a taker.”
By the time I got back to working, Henry wasn’t in running order. I walked or bussed over an hour each way for work shifts. Every part of my day took everything I had to keep myself from completely breaking down as well.
I felt hopeless.
The ghosts told me I would never truly be free from my abusers regardless of how much time had passed or how hard I worked to heal from abuse.
My new primary care physician quickly realized my depression was severe. She encouraged me to consider a pharmaceutical anti-depressant. I didn’t think anything would help, and I was accustomed to being told I was a statistical outlier in many situations. I feared the worst side effects with no relief from the depression. I rejected antidepressants for months.
Another Part of My Past
Catching up with an acquaintance, I cried when she asked about my plans to return to school. I didn’t know when, or even if, I would be able to go back. Later that day, I realized that if I was that upset about not doing something (i.e. finishing my degree), then I needed to find a way to do it. My first mantra I made for myself back when I started therapy through the California Victim’s Compensation Program called out over all the ghosts haunting me. “I am willing to change in ways I cannot foresee.” That mantra gave me courage to get my life back.
“I am willing to change in ways I cannot foresee.”
I made appointments with academic advisors at my school and with my primary care physician. I told my doctor I had reconsidered trying an antidepressant. I was scared, but I had to try whatever I could.
That was over three months ago. I have had some side effects that passed, but most important, the deep depression has lifted. Now, I’m wrapping up my first term back in school, and I’m determined to graduate in March 2019.
Depression Kept Me from Seeing Myself
Therapy has taught me my abuse was not normal. In my depression, I didn’t see myself as someone who could get relief in such a normal, expected way. I had lost my ability to see myself as a college graduate. For a lot of 2017, I didn’t see myself being able to truly move on from my past abuse. But my mantra reminded me that lack of vision didn’t have to stop me. I could change in ways I had never imagined before.
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.