Going Mental

Sometimes we become experts in subject matter in which we never wished to be associated.

Sexual Assault Center of Nashville

For me, the aftermath of Rapegate is one that I will grapple with daily for the rest of my life.

Not necessarily in re-living the rape itself but the triggers, the daily reminders due to dealing with PTSD, chronic fatigue, severe stress, anxiety, nerves, handfuls of pills that I now take that have side effects of brain fog (which coupled with blonde brain is a triple shit show), dizziness (like I needed any more help being a fucking klutz), and weight gain (oh the welcomed happiness of gaining 40 lbs – mostly in my belly because of cortisol levels being out-of-whack) and therapy.

That is a perk of Rapegate that will surely have me in weekly sessions forever.

My Therapy Thursday saving grace.

There’s stigma in being a victim of rape – especially within victims themselves. The embarrassment, shame, feeling dirty, like somehow it’s your fault.

Did I deserve it? Why did I “allow” it to happen? It’s all my fault, right?

The questions from others. What were you wearing? Had you been drinking? Why didn’t you scream? And so on, don’t help even though they may come from well-meaning places. The questions above were all asked of me by the Nashville Sex Crimes Detective after my body was violated by a man’s dick. You know, what if a Kim Kardashian sized diamond ring (one can wish) had been stolen off of my finger? Would any of those questions suffice in an investigation? Hell no.

Take my coffee mug advice.

But then here we are. I am a walking, talking, rape stereotype. I wasn’t believed by those closest to the case. My detective said it was a he said/she said since the Shane the Rapist said it was consensual sex and his girlfriend of five weeks – my now ex-best friend, backed his play.

That’s a super neat feeling of betrayal beyond words.

In between being raped and the year and a half it took to close the case, where Shane the Rapist walks freely out and about, it would be insane not to think someone might go insane.

And, I have absolutely, 100% felt the self wrath, the aftermath, the internal tornado, the tsunami of emotions that surge whenever the fuck they feel like it and eruption of tears, hotly flowing down my face, onto my chin, into my shirt (accompanied with a river of snot and lemme tell ya, it’s a doozie of a look).

I’m known for being a beautiful bawler.

And killing boxes of tissues in one cryfest.

It’s improbable that someone can experience any kind of trauma or loss (death, divorce, career, disease, disorder, assault, etc) without consequence to them (I had the pleasure of experiencing all of the above examples in the two years since rape – so yeah, I’m a tad done with being overburdened by grief and loss).

The best face I can muster some days.

For me, this is where my once stable strength of fuck off confidence got lost in the swirl of circling the drain.

The emotional, mental, and physical tolls sometime feel beyond debilitating. Combine that with life – which most certainly goes on around you – and it can make the most mundane tasks like making your bed seem like winning an Olympic gold medal if you ever get around to completing the job.

I made my bed. Where’s my accolades?

And the usual worries of life are still abound while grappling with sometimes crippling days. Money worries. Hoping your car doesn’t crap out on your worries. Can my cell phone hang on for another year? Are my friends and family OK? Am I paying enough attention to them? Do they think I’m ignoring them? See how this shit can snowball?

Avalanche

Now more than ever, I feel it’s important to speak up if you can about what can sometimes seem like taboo subjects. I was raped. Think that’s fun topic to bring up to new people? “Oh hi, my name is Captain, I’ll have a Skinny Pirate please, I was raped, how are you?” Of course this doesn’t come up immediately but still, I talk about Rapegate, and if we’re gonna be friends, it’s gonna come out.

Did I scare you off?

Taboo also is this fucking stigma that comes along with mental illnesses. I have PTSD (among a myriad of other lovely conditions). When I was looking for a new job after Rapegate, I had to put down on applications whether or not I had PTSD. Now it’s considered a disability. So, OK it’s a disability. I’m dealing with it the best that I can but do I need to reveal that to a potential employer? Yes, I have had panic attacks silently at work in bathroom stalls and in my car but I’m still showing up and doing my job (although my panic attacks always end with me throwing up, so that’s fun to do out of my car window while attempting not to get vomit on my work attire).

Thankfully the situation of Louis acting as my vomit trashcan has not yet taken place.

And some days are dark. Like calm before storm, clouds rolling in, so quiet it may just drive you mad blackout dark. I think about the recent passing of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, both of whom reportedly took their own lives within two days of one another. Both had loved ones, both were celebrated among their professional communities, both had achieved success in different fashions and both had children. So much to leave behind.

But can you even imagine the pain they must have been in to think that their only way out was to “unburden” those around them? That’s really scary to me. Because I often feel like a burden to my family and close friends. Over the past five years, I’ve experienced loss and grief and change beyond my imagination and while I am learning to cope in therapy, I still feel like I’m so needy. “Can I borrow $20 until payday (while swallowing pride for 1,976,000 time)? I can’t go out because I am on a spending freeze (you know those handfuls of pills and doctor follow-ups aren’t free. I’m beyond lucky to have health insurance with co-pays). I just had a panic attack, so I’m going to have to miss your birthday celebration. I am going to stay in because I can’t fathom the thought of getting out of bed.” Mostly, I keep these emotions to myself but I still feel like one motherfucker of a burden.

I. just. can’t.

It’s easy for people to say that suicide is selfish. I can see why one would say that but if you haven’t ever grappled with your own dark demons that sometimes you push deep down inside of you, or think they’re gone, only to have them pop up and taunt you over and over and over again – it’s not easy. I’ve never experienced substance abuse but I can easily see how that would have an even bigger impact on one’s state-of-mind. Mental issues are sometimes a lonely, isolating experience of despair.

How others see me.                                           How I feel inside.

My darkest times since Rapegate (and everything else that has occurred in between), have never eluded me to think about ending my life. However, have I been in a place where I wished my eyes wouldn’t open in the morning because it seemed easier than fighting the anguish of deep depression? Yep. Has my chest been so heavy that I thought my heart was going to burst out of it Indiana Jones style because it could bear no more loss or grief, physically hurting? Fuck yes. Do I hit my snooze button 3,719,003 times in the morning (even though I have been up for three hours already) because the thought of putting makeup on and gussying up for work and putting on a “happy” face seems like too much to bear. Damn skippy.

Hi there. I’m getting pretty fucking sick of these feelings popping up whenever they fucking feel like it. Byeee.

That all being said, it’s not uncommon for someone to have these types of thoughts once or more in their lifetime. Some people do shoot sunshine out of their assholes (fuck, until three years ago, I was one of them) but more often than not, it’s a combination of rain, sun, sleet and hail as we trudge through life. On top of all this, I’ve constantly seen the suicide hotline phone number everywhere. You know that is fucking great, but you know what’s hard? Reaching out when you need help. And let me say this – if you offer to help someone in any way and they reach out, for the love of God, do NOT shut them down. It’s already exceedingly hard to admit you need help.

So if you see someone, know someone, sense something’s off and can have a conversation or need advice, you, too can call this hotline for another person. I’ve done it.

You know what you can also do? Tend to them the best way you know how – if they are typically social, try to get them out of the house. If they aren’t up to it, stay in and binge watch some TV. Or go on a walk. Just don’t ignore them. Don’t give up on them. Don’t stop inviting them places because they always say no. Be persistant.

You can also help by researching options with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. I have friends who would greatly benefit from therapy but haven’t been able to find the correct place. I’ve called this number before, searching for answers when someone was in need. In the research I have done around Nashville, there are places that offer sliding scaled payments for those who don’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover mental health (so fucked up). However, like in many other situations, the persons who need the help must be willing to go for themselves, not for anyone else. So if they refuse or keep handing you excuses, just do your best to listen.

My mental journey in the aftermath of Rapegate has been eye-opening. I’m so self deprecating to the point of starring in my own version of Mean Girls in my head some days.

Regina George, get the fuck outta my head.

However, I luckily have a solid circle of support. A very large sparkly army that isn’t confined to face-to-face relationships. My circle has expanded as I’ve talked about my struggles. The support system I have now extends from Nashville, to Iowa, to California, to England, to Italy, to Australia…and more. The “checking on you” voicemails, direct messages through social media, “thinking of you texts” to words of encouragement in my comment section, random gifts showing up in my mailbox, snail mailed letters, a cashier’s check just because…Every word, every action, matters.

This is what you do for me.

Please remember that as you move forward with your days. Those struggling the most are sometimes people who you’d least expect. One smile can go miles – and it’s a universal language (as fucking cheesy as that sounds). A small compliment can turn a day around. An out of the blue “how are you” text can save a major cry session. Check on each other. Love on each other. Hug on each other.

Unless of course it’s the person who raped you, in which he’ll get a throat punch at the very least. See, I’m still a bad ass motherfucker when I wanna be.

Obviously.

Be fucking kind.

CBXB

CBXB!

 

The Little Things…

Being an Iowa Hawkeye football fan leaves most folks with a sense of pride (I mean, hello, ever catch my blog during football season?) even if their season is sometimes less than stellar.

We’re #1! Even if it’s just in our hearts.

Iowa is not only known for its corn, it’s truly dubbed the Hawkeye State. I grew up singing a song that included the line, “where the corn grows tall and the kids grow great. I’m glad I live in the Hawkeye State!”

If any strings are attached in being associated with this university, they’re welcomed. Now that I live in Nashville (or if you live anywhere outside of the Corn State) when I tell people Iowa is my original home, I’m received with “Oh the Buckeyes!” or “The Potato State!” and living in the South, some peeps think I say Ireland when I say Iowa (no fucking clue how they hear that, as all Iowa schools taught phonics but whatever).

Raygun t-shirts always on point.

My point is the University of Iowa may be little known by others but man, the people there are some of the fucking greatest. And it’s not because they’re mostly from Iowa (although I swear to god that the state produces the nicest, most modest (aside from me of course), hard working, earnest, salt of the earth people ever).

I was surprised yesterday by an act of kindness that almost (I said ALMOST) made me ugly cry in a happy way (which pretty much means hell would have frozen over because the first and only time I happy cried was five years ago after finding out the twins had arrived).

Happy cry, sad cry, neither is pretty.

I have a Hawkeye football poster I get every year from the Iowa State Fair (one of the greatest events on the planet) hanging in my workspace, along with a few other pieces of Hawkeye memorabilia.

Pride and joy.

Letting the love show.

Even cups get the Hawkeye treatment.

I’m sure my co-workers are all “OK. OK. We fucking get it.”

The poster has been a great conversation starter and almost any college football fan stops to comment upon seeing it. One vendor stopped and asked if I knew of CJ Beathard (quarterback) and George Kittle (tight end), both who played at the University of Iowa and both of whom were drafted in 2017 by the San Francisco 49ers. Almost responding with a “fucking duh!” I was excited this dude knew past Hawk players. So we chit chatted about how Beathard and Kittle were the shit and then the gentleman slid in that his son also was drafted in 2017 by the 49ers. His son roomed with Kittle and is tight with both former Hawkeye players.

I couldn’t wait to text my dad and tell him the scoop.

You know, because he’s a little bit of a fan, too.

I looked up Trent Taylor, who is a wide receiver (from the Nashville area!) for the 49ers and my new buddy’s son. Every time Dad Taylor came to our office, he’d stop to talk football shop and I enjoyed hearing a little inside scoop. Well, yesterday was just a dreary winter day and I got a phone call from Dad Taylor asking if I was in the office and then he instructed me to meet him in the lobby in 15 minutes.

Still having trouble with a regular fucking phone and a headset. But I’m here.

Assuming he had something for my boss, I moseyed up to the front and waited his arrival. Dad Taylor had a FedEx envelope in his hand and as I went to grab it (ever the classy gal that I am), he put his hand up. “I have something for you and I want to see your expression when you open it.” What? What?!

Then he slid out a photo from the envelope. And I immediately saw football players. And I immediately tried to not be too excited who those football players might be on that fucking photograph.

It was an autographed photo signed to me with the inscription, “Go Niners! Go Hawkeyes!” along with signatures from Trent Taylor, CJ Beathard and George Kittle. FUCK ME IN THE GOAT ASS.

Be cool! be cool! be cool! be cool! becool!becool!becool!becool! BE!FUCKING!COOL! I kept thinking in my head while my mouth was wide open (so it was basically to the floor) and at the same time I thought don’t cuss, don’t cuss, don’t fucking cuss. Because all I wanted to do was throw my arms around Dad Taylor and scream holy fucking shit! This just made my year!

I haven’t smiled this hard since 2015.

I realize that it’s just a picture. But the idea that someone who doesn’t know me well, just wanted to do something nice for the sake of being fucking nice. Trent Taylor’s dad reached out to him and Trent took the time to not only sign the photo himself but get Beathard and Kittle to do so as well. Standing there trying not to shriek my brains out, with moist eyes, all I could utter was “I can’t say anything right now or I might cry and I’m never a lady with nothing to say!”

Dad Taylor did what most dads would do and gave me a great big hug and said, “I’m so thrilled you’re thrilled.” I basically skipped my way around the office the rest of the day showing anyone who would look and listen (and gave no shits) my photo and back story.

I ran around searching for the perfect frame and naturally got something ultra studly to home the picture. A matted, mirrored frame. That sits proudly underneath my Iowa Hawkeye poster.

A very subtle, footbally frame.

I slept with a grin on my face that night. I know I woke up with one in the morning. And I haven’t smiled so hard since 2015 – that’s no lie. What I’m getting at is you know that saying – you never know what battles others are facing (or something along that fucking line)? These peeps don’t know any struggle I’ve endured over the last three years. All they know is that I’m a huge Hawkeye fan (and now the Niners #1 fan) and did something nice because they fucking wanted to. And now I have a treasured story and possession to remember the feeling of specialness because of strangers’ kindness.

Aside from making my fucking day, week and month, this act basically made my year. Which is a fabulous sign because it’s still only early January. Whoop!

Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye.

Now go start someone’s year off on the right foot by being nice.

Go Niners!

GO HAWKEYES!

CBXB