Beating the Beast

 

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I firmly believe I was born with a severe anxiety disorder-GAD (as well as some severe learning disabilities, including ADD, and the inability to read normally).  I was always terrified as a child, not frightened, but genuinely terrified.  Looking back, I can see this constant feeling of terror was not attached to anything, but free-floating, that is, just there.  I was miserable and friendless throughout my school years, and was always hiding, or trying to hide.  I felt that I was a freak, utterly unique, and totally alone.  During my early childhood I developed the idea that I was the creation of demons, created for their sport.   Very odd, I know!  I've never been delusional, never heard voices though.
 
The intense and constant abuse I suffered in childhood likely contributed to my condition, and perhaps been the catalyst of that bizarre notion.  Mom had anxiety and depression, and after my aunt, her beloved sister, was murdered by her in-laws, Momma never recovered from the grief.   This happened when I was 6.  I can remember every detail of the awful moment when Dad got the phone call, and told Momma.  I had never seen or imagined anyone could hurt so much as I saw her hurting.
 
Everyday, as I remember, Mamma was crying.  I used to bring her my dolls, Susanah and Rebecca, trying to comfort her.  I felt miserably guilty because I never could help her.  My dad, his marriage having fallen apart, took to drinking heavily.  He was physically abusive, and devastatingly emotionally abusive.  I lived in terror of him, and spent most all of each day in a sort of cave the older neighbor boys had dug in some land behind our house.  I kept my dolls there for company.  Dad was always angry, or furious, and utterly terrifying, to me.
 
Added to the above, I seemed to have had a strong sympathetic imagination, for I had begun to question racism before I was 6, and by first grade, had rejected it.  I hated seeing anyone treated unfairly or cruelly.  I also questioned the southern Baptist religion I'd been raised in, then religion in general, and before I was 15 I was, though I didn't like to think about it, an atheist.  Because I rejected racism, and spoke up about it a bit forcefully, and because I had begun to question what I'd been told in Sunday School, my family couldn't understand me, and outside my immediate family I was shunned, even hated by some, even by an uncle, before I was even near my teens.
  
Since my dad was always enraged and cursing or making fun of me, and Momma was always miserable and crying, I thought it was my fault.  I learned to hate myself at an early age.
 
When I was 19, I lost the only person I'd ever been able to be safe with, my maternal grandmother.
 
I had found a place in college, and enjoyed the intellectual stimulation and environment of academia.  I had found friends. And, for the first time in my life, was happy, and not hiding. 
 
I had been taking care of her for years, but in my childhood, after my aunt's death, she was the only person who listened to me, wanted the pictures I drew, etc.  And she was the only one who ever hugged me or held me.  When she died, I went into shock.  I should add that I somehow walked into the autopsy room and saw her.  I didn't even realize she was in danger.  I had brought her another cassette tape of music and some roses w/ baby's breath.
 
I walked like an automaton back to my car, with a nurse clutching my shoulder and saying something a bit hysterically.  I calmly drove home, calmly walked into the house, and calmly began joining my other grandma in washing dishes.
 
After some time, when I had remained very quiet, very calm and stayed to myself--very unlike my usual self at that age, garrulous, amiable, always playing the cutup to get people to laugh and stop feeling sad---Mom took me to the nearest psychiatrist.  She had no way of knowing, but this doctor was appallingly incompetent.  I learned of his reputation much later.
 
This doctor spoke with my mom, but never to me.  He didn't give me any test or ask me anything.  At the close of the session he finally spoke to me.  He told me I was schizophrenic and that I would have to choose between living in a mental institution or letting my mother be my care-taker and do whatever she said, and that I could not do anything on my own.  (I had just made arrangements to move into a dorm at college.)  I was horrified.  I believed him.  I was still emotionally immature enough to think, if not consciously, that doctors were always right.  I quit doing, trying everything.  Gave up on myself and my life.  The situation wore my mother down as well as me.  I became utterly dependant, and forgot how to do the ordinary everyday things I had been doing, such as driving,  organizing things at college, etc.
 
I remained this way until my mom's death in '98.  I was in my 30s, but had no friends or even acquaintances.  I had lost all my normal skills, from lack of practice and fear of doing them. 
 
I did see a number of psychiatrists in my 20s--over 12, but no medicine helped.  I gained an enormous amount of weight on the huge doses of antidepressants, going from about 120-130 to 438lbs in a year and a half.  Apart from this ruining my spine, I was happy to be enormously obese, for no one expected anything of me.  --this was during my mid 20s.  Also, my hair fell out.  I didn't mind.  I bought and wore a gray wig to look older and less conspicuous.  I lived in a trailer--the small kind you pull behind a pickup--during my 20s.  Just me and many books on tape and baroque and other classical music.  I was so isolated with these that my accent changed so much that people here don't even believe me when I tell them I was born and bred in west TX.
 
  I again went into shock, worse this time.  I lived alone in an old WWI army barracks that had been made into a house.  I saw no one, spoke to no one, for a decade.  I had by now refused to go back to a psychiatrist, and was being treated by a hematologist who took on Medicare cases.  Two of the meds he prescribed for me were Soma--a cns muscle relaxant, and Tylenol 4--a very powerful pain killer.  I abused both, seeking escape, especially the Soma.  Under it's influence, I was 'out of it', and unaware of things.  I learned since from my therapist who had become a friend, that I was extremely muddle-headed and seldom coherent.  My dad had been giving me part of his Soma in the mistaken belief that it was helping me.
 
I had lost all normal, ordinary skills, had never even dated.  I felt like a freak of the first water.  I was on disability.  I hated myself with a vengeance, and had no hope of anything at all better.
 
The crisis came when my brother and sister-in-law moved down here, right next door.  My brother had always rejected me, though I partly raised him during his teens.  My dad and they were all happy together, and ignored me.  I did see them, because, not having running water at my house, I had to come next door to take a shower everyday.  Only my 4 yr old niece paid me any notice.  She adored me for whatever reason. 
 
I felt so unbearably lonely  seeing my family so happy together and not wanting me.  I began to order Soma over the internet.
 
I became a complete zombie.  I wanted nothing but to be unconscious or at least semi-conscious, so I couldn't feel.
 
Finally, I could bear no more of the pain, and I took several bottles of this cns muscle relaxant to die and escape. Someone saw me collapsed outside my house, and called 911.  Thence followed a harrowing and abusive experience in a mental hospital.
 
After I got out, and after 2 months of being without the only medicine of any class that had ever helped me--without any medicine at all, I finally found a psychiatrist who was willing to treat me.  He put me back on the anti-anxiety med, as well as several antidepressants, and two sleeping meds.
 
I was still excluded by my family, nothing had changed.  I had several bottles of a heart medicine from my dad that he no longer was using.  I was planning to die with these, and be damned sure I didn't screw up as before, by going out into a pasture behind my house to take it.  I remember I was taking with me a book on tape--Alarms and Diversions, by James Thurber, to listen to as I died, so I wouldn't be so alone.
 
Then, while despondently messing about on my computer one day, I found this Beating the Beast site.  No one judged me for my anxiety, depression, or for being unable to work and on disability.  The people were kind, they understood, and seemed to care.  I kept posting, and reading of others' experiences and pain, and, in short, I found a sort of cyber-family.  I was no longer entirely alone.  I decided I didn't want to die.
 
And here I am.
 
 Sorry this is so long.  Remembering is so intensely painful that if I took time to organize my thoughts, and make my writing less slipshod, I could not have written anything.
 
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Revised: 12/13/05.

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