October 18th

One thing that used to frustrate us the most about our mother was her obsession and hang-up over dates.  I never quite understood why, for example, we were expected to behave a certain way on the anniversary of one’s death.  Don’t we miss the person the same that day as we did the day before?  As we will the day after?

However, October 18th is always a day that will always elicit a moment of somber reflection.

On this day 4 years ago, my sisters and I became wards of the state of North Carolina.  That crisp October morning, we were summoned to a meeting that consisted of our parents, grandparents, family friends, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, and school principals.

We entered that room with fears, doubts, and heartbreak, sure…but we went as a single unit:

Hand-in-hand.

Three as one.

United by a lifetime of hurt and violent chaos, but also by a fervent hope that somehow always managed to sing its quiet song amidst the storms we weathered…

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October 18, 2012

But we left that meeting completely different people.

We were forced on yet another dark and winding path, but unlike the roads we had travelled in the past, this one split in three.  We were all forced to navigate alone- stumbling along scared and blind- with no hope of getting back to where we started and no promise of an end.

We would never again be the same…

BIO 181 & A Whisper In The Storm

I have no words to describe what is happening right now. My heart is shattered. I am tired and weary and I feel so very afraid. But God is holding us amidst this chaos, even though His presence isn’t always immediately apparent…

Dr. Kosal is my Biology professor and one of the kindest, most compassionate people I have ever known (more on that later). Unable to leave my dad’s side at the hospital, I missed the final exam. I couldn’t even let her know I was going to miss the exam or why because there are no phones or computers allowed when someone is waiting to be involuntarily committed. It was impossible to sneak considering my dad’s rogue state and my role as a primary caretaker. When I could finally access my phone, I emailed her in a panicked frenzy, apologizing profusely, feeling terrible, and begging for a retroactive ‘incomplete’ in the class. Her response…well…it was a total God thing.

Here’s are some excerpts (6/22/16):

“Hi Cassidy,

I’m so sorry to read all of this.  It sounds like you have been given a heavy load to carry and I know you are physically and emotionally exhausted.  I gave you an incomplete for the course already – I knew there was some good reason to not see you…
…So let me know what you think.  Take care of your health first, your dad, and then worry about BIO 181.  It will be here for you when you can tackle it well.  No rush.

Sincerely,
Dr. Kosal”

Thank you, Lord, for placing people like Dr. Kosal in my life. I do not understand why this is happening, but I know You are here and You are working for our good…somehow…

Fear.

bipolar disorder.

manic crisis.

emergency.

i’m on my way.

daddy, are you in there?

daddy, please.

unrecognizable.

fear.

screaming.

wild eyes.

frothing mouth.

it’s a coin toss.

she’s pushed against wall.

pull him off.

back again.

he’s so strong.

fear.

nudity.

i’ll remove my hands.

violence.

out on the deck.

cool breeze.

hot breath.

penis against my back.

fear.

so loud.

where’s the dog?

fist fight.

neighbors scared.

quiet scheming.

police.

yes, we are safe.

lying through our teeth.

fear.

psychotic break.

smile and nod.

where is this coming from?

don’t take it to heart.

feel so shattered.

no sleep.

how many days has it been?

fear.

hushed whispering.

tiptoe.

crushing drugs.

spiking drinks.

laugh or you’ll cry.

share a blanket.

now he’s coming.

pretend you’re asleep.

fear.

sexual advances.

heart is racing.

vivid flashbacks.

PTSD.

not taking no for an answer.

daddy, please stop.

fear.

you don’t want to hurt her, daddy.

you don’t want to hurt me, daddy.

bruises.

run away.

no shoes.

hiding.

fear.

sobbing.

begging.

screaming.

please don’t leave me.

praying.

cursing.

is this really happening?

fear.

flashing lights.

police.

well-practiced lies

please see through us.

are we doing the right thing?

secret recordings.

so much unknown.

fear.

trapped.

no way out.

hopeless.

don’t touch her there.

don’t touch me there.

can’t breathe.

hold my hand.

white knuckles.

fear.

torn clothing.

haven’t showered in days.

mascara streaks.

scraped up knees.

red eyes.

trembling lips.

fear.

confusion.

pleading.

gotta reach him somehow.

it’s me, your daughter.

i love you, daddy.

bruises around my neck.

fear.

car rides.

alcohol.

trapped.

please don’t look.

don’t look away.

can we do this?

patient shows up.

no hiding now.

fear.

shattered glass.

my body, a shield.

please, daddy, stop.

don’t hurt him.

don’t hurt me.

please leave.

i don’t need your help.

fear.

911.

EMS.

strips down naked.

sir, please cooperate.

mom sent away.

daddy, i’m here.

daddy, i’ll stay with you.

daddy, please trust me.

fear.

raspy voice.

shake my hand.

talking in circles.

ambulance ride.

front seat.

monitoring his vitals.

god, can you hear me?

fear.

ER.

he pulls my hair.

grabs my arm.

just a rag doll.

stay calm.

steady voice.

talk to doctors.

fear.

 

(To be continued…)

This Is Not How Life Is Supposed To Be

There are so many things I should be doing, places I should be exploring, and memories I should be making.  But instead I lie in bed, writhing in pain as hot, salty tears soak my pillow.  My body feels heavy, my chest feels hollow, my thoughts are all over the place, and my head feels like it might explode.  I am merely a shell of my normal self.  Most all of my “friends” no longer talk to me or even care to acknowledge I still exist.  This is NOT how life is supposed to be.  I can’t stand living like this.  I am a prisoner of my body and mind…on the outside looking in as my peers reach milestone after milestone, leaving me in the dust.  It’s hard not to become grossly depressed.  But I promise you, this will not be how my story ends.  I am so much more than my life circumstances, more than these illnesses and more than this pain.  I may not know what will come next, but I am still in charge of my life.  That shred of power, although small, gives me hope.  I am sick…I am hurting…I am exhausted– but this cannot be forever.  This, too, shall pass…

New And Different, But Just As Beautiful

“I can really relate to your journey and having to let go of the person that you used to be. Something that has helped me is the idea of having a beautiful china vase on your mantelpiece. You accidentally knock it off, and it shatters into hundreds of pieces. You can either try to piece the vase back together, leaving it cracked and fragile, or you can use the bits of china to create a beautiful mosaic- new and different, but just as beautiful…”

Crisis Center, Round Two

I was escorted into a small, white room by an emotionless face in a white coat. Before I could even turn around, the big, heavy door was closed and, click, locked from the outside. With a defeated sigh, I began to take in my surroundings. White walls, white tile floor, white ceiling with a bright fluorescent light, a thin white blanket and a small white pillow placed in the corner. I walked the perimeter of the small room, running my shaking hands carefully over the walls. No windows but the one looking out to the hallway- the one they’d use to watch me…whoever “they” may be. No doorknob on the inside. No way out. I noted the smeared handprints up the wall and closed my eyes, sympathizing with all the poor souls who has been locked in that room before me. Those who, too, realized they were trapped and at the mercy of an unfeeling population of people who thought of you as little more than an inhuman burden on society. I slowly spread out my fingers and matched my handprint with one of my predecessors. The stranger and I were suddenly one…one single being united under the horrors of this torturous imprisonment. The room became a spinning white blur and I fell to my knees, fighting to keep in what little I ate for lunch. No way out. No way out.

Once the spinning ceased, I crawled to the corner and slowly began to lay out the crumpled blanket. On it were stains of brown, black and yellow. It reeked of metal and a scent I couldn’t quite put my finger on…but at that point, I was too numb to care. I curled up in a tight, shaking ball and pulled the blanket over me. I couldn’t believe I was there again. There- at the Crisis Center- a place I prayed I’d never have to think about again, never mind be held prisoner. Prisoner. That’s exactly what I was- a prisoner once again. But this time? There was nothing to set my sights on. No people to turn to who understood me and who loved me for who I was. No fuzzy chicks that warmed your heart and fell asleep in your hands. No fishing at the peaceful farm, casting all your cares into the still water. No screaming in the car, releasing pent-up anger and worry until you could breathe again. No sitting on the floor in pjs until two am, working to make sense of the world and all it holds. No more laughing until we cried or crying until we laughed. No more heartfelt hugs or empathetic eye-contact. No more inside jokes. No more happy music. No more family. There was no light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel…no. Not this time. I could feel it in every fiber of my being.

Before I knew what was happening, hysterical and unyielding shrieks began to escape my mouth. I pressed the dirty blanket to my lips and screamed until I could scream no longer. At some point, someone switched off the light…from the outside, of course, and I was left there in the darkness of the strange, square room.

Eventually, the screaming ceased. I carefully pulled the blanket away from my mouth, rolled over, and caught my reflection in the light above. I stretched out my arm and tried to touch the face staring back at me. She did the same. Hot, salty tears ran down the sides of my face, soaking the pillow, and she cried with me. We looked at each other for a while. She had a sad, distant look in her eyes…alive on the outside, but dead in spirit. With a heavy heart, I realized that the broken girl in my reflection was all I had left. I whispered goodnight and turned to face the wall.

I don’t remember falling asleep, but I know that I must have, because before I knew it, the girl that once kept me company was replaced by a bright light. Remembering where I was, I groaned and threw my tired arms over my eyes. I felt like I had been hit by a bus…and I wished that I had been.

Knock, knock. In entered a woman wearing bright purple scrubs and big purple earrings. She handed me what I guess was supposed to be breakfast and told me I was going to be transported within the next half hour. I sat up quickly.

“Transported where?”

She shrugged, handed me a plastic spoon, and closed the heavy door behind her. The smell of the contents of the plastic food tray filled the room, turning my stomach. I pushed it away and rolled back into my make-shift bed. All I could do at that moment was pray with all that I had in me that I would be brought back to Moses Cone. At least there I would know what to expect of them and they would know what to expect of me. In a sick sort of way, the nurses, technicians, and counselors there at Moses Cone were my family- Ms. Denise…Ms. Janine…Mr. Jim…Ms. Michelle…Ms. Lorrie…Ms. Bonnie…Ms. Amber…Ms. Janay- the only family I had left. I lied there, praying, waiting for the fateful knock at the door.

Finally, a policeman entered and said, “Someone is here to transport you to the hospital.”

“Moses Cone?” I demanded in a voice I hardly recognized.

“Yeah, I think that’s what they said.”

Tears of relief sprang to my eyes as I got up and followed him out the door- out of my cell- into the hallway. There stood a police woman, blonde ponytail, gray uniform. I put my wrists out in front of me and looked at her.

She laughed and looked me in the eyes. Wait, in the eyes? She could see me? My heart did a little leap. She could see me!

“You ready?”

I gave as much of a smile as I could muster to woman taking out the handcuffs- the first person who treated me like a human since my arrival there.

“All right, let’s go.”

(Written August 2012)