Damaged Dysfunction Part 1

I feel I’ve already taken too much “me” time and not enough “them” time. Let’s face it. I wasn’t the perfect role model to my kids when they were young during the crucial times in their lives when it was important to be a mother. I have no excuse but my therapist will tell you different. She will tell you that I struggled with my own depression and that my life was in shambles. “How could you possibly give three young children the quality of life that you wanted and desired when you were going through so much in your own life?” Really? I find that very selfish, doc. *sigh* So many regrets.

There are many times they had to fend for themselves. They played by themselves. They learned by themselves. They ate by themselves. I worked tremendously and I think that was my way of checking out so that I didn’t have to deal with the crying, yelling and screaming daily. I didn’t have to deal with their wants and needs by myself everyday. I didn’t have to solve fights and disagreements. So of course, they only had each other. So for me to take time for myself today is leaving them to fend for themselves “again” and this leaves me with painful guilt. Literally I feel a heavy and painful jolt in my chest and stomach. Anger at myself heats up my face and wells up in my cheeks and ears. It then shoots towards my eyes and a sudden burst of warmth runs down my face.

I remember a few years ago we had just left a counselors office. All four of us. We took an elevator down because we thought it was a really cool elevator. It was one of those old ones that have the wrought iron looking gates on the front that squeal really loud when you open and close them. The entire elevator was open so as you move you can see everything around you. This also means there are gaps and holes that allow ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to fall through. When we reached the bottom and as I stepped off the elevator my keys slipped from my hand and fell between the gap to the floor below which was empty and looked like it may have been under construction. It was maybe 3 or 4 feet down so not very far but far enough that I couldn’t get down there myself. I didn’t have to say anything. All three of the kids scrambled to worked together and fast. They could see the keys and each one worked together to get them. One held the gate while the other went to retrieve. It took a minute to figure out because it wasn’t as simple as just moving the gate. They had to go in from the side and then determine who was going to go in, who was the smallest to fit and then how they were going to get that person back up. I remember watching them and thinking – “Wow. It’s incredible that just one hour ago they were fighting with one another but now, when comes to having to make a plan or having a job to do, they seem to come together quickly and get it solved.” Any other parent would have been proud and then moved on from the experience. Don’t get me wrong – I was proud. Very proud. But I haven’t forgotten that day because I felt awful. I knew that they worked well together in that way because they had learned from an early age how to survive on their own. They have only ever had each other. Sadness punched me in the gut.

Example of what the elevator looked like

They are all adults in their twenties now and I feel that guilt and regret more so now than ever. I watch them struggle with life. My oldest seems to do okay for the most part although she doesn’t seem to have a sense of direction. My son. Oh, my son. As I type this he is currently sitting in County Detention aka jail. I won’t get into that much here right now but I will say this – I have the guilt. I am guilty of not providing an example. My heart absolutely aches but I put money on his books and try my best to be sure his car is paid for each month and that he knows he is loved. I’m not even sure how to do that right. My youngest, she does well in life but suffers a debilitating anxiety no doubt brought on by a childhood of trauma and chaos.

I’m not sure how to shake how I feel. I just know I feel it. You can’t just tell someone to get over it and *POOF* it’s gone. You can’t tell someone they did the best they could and now suddenly they are healed. I have to be able to believe it. No one lived my life with my children but me and them so to have someone say “you did the best you could” is not enough for me. Did I? Did I really? I’m not so sure. I’m a shining example of damaged dysfunction which has been cast upon my children at no fault of their own and all I want to do is make it better.

To be continued…

Where’s the Starving Fat Lady?

I want to jump into where I’ve been and what I have been doing and the reason for my absence quickly. So let’s begin.

Depression is nasty. It debilitates you and leaves you numb, causing you to separate yourself from life, family, and friends.  The devil entered my life at a point where I felt weak and vulnerable and he used that to scratch his own itch. It can last days or months; in my case, months. You are able to function at some small level but anything after that takes energy you don’t have. Reaching out for help is out of the question but I’ve been blessed to have friends and family who give me my space and time to heal. For that, thank you.

Time for the big news! Thanks to all of your comments, feedback and positive prayers, I have decided that I want to share my story with the world. I am writing a book! My own little autobiography. When you read my blogs (and book) I want you to be able to say, “Me too!” You are not alone in the struggle and the struggle IS real! The book is titled, “The Starving Fat Lady – Binge eating, abuse, and mental illness.” I’ve been working on the first chapter these last few months and am hoping to have it proofread and finished in another few weeks. I have years of work to do but it will be worth it to have my readers know they are not alone.  When I think about being isolated, I sometimes think about grade school. It seemed I always befriended the outcasts, the rejects, the mess. Or maybe it was the other way around. They accepted me. I, too, was the outcast, the reject, the mess. Either way I met and know some extraordinary people! Those that knew I was worthy and believed in what I did, even if I failed, thank you!!

I leave you today, with this: You will get better. With time and support, life does open up and bring you sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes it seems the darkness will never go away but trust me when I say, it goes away.  Thank you to those hanging in there with me and putting up with my bouts of depression. I can’t express to you just how much it means to me.

Much love,

The Starving Fat Lady

 

 

Black and White Part 2

He’s been in jail 4 months. Now there’s no income. The cable is the first to go. Then the power. Then the food. This is all my fault…

I’ve made very few friends in the three years I’ve lived here. I break down and ask for their help. They bring over a few things to make sandwiches but I know they’re having struggles of their own. I feed my kids and go without because I’m not sure when we will get food again. Forget asking the neighbors. They hate me anyways. They’ve made that perfectly clear with the rocks thrown at my screen door and the yells of “cracker,” “honky,” and my personal favorite, “white bitch.”

From the dark living room, I hear my kids going through the Sunday newspaper that I took from the broken newspaper box. I hear my son exclaim, “Oooh I want that! And that one! Oh my God that one looks really good!” I walk towards them to see what they’re reading. “You can have that one. I will have these three.” I see little bodies lying on the floor, faces illuminated by a flashlight. His precious, short, little, five-year-old fingers touch the pictures of burgers and fries. “Sunday newspaper ads always seem to have the best deals and coupons on fast food,” I sadly think to myself. I turn my head and begin to cry. I’ve done this to them out of my own selfishness. What kind of mother am I?

I have GOT to fucking do something! I walk through the projects to get to the only payphone. There are young black men everywhere. Standing around as if waiting for a taxi. I hear, “You straight?” “Hey sweetheart, you straight?” Lingo for, “are you looking to score drugs?” NO MOTHERFUCKER I’M NOT STRAIGHT! My rent is due. My power is off and my kids are hungry. You gonna fix THAT? Ignorant. I reach the payphone after weeding through the drug dealers only to have a dozen more at the barbershop asking me the same question. I break down and call mom. She’s my only hope. I beg her to send money. Just a bit for the kids to eat. “I’m broke too, Tonia. There is no way I can send money right now.” I’m every emotion possible. All at the same time. I’m losing it.

There’s another shooting. This time, a prostitute was left in the bushes next to our apartment complex to die, naked and humiliated. There’s a backwoods club down a dirt road about 150 yards from the complex. I stay indoors when the club is open because there’s no way I’m letting anyone know a white “bitch” lives here. One night, shots rang out and four policemen….FOUR policemen show up. There are hundreds of people swarming the streets. I watch from my second story window. The police are outnumbered. What the hell can they do? I feel so safe. *insert sarcasm and hopelessness*

The police are no better than the drug dealers. Example, the neighbor’s son got pulled over with three pounds of marijuana in his trunk. When he went to court the judge told him he was being charged with two pounds. Now you tell me, what the hell happened to it and are you going to argue? I was pulled over on my way to work. I received a ticket for no proof of insurance while driving my cute, little ford focus, didn’t pay for it and didn’t appear in court. I was arrested and taken to jail. On the way there, the officer says, “You smell great. Don’t worry about Hall County Detention. Those officers like pretty girls and are usually pretty lenient.”  Think someone would believe me if I told? Do you believe it? I know I didn’t but that’s the way it went down. The feeling of helplessness and defeat will overtake everything innocent that you believe in.

Tonia

My husband was finally released after 8 months. The power came back on, the fridge was full, and the kids were happy. Life went on but we were never the same. After spending 5 years in the projects, I had had enough. I moved back home to Montana with the kids and left him in Georgia.

Georgia left me hateful and blind and I couldn’t stand how that made me feel. I learned to hate because I was hated.  Eventually, I moved on and learned that things didn’t have to be that way. The world was full of color and flavor and it was up to me to reach out and taste it. When will racism, poverty, hate crimes, and general judgement cease?  It’s up to you, my dear readers. The world is not always……..black and white.

Room Without A View Continued…

We line up for chow in pairs of two. I hear one girl ask another, “Want to be my two?” I move to the back of the line since that’s where the lonely “one” goes. In two weeks I’ve made just a few friends. I’m in what they call the “Cottonwood” cottage. There is a “prison shower” which is a large room with multiple shower heads. There’s a living area where there’s a TV, tables, chairs, and puzzles. The walls are nothing but square bricks painted white. The office is a bubble of glass, brick, and one door that always remains locked. Then of course there are our cells. Two more weeks. I can do this.

The sight of that state car never looked more sweet. This time nutcase must have stayed in her nut tree because it was a handsome young man that made the drive back home more enjoyable. You’d think that it’d be amazing to be home after being away for that long. But alas, it’s just like old times with mom driving the control boat and me trying to jump off without a life vest. I run. I run. And I run like hell. I run to alcohol and drugs. I run from the law. I run to every boy who is willing to give me the attention I crave. I run in a stolen car. I start fights with anyone and everyone who tried to take away the control I thought I had on my own life. Truth is, I was totally out of control.

Red, white, and blue stands for freedom so why is it that I’m locked up again? The judge gazes at me over her glasses. “Eighteen months in Mountain View School for Girls to run consecutively. Defendant is to maintain counseling and drug and alcohol treatment. And Tonia? I really hope you’re able to turn your life around. If you choose not to, you’ll be 18 soon and I will have no other choice but to send you to adult prison. Have a nice day.” SMACK goes the gavel.

I return to see old faces. Name calling and glares have been replaced with hugs and welcome backs. Perhaps last time the girls were trying to scare me straight on my 45? It was however, their home and I was just a visitor at the time.  What they don’t know is that I was lured back. Lured by a feeling of love, acceptance, and of being wanted. Some of these girls had been beaten, abused, raped, molested, and left to the world to survive on their own. They were only teenagers.

I was allowed to work in the cafeteria. It got me out of my cell and I moved up into one of the top cottages for good behavior. I learned how to cook and serve at least a hundred girls and staff. It was nice to have responsibility. The girls really became some of my closest friends. I had affairs with a few but after realizing relationships with girls cause way too many dramatic issues, I was done. After 18 months, I was released into a group home. Then a foster home. I was bounced around between five foster and group homes for what seemed like eternity.  I was able to complete drug and alcohol counseling and maintain a job that paid off all of my restitution to the state and the victims of my crimes. I was ready for 18 in two months and I sure as hell wasn’t going to see that judge as an adult.

“Tonia, you are now released from state custody. You are no longer a ward of the state under the juvenile statute.” The judge again peers over her glasses. Doesn’t she have some that fit?! “I hope you take this as an opportunity to grow and learn. I wish you the best. I don’t ever want to see you in my courtroom again.” The SMACK of the gavel no longer holds fear. It now holds freedom.

Room Without A View

My probation officer looks at me then looks down at the table and sighs. I sit with a smile on my face waiting for him to announce that he is taking me back to jail. “Tonia, you know the drill.” “I sure do! Let’s go!” I get up and start walking before he even gets up from the table. I don’t bother saying goodbye to mom since she dramatically stormed up the stairs shedding what I call fake tears.

He doesn’t even bother cuffing me this time since my eagerness stands at the state car waiting to be let in. He jumps in and turns to me, “Tonia, why? Why would you rather be in jail than at home?” I look at him and slightly smile, “Do you even know what I go through here? I’m 16 and she controls everything I do. Every decision, every choice, every thought, every feeling. You are not taking me to jail. You are letting me out.”

Arriving, I feel the excitement. We get into booking and I peek to see whose curious faces I may recognize peering back at me through the small opening in the heavy steel doors. My probation officer leaves me with a “goodbye” and a “take care.” Relieved, I look at the intake officer and ask how she’s doing since the last time I saw her. She just smiles. I grab my bedding and personal hygiene products and head to my cell. I feel home. You see, jail provides me with stability. A sort of structure that home doesn’t. Home is so unpredictable. At least I know what to expect here. Breakfast at 8 am then some recreational time, then back in for socializing and lunch. Dinner at 4 pm. If you’re lucky, you may have some leftover snacks. Everyday.

I wake to the sound of a short, chubby woman yelling. “Tonia! Pack up. You’re moving.” She has me swap out my jump suit and plastic sandals for my street clothes. Leading me through the steel doors I see my ex-boyfriend’s mother. What is she doing here? God, I hope she doesn’t talk to me. This woman despised me because I was the bad girl dating her perfect son. By the way, your perfection introduced me to acid, dumbass. The door opens and she stands with a proud smile. “Hey, Tonia. How are you? I’m here to escort you to Mountain View Girls School in Helena. Load up.” Thank you State of Montana for hiring this nutcase. The nearly 2 hour drive there is spent in silence.

We approach the gates of MVS. My eyes are introduced to cute little brick cottages. This isn’t going to be so bad!

Gates

 

cottage 2

I unload the car and head into the office. Nutcase pats me on the back and happily exclaims, “Forty-five days, Tonia. Enjoy!” Dozens of girls glare at me from a large room to my left. I read “bitch” roll off the lips of one of them. Cute cottages, gone. Fear, enters. To be continued…