poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

February 21, 2011

Who is worth saving?

Filed under: Uncategorized — poemless @ 3:27 PM

This is in response to inquiries, and also my own need to write. No one is obligated to read or respond to it. If you choose the read it, you may feel put off by the tone and/or resentful of the intrusion of my problems into your life. I am posting this on my own site, for myself.

I don’t know where to begin. I will start by saying that I have $80, an existential crisis, and no idea what to do next. But that does not explain how I got here, and people always demand an explanation for such things. I myself am not entirely sure how I got here.

I will start at the beginning. Growing up I was abused from my earliest years until I left home. I have never had any closure. No one got enough love in their childhood, I know. Some children are sold into sex slavery, I know. But this is about me. I was sexually abused by my father from the age of 5 until I was 9, and attempts continued thereafter. I was violently physically, emotionally and verbally abused by my father until I cut off all contact with him. On an average day, after dinner he’d remove a large leather belt and beat me to a pulp, and after bed time, he’d come in and act out scenes from the adult magazines he’d show me. I never blocked out or forgot these events. If it had been a stranger doing this to me, it would be a tv movie, a news scandal. Since it was my father, it was “no one’s business.” Shame, fear of him killing me, concern no one would believe me kept me from telling anyone. I often hear people say, “you can’t live your life in fear.” Oh, you’d be surprised…

People had to have known, though. Especially my mother. There are psychological reasons she didn’t prevent it. But the fact is, she stuck up for him, punished me when I refused to be nice to him, when I became morose, ridiculed my lack of friends, etc. Kids also have to see doctors. Not one ever asked me about the cuts all over my arms. I begged my 6th grade teacher to adopt me, to get me out of my home. The school made no welfare check inquiries.

I was a kid the first time I decided to kill myself. Then in high school, then twice in college and later in my 20’s. I only actually attempted it once, after the abuse became public. Many people didn’t believe me. My father stopped paying for college, stalked me, threatened me. I consulted a lawyer who told me the statute of limitations re: the abuse had expired. Of course I did not want to live in such a world.

To be clear, I have had many joyous, fulfilling, enriching, warm experiences in my life. My mother was creative and whimsical; I had a wonderful education; I have had the opportunity to travel; I have sucked the marrow from the museums, libraries, gardens, bedrooms and kitchen tables of life. I don’t define myself by only negative experiences. But in spite of my efforts, they continue to define me. Still I’m not the kind of person who needs reassurance of my worth. I know I can be pretty fucking amazing. Even buried in the rubble of bad decisions, even in destitution, I think I’m brave, brilliant, and, were I to wash my hair, kind of smashing.

My mother died when I was 25, leaving me with a brother who has his own share of struggles, and a step family. They are… what they are. They are probably correct to insist they owe me nothing. I don’t really understand them, to be honest.

When my mother divorced my father after he did not deny the abuse, her divorce settlement stipulated that my father would be entirely responsible for my education. He never paid a thing. The Student Loan people garnished my already meager wages. “We’ll ruin your life.” They said. I told them someone had beat them to it. Next they’ll want a kidney. But I can’t face my father. Not on my own.

I’ve missed a lot of work. Last year I began having “atypical migraines.” I still have bouts of these neurological misfires. Hell. Also ate up all my time off. Then I got the flu and a sinus infection. Pretty routine in itself, but missed more work. Being sick also makes me depressed. It makes everyone depressed. Except what is “depressed” for most people is “normal” for me. So when I get depressed, suicide notes are involved. Actually I hate the word “depression.” It reminds me of bored housewives or self-pity. I don’t have low self worth. I’m not intellectually dull. I’m not listless. I have severe panic attacks, sense everything acutely, amplified, feel literally paralyzed with terror, and then a kind of safety switch in my brain is flipped and all functioning stops. Like, before the fuse is blown.

I don’t like or will these things to happen. I’d love to be able to cope without crisis. In fact I usually only realize what is happening long after it has begun. Then my first reaction is to ignore it. Everyone says, “just keep going…” It’s also the easiest course of action. One that also doesn’t work. Still, no one wants to admit they are failing to accomplish very basic things. And if I do talk about it, people tend to classify it as melodrama. As if I exist to entertain them. So I ignore it until I am standing in front of a hot bath with a razor and my cat is staring at me. I can’t do that to the cat. It’s always a pet who saves my life. It’s why I have to have one. Then I relent and approach the brick wall that is my family. “Winter makes everyone blue.” “I’m sorry, I can’t relate to that.” “You’re on your own.” “Don’t you have someone else you can talk to?” Then I call the doctor who has a legal obligation to help. Drugs, therapy, now, please. I do whatever I can to avoid the hospital. People are treated like criminals in “the unit.” I realize the social aims of drugs and therapy run counter to my personal values. But my personal values aren’t going to mean a lot if I am dead.

I’m not even sure why I want to live. Besides stubbornness. Letting people willing to fight for social justice, defend intellectual pursuit, demand real croissants remain available in America just off themselves seems counter to everything I hold dear. The world frankly needs more people like me, not fewer. Also I am not finished.

My job pays about 20K. This is a possibly a living wage, depending on your definition of “living” and where you reside. I can’t afford a computer or to have my painful teeth fixed. But I live. Or did, until the Student Loan Nazis started getting generous with their take. Between that and missing work, I fell very behind. It all just snowballed. Because my reaction to crisis tends to be what it always was: close your eyes, go to a better place, don’t let anyone know, don’t move a muscle, he’ll leave soon…

I spent years working on this. But I guess you are never “fixed.” And frankly admitting that I have a VERY serious problem dealing with life, I have to think about why. And I resent having to think about that. I’d get a lobotomy if it meant I could never think of it again. I don’t want to admit I am damaged. I don’t want to give him that pleasure.

If you’re facing homelessness, Just go to work!!!

I get up everyday at 6:30, take my medicine, feed my cat, have a panic attack, cry hysterically, decide today is the day, decide no I am not going to do that, decide I need a plan, decide my plan is shit, throw up, take painkillers because just breathing hurts, call someone, collapse from sheer exhaustion, rinse and repeat.

I think I am in shock or something.

My family says homeless people are losers and cowards. I would like to see them live on the streets. (Not my brother, who has been homeless, because I kicked him out, which I’ve never forgiven myself for.) No, the people who would not part with one of their many big screen tvs to save a life. So easy to be judgmental from a beach in Hawaii, a Christmas feast, a church pew.

A lot of judgment is silly -perhaps my own acts of judgment too. Still, I have had it with the deification of my mother. I mean, I understand Stockholm Syndrome, but at some point you are responsible for the safety of your children, no? Or do I get to be the only one for whom personal responsibility trumps the psychological effects of trauma? I mean, does it occur to ANYONE that I might find her actions horrid? I mean besides mental health professionals, because that’s the first thing they ask, “Where was your mother? Are you angry at her?” There. Yes.

So these family stories… There is a lot of mythology in them. I already feel my family has written me off. Totally. Their MO is tough love. Suffering? Need help? Need support? Messed up? Silent treatment. Disowned. It’s why I kicked out my brother. My gut said not to, but my family said he had to learn a lesson. I’m terrified to think of what kinds of lessons a person learns on the streets. I probably deserve what is happening now for that one moment.

I am trying to make sense of what is happening to me now. It seems I sabotage myself. Not because of low self esteem. Not cowardice. Not laziness. Out of a perverse desperate desire for someone to save me. It sounds childish because it is. No one came to rescue me when I was a child being tortured by my father day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. I need to know someone will save me. Which I guess is another way of saying loved. People telling me they love me has no effect on me. My father told me that. Just empty words people say to justify their actions, or lack thereof.

“Only you can save yourself.” First, that is a pretty fucked up attitude. Personally I believe that we all have to try to save each other because that’s what being a decent, empathetic, civilized human being means. I suppose people are free to aspire to nothing more than base animal instincts to consume, shit, fuck and die. I have higher expectations of people. Secondly, it’s a lie. Otherwise there would be no need for search and rescue teams, the medical industry, legal representation, fire departments, social services and many other institutions we take for granted. Third, I may very well be able to save myself all by myself, but science says my success rate increases if I have company. Oh and hoping things work out doesn’t count. I hope that for the man who sleeps by the hot dog stand. It helps. Me, to sleep at night. Lastly, when people DO try to save themselves, the very same people who say, “only you can save yourself,” bitch about that too, because you go and muss up their status quo. And spend taxpayer dollars!!! “Only you can save yourself” is code for, “leave me out of this.”

I don’t even know why I should try to return to being a barely functioning cog in a system that clearly doesn’t give a shit about me. Parents, doctors, teachers, family failed to protect me from ongoing harm when I was a minor. The justice system failed to punish my father or provide me closure. I got an education but with the price of indentured slavery. My employer failed to provide me with an income that allows me to afford basic things like a computer or dental care. This might be common. This might be miles better than some situations in 3rd world countries. Still a long list of failures.

For my part I have also failed. Failed to pay bills, to seek help in a timely manner, to plan for the future, to ensure my health and safety. That’s big. Huge. Possibly insurmountable. But if it warrants the death penalty, all politicians in the country should be lined up in front of a firing squad. Fuck, at least I haven’t put other people’s lives at risk.

Don’t tell me to stay strong. I’ve been stronger than most and for longer. Don’t tell me to stay positive and then walk away because you can’t even deal with it. Don’t pray for me. I am not a stranger whose plight you saw on the news.

I am a real live human who is scared, overwhelmed, broke, failing, running into one closed door after another, no one’s problem, no one’s daughter, and the only person I know who thinks I am worth saving.

I don’t know what comes next. Death, more suffering, miracles?
I guess the only thing I am sure of is, no matter how I resolve this, I’m probably going to anger a few more people in the process. If I can get through this, they can get over that.


  1. I believe that you are worth saving. I, too, suffered at the hands of a physically and emotionally abusive man during my childhood. I know a little bit of how you feel, although I will never be able to truly understand how you feel. I want to help, please tell me how I can help.

    Comment by Jessie — February 21, 2011 @ 3:52 PM | Reply

  2. I don’t know that I can say/do anything to help, except to say that I read this and am here to listen. You are a gifted writer and sound like a really strong person, despite all the awfulness. Keep on reaching out!

    Comment by Jen — February 21, 2011 @ 5:44 PM | Reply

  3. It never occurred to me when we met in 6th grade that we were going through the same thing. My sexual abuse came from other sources other than my father. He gave me the rest! I completely understand the “where the hell was my mom” sentiment. The best I can give to others is, I try not to be a victim but a survivor.

    I applaud you reaching out, most of us do not. You are worth everything, Toscha!!! I am just 3 hrs south, outside of Springfield. If you need a getaway, I have a spare bed. I do NOT have a quiet home however. Sometimes the quiet makes the hard times worse. If you need anything, call. If you need me to drive there and get you, call!!! Do not think my words are hollow, they never are. I mean every syllable!

    Comment by Amy Hufstedler — February 21, 2011 @ 5:57 PM | Reply

  4. Just to check up briefly a couple points:

    1) Nothing specifically horrible has happened to you during the last several days.
    2) You have real friends, if that counts. Here, in Russia, you have friends.

    Comment by Evgeny — February 22, 2011 @ 9:02 AM | Reply

  5. Thanks for all your kind words, everyone. It’s hard. Very hard…

    Comment by poemless — February 22, 2011 @ 11:20 AM | Reply

  6. Poemless, I am generally apprehensive of psychiatric drugs, but there’s one that makes wonders for me. I take some glycine. Glycine is merely an aminoacid. I.e., stuff that’s contained in such meals as chicken. That means that taking glycine is no more potentially harmful that eating a bit of a chicken.

    I don’t understand medical stuff any much, but glycine helps your brain to relax. I.e., it activates your natural capability of relaxing. It does that job more effectively than alcohol, lasts for longer, no side-effects like being intoxicated. Well. It could be a part of a solution for you. Making things a bit easier.

    Comment by Evgeny — February 22, 2011 @ 12:01 PM | Reply

  7. What’s also positive about glycine, it costs nothing (well, it’s just an aminoacid, a building block of proteins), and at least in Russia it’s sold in pharmacies without a recipe. May be you could talk your doctor into issuing you a recipe for some.

    Comment by Evgeny — February 22, 2011 @ 12:13 PM | Reply

  8. Meds may help you, dude(tte).

    I know how meds can feel like they carry values, particularly values that run counter to those of people who need meds.

    I was never close to homelesness, but I was deep into uselesness, stuck with my parents, unable to go to classes — even though I had cajoled them into letting me do the graduate school thing so I could postpone the job market.

    This may sound like magical thinking, but meds fix me. Mostly.

    I’m still quite broken. But I’m functional. I have a sizeable rainy day fund in my savings account, and what’s more, meaningful relationships with friends and a special someone.

    Give pharmacotherapy a chance. Even if you skirt around the talking therapy parts; I did. The medications helped me sort out my thoughts anyway.

    Please get well. Call it a personal favor. You have my email address in your comment admin page on wordpress. I’m human. I’m here.

    Comment by syntaxfree — February 22, 2011 @ 1:15 PM | Reply

  9. For the record, I am taking medicine (Wellbutrin, Clonazepam, also still on antibiotics, B12.) I am going to intensive therapy. I am getting some food, some sleep, and physically taking care of myself. Trying to mentally do that too. Writing this helped. Right now, today, this moment my biggest fear is for my safety.

    Thanks again for all of your helpful comments.

    Comment by poemless — February 22, 2011 @ 2:49 PM | Reply

  10. Poemless, I care about your situation.

    You are always welcome to discuss it with me.

    Another comment: having a computer with Internet access is among the essentials these days.

    Comment by Evgeny — February 23, 2011 @ 8:11 AM | Reply

  11. “I think I’m brave, brilliant, and, were I to wash my hair, kind of smashing.”

    When I met you in the cafe in Andersonville last year, that was my impression…and I don’t know if you had even washed your hair that day ;)

    Not much I can say, except that it’s better to let the poison out than to hold it in. Especially when someone is as good a writer as you are. Anyway, I’m thinking there’s a decent chance I’ll move back to Chicago, and maybe we can discuss things (whatever the subject may be) in person again.

    Comment by Scowspi — February 23, 2011 @ 12:22 PM | Reply

  12. Have you talked with someone – I mean someone professional, whose services cost nothing – about options for deferral of your student loan payments, something to help you get your finances under control? I read that the government began to crack down some years ago on recovery of student loans, but the typical model in that scenario was some guy who borrowed from the government for med school 10 years ago, has had his shingle out for 7 and drives a BMW, but still hasn’t paid off his loan because there was no pressure to do so. That’s not you. Decent people get caught up in the net woven by careless, lazy irresponsible people. So it shall ever be, world without end, hallelujah.

    The best punishment for the horrible wrongs you have suffered is your continued survival and recovering your health and equilibrium. As you suggest, destroying you might provide satisfaction. I can’t imagine howe anyone could be such an animal, and I’m glad I don’t know.

    Everyone is worth saving. I’d like to help, too. If I can, I will.

    Comment by marknesop — February 23, 2011 @ 2:14 PM | Reply

  13. hugs.

    Comment by millman — February 23, 2011 @ 7:13 PM | Reply

  14. For whatever it is worth, your writing is beautiful. Please take care of yourself.

    Comment by Edie — February 25, 2011 @ 3:43 PM | Reply

  15. poemless, my hugs and deep appreciation of your honesty and courage to bring out such terrible things. i have not experienced even a slice of your suffering and cannot possibly understand them fully. just mentally trying to imagine them and can’t. i am sure everything will be ok and we will be in constant touch if anything needed.

    Comment by FarEasterner — February 27, 2011 @ 1:04 PM | Reply

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