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Beyond the Outward Appearance

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A picture I drew at 12am, in the dark, upset and couldn’t sleep.
June 2012, Kris Hannah

One year ago, I hit a devastating low that I never thought I would ever reach. No one knew the turmoil I was struggling with, as I hid it from everyone around me. Many knew some details but couldn’t handle or comprehend the depth of my struggles. I was in an abusive relationship, dealing with being raped in my past, and trying to take care of my little girl while holding down a job. We had just moved to Wyoming, where I was isolated from everyone and had zero support. When I hit that low, I had no clue where to turn or what to do.

After begging my husband to take me back down to Texas for a week, he finally drove me and I went into the hospital. I was super scared. I went to the Emergency Room at 5pm on Friday, was going through intake Saturday at 2am, where they searched everything and took whatever was prohibited, and by 5am, I was in my bed crying myself to sleep wondering if I had made the right decision. I didn’t wake up until Monday morning. I didn’t want to go to group, and only woke up long enough to speak to my doctor. Things felt hopeless.

I was only inpatient for 10 days but it felt so much longer. They had activities scheduled for most of the day. Group was 2-3 times a day, activity therapy, one-on-one therapy once a week, and we could choose to do family therapy if we wanted. Every morning, we filled out a sheet on how we were feeling and what we wanted to accomplish that day. And after lunch, we had journaling time for an hour.

The problem was we weren’t allowed pens, and the pencils they supplied were smaller than 3 inches. We were allowed to use markers, but they were worn out and run down or went missing. Even though journaling was encouraged, the circumstances weren’t ideal for anyone who truly wanted to journal.

The best moments inpatient were when I was laughing and coloring with the other patients. I realized that many were also depressed, just like me. When I went inpatient, my parents saw me as weak, but in actuality, the strongest thing I could have ever done was get the help I needed. This was the first time I was allowed to not pretend to be stronger than I felt. As I started reaching out for help and journaling, I finally felt a strength I hadn’t felt in such a long time.I flourished and finally found something enjoyable for myself. I took notes in every aspect of therapy, journaled like crazy, and even started drawing again. I went through FOUR composition books and my pages looked like rainbows. It felt great doing such a ‘childish’ thing.

I know many people don’t understand what would send someone into a mental hospital, but it is time to break down those walls. The people in my unit were not mentally insane. They were not crazy or psychos. They were seeking help in the best way possible. Just because their troubles were not physical, it doesn’t make them any less. Just imagine how many don’t get help and choose a more permanent solution. It saved my life and helped me get out of my abusive relationship.

When I left, I vowed that I would help future patients in the same way I was helped. I never realized how significant those markers and composition books were in my recovery, but they were. And I hope that by donating what I can, others can feel that also. Each month, I would love to be able to deliver washable markers, composition books, coloring books, and a set of resources for those inpatient.

If you have any suggestions or would like to help, please let me know by commenting or emailing me at krisahannah @ gmail.

Update, Hospitalization, and Progressive Health

Been a long while since I have been on this blog or any. Actually, I haven’t been on the internet in like forever because of what started at the end of May. I got to a point where I wanted to beat my husband up in his sleep, crying myself to sleep every night, major anxiety, and so much more. My husband confronted me at my work because he happened to see that I was talking about partial hospitalization on fb. I told him I was serious. He understood after reading about wanting to beat him up. I just couldn’t handle this “normal” (fake) life anymore. I was hurting and no one cared. Even my cousin (the only one in the family I talk to) told me she was tired of talking about it, and we only talked about it maybe 4 times within a year. Anyways, so off to the hospital I went.

I uprooted my family from one part of the country to the other with my wanting to go back to where I grew up to make sure I got the best care, since there were no trauma therapists or support groups within 2 hours of where we lived. Hated that town anyways!

I went into the ER at 4:30pm, brought to the Mental Hospital here at 2am, and finally laid my head down on one of the inpatient beds at 4am. I slept that whole day or two. I was that depressed. My husband had to go back and work but I was inpatient for 10 days. The best 10 days I could have ever gotten. I really do recommend people going and getting help if they are thinking suicidal or that depressed.

(On the way to my hometown, I wanted to jump out of the car, but I turned my music on and went to sleep for the 23 hour drive.)

After inpatient I was outpatient in the PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) there while I slept on my dad’s couch. Once my husband drove back down we got a hotel for Hubby and Cupcake (*Not her real name, our daughter). The suicidal thoughts started coming more frequent when interacting with my husband and daughter. If only I was dealing with my past rapes. Rape started a long process of unhealthy relationships for me.

Since they wanted to get me reevaluated again, I got sent inpatient for a LONG 5 days. It was unexpected and very aggravating. I made the doctors think everything was fine. It was easier that way because not having jobs or a place to live and my physical health was more important to me.

Now I realize that, yes, I am living my life after rape, but I am not defined by anything. Not MDD or PTSD or anything. I am me and all I can do is me. I took very colorful notes inpatient and outpatient and have finally been released from the programs. I wish I could stay there for those who are just now coming into the program and be an advocate for them. It is so essential that they realize it is more than just sitting there in the groups, but soaking up the knowledge the therapists and doctors are giving them. I feel like I did all I could do there for my own personal growth.

Now that I am out, I am still journalling from time to time (with markers in composition books) and looking into DBT. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy focuses on Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness, which the inpatient therapist tried to go over with me. Thinking more rationally than emotionally minded when it comes to situations where I perceive distress in relationships. I feel like I have lots of resources and help and I will gladly pass them on to others who need help just surviving LIFE, let alone abuse.

Strive for PROGRESSION, NOT Perfection. I want to surround myself with progressively healthy people than people who are stuck and unhealthy to what my needs are.

Think I might coin that phrase if it already isn’t… “PROGRESSIVELY HEALTHY” or “PROGRESSIVE HEALTH”

Add a WAR (Sexual Abuse) Support Group in Every School

What a great cause. Every school should have some kind of support group implemented to help students affected by rape and abuse. If you also support this cause, just follow the link and like the page. If you would like to start getting things started in your area, just message the page and start collaborating.

https://www.facebook.com/SupportGroupsinSchools

“I created this page to start working on getting more awareness and support into schools so that those who have been abused have someone to turn to. It’s a start to making changes in schools where students can find support. I’ve seen a group like this work. And I think we need to multiply what they have done and really help the children affected by rape and sexual abuse.”

Awareness is the biggest tool right now. Although it’s in the first few days of spreading awareness, it is a great start. Next step is a petition and then going into local areas in schools and crisis centers. Sounds very exciting.

Why Many Survivors Struggle with Acquaintance Rape

“The consequences of acquaintance rape are often far-reaching. Once the actual rape has occurred and has been identified as rape by the survivor, she is faced with the decision of whether to disclose to anyone what has happened… The percentage of survivors reporting the rape is so low for several reasons. Self-blame is a recurring response which prevents disclosure. Even if the act has been conceived as rape by the survivor, there is often an accompanying guilt about not seeing the sexual assault coming before it was too late. This is often directly or indirectly reinforced by the reactions of family or friends in the form of questioning the survivor’s decisions… People normally relied upon for support by the survivor are not immune to subtly blaming the victim. Another factor which inhibits reporting is the anticipated response of the authorities. Fear that the victim will again be blamed adds to apprehension about interrogation. The duress of reexperiencing the attack and testifying at a trial, and a low conviction rate for acquaintance rapists, are considerations as well.”

American Academy of Experts on Traumatic Stress

This is why Survivors don’t tell people they were raped!

This Saturday was my family’s Christmas (dys)function. After deciding to report my rape to the police, I thought about whether or not it would be a good idea to tell my mother (and maybe other family members). So far I had told my dad, brother’s girlfriend (living with my mom), my cousin, and my aunt. I have a very small family, but very dysfunctional. From the people I told, it was almost the subject you don’t talk about and if something is said, its about “getting over it” because it’s “taking over my life.”

I did tell my cousin about it as we are closer than the other family. It took me six months for me to open up to her about my first incident with the bully. She now understands why the Love word and people hugging me get to me. As much as I care for someone, I CANNOT use the L word or hug a girl… not even to my own cousin.

So when this function came up with the whole family, all 16 of us, I debated whether or not it would be a good idea. My conclusion came while sitting in my brother’s girlfriend’s bedroom… No it wouldn’t be a good idea. A few weeks ago, my mom found out I was in counseling for things that happened in my past, but I never told her why I was going. When she walked into the bedroom, I knew that something was going to happen. In the end, I told my husband that she wants to know what my problems are, and he told me that my mom deserves to know. So I told her.

The first few seconds of the conversation she said: “why did you let him in the house” and “you could kick his a**.” My initial reaction was to tell her that it was NOT my fault and I will NOT be taking the blame because I did NOTHING wrong. She knew who he was, where it happened, when it happened, where she was, but that still wasn’t good enough for her. Within two days after me telling her, I got about 10 random texts and calls from her (when we go months without any conversation). I knew something was up, but I was secretly hoping that it was genuine concern for me. I was wrong.

When she finally got ahold of me the third day, the first things that came out of her mouth again was “why didn’t you tell me because it happened in my house.” It didn’t matter that I was in shock and denial for the better part of SEVEN years. All she cared about was the fact that I didn’t tell her. No, scratch that. She was upset that she wasn’t told first! She told me that I have now strained my aunt’s and her relationship because my aunt should have told her about MY problem. She then proceeded to tell me that she was “disappointed and upset” that I didn’t tell her because she thought we were closer than that. We haven’t been close for over 8 years! She’s just in denial. After I got the lecture about keeping MY rape from her, she then proceeded to suck every detail about that night out of me again. This time, more in depth.

“Who was your first boyfriend? (first and last name) I keep thinking his name is Jake.” (No ma. JS)

When did it happen? (Friday, March 5th, 2004)

Where did it happen? (in my bedroom)

“Why were you alone?” (I have NO CLUE!)

“Where was your grandma and brother?” (I don’t remember MA!!!)

“Was I (meaning her) out on a date with the magician?” (Sure, why not, IDK!)

“Was that the night you helped me get all dolled up? If so, that could have been a fun night turned really horrible.”

“if that happened in 2004, then that means your grandma was still living with us and you were in the blue room.” (NO DUH! I REMEMBER THE COLOR OF THE WALLS QUITE VIVIDLY!!!

By the end of her questionnaire, I was so UPSET that she expected me to know all of this and that I actually wanted to talk about all of it. There is a lot of stuff that I suppressed. I don’t remember what I was doing at school that day or what happened after he raped me. I don’t remember why I was alone or what happened when she got home. All I remember is saying NO over and over and my boyfriend continuing to rape me. I remember the room. How messy it was, how small it was, how he stood there taking off my clothes, starting at the door and the ceiling and the BLUE walls! I remember him running out of the room to go “finish” then getting dressed and leaving. I don’t need someone prying into my every detail. I wasn’t ready to tell her.

Once my husband got home, I told her a little about what happened and how she was placing the blame on me. My mom talked to him on the phone too and thanked him for getting me to open up to her. Then when they were done talking, he told me to take her feelings into consideration because she is upset that she wasn’t the first to know, just like he wasn’t the first to know. Neither of them understand the complexity of the issue in the beginning stages of dealing with something so horrific. This started a whole argument between the two of us where he just told me that I didn’t need to get all defensive. I told who I told when I was able to tell them. Can’t they just be happy that I was able to open up to them? I find that family is harder to tell than others I don’t know that well or not closely related to. It took me so long to tell my husband about my first incident. I did, but I had to work up to it.

Once I was finally able to get in bed. I was so mad and frustrated and upset. When I tried to close my eyes, it was like the rape was happening right in front of me. Ever hear about people who feel like they are watching it happen? That’s how it was. I could see him taking off my clothes. The rape was so in my face that I just wanted to escape. The more I tried to sleep, the more it felt like I was being raped all over again. No longer was I watching it happen, I was feeling it happen. The emotions, him on top of me, and inside me. The feeling that I couldn’t escape. I woke up so much that night trying to get away from emotions, but I couldn’t. Normally I don’t have flashbacks like that, probably because I suppressed it and don’t have all the memories “during” the attack. But with my mom’s questionare, it was hard to escape as I was stuck in that darn blue room.

I have come to the realization that I took this upon myself because I decided to tell her. I could have kept my mouth shut and none of this would have been a problem. I now see why so many of my friends who were victims stayed quiet. It sounds like the better alternative that dealing with parents who put the blame on you and force you into that moment to relive again or having parents who don’t care and tell you to “get over it.”

So what is the answer? How do we find ways of getting the support we need without hiding this part of us from the world? My “secret” and burden that I’ve been carrying around with me for so long is finally out. Now I have to deal with people knowing and repelling the blame others try to place on me. But for those who haven’t been able to reach out to their loved one or to those who have and still need to find support within their circle, how do we get them to support us? It seems like the answer is always, EDUCATION IS KEY. Maybe it is. All I know is that I would love my family to read this article on ways to help a rape victim. It would be so nice, if for once, someone would try to understand our feelings as much as we try to understand our own.

Silenced No More

This weekend, at my family’s Christmas / Birthday party, I told my mom about being raped. I didn’t know what she would say or react to it, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to hold it in much longer. I had already told my father, an aunt, my cousin, and my brother’s girlfriend, but the rest of my family, including my mother, hadn’t known about it. The last time I tried to let them know I was dealing with things was last year, but without me sharing the R word (as I still wasn’t at a point of calling it that) they were quite confused and I suppressed it for another 6 months. It has been seven years of pure silence… from the world and from my own self. I’ve noticed that the more I open up to my past, the easier it is to cope with. Granted, I have those people who cannot handle talking or thinking about the subject at hand, but for those who can, it definitely helps me break the silence a little more each time.

When talking to a friend, I mentioned how the silence kills. And it truly does. For the last seven years, I have blamed myself for that night. I couldn’t tell my mom, as I let him in my house. I couldn’t tell my friend, as she wished me luck before he came over and I couldn’t understand how she could ever understand the magnitude of rape (I know I couldn’t). I couldn’t tell a school counselor, as my school didn’t have programs like the WAR Program in a Florida school does. And the morning after, I couldn’t even break up with him. If he would have just raped me and that be the end of it, things might have turned out differently. But the morning after he raped me, I was being told by a girl I barely knew that I was called his stalker. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he confirmed it with long conversations of me begging him to stay with me. My virginity was always a special thing to me, so when he took it, it truly destroyed me. I felt broken and used and no matter what I did, I could not get my virginity back. That’s a very touchy subject I stay away because I cannot always handle the emotions that come with that right now. One thing at a time, I guess.

Anyways, after being silenced for 7+ years, I have come to a point in my life, in my recovery, that I have to speak out. I have to release this blame that I have allowed him to hold over my head for too darn long. In my head, this is not my problem anymore. I did nothing wrong and I deserve to have people know the real me, and I shouldn’t have to pretend to make others feel better. Granted, I probably will still, but at least they know and they can either decide to support me or go on their merry way. Sorry, I’ve just come to the realization that I cannot please everyone and this is my time to heal. It’s almost like I’ve been conditioned to not have my own voice or feel like I am allowed to have an opinion. I have always been a kind-hearted person. I like that about me, but I can no longer be someone’s door mat. I struggle. I won’t hide that. I have a lot to deal with and I hope as each therapy session closes and more steps have been taken in my recovery, that I can have the life I deserve… one that is happy. I am determined to not be his victim anymore. I will be nobody’s victim, if I have my say.