Thursday, May 26, 2011
My last week of undergraduate classes ever was two weeks ago. Then exams started and ended last week. Moderately stressful and intense. But at least I am done. Two weeks ago, I had a bit of a breakdown in front of a professor, and then later on that day I lost it in front of my advisor. I have known both for almost eight years.
Yes, I have been working towards my Bachelor's for a very long, tiring and intense eight years. I will be 26 in August, so that is long enough to develop some incredible relationships but long enough to also get over the entire undergraduate experience.
I don't think I have ever bothered to share the entire story of my undergraduate education, and there are not enough hours in the day to do it justice. But I am kind-of over being vague all of the time on this blog, and I think sharing a bit of information will help.
When the book (and subsequent movie) Speak came out, my psychotherapist recommended that I go see it. He knew I could relate to the emotions and the character in the movie. I had been on anti-depressants since 1999, and basically a mess as that did not contrast well with the developing hormones of an American teenager with major self-esteem issues. I was unable to control how I felt, what I did, or anything whatsoever. I was just a lost cause prior to diagnosis. However, I learned over time to watch for triggers and keep an eye on myself - which is easier as an adult. It is incredible to me that I have been off of antidepressants for almost six years now, an accomplishment I am proud of.
In the spring of 2004, I was assaulted. That was my original freshman year of college at Macon. The guy who assaulted me had been a peer and we ran in the same social circles. He made it his goal in life to humiliate, disturb and frighten me. It was a ridiculous cat-and-mouse game for him - catcalling me on the way to the laundry room, cornering me to harass me in the dining hall, intimidating me even through emails and instant message. Occasional nightmares still occur. If someone touches my neck in a specific way I will completely lose it.
I actually have PTSD and didn't even realize it until a couple years ago when someone spoke to me about what the symptoms are - but it makes sense due to triggers which occur.
The assault happened at a specific frat house. Pretty much all of my guy friends were members of this fraternity. I basically lived here part-time as I was seeing someone who lived there. I was with some friends at the house and it was completely full. Maybe even too full if you ask people about it. My friends and I all got shoved into an upstairs bathroom and the guy flipped out and punched me in the stomach to 'get me out of the way'. That screwed me up pretty well for the night. Instead of going to my room, I ended up drinking my feelings. My guy friends thought I was partying, but I really was going into a manic depressive state. Not good. Later on that night, the same guy saw me on the lower level of the house. He was angry and yelled about how I didn't deserve his roommate who I had broken up with during the previous semester. He kept yelling at me and blocked me into a corner. Some friends walked by and shrugged me off like I was being handsy and drunk and stupid - when I actually was grabbing them so they could help me out. This guy ended up laying his forearm into my throat, across my neck, cutting off my breathing. Still yelling at me. I guess you could say he went into a blind rage and had an anger blackout of some sort. He was pointing his fingers into my face cursing me and not one person. Not. One. Single. Person. Helped me. Just as I was about to completely pass out from having my air cut off, some mystery person (to this day in fact) pulled this guy off of me.
I immediately staggered away, looking for a friendly face. I told a girl whose boyfriend was in the fraternity what happened. Everything. She told me to go home. I did not. I wanted to tell the guy's roommate (my ex-boyfriend). I told him, and he was pissed off, and I still do not know what happened between them that night.
All I can definitively remember from that night is that I was upset. I remember that I wore a scarf for the next ten days because of massive bruising on my neck. I remember that the guy who assaulted me had an away message up on AIM saying that he needed to get away and had a crazy night and needed to go home until things died down. I remember that a few days later that same guy returned to campus. That guy wrote a letter admitting his guilt and apologizing. And signing it in longhand. That guy threatened me. The fraternity tried to shut me up by blacklisting me from the fraternity, not throwing the guy out. I remember trying to get him suspended, going to the Judicial Board for a trial. And the members interviewed during the J-Board trial denied everything. I didn't have enough of a mental state going to consider bringing in the letter which admitted guilt. I just couldn't handle it. I was alone except for a fellow student. My advisor had a familial obligation. My parents did not come. It was a really bad time in my life. I probably wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for the five people who did care about me at that time. The entire school campus was split between this guy and me. Who they supported. It was a really tense experience just to find a place to sit in the dining hall. I stopped going to meals. My roommate would bring me chocolate chip muffins from the Macon Coffee kitchen. I stopped going to classes. I stopped doing assignments. I stopped everything except drinking and taking meds (not a good mix, at all, btw). I started drinking more.
I ended my Freshman year of college at Randolph-Macon with a 1.6 GPA. For 24 credit hours. I lost my scholarship, my federal financial aid. If I wanted to return I would have to pay the entire thing out of pocket. My parents hated Macon. They hated everything it stood for. They never sued but I know they considered it. They didn't help me appeal my J-Board decision. I was floating, barely even functioning. Even though I was 18 I did not have the sense to understand that I could apply for a private loan and if I got a cosigner I could maybe get money together to go back. I was in limbo.
I worked that summer at Camp Seafarer. And tried to function. I couldn't function well. I was well in a manic depressive state and that helped me with a schedule and obligations but I really wanted to sleep all day everyday. I ended up resigning from my cabin counselor position and remaining in charge of my activity and living in a staff cabin. While there, my parents met with me one day and told me I was not going back to Macon. I was moving home and taking time off for the next year, maybe I could reapply for another Fall or January Term.
That never happened. Until I reapplied by myself in the summer of 2009. At that point, I had gained life experience, perspective, tried to move forward. But always incredibly unfulfilled academically. I knew that I had to graduate from Macon to really recover. To really fill the void over everything I missed out on, friendships lost, relationships that never could progress because of what happened between me and the guy who assaulted me.
This Saturday, May 28, 2011, I graduate from Randolph-Macon College with a Bachelor of Arts in both Environmental Studies and Political Science. You know I will be a blubbering mess.