Finding Peace Behind Pain

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*Trigger warning* This contains sexual abuse, emotional abuse, suicide, self harm, domestic violence and death.

I was six years old the first time he touched me inappropriately. It started one day after school and continued for years after. It was our special time. The first time it happened I was told to lie still as he brushed his fingers across my vagina. Each time escalating to something new until one day he disappeared. I never told anybody until years after when I realized what had happened. I started going to church with my neighbor and grew to love the church. My home life wasn’t accepting of the fact I had found love within the church and I was often ridiculed being called a holy roller and a hypocrite. I remember praying to the God I had grown to love to take my life so somebody who wanted to live could. When I was ten year old was the first time I wanted to kill myself. I had written multiple suicide notes throughout the year, actively was self harming while facing hell in my home life. CPS had gotten involved in my life and I didn’t want to go on anymore.

Although there was a lot of darkness there was also light. I remember meeting my best friend when I was about five years old. From the moment we met, Rachel and I had an instant connection. We did every thing together and called each other sisters. We were both active in the church and participated in VBS, church camp, and mission trips every year. I found a connection within the church that I longed for in my home life.

October 15, 2011 started off like any other Saturday. I had a softball tournament, and while Rachel was supposed to be playing as well she went out of town for a baby shower. My father dropped me off early that morning before my two games. We won our first game and got to continue on in the tournament. Before our second game started I got a phone call from Nancy. Nancy was like a mother to me and I could tell something was wrong in her voice. She told me she was on her way to my game. Our second game started and I was pulled out. The world could not have prepared me for the words that came from her mouth.

“Rachel didn’t wake up today.”

I stood there blankly trying to process the words that were just told to me. We stood there for a few minutes and I fell into her arms crying quickly pulling myself together to go back into the game. As I walked into the dugout my coach saw that I was crying and pulled me aside. At that moment I told “Our #2 player didn’t wake up today.” You could see the tears fill his eyes and soon the team came back into the dugout. Telling my teammates that our teammate had passed away was one of the hardest things that I had to ever do. News traveled fast across the other fields, other teams were coming to show support to our team. Our game still went on. As much I wanted to throw in the glove I went out and and batted one last time. I could feel the tears running down my face as the pitcher threw the ball. “This one is you, Rachel.” I hit the ball as hard as I could and ran. We ended up winning that game. Weeks after her death I was numb. I stopped going to church and doing the activities I enjoyed. It took months to find the underlying cause of her death, which turned out to be due to an enlarged hearth.

On June 1, 2014 I graduated high school. Twenty-two days later I loaded my car and moved seven hours away. This was my chance to finally be able to live a life I desired. My first few years of college were amazing. While it had its hardships I managed to cope okay. I worked and went to school full time but made the best out of it. I joined a sorority and took part of multiple organizations on campus while making amazing friends. I started volunteering at a local hospital working in the gift shop, NICU, Nursery and Front Desk working 5000 hours that year. In 2015 I made a appointment with a psychologist and for the first time opened up about my past. I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD, ADD and High Functioning Autism. I was okay with the diagnosis because it helped me understand myself more and why my brain works different than others.

It wasn’t until my junior year of college when I took a downward spiral. In September 2017 I was working as a CNA at a behavioral hospital I loved. I loved my job and I loved what I was doing. One night I came into work and found out a patient I had been working with the previous three nights had went home and killed himself. That hit me hard. November 2017 was my first inpatient hospitalization for SI. I was hospitalized for seven days. Going into the hospital I was terrified but while I was there I felt safe. I could express how I was feeling without having fear of being judged by others. I was discharged and attempted to return to a normal lifestyle, however the SI and self harm continued. As my doctor was reviewing my records I found out that I was pregnant. In December 2017 I was hospitalized for a second time for fourteen days trying to get medications figured out while keeping me safe.

2018 started off okay. I was doing well on my medication and was starting to find the spark in life that I once lost. Unfortunately that was short lived. January 24, 2018 I got a call saying my grandma had passed away. I went and saw my therapist and was doing okay with coping with her death. However, new problems started to arise in my work place. I had this feeling I was being targeted by one of the nurses I worked with. This nurse and I had bonded in the past but after my hospitalizations something changed. I reached out to a supervisor and told them how I felt. I felt like I was being targeted and she was trying to get me fired. On March 5, 2018 my fear came true. That was the night I finally broke and decided I didn’t want to stay anymore. I went home and gathered different types of medications and attempted to end it all that night. I had shared something on social media that raised alarms with one of the supervisors I had used to work with. She saw the post and told me she was going to come over. She was telling me about her story and experiences in life eventually I told her what I had done. She dialed 911 and I was rushed to the hospital. There was a point where I was left alone so I decided I would try to end it all one more time. I wrapped all the cords around my throat as tight as I could. All I remember following that was six nurses rushing into my room. Some nurses trying to unravel all the cords and others stripping me of all my clothes. The next 48 hours I was pretty much kept sedated until I was discharged to a psychiatric hospital. I spent seven days in an inpatient hospital to then be discharged to a outpatient program for the next 28 days. During this time in my life I made a lot of mistakes and lost a lot of friends. I got engaged to a guy that I didn’t love and we moved in together. Quickly learning of my mistake I realized I was in a toxic relationship. I got a new job in a new city so I decided to run. I moved 2.5 hours away. I started to work and tried to get my life back together, however it didn’t come easy. He decided to come and visit for a few days. A friend and I decided to go to Hobby Lobby to get some art supplies but when I came home I found a suicide note on my door. As I entered my apartment I found him lying on the ground with a bottle of pills. I grabbed my phone and called 911. I could physically see him breathing but he was not responding. They rushed him to the hospital I worked at and I followed. Later that day I decide to go check myself back into the hospital. After discharging I called off our relationship and he moved out of the state. Over the next few months he constantly emailed me telling me how I had ruined his life, etc. I stopped replying to emails as it was a never ending battle. In July 2018 I came home around 3:00 from taking a friend to the hospital to find him sitting on my couch. I was terrified. He was yelling and also pleading for me to get back with him. After not being able to get him to listen I finally spouted off “I am a lesbian! I found somebody else.” He stopped and then proceeded to accuse me of cheating. Eventually there was silence. I told him he could stay until the morning and then he had to leave. The sun shortly came up and he left. The next day I get a text from an unfamiliar number saying that he tried to kill himself and crashed his car. I was told he was in ICU and wanted to see me. When I would ask questions I never got a response. The next day I received a text from him and when I confronted him about it, he told me it was all a lie. That was the last time I have spoken with him.

In September 2018 I officially became homeless and was living out of an AirBnb for the next few months until I was able to find a place. While I wasn’t able to find a place on my own I was able to find a room for rent. During this time I started dating one of my first friends I made when moving to the new city. She was my best friend and I quickly fell in love with her. I felt safe for the first time in a long time. There was only one thing in our way. She wasn’t out to her parents or family. Her family was a conservative family who did not support the LGBTQ+ community. We tried to work through it and we had made a plan she would come out when she graduated medical school, however things didn’t work out. I remember crying days upon days after we broke up because I couldn’t understand why it had to be that way. After a year of hell I thought I had finally found peace. In 2018 I was hospitalized over ten times trying inpatient and out patient programs, trying ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy), Medication, etc. I was willing to do anything to find my will to live.

2019 started off rocky however things slowly started falling into place. I got a better paying job and was finally able to get an apartment on my own. I started to be honest about my feeling and asking for help when I needed it. I continued seeing my therapist weekly and I found my will to live.

I decided I was going to stay;

Today marks two years since I hit rock bottom and attempted suicide. In these past two years I have grown and ways I could have never imaged. I have made peace with my past and choose to go forward. Some days I still struggle and that’s okay. It’s okay to have crappy days as we all do. Just don’t stay there.

To those who are struggling, please know it does get better. This world needs your beautiful face in this world because one day your story may save someone else’s life.

You are worthy

Not worthless.

You are loved

Not unlovable.

You are helpful

Not helpless.

You got this,
Ashlynn O’Neal 🤟🏽

Story submitted by Ashlynn.

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