Sometimes I wonder will I go to sleep and wake back up as a little 4 year old who knew no evil as she is laughing about not taking her nap when she should be. My innocence so alive and you could hear it in my laughter. Realizing everything the past 21 years was all packed into a two hour nap. A dream and nightmare that would take me through the next 21 years.
Sometimes this just doesn’t seem possible that this is my life. Looking on the walls in my room I see the two framed degrees where I earned my BSW and MSW. Wait though I was told I would never get into college by a teacher and guidance counselor in high school. I don’t need to take a closer look I know the time and effort that went into both those degrees down to the very last paper I had to write.
Then my eyes reach a picture frame on my desk of me standing on a stage next to the most powerful woman in the world with her arm around me just after I was interviewed on her show. Her name is Oprah.
My eyes reach my bookshelf above my desk that holds many of my favorites including the two books that I published of my life Stolen Innocence & Living For Today. Stolen Innocence was once hiding under the same mattress I am currently sitting on in a diary for no one to read. One cover shows three trees one that is disappearing. The other cover shows the face of the woman I have become. I share my deepest darkest secrets with the world in these books of sexual abuse and rape I endured. Secrets I was told not to tell anyone. Secrets I for years only let out in the darkness of this bedroom in tears. Secrets that once they did become known to the people closest to me I was so ashamed to talk about. Secrets that impacted my entire world of who I would become. Secrets that used to eat away at me and caused me to do terrible things to myself. All now revealed in the two books I published.
On my dresser sits 4 prescription bottles of the 7 I am currently taking reminding me every morning and every night the one thing I wish I could pretend not to have and be in denial about is the first thing I am reminded of when I wake up and the last thing when I go to bed because that is when I am suppose to take these drugs that are suppose to control my brain from having seizures. Epilepsy is so new to my world something that did not impact my life until January 2008 when I had a seizure while driving. My life instantly changed from that day forward the same way it changed when my innocence was killed as a child. What I did not see coming was what one of these seizure drugs would do to me nearly 3 years after I started taking it. Suddenly a small dose of a drug called Keppra would be increased by my doctor because after two years of seizure free I started having auras. The auras continued for 6 months until the breaking point of October 30th when I had a seizure in my sleep that caused my drug keppra to be increased to 2500 mgs. Within days all my energy, passion, motivation, and strength was gone and my head was filled with darkness that went as far as wanting to end my life and thinking of all sorts of ways I would do it. Looking back at those two framed degrees on my wall I have in social work I knew these thoughts were completely wrong and not me, but I couldn’t make them stop. This was not my way of thinking The drug Keppra had taken over my brain. I spent 6 days in the hospital as doctors began to lower me from the drug Keppra that this summer had a label by the FDA added “can cause suicidal thoughts and attempts.” I began reading horror stories of people that ended their life on this drug on the Internet. It did wonders for me the first two years on it, now I cringe every morning and night that I look down at my hand and see the pills that I am about to put into my body that nearly made me kill myself. Who wants to put a drug into their body that made them want to end their life when they usually are living life to the fullest. That brings the new drug I am putting into my body called Lyrica. A drug to keep me from having seizures but also has the same FDA label saying it could cause “suicidal thoughts or attempts.” I only pray that as that drug is increased the lights stay on and darkness does not fill me. There is a new fear that lives inside me now. Fear that these seizure drugs could cause the lights to go off again inside me. It scares the shit out of me because the darkness is an awful place and the fear of what I might do to myself because of powerful drugs I wish I didn’t have to take. It all began at 2 weeks old when a woman covered with cold sores came to see my mother’s new baby, me. I caught the virus and was covered in cold sores all over my body including up in my nose. My doctor reports from MRI scans of my brain an entire portion of my left brain is gone eaten away by encephalitis as a baby but didn’t affect me until I was 22 years old. My brain rewired itself . Only adds to the mystery.
My eyes now bring me to a framed photo of a beautiful white/yellow dog who brought me the greatest joy and spent 14 1/1 years on this Earth who I let go on Sept. 27th of this year. Now buried in the yard at the lake house. I have to look away or else I will start crying. As I look away my bedroom door opens and in walks my 20lb orange cat Bailey who immediately jumps on my bed and lays across my arms making it difficult to write this as he purrs away. A cat that is so affectionate and loving I once considered getting him certified to be a therapy cat to take into nursing homes.
Tears begin to stream down my face the same tears I used to be asked If I was crying as a kid because I was born with under developed tear ducts that caused me to over produce tears and classmates use to always think I was crying. The same eyes that would end up having so many medical problems from ages 11-14 that eventually took the vision in one of my eyes and took 4 operations to get it back.
My eyes reach two framed newspaper articles about “Erin’s Law”. I describe in the Epilogue of Living For Today my mission is to go after legislation that will teach children in schools on sexual abuse through proper age appropriate curriculum on safe touch, unsafe touch, safe secrets, unsafe secrets, how to get away and how to tell today. On May 7th I testified before the Illinois Senate Education Committee who all voted “yes” to Erin’s Law and later that day the entire Senate floor all 54 members present voted “yes” to Erin’s Law. On November 16th I testified before the House Education Committee who all voted “yes” and all 19 signed on as co-sponsors of “Erin’s Law” and all 110 House Representatives voted “yes” to Erin’s Law SB2843. It never received a no vote. It’s a law I put all my time and effort into even quitting my job last May for it. A law that is almost in the hands of the Governor for a signature. A law I am very proud of that I could not have done without the support of many in a small town of Dixon, Illinois. A law I plan to take national and get passed in all 50 states. One day those who stepped up from the beginning to support a law many told me I would never get passed will be recognized in a way I cannot yet share. One day I will.
As I go to turn out my light next to my bed the face of the little girl I once was is staring at me in a framed picture. She is my constant reminder every morning of why I do what I do. She is my motivation to keep going, she is my determination to get a law passed, she gives me the ability to cry after years of thinking it was a sign of weakness when it actually gives me strength. She is the last thought I think of when I go to bed at night not forgetting the innocence that was killed in her at 6 1/2 years old as she kicked and screamed with a large man on top of her or the family member that assaulted her over and over again from 11-13 whose heavy breathing I can still hear in my ears and can still see him the last time he stood at a door looking at me saying, “This is our secret no one will believe you.” after he assaulted me for over 2 hours.
I often wonder when am I going to wake up but then I realize I am awake this all really has happened in my 25 years of life and there is more that has happened in these 25 years that only a few will ever know. There are somethings that I will never share with the public or even with my closest friends. Those are things that will stay up in that mysterious brain of mine and locked away in a diary. There are things I choose to keep private and will always keep private.
As I look back at that picture of the little girl I once was I wish I could wake up and get one more day as a 2 year old who doesn’t want to take a nap, who wakes up from her nap to find out my parent’s got me a sandbox.
I turn off my light and lay in the darkness knowing I couldn’t be saved as a child, that little girl is gone,I still cry thinking of her, her innocence killed. There is a woman she turned into though that will wake up tomorrow ready to save children from what she couldn’t save that little girl from.