Seventh Grade was a rough year for me. Before you say, Well, no shit Dena. Isn’t it rough for all pubescent preteens? The short answer is, yes. Since this about me…#1 Tupac died during seventh grade. I was in class with my friend Yani when we found out and I was DEV-A-STATED!!!! I’ve not cried for the death of a public figure before or since. Just sayin’ I loved me some Tupac. #2 Not ALL preteens had just been told by her family to forget about the incestual molestation that happened the summer before. I lost any notion that I believed in a God. How could God let my grandfather touch me? How could God allow my parents to stand by and be part of the problem? Why was God doing this to me? There couldn’t be a God. Ha there’s a reason your mom didn’t baptize you when you were a baby. You’re not meant to part of that world. She didn’t care about you enough to. What about the devil? If God wasn’t helping me. What about Satan? I started studying the movie The Craft thinking maybe Manon had the answers. That Fairuza Balk was freaking fierce!
I had also colored my hair black. It was supposed to be an instant wash out color. In my angst of looking at boxes for what seemed like an HOUR to pick the right washout black hair color in WallyWorld…I had the perfect box in my hand. At the last minute I did a switch. I was drying my charcoal locks against my pale now goth looking face when my momster came around the corner mouth agape. She grabbed the box and turned red in the face at the words permanent color. My family couldn’t take my black hair as the outright statement of misery that is was. It was a blemish on the family for everyone to see. I didn’t look well is what they told me over and over again. I wasn’t! Fucking Hello?! They took me to my grandmother’s beauty shop (the one that told me I dreamt it all) to have the color stripped out of it. By the time we had made it to a place which reminded me of something you’d see in Steel Magnolia’s or Golden Girls behind the scenes…I’d had a good half inch of dirty blonde roots. They stripped the color from my hair. The black turned bright copper and my roots playboy bunny blonde. The beautician had to add brown back in to tame it down to cinnamon and a stripe of dishwater blonde. For the next few years I had to grow out a fucking stripe in my hair. Public mortification having to wear my Scarlett letter by the way of hair as a constant reminder of incest I had to bare and cover up for 2+ years. A photo exists from this time. I took it with one of those disposable point and click cameras that you wind between snaps. It would forever be known as the picture from “the dark years.” I remember my dad bringing the film home from Eckerd Pharmacy half-heartedly laughing but giving me a what the fuck is wrong with you look. Remarking only “What in the hell Dena?” I would be the butt of an ongoing family joke for years. My parents made fun of the suffering girl that was doing anything but literally asking for help. Because asking for help had already proven moot.
I won’t bring the normal middle school issues girls deal with into this post. We all know kids are mean little shits growing up. I’m sure I was mean as hell to some people as some were to me. Some of it you have to toss up to growing pains. Cliques and boyfriend’s blah blah. That’s not what this is about folks. Seventh Grade was a major turning point for me. This is where my shame forever became internalized. I went to school with a chip on my shoulder. This was the year I started algebra. The fast track to get into the top honors classes when I was to get to high school. The first F I ever received for a semester. I was a failure at protecting myself. I was a failure in my family because they didn’t want to protect me. I was now a failure at school. The one thing I could always count on going well.
I started having migraines that very year. while sitting in Mrs. Beverly’s science class doing the assigned reading, the page in front of me turned into an empty black space. I tried to look around, but the hole followed. Once I reached the nurses office my right hand started going numb and I instantly got nauseous. Every time I’d heave to vomit I thought my brain was going to burst through my skull. There was so much pressure in there. I’d never felt anything like this before. I thought my brain was going to explode. The nurse called my mom and said I was having a migraine. We needed to go to the doctor. Maybe see a neurologist. The incest was affecting my health. All of this happened, but there was something else that added to the person I’ve become today and it’s something I’ve long overlooked. I’ve never put much credit to it until recently with my therapy journey. This is the story for today after a long roundabout way to get there.
I have a tattoo on my back of an angel. She’s my shadow angel. She looks unfinished, but she’s not. She’s as complete as she’ll ever be. Waiting in the shadows. You’re not sure if she has amiable or malevolent intentions. You can’t see her face. Because she is faceless. She represents the how in my still being on this Earth. Others have put me in harm’s way. I have put myself into harm’s way. Found myself in situations I should have never been in and probably shouldn’t have gotten out of. I’m turning 34 next week. I look around and sometimes think FUCK I’m still here as I have a shit eating grin. I feel like I’m on borrowed time. Anyfuckingways, there’s always been something looking out for me. Like my shadow angel, I’m not sure if it’s good or if it’s bad. The more I delve into memories, the more memories come up. This one came on strong!
One day coming to St James Middle school we were notified that we were going to have an assembly. A girl in eight grade killed herself. All of what I’m about to tell you is from what I heard after the fact. My memory can be a faulty bitch, but when it holds on to something it’s pretty iron clad. PAUSE…Let me start of by saying…I didn’t know this girl AT ALL. Never met her once. But motha fucka I remember her name! Her Yearbook picture! (Thanks’ to a friend for getting that to me) And I remember the memorial plaque that was placed outside the seventh-grade hall facing the cafeteria surrounded by flowers. (I had someone try to snap a photo for the blog, but it is no longer there.) Her name was Erin McKinnon. She was bullied. She was made fun of because of her weight, her clothes, her intellect and and her living situation. This girl was in so much pain that her only thought of an option was to shoot herself one lonely night at home alone.
I heavily projected on this suicide. If only I had known what was going on. I could have befriended her. I could have saved her! I took it hard. Let me repeat…I NEVER MET HER! But I fucking identified with the pain of feeling no other option. This is where my light bulb went on. When all else fails…there’s always the safety cord of suicide. My suicidal ideation started and has been a dark passenger since. The dark things that come into my mind are grotesque. The path of least resistance…for me. I hate that suicide has touched my life more than once. Who wouldn’t? It’s nothing I can change. What I can do is learn from those experiences and try to help others. I know what that despair feels like. My father’s suicide taught me first-hand the ripple effects of what happens in the wake. Suicide kills one person’s pain for the sake of others. Leaving nothing but despair and unanswered questions behind. The “easy” solution is no solution at all. The most difficult path is to face those inner demons. Stop denying them. In denial you give them power over you. I give credit of my shadow angel to Erin McKinnon. I’ve had a few too many close calls. Like a cat with 9 lives. Not sure which one I’m on now, but I think I’m running short. Should start stockpiling some for the years to come when I get this whole self-love, self-care thing down. I finally want there to be later years.
My birthday, July 4th, will mark a year since the last attempt on my life. It’s been a long hard year. I’ve done a shitton of work to get through these feelings and emotions instead of shutting them up. Figuring out how and why they come up. Nurturing self so they won’t continue. I’ve got a lot of hard work still left ahead. It’s important to revisit these memories from the past to make sense of them as an adult so the work can be done to move on with your life. Cheer’s to working backward for a bright future!
Extra shout out to Danger at DaVinci Tattoo for hooking me up with this back piece a few years ago!