Denver, CO - 2018-7-3
Mary: By the time I was three years old, I’d had several brain injuries. And when I was three and a half our dog got hit by a car. My dad took it out to the shed and strangled it because there was nothing else to do with the animal. I walked in when he was strangling our dog.
BW: Do you think that impacted your mental health back then?
Mary: Oh, sure. My dad had hit my sister around that time and knocked her jaw out of place too so there was violence in the house. When you’re young, you’re very vulnerable to the circumstances of your environment. It’s at that point in our life we’re formulating what we’re going to be like.
I also discovered that I had gender identity issues. All this was hitting me when I was very young. My life has been erratic ever since.
Growing up, I was bullied because I was upfront about my intentions to become a woman. My school chums just hated me. They were relentless. I was one of the biggest kids in school, but because I wouldn’t fight, they would . . . I was scared. I was just terrified.
When I was 10, I had a seizure following a head-butting game with a friend of mine. Apparently, the injuries I’d had when I was younger put together with that head-butting affected me dramatically. All of a sudden I couldn’t turn in circles anymore. I’d get motion illness very easily. That set me up for the neurological decline which they eventually diagnosed me with a couple of years ago. It turns out I have a white mass covering the inside of my skull plate and scars and lesions.
Also, when I was 10, I was sexually molested by a pediatrician for a year and a half. That gave me multiple personality disorder. Back then, it was just make-believe personalities that I kept inside of me, but then they emerged later as something more real.
By the time I hit adulthood, I realized I was transgendered and eventually went through with the surgery. I didn’t graduate from high school, and I ended up falling into drug abuse most of my adult life. By the time I was 30, I was pretty badly disabled. I’d abused a lot of drugs, and I was just a mess.
I met my partner and moved in with her, and started recovery, sort of. In about 2009, I started taking the recovery more seriously. I entered treatment for a rape that I suffered at the turn of the century from a violent predator. I realized the rape was affecting me pretty severely and causing multiple personalities to come out.
My partner and I were having a lot of issues. My counselor encouraged me to volunteer, so I started as a receptionist at the Gender Identity Center. I also started volunteering for the crisis unit for WINGS, survivors of childhood sexual assault. They ended up taking a statewide crisis contract for doing phone services and established a peer team. I was the first hire on the team. I did crisis work for a year and a half as a peer specialist on the statewide support line., and that was awesome.
But a girl on the team committed suicide, and I went down hard. I just couldn’t deal with it. I lost the ability to speak briefly. I was having neurological problems before she died and they became quite pronounced afterward. I had to leave the job. I almost died from stress within a few months. I had a neurological collapse.
It started out just dropping things. Eventually, it affected my speech. I had trouble controlling the left half of my body, even the left half of my tongue. At its worst, the left half of my tongue was hanging slack and the right half of my tongue was doing all the work to make me speak. It’s been two and a half years.
BW: Has suicide come up for you?
Mary: Oh, yeah. I’ve been tempted many times in my life. If I get really stressed out and things are bad, it’s the first thought that always comes to mind. “I should just kill myself.” Then the sobering thoughts are, “Of course I’m not going to kill myself. That’s out of proportion to the circumstance.” My last attempt was 22 years ago.
BW: What’s helped?
Mary: Just trying to keep hope alive in my heart. If you’ve got hope in your heart, you can make it through just about anything.
And this little one, she helps stabilize me when I’m getting emotional, anxious, depressed, or angry.