Stigma Fighters : Elaine Papciak

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Stigma Fighters : Elaine Papciak

When I was 12, I thought a monster lived inside of me. That was the only logical explanation my child’s brain could come up with to make sense of the crushing, debilitating pain that ripped through my chest on a constant basis. The pain never ended. It completely consumed me. My every waking moment was spent trying to deal with it and get through my day, and my nights were spent having nightmares. Still, I kept silent. The monster had convinced me if I ever breathed a word about it, it would kill me.

By 13, I was suicidal. I had begun having these black moods that I could not pull myself out of. Concentration was virtually impossible. My grades were in the toilet. Still, I was silent. Everyone thought I was lazy. By 14, I had everything planned. I would tie a noose around my neck, take all the pills I could get my hands on, and slash my wrists right before I lost consciousness. I figured that a combination of the three things would do it. I told no one this plan, though I tried to in writing alert my teachers to what was happening. They blamed my violence-filled vocabulary sentences and essays on teenage rebellion and too many Stephen King books. They still labeled me as lazy, and I was still silent.

I even practiced. One night as my parents were napping in front of the television upstairs, I snuck down to the basement with a rope I had found in the garage. I stood on a chair, tied a noose around the steel beam running the length of our basement, cut a small cut into my wrist, and let my weight sag however briefly into the rope that I had put around my neck. It hurt like hell. I told nobody. I still have the scar from that little cut on my wrist.

By age 14, I began dissociating. It usually happened at school. I would be walking between classes and would not recognize or remember where I was. The kids I’d known all my life became strangers to me. The buildings of my school loomed over me in a curious, frightening manner. I had no idea what was happening. I would always sit down until my memory slowly came back to me. When I remembered and recognized things again, I would make my way to class, having no explanation for my lateness. I received a lot of detentions because of this. I was silent. I had no way to even make sense of this in my mind, much less explain it to an adult, or even my friends. They thought I was just this irresponsible kid who had bad grades and tried to skip classes.

Cutting my arm became a thing for me. It was a relief. It reminded me I was real, because I often wondered if I really existed. I did not feel real. I did not even feel human. I was convinced I was not human, I was sub-human, not deserving of human life.

By 16, I could stand no more. I slashed my wrist one March night, feeling utter terror but also elation thinking that when I went to the hospital to get stitches, they would bring in a psychiatrist to talk with me and would keep me there, where I would finally be safe from the monster. I did go to the emergency room. No mental health worker of any kind came to talk to me, even though I had slashed my wrist almost to the bone. I was stitched up and sent home. I received no help whatsoever. I was crushed beyond words. Utterly and completely devastated. It destroyed me inside.

My mom did eventually take me to a counselor, whom I came to hate. He never listened to me. I would tell him I was feeling bad, and he would tell me that I was the one patient he had whom he didn’t have to worry about- to not make him worry. So, I lied. I told him fabulous stories of how great I was doing. I was silent about what was really going on. I hid the cutting. I hid my pain and confusion. I hid the fact that I was not human and that I often forgot where I was and did not recognize familiar things.

At school, when my teachers would talk to me about something or other, I often did not hear English, I heard gibberish. I could not understand them. They thought I wasn’t paying attention, but the truth is that I could not understand the garbled syllables coming out of their mouths. I don’t know how I graduated from high school, but I did. I had made absolutely no post-high school plans because it never occurred to me that I would live long enough to graduate. I limped through the next two years. At the age of 19, I began to die. I was not only suicidal, I no longer had the energy to eat. I just wanted to disappear and float away. I had no more fight left in me. My parents were convinced I had anorexia because I stopped eating, but that was not the case. I was simply dying, that’s all. I could barely work. I spent most of my time curled in a fetal position in the corner of my bedroom. The pain that had been tormenting me for so long was so fierce at this point, it was my only defense, other than cutting or burning myself with my curling iron.

When it was almost too late, my mother finally did something. She insisted I see a counselor. I hated the one she chose for me, and was completely obnoxious to the poor guy. After four failed sessions, he told me he couldn’t work with me and I went and chose my own person to see. That doctor, the one I chose, saved my life. He recognized the debilitating trauma and depression. He saw through the pain and realized I was dissociating. I was even able to tell him I wasn’t human. I still see this doctor. He truly saved my life. I had to fight my way back. It was hell. I have been inpatient and in partial-hospitals. I have cut my arm to ribbons because of the pain. However, in addition to my wonderful psychologist, he put me in touch with an excellent psychiatrist about 14 years ago. This guy actually listened to me and was able to find medication that brought the pain under control and cleared my very confused thoughts. I have finally joined the human race. My life is by no means rosy. I still feel the pain and have flashbacks sometimes. Sometimes the depression crushes me and my anxiety goes out of control. I still cut from time to time when I become destabilized. It is hard. It is very hard. But, there is hope now, and that makes all the difference in the world.

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Elaine lives in Pennsylvania with her two cats and four birds. She has three jobs and is living a stable, happy life. She spends a fortune each year on therapy!

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By | 2015-02-25T08:18:21+00:00 February 24th, 2015|Categories: Brave People, Depression, Stigma Fighters|Tags: , , , , |3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Judy February 25, 2015 at 9:15 am - Reply

    I would like to leave a comment, not because I enjoyed reading this but because I want to thank you Elaine for sharing ‘your story’ with us. It was very sad and disturbing to read the pain and anguish you have been through. It was a relief to read that you eventually found help. You are one brave and courageous lady. Thank you.

  2. Tony Spagnoli February 25, 2015 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you Elaine for sharing your story.

  3. jess.⚓ February 25, 2015 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing, Elaine!

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