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It took me until age 27 to finally seek treatment for depression. Turned out I'm bipolar type 2, which means I'm mostly depressive, with just a bit of "hypomania" with "mixed states" - basically, depression on speed. Before that, I struggled with feeling suicidal a lot. I won't go into that too much... it's just the background of this story. Ten years ago, I was coming home pretty late on a Monday night in March, and, after parallel parking, I turned off the car engine, pulled the key out of the ignition, and someone opened my door (the lock wasn't working at the time). "Give me some money," a voice snarled. A gun (a revolver, warm grey, maybe 65 on the grey scale) flashed somewhere near my thigh. "I don't have any" came out of my mouth as instinctively as a scream probably should have. I hadn't had any money all weekend... but... oh yeah, a friend of mine had just given me a twenty for a couple books. I was selling my self-published poetry books at $8/each, and I had two titles out (the third's release date was already announced), and since I hadn't had money all weekend, I didn't have the $4 change to give my friend. So I had a twenty. "Oh, wait—" I took out my change pouch and produced the money. "Give me some more," the voice said through clenched teeth. "I don't have any more. Here's my wallet," I managed. All this was automatic. My mind was where my body should have been—somewhere around the third floor of the staircase leading to my fourth-floor apartment, fatigued, happy, and ready for bed. "Give me some more," the voice was more and more forced-sounding, angry even. It was the voice of a young man, multi-racial but pale-skinned, bald, kind of good-looking, actually. He had a scab under his lip, and was wearing a puffy orange coat. How had I not seen him while parallel parking? I offered him everything I could think of to offer—a book or two, some CDs, my car keys... he didn't want any of it. He wanted me to scoot across the bench seat to the passenger's side and let him into the driver's. He put the revolver to my left thigh. Instinctively, my left hand brushed it away. Again, he put the gun to my left thigh. Again my hand brushed it away. None of this seemed real. I had been feeling a bit on the (hypo) manic side, anyway. I thought about how I should be just flopping down onto my comfy bed. To me, a soft, warm bed has always been one of my images of God—warm blankets to wrap myself in, a supportive but soft mattress that accepts all my aches and pains... I remembered the way a similar mental flight had occurred when my femur was broken in a car accident when I was 14, and at the hospital, all I could think was, "I shouldn't be here, I should just be in my bed..." The man wanted to get in my car, I assume (now) to take me to an ATM and force me to empty my account for him. I simply thought of horror stories of women being taken places at gunpoint like this and... I didn't want to think what. I wasn't going to let him in the car. Surely he wasn't going to shoot me in this public place. My mind neglected to remember it was 2 a.m. and the neighborhood I lived in was all large apartment buildings—anything sounding like gunfire would, at best, get someone out of bed to scour the very limited view from their window. Most likely, most people would do what I would do: wonder, "Is that an engine backfiring? a firecracker? a door slamming?" and roll over and go back to sleep. Somewhere in here more words were exchanged. I remember trying to keep the man calm through the whole thing that seemed to be on its way to going very badly. "What do you want?" I kept saying calmly and flatly, hoping he'd realize he had everything I could give him and remember he didn't want to hurt me. I don't remember his responses, but I remember saying, "Why?" to one of them. "Because I hate white people," he seethed between clenched teeth. I almost laughed; it was obvious he was trying out a tactic to frighten this white girl he probably figured had just come from the 'burbs. He pressed the gun to my heart. In my head, I saw a hole—just a hole, like in a cartoon—through my chest. I didn't want a hole through my chest. I had similarly pictured a hole through my thigh (not, as would have happened, a life-threatening injury exploding my femur and costing me my left leg). I didn't want a hole through my thigh, or my chest. Or my car seat. I made like I was going to move over into the passenger seat like he wanted, but—with my left hand—I grabbed the barrel of his gun, the 65% warm grey revolver, and wrested it down, pressing the end of the gun in the car seat. I locked my elbow (it overextends) and leaned my weight into my arm. I had had the element of surprise. He finally let me go. I drove straight to a nearby police station, but I won't get into the lack of interest I encountered there, with this exception: a detective, leaning against the counter, looked at me and said, almost with a smirk, "So, when you gonna move?" So I didn't. Well, not until 3 years later, the next time I had a gun pulled on me outside my building, but that's another story, one where 911 cared even less than the police. No, this story is about my "aha" moment, that night in March. The next day, I called my boss and said I'd be late because I had to file a police report. I filed the report and went into work, and couldn't understand why everyone was shocked I was there. Life went on; the only significant thing that week that I recall is my friend (the one I'd sold two books to) wouldn't hear of it when I told him I'd get him his $4 change as soon as I had money again. The following week, I stopped home after work before heading off to my evening art class. I sat down for just a second on the couch, but didn't get up for at least 4 hours. After that, I sank into a pretty bad depression. I couldn't draw anything for class, and really fell behind. A friend of mine, who had been through a traumatic experience, told me it was post-traumatic stress. She told me what I could expect. Because of her help, I actually avoided some of the problems she said would come up—like an anniversary date every year. I don't remember precisely when it dawned on me, though, that I had struggled for my life. I had struggled for my life! My sick brain could never tell me again that I wanted to die. I knew better. I had not only survived all those years of depression; when crisis came, I fought for my life. I won. Of course, people have helpfully pointed out that the gun probably wasn't loaded. I have no idea. I know it was real—I'd held it in my hand! I had a blood-blister on my left palm from wresting it down from my heart. (Sadly, no scar though.) People will say things (like, "the gun wasn't loaded"), and they usually mean well, but primarily they're trying to distance themselves from what happened to you. If they can convince themselves you weren't really in danger, they don't have to face the scary thought that they might have lost you, or that something like that could happen to them. But if they can't convince themselves you weren't in any real danger—as my therapist pointed out, bullets or no, he could've hit me with the gun—people will try to figure out how what happened to you was your own fault (e.g., I came home late alone). Since they don't behave as foolishly, nothing like that will ever happen to them. Once I realized it was all just a natural defense mechanism, I didn't take it personally. I could even kind of see that it was a loving reaction. Who wants to imagine a loved one in real danger? I don't recommend doing what I did. Each situation has to be resolved in its own way. Maybe you can trust your gut in a situation like that. Maybe that's what I did. I did have one anniversary date: earlier this year, on the 10-year anniversary. I was surprised when that happened. I found myself emotionally shaky. I think it was because I'm so far from home right now, and no one who knew me back then was nearby to share that important date with me. I needed to tell someone the story, and I did, even though for her it must've seemed awfully out of the blue. I can tell the story like this without reliving it, usually. There's an art to keeping it at arm's length, as well as a warning sign it's getting too close: that adrenaline-triggered metal taste in the mouth. But being able to tell the story without devolving into flashbacks is an important sign that I've healed from the event, that I've also defeated the post-traumatic syndrome. But now, when my brain tries to mug me, despite my lack of a physical scar, I can let that 65% chromatic grey gun bleed out from my palm (a stigmata?) and, so armed, I'm the one in control. Better yet, I even have a date on a calendar I can point to and say, "Here's when it happened. Here's when I proved that I want to live"—that late, chilly night in March ten years ago. The resurrection came before Easter that year. ------------------------------------------------------------ My commentary will appear in the "results" below. I've resourced InkedCanvas' AMAZING story for 2 reasons. First, in retrospect, I think her story was one of the ingredients simmering on the back burner that helped produce this, especially the narrative style of what-was-going-on-in-my-head-at -the-time. Seriously, I've wrestled with writing about this for ten years, and part of it was it never occurred to me to just write it. In prose. As I experienced it. Duh! Second, anyone who likes my story will like hers too, and resourcing it gives you a handy link to check hers out! Go heart that RECord now! <3

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