IT HAPPENED TO ME: My Parents Held Me Against My Will for Almost a Month Because of My Depression

I had no control about anything that was happening to me — everything was decided for me.
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Jess Canaan
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I had no control about anything that was happening to me — everything was decided for me.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Trigger warning — contains suicidal ideation, self-harm, abuse, and rape.]

This story really starts in June of 2013, when my son was born. I'd been struggling with postpartum depression/psychosis since then. I'd been on Zoloft and then Prozac and then Depakote. Ultimately, they did nothing. I quit taking Depakote cold-turkey in November after I stopped seeing my doctor entirely.

Christmas at my parents' house. No one knew I'd stopped taking my medication or how badly I was suffering just yet...though they should have when I shaved the sides of my head on a whim.

Christmas at my parents' house. No one knew I'd stopped taking my medication or how badly I was suffering just yet...though they should have when I shaved the sides of my head on a whim.

It was near the end of January, though, when I finally snapped. It was after 2 a.m. and I was sitting in bed; I couldn't stop crying and all I could think about was killing myself.

Suicidal thoughts weren't really new to me. I'd been dealing with them since I was 10 years old, and as a teenager, suicide was always there in the back of my mind telling me how much better it would be if I didn't have to wake up.

But this time, it was different. This time, I had a plan. I'd take the knives from the kitchen sink and slit my wrists with them, or I'd plunge them into my chest if I couldn't get the courage to do that. It wasn't a defined plan, but it was enough to let me know that I needed help. Fast.

My boyfriend worked seven nights a week as third-shift security at the mall, and he was the only person I could trust. My parents hadn't ever been very supportive of me when it came to my mental health. They'd outright ignored my requests for psychological help as a teen and chalked everything up to “normal” teen stuff. It wasn't.

So, I bundled up my son and put him in his carrier/stroller, threw a coat and boots on over my pajamas, and walked to the mall.

It was around 4 a.m. when my dad called us. We were sitting with our son in the break room, and I was finally starting to calm down. I didn't feel ready to be alone yet, but I wasn't in “situation critical, core meltdown imminent” mode anymore. When I got the phone, my dad offered to let me stay over for a few hours until my boyfriend got off work. I agreed, thinking spending a few hours with my parents might actually help.

Three hours turned into just shy of a month. I wasn't allowed to leave or I was threatened with hospitalization.

At some point between my getting out of bed and my dad calling me, my mother got a “feeling” that things weren't well, so she went to my apartment. Calling it a disaster would be putting it really lightly. There was cat crap in the shower, in corners behind furniture and under shelves. I can't blame the cats — their litter box was overflowing. With my boyfriend working seven nights a week and me struggling to take care of myself on top of the baby, cleaning fell to the wayside. Way to the wayside. They decided they needed to save me.

When I got to my parents' place, my mother went on the attack. Nothing I could do would fix the apartment. Nothing was good enough. I wasn't good enough. In fact, if I was that depressed, I needed to be in the hospital. At the time, I said I was going willingly, but I'm not so sure about that anymore.

I was in the hospital for just over 24 hours, and when I came back, I had a renewed sense of hope, a fistful of new medications and some sage advice from a social worker: Don't make major life decisions right now. Just focus on feeling better.

Me, at the mall with my sisters a day or two after getting out of the hospital. I was allowed to leave the house, but only with someone else.

Me, at the mall with my sisters a day or two after getting out of the hospital. I was allowed to leave the house, but only with someone else.

That wasn't good enough for my mother. In her mind, my boyfriend was responsible for everything that had gone wrong. My depression? His fault. The suicidal feelings? His fault. My inability to keep the apartment clean? His fault. He was obviously abusing me and had manipulated me into staying with him. Which wasn't even remotely true. Like I said, I'd been severely depressed since the age of 10. It wasn't anything new; it was just that now she could blame it on someone other than her. 

I tried to ignore her, clinging stubbornly to the advice the social worker had given me because, well, that was her job. Social workers know more about what to do to fix my problems than my mother probably did.

A day or two later, I made the mistake of leaving my journal on the coffee table. She took it as a “cry for help” and stole it. She rationalized that I'd given the hospital permission to read it (if I had taken it with me) so therefore, she had the right to read it, too.

In this journal, I talked about a rape that had occurred while I was pregnant. I was safe from the person who had done it, and I didn't interact with them anymore however, my mother was enraged. She cornered me when I came home from the store with my dad. I don't remember what she said very well anymore but I know it went on for 45 minutes, where I sat silent and numb, hands shaking, staring off into the distance because I couldn't believe that my mother's reaction to finding out I had been raped (again — I'm also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse) was to yell at me. 

My parents started to weave stories about how I had to report it. 

“What if he rapes some 15-year-old girl and leaves her for dead in an alley? It would be your fault because you didn't report!” 

After a while, afraid of what they would do if I said no, I agreed to report.

Less than 24 hours later, I was sobbing in the bathtub, rubbing my arms with a pumice stone until they were raw and bleeding. It was in the newspaper — my story, the one I hadn't even shared willingly, was in the newspaper and on the evening news. It would be an understatement to say I was emotionally ruined by it. 

I had no control about anything that was happening to me — everything was decided for me. My mother banned me from using the computer, my only line of communication to anyone else. She threatened to have the police bring me back to the hospital after I asked for bandagers and hydrogen peroxide and she saw the injuries. 

The intake nurse refused to admit me again because — surprise surprise — taking active steps to avoid infection doesn't really contribute to the idea that someone is suicidal. I kind of think this was the last straw for my mother. The hospital didn't agree with her, so she had to make me worse. She had to get control over me somehow. She set about berating me for not trusting her, yelling at me for panic attacks and nightmares. My sister told me I woke her up multiple times because I was crying in my sleep. If I disagreed with her, she threatened to force me to go back. She threatened to have my son taken away if I even considered leaving on my own.

I started losing weight rapidly, I couldn't eat anything other a few cookies now and again. I wasn't even hungry. My hair started falling out and any time I was confronted with stress, my reaction was to punch the wall. I'm pretty sure I nearly broke my hand more than once.

It was Valentine's day when I'd finally had enough and took drastic action. I was in the car with my dad, and he asked me why I kept letting myself get hurt — did I want people to hurt me? That was the last straw for me. Wanted to get hurt? I remember shaking with anger and writing a note while he was in the gas station, telling him I didn't want to get hurt, and that's why I was leaving.

I walked to the library where I got in contact with my boyfriend (who hadn't been able to get in touch with me for pretty much any of the time I'd been with my parents, and he hadn't even been allowed to see his son). We made a plan to get me the hell out of there. I called the women's shelter and arranged for a pickup the next day (so I would have time to pack), but it turned out, that wouldn't be enough.

When I hung up, my mother called. She threatened to call the police if my boyfriend didn't bring me back immediately. Would I even be able to leave the next day, or would she stop me? What would she do when I got back?

We needed to take action. We would call the police ourselves to get an escort to the women's shelter for me and my son. She wouldn't go up against the police to stop me, right?

Her face when I arrived with the police made me unbearably grateful for the metal door and bulletproof glass between us. If looks could kill...

As we drove away, I cried. I cried because I was free, because I was going somewhere safe. Somewhere she couldn't get me. I might not have been going home, but it was away from her.

Over the next few months, she tried to contact me again. Mend fences, whatever. I turned her down; I let her know that if she continued to try to contact me, I would seek legal action. And I did.

She managed wiggle her way out of the restraining order since they could only postpone my hearing once. Three-hundred dollars down the drain, but she got the message. Other than a few texts about how “crazy” I was just before I moved, she stopped trying.

Now, I live 13 hours away. Her number is blocked, and I haven't heard from her since. I'm doing better now. I'm finally seeing a counselor regularly. I'm not punching walls or waking up in the middle of the night sobbing anymore. I still have nightmares, but those are few and far in-between now.

It's funny — I can forgive my rapist, but I can't forgive her. Not only because what she did was wrong, but because it came after years of ignoring my mental health and a childhood of emotional abuse. Because she only cared to help when she couldn't be blamed for what was wrong in the first place. At least he didn't pretend he was trying to help me.

No, I won't forgive her. She doesn't deserve it.