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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » Space Opera's Landmark (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Space Opera's Landmark
Space Opera
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Everyone has a story, and this is mine.

After dropping off my two siblings at her parents’ house, my mother drove herself to the hospital. My estranged father was called at some point and the two happily reunited over their daughter. They separated again when I was just a few months old. Twenty-one years later I finally saw my father’s face.

When I was less than a year old, my mother married for the third time. Unlike her first two marriages, she strove to keep this one together, a fact I will never understand. She never told me that this man wasn’t my biological father. I discovered the truth of my origins at the age of 11 when I found my baby book hidden in a closet. I was relieved. The man she married, and stayed married to for 25 years, was cruel. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that she was too.

The earliest emotions I remember feeling are fear and shame. Fear, because the world I lived in was a scary one. Shame, because it simply seemed a part of myself. The fear I’ve managed to forget; the shame still lives within me. I have scars as a legacy from my parents – the thick raised ones that people involuntarily turn away from. These scars aren’t physical, though it might have been better if they had been. Perhaps then someone would have been forced to acknowledge, to see, the hell that three scared children lived in. Teachers and neighbors knew that things weren’t right in our home, but no one knew just how wrong things actually were. Even now my grandparents don’t speak of it at all, and when my aunt and uncle do, they refer to it hesitantly as “what happened to you kids.”

I’ve never been able to tell anyone exactly what happened to us. My parents were abusive, physically and emotionally – labeling it is easy. But the true horror was always in the details. It’s simple to say that my stepfather actively hated us. He was insanely creative when it came to abuse. The things he did to us would make an intriguing article on the front page of the newspaper, or a top story on the six o’clock news. Something people could shudder and wince at deliciously. I never told. I am thirty years old and I still can’t tell it all today. I was six years old and terrified to get off the school bus.

School helped keep me sane. It was the safest place I had, and I could be anyone there. I had a large circle of friends and never experienced a moment of unpopularity. However, I became an expert at never letting friendships develop past the superficial. I said a lot without truly saying anything at all. I had a best friend for seven years who never knew what went on in my home. I never talked about my parents, and never asked anyone to spend the night. When I was at home I shut down completely and became another person. Having two different personalities took energy. I never learned who I was. I was an expert at wearing a mask, but there was nothing beneath. I watched people almost obsessively, trying to figure out how they would hurt me and what reasons I had to fear them. By the time I was 16 I wanted to die.

I moved out before I graduated high school. I soon found myself pregnant and engaged. We married when our son was six months old. By the time we divorced when our daughter was an infant, I was 25 and more of a mess, if possible. During the marriage I struggled with depression, anxiety, and OCD-type behaviors. I loved my children but couldn’t stand their father. We had vastly different morals and values, and no amount of work would have enabled us to have a successful marriage. When I married him I knew that but didn’t care. It was enough that someone loved me. I knew I couldn’t depend on my parents to help, and at the time it seemed as though I had no other choice.

Despite the loneliness and financial hardships of being a single parent, I began to thrive. My children needed a good home and I was determined to give them one. I found us a crappy apartment that became a loving home. For the first time I really decided to find out who I was. I started to look at other people less and myself a bit more. It was scary though, and family issues continued to be a hindrance. My mother left my stepfather approximately four times while I was on my own. Each time I would go over and help her “sneak” away, overjoyed that I would finally have a mother. She would promise that things were going to be different. But she always went back to him, and things never changed. It became physically difficult for me to be in their presence. We were all expected to continue performing as a happy family, but I was weary of acting. I finally just began avoiding my stepfather. I knew that I could not have a relationship with him, but I hoped to somehow salvage things with my mother.

On a whim, I applied for a college scholarship. I had always wanted to go and figured that if the kids and I were ever to get off public assistance that I’d need a degree. I wrote the essay the night before the application was due. After an interview, I found out I was going to college. The scholarship would pay for four years of tuition, plus a textbook stipend, to any college in the state. I was terrified of going. I had been out of school for almost eight years and hoped to maintain a “C” average, if possible. I made straight “A’s” my first semester, much to my surprise. I can’t put into words what the experience of college has done for me. After being told my whole life that I was stupid and worthless, I had educated people who I admired telling me that in fact I was worth something. These professors, and my college experience, gave me back a dignity that I never knew I’d lost.

I like to think that in the last five years I’ve become like a child again. I delight in simple things like red cardinals and the smell of rain. In my own way, I suppose it’s my attempt to regain some of the innocence I lost so early in life. I haven’t had any contact with my stepfather in several years, though he is featured in my nightmares a bit too often for my liking. I heard recently that he had a stroke. My mother, after finally divorcing him, was never able to make good on her promises that things would be different. She became an alcoholic and is now married to her fourth husband, who is currently in jail on his third DUI conviction. I haven’t spoken to her for two years by my choice. At this time, I simply can’t include someone in my life that brings me so much pain. This has brought with it a certain sense of freedom. I no longer have to act, and that is a relief. The one time I tried to talk with her about my childhood she threatened to kill herself. I miss having parents, though. It’s not so much the actual players that I miss, but the unconditional love that should have been there.

I still carry a sense of shame within me. As much as I’ve tried to forget it, I was shaped by my childhood. I still cringe when I hear people laughing, sure that they’re laughing at me. I loathe platitudes such as the fact that I should be grateful for the abuse I suffered because it’s made me a stronger person. I would have preferred to become strong through love and understanding, not pain and fear. But there are certainly things that I am grateful for. I have the love of a good man. He tells me I’m smart and beautiful, and sometimes I believe him. I have two children who will never be terrified to get off the school bus. I still watch people, but lately I’ve noticed a difference in my motivations. Instead of looking in them for what I should fear, I watch people to discover their beauty. It is my hope that one day, if the scars of my childhood ever disappear, that they will be sloughed off, revealing the baby skin beneath fresh with promise.

space opera

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Derrell
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(((Space Opera))) That was a powerful landmark. Thank you for having the courage to share it.
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saxon75
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Wow. Just... wow.
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Farmgirl
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((((((((space opera)))))))))

extra big hug

Farmgirl

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Dan_raven
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Wow.

My first response is to reach out and help. What can I do? I can't give you back your childhood, or parents who care. All I can offer is assistance in finding the child that is there.

You have jouneyed across a desert that no one should have to endure. You have arrived and been refreshed, but if our oasis of insanity here can help ease your tired feet, then welcome.

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J T Stryker
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(((Space Opera)))

What Dan said... and if your looking for your inner child..... all I can offer is childish games... I'm king of childish around here, and I'll be more than happy to share the fun [Monkeys]

((((Space Opera))))

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katharina
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Oh, wow. What a story. I'm so glad you're here! Thank you for sharing it. [Smile]
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Elizabeth
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Thank you so much for sharing, Space Opera.
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the master
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quote:
At this time, I simply cant include someone in my life that brings me so much pain.
Good for you. Seriously. I'm at the 6 year mark on that decision.

I'm so glad you made it to KamaCon.

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Christy
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I mourn for your childhood and mother, but am glad to call you friend.
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PSI Teleport
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I'm even more excited to get out to Louisville now. : )
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Synesthesia
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Completely beautiful. I am glad you are here at hatrack. [Hat]
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romanylass
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(((space opera)))

Much love coming to you. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Dagonee
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Space Opera, that's a powerful story. It's clear how you developed your compassion and understanding.

Dagonee

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Pepek
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hey guys.. i'm scared- I mean, really.. I just read this thread, and I was left here feeling how great it is to have you people and to have this kind of community in my life and how it would be so wonderful to grow older through the years and still have this.. but i'm worried now that with the movie coming out soon that this community will be flooded and the sense of family i've been feeling will go away.. sigh..
(((space opera))) + ((((everyone else))))

-Jack Montague

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eslaine
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Wow, lady. I know your pain. Thanks for sharing.
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ElJay
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Space Opera, you are simply amazing. So glad you're here.
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Icarus
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(((Space Opera)))

There was much in your post I could identify with. The idea of trying to reclaim your innocence was particularly resonant with me. Thank you for having the courage to share this. I know it must have been frightening.

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Mabus
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[Cry]
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imogen
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(((Space Opera)))

quote:
I loathe platitudes such as the fact that I should be grateful for the abuse I suffered because it’s made me a stronger person. I would have preferred to become strong through love and understanding, not pain and fear.
I am so sorry that you weren't given that love and understanding. You should never be grateful for the abuse - never. You can be grateful for the person that you are, but that's because of you, in spite of everything that was done to you. Not because of it.

Thank-you so much for sharing that. Every landmark I am astonished by the strength, resilience and general beauty of the people that Hatrack attracts. Thanks for keeping it that way. [Smile]

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Goody Scrivener
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{{{{{{Space Opera}}}}} I couldn't imagine going through what you went through, but I can tell that you've come out the other side as a very strong, very capable, and very loving person!
[Group Hug]

Goody

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beverly
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A very important distinction, imogen.

Thank you for that, Space Opera. I kept thinking as I was reading of your experiences that my life was like a negative exposure of what you went through. Where your family was the source of your fear and shame, school was mine. Where school was your safe haven, my family was mine.

I am always sad when people's families cause them so much pain. Certainly you are not alone in that. Good to know how far you have come since then. Not everyone makes it so far.

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Space Opera
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Thanks to everyone for the kind words. Though posting this landmark literally made me sick to my stomach, I needed to do it. I also need to share what wonderful, strong people my siblings turned out to be. My older sister is an RN, and my younger sister is a successful insurance agent. My older brother, who was given up by my mother when he was 14 (causing a 10 year separation for us) is a boat-builder who has been happily married for 10 years. We have each other, and I'm glad for that.

space opera

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beverly
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Space Opera, I remember you expressing frustration at things going on within your family. I feel like I can understand better now what was going on. I am glad that you and your siblings have kept your family ties through all that happened.
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mackillian
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quote:
I loathe platitudes such as the fact that I should be grateful for the abuse I suffered because it’s made me a stronger person. I would have preferred to become strong through love and understanding, not pain and fear.
Yes, exactly. You said it well. All of it.
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fiazko
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You are awesome, and I'm so glad I got to meet you and hang out with you in person.
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MaydayDesiax
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((((Space Opera))))

Honestly, I don't know what to say to that... I've never really been in that situation...

The only thing I can do is open my door and my heart to an extended family memeber.

((((Space Opera))))

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michael thompson
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S.O.... oh - ohhhh!

you rock.

(almost as much as pooka)

fal... er... mike T.

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Telperion the Silver
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((((Space Opera))))

[Smile]

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rivka
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quote:
I have the love of a good man. He tells me I’m smart and beautiful, and sometimes I believe him.
He is right.
quote:
It is my hope that one day, if the scars of my childhood ever disappear, that they will be sloughed off, revealing the baby skin beneath fresh with promise.
May it be so.

*hughughug* Thank you for sharing! You are a very special person, and I am glad I got the chance to meet you at Kamacon!

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Ryuko
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Wow. Space Opera, I admire your ability to be strong and put your past behind you while still learning from it. (hugs you) Your landmark made me cry. Take care of yourself.
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Zotto!
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Space Opera~

I've loved your posting ever since you came to Hatrack. Thanks for sharing such a personal part of yourself with us. It sounds like you're well on your way to making yourself into the person you want to be, to making a loving homelife for your family. Thanks for being here. [Smile]

~Jeremy

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Sara Sasse
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quote:
I can’t put into words what the experience of college has done for me. After being told my whole life that I was stupid and worthless, I had educated people who I admired telling me that in fact I was worth something. These professors, and my college experience, gave me back a dignity that I never knew I’d lost.
This is so awesome. In this as in your choice of a mate, you seem to have a knack for finding ways to make your life more happy and healthy.

Wonderful landmark!

(Hi, mike T. [Smile] )

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mr_porteiro_head
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I don't really want to respond, because anything I say seems trite in comparison.

That was painful to read, but thank you very much for sharing.

I also hope that some day you'll be able to have a relationship with your mother that isn't painful.

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Sara Sasse
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I'm always amazed at the extent and frequency of child abuse that goes on without anyone else intervening. I don't think it's over-represented here at Hatrack, either - I think getting through it and getting educated and interactive with the world is unusual, not typical.

Families can certainly be the most enriching and loving places to raise children, but statistically speaking, they are also the most dangerous. Sexual abuse, physical abuse (whenever I hear "slap her face" or "spank her butt purple," even in jest, I cringe) and all the many forms of emotional abuse most commonly occur in the home, behind closed doors.

It's a crucible. Hot fire, tempering vs. meltdown.

I think figuring out how to support families has to be the foremost in a community's mind. Of course, we will still disagree on how to do this. But supporting families -- in my mind -- sure as heck trumps individual liberty to amass great wealth. If you are going to be a member of a community, then you invest in that community, which means investing in the families and keeping them healthy, safe and strong.

[ August 31, 2004, 11:29 AM: Message edited by: Sara Sasse ]

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skillery
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Thank you for the stirring landmark.

I wish we had red cardinals in our area. Do you have magpies and American kestrals where you live?

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beverly
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I miss red cardinals. [Frown] We do have magpies though. [Smile] But I like the red cardinals better. [Frown]
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AmkaProblemka
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quote:
I loathe platitudes such as the fact that I should be grateful for the abuse I suffered because it’s made me a stronger person.
You were already strong. Your children have known a loving home. You let go of the fear and you refused to believe the shame. You are worthy of a great deal of admiration, and it is us that should be grateful for people like you.
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Shan
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quote:
I still watch people, but lately I’ve noticed a difference in my motivations. Instead of looking in them for what I should fear, I watch people to discover their beauty.
Poignant and powerful and so very familiar. Thank you for sharing your strength and courage with Hatrack - it makes a difference.
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ak
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Space Opera, forgive me for not commenting earlier. I had to stop reading, before. Too disturbing. Too close to home. Funny but the emotional abuse and constant humiliation is, if anything, more damaging than the physical pain. The worst scars aren't visible.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<hugs>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> You are strong and free. You will continue to heal. Thanks for being an inspiration. Telling is such a powerful thing. Just saying the truth in the clear light of day. Thank you for this post.

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Raia
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((((((((((((Space Opera)))))))))))))))

You're amazing. Amazing. Congrats on the landmark, please stay for a very long time.

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Sopwith
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It's always how many fantastic people come from such rough beginnings. Then again, it takes time, pressure and heat to turn carbon into a diamond.

And lady, you sure are a diamond.

Thank you for sharing with us. You're a friend and an inspiration.

((Space Opera))

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skillery
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quote:
I moved out before I graduated high school. I soon found myself pregnant and engaged.
I got kicked out at the age of 23 and immediately found trouble. My folks took a lesson from what happened to me and never kicked any of the other kids out. One hung around until he was 27, two got married and moved out, and the last is still at home.

We've all got to leave home sometime, but what are the best circumstances for doing so? If you had to do it over, would you still have left home while in your teens?

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mackillian
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If she wanted to die while in that home, my guess is that moving out--despite getting into trouble--was a choice to live.

So, do you continue to stay in a situation that will result in your death? Or do to run out of it to find a situation that will allow you to live?

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Eduardo_Sauron
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(((Space Opera)))

[Cry]

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skillery
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Teenagers seem like they want to die at least once a week. But in this case it doesn't seem to be one of those teenage romantic notions of death, does it?
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mackillian
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No, it doesn't. Significant physical and emotional abuse is entirely different from normal teen angst.
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skillery
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But the idea of being rescued from such a situation by a boyfriend might be considered a romantic teenage notion.

In the absence of support from extended family or a minister, I suppose a boyfriend will do, but I don't think that's the best solution. Having gone through all that, I wonder if hindsight has presented Space Opera with any other possible solutions that other kids in similar situations might consider.

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mackillian
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It may not be the best solution, but it was a solution, and a much better solution than death.
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Papa Moose
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The pressure I went through when I thought I wanted to die seemed pretty severe at the time, but certainly nothing like what you experienced, Space Opera. I honor your decision to suffer through sharing this, so that perhaps others can learn from your experience, rather than relying solely on their own interpretations of their own experiences. Another outside view can help so much. Thank you for that.

I was glad to have met you and spent time with you at KamaCon (even if our team pretty much bit), and I can't help but wonder how different your experience there might have been if you had already shared this. Do you think you might have held back for that reason? Or to look at it in another way, do you think that without the experience you had at KamaCon you might not have shared this at all?

Skill, I may come back and share some of my thoughts on your question, but I think it only fair to give SO a chance to answer first.

--Pop

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