Poetry Saved My Life
“My Gutsy Story®” by Angela Marie Carter
We don’t have to die in order to stop living. In fact, most of my childhood and teen years were a form of sleeprunning, (not to be confused with sleepwalking), that led to my one and only suicide attempt.
At around 15-years of age, I made a decision to play Russian Roulette with medication. I laid there accepting my fate, genuinely spoke to God for the first time, and felt a longing for the future I had just robbed myself of. I survived, and would say it was the first near-death experience of my many near-life experiences.
It took me many years to learn how to live. I used to think I was cursed. As a child I was molested and lived in a household of alcoholism, neglect and abuse. When I did tell someone, silence followed. Not long after, I was sent to live with my grandmother and, even to her dying day, she was never aware of my secrets, but was aware of how broken I was.
I believed, even from a very young age, that poetry saved my life. It was a constant companion that appeared instantaneously after I was abused. I had never been introduced to writing, and at some points was told it was a waste of time. Poetry was a friend that I would ignore for several months, but would always return when I needed it most—something I had never encountered with any human.
My constant fears would put me in dangerous situations that I now look back and cringe at. As a teenager I found myself in physically and sexually abusive relationships, and constantly in debt with my past. It was important to me that I not be neglected, even if it meant I nearly died in the process. I can remember covering hand-print marks around my neck, and convincing myself that pain was all that I deserved. Depression controlled me, while the person I wanted to be lurked in my shadow and was disappearing.
I thought if I escaped my hometown in Virginia, I’d escape the cycles I’d fallen into. At 18-years-of age I received a scholarship to study at the University of Bath, England. I was a girl from a town of 280 people, studying in a foreign country! When I fell in love with the idea of being unknown, and the possibility of rediscovering myself, I stayed. I met the love of my life, married, and was blessed with the gift of a child. But, not even 3,736 miles could save me from the curse. You see, the curse was not out there, it was inside of me. After freeing myself of familiar territory, the past revisited me in new forms that was equally, if not even more destructive than in my past. Bulimia controlled my every move for over five years.
I returned to Virginia, and we welcomed a second child. It was then that the depression almost fully consumed me. I was a living-zombie, but the love for my chosen family outweighed it, so much that I made the decision to admit myself into a program for treatment of depression. I waved good-bye to my daughters in the backseat of my husband’s car, and wore a hood over my head until I entered the building. As I went up the elevator, I thought of how most mothers were creating their children’s lunches from organic foods, while my family was driving me to the front door of a hospital.
Throughout all of the bad, there was one constant friend that was always there: poetry. Although I had muted my external voice, I found a new one through writing. I have never been a book-smart kind of person, but believed with every piece of my being that I was gifted the ability to write poetry so that I could help others. Whereas I once felt that I’d never be any more than a victim, I began to see good in it. A new world formed, one where I was more aware of how universal secrets truly are. I learned through sharing my writing that it is not what happens to us that truly damages us, it’s how we, and others that we love, choose not to acknowledge it.
Since that time, I have used all my energy to help others. I have many defining moments in the last few years, but one that marked my most gutsy moment ever. I recently spoke, in public, about what it is really like to be a child that is abused. I owe this power and strength to poetry. Not only do I have a voice, I use it to speak of all the subjects that many will not.
Sometimes we have to save ourselves. I saved myself by breaking silence, and reaching out to others through poetry and public speaking. I offer therapeutic writing coaching, coordinate a local poetry group, and have a forthcoming poetry book being published. I accept any opportunity, no matter how small the crowd, to let others know that silence is not golden.
My husband calls me brave–because it was my choice to save my own life, and gain the confidence to share what was always there–a beautiful woman that is not cursed, but instead chosen to help others. In fact, believe it or not, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. Sometimes our gutsy moves save many lives, even if we believe we have only saved our own. Sometimes seeking help is the bravest thing we can do.
Not dying may seem elementary, but living is after all, a choice. Sometimes it takes us a while to end up where we need to be; taking my time didn’t make me any less gutsy. It just makes my remaining days very precious.
I intend on making every instant be about helping others find their gutsy moment.
ANGELA MARIE CARTER, author of forthcoming poetry memoir Memory Chose a Woman’s Body, grew up in a small Virginia farming town. After moving abroad for several years as an adult, she returned to sweet Virginia with her new family and new-found voice, to speak of the unknown instances she experienced throughout her life. Angela offers her poetry and public speaking as a voice, of many, that proves silence is not golden. www.angelacarterpoetry.com
Please join Angela on her sites: