Contributed by a guest blogger who prefers to remain anonymous
1993. I lived in a small town in New England. It was an afternoon in late May. I sat on the toilet in the corner of my tiny bathroom, a yellow tunnel of translucent dust shooting out of the window. The pink and red Victorian wallpaper undulated in waves around me. I sat there, my heart in my throat, half panic-stricken, half disbelieving, at the white plastic stick perched on the edge of the pedestal sink. The blurry blue hieroglyphics slowly made symbols that would be the rest of my life. Either it would float along (my life, mine), this moment like a tiny crack in the sidewalk, or it would stop. I was twenty-one years old. It was positive.
At seventeen I had fled a claustrophobic Southern town with my feet pressing all the way down on the gas. I went flying, naively and idiotically, into a small liberal arts college. It was a place of unshaven legs and Birkenstocks. I came armed with makeup and hot rollers. I may as well have gone to Mars. It took about eight months for all the coils to unravel. I woke up in the middle of the night because my metal twin bed seemed to be banging against the wall, my heart was beating so hard. This happened over and over. I remember a dark-haired doctor looking me square in the eye and telling me my EEG was normal. Telling me to see a counselor. I remember a counselor looking me square in the eye and telling me to see a psychologist.
So I did. I learned how to talk in that shrink’s office. Months of silence became baby steps of words, became a torrent of fucked up shit. Once I started I had no more control over it than I did over the rotation of the earth. As I learned how to speak, all the pieces started breaking apart. Whatever fantasy I had about escaping the South and going to college was over. Major Depression crashed the party, held hands with Panic Disorder and then made out with Agoraphobia. (My diagnostic hydra.) I was a goddamn mess. I tried to go back to school sophomore year but after three more trips to the infirmary I was politely but firmly instructed to take a “medical leave.” This is administration-speak for “We don’t want you offing yourself in a campus bathtub.” It goes on like this for four more years.
Back to 1993. I have a serious mental illness. Somehow that year I’d managed to graduate. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do next. My degree, back then, probably cost $100,000, but I was only qualified to wait tables. And I was really sick. In a few short months I would have no health insurance. Now I was pregnant.
The vitriol and hatred aimed squarely at women right now knocks the wind out of me, takes me off guard like a sucker-punch. I don’t understand it. Freud, that bastard, named it best. The white men who hate gays with a fucking fervor they only otherwise reserve for homosexual trysts at a roadside Holiday Inn? Reaction formation. Those wackos outside of abortion clinics screaming about baby killers? Projection. But why women? Why now? Why this particular moment in time? Why the frantic, finger-pointing, bible-thumping, sweaty-browed rants? I mean, they’ve been there for a long time but now they seem to be swelling into some kind of misogynistic tsunami. It’s fucking nuts.
What gets lost in all that noise are the personal stories. Some politicians have acquiesced to allow women to make decisions about their own bodies “in the case of rape or incest.” Or, perhaps, if the pregnancy “threatens the woman’s life.” But what does that mean? I was fucking positive I could not survive a pregnancy. Pregnancy meant going off my meds meant getting sick meant slicing my wrists open. Does that “count?” Do I count?
I had an abortion. I chose it. Me. Twenty-one. Mentally ill. No health insurance.
I remember quietly telling my shrink it was the first decision I had ever, truly made for myself. Just. Myself. I could not have survived a pregnancy. So I did choose life. I chose mine. And I don’t regret it.