When My “Give a F**k” Broke

By Diana Meyer 08/07/18

I stood on the edge of this abyss and began my free fall to find healthy. I had nothing left to lose.

Fierce woman
Sometimes we need to break down before we can rebuild.

“I am fine,” was my go to response for years. When anyone would ask, I would answer with that canned response, and if the typical follow up question was “Really?”, I was prepared. I would look them square in the eye and state firmly, “There is no other option.”

During my almost three-year sexual assault investigation and prosecution, this was my warrior’s response. If someone was brave enough to follow up with that second question and meet my eyes for the response, typically they took a step back or walked away. Even my therapists tried to break through that façade, but my walls were thick, my stilettos were high, and my eyes were piercing. I was not for the faint of heart and no one was getting in.

I was a mom first, a single mom. A single mom operating as both Mom and Dad to two beautiful girls. That man was so disengaged, he moved to Dubai but continued to send—not child support—but rather criticizing emails on how I should raise our children. Thank God for email filters – his crap went straight to a file I almost never opened.

I was a sexual assault survivor who learned a life lesson that I could rely on no one and safety did not exist. Life taught me how to use my presence and my voice to keep people at bay, and also how to motivate people to act. Safety was not real, so I had to make it so. But my triggers were substantial and regular, and the constant awareness that what happened to me could happen to my daughters often paralyzed me.

Those two daughters were my everything. I became a warrior on their behalf. When the school administration failed to protect my daughter from bullies, I fought them, and then finally moved. When my daughter was struck in a hit and run that was so severe it totaled my new car, I allowed my mother bear instinct to come out but limited my rage so I would not be put in prison.

I carried a mortgage, student loan debt, and at one time allowed a homeless family of four to live with us in our home until the pregnant mother could give birth and they could get on their feet. Meanwhile, professionally, I endured a passive-aggressive boss who enjoyed playing head games for sport. I supervised (and truly enjoyed) over 60 adjunct professors who taught amazing students at a graduate school. With what little personal time I had, any attempts at dating were laughable; the caliber of men available was lower than I could settle for and the unavailable men who attempted to gain my affection repulsed me. I was hard, I was strong, and I was lonely – but it worked. I didn’t have a choice. I did not have the luxury of time to handle hurt or to feel more than what was necessary to be functional. I was safe if I exposed myself to nothing and no one. I was this way unintentionally most of the time, but knew how to call upon it when necessary. Still, I was absolutely perplexed when I was given feedback that I was intimidating. I just wanted to survive and I was doing it the only way I knew how.

When my daughter was committed to a mental health facility twice for attempting suicide and given the diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with PTSD, I finally broke. The realization that I really could not protect my children from all the unknowns absolutely unraveled me. I sat in the emergency room, sobbing. All my deepest fears and suppressed anguish came to the surface. The reality that I could not keep my children from hurt translated into absolute failure as their mother. When the emergency room doctor came over for my statement, I was crying so hard that I could not talk. She asked me that dreaded question, “Are you okay?” I finally answered honestly, and it was the only word I could get out, “No.” That simple and honest answer broke through years of protective walls and it was devastating.

During the months that followed, my newfound vulnerability did not settle well. I needed back in the driver’s seat; it was a non-stop internal battle. I hustled myself back into therapy, where, at one point, I told my amazing therapist that I could not talk to him unless I laid flat on the floor of his office. I was convinced I was losing my mind. He assured me I was not but I did not believe him.

I was broken. My “Give A F**k” was now in a constant state of zero and my moral compass was constantly spinning. I felt exposed and vulnerable and very, very confused. The belief system I had created to make sense of the violence that had happened to me and to generate an environment of safety for my daughters was an illusion that had been destroyed. I had perfected this for years and it was gone in an instant. I was drowning. I could not breathe.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this was a gift. The dam wall had broken and all of the harbored pain was released and it forced me to process it. A healthy, accepting mindset was as foreign to me as Egyptian hieroglyphics and I had to change. My mental health and my ability to be a good mother and human depended on it. I stood on the edge of this abyss and began my free fall to find healthy. I had nothing left to lose.

Fresh eyes saw the world for all its flaws and beauty. I learned to address flaws as a simple ingredient of life and not as a threat; I began to accept people and situations for who they were, and it was freeing. Another key step to my freedom was learning to listen to my gut and unapologetically responding as such. If I did not feel comfortable in the presence of someone, I simply removed myself gracefully and did not look back. My gut owed no one an explanation, and that was empowering. Kindness was no longer seen as weakness and connecting with people was no longer dangerous. The world was not a field of landmines but rather an adventure with twists and turns.

I felt like I was breathing fresh air for the first time. I laughed freely without hesitation, I smiled boldly without fear, and I slept so well. I loved with all of me and I loved ME. Everything in me relaxed for the first time in over a dozen years and my mental health was good, for REAL. I was no longer simply “fine,” I was “good,” teetering on great.

Unhealthy people in my life were not so supportive of my new healthy lifestyle, but healthy people supported me with fervor. My manipulative boss was the least supportive because she would no longer get the intended response. She was a daily practice for me though, providing regular situations that allowed me to implement healthy responses. She eventually began ignoring me. Unhealthy friendships fell to the wayside. My youngest daughter, who was working on her own demons, did not understand my choices and decided to go live with her father overseas. I mourned her decision, but the friends and loved ones who accepted me, even when I went into my Xena: Warrior Princess mode, kept me grounded.

Shortly after reconnecting with my emotions and releasing my fear, I met a man who changed my life. He was so healthy and good, kind and unconditionally accepting. Jumping into the abyss landed me in the arms of someone who did not see me as broken and on the mend. I was also able to connect with my oldest daughter on a level that I cannot explain other than she is one of my best friends. She accepts my flaws as I accept hers, and we connect almost every day.

I left my stressful position in that unhealthy working environment and began working as an independent contractor, providing trainings to first responders on how to communicate with victims of trauma. I began writing educational materials and speaking at conferences, utilizing my rape and prosecution experience as an educational opportunity for those who work within the criminal justice, mental health and medical professions. This work is sometimes emotional and tiring, but highly rewarding. It gives me purpose and satisfaction to know that I can make a difference.

My “Give a F**k” may have broken, but I didn’t, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

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Diana Meyer is a speaker, author, consultant, and educator on human rights advocacy and sexual assault survival. She dedicates her time to speaking out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. She speaks and trains Politicians, Military, Community Leaders, Victim's Rights Advocates, Forensic Toxicologists, Police, Nurses, and First Responders. She has written for various news outlets, educational resources, and entertainment sources. Diana has been interviewed both locally and nationally on radio and television and was featured in the Washington Post. She was also a consultant for Dateline and A&E. Find Diana at her website, Facebook, and LinkedIn.