Jenna’s Story: Unbelievable
The woman I became was built on the foundation that I didn’t matter.
I was sexually abused by my grandfather who told me I wouldn’t be believed if I told anyone. I came to understand that I wasn’t believable or trustworthy.
I had little self-confidence because my parents only seemed to value me as a carer to the younger kids and gave me no encouragement. After the abuse started, I became frightened to speak up at all. Eventually I didn’t believe myself, even doubting the abuse had happened. I shrunk; I felt insignificant.
I learned to be what I thought others wanted. I became a first-class people pleaser. I went to ridiculous lengths to get my parents’ approval – maybe because I needed them to believe me
As a young adult, I experienced things I later found out are not unusual with incest survivors. I felt like I had some sort of stamp on me. I was sexually harassed at several work-places. I left jobs when my complaints were ignored because, as my grandfather predicted, I was rarely believed. I became promiscuous, disassociated. I had no boundaries. I found myself in abusive relationships and put myself in dangerous situations. I was raped, but not believed.
I had been drinking since I was 16, but at 18 a male friend took me to a dealer’s house. Initially I was a bit scared, but it wasn’t long until I felt like the world was my oyster. I felt free from my parents, anonymous after the claustrophobia of country town living. I started a double life. If you really want to know what being disbelieved is like, become a drug user.
When I dropped a lot of weight, Mum and Dad thought I was anorexic. Their doctor told them it was heroin. They told me I was going to rehab. I had never spoken up against my parents and I didn’t start then. I stayed 2 years.
After rehab, I moved interstate and managed to get into a non-using headspace. After a year or so without drugs, I returned home to get a job a new local Drug and Alcohol service in the area. Despite my lived experience, with no professional qualifications I felt like a fraud, still unbelievable.
I felt labelled as an “ex-user”, like everyone was watching me and that my commitment not to use could not be trusted. I drank socially and was told by professional workers I needed to go to AA. I was also told I needed Jungian analysis; Freudian analysis; and more. I did all this stuff, still looking for somewhere to fit in.
The best thing I ever did for my mental health was attend a Women’s Incest Survivor Group. It was worth the 2 hours travel each way. It was amazing to me that there were other people like me who felt they were walking around with “incest“ written on their forehead. There was so much strength there; I realised we had skills we didn’t even know we had.
After a few years, I moved across into Corrections (Probation and Parole). I loved helping people meet their goals. I think as a person with lived experience of drug use, I was able to bring something special to people.
My obsession with a healthy lifestyle helped keep me away from using. I became a long distance runner and trained as an aerobics instructor. I was abstinent for 25 years.
But everything changed. I had a serious car accident. After not even having an asprin for 25 years, I woke up under the influence of Panadeine Forte; I already had a habit. There was no choice in the matter; I wasn’t asked.
This was the start of a series of four operations and years of chronic pain. Prescribed OxyContin, I genuinely needed them for the pain, but also enjoyed the feeling. It helped me work through my grief and resolve some family issues. I did learn 1 thing – don’t let doctors know you enjoy it or use it for depression! You are instantly branded untrustworthy.
I injected the drugs because it seemed the way to get the best from them. I used all the harm reduction tips I learned from User’s News.
Around this time, my parents became ill and I became their carer. Looking after them, I found it hard to look after myself. I was still putting their happiness and comfort before my own.
When a close cousin died, I took a tiring, painful and emotional journey to attend the funeral, travelling miles across NSW by train. On the return journey, waiting at Sydney’s Central Station to change trains, I fell asleep and woke up very confused, surrounded by four police. As a conservative-looking older woman dressed in smart “funeral” clothes, I wondered what I had done to attract attention.
The police told me they got a report that I was “nodding off”. Based on this, they searched me and my baggage, accusing me of coming to town to sell drugs.
Maybe it looked bad. I had run out of OxyContin and had to fill a script while I was away. As it was not my home pharmacy, I had to get the whole prescription filled, repeats and all, so I had quite a few packets. I also had a suitcase full of clothes my cousin had said she wanted me to have, several with the labels still on.
I explained about the clothes and directed them to my pain specialist. They made some calls to check my story.
I don’t know what they told my doctor, but next time I saw her she refused to prescribe me OxyContin. Instead I was prescribed physeptone – a tablet form of methadone. I was actually happy with these and got a lot of relief from injecting them.
My mother then my father died. My role as carer ending, I questioned “who am I?” again. Then my doctor moved and I was faced with the stress of finding someone who would prescribe pain relief for me. I had a break down.
BIAS AND PREJUDICE
Because of my previous drug use and the media brou-ha-ha at the time around opioid abuse, I couldn’t find a doctor willing to give me the pain relief I needed. My new doctor prescribed me Targin. I asked if there was anything I needed to know about it. I was told, no, it’s the same as the physeptone. But when I injected them, I became very ill.
I found out the hard way that the naloxone in Targin causes instant detox when injected. To be catapulted into withdrawal without warning after years of opioid use was painful and frightening.
It became clear I could no longer get what I needed for my physical and mental pain from a biased medical profession. Again, I was not believed, this time because drug users are treated as liars.
I ended up buying my medication on the black market. As well as opioids I could inject, I began dabbling in ice to get some relief from the exhausting pain.
Everything changed. A woman in my 60s, I became harassed by the police because I was seen with known users. I have been body-searched, my car has been repeatedly searched, I have been questioned and roadside drug tested.
Eventually I found myself listed on the public Court Report – a big deal in a country town. I was caught for a minor traffic demeanour which gave them an excuse to drug test me. It came back positive.
With that court case still pending, I had another car accident. It didn’t matter that I was the fifth person to have an accident in the same spot within a short period. Now a known drug user, they wanted to charge me for negligence. I get intimidated easily by police. When questioned, I admitted to using ice a few days earlier. To country police, ice users are considered children of Satan.
I’m waiting to get the results of the test. My life is up in the air and I am back where I was years ago, only now I’m battling physical pain as well.
At least this time I have the benefit of experience. I know that when “they” call me a liar, they are trying to shut me up.
I have also found the NUAA community. I have a sense of belonging, of not being judged, no matter where I am (or am not!) in my drug-taking. I tell people about NUAA because I want them to know that there’s hope. There is help out there, places you can go to get information and support, where you can share feelings without judgement. Belonging to NUAA has increased my self-esteem, and that means I will fight for my right to have my pain medicated.