Pam's Story

When I was 22, I was on my way back to San Luis Obispo from visiting my parents in Monterey. The station wagon I was driving broke down on the side of Highway 101. An old white pickup truck stopped, with three Hispanic men inside; they wanted to know if I needed help. I saw that there was an old man in the truck so I felt I could trust them. I was very stupid and naive. Without going into detail, they kidnapped me and I was with these men for 12 hours. They took me driving out on back roads and assaulted me. They had a pretty good time. I have always been a good actress, and I convinced them that I was having a ‘pretty good time’ as well. They trusted me, which was exactly what I had hoped for. Around two in the morning they were running out of fuel so they pulled into a gas station in Gonzales, next to a Denny’s. There was a Winnebago at the gas station and I saw two women get out of it and go into the restroom. The men did not see them. The men let me out of the truck with no difficulty when I told them I needed to use the bathroom because they trusted me. After hearing my story, the two women left me in the bathroom, I guess they didn’t want to get involved, or possibly killed. I went back to the truck. I told the men that I was getting cold and hungry and perhaps we should go to the Denny’s. They sent me over by myself. I saw a policeman sitting at the counter and I told him my story; he told me it wasn’t his jurisdiction. I then went to the pay-phone and called my parents. My dad told me to sit down and keep the men at the Denny’s – he was calling the police. I got a table and waited.

When the police finally arrived I felt guilty about turning the men in! How absurd is that? It was only much later that I heard about Stockholm Syndrome where the victim, who is kept in a state of perpetual fear and mental alertness, will do anything to keep themselves alive – including identifying with those in a position of power. It is this false alliance which gives the victim hope. The police were very kind and advised me to press charges against the men. I later found out they were inmates from Soledad prison out on work leave.

I followed through and pressed charges against my captors. I was questioned in the following weeks by detectives and various law enforcement agencies. After months had gone by the charges were dropped against the men because of my attire – short shorts and a T- shirt (it was August). I felt raped all over again.

I have not thought about this incident for a long time; I’m not that introspective. There are huge gaps in my memory where the details of this should be. I always prided myself that I escaped alive and left it at that. I also felt I had not been changed in any fundamental way. I believe I was wrong about that…

If you were to ask anyone who knows me to describe me, they would say upbeat, funny, creative, and vivacious. What most people don't know is that I suffer from a depression that can be, at times, debilitating. At these times, all I can think about is what I have done wrong in my life, the opportunities I let slide by, my character defects, and my inability to connect in any significant or intimate way with other people.

There were times when suicide seemed like a viable option; it is a doorway that has existed in every home I have lived in since I can remember. I have kept the door locked, but it is still there; an opening without pain, insecurity, or hopelessness. The first time I started thinking about suicide I had no idea what was happening to me. I didn't eat or sleep well for two months, I lost 20 pounds. I was diagnosed with acute clinical depression and put on anti-depressants. They worked well. I now understand when I am sliding into a bad place and work on taking care of myself. This, of course, is easier said than done. One of the huge issues with depression is that what needs to be done to take care of yourself, is the last thing you want to do. Being alone is comfortable, and that is probably the most dangerous thing a person with depression can do, isolate themselves.

I tell very few people about this aspect of my life - not so much because I am ashamed, but it is too big a burden to lay on friends. It makes people uncomfortable; sometimes they feel they have to ‘do something’ or ‘fix me’ in some way.

I have learned to stay busy, connect with friends and family - in other words, do what seems counter to your instincts at the time: be social, don't hide, talk to people. Recently, I've taken up singing lessons - something I've always wanted to do. It has made my life exciting again, in a way I remember feeling when I was a child. Also, medication can be most helpful. Anti-depressants really work, and there is no shame in taking them.

I have made great strides in controlling my depression, but I still have a long way to go. I will continue to keep the door locked and will choose to look at the flowers outside the window instead.

Around two in the morning they were running out of fuel so they pulled into a gas station in Gonzales, next to a Denny’s. There was a Winnebago at the gas station and I saw two women get out of it and go into the restroom. The men did not see them. The men let me out of the truck with no difficulty when I told them I needed to use the bathroom because they trusted me. After hearing my story, the two women left me in the bathroom, I guess they didn’t want to get involved, or possibly killed. I went back to the truck. I told the men that I was getting cold and hungry and perhaps we should go to the Denny’s. They sent me over by myself. I saw a policeman sitting at the counter and I told him my story; he told me it wasn’t his jurisdiction. I then went to the pay-phone and called my parents. My dad told me to sit down and keep the men at the Denny’s – he was calling the police. I got a table and waited.

When the police finally arrived I felt guilty about turning the men in! How absurd is that? It was only much later that I heard about Stockholm Syndrome where the victim, who is kept in a state of perpetual fear and mental alertness, will do anything to keep themselves alive – including identifying with those in a position of power. It is this false alliance which gives the victim hope. The police were very kind and advised me to press charges against the men. I later found out they were inmates from Soledad prison out on work leave.

I followed through and pressed charges against my captors. I was questioned in the following weeks by detectives and various law enforcement agencies. After months had gone by the charges were dropped against the men because of my attire – short shorts and a T- shirt (it was August). I felt raped all over again.

I have not thought about this incident for a long time; I’m not that introspective. There are huge gaps in my memory where the details of this should be. I always prided myself that I escaped alive and left it at that. I also felt I had not been changed in any fundamental way. I believe I was wrong about that…

If you were to ask anyone who knows me to describe me, they would say upbeat, funny, creative, and vivacious. What most people don't know is that I suffer from a depression that can be, at times, debilitating. At these times, all I can think about is what I have done wrong in my life, the opportunities I let slide by, my character defects, and my inability to connect in any significant or intimate way with other people.

There were times when suicide seemed like a viable option; it is a doorway that has existed in every home I have lived in since I can remember. I have kept the door locked, but it is still there; an opening without pain, insecurity, or hopelessness. The first time I started thinking about suicide I had no idea what was happening to me. I didn't eat or sleep well for two months, I lost 20 pounds. I was diagnosed with acute clinical depression and put on anti-depressants. They worked well. I now understand when I am sliding into a bad place and work on taking care of myself. This, of course, is easier said than done. One of the huge issues with depression is that what needs to be done to take care of yourself, is the last thing you want to do. Being alone is comfortable, and that is probably the most dangerous thing a person with depression can do, isolate themselves.

I tell very few people about this aspect of my life - not so much because I am ashamed, but it is too big a burden to lay on friends. It makes people uncomfortable; sometimes they feel they have to ‘do something’ or ‘fix me’ in some way.

I have learned to stay busy, connect with friends and family - in other words, do what seems counter to your instincts at the time: be social, don't hide, talk to people. Recently, I've taken up singing lessons - something I've always wanted to do. It has made my life exciting again, in a way I remember feeling when I was a child. Also, medication can be most helpful. Anti-depressants really work, and there is no shame in taking them.

I have made great strides in controlling my depression, but I still have a long way to go. I will continue to keep the door locked and will choose to look at the flowers outside the window instead.



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