From Both Sides of the Syringe – Part II

Axelle (not her real name) still can recall the vicious look that the man who asked her to dance for the first time gave her. Proud of the attention it brought her and delighted to have him all for herself, she jiggled in the 100% cotton camisole, and in the little Fruit of the Loom panties that her mother had bought her in a package of three at Walmart.

By Catherine Caron

In her youthful openness, she also saw it as just another game when her father asked her to touch his penis in the shower and asked her what she thought it was. But the older she got, the more uncomfortable she got in this little household she couldn’t quite yet understand. At age 13, while on vacation in Florida with him over Christmas, Axelle was victim of a full-on rape. Traumatized and in tears, she swore that she would never see her father again. At her return to Montreal, she ran to her mother, who was waiting for her at the airport, and squeezed her with all her might, sharing that wish.

For Axelle it was the beginning of a time of great suffering: suffering that she would try to stamp out, in vain, over the course of a chaotic and unwittingly masochistic life’s journey.    

Childbirth, Post-Partum Depression and Social Assistance

At age 20 she gave birth to little Stella and briefly stopped her prostitution. She didn’t feel at all at ease with her new role as a mother and felt rejected by her baby, who would not feed from her breast. The bond between mother and daughter was a difficult one to build, given that as a mother Axelle wasn’t as psychologically available as she could have been. Overwhelmed by a life that included violence and instability, she spiralled into depression, which led her to the Louis-H. Lafontaine psychiatric hospital. She was hospitalized and medicated after having been finally diagnosed as bipolar. It was during this period that she left her baby’s addict father, who was violent and unemployed. She could no longer handle life with him.

She took up prostitution again for a short time, then decided to go on social assistance. It was tough on her pride, for she had always looked down on single mothers living off of welfare. “I couldn’t believe that I found myself in that same situation. And on top of that, at the time we received paper checks through the mail that we had to cash in person at the bank… I was so ashamed!” Axelle, now approaching 40, tells me.

A Fatal Breakup

But her partner did not accept the breakup. This plunged her into a nightmare. She was a victim of daily harassment. Among other things, she was sent the video of the song Kim by Eminem, in which a man drives around with the rotting corpse of his ex in the trunk of his car. Not the sort of thing conducive to sleeping. Especially when her answering machine was filled with messages like: “I hope you have photos of the little one, because…” with an ending that had nothing to do with scrapbooking. Axelle saved her evidence for the police and the whole affair ended up in court. The father was forbidden to approach his daughter or his ex.

Little Stella was only 4 when her father killed himself. For Axelle it was the end of an anxious, fearful period in her life. Looking back, she says: “He wasn’t a bad person. He was just someone who was sick, who was suffering. He had a problem with women, he didn’t feel loved. His mother had him when she was 16 and often told him she’d regretted it, that she was too young… You can think that, but you shouldn’t say that to your son.”  

Job and Life Troubles

Her employment impasse motivated her to finish her high school studies. She did it thanks to a program that supports young mothers going back to school to get a high school diploma. Afterward, she jumped around in and out of programs she didn’t find suitable. During this time she managed to stop her addictions herself. But she ran into an old friend who offered her a joint, and that’s all it took for her to go down that rabbit hole once again. She got addicted to pot and to speed, because that’s what they offered at the raves she would sometimes attend. She dropped out of Cegep and met another man. Soon she was pregnant.

She ran into her father on the street. They hadn’t seen each other in a long time. He didn’t recognize her: that was a shock for Axelle. In hindsight she thinks this event was the cause of her losing her baby a few days later. It ended up working out, because she was going to have that baby aborted anyway.

First seen in Reflet de Société, September 24th, 2019

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