May 9, 2019
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I was born in 1980. My struggles with mental illness began when I was four years old. I started sticking myself with sewing needles and slamming my head against the walls. I know that sounds like a normal temper tantrum, but for me it progressed. I was angry and depressed all the time. I was facing physical abuse from my mother, and her alcoholic boyfriend.
Mental illness was not talked about.
My baby brother was born, and I became one of his primary care givers at eight years old because his father was too drunk. Eventually my mother left my brother’s dad. I was still angry and depressed. I threatened to kill my family. I also beat on my brother. This is something I am not proud of. My mother had no idea what to do with me. This was the late eighties in a small town. Mental illness was not talked about.
Eventually my mother found a facility to take me to. I had an interview with a doctor, and he recommended hospitalization. I spent over a month on the psych ward. I was put on medications, and when I was released, I went to a partial hospitalization program. The staff consisted of four therapists, and four teachers. We had different types of group and individual therapy along with regular schooling. I excelled in this program for several years, then was released into a mainstream school before I was ready. I relapsed and was hospitalized again in 1995. Again, I spent a month in the hospital fighting my depression, and my self-injuring progressed into cutting. Shallow wounds at first, then they got deeper. After that I was sent into foster care.
I was in foster care for a year, and things did not go well with my regular foster family, but I met another wonderful family who are still a part of my life. However, while I was in foster care, I realized that my brother was not at fault for what happened to me. He was just as innocent as I was and did not deserve my punishments.
They said I was attention seeking.
Eventually I moved back in with my mother. I got back into another partial program where once again I excelled. However, when my cutting was brought to their attention, it was ignored. They said I was attention seeking. Then I started getting sick. I missed school for doctor appointments. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had to drop out to deal with my health issues because school gave me a hard time. Turns out I had cancer at seventeen. It was easily removed, and I went into remission quickly with no re-occurrence.
I spent some time in the rooms of AA and NA due to an issue with alcohol/drugs. I was in therapy during this, but still struggled with my issues. I did manage to get my GED in 2000.
I realized I had to get my shit together.
In 2001 I moved back with my mom and cared for her while she was terminally ill. I realized I had to get my shit together. My family needed me. I could not cut anymore, so I stopped. That was sometime before 2007. I was also caring for my teenage brother who was using drugs. After my mother passed in 2007, I went into a severe depression. The worst I ever had, and remained there for several years, then I lost my job. My salvation came from an unlikely place. I adopted a baby rat and named him Misha. He needed me, so I had to do my best to be OK. He was my guiding light out of my despair. I started back in therapy where I was diagnosed as Bi-Polar with generalized anxiety.
I got hospitalized again and became homeless. With the help of other people, I got my life back. I got a job, moved in with my grandparents, went to college, and helped care for my grandfather until he passed in 2015. I got tested for accommodations at college. What they were looking for was mental illness or learning disorders. This is when I was diagnosed with ADHD and a working memory problem.
I struggle with my illnesses on a daily basis because they play off of each other. I have to keep in mind that while they are a part of me, they do not define who I am. I have embraced them and learned to use them to my advantage. I graduated college in 2018 with an associate degree. I am currently going for my bachelor’s in creative and technical writing and plan an associate in communications along with a masters. I am a poet, mental health advocate, and I hope to work in film.
No matter what you face in life, things can get better. There is hope.