Mental Health Awareness Month-My Story
This month is Mental Health Awareness Month and I share my story. Today, My story Includes a history of mental illness and recovery. My history began when I was a child and was sexually abused from about age 4-12. My father was the perpetrator. He died in 1998 but was still alive when I began counseling in 1986. My doctor’s name was Dr. Jane Stoermer and she was an excellent psychologist. Originally, I started counseling for depression and marital problems. While in counseling, I became aware of memories long buried from my childhood.
I could not remember before the age of 12, but had made up a “history” so that I could cover with my friends from childhood until adulthood. I told the made-up story for so long that I believed it to be true. While seeing Jane, my real memories from my childhood started to return in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. Long story short, Jane and I discovered that I was sexually abused as a child and had DID or Dissociative Identity Disorder. This is often called Multiple Personality Disorder by the lay public and is commonly known by people from the famous 1976 film, “Sybil”, starring Sally Field.
My treatment consisted of medications for depression and anxiety from a psychiatrist and talk or cognitive therapy from Jane. It took three years for me to recover many of my memories from childhood, deal with my splintered personality of 9-13 alters (I will explain this in another blog.), and reintegrate those parts of me back into one person in charge of all of the aspects of my “authentic self” or inner soul. This process is also called reintegration. During this time of recovery, I learned about journaling, keeping a dream journal for memories, and meditation/relaxation techniques. I also learned to reparent the “child within” and learned who I really am today, my authentic self. Through all of this, I continued working and raising a family as well as going to school part-time obtaining my degree in Psychology.
While I was in therapy, medication stabilized my depression and anxiety and I used journaling and writing poetry for expressing memories and feelings, but also to show the healing that was taking place. I went from a victim of child abuse to a survivor. It was not an easy recovery and took a great deal of effort to keep going. I had good days and bad days and was hospitalized twice during this three years of treatment. One hospitalization was for feeling suicidal after Jane and I discovered the DID and different parts of my personality. The second time, I was in the hospital for control of increased doses of my antidepressant medications.
This time also included dealing with my dysfunctional alcoholic marriage, learning about alcoholism by attending Al-anon meetings regularly and dealing with stress from teen step-children that were living in our home and acting out, using drugs and drinking alcohol themselves. I also continued to care for my young daughter who was 4 at the time I started counseling. Things were quite chaotic in our home but began to get progressively better as I began to get better and stronger mentally. I eventually divorced my husband and my daughter and I relocated to Florida where we remained until last year when we moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
I am recovered for the last 20 years. I no longer on anti-anxiety medication and am on a maintenance dose of Paxil for my chronic depression. Would I do this all over again? That’s a good question. My illness was not within my control. Certainly, as a child, I did not ask to be sexually abused. No child is responsible for that. As a child, I only wanted love and safety. I got neither. Once I became aware of the abuse I had two choices. I could either continue to be mentally ill, out of control, and dysfunctional or I could choose the courage to survive and regain my mental health.
I chose to work toward my mental health and become a survivor. I don’t regret the choice. Now, I can even see the gifts given to me by God, my Higher Power, that helped me deal with the abuse as a child. Many of these gifts, I still use each and every day and love such as writing, poetry, and music. The discovery of who I am, my authentic self, and my inner soul enables me to touch many lives and make a difference in mental health awareness, education and support. This is even the purpose of my blog, Susan’s Blog: The Inner Soul.
Thank you for reading my story and letting me share myself with you. Feel free to comment below or ask questions or share your own story. Contact me privately by messaging me through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google + or privately through my About contact page if you are uncomfortable sharing on the website publicly.
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