I was what you call a bad kid. I lied, stole, and cheated. But I want you to understand, these were learned behaviors, and the only way I received attention. I remember getting in trouble for the first time when I was in second grade. Up until that point I was an honor roll student with perfect attendance. But things were happening around me. My family was falling apart and I never felt like I had a place in it. So I would rebel, hoping someone would notice me. I needed someone to talk to and explain what was happening to my life, but I was ignored and pushed aside. I couldn’t articulate my feelings and it felt like no one was listening anyways. I was left confused and felt completely alone at a very young age as my home life deteriorated.
I first realized I needed help at the age of 14. I suffered a lot of rejection at school and at home, and would experience my first ‘heart break’. The boy I was seeing at the time broke up with me because I wouldn’t go all the way with him. I was madly in love of course, as all teenage girls are, but situation was different. This wasn’t just the inherent drama of adolescence. It was yet another crushing blow to my fragile ego that I just didn’t have the tools to mange. I literally felt like I wanted to die. I wasn’t smart enough to know I could do anything about it and wasn’t suicidal yet, but I had this deep, raging urge to no longer exist. I experienced my first panic attack and locked myself in the bathroom at school. All of my past traumas came to the surface and I exploded. I hurt so bad and no longer saw the point in going on.
The school would demand that I attend inpatient treatment before I could return to class. My mother begrudgingly transported me to our local children’s mental health facility. We didn’t have a bunch of money growing up and she expressed her concerns about the cost to me. I understand, we were poor and her insurance wasn’t very good, but it just put more stress on my mind. The lack of compassion also bothered me, and I began to feel like I had done something wrong by expressing my feelings.
Inpatient treatment was scary. I was placed with other people under the age of 18 experiencing a wide spectrum of mental issues. I didn’t know what a paranoid schizophrenic was but I befriended one. I didn’t understand him or his problems and he worried me, I felt sorry for him and wanted to help. My room mate was 17 and a bulimic. She would teach me how to binge and purge, calling me fat and validating my insecurities. I met kids who cut themselves, saying they did it so they could feel the pain. It made sense to me. I was present when a young child was over sedated and watched as medical staff tried to save his life. Everyone was always screaming and rambling on. I never felt safe, even during my therapy sessions. I was told I was bipolar and given medication. My mother continued to made me feel like I had done something wrong and argued with the Dr when they spoke of my issues and treatment options. I was released 72 hours later. On the drive home, my mother said she “hoped I enjoyed my expensive vacation” and was silent the rest of the way. She never filled my prescriptions, and my emotional and mental state worsened.
I began self mutilation after that. Something about what those kids said made sense to me, but I mostly thought it would get my families attention. I thought if I made my pain visible in some way, they would finally understand. But it never seemed to work. I would cut and burn myself and show off my injuries to no avail. Hurting myself held a level of cathartic release, so I continued to do so and began to hide it.
My home situation continued to be chaotic and and was often neglected. I would drink and experiment with drugs, still hoping to receive attention from my family. I eventually got it, and even though it was negative, it was still attention that I craved. But there was no concern, no compassion or empathy. I was simply put on restriction, but after doing what I wanted to for so long I ignored the punishment and stopped coming home. I hoped my absence would be felt, but it wasn’t. I would go back to my mothers home to do laundry and steal food when she wasn’t there, but she didn’t seem to notice I wasn’t present in the evenings. Either that, or she didn’t care. I’ll never know.
At some point I would begin sleeping at my mothers home again. Something would happen, something too disturbing and traumatic to go in to detail here. But I once again went to my mother begging for help. She not only failed to show support, she was downright hateful towards me and I decided to completely run away one night after an incident with child protective services, slipping out my bedroom window to never return to that house. My mother was more concerned of what everyone thought and acted as though she had a right to me. She never said she missed me. She never told me it was safe to come home. So I never did, and my childhood was completely lost.
I continued hanging out with the wrong people and found that I was, for once, somewhat popular. But only when I was inebriated. So I stayed in that state frequently, trying different drugs and drinking like a fish. I enjoyed the attention I was receiving for once and made poor choices to impress others. I eventually landed in jail at the age of 17. Once my charges were dropped, I enlisted in the US Army. I was asked to disclose all of my medical and mental health issues, but was also told anything negative I reported may result in dismissal, so I concealed my problems. They would rear their ugly heads during my time in training, and I was directed by doctors to ignore them, because if I began treatment of any kind I would be discharged. My military career was in jeopardy as the training exacerbated my PTSD and made my anxiety worse. I was medically discharged due to physical injuries and began seeking medical and mental health care from the Veterans Administration. They didn’t take my mental issues serious as I wasn’t a combat vet. I attempted cognitive behavioral therapy but my problems were too severe and I was unresponsive. It actually left me feeling worse as the journaling forced me to relive situations over and over again, causing my anxiety to go through the roof. I saw a few counselors and was able to vent but there was no goal, there was no path forward. I had no idea what was going on with me and it felt like the VA didn’t care. I eventually gave up on getting help from them.
I suffered several years with intense anxiety, depression, and rage. I would reach out to people, significant others, friends, family members, and they all seemed to reject me. My family still treated me as though I was being a dramatic teen. My ex fiancee told me if I received treatment he would leave me, because he didn’t want that kind of drama in his life and felt it reflected poorly on him. This was actually a common response to my requests for assistance. I lost friends. I had toxic relationships. Yet all the way I was open and honest with my feelings. I felt suicidal often and would make plans to kill myself. I attempted a couple times and, of course, failed. But still, no one was in my corner. I maintained very few stable relationships and would test their strength frequently. The hand full of people who stayed in my life were amazing (and continue to be!!!), but by that time I was so use to rejection and abandonment I was too scared to open up to them and suffered alone. I would seclude myself often and experienced agoraphobia frequently. Asking for help became pointless. I was hopeless.
After a very unpleasant interaction with my mother I finally gave up on having a healthy relationship with her. I was at a point in my life where I could admit my faults, but she was not. She still denied things, played the victim, and made sure everything was about her. I just couldn’t anymore. I grew tired of being the only adult in the situation. I was sick of reaching out my hand and being slapped. It was a dysfunctional situation that affected my mental well being and I needed to escape. I evaluated my feelings and realized I hadn’t felt love for her in longer than I could remember. Then I realized I felt the same way about the rest of my family. Years of rejection had left me cold. I wasn’t bitter. I didn’t wish them harm. I just felt nothing towards them. So I walked away.
I moved to Kentucky after meeting my now husband online. When I moved, I didn’t give any of my relatives my forwarding information. This situation would both comfort and haunt me. My undiscovered PTSD got worse. I was again suicidal and spent many days in a manic state. I was dealing with digestive issues that were getting worse and ended up in the hospital on more occasions than I can count. There was damage to my bowel and I was diagnosed with IBS, but my symptoms didn’t quite match the diagnosis. I was vomiting, a lot, and would dehydrate and spend days in a psychotic state. The doctors were baffled. During a stay in the hospital one would finally suggest that my stress was the catalyst for these episodes, saying it often physically manifests itself in to stomach problems. They asked me to speak with a psychologist before being discharged. The psychologist arrived the next day with a handful of students and asked me if it was ok for them to join us. I agreed. He asked me why I was there and I broke down in the hospital bed and started crying. All I could say was “my mommy didn’t love me!”. He asked why and I tried to give him examples of past traumas but I just couldn’t get anything out. He referred me to a psychologist for outpatient treatment and I went home.
I saw the therapist later that week. I hadn’t slept in about 4 days but was amped up and bouncing off the walls. She was nice enough, but it seemed like she was just like the others, only there to hear me vent – not help be get better. She asked me some questions and referred me to a psychiatrist for medication. The psychiatrist was also pleasant, but bothered me. She would rudely interrupt me frequently. I understand this specific doctor wasn’t there to listen to my problems, but she seemed completely inattentive. She sat in her chair across from me on her laptop, typing away, never looking up to make eye contact with me. She gave me medication for bipolar disorder and some anti depressants.
I saw the therapist a handful of times. Each session was just to vent about my current feelings, we never went backwards or spoke of the way forward. I was use to telling my story, I felt like I would get the same help talking to a wall and stopped scheduling appointments with her. I relied solely on medication for a while, some of my symptoms were relieved while others got worse. We changed up my medication several times and I was ‘stable’ but still barely functional. My psychiatrist would eventually dump me because I missed two sessions in two years. This felt excessive, I paid the late fees and it was only twice. She would leave me medication-less until I found a new Dr.
I was given a list by my insurance company of doctors in my area that were available. I called 42 of the 44 numbers provided before I reached my current practice. The others either didn’t answer or weren’t accepting new patience, and some of them said they didn’t even accept my insurance. This practice requires that you see one of their psychologists every 4 months in order to see one of their psychiatrists, a very controversial policy but one I have to follow in order to get the medication I need. I first saw the psychologist, who I immediately knew I wouldn’t be able to work with. First, her office is cluttered with toys and she specializes in therapy with small children. Second, she has ADHD and would talk about it at length. She spoke more than I did, cutting me off before I could fully answer her questions while jumping from topic to topic. Lastly, and most disgustingly, she picked at her feet during our sessions. I had to sit there while she removed dead skin from her ankles with her fingernails. It was not only gross, but very distracting. I tried my hardest to manage these conflicts and realized I only had to deal with her a few times a year but after 2 sessions I asked for another therapist.
The psychiatrist I was assigned was also difficult to deal with. She had a thick accent and there was definitely a cultural barrier. She changed up my medication and then left the practice after 2 tiring sessions. Once again I was abandoned, left without medication to manage my issues. My new psychiatrist is a nightmare. Shes in her late 80s and unfit to practice. She is combative, argumentative, and worse, very forgetful. She argues with me about what medications I have and have not tried. She absentmindedly changes my appointments, insisting she has or has not seen me that month. She loses important documents all the time, while they are often attached to the chart in hands. She asks the same questions over and over again even though I watch her write my answers down. She changes my medication without explanation. She once threatened to dump me when I stood up to her shitty behavior. I went through 42 other offices before I found her and I felt stuck dealing with her poor service.
I told my psychiatrist one day that I felt like I wasn’t being treated for the right thing and wanted to be officially diagnosed. She displayed the biggest attitude to date, literally threw the neuropsychologists contact info at me, and dismissed me from her office. She didn’t refill my medication, so I was stuck, again, to deal with my issues on my own. I was given several tests over the course of 3 days and was told I had ADHD, PTSD, and severe social and general anxiety. This meant I was in fact not being treated for the right disorder, and explained why I still felt the way I did. It also explained in part why I had such a hard time in school. I also completed a Genesight test at this time, which provides a list of the medications that should work on you and which will give you adverse reactions. I found out I was allergic to something I had been taking since I was first prescribed medication 2 years prior. This explained why new symptoms had developed. My problem with this situation is, these tests were never offered to me when I began treatment. Logically it seems like you should find out what meds work so you don’t spend years testing different ones, but this is not practiced. One would also think you should be diagnosed before beginning treatment of any kind, but again, this did not happen. I didn’t even know it was an option until a friend suggested it. I thought my psychiatrist knew exactly what she was doing, but she was shooting blindly in to the dark. They all were up until that point. This disturbed me.
I saw a new therapist. He was a man and I was uncomfortable with this. I was honest with him about my feelings, expressing that men had been known for ignoring and invalidating the issues of women, especially when they involve sexual abuse. I found out that he opened the first clinic for batterers in my state and dealt with victims throughout his 3 decade long career. I felt comforted by this, as I’ve had issues in my marriage that don’t classify as domestic abuse, but its still strained, full of anger and hurt from various sources. But I still left each session feeling unfulfilled. He was kind and wise, but I never felt like we had a plan to move forward or get to the root of my issues. I realized he was using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques on me and figured out he would not be able to help me. I’m fully aware of what I do and why I do it, I need to work deeper and I need some level of resolution. I don’t feel like he will be able to give me that, however, I’ve decided to see him for marriage counseling. Strained relationships are his specialty. He spends most of his time changing mens outlook on women, intervening, and bringing couples back together. I’ve had two sessions with my husband and they were both very successful. I felt like at least one part of my life was being addressed, but I put myself on the back burner when I turned ‘my sessions’ in to ‘our sessions’.
I spent a week in an inpatient facility this July. It was a horrible experience, you can read about it in detail here. It was scary and not conducive to recovery. I left feeling like I didn’t gain any of the tools I needed and left just as stressed as I arrived. I developed a new treatment plan and called my current practice, asking to see a new therapist. I figure the current one should focus on my relationship with my husband without bias. He is also very busy, so scheduling him a couple times a week is impossible and I really need something intensive.
During this time, I opened up about my issues on Instagram. I don’t know why, I just really wanted to tell someone what was going on. The response I received was overwhelming. Friends, family, strangers, everyone was so supportive. I received messages and phone calls non stop expressing love and some people thanked me for my openness. Some people knew I had issues, but no one knew how bad until then. I finally began to not feel alone. I finally had a support system.
I had my first appointment with the new psychologist last week. You can read about it in detail here. But to sum it up, I finally feel like I’m moving forward. She was attentive and responsive and made me feel comfortable. She managed to take notes and make eye contact at the same time. We set goals and went over important instances in my life that led me to where I am now. And then she did something no other therapist had done, when our hour was up she apologized that we were out of time and made it a point to write down the last thing I said. She said she wanted to hear what I had to say and that we would pick up there next time. Finally, someone made me feel like we were going somewhere. Finally, someone was paying attention. Finally, I was getting the help I needed. Finally.
I’m not saying no one showed concern in my almost 33 years of life. I am saying that getting mental health care is difficult. Sometimes money stands in the way. Sometimes its your friends and family. Sometimes its yourself. It doesn’t help that the medical system is broken in this country and not geared towards healing, that goes for mental health as well. The mentally ill are often ignored or taken advantage of. You have to fight for your right to recovery, and you need people by your side to fight for you when you can not. Without this, recovery is nearly impossible. If you suffer from PTSD, anxiety, or other serious illnesses, I hope you get the help you deserve and find peace in recovery. Its hard work but its worth it, you are worth it!