Many people start each New Year with resolutions of change for the purpose of living a better, more fulfilled life. My life started with a loud cry for love, hope and understanding. Upon the onset of anxiety and depression, I sought help to make sense out of all the chaos and confusion I was experiencing. The initial “help” added to my burdens and almost cost me my life. I’m sharing my story to help others with a mental illness diagnoses to actively participate in therapy and persistently seek to find the RIGHT therapist.
The first time I tried to end my life I was twelve. At that age, you are still a child, and as someone whose mother raised me as a piece of furniture rather than a loved child, it is not surprising that I had difficulty coping. You see, when you are raised as furniture, you don’t get the support and guidance you need in order to grow emotionally healthy. I got dusted and polished every once in a while, then left to stand on my own.
Earlier that year, I was taken into the woods by an adult male neighbor, who told me he was going to show me what it meant to be an adult. Wow, an adult, the secret I have been waiting for! I let him take my hand, not knowing what the secret was. He put things inside me, tiny little things, to enhance his pleasure, only it was so painful for me. I guess to prevent me from running, he hit me on the head with a brick and everything went dark. I passed out. When I woke from my darkness, I screamed. Pain rushed through my body like a bullet. I felt more pain than I had ever felt in my life, before or since. My body stiffened up like cartoon character.
The next thing I knew, he was slapping me across my face, as if he thought I was dying and he needed to revive me. He told me to act as if nothing happened and sent me home. Besides the excruciating pain, I knew something was different, I could not say what, but something was missing from me that was there before. It was just gone. Why would someone choose to hurt a child I will never understand. I did nothing wrong, I was just being twelve. Remember, I was raised like furniture, so I continued without love, hope and understanding. I was never the same again.
A few months later, I had my first seizure while in school. It was horribly scary for everyone, especially me. The doctors decided I had epilepsy and gave me pills to take that I still take to this day. Even with the medication, I had subsequent seizures that often caused me injuries and made me afraid to go to school. My grades dropped, I started skipping school in my freshman year in high school and began smoking pot.
Not long after, I started trying to run away. I did not know where or why, I just needed to run away and hide from this life of hopelessness. I never made it far. Something would come over me and I had to run; usually only to the bottom of the hill and my parents would already be there, as the car was much faster than I ran. Many times I ended up in the berry bushes hiding. They found me every time. I did not know then, but I was later diagnosed with anxiety disorder. To this day, I still find myself wanting to run, only there is no place to run, so I cry instead.
My son was born a month after I turned seventeen and I married his father, who became emotionally and physically abusive, which led to me divorcing him. For a while, my son was the love, hope, and understanding I was seeking. I thought he was my answer. He is now a homeless, drug-addicted paranoid schizophrenic, who lives in constant fear. He refuses treatment and I don’t know how to help him. It breaks my heart, but I know I have lost him forever.
My daughter was born soon after I was nineteen and her abusive father literally destroyed our family. Child Protective Services took my children and I ended up in a shelter. My daughter has some issues, but luckily, she turned out to be a good mom and is doing her best to maintain with the hand she was dealt. I am proud to be able to spend time with her and my beautiful granddaughter.
When I got married for the second time, I knew I needed major help so I began on my therapy journey. I learned that the therapist was telling all of her patients, and me, that we had Multiple Personality Disorder. I believed her in the beginning. 1. One size never fits all when it comes to managing mental illness. Over time, I got much worse and it was not until I quit seeing her that my anxiety-filled episodes decreased. 2. An effective therapist ensures that his/her patients fully understand the meaning of their diagnoses and how to manage.
My second therapist sent me to a faith healer before she skipped town. 3. If your therapist deviates from his/her oath, run and don’t look back. The next one wanted to show me how to masturbate on our next visit, so I never went back. And so it went on for years–one therapist after another. 4. Inappropriate and/or uncomfortable practices are red flags that you may be in harm’s way. After all the bad advice, I finally found the right therapist, Dr. Carol.
By then, I was living in a travel trailer with my husband on a hill in central Oregon. I was living his dream of solitude, and she taught me the strategies I so desperately needed to cope. 5. If your therapist is not providing you with the tools to manage your mental illness, keep looking. She is the reason I am able to manage my mental health today. She was not afraid to tell me truths like, my thinking was not clear or my actions were wrong and why. 6. Effective therapists challenge their patient’s behavior and motives in order to help them change their destructive choices themselves.
When you find the right therapist, know that he/she is a person like you and me. Sometimes the best intention-ed therapists make mistakes, not because they want to hurt you like in my earlier experiences, but because they’re human. Some sessions may end with you feeling worse than when you arrived. And others provide you with the clarity and strength you need to carry on with confidence. Your situation and needs are unique. Never stop fighting for YOUR mental wellness! But if you find yourself crying for love, hope and understanding, keep telling yourself you’ve got this, and believe it!
What are some other signs of an ineffective therapist? Please share your experience in the comment section below.
Susan spent most of her childhood trying to runway from her mother’s basement. At the age of twelve, she was raped, battered and emotionally scarred. She suffered through one abusive marriage resulting in a son and another destructive relationship which produce a daughter. Susan married for the second time they lived in a motor home until becoming homeless. After about two years of homelessness, he left her standing beside the road. Eventually, her elderly mom took her in and she is now living in the very basement she tried to escape.
Susan met therapist. Dr. Carol, after several bad experiences with previous therapists. According to Susan, Dr. Carol helped her to gain balance so she could focus on lifelong goals. Susan wanted to be a writer since childhood and is currently working on several books. She helps feed about 1500 families each month.at the Community Action Center in Sandy Oregon. She also helps sort through the Center’s donated items for sale to raise money to help anyone in need. Because of volunteers like Susan, the center is able to help mentally ill and homeless people like her son to get food, clothing and shelter.