Here’s the pledge:
“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
I’m sure it’s no secret to anyone who reads my blog that I struggle with mental health issues. I have for as long as I can remember. I was introduced to the mental health system when I was 5–I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on tricyclic antidepressants. (God only knows why, but that’s another post.) All was quiet for years, at least on the surface, but in retrospect I realize I was suffering from severe depression as young as 7 or 8.
When I was 10, I attempted suicide for the first time; shortly after that, I started self-injuring. I didn’t understand what was happening to me then, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have had the words to describe it to anyone. I just knew it was shameful, and I hid it from everyone. I didn’t get caught until high school. I was hospitalized 4 times during my junior and senior years. That turned into a long string of hospitalizations, the details of which have all blended together. I’ve been hospitalized 20+ times (I stopped counting), including one involuntary commitment. I’ve been on tons of psych meds and seen more doctors and therapists than I can count. I had 29 ECT’s, which destroyed much of my memory and caused lasting mental impairment.
Sometime during all of this, I began to have intrusive memories of my father sexually and physically abusing me. I thought I was crazy–my dad loved me!–so I shoved the memories down deep inside. I told myself I was just making it up because I couldn’t bear to believe it was true. Then my sister disclosed that he had abused both of us, confirming my memories. I couldn’t pretend I made it up anymore, and I was flooded with memories, flashbacks, body memories, panic attacks. I lost time, which I didn’t understand then. A chronic, minor eating disorder I’d struggled with since I was 12 or 13 got drastically worse, threatening my life. The self-harm got worse. Outpatient therapy wasn’t helping enough; I couldn’t keep things under control.
I ended up spending two years in a long-term residential program designed for people with treatment-resistant mental illness. I was assigned to an amazing therapist who helped me learn that it was safe to feel things, which was what all my self-destructive behavior was designed to stop me from having to do. I realized my mother was emotionally abusive and began to deal with that as well. It wasn’t easy–I nearly killed myself twice–but that program saved my life.
Since then, I’ve been in various outpatient programs. Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, and last year I spent several months in an inpatient trauma unit to deal with issues around that. I’m a lot better than I used to be. I’m now heavily involved with political work, and before a physical illness hit me hard, I was taking an Indonesian kung fu class. At the beginning of this year, my family cut off all my support, and I lose my treatment team. I still have my therapist, as she wasn’t part of the program I’d been in, but now I’m having to learn how to make it with drastically less support than I’ve had in years. It scares me…but we’ll see where it goes from here.