Before I begin dissecting mental illness, our world’s lack of resources for mental health care and the terrible stigma associated with it, I thought I’d give you some background on what I’ve dealt with throughout my life. Additionally, I’d love for you to take a moment to take this survey I created about present-day mental health. It will provide me with a lot of valuable information to use in my research and give me an idea of what you would like to know more about.
*This will be a fairly LONG post. Feel free to read if you’d like. I just wanted to give you some background on my experiences.
**I spoke with my biological mom prior to posting this and have her full permission to share what I’m sharing.
My childhood was hard – not as hard as others’ that I know of or will know of – but for me, it was hard. I was raised in a single parent household, while my father was mostly absent. I could count a handful of times I saw him throughout my entire childhood. My mother had, unbeknownst to me, experienced an extremely significant amount of neglect, trauma and abuse as a child. The experiences she’s taken the time to share with me were nothing short of horrific. These experiences were what shaped her life and mental health into what I witnessed as a child, and, as expected, there was a lot of toxic spillover.
Throughout my childhood, my mother focused on not bringing negative influences into my life (like drugs, alcohol, or strange men); however, she was dealing with a significant amount of depression, anxiety and PTSD that had gone completely untreated. There were countless days where her depression was in control and I felt helpless to do anything but watch. It wasn’t until I became an adult that she found access to adequate care and began dealing with the things that had happened to her.
It became intrinsic for me to be increasingly responsible and act as an adult would when my mom would go through these episodes (which was often). As a result, I ended up growing up long before I should have. Most of the time, I felt as if I was caring for both myself and her, and it quickly caused me to lose respect for her. I was tired all the time and could only express/release my anxiety by cleaning obsessively. Because of the things I went through with her as a child, I developed depression and intense anxiety that went untreated because my mom was dealing with so much she couldn’t see/handle it and I was not able to recognize it. I also developed a case of OCD, which I used frantically in stressful situations to gain some mild sense of control.
Her and I would constantly argue and it personally felt as if there were more bad times than good. During my childhood, verbal abuse and neglect was common, whether intentional or not. Every so often, borderline physical abuse was an issue. There were constant power struggles. Constant fights. I will go into a little more detail on these issues later.
I had both positive and religious influences in my life by way of my dad’s parents. They were/are devout Pentecostal Christians. For anyone who’s unsure of what a Pentecostal Christian is, go ahead and take a quick look at this Wiki page on legalism. While their influence was overall positive, I was raised in an environment that I was never good enough and I was always on the path straight to hell. I became extremely fearful of the rapture and even went into full-fledged panic attacks if I couldn’t get ahold of someone I considered “saved” for a period of time.
They also had serious marital issues that have only recently come out and bared their ugly heads. My grandparents were very critical of the way I dressed, who I hung out with, what I read, what music I listened to… At one point, when I was a pre-teen, my grandma accusitorily told me I dressed to make my grandpa lust after me. It was then I realized I needed to get some distance from them, and have.
In 7th grade, I bonded with my now best friend/sister of 16+ years and we spent weekends together from middle school through the end of high school. She was there for me during some of my most traumatic experiences in my childhood and I hers. I’m happy to say even through the ups and downs I’ve experienced, she has been a constant in my life.
At the age of 16, my mom and I got into a would-be life changing fight, during which I was issued an ultimatum: I could either live with her or I could choose to go into foster care.
I was in such shock hearing the words that had come out of her mouth as she stormed out the door to give me time to decide. Being the teenager I was, and with the experiences I’d had, I angrily decided I was sick of it all and done putting up with it. I started packing my things. When she came back, I got in the car and she started driving. We ended up at my ex-boyfriend’s parents’ house.
A little backstory on my ex:
We started dating when I was 14 and had broken up fairly recently and amicably because he was 2 years older and moving away to go to college. Because of the issues with my mom, during our relationship, I spent the majority of time with him and his family at their house, church, and family functions. I was taken in as one of their own and consider them to be my adopted family, although it was never finalized.
Oddly enough, when we broke up, I was surprised how welcoming his family still was to me. I still spent ample time with them and our bond strengthened. I’m still a part of their family to this day, and there have definitely been hard days with my ex, but I applaud his patience and open-mindedness in all of this. He’s now happily married to an amazing woman and they have 2 beautiful children together. We’re still learning how to address this odd relationship dynamic, but we’re just taking things a day at a time.
Anyways, my mom dropped me off at my ex-boyfriend’s family’s house, where I would live while he was away at college until the age of about 17. It was a definite adjustment as I came to live in a house with 2 parents and a brother who drove me insane (love you, Joey) and a much more balanced home environment.
Eventually, I needed to move out, and proceeded to live with my high school drama teacher and then a family from our church. In all situations, I rebelled in some way or another, became distant, avoided people, stopped going to church. I felt so truly alone and unstable. Finally, when I started college, I moved in with a few roommates from my choir class – 3 guys (2 gay, 1 straight). We partied, as most college kids do, and I got a “genuine college experience”. And then I got pregnant by one of my roommates and dropped out of college.
Now, because of the dynamic between my mother and me, as well as my unhealthy relationship with any immediate family members, I developed an intense adverse issue with forming healthy relationships with others. I still struggle with it to this day.
My son is now 6 years old and incredibly intelligent. He’s also extremely stubborn, but the light of my life. I can’t imagine life without him. His father and I had an on-again, off-again relationship for about 8 years, the last 2 of which we were married. We very recently separated, and are in the process of going through a divorce. When I got married, I was not sure of who I was or what I wanted out of a committed relationship. It’s very hard and upsetting to admit that out loud. That being said, I’m a very big advocate to being grounded in who you are before you commit your life to another person. Marriage is never something to take lightly.
In late summer of 2017, I decided, as an escape mechanism and a “last hope” to save my marriage, that it would be a good idea to move out of state to develop a relationship with my estranged biological father. I found a job with an east coast-based health insurance company and we left. I already knew I dealt with mild depression and anxiety and thought I coped pretty well without professional help or medications. Once I got to Ohio, though, I began therapy for anxiety after the shooting in Las Vegas happened.
I learned through therapy I had repressed to the point of completely forgetting about my involvement in a shooting at the mall I worked at in early 2012 and I was experiencing latent side effects of PTSD, as I had never dealt with the situation (more on that later).
Additionally, I realized soon after I got to Ohio I had a completely fairy-tale like idea of what my relationship with my biological father would be like and was quickly disappointed. In my short career at the insurance company, I began befriending a co-worker who was in just as unstable of a place as I was, and was the sole witness to her attempted suicide. That threw me into a spiral of extreme depression and anxiety. I ended up going on leave at work and started weekly therapy and an anti-depressant. During this time, I was also having escalated troubles in my marriage.
My son, my husband and I moved back to California at the beginning of April 2018. It was a move that needed to happen for many reasons, and my eyes were opened throughout the 8 months I lived there.
I’m currently a caregiver for my adopted grandma who has dementia and have my son every other week. His dad and I are on amicable terms, which is nothing less than a blessing as we all adjust to our new lives. Over the past 72 hours, my grandma’s dementia has gotten significantly worse, and her prognosis is looking grim. It’s a very hard time for my adopted family.
I’m telling you this story to say this: I have a personal understanding of what it’s like living with a mental illness, both detected and undetected. I understand how extremely important it is to address any mental health issues you may be struggling with in whatever way you can so you can live your best life. What it’s like to not have adequate support or resources. What it’s like to feel like you’re drowning in your struggles. And I am here for you.
If you ever feel totally lost, alone, or just in need of general support, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll help you find support in your area. I want to make sure you understand how vital your existence is and that you’re never alone in your struggles.
Look for my upcoming posts based on the survey responses of people from all around the world on the various topics of mental illness in our personal lives and the healthcare industry! As a reminder, the link to the survey is at the top of this post.
Much love to all on this Friday afternoon!