Anytime I have finally found the courage to confide in a friend about the different mental illnesses I am experiencing I I’m always faced with the same similar response:
“What, are you collecting them?”
I have Complex PTSD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I still struggle with depression and anxiety today. My mental illnesses are very interconnected and I’m slowly tackling them, one at a time. I think many people have trouble understanding how all of these can occur at once. I often hear from people that I did this to myself or that I’m seeking attention. There’s so much stigma around mental illnesses and I hope by being open about mine, I can help erase some of that stigma. Society has a long way to go to accept mental illness in the way it does cancer or other high profile physical diseases.
Anxiety was first. I was 4 years old when my anxiety started. I was the victim of paedophile ring from the age of four to eighteen years as I’ve written about in my other articles, I grew up surrounded by abuse. My father and mother’s alcoholism and verbal and physical abuse made me so scared. I was constantly worried.Worried about when the men would be coming. When my mother would come, if she would be coming, if I would be fed, if I would be let out of the room. Worry, worry, worry. I was scared by loud noises and yelling. I never felt like a normal child. Well, in fact, that was my ‘normal’ but I instinctively knew it wasn’t normal. I was constantly searching for ways to feel better. The men’s grooming promised me ways of feeling better. They promised me a world that was better but it never came about. Their promises were never fulfilled. So deep anxiety set in and stayed with me all my life to this day. They gave me alcohol as a child to make me compliant and that’s where turning to alcohol as the elixir of life came from and it’s only now that I have been alcohol-free for three years. Yay !!!! It’s nothing short of a miracle after all that time of drinking from the age of four to fifty-two. It took one very skilled therapist, a psychiatrist and a very patient loving husband and family to get me to this point. Not drinking has helped with the anxiety too believe it or not.
When my anxiety was taking over, I grasped onto anything that would help me feel like I was in control of my life. It started with me just eating less to try and quickly finish my dinner so that I didn’t have to listen to the yelling that was going on at the table. Then I skipped meals altogether. I felt a sense of strength and control. Every time I skipped a meal, I felt like I was doing something for myself. I felt as if I was making a decision and had the power to deal with everything in my life. Then I started focusing on dropping kilos. It made me feel good for awhile until I started noticing my weight would fluctuate. Every time the numbers on the scale went up, the voices in my head telling me that I wasn’t good enough got louder.
This negative internal dialogue led me to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and loneliness. Symptoms of depression started to occur and, when I tried reaching out for help, I was told that I was too young to be having these kinds of problems or that it was just a phase. When I eventually did get to a counsellor, I didn’t know how to express my feelings, and so I internalised it all. I kept silent about my depression for years and this only made things worse.
I was kicked out of home at the age of eighteen being too old for men’s needs then. They only wanted children. I survived on the streets of Dublin for a few months until the Salvation Army took me and looked after me. I was fast heading into denial about my childhood but The Army were able to gain enough of the story to know that I should not go back home even though I wanted to. Bizarrely I was desperately homesick for my mother. (Stockholm Syndrome). I had not been to school enough to be able to read and write proficiently so they concentrated on bringing me to up speed on the basics of that which was wonderful because I had a fascination with words and was desperately keen to learn so a willing participant. They told me one day that I was going to go and live in a country called Australia with another girl I had become friends with called Maeve. I did not want to go. I wanted to go home but they said it wasn’t a safe place for me to be. I was even in even stronger denial by this stage. It has later transpired that it was a high profile paedophile ring operating at the top political and police levels. Clearly, The Salvation Army knew of this and decided that it was prudent to get me out of the country. They didn’t communicate any of this. I have since learned this from Court cases in Ireland.
I agreed to go, trusting these wonderful people who had looked after me for a year so well.
I was so overwhelmed when I got to Australia even though I was happy to be going to Night School that I would do anything to feel a bit better or forget about all the negative thoughts in my head. I started drinking heavily. I would go out on Fridays and drink until I got home. It wasn’t the type of drinking you do at a university party where you’re trying to have fun. I was drinking to forget. It was so dangerous.
All of these mental illnesses are interconnected. One thing led to another and every time I put off reaching out for help, things got worse. It kept building and building, snowballing into something I couldn’t control. Eventually, the drinking eased into a controllable level and I went onto University, met a wonderful man, got a great job and married. We had four wonderful children and lived a blissful life despite my anxieties and bouts of drinking for thirty years until the advent of the Royal Commission in 2012 in Institutional Child Abuse in Australia. Hearing the other victims testimony brought all my own trauma back in a flood and I had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital for months diagnosed with Complex PTSD and Dissociated Identity Disorder with comorbid anxiety, depression and alcoholism. Reaching out for help wasn’t easy, but when I did, my whole world changed. I was referred to a wonderful Psychotherapist and EMDR who I am working with. I am currently in the middle of changing psychiatrists so that is a bit of a hump in the road which is unfortunate having been with the same man for four years, but he moved out of the area. It’s causing angst but we’re working on it. I am much further down the healing track that I was five years ago and grateful for all the amazing input of my family and professionals involved. Medications took a while to sort out but now they are at a good therapeutic level and working well there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Many people ask why I have had so many mental illnesses. To them I say, take a minute to think about the situation someone is in. Trust me, I never wanted this to happen. It just did. No one wants to be in these situations but when you find yourself in them you have to seek the right kind of help and not be ashamed to accept it. You can’t do it on your own.