This past year I've discovered that mental illnesses come in threes. Actually, in my case, they have come in more than threes, and unfortunately with each new disorder that I am diagnosed with, I am forced to reevaluate and relive the painful events of a past which have invited demons into my life who have been telling me since almost infancy that I am not worthy of freedom.
To date, in the past year, at the age of 45, I have finally been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Major Anxiety Disorder, EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), Trichotillomania, which the DSM-V categorizes as an OCD, and falls under the umbrella term Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours (BFRBs), and hopefully lastly, ADD.
At the ages of three and five years old, I was sexually assaulted. Two unrelated situations and men. Somehow, fortunately or perhaps unfortunately, although I have known my entire life that I had been abused by my grandmother's tenant, my mind had blocked away the violent details of the attacks.
I managed my life well; raised four children; married and remarried; graduated as a registered nurse. But throughout it all, I always felt like my feet were in constant motion; like I was unable to move as quickly as I wanted to. My avoidance however became impossible to maintain as my body began begging for sleep. Hours and hours of time alone, in a dark room with covers pulled over my head so I could pretend not to hear the laughter and life outside my bedroom door, which only fueled my realization that something was wrong with me. Cocooned under blankets, flashbacks of my childhood trauma began causing me to lose my breath; to spend hours sobbing louder than any of my children ever had; to wonder if the river was yet frozen enough to stop my plummeting fall from the bridge.
It was this last thought though that scared me enough to speak to a doctor, who then proceeded to put into place a team of health care professionals finally willing to acknowledge that despite my ability to function well at work, which essentially was and still is my refuge from the torment -- it was also determined that my flashbacks and my inability to keep my eyes open when I was not at work, were resulting from the post-traumatic stress from a childhood experience stored away so deeply into the recesses of my brain that the memories banging down my resistance were better dealt with with tears and the sleep that the depression brought forth, than keeping rats locked away in my subconscious chewing at my sanity.
During all of this: the depression, the graphic images assaulting me, the use of laxatives that I was abusing which had as their unhealthy purpose to make me feel like I had some sort of control in all of this, despite the risks involved -- I began picking at my bangs, an OCD-related disorder. Left with a tuft of hair where the right side of my bangs used to be; my hair thinning from the clumps I was pulling out; I started noticing that my unhappiness was often associated with my stillness. The less I did, and do, the more the sadness cripples me. Conversely, however, at the age of 45, I have been diagnosed with ADD, which has me focusing on the stupidest of things; a focus which further helps me to forget and bury the grief of a childhood spent in pain.
I don't write this for sympathy. I write and will continue to write to reach out to those who may not even realize that one isolated event in life can forever change the course of it. That one moment locked in the room of a man who forces you to remain beneath him can and probably will cause a lifetime of mental health issues.
Again I dare anyone to tell me that I can shake all of these issues away with positive thinking. Again I dare anyone to tell me that I chose to feel this way rather than experience the happiness and the innocence of youth. Again I dare anyone to tell me that I am the master of my destiny. I understand now that I'm starting to piece together this puzzle. But don't tell me that it's all in my head.
To all of those who don't yet have their voices, let me be yours. Let us heal together.
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