WRITTEN BY ELYSE DAVIS – 11/19/2018
There are three significant experiences of mental trauma I've endured in my life so far. The first being my childhood diagnosis, the second a nervous breakdown stemmed from trauma and physical abuse and the third observing and living with mental illness in my family. I think these are most important to share because they highlight how I have dealt with mental illness in different ways.
My earliest memories in life were of me observing, feeling, hearing and tasting everything. My parents and siblings often didn't understand me and how I would communicate and vice versa. I was told I had big interested eyes and I would crawl away on my own and dive into things I probably shouldn't have and then I would touch and taste and examine them. There were multiple times my parents found me digging through the medicine cabinet, the trash can (where I nearly cut my finger off) and eating unknown mushrooms from the grass at the park. My interested big eyes have stayed with me to this day. I am very visual and keen on my senses. I need to experience something in all capacities in order to truly learn what it's all about.
When I reached grade 2, I was given a few "special observatory tests". These tests determined I have Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), and in turn would complicate my learning in classes specifically catered to math. APD means you are weak in basic skills of decoding language and sound that most kids should be able to determine easily. It is incurable. There are four parts to this, 1: decoding language, 2: focusing on one source of sound when many others are back noise, 3: remembering or memorizing sounds, like lyrics or speeches, and 4: the sequence or order of numbers in the way they are said aloud (84 vs. 48). I was then put in an IEP segment for math until I graduated high school. I was flooded with anxiety and stress throughout this time specifically pertaining to math related things because I was separated from the rest of my school without truly understanding why. I didn't understand how this "thing" made me different from everyone else and I never looked at it like a disorder. Looking back, I can see where all my trauma lies: misunderstandings, memory, hearing the opposite from what someone says, getting punished for things that weren't my fault, hearing triggering words, people not understanding me or me not understanding others.
That same year in grade 2, I was clinically diagnosed with migraine headaches, I was then closely observed by doctors, put under numerous testings, MRI's + cat scans and I was medicated for them until senior year of high school. These migraines stemmed from my deep depression and anxiety from my "disorder" and yet the doctors weren't able to connect the dots.
I find it really hard to spill the rest out all of a sudden. There are parts of me that I've chose to put away because to talk about them means to relive the memory. But, opening up means letting you in on how the mind effects us in various ways. We're not alone and we each have our own story to share in order to help others combat their own struggles. We are all seasoned in our own way and learn to cope and grow within ourselves and get better over time. I notice that in writing my past experiences and traumas here that I still struggle with minor APD today, in work and possibly with relationships too.
Fast forward to after high school, my first nervous breakdown happened when I was 21. I fell for a bi-polar, suicidal, and destructive person. I tried to help him work past his trauma and illnesses but the efforts left me emotionally damaged, physically abused and confused about relationships and men for years. He would abuse me and psychologically break me down. When he would abuse me I would try to leave and he would threaten his own life in various traumatic ways to make me stay. One time he cut his arm near a major vein while I was driving. The hardest part was when he would break down and ask for me to stay and help him. The end of the relationship is what caused my emotional breakdown. I didn't have an easy way out and I was convinced that he needed me to get better. I had held on for so long that when it was truly over, I was the one that didn't want it to end. I had to re-learn who I was all while not understanding why all of this happened to me. I couldn't sleep, I stopped eating, I stayed out avoiding being alone. I lost 25 pounds stemmed from depression. My journey in healing was learning that none of these experiences are your fault and we need to seek the proper help and care the moment you start to see any signs of a decline in mental health.
My last part to my story has been one of my biggest struggles and learning experiences in my life. A significant person in my life has suffered with heroin addiction since age 19, I was 15 when I found out and he is 31 today. He is now clinically diagnosed with schizophrenia, psychosis, extreme depression, isolation, malnutrition, and is unable to take care of himself on his own. He lost himself to drugs in the worst way. I was recently told that the doctors say this person will never be okay again. That is something I can never accept. I feel there is a give and take, a re-cycling, and where there is imbalance there is room to heal and find shelter from the storm. I can list the experiences I endured through his recovery: overdoses, ambulance rides to the ER, finding syringes in the bathroom, hearing my brother scream on the top of his lungs while hearing voices and wanting to die, watching the people affected in total shock looking more scared than I have ever seen them in my life. This person has to re-learn or learn all together the things he needs in life to survive on his own. I am saddened at this struggle because he never asked for all of these things to take over him. He struggled with his identity growing up. Struggled for acceptance and to be seen and heard. Never feeling safe to come-out and be himself and through finding himself got hooked in with the wrong people.
I can only wish that the world moves closer toward having safe places like this to reveal and come clean of all the hardships and scary things we long to discuss but never do. My hope is that the word spreads like wildfire to come and submit your story, so that someone who needs help can reach out too.
Transparency is a shared journal that is curated by Tiana Petrullo in collaboration with a beautiful community of contributors who have offered to share their personal experiences with mental health. To encourage a contribution of the most raw and real experience, minimal guidance was given. All stories have been willingly shared and are written to reflect what is personally most prevalent to the writer. Together, we offer an expansion of knowledge, awareness, and acknowledgement.