I am a survivor of trauma, who was once upon a time, a victim. The most damaging aspect of having been victimized, is accepting the role of being a victim. Once I accepted that I was a victim, and I wasn't able to just shake it off, or snap out of it; I sought help. I was told that my problems were due to a genetic mental illness; I was told I would need to take psychiatric drugs for the rest of my life. I fought this because it didn't make any sense. How could the damage done to my mind, my spirit and my emotions be due to a brain disorder or chemical imbalance when I had PTSD as a result of being traumatized?
This was a belief that I fought, because it didn't make sense---I knew in my heart that my problems were caused by being molested over a long period of time; I couldn't understand how could the fact I had been victimized mean that I was genetically defective? Eventually, I accepted that I was defective, and took the drugs. I no longer believe that I am defective. I know for a fact that I do not have to take psychiatric drugs in order to function; in order to 'get better' or to cope with real life. The belief that I had a biological defect, the belief that I had a disease that could be "treated" but that could never be "cured" meant that I could never get better and that I would never be able to function how I want to. My entire mindset was that of a victim, I was permanently damaged and I would never recover. I would not be able to take care of myself, be accountable or responsible. I internalized this belief; it became who I am. I was broken and without hope of any real recovery.
Believing that I had a disease:
I was always going to be broken.
I was always going to be broken.
It was years before I left my 'I am a victim' mentality behind. The catalyst was getting help outside of the public mental health system. My motivation? I believed I needed it more than anything I had ever needed in my life because I needed to rescue my youngest son from the State of Washington's children's psychiatric research facility, Child Study and Treatment Center. Victims don't rescue anyone. I was confronted by a horrific reality: I was now further traumatized by what had been done to my son at CSTC; what was still being done to my son. I knew if I did not stop feeling victimized and fight back, I would never rescue my son.
I got real help. I'd had group therapy, individual counseling, "case management;" and "med management;"-- none of these mental health "services" had enabled me to function better, or enabled me to process painful experiences. I was able to see a private therapist who taught me real coping strategies for how to deal with my anxiety, and process my feelings of abandonment. I felt as if I were not important, not important enough to care about. I felt invisible.
Bearing the scars of abuse, the effects of being repeatedly traumatized, I had severe PTSD which crippled me emotionally. I was having to deal with an abusive mental health and social service system which repeatedly traumatized my son; my daily reality was traumatic in and of itself. It reactivated my childhood trauma, which naturally hindered my ability to function. The most powerful thing about therapy was being validated, I was believed! I was BELIEVED IN. Being believed when I said I was harmed, was so powerful. I was not "defective" or "diseased." I never had been. Being believed, enabled me to have confidence in myself; helped me to truly believe in myself.
In effect, I was helped to learn how to repair the damage trauma caused my spirit. I needed help learning how to accept what is, and support in assuming my responsibilities. It is only me who can decide to be in charge of doing what is needed for myself to become whole, or doing nothing and remain broken. I needed to be reminded that I am not supposed to be able to do it alone. I was able to learn some real coping skills, and little by little, attend to taking better care of myself, to know I am important enough to invest the effort.
I'm only as broken as I think I am. It is not how I feel that will kick my ass, it is thinking and believing that how I feel defines who I am. It is as if believing I had a brain disorder meant that how I felt was reality itself. My feelings are not the sum total of my reality, and they only were when I believed that I had a disease that I could treat with psychotropic drugs. Learning to accept my feelings for what they are, and learning that what I think of myself, what I believe is possible is so much more important than how I feel at a particular moment in time. All of this enabled me to stop taking the drugs on a daily basis, and with the exception of a few times for a day or two to help me sleep, I haven't taken drugs to treat "bipolar" disorder for six+ years. I was told I would need to take the drugs for the rest of my life. I have not felt broken, and I am not. Getting the help I needed and learning how to walk through painful experiences has made all the difference.
I did not begin to recover until well after I had become incapacitated by overwhelming grief, sorrow and deep depression unable to care for my sons, and myself. My sons have experienced a great deal of trauma as a result of my inability to take care of them. This is a painful truth that I struggle to be at peace with. The fact that my sons were harmed as children is the one thing I would change, if it were in my power to do so. It is not. A great deal of harm was done to my children who are now grown men. We all were traumatized by the manner we were treated by the professionals who "provided services" to Isaac. By the Grace of God, I was able to rescue him from the State of Washington's Psychiatric research facility for children, Child Study and Treatment Center.
I brought Isaac home in January of 2005. Due to the drugs tested on him, he is cognitively and neurologically impaired and has heart damage; but he is alive and for that, I am so very grateful. He trusts me, and knows that his brother and I believe in him. Isaac has said "My family knows what happened to me, and they believe in me, and that's why I can get better." Later, Nathan and I asked each other if that was something either of us had told him. It isn't. It's something he figured out for himself.
One of the blogs that I read is 1 Boring Old Man, written by a real good egg. The post titled, "the extent of it" explains why I was told I had a disease and would need to take psychiatric drugs for the rest of my life by mental health professionals. It helps a little to know I wasn't the only one told this lie.
here is an excerpt:
The same thing happened all over the country as biological psychiatrists moved to head up many other departments, actually most. Our journals were filled with clinical drug trials, brain research, and a peculiar kind of review article that started with the "burden of mental illness" and progressed to reports of coming biological treatments. By the 1990s, the eclectic menagerie of various kinds of psychiatrists disappeared, at least from the mainstream journals and faculties. Any fool should’ve seen that the massive influx of pharmaceutical money into psychiatry came with strings attached, and had a lot to do with the explosion of drugs on the market and drug company profits. But psychiatrists aren’t just any fools. During the 90s, psychiatrists were either on the bus [brief sessions primarily for medications] or off the bus [essentially becoming part of the psychotherapy community at large]. I was in Group B. What we know now is that the 90s were a decade of an escalating collusion between pharmaceutical marketing departments and academic psychiatrists unlike anything ever seen or imagined – except it wasn’t seen. It was buried in waves and raves of new treatments and a bristling air of discovery. Certainly a piece of that excitement was legitimate, but there was plenty that was spin. Sales of the expensive new CNS drugs began to soar. It was indeed The Decade of the Brain. read here.
My belief that I was damaged, genetically inferior, and "mentally ill" because I had been victimized was a belief I adopted in resignation; it was what I was repeatedly told by the mental health professionals I sought help from. Believing it, inhibited my ability to function and recover. The fact that the same thing was done to my son, only much much worse, angers me. He grew up being repeatedly told he was sick, being given the message that he is defective and diseased. He was victimized and had profound traumatic injuries. Instead of being helped, he was blamed, and he was drugged. The drugs didn't help, the drugs traumatized him; and caused my son so much physiological harm. A research psychiatrist is responsible for robbing my youngest son of his childhood, his intelligence, and his artistic abilities. The "mental health and social service system" is responsible for robbing all of us of precious time together as a family. What was done to my son should not be done to any human being anywhere. I am horrified at the enormity of the betrayal of trust and lack of empathy shown by "professionals" who had an ethical and a legal duty to do differently.
I am so grateful my son survived; and damn lucky that he trusts me at all. I believe that recovery is possible for everyone. Finding real ethical treatment providers who will effectively help and not cause further harm to people who are in distress, that's another matter... I will spend the rest of my life doing my best to protect my son from further harm and to help him recover. I have to do everything in my power to prevent the same "treatment" from being administered to someone else's child; to do less is not an option.
It has been a long journey to get where I am today. I had a lot of help. In the end, I am the one who needed to do the real work. I am the one who has to continue to do the work.
I can think what I want about anything, if it's not working;
I can think something else.
I can think something else.
I can learn. I can choose the journey I'm on. I am not broken.
(I'm just a little cracked!)
What I once believed were burdens are now blessings...
I now know they always were...
Life is good even when it's bittersweet.