My Story by Lisa Dee
October 2017

My story begins the same as many of my peers’ stories do – with childhood trauma. When I was a child, my father sexually abused both me and my sister. This began when I was 3 or 4 and continued through high school. My parents divorced when I was 7, which somehow was a big relief for me. My mother tried her best as a single parent, but she was struggling with her own mental health issues. She was distant and emotionally unavailable. We moved constantly as she jumped from job to job and man to man. We moved 13 times from the time I was 7 till I was 14. I had no friends or family to comfort me. As a coping mechanism, I suppressed all of my repulsive memories so well that I was not aware that those attacks ever even happened. I was the Queen of Dissociation! Unfortunately, all of the predators in my life were somehow aware of this and took full advantage of my passivity and vulnerability.

When I was 13, I was brutally raped by my mother’s boyfriend during a camping trip to Yosemite. I was not able to suppress this event, but I did emotionally disconnect from it. I did not tell my mother, because I was afraid that she would blame me for his behavior. I began having night terrors and could not concentrate at school. When the man pulled a gun on my mother and threatened us all, I escaped this dangerous situation by moving in with my father.

I was very promiscuous as a teenager and young adult. I began drinking whiskey and smoking pot when I was 13. I began using cocaine when I was 16. By the time I was 25 I had graduated to methamphetamines. I used meth daily for several years, even as I worked as a bank teller and raised my young son. Only the people I used with knew about my addictions.

When I was in my late 20’s, I began dating a man who moved in with me almost immediately. I didn’t like him much and I was working on a way to get him out of my house, when one beautiful day I found out I was pregnant. His reaction was unusual. He was strangely excited that I was with child, which surprised me because we had only been dating for a few months. However, he immediately became possessive of me. He was jealous, angry, and abusive. He kept me isolated and discouraged contact with my friends and family. He pushed, shook, hit, and kicked me. But the worst abuse was mental. He would curse me out, tell me I was a horrible mother, and accuse me of being a slut. I had nowhere to hide and no support from friends or family. My night terrors returned. I felt worthless. When I felt strong enough to stand up to him, he exploded with rage and threatened to kill me, our children, and himself. I was afraid for my children and I felt the only way to deescalate the situation was to leave the house. I had hidden all of his abuse from the world, and I did not ask for help as I believed I had no one to turn to. When I left our family home, the door was locked behind me and I was accused of abandoning my children. Their father took custody of my 2 and 3yr old children and moved them over a thousand miles from our home in California to Yakima, WA.

That’s when I fell into my first intense depression. I absolutely loathed myself. I began having persistent and deeply disturbing thoughts of suicide. I heard voices in my head. I would rehearse my death plan by hiking up a mountain near my cabin with a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of sleeping pills, and lying down in the snow waiting to slip into hypothermia and eternal sleep.

As the years passed, my symptoms of anxiety, depression, and manic behavior increased. I eventually stopped using cocaine and meth, but I began new addictions with Xanax, Valium, and oxycodone, and my alcohol consumption was out of control. When my psychiatrist stopped prescribing those meds, I would order them online from Africa or South America. I even took a booze cruise to Mexico to purchase Xanax and Opiates! I looked forward to surgeries and dental work just to be sedated and prescribed pain killers.

Several years ago, the stress of a demanding job caught up with me. I attempted suicide by taking an overdose of prescription and OTC meds. My husband found me and drove me to Overlake Hospital for inpatient treatment. After I was released, I continued to feel worthless and depended on psychiatric meds to keep me stable.

I first began seeking psychological treatment over 25 years ago. My first experience with a psychologist involved hypnotherapy. All of those ugly memories that I had stuffed down into my psyche came bubbling up to my consciousness and tormented me. I was diagnosed with having a multiple personality disorder. Over the years, I have seen close to 10 psychologists and several psychiatrists, dispensing a variety of diagnoses and meds. The ultimate consensus was bipolar disorder along with generalized anxiety disorder. Each provider told me that my mental illness was chronic and could only be managed by medication and ongoing therapy. They did not help with my continuous obsession with suicide.

When I experienced another frightening breakdown, I was lucid enough to call a suicide prevention line. They referred me to seek mental wellness services at a facility named NAVOS. I do not fully recall my first appointment with my case manager. I do remember feeling depressed, hopeless, and crying a lot. At that time, I was drinking 4 to 6 alcoholic beverages every night. I was still hooked on Xanax and Valium, and I smoked a lot of marijuana to battle my anxiety. I was unemployed and could not hold down a job for more than a couple of months. I had very low self-esteem and felt worthless. I could not assure my case manager that I would not attempt suicide again. He was the first to tell me that recovery was possible. He referred me to a Mental Health Recovery class.

In this recovery group, I learned how to replace my negative thoughts with positive thoughts, thus controlling my impulses and changing my behavior. The facilitator taught me skills and gave me tools to help me take charge of my own recovery. I learned how to be my own cheerleader. I met peers and mentors who cared about me and supported me. I also had an awesome therapist and psychiatrist to assist me in my recovery.

While actively working on my recovery, I was able to identify situations that triggered my symptoms, and I discovered the power to change my thoughts before I was thrown into depression or anxiety. I no longer consider hurting myself. I am sober. I am working diligently to improve my life and all of my relationships.

Today, I have a life of service and purpose. I am employed full-time at a behavioral health clinic as a Certified Peer Counselor. I am sharing my story to inspire hope in others who are experiencing the traumas of mental illness and drug addiction. Living with a bipolar disorder remains challenging, but now I am empowered to identify my triggers, face my fears, and rise above the darkness that used to fill my life. I have learned to seek out the beauty in the world and to take each step with gratitude, faith, and hope.





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