I did a speaking engagement tonight for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) to a group of family members of people living with mental illnesses who are taking a family-to-family class. It was really great to hear their feedback, when I was done, and they told me that I was inspiring. So I thought to myself, hey, why not write some of this story down again since not everyone has been reading this blog for years and knows the whole story. So I think I will share some tidbits on from where I've come.
I was the girl at 15 who carved, "I HATE ME" into her arm with a kitchen knife.
I was the girl who starved herself nearly to death, telling her therapist, "I'm going to starve myself to death", and weighed 83 pounds at the age of 17.
I was the young woman sitting in the fast food restaurants listening to music with headphones to drown out the voices she was hearing, and crying in front of everyone in the place, whilst they ignored her.
I was the young woman in Penn Station in New York City seeing aliens, the sign of the devil (666), and the end of the world happening to her, who called her brother and sister and screamed at them to get out of the United States before they were taken to concentration camps in the second Holocaust.
I was the young woman who drove her mother's car to the top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge at top speed and rammed into a guardrail, trying to drive over the edge to die because the voices told her to do so.
I was the woman who tried to kill herself with pills three times, and had to drink charcoal and have her stomach pumped.
I was the young woman who laid in bed for years.
I was the young woman who thought she was a Manchurian Candidate with a microchip inside her body that the CIA was using to monitor her whereabouts and control her thoughts. I was the young woman who tried to cut the microchip out of her leg with a broken glass.
I was the young woman who failed college classes by not attending them because she heard everyone in the class and the professor talking about her impending death when she did attend.
I was the young woman who lived in three different homeless shelters at three different times in three different years.
I was the young woman who was sexually assaulted three times because she was too psychotic to defend or protect herself.
I was the young woman who believed there was no way out but death and who bought a gun, took it to a shooting range, learned how to shoot it, and held it, loaded, in her mouth one night in 2005.
I was the young woman who was hospitalized in psychiatric units more than 25 times in her life.
I was the young woman who was told she was going to be sent to a state hospital in New Jersey where she didn't know anybody.
I was the young woman who didn't go to Smith College when she got the Ada Comstack Scholar's Program scholarship to attend there and thought she was a failure for it, because she wound up in a homeless shelter instead.
I was the girl who overdosed at the age of 15.
I was the girl who dropped out of high school because of depression and Anorexia Nervosa.
I was the young woman obsessed with a guy she met on the internet because she thought he was the only person who would ever like her, or love her, even though he couldn't care less about her and she had never even met him.
I was the young woman who thought nothing of herself, and didn't value her life.
I was the young woman who was hopeless.
I was the young woman wandering the streets, hiding out in the bushes from the Pentagon helicopters in Virginia because she thought the government was spying on her.
I was the young woman who believed she was pregnant by immaculate conception for four years with a baby that was going to be used as human food when she was to have it removed from her body inside a concentration camp.
I was the young woman who wandered the streets of Scientology-ville, otherwise known as Clearwater, Florida, believing she was the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard, and that this religion which said psychiatry was evil was the only way of life for her.
I was the young woman who never felt like she truly belonged anywhere.
I was the girl who hid in the library during lunch in high school because she was too afraid to eat or be around people.
I was the young woman who stole a car because the voices told her to take it and didn't know she was doing anything wrong.
I was the young woman who didn't think she would survive.
I was the young woman whose mother called the police to beg them for help for her.
I was the young woman whose mother took her to court to get an order of protection to keep her away because she was crazy.
I was the young woman whose father didn't talk to her for six years because she said he molested her and tried to murder her, when he really hadn't, since she truly believed these things to be true.
I was the young woman in the traumatic stress disorders unit saying she had Dissociative Identity Disorder and her name was Amber Anderson.
I was the young woman who allowed men to use her sexually for not knowing she was worth something better than that.
I was the young woman who thought medications were poison and was afraid to take them.
I was the young woman who tape recorded her suicidal reports to the world, before she intended to shoot herself in the head, and who purchased gifts for her family and left them in her apartment, and who wrote a living will and left it on her father's office desk, and who intended to shoot herself to death. But the police stopped her.
I was the young woman who nobody expected to be able to recover because she was so far gone.
I was the young woman utterly alone in the universe.
I was the young woman with no friends.
I was the young woman who thought she was destined to die.
I was the young woman who thought she had no talents or anything to give to the world, who believed she was worthless, who cut her flesh out of the anger she had at herself.
I was the young woman who talked to herself to try to get her sanity back.
I was the young woman who walked into stores, psychotic, pretending to work there, and who terrified the employees of several places while doing so.
I was the young woman who was too afraid to speak up.
I was the young woman who didn't know she was sick or needed help. Didn't know. Didn't know.
I was the young woman who was not told she was psychotic because the doctors didn't figure it out for seven years and two dozen hospital trips.
I was the young woman who thought she was being gang raped and beaten up every night while in the psychiatric hospital and believed it was a torture chamber.
I was the young woman who went for days without showering or eating anything other than Twizzlers and pizza and went for weeks without leaving her bedroom other than to go to the bathroom.
I was the young woman who you would see staring off into space in the library, lost inside herself.
I was the young woman who had no hope.
I was the young woman who was lost.
I was the young woman who almost gave up on herself, the same way others gave up on her.
I was the young woman who felt powerless over her own mind.
I was the young woman who was victimized.
I was the young woman who was terrified.
I was the young woman who flirted with death and almost lost.
Now I have come from that dark place, and today I am the woman in recovery.
I am the woman whose life was saved by medication and a five-month hospital stay.
I am the woman grateful to be alive.
I am the woman who is an advocate for people with mental illnesses and tries to spread awareness through publicly telling her story.
I am the woman who writes her legislators to ask for funding for community mental health centers like the one she goes to for treatment.
I am the woman who is comfortable in her own skin.
I am the woman who knows what reality is, who doesn't have delusional thoughts about being people she isn't, who knows who she is, and who remembers what it was like when life was not this good.
I am the woman who graduated with her A.A. degree with honors in 2010 from a college she first attended in 1993.
I am the woman who is a student of social work and political science at a well-respected university.
I am the woman who gets A's in her classes even when she's having psychotic symptoms because she knows what to do about them now.
I am the woman who has a second family in NAMI where people respect her for who she is and don't treat her like a second class citizen even though they all know she has a serious mental illnesss.
I am the woman who will tell you the truth about herself if you're interested in knowing it.
I am the woman who visits her psychiatrist each month, gets an injection of medication every two weeks, and goes to therapy regularly because she wants to be well and live.
I am the woman who will go to the beach by herself to take in the sunset because she's grateful to be alive.
I am the woman who has made lists of reasons she wants to live to remind herself in case she ever forgets again.
I am the woman who won the Iris Award and the Consumer of the Year Award of 2010 from NAMI Pinellas for advocacy on behalf of people with mental illnesses.
I am the woman who speaks to the police every year during their Crisis Intervention Team trainings and tells them what it's like when the police come to take you away in handcuffs, so they can understand how to approach people in crises.
I am the woman who responsibly cares for her two cats.
I am the woman who has lived in the same apartment building for six years where she has paid the rent every month by herself with nobody's help.
I am the woman who has worked for six years on a part time basis, after going through vocational rehabilitation to find a job.
I am the woman who will answer the phone when you call the local community college and advise you on how to become a college student.
I am the woman who listens to music because it makes her feel better, and helps her motivate herself, not because she's trying to drown out voices.
I am the woman who doesn't hear voices most of the time anymore.
I am the woman who knows what to do if she does hear voices again, and isn't afraid to handle it.
I am the woman who is the membership director for her state's branch of the National Organization for Women because she wants to advocate for women's rights and not put up with violence against women by anyone.
I am the woman who has been the secretary of the NAMI Pinellas Consumer Council for years.
I am the woman who received a $500 scholarship for a student with a disability at the community college she attended.
I am the woman who wants to be a social worker, and help people who live with mental illnesses. I am the woman who knows she can do it.
I am the woman who did an internship last year at the same crisis center where she was a patient seven years ago for months.
I am the woman who answered the consumer council phone and advised people on where to go for help whenever they called for months.
I am the woman who talks to her dad when he wants to talk to her.
I am the woman who is close to her mom.
I am the woman who asked for forgiveness for reporting family members to the police for abuse that didn't happen.
I am the woman who knows she did not ever have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and doesn't believe many people do have it.
I am the woman who no longer feels totally disabled by Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, and goes to the doctor for help when she needs to.
I am the woman who can tell you about all the mental health services available to you in the county she lives in and recommend some good things to do if you need help.
I am the woman who gives out the national suicide helpline on Facebook after she finds out one of her Facebook friends killed himself.
I am the woman who posts on conspiracy theory message boards to let psychotic people know that she once had the same thoughts they have now, and she got better with medication.
I am the woman who writes research papers on the unfortunate results of deinstitutionalization and who does class projects and presentations on homelessness and mental illness.
I am the woman who spoke at the Southeast Conference on Homelessness and Supportive Housing in 2010, the Directions for Mental Health training conference of 2010, Bayside High School during The Great American Teach-Ins of 2010 and 2011, and other community groups to open up a dialogue about mental illness, in the hopes that she could have a positive impact on at least one person's life.
I am the woman who has attended anti-Scientology protests.
I am the woman who has real friends, and acquaintances, and a social life of sorts.
I am the woman who loves to laugh.
I am the woman who takes her medication daily and doesn't care what you think about that.
I am the woman who writes the blog Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizoaffective Disorder, and who, on a daily basis, makes the choice to live.
I am the daisy that blossomed in spite of the cement that encased her.
Sometimes it's okay to look at how far you've come and be a little proud of yourself - not to get an inflated ego, but to be grateful for where you are at today.
If you have a mental illness, have hope. I have hope. It gets me through. Along with a sense of humor.