The Face of Mental Illness – 10/06/2013

The Faces of Mental Illness for 10/06/2013:

"I'm Amy.  I live with with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and panic attacks. "

“I’m Amy. I live with with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and panic attacks. ”

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Oak is Rory's twin brother, and lives in OKC.

Oak is Rory’s twin brother, and lives in OKC.

“Hi, my name is Oak, and I am a Chocoholic. More importantly, I live with PTSD and Elevated Anxiety. I love manga, video games, working, and being active in the community. Days like the one shown here are rare. Days with no worries. But they exist. And for me, they are worth waiting for, and are cherished. Nothing special happened the day of this picture, and that’s exactly why I love it. Normally I feel the need to have a reason to be happy. This day I was *just* happy.
So I keep my chin up (Cause that’s what my doctor says), I take my meds, and I live each day knowing I do my best, and love everything I do. I give myself as many reasons to be happy with my life as possible. And ya’know, it helps… Mostly.”
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photo (1)
“My family was happy at one time. But, she didn’t know what was real. He didn’t know he mattered. We thought we were normal. Education matters. End the stigma. We are the faces of mental illness.”
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Dakster Panic Attack
“While having a panic attack one night, I wondered what I looked like. I picked up my phone and took this selfie. If I could call it something, I’d call it “The face of panic” or “The face of strength” because I got through it.”
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"Pic of one of the roses in front of my house this spring."

“Pic of one of the roses in front of my house this spring.”

“I have been affected by mental illness through family members, friends, and an ex-boyfriend.  I would like to share with you my story of that ex-boyfriend. I have  PTSD because of his abuse. He was not a nice man to begin with. He was 31, I was 19. He was married, but separated. He had a son that lived with the ex’s mother, as the boy’s biological mother took off shortly after he was born. I knew going into the relationship that he had been verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive towards his wife. I told him that I could put up with a lot; just don’t ever hit me, because it will be over. Being young and naïve, I thought, “Oh, he’ll never be abusive towards me.” Boy was I wrong!

He claimed to have multiple personality disorder (MPD). He was also quite delusional about his place in the Universe. He thought his own personal higher power was “God”, and it was either his way or the highway.

He talked me into moving from Arizona to Washington State, where we ended up in a sort of commune/”ranch”. It was not pleasant. By “ranch”, I mean a 5 acre plot of land in the forest on the Reservation North of Seattle, with several run down trailers, a work shop, and the majority of the land going to the horses (as it should). It was primitive. We were on water haul, and there was an outhouse. None of the trailers had heat or running water.

He had put my cat in a box and his cat and her kittens in a separate box. I fell asleep and neither he nor his friend (who we drove with) checked on them until the California / Oregon border. They were dead. He killed my cat. That bastard!

He had stopped drinking when we first got together because I had asked him to. It was at the ranch when he started drinking heavily again. His MPD started showing more and more.

He got us kicked off the ranch, and we moved in with some of his friends. He then brought his wife to live with us.

When he got us kicked out of that house, we managed to get to Oregon, where things got a lot worse. We got kicked out of the first motel we lived in because of the two dogs. We then got a much smaller and pet friendly motel room, and were there for quite a while. This is the hotel room where his wife and I got into a fist fight. It’s also where he choked me until I blacked out. I came to with his wife resuscitating me. He talked us out of going to the hospital. That’s when I knew I had to start planning to leave.

We eventually moved into a little rental house. That house turned out to be a bad idea. It was right next door to the local drug dealer’s house. It turns out my ex-boyfriend was not only an alcoholic, but also a drug addict. He could not hold a job and was home all the time. His wife and I both worked at a restaurant as waitresses. To make ends meet, and so he could get a fix or a drink, he would sometimes make his wife and I sell things out of our storage locker. It was mostly my stuff. I lost some family antiques, and other high ticket items because of his manipulation, abuse, and my inexperience. This, of course, made his actions more abusive and erratic.

Here’s what happened the day I left.

One day, I was home sick. I had some sort of stomach flu or food poisoning. He and his wife were home, too. He was already drunk and high and it was only about 10:00 AM. I was in bed moaning in pain. From the living room, he accused me of having sex in the bathroom at work with the guys at work. (Ew. Gross.) Said if I really loved him, I would come out to the living room. So I did, after making a pit stop to throw up, once again, in the bathroom. He called me a “bitch, cunt, slut, and whore” to my face. I don’t know what I was thinking; maybe that it would snap him out of it, but I open hand slapped him (not hard) across the face. He said, “Bitch, I’m going to kill you!” He came after me and started beating the daylights out of me. I won’t go into the gory details. His wife pulled him off of me three times; twice in the living room, once on the gravel driveway before I got in my car and drove away.

I drove across town to a grocery store parking lot and cried for two hours, and asked myself, “What am I going to do?” I literally had nowhere to go. He had done the old abusers trick of taking me away from my friends and family. I had to leave and I knew it, but I was terrified to go. It’s sick how Stockholm syndrome works. I had one place I could go… to work.

I worked for a really great family owned restaurant. The owners were “retired”. They expected us to do a good job, and treated us well when we did. I trusted them. I had run out of the house without my shoes and my face was beginning to bruise by the time I got to the restaurant, which was about 2:00 PM. I decided to go in the back door, just in case some of the “little old ladies” were in the dining room that day. I walked through the back door. The cook (a woman) took one look at me and dropped a skillet. I said I needed to see the boss. She ran out of that kitchen like it was on fire! The boss came running in the kitchen door followed by his son-in-law, the cop. I was still uncontrollably tearing. I said, “Can I make a phone call?” The boss said, “Of course” and ushered me into his office. He said I didn’t have to worry about calling collect, but I did anyhow. His son-in-law asked if he could sit with me while I made the phone calls. I said yes.

I called my parent’s house and thank goodness my Dad answered. My parents didn’t like the ex-boyfriend and my Mom and I had a falling out over it. I really didn’t want to hear “I told you so” at that moment. The first words out of my mouth were, “He hit me” followed by a rampage of tears and emotions. Dad, the calmest man in the world, said, “I can be there Wednesday”, which was 3 days away. He and Mom got it all set up with a friend of Mom’s that lived in a town a few miles away, that I could go stay with her. That night I was so tired, that one of the other waitresses and her husband, one of the cooks, let me sleep on their couch.

The next day, they went with me to the house to pick up some clothes and toiletries, and to protect me. They were there to protect me. The ex-boyfriend had refused to leave the house. He pouted the entire time we were there. All his wife said to me was, “Don’t make it hard for me at work”, we worked at the same place. I thought that was heartless.

The next day, I had to work. I hadn‘t seen my Mom’s friend yet, and had thought I would see her at her house later that evening. She showed up with another one of my Mom’s friends to “have lunch”. They asked not to sit in my section on purpose. As it was, I fell apart when I saw them. I had known both of these wonderful ladies since I was 13. They were like bonus Aunts to me. I had one of the other girls check on my tables for a few minutes, while I went and sat with them. They just wanted to get a look at me and let me know they were there for me. By this time, my face looked like it had been through a heavyweight boxing match. They tried not to show how concerned they were, but I could tell. That night, I got the best sleep I had in about two and a half years.

A couple days later Dad showed up. He rented a U-haul trailer and I called the house and told them they had both better not be there while I packed up. My Dad is a non-violent person, but he would have done some damage to the ex-boyfriend had he been there. We got (almost) everything of mine packed and loaded. We took my dog to the animal shelter. I wasn’t going to leave her there, and Mom said I couldn’t bring her home. That really sucked. Then, we were off on the road.

It’s been over 20 years since that abuse filled, drug and alcohol fueled, delusional attack. It changed me. I have been living with PTSD and flashbacks since then. They don’t come around often anymore, but they can still pop up. I hadn’t had one in about 10 years. The last one I had, I gave myself. I was washing the back of my shoulders in the shower, and I suddenly felt like I was being strangled again. All of the fear and negative feelings rushed back. I then found myself laughing out loud and thinking, “Wow! What a silly girl, giving yourself a PTSD episode.” I think that’s the best reaction ever. Of course, I had to deal with the lingering effects for about a week.

I’m glad I was super brave in that moment and left. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I know if I would have gone back, he would have killed me. Maybe not that day, but it would have happened sooner or later.

I am no longer afraid he’s going to come and find me. I am following my dreams and career goals. I have a wonderful husband, a great dog, a fabulous cat, the love of my family, and the support of my friends. My life is full. My life is good.

If someone you love is verbally, emotionally, mentally, or especially physically abusing you, please leave for your own safety. Go to a shelter, to the police, a trusted friend, or your boss. Ask for help. It’s a very hard decision to make, but it’s one that will save your life. I know you can do it.”

If you would like to share why you are the face of mental illness, please email us at thefaceofmentalillness@gmail.com or mail us something the old fashioned way at:
P.O. Box 11391
Prescott, AZ 86301
USA
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