This is the 20th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Keri has been through hell, but managed to pick herself up by accepting her addiction and seeing her scars as a sign of survival. This is her story:
Keri is from Arizona and when she is not working or in school she enjoys writing, reading, and drawing. When Keri wants to unwind she watches movies and plays video games. Her future goals at the moment are to finish her bachelors degree and the book she is writing. Five years from now she hopes to be back in Colorado, or out of Arizona. Keri would also love a job were she can help others. She suffers from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and severe depression. Keri also has an addiction to self-harming.
Her mental illnesses was caused by traumatic events. Keri was raped as a child, and her mother had a 10 year battle of cancer before passing away. Not only that, but a year later Keri found her father dead. These events made her feel helpless. She said, “The helplessness of these events left me drowning until I was numb all the time. Cutting and hurting myself was the only way to break through the numbness.”
Keri has never consulted a mental health professional. Her parents threatened to take her to one, if she didn’t let go of the rape trauma. The diagnosis she gave herself, is from the various psychology courses she has taken and from recommendations of people she is friends with in the psychology field. Keri dealt with terrible symptoms. She said:
“I felt immense sadness, an inability to enjoy anything that I once did, anger at everyone else because I felt alone with my troubles, an inability to trust anyone since it had been someone close to me that had hurt me, sudden feelings of complete numbness that would come after a bombardment of anxiety and fear.”
This affected her daily life; Keri stopped talking to her friends and family. They became hurt because she closed herself up. Her work life was affected and she constantly thought about ending the bad memories. She stole her brother’s razors, breaking it in order to cut with the blade. Keri said, “When I got older and was able to buy my own supplies, I kept a small box fully stocked with gauze, Neosporin, blades. I spent a lot of money on keeping that box stocked.” But thankfully Keri hasn’t self-harmed in over 132 days, although she still craves for it.
When Keris’ parents found out about her predicament, they felt scared and upset that Keri didn’t come to them for help. This experience shook her relationship with her parents. Keri has great friends, who stood by her and listened to her when she was ready to speak. There were moments that she felt alone, Keri said, “At first I was angry when they demanded to know what was going on, angry that they were acting like they cared when I had been doing this for so long. I mean if they had cared then shouldn’t they have noticed sooner? Who were they to demand anything? I felt trapped when they wouldn’t let me go, I felt like they had backed me into a corner. It took a long time for me to relax and finally start to open up.”
The turning point for Keri to overcome her mental disorders was studying psychology. After learning about mental illnesses and the causes of them, she was able to better manage them. The moment Keri was able to accept her addiction was when she was sitting in her apartment’s laundry room: a child came up to her and started tracing one of her scars. Keri freaked out, but the boy said:
Boy: “You’ve got sad lines just like my sissy.”
Keri: “Sad lines?”
*A girl comes rushing up to them, looking scared (little boy’s sister)*
Boy: “Yeah every time she gets sad she gets another one. Do you get sad a lot?”
Boy: “I try and help her, I give her a big hug every time I can, but she still gets them.” “She’ll try and hide because a lot of people may not understand why she gets them. But you know what? One day she’ll look back on them and she may not be so sad anymore, when she looks at them she may just remember her amazing little brother and his amazing hugs.”
This was Keri’s thought:
“To be honest I don’t know where the words were coming from, I just knew that seeing the look of relief on the girl’s face and from then on I started looking at my scars as almost a gift, or sign of courage. These mean I’m still here, still fighting. And since I have first-hand knowledge maybe I could help someone else.”
The strategies she used to beat her mental disorder are: to remember the girls face from the laundry room. Keri also uses writing as an outlet. For example, Keri writes what she is feeling by putting it into a scene with as much emotion as possible. Another technique she used was working out, this gave her a sense of control. She surrounded herself with friends which provided a safe place. The lesson Keri learned was, “basically what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger, as tired as that expression may be. It showed that I’m a survivor and no matter what gets thrown at me I can win.” To prevent herself from falling into depression again, Keri is willing to see a mental health professional. She realized that there is no need to put herself through that anymore.
This is her advice for others struggling:
“Seek help. There is nothing shameful, nor is it a weakness to get outside help. Just like when you don’t know the answer to a problem, you ask your teacher, you ask for help from a psychologist/psychiatrist to help make yourself better. Also ignore what mainstream media says about those suffering from mental illnesses such as; rape victims, PTSD sufferers, and those with depression. You are human, you had a horrible experience occur to you, but you are no less worthy of love and a good life. You are not used up, you are not trash, you are an amazing person that may touch more lives than you can imagine. Just keep fighting.”
Keri would like to share this:
“As a writer and reader I love learning new words from different languages. One that I learned that I feel pertains to this is called Kintsugi. It’s when a cracked piece of pottery is fixed with gold, silver, or platinum, often making it more stunning than before it was cracked. I think this fits with anyone who feels broken. Your scars and trails and broken pieces do not make you ugly, they make you unique and beautiful.”
Keri is resilient! Her story hit me hard and helped me immensely. I am sure her story will help others as well. Help me make a difference by sharing your story.
Edited By: Lizzie Watson/Hamad Hussain