Carissa is from Kentucky and she enjoys fantasies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. She also is fond of anime and video games, her favorites being Non Non Byori and Destiny. Carissa loves various foods, she said, “I literally eat chocolate in some form for nearly every meal of the day. Breakfast: Chocolate protein shake. Lunch: Greek vanilla yogurt with chocolate of top as a side. Dinner: Fiber One brownie as a side. Snack: Granola bar with chocolate chips. Not to mention an occasional Ghirardelli Chocolate square with caramel. Mmmm.” In five years Carissa sees herself married to her wonderful boyfriend, Zach. She would also like to teach elementary schoolers English in Japan. She said, “I hope to have grown and matured as a person, broadening my world views and continuously learning new things from cultures different than my own. Maybe I’ll even make a difference in one of the little girls or boys I’m teaching life.”

Carissa was diagnosed in October 2013 with numerous mental illnesses, such as dissociative disorder, bipolar disorder with psychotic features, delusional disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), schizotypal (STPD), and personality disorder. She still battles these mental disorders, but thankfully has a functional life. Carissa believes various things triggered these illnesses. She said:

“I’m adopted, and my birth mother did an unknown amount of drugs while carrying me, which made me quite the different child for my reserved, God-fearing parents. It’s not that they were bad people, but they had another, “neurotypical” daughter who was quiet and well behaved. I couldn’t sit still and had some violence issues due to the chemicals in my brain already mixed with the fact that I was severely neglected for the first two years of my life. Right off the bat I was clearly different, and all my parents knew was “do not spare the rod.” Swats on the hand turned into spankings, which turned into the belt until I had bruises I couldn’t show anyone, which turned into slaps in the face (including a time where dear mom knocked out my front tooth in the process), finally climaxing with my father, hate in his eyes and his hands around my throat when I was 16 or 17.”

Carissa ended up looking for comfort in boys, and in the process got raped by her first boyfriend, and molested in high school. At the age of 18 Carissa ran away, moving into an ex boyfriend’s family house working a minimum job, starving and eventually they turned on her. Carissa walked back to her parent’s house and was put in the hospital. After being discharged she started group therapy, and then received weekly therapy. What most helped Carissa was hypnosis, art therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). She also received medication, although it took her three years to find the right medication and dose.

Carissa also struggled with terrible symptoms, she said, “I felt utter worthlessness and detachment from reality. I was under so much stress that my only friend was someone the world said didn’t even exist and that was heartbreaking for me.” Because of this she felt alone and unloved. She said, “I was starving for a kind word or touch from anyone.” When the world got, scary there were voices in Carissa’s head, and felt split into seven different people and none of them were happy.

Her life became affected because she was socially awkward. Carissa had a difficult time making friends, and felt like everything was out of control. She said, “I wanted so badly to go to college and make something of myself, move away and just start over. But I had to take a year off and work on my inner self before I could be a real part of society.” She never hurt anyone, but was suicidal, becoming addicted to cutting to get closer to her mom. Since Carissa had many broken relationships, she became paranoid pushing them away. Later on, when things got better she met Zach, creating a relationship with him. She said, “I’ve grown to love him very deeply and healthily. We are very strong, and he has helped me form stronger relationships with other friends.”

Carissa felt all kinds of emotions she said:

“At first, I felt utterly alone, like who else out there is like me? How many other people are seven different people at once? Aren’t I some sort of freak? I began to wonder if my life was even real. I considered theories of nothing being coincidental and my whole existence was a poor game of Sims. I was terrified of everyday things. If someone set the groceries down too hard, I flinched. Are they going to hit me again? Will this pain ever stop?”

Carissa didn’t have an actual turning point, she started to change after much affirmation and visualization. Due to this she began to have less symptoms. Additionally, her parents got help from her therapist, and that helped a lot. Carissa’s medicine helped her maintain control. She used various techniques, Carissa said, “Some of my visualization techniques included picturing bad scenarios as nasty bubbles bursting out of my ears and mouth. They would hover and I would use my will to make a pin and I would pop each of them. I listened to relaxation hypnosis before bed each night to practice “mindful relaxing on purpose.” This helped me in the heat of the moment.” She also said, “As for my seven personalities, I went into hypnosis from my therapist and visualized all but the one who was my protector and best friend, Desi”. What helped her the most was having a support system, and wanting to help others who are suffering.

The biggest and happiest lesson she has learned is that she is strong. She said, “I had been violated, abused, neglected, and broken and yet here I am fighting every day and finally, after 20 years I have moments of peace where I am comfortable with who I am”. Carissa now strives to surround herself with positive people who do not have intentions of hurting her.

This is her advice for anyone struggling with mental illnesses:

“In the moment, practice being calm, try taking 7/11 breaths (breathe in for seven, out for eleven). Then when the terror has passed, be proactive. Stick close to your good friends. Cut off relationships that are dangerous or toxic to you. Talk to your protector if you have one. If you can’t believe in the power you have, believe in those who believe in you. If no one you know believes in you, know that I believe in you. And if I’m too distant for you, look to social media support groups like the “spoonies” tag on Tumblr or the DID tag on Reddit. There is always someone out there who will care for you. You absolutely can overcome anything. You are not broken or a freak. You are a beautiful human being who has been forced to see the world in a different way. You are special.”

“Also, when humans fail you, stick close to pets. They will love you unconditionally.”

It’s amazing how far Carissa has come, I hope one day she will completely happy. Help me make a difference by sharing your story. If you or anyone you know needs a safe place to vent out and recieve advice feel free to become a member of the Mental Illness Recovery Series Group on Facebook.

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