I Grew Up in Poverty
I moved out two days after high school graduation. I went to college and I wanted to prove I could make a different path for myself. Somehow I wanted to show myself I was worthy. I had partially raised my older siblings’ young children and treated them like gold. I never wanted them to see the pain and hatred. I thought that when I was a grownup I would have power and I could have children and protect them and keep them safe from all unhappiness.
I stumbled onto a man I loved. I wasn’t trying, love didn’t matter to me. Together we had a son. I remember the next morning after he was born looking at him in amazement and knowing I would die to protect him. He was perfect in every way.
I had a good professional job, a good relationship, and nightmares, hyper vigilance, loneliness, pain, and so much fear.
I became a foster parent and took in children who had been severely abused. I foster-parented a child who was severely disabled. Still, I hurt to the core. The anxiety and depression were unbearable.
I had a second child, a daughter so precious and pink. And still I was in pain.
I was in therapy with a therapist who seemed to cause more pain than healing. It was only after I was with a new therapist that I could recognize how abusive and incompetent the first therapist had been.
I worked in human services at a very demanding job. I worked with people society had been marginalized, just as I felt I had been. I fought to gain them the services they needed.
Still I paced and looked for danger everywhere. I could not cry. I watched a child die and could cry for 15 seconds before I totally shut down.
It took months and months — maybe years — with my therapist before I could allow myself to cry. I couldn’t even speak of my life, myexperiences. I never had the words. Could never say the words. Would run from the room in sheer terror. Learning to trust and learning to find words to tell my story was the most difficult thing I have ever done.
And so I learned the words. I spoke all of the words and spoke them again. I cried more than I ever imagined. I had depression and anxiety and had been on several medication – cocktails — that seemed to keep me functional.
Life threw me curve balls. We adopted one foster child. My foster daughter with the disability died suddenly. My son got cancer. My daughter was molested and developed severe OCD.
My husband became embroiled in legal issues over a school choice issue and it caused him to lose his job and self-esteem. I was supporting the entire family. I had a serious ethical issue with work and it resulted in a 9 month investigation.
This was when I sunk so quickly and silently into a severe, debilitating depression. I took a leave from my job. I guess the giveaway was when I was getting a massage for constant back pain all I could do was fall apart and cry.
Severe recurrent agitated depression and reactive PTSD is what I see on my diagnoses page. When my leave started I slept 20 hours daily. All I wanted to do was sleep. New meds helped fairly quickly but I was anxious about returning to work and wondered how I could possibly do the job again. I felt my life had changed.
It was during this period that I found Psych Central quite by accident. I found support and people who spoke of their issues. In my real life I was quite secretive. I asked how I could return to work without getting swamped again by the depression and anxiety monster. I looked up ADA accommodations for employees. I wanted to be well.
Over the years my hyper vigilance became less intense, but as I was seeing some of my life for the first time the depression kicked me hard. I didn’t have power to keep myself safe, or keep my family safe. I didn’t have the ability to be perfect and beyond reproach at my job. For years I over-functioned at my job. I often did two or more caseloads when the need arose. I felt that I had to prove my worth. I no longer feel that need. I left my job at my physician’s recommendation after receiving yet another devastating blow from my workplace accusing me of poor job performance.
I am more peaceful now, slowly coming to terms with living with this depression and sorting out what is depression vs. tiredness. I am trying to sort my way through the PTSD. I have been doing EMDR with my psychologist and it seems to help.
I have ups and downs. I am still easily frightened by people. I often have trouble sleeping. The difference is that I now have the words for my experiences and I can share them with others who understand.
Story, P. (2013). I Grew Up in Poverty. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 28, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/i-grew-up-in-poverty/000221