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A Long and Arduous Journey

When I was in my early 40’s (I am in my late 50’s now) my father was arrested for soliciting what appeared to be an underage prostitute but was actually a female police officer. They had video of him picking up young prostitutes. I remembered when I was a young child our housekeeper had not wanted my father to be alone with her daughter and she always wanted me to ride with my father when he drove her home. Every now and then my father would come home and say he had gone by her house and given her some money and it makes me think he was also molesting her daughter who was my age.

My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April of 2004 and had surgery in May. She died two weeks later as the cancer had totally eaten up the organs in her body and had spread throughout her. At that time my brother told me that when we were growing up she was very violent and would throw things and swear and he felt terrible for he was old enough to ride away on his bike, leaving me to bear the brunt of her anger and mental illness. His best friend refused to come to our house as he was afraid of her. I had no memory of these episodes and the words of my therapist still are with me – it would be better not to remember.

In addition to my therapist, whom I now see every week (down from twice a week) I also have a psychiatrist whom I see once a month and who also does therapy with me. I am on Lexapro, Seroquel, Xanax, and Depakote. I am relatively stable at this point although I still have a great deal of difficulty being out in crowds (or in being alone). I still suffer from anxiety and depression despite the therapy and drugs.

My therapist has become my lifeline as he has always followed through with every promise he has made to me. He has given me his email address, home phone, cell phone, etc. so I can reach him at any time in the event I reach a point where I am a danger to myself. I have promised to call if I have to. If I call the office he always returns my call as soon as he can. I would not be alive today if he had not rescued me from myself.

I am still depressed and frequently anxious but I know that my therapist will be there for me. Last year I went into kidney failure and we started talking about end of life issues but he talked me into seeing a doctor who got me stabilized and I am now as “normal” as I can be with kidney disease. I have rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure and the drugs for that had killed 35 percent of my one kidney so I can no longer take the medications for the arthritis. We are now gradually getting back to working on my mental health. I had a talk with my psychiatrist over whether or not I was angry at my therapist for talking me into going to a doctor about my weakness and thus literally saved my life.

We are still dealing with the trauma of my guilt and shame – I still blame myself for anything that goes wrong. Recently, I had a nightmare where a giant demon had me on a raised platform and told thousands of people surrounding me that I was bad – that everything that had happened was all my fault and I was to blame for the pain in the world. My therapist was wonderful with this – he explained that the demon was my fear and that it was all a lie. I was not to blame and nothing was my fault. No child is at fault for being sexually abused and no young child can protect a mother who is dangerously schizophrenic. He said that he is so impressed with how much I have accomplished in my life despite the obstacles that have been in my way.

I truly think that the combination of the weekly (and for a while twice weekly) therapy sessions and my phone calls to him (sometimes every week and always returned by him when he gets a moment without a patient) combined with the monthly psychiatric therapy with my psychiatrist and the drugs have kept me alive and sane. The knowledge that my therapist cares about me and wants nothing other than for me to be happy, alive, and fully functional (he has no ulterior motives, in other words) has been what is starting to turn me around. I have learned to feel joy for the first time in my life. I have learned to meditate and now do yoga on a regular basis. I have reached out to other women (all of whom are also wounded from childhood) and am able to drive to visit them (even as far away as 250 miles). I have found fulfillment in my job. I have learned that helping others helps me. I pass on my therapist’s advice to my best friend every week – her husband died of cancer in January after a one-and-a-half year struggle. Another of my friends also attends the same therapist and we talk about our sessions together and that also helps.

If I had to give any advice it would be what I have been told – if I were to have any other child in the room with me who was been or had been through a childhood like mine – suffering from abuse, fear, danger, and ostracism by neighborhood kids who would stand outside and taunt my mother and me – it would be that it was not the child’s fault. The child is a victim. Although my therapist tells me this over and over, I still am not totally convinced that this pertains to me – but he is right that I would never blame the child. I would hold that child and tell her or him that the people doing that to the child are the ones who are bad, not the child.

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It has been a long and arduous journey and I am still not out of the woods – but I know that with the caring of my therapist and psychiatrist and the love of my husband that I may, someday, reach a point where I realize that I do want to live. I am 59 years old now so I guess it should happen sooner rather than later since I do not know how much time my kidney will continue to function. I have turned down dialysis and transplant options. Perhaps this is another (passive) way to commit suicide but I feel that this should be my decision. My therapist talked to me for several weeks about the choices and finally backed down on trying to coerce me into dialysis and agreed that I have a choice in what medical procedures are performed on my body and I have a right to say “no.” I suspect, though, that if the time comes, he is going to be back to trying to talk me into living. We will have to wait and see.

So this is my story. Not as bad as some people’s childhood and certainly not as good as most. I am alive and I guess that is enough for now.


A Long and Arduous Journey

Personal Story

A personal story contribution is a story told by someone who is living with mental illness, a caregiver or family member, or a professional who treats mental illness. We believe in the importance of the patient's voice, and those most impacted by the effects of mental illness. These stories are a vital part of the mosaic that makes up the complexity of living with mental health concerns.

APA Reference
Story, P. (2020). A Long and Arduous Journey. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.