Personal Stories

Managing My Mental Health

Hi, I’m Tracy and I’ve had a mental health diagnosis for more than 20 years now. At first, I was ashamed to have a diagnosis. Especially one that is so controversial in the public eye. My primary diagnosis is dissociative identity disorder or DID. I developed it in childhood living in the midst of poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, multiple incarcerations of a primary caregiver, as well as emotional and sexual abuse.

My childhood and adolescent years were filled with chaos, conflict and confusion. Interestingly, by outward appearances, my life seemed normal. I made straight A’s in school, was very obedient and helpful and could recite entire Bible passages by memory. Sadly, I was drowning emotionally. When the few attempts I made at getting help failed, it seemed to prove what I thought of myself: that I was worthless, shameful and disgusting. I had a lot of self-hate.  My first attempt at suicide was around age 12.

However, in my early 20s I tried again to get help because I was a suicidal mother of two small children. This time someone listened. I began working on my issues related to the sexual abuse. It was then that I learned that I was suffering from depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. As the years and the work progressed, it was discovered that I also was living with DID and anxiety.

For the first 17 years of my diagnosis, my husband, children and I lived in hiding with my diagnosis. Sharing my story with a few friends quickly taught us that it is better to suffer in silence than alone. That is tragic because no one should have to choose between suffering in silence or being alone. The silence and secrecy was detrimental to my kids, my marriage and my recovery.

Fortunately, we did find the support of kind and educated professionals who helped us steer our way through the labyrinth of mental illness. I also leaned heavily on the faith that I was exposed to ironically in childhood.

In 2014, I stumbled upon an organization that not only helped me shed my fear of disclosure, but also gave my family our long-awaited sigh of relief. I found NAMI. I had never experienced an organization that was public about their mission concerning mental health. NAMI gives individuals and families the opportunity to get support and education as well as a platform for advocating for themselves and others. Even though I was working on my issues, it was primarily done behind closed doors. NAMI blew that concept wide open.

I continue to work in the privacy of my psychiatrist’s and therapist’s offices managing my mental health but now I also work on the front lines with NAMI. This organization has truly modeled for me the freedom of embracing my experience living with mental illness. My passion is helping others learn to experience life without shame or stigma.

 


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