Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eileen's Story

I wanted to share with you Eileen's Story...

"I became a good actress. I could smile, even laugh, on cue..."

She leads a life many of us would envy, on a one-acre plot in the Catskills where she grows her own vegetables, communes with nature, does crafts, decorates, gardens, sews, writes, and is a gourmet cook. But life was not always so kind. Eileen tells her own story:

I am a child abuse survivor. I have always suffered from clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Depression was my only constant. As a small child, I started to embrace, even welcome it. It was the only thing that was mine, the only thing I could control, or so I thought. I would rhythmically moan and bump my head on the wall at the same time.

I also suffered, and still do, from flashbacks. They started in infancy. I was also born with a split or cleft lip. It was corrected when I was three months old. That was when I had my first "nervous breakdown."

I grew up during the sixties. Times were changing, but child welfare wasn't yet a top priority. Teachers weren't educated on child abuse and didn't readily recognize it. [Childhood depression] was often overlooked as the quiet one, or, in my case, the emotional one. In many ways, I felt invisible, as if I didn't really exist.

(Thank goodness teachers these days are more equipped to identify and handle children like I was. I don't fault my old teachers. That's the way things were, back then.)

As I grew older, I created ways to hide my depression. I don't think anyone knew the pain I held inside. I became a good actress. I could smile, even laugh, on cue. At home I would fall apart and sink deeper into depression. Then, in my early teens, my mother went to work, and I was left to care for my youngest sister. I was busier than ever. I ran the household, and did the shopping and cooking. Besides all of that, I tried to hold friendships and keep my depression under wraps. Somehow, I pulled it off.

Then I entered the work force. I still don't know, to this day, how I held down a job for several years as a private duty nurse's aid, much less function "normally", in public - especially since my depression triggered terrifying flashbacks.

I got out of the abusive atmosphere of my parents' home when I got married. Yet the depressions persisted, then grew worse. Eventually, I became a basket case. I was having flashbacks at least once a week. I was always down. I really don't know how my husband stood me.

Finally, during a severe flashback, my husband panicked and called the local crisis unit. Through them I found my saving grace - a fantastic doctor and a great therapist. This happened in January, five years ago. After all these years, I was finally diagnosed with clinical depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

I was prescribed both Zoloft and Pamelor for my depression. Zoloft is in the same family of drugs as Prozac, and Pamelor belongs to an older class of antidepressants known as tricyclics. I don't suffer any side effects from the Zoloft, but I do perspire easily from the Pamelor. In addition, I take the controlled drug, Clonazepam, to sleep at night. I also take Perphenazine to control the flashbacks. Neither of those seem to bother me with side effects. I've been taking these drugs without fail for five years.

I have also engaged in psychotherapy. Through thought-provoking questions and conversations, I have recovered many of the memories I had lost due to post traumatic stress. Keeping a journal was another saving grace, where I could write what I was thinking without any repercussions.

Becoming "normal" was interesting, to say the least. I still remember the first time I was happy over a 24-hour period. There were tears, but tears of joy.

I do slip into an occasional depression now and then, but it doesn't take over my life. One of those things I have going for me is T'ai Chi. It really works for me. When I start feeling down, I just practice my T'ai Chi, and the blues go away. If I can't do my exercises, I indulge in aroma therapy. Sounds simple, but it does work.

I'm also able to bury myself in my crafts, the farm work and my dog, Sydney. All of these cheer me up conciderably.

I also have a "Safe Room", where I can go to feel in control. This, I have found, is very important. I am lucky enough to have an extra room in my house. If someone doesn't, the bathroom or even a walk-in closet will do. Just a place where you can go, be alone, and regroup.

Exercise also does wonders. I started out walking every evening. On rainy days I really noticed the difference, without the walk. Now, I have also added a 60-minute full body workout to my exercise regime. I feel even happier now. I also have to acknowledge my husband. Without his patience

patience and understanding, I really don't think I would still be among the living. He is my Godsend and soulmate.

I guess you could say I am a survivor. But I am also happily living proof that there is a way out of depression. For anyone suffering from depression, I would urge you to keep looking until you find what will work for you. It may take some time, but when you do, it will all be worth it. Never give up on yourself. That's just too easy. Fight your way out. When you do the rewards are priceless." (Jun 28, 1999 - © John McManamy)

Her story hits home on so many levels for me, I just had to share her story with everyone. I know that there are others out there that have similar stories to Eileen's story, and I hope that this story helps you as much as it did me.

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