The drawing is one I did while I was being treated for major depression. In this article, I am sharing how I was helped, and pray you will understand how my experiences can help others.
When I was 3 years old my mother died. Doctors had told my mother she would die if she gave me life, yet she chose to allow me to live. Thus, my father believed I had murdered my mother, so I was treated poorly. He brought a woman home who ended up dying in prison for all she did to my sister and me. Over the years I have been in regular hospitals; mental hospitals; been drugged; lied to; tortured; and tied down. Before I was even 5 years old, I had been beaten to the point there was blood coming out of my ears. I had electro-shock-therapy treatments in the days before they had enough compassion to at least sedate you first. Back in the days of my youth they did not know how to treat a feral child who was born in America. They experimented on me and those who were like me. I know what life can be for many who are misunderstood.
I must share, for many years, not just in my youth, but also as an adult, I did not want to live. However, God did not want me to go home before I was able to find happiness, so He refused to allow me to die. Now, I can honestly say, I am grateful for my life. I have learned many things that work and many things that do not work. It is my wish to share some of the good things with you that have helped me when I get depressed.
First off, I want you to know that you need to talk about how you are feeling. If you are being abused by someone (and that includes yourself) you need to share why you have those black and blue marks or cuts. When someone hurts you in any way, you need to share that with someone you trust.
In my very early years, I spend a number of months living outside in my father’s back yard. Most people did not even know I was there. If my sister had not been clubbed in our front yard, and a neighbor saw it happen, I would have died in that backyard. The doctors said I had “protein malnutrition” and one judge called me a “feral child.” A rare condition for anyone in the United States at that time. Now, it is very common in most of our cities. There are many children without homes or who have been abandoned by parents. I know of children eating out of trash bins or digging through others leftovers. Many times, over the years, I have received telephone calls during the night to alert me that certain children were sleeping in Goodwill bins. I would go pick them up, bring them to my home; feed and nurture them, only to have to return them to those who did that to them in the first place. It breaks my heart to know that the courts place children back into such situations after the parent takes a few weeks of classes. When I was young, after I had been rescued that first time, I kept running away from those who abused me, only to be returned to abusive care. I did not then, nor now, ever want a child to be forced to return to that type of life. Yes, I know what mental illness looks like, both as one who has suffered and as a person who helps others heal from that type of suffering, no matter what age they might be.
I am here to tell you, there is hope. You can heal. You can move forward, but you have to put forth effort to do this. You can’t wait for others to heal you. No matter what drugs they give you, that will not heal you. Most drugs have side effects that are much worse than the illness. Drugs only block “feelings”, they never help you to “overcome” what you went through to make you feel this way in the first place.
In my humble opinion, when you are able to find truth, then you can really begin to heal. Truth can set you free from your past. Truth can assist you in living toward whom you really want to be. Who God meant you to be. And yes, I did say the “G” word. I believe in God. I mean, Look all around you. Do you see that Sun up in the sky? How do you think it got there? Why do you think it comes up each and every morning? Do you see that Moon at night? How do you think it got there? Can you find a flower (one that has not been sprayed with some kind of chemical) and really see it? Can you smell it? If you are blind, can you not feel that flower? Who do you think created that flower in the first place? Who do you think really created you? Sure, your mother may have given you the body, and your father may have created that body, but who do you think gives you breath each and everyday? End of lecture 1. Now back to what I started to share with you.
While I was living in our backyard, I learned a few things. A person can survive in nature even better than in society. Fresh air is good for a human, and since you are human, I suggest you get outside and breath every single day. Even when you don’t feel like going outside, at least open a window, if you are able to do that.
I also learned that food is very important. Back, when I was young, I only had the fruit that fell from the trees, or the wild things that the animals gave me. But you have other types of food. And I am not speaking of potato chips, hamburgers and french fries. I am speaking of fruits and vegetables. Clean water, when you can get it. Not anything with “additives”. God gave us food enough to last us a lifetime that is clean and pure and healthy for us. We need to be careful what we put into our bodies. When we put garbage in, we get garbage out. That is a fact.
Since I was 5 years old, I have been seen by “professional” people who tried to help. Some where able to put the body back together. Some gave me good advice. The others, I won’t discuss. One of the good ones told me to write things down, some said to use art and music to speak. I recommend those things to you.
For example: One time, they had me in a straightjacket in a padded cell. I had tried to kill myself when my children were kidnapped and that was the only way they could keep me alive. While I was in there, I began to remember what helped me growing up. The birds, from when I was little, used to come sit by me, and make music, and I learned that I could talk to them by making music. Mentally, while in that padded cell, I went back to that time out-of-doors and began to make music to calm myself. I closed my eyes and saw sunshine and flowers that God had given me when I was locked in a cold, dark closet when I was about 3 years old. I remembered my animal friends who have fed and nurtured me. I felt comforted, and once I was calm, they let me out of that room. But, I could never tell any of them what had calmed me down.
Over the years, I spent a lot of time locked up, until I finally learned how to talk to others. It had taken me until I was about 12 years old to learn how to speak words. Up until I left there, then, I went back to being afraid. I do hope and pray you were not treated as I was when I was young. But for those of us who were not allowed to speak, as adults we still struggle, when under a lot of stress, to find words that were not there growing up.
Thanks to good people, I have used Music and Art to help me talk many times. I drew pictures of many things. I drew that picture of my sister, whom I thought was dead. In that picture, you will see a tree, which represented my family, that egg, as she had been born early, the teddy bear, since it was the only toy she had from my mother. I drew it in black and white with only my hand in color, as I thought everything I loved was dead. I was told that it helped me to heal during a very rough time. I drew rain and animals. While in HollyGrove Home for Children, I used music to create rain and gave all my feelings in the music. One of my therapists spoke to me about my art, and he told me that it helped him to understand who I am. I liked and trusted him. He never tried to drug me, nor force me to do anything against my will. Now to my thinking, that is a good therapist. I am sorry to say, most places now treat mental illness with drugs only. I am grateful to find there are still places where a person can talk and be helped gently without drugs.
As I grew older, I began to keep what I call: my “positivity journal”. I recommend it highly and know it has helped many people. Each day, you open it and write down at least 3 things you are grateful for.
When I first started mine, the only thing I could think of was toilet paper. Now you may laugh, however, when I was young, I did not even know what that was. I know I was over 5 but under ten years old when I got to see and learn what toilet paper was for. A nurse showed me, and she even taught me how to use a toilet. Prior to that time, the only time I had used a toilet was when my head was being held into it by my step-mother. There, at the hospital, when the nurse flushed that toilet, and I saw the water went down and took all my “stuff” with it, I smiled. She smiled too and I knew it was okay. I’m sure you can think of something in your life that you are grateful for, even if you might think it is silly, right?
A few times in my life, I have been blind. When I saw my sister laying in that pool of blood and my step-mother beating her, I lost my sight, and that was just temporary. As an adult, I had a hole in my right eye, and all the fluid drained out. Then I got a very bad infection and lost sight in both eyes. One of my grateful things now, is that I can see. I’m sure you will think of many things you are grateful for every day.
May I share a game with you that I learned from one of my therapists? I call it the 5-4-3-2-1 game.
When you are anxious, stressed or feeling out of it: Look around you and find 5 colors. Name them. Next, reach out and touch 4 things. Name them as you touch them. Was it cold, warm, rough, smooth? Next, open your ears and listen for 3 sounds. It might be a fan, or a bird, or music, whatever it is, try to find at least 3 sounds. Next, think of 2 things that you enjoy eating or drinking. Think about what they taste like. Next, I want you to smell something. Then name that smell.
What I did, was make a little box and put things in it that I like. For example: 5 pieces of cloth which were different colors and textures. 4 little things; a smooth stone, a paper clip, an eraser, and a small marble. I also included a small bag of cinnamon, and hand lotion (I like wild cherry). I also put pictures of the mountains and the ocean and flowers. I called that my “E-box” and kept it close bye for those times when I was stressed out.
I suffer from what is now called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD). I lived in a “war zone” in my own family. Due to sexual trauma at a very early age, and having to live in so many different homes over my growing up years, I learned how to survive in many ways. Thus, I had what some Doctors called “Multiple Personality Disorder” (MPD), which they now label as “Dissociative Identity Disorder” (DID). A small child must develop different facets of their personality to “survive” when living in so many different homes. Doctors have no clue how those types of labels stigmatize children. We should never put labels on our children. Never! That does not cure them. That does not help them to heal. One doctor thinks one thing, another thinks another and thus the child is tossed back and forth and that only makes the original trauma worse.
Yes, I do tend to speak with a different voice when I am under a lot of stress. The reason being, it is hard for me to find voice, even though I am trying with all my might to speak. That “child” within me was never allowed to use a voice, thus I never learned how to communicate properly. That does not mean I must be “weird”. Due to the abuse of my early youth, at times I have pain in places that have no current injury. That does not mean I am crazy. That means there is a problem that has not been resolved, yet. It does not mean I am faking. It is very real.
For many years, they took people who were “mentally ill” and chained them to floors and tossed food at them to keep them alive. They felt that was humane. Things did get better in some ways, but even in the 1960’s we were not treated much better.
During the 1980’s many of us fought to help change the rules for the mentally ill, so we could have the right to refuse drugs and abuse. We helped those who suffer to not be raped by those who should have been protecting us. To not be drugged into compliance. But rather to obtain real help to heal, and many are still in that same fight. I’m sorry to say that some abuse the system, and thus make things worse. Those who are not really what they claim to be just so they can get away with crimes. I believe that we all need to held accountable for what we do. They allow prisoners to have food and shelter and clothing, but what are they doing for the mentally ill? Many live on the streets, having to do things that would turn your stomach if you knew.
Some learned that beating a child never helped that child to learn anything but hatred. Yelling at a child does not help them learn love. But allowing them to get away with doing wrong things never helped them to learn either. Lifting a child helps them feel loved. Teaching them right from wrong by example is the way they learn best. But many never got an opportunity to see that in action. All we saw was the wrong type of “love” .
I learned about real love at HollyGrove Home for Children in Los Angeles California back in 1957. I was the first child to be placed there from the court system. I only got to stay for one year, but in that year I saw for the first time what real love felt like. I got my first clean hug from the headmistress, Miss Margaret Ingram. I learned how to laugh right out loud. I learned how play. I learned about music from an old upright piano. I learned I could talk to someone and that person believed me, even though others called me a liar. I learned that when I did something naughty, I was held accountable for what I had done. Yet, I was loved in spite of my mistake. I was not a bad person, I had done a naughty thing, and I learned how to correct that mistake. All humans do naughty things from time to time, but that does not make us bad. Those who deliberately harm others are doing something bad. But since we don’t know why they do what they do, we need to stay away from them, or let others know who can and will stop them. I learned we can do things we might not want to do, and when we are asked by those who really love us (in the correct way), we can learn and grow by doing those things. For example: I learned how to clean the pots and pans in the kitchen and how to keep a place clean enough to be healthy and allow it to be dirty enough to be lived in. I love what “clean love” taught me. That year has stayed with me over 69 years. I still draw on what I learned from those wonderful people.
Anyway, I just want you to know, there is hope. There is a life after abuse. There is a life after depression. There is a way to overcome all things. And that is because there is a God who loves you. There is a God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ to show you that God loves you. Jesus Christ who is a God, suffered so He could know how You feel, and thus He can and will comfort You when you turn to Him. He not only came for those who do bad things, He came for you and me. For those of us who have been damaged and abused and neglected and misunderstood. He came for those of us who make mistakes and then repent and strive not to hurt others. He came before and is coming again to bring us all back to His presence. When we cry, He and all the angels in heaven cry. When we mourn, He mourns. When we suffer, He understands, because He also suffered.
Please, do not give up. There are ways out of what you are feeling. There are ways to find peace and happiness. There are those who really do care and want to help. There really are those who can help, but you have to do your part. You can’t just sit by and feel sorry for yourself, because that never did help you nor anyone else. I know, because I have been where you are. I know you can be as happy as you allow yourself to be.
You want to know how I know that? I lived it. I am still living it. And I shall continue to live it, even though I can not always walk; even though I can not always use my eyes; even though I can not always leave my home; even when I am locked up or tied down; I know that I have a form of peace, because: I know that God is watching. He sees everything and His angels keep records over everything that happens to His children, of which you and I are one. I know that when this life is over (and everyone dies sooner or later) He will make things right. I know that with all my heart and mind and will continue to live, looking forward to that day.
Hugs, from an woman who was once a child. A woman who was once a mother. A woman who was once a wife. A woman who was once abused, neglected, tortured, abandoned, sick and felt lost. A woman to whom the good Lord sent help to teach me who I really am. You may ask, “Who do you think you are?” I am a daughter of God, who is telling you that you too are a child of God, and there is hope.