My biological father was violent and sometimes I remember my older brother would put me in my room and put his Walkman headphones on me, give me a chocolate milk and tell me to “stay here”. I was 4 years old.
My family swept problems under the rug – it’s a bit like the rules of fight club, the first rule of domestic violence, is you don’t talk about domestic violence.
I wanted people to think I was like everyone else I went to school with. People thinking there was something wrong with me was the thing I feared the most.
I was 17 years old when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression when I was admitted to hospital after trying to take my life.
I’d often self-harm because I wanted to tell people how much I hurt inside. As I got older and more financially stable, I turned to drugs and reckless behaviour.
Being hospitalised was the turning point for me. I was being supported by medical professionals who helped me better understand my childhood trauma. They helped me identify patterns of behaviour and provided me with communication tools to help correct them. Cognitive behavioural therapy is something I still use today to help manage my feelings of anxiety and depression.
I’d like to end the story by saying today I’m well and healthy, but unfortunately I can’t. I have a great family, and a great job but I am still impacted by anxiety and depression, sometimes it’s worse than other times. And ISO is making it hard. I can go months without a panic attack and then out of the blue “POW” my chest restricts, my throat tightens, I can’t breathe.
Sometimes I’m too hard on myself to be “mentally and emotionally healthy” all the time. I am doing the best I can by getting treatment, which for me includes medication and counselling. To be honest it’s exhausting, but it’s necessary.
I wanted to share my story because being in ISO is having an impact on us all. My hope is that by talking about domestic violence and the impact it’s had on my life, how I manage living with anxiety and depression will help give others the strength to speak to someone if they are struggling and need help. You don’t have to be afraid.
I can never be that four-year-old girl with the headphones on, sipping a chocolate milk again. Some days I miss her. If I could go back and give her some advice, I would tell her “One day you are going to be surrounded by so many people who care about you, even on the darkest days, they will always be there for you because you are loved.”
And I would give her a hug.