‘If you send me home, I will die.’ The doctor looked me in the eyes. ‘We’re all going to die.’: Mental illness, chronic pain warrior finds peace through therapy, ‘I accept myself as I am’

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Disclaimer: This story contains mention of suicidal thoughts that may be upsetting to some

“Mental illness has been my partner for as long as I can remember. As a toddler, I was sullen. Neighbors would refer to me as ‘the sad little girl.’ Then I was sexually abused at the age of four. Somehow, in my life, the people I was supposed to trust the most were the ones that betrayed me. As a child, I tried to understand. It was very confusing for me. At school, we were always learning about stranger danger. But what about the danger from those you know?

Courtesy of Kelly Long

As I grew up, I was prone to angry outbursts. At age ten, I physically assaulted my friend. I beat her with a wooden spoon, hard, because she wouldn’t leave my house when I wanted her to. By the time I reached my teens, I was anxious, depressed, and experienced crying fits. I had memory loss and suicide idealization. I’d go four or five days without sleeping. My emotions were always heightened.

In sixth grade, on my way to school, my friend’s brother drove by. He told me their father had passed away and asked me to tell my teacher. I started running. I sprinted all the way to school. When I told my teacher what had happened, I started crying. I cried the entire day. Sometimes it was silent tears, sometimes it was raw sobbing. What was wrong with everyone else? Why didn’t they cry too? Didn’t they hear me? Their father died! During the next parent-teacher conference, they told my mother, ‘You need to stop sheltering her.’  My teacher could not make sense of my emotions. Clearly, something was wrong with me.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

In eighth grade, I was sitting in the middle of class and I could hear people arguing, yelling, and name-calling. But no one in my class was actually talking. I thought I was crazy. I started yelling and flailing about. It took a group of teachers to get me into the teacher’s lounge, where they locked me up until they could figure out what to do with me. When they did come back in, I was halfway out of the second-story window.

I met my future husband at 17. Seven years later, I was married with four little babies to call my own. My struggles no longer mattered — my life became about and for my children. All of the demons were still there, though, alongside all of the high emotions. Suicide was never far from my mind, I just tried to push it all away. In my life, I have attempted suicide three times. Every second was a second I considered dying. From the first moment I woke up every morning until my last conscious thought at night, I internally said to myself, ‘I want to blow my head off.’ Always. One sentence. ‘I want to blow my head off.’ What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get the thoughts to stop? Why won’t the voices go away?

Courtesy of Kelly Long

The second time I attempted suicide, I swallowed my bottle of Prozac, went outside, and hid in our shed. My ex-husband came home and found the empty bottle. He called 911. At the hospital, because I was still conscious, I was forced to drink charcoal, a lot of it. Ironically, as I drank all of this charcoal to neutralize all of the medication I swallowed to end my life, I convinced the doctor to not admit me. I told him I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to take a nap.

Just like that, I left the hospital without anyone doing anything to help me. I had convinced an emergency room doctor even though I swallowed thirty Prozac, I was fine. I was good. He believed me. He let me go.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

In 2007, my life took an unexpected turn when I broke my back on a waterslide. Prior to this event, I had not developed any physical health issues. After that day, pain became my copilot. After having two rods, four screws, and a cage put in my spine, I became deathly ill. I contracted both spinal meningitis and MRSA in my spinal column. The pain of having a softball-sized abscess on my spinal column was unimaginable.

My life became about chronic pain and eventually chronic illness. I had always worked, ever since I was 16. At the time of my first back surgery, I was 32. I went from a full-time cosmologist to being on disability assistance. I could no longer stand for ten minutes. I couldn’t walk even 75 feet without having to stop because the pain threatened to kill me. My life had completely changed.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

I was in a car accident five years later. A medication I was on made my blood pressure drop. While driving, alone in my van, I blacked out and proceeded to drive 55 miles an hour into the back of a stopped semi-trailer. In the aftermath, I asked myself, ‘What is happening? How am I still alive?’

By a miracle, I did not break any bones, but my body took a beating. I was black and purple and my whole body was swollen. I had whiplash and both of my wrists were hyperextended. At that point, my daily pain was at least an eight on the scale. There was no relief.

In 2017, I became despondent. My will to live was completely gone. In June of that year, I decided I was done. I no longer saw the point of living when I was so miserable from the pain. I had been diagnosed with three different autoimmune disorders, arthritis, infection-induced osteoporosis, and my neck needed to be fused from c3 to c7. Turning my head from left to right felt like I was being struck by lightning inside my head. I gave up. I was done.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

I walked out into the road, in front of a car. It wasn’t even a thought; it was like I was being driven by an unknown force. I stepped off of the curb and closed my eyes. The car managed to swerve and not hit me. I was angry. Why wasn’t I being allowed to die?

I went to the ER again. This time I wanted help. I told the doctor I was suicidal and the weight of my pain was too heavy. My head was in such a bad place. It seemed like there was always someone screaming bloody murder, except no one heard it but me. That doctor said, ‘Go home. Take a walk. Read a book and drink some red wine.’ I told him, ‘If you send me home, I will die.’ I was no longer going to save myself. My will to live was gone. The doctor looked me directly in the eyes and said, ‘Meh. We’re all going to die.’ For me, there was no more trying. There was only doing. I knew if I attempted to kill myself again, that would be it. I’d be dead.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

I already felt dead. How can it be possible to have this much pain in your body and in your brain and still be alive?  What was wrong with me? Why was I unable to break the depression? I was suffocating underneath weight I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move. I was just a vessel for bad. I didn’t even know I knew how to be happy. I believed I was broken and God had made me without the ability to be happy. I’d tried to make changes in my life. I weeded out the negative people and I wasn’t allowing anyone to suck my energy, but nothing changed. The only thing I had never done in my life was to be on my own. I’d been with my husband for 21 years. Before that, I was a teenager and lived with my parents. I made the painful decision to leave my life behind.

In January of 2018, I was living on my own. There were no other adults were around to control me, to tell me how to behave, and point out ways I was always screwing things up. I started going to therapy. I would go two to three times a week. It was there I began healing. It was there I learned how to speak my truth. It was there I realized I might be okay. Having someone actually listen to me, to hear me when I spoke, allowed me to have emotions without making me feel bad for it. I learned you’re allowed to cry, allowed to be mad, and yes, those emotions are justified. There was nothing wrong with me. Emotions are normal.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

It was also during therapy the basis of my mental illness came to light. Because she was with me so often and helping me process my life, my therapist saw and observed me a lot. She began to bring up the changes in my emotions, in my demeanor, and even in my voice. She had me bring in my journal to discuss things I had written. I’ve been journaling my whole life — writing saved me. I put pen to paper and just wrote until my hand stopped. I never went back to read what I wrote. Why would I? I felt better by the time I was done, so no need to look back. As I went through my journal in therapy, though, I was shocked to see how much my handwriting changed, even from line to line sometimes. There were entries in my journal I had absolutely no memory of writing. There were words and phrases I would never use. I don’t even remember how or what we discussed that day, as the memory wasn’t mine to hold. When I got home, I googled Dissociative Identity Disorder. Finally. An answer.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

Everything made so much sense now. Because of all of the trauma I had gone through, my brain split to protect me. My conscious divided. I had created alters to handle different situations, people, illness, trauma. Now that I knew what was going on with me, I started listening to the voices and allowed myself to hear what they were saying. Over the course of the last two years, twenty alters have come out. I know there are more, but they can remain hidden if they’d like.

Courtesy of Kelly Long
Courtesy of Kelly Long

I was finally able to look back at my life, from early childhood until now, and understand myself, something I’d never been able to do before. I finally had an explanation. There is no cure for DID. Some people go through years of therapy to integrate their alters. I have chosen to just live as I am. I have no desire to relive my trauma. I accept who I am. I like everyone I am.

In March, I contracted COVID-19. Since then, my throat has never stopped hurting. My pain has increased and I’ve been running a fever. I’ve been to the doctor numerous times, but I am at a severe disadvantage. When you have chronic pain you take opiates for AND have a mental illness, doctors don’t take you seriously. I am dismissed. I’ve been told what I’m going through is probably autoimmune related. Finally, after seven months, I’m being referred to a rheumatologist.

Many times throughout my life, I wondered why I am here. I’ve asked myself, ‘Why am I alive? Why do I exist?’ My mother got pregnant with me after having her tubes tied. When I was eight, I got hit by a car. I’ve had deadly infections in my spine and been in a car wreck I should not have walked away from. I’ve come close to death often — but here I am.

Courtesy of Kelly Long

Now I know exactly why I am here. It’s because I have a story to tell. 44 years of mental illness and 13 years of chronic illness and chronic pain have changed the course of my life. I believe I am still on this earth because someone needs to hear my story.

I have been given the unique opportunity of seeing each situation from several different perspectives. I’ve learned to accept myself as I am. It is my hope someone will read these words and be encouraged. That someone who is thinking about taking their life will find the strength to seek help. That someone who cannot bear one more minute of pain is able to find some relief and strength. It is my hope these words reach the person that needs to read them most, and says to themselves, ‘If she can do it, so can I.'”

Courtesy of Kelly Long

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelly Long. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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