My Mental Illness Recovery Story, Part 1
by Shannon Hutchison
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“When fear is excessive it can make many a man despair”.
My life story begins after my soon to be grandparents find a seventeen year old boy homeless. Feeling sorry for him, they give him a place to live – in their home with their sixteen year old daughter, Samantha. Thus, less than a year later, my future father gets Samantha pregnant out of wedlock. That is how I was born.
Dad, mom, and I move in a home away from my grandparents. Living with my very violent, unstable father who did and sold cocaine, mom and I were often very afraid of Dad. Mom told me that Dad once “tried to kill my sticking a gun to her head”. (She also told me he spent a year in jail for selling cocaine to an undercover FBI agent.). Subsequently, to protect her and myself from Dad, we headed south across many states to hide from him.
When I was two, Mom and Dad got divorced. My mom’s parents got custody of me. Living with two truly loving, caring, sacrificial, Christian grandparents, my hyperactivity created much anxiety upon them; still they did their ultimate best to raise me. They also struggled to teach me new things as I was hard learner back then.
During the majority of my life, I had always been very scared of men. As a toddler, still being raised by my grandparents, I would habitually panic, scream, and heavily cry when seeing a man in church. Childhood trauma also made it difficult for me to talk; so before I was six years of age, I seen a therapist. I haven’t stopped talking since, as I am today, a constant talker.
Before I was eight years old, mom remarried, this time to John. After the marriage, I moved back to live with the two. John was very abusive to me. After he locked me into a closet until Mom heard me crying and let me out, mom decided to divorce him. So I moved back to my grandparents until Mom remarried again, this time to Randy, who she still is married to. Unfortunately, Randy was also very abusive to me.
I remember those childhood days with the man, trying to make it through each day unscathed, desperately praying and counting the minutes of each day, hoping that calendar date would end soon. Praying God for strength; immensely trying to please my stepdad; hoping Randy would be nice to me.
One night, naked I was, he made me put ice on my testicles. Randy wickedly told me that “if I moved, he would hit me.” Feeling intense anger, sadness, and shame: “why would a man do something so hurtful to such a kid?” In that living room, on my back, naked, and helpless, I did what I was instructed to do. That experience seemed so long, so unending and frightening, as I felt so weak and dirty, so low and unworthy.
“Please God! Help me! Why God, why God, have you forsaken me? What did I do so wrong to deserve so much pain and suffering?” I didn’t realize it back then, but God didn’t leave me. He was with me, giving me power and courage to overcome, strength in weakness. Today after reflecting upon the experience, I see now He had a far greater purpose: one of love, hope, and faith. But before it would fall in place, I had to suffer more.
Being abused daily, I counted the minutes, counting the days, counting the months, to play his wicked games another day. Mom didn’t know of the abuse at the time; no one knew except Randy and I. It was David versus Goliath, except this David was weak and defeated. I thought: “I just need to make it to the night, make it to the time he goes to bed, so I could cry and weep in mourning away from his sight, as well as to regain my vulnerable strength.” I prayed and prayed: “God, do you love me? I am so weak and frail, and so scared! I need you God! God, please don’t let me down!”
I tried to be perfect, so perfect, hoping it would appease Randy’s anger and cruelty. I remember him opening a pepper lid and dumping half of it in my cereal, and forcing me to eat it. I also hated the cruel words; the belittling; his power games. I had to be perfect, so perfect, in fear of him hitting me.
As a child, my OCD illness started to kick in gear, as I began to obsess about everything I did, trying to be perfect in all I did, hoping to avoid punishment and win his acceptance. Unfortunately, this often seemed to be a losing battle for me. I began to obsess in the manner I went to bathroom, as I started worrying I would pee on the floor, in fear of being harshly reprimanded. Staring at the TV, while in the living room with him, I often felt the anxiety of him watching me, so I obsessed about what body motions and gestures I would make. “What was he thinking about, what did he have in future mind to do or say to me next?” At the kitchen table, with mom present, he would complain about the manner I would put food in my mouth, and how visible the smear I made on the drinking glass after taking a drink. I would often try to eat real slowly, as I feared getting out of my chair to put more food on my plate, as I would often get angry at me for taking too much food. I also obsessed about the manner I walked, as I heard the floor creak after taking a step. In seemingly everything I did, I obsessed, hoping it would protect me; unfortunately, in reality, all it did was imprison me, in the present and future.
When I helped my stepdad do work, which was almost daily, I habitually became so fearful of making a mistake that my anxiety would cause my mind to race, sabotaging my ability to process his instructions and complete the tasks he gave me. My mind learnt to constantly evaluate and reevaluate every decision and action of mine, as I feared the potential consequences. My constant fear of his anger lashing out on me, make me extremely unconfident and distrustful of my abilities. When I was seventeen, after him getting frustrated at my driving mistakes, he uncontrollably grabbed my throat and punched me in the face, breaking my glasses and giving me both a black eye and throat marks.
His cruel words hurt me the most. Daily I listened to the loud message “I was no good, incompetent, unloved, weak, and worthless”; soon that taped message in my head became a depressing song that wouldn’t leave my mind. Trying feverishly to prove him wrong, and to avoid further abuse, my “screw-ups” only became further evidence of validity of his rejecting words and actions. The more mistakes I made, the increasingly I believed in the lies, and the more I hated myself. These feelings and thoughts became a vicious cycle that wouldn’t go away until my late thirties of age.
2 Corinthians 4:8
“We are press on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” William James quote
“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized, and cruelty mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered. “ (Michael J. Fox). In life, there will always be people who will hurt you. During these times, realize how much God loves you, and recall trials that God previously delivered you from.
In spite of the fact Paul was “beaten, put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food”, he stated: “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. A life of being abused by men and great suffering, Paul still said the following in Romans 8:18: “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He (God) will reveal to us later.”
David faced many men trying to kill him; regardless, David said in Psalms 9:9: “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” In your times of adversity, let God be your shelter.
Also, in Psalms 34:27-20, David writes: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not of them is broken!”
In spite of all my past trials with abuse, God laid his protection on me; “not one of my bones was broken”. As you will later see, God had a divine purpose for all my sufferings. I strongly believe he also has one in spite of your troubles. See Romans 8:28.
Just because we don’t yet understand the reasons for our suffering, we should not question the Father’s love, proven by His Son’s death on the cross, for believers. Paul writes in Romans 8:38:41:
““And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
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