I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri with three siblings. The product of divorced parents of little means, my childhood was rough. My ticket out of my family and out of my city was to join the U.S. Army.
I served in the Army for almost seven years as a communications specialist with one deployment to Iraq. During deployment, I was medically evacuated due to a non-combat, life-threatening illness. Prior to that deployment, I was also a victim of sexual assault and the frequent object of sexual harassment in the mostly male environments in which I was assigned. These compounding traumas eventually led to the diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and major depression. For nearly 15 years, I was considered “seriously mentally ill with chronic and severe occupational and social impairment.” Providers said I was “not likely to improve” and that I would have to take medication for the rest of my life.
In the 13 years following my medical retirement from the military, my full-time job was that of a patient in the mental health care system. Those years are a blur. I was prescribed over 50 drugs and was hospitalized seven times. I had life-threatening seizures twice and attended several intensive programs and retreats trying to regain my sense of well-being. I became disillusioned when I felt that all I was doing wasn’t working; even more, all of my efforts with medication and therapies were making me worse. I thought to myself, “I’m doing everything all of these providers are telling me to do and I’m not getting better, so that must mean I am beyond help.” I was done.