Today we have a interview with Heather Gehrman about her life with mental illnesses. Thank you in advance Heather for sharing your story with us. So lets begin.
Tell us about your family background and when you were first diagnosed.
Mom had me when she was 19. I don’t know who my biological father is. Step dad came into the picture when I was 1 1/2. He adopted me when I was 12. We looked like the Brady bunch. Responsibilities like school and Dr’s appointments were always on time etc…
My mother was jealous of my relationship with my step father and was incredibly emotionally abusive toward me. She eventually manipulated my dad into also snubbing me. In therapy I have come to learn that my mother may have been raped or a victim of incest….I would have been a product of that. Therefore the emotional neglect was severe. I left home at 15. My parents did not try to get me to come home.
At 16 I legally divorced my parents through emancipation. I had started using drugs and alcohol to survive my emotional hell at the age of 9 (crazy huh? ) I had gone to treatment 3 times and lost my own children because of my use before making it to Hazelden at the age of 26 where I was diagnosed as bipolar and paranoid delusional.
What has been the toughest part of having several disorders?
Figuring out what ones are the right ones. Since finding out about the 2 in 1999 I have since been told Adhd, Ocd, Oppositional Defiant and now Borderline.
What treatments and strategies have helped you the most in managing your illnesses?
Definitely Hazelden was the most helpful. They taught me how to manage having the disease of addiction and made me aware of my mental illness so that I could understand what was wrong with me.
Once I had the awareness I was able to educate myself and seek help when necessary. I needed medication. Without it, I completely fall apart. I have tried to go without and it becomes a disaster all of the time. I went into therapy recently because of my inability to bond with people. The lack of connection is very hard for the people that love me. I had to seek the “right” therapist.
I tried many before finding my current shrink. Because of the borderline diagnosis I will be in long term therapy. Probably for the rest of my life. But I’m OK with that because I know now that I can’t be in my head by myself.
What do you think of psychiatric medications and therapy?
If a person is honest with their psychiatrist I think that meds are very helpful. It takes patience to find the correct combination, but can be life changing once the internal chemicals are properly balanced. Again, I am someone that needs them.
As for therapy, I seek education about my disorder. I want to know as much as possible and want to find ways to cope on a daily basis. I like trying new approaches to things no matter how uncomfortable they may be. I have become very self aware because of the therapy that I have had and would not change that. Sometimes I feel self conscious about the fact that back in the day I would have been committed to an Asylum.
What advice do you have for someone about what treatments to try?
Be open to what the professionals suggest. We are where we ate in life because of a short in our wiring. The past of our brain that houses emotional response does not work properly. This affects decision making, actions and impulse control. If a person has cancer, they do what the Dr’s tell them they need to do in order to achieve remission. It should be no different for a person with mental illness.
What would tell someone who has been newly diagnosed?
It’s scary. It’s a life long disorder. But, you can live a normal life if you seek the education, use the tools and practice acceptance. You’ve got to find some peace in the fact that you will need help. And that help is a gift. For many many years that help was not available. People were left to commit suicide or be locked up for a life time. That is something that I would not wish for any of us.
Whats the best way loved ones can support someone with mental illnesses?
I’m not sure. I don’t get any sport from my family. My father refuses to accept it. I no longer have a relationship with my mother. My husband will listen to me when I communicate with him, but it is disappointing to me that he had never attempted to learn anything about what goes on with me on a daily basis. I would like someone to go after the knowledge that I have been seeking out for so many years, but I don’t have any control over that…. Very hard to say…
What are your favorite resources on mental illness. Such as a certain website maybe a book?
I love the Facebook group Bipolar / Mental Health Circus. I also got alot of information from the book Sometimes I Act Crazy. Movies like Prozac Nation are very eure opening.
Anything you would like the readers to know?
Don’t give in to the monster in your mind. Dont be afraid to tell that monster that you are not playing the game today. Train yourself to pause before saying or doing anything. Question the way that you are about to react. That pause can make a big difference in the outcome of things. And always always always remember that This Too Shall Pass.
Our emotions are fleeting. No matter how painful life may feel right now, tomorrow may be the day when everything is OK. The only thing that is permanent is death. One of my favorite phrases is
You Only Live Once?
You Live Every Day
You Only Die Once.
That sums up our interview on mental illness. Thanks again for Sharing your story. Look for my next interview with a woman with a little bit more support and her look on mental illness.