Ever since I can remember, fear has been at the forefront of my life. As a child I can remember having constant stomach pains and uncontrollable shivering all the time. My mom has a framed picture of me in her house, I was about six, and it was taken at my mom's wedding. My mom thinks this picture is so adorable with me resting my head in my hands, but I hate the dreadful picture. I can still feel the fear and sadness that myself as that little girl was feeling. My mother married a man (who turned out to be a rapist), and I was sexually abused by his son and daughter.
Even at six, I knew no one would save me from this situation. I was such a withdrawn child and had really paralysing anxiety. I didn't want to talk, hear loud things, or be around crowds of people. All I wanted was my headphones to tune everything out. This progressed to panic attacks and depression as I entered middle and high school. As I became an adult, I realised a lot of opportunities passed me by because of my anxiety. College and job opportunities came and went because I was led by fear. I was later sexually assaulted again, and than I married two people who physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally abused me.
At 30, I was divorced twice, I had three children and I was severely depressed with blankets covering all my windows in the house. I had full blown panic attacks if anyone knocked on my house door. It was so bad that my children until this day, would be afraid if someone knocked on the door. When I noticed that my children displayed symptoms of anxiety, I decided to get help. I started with my primary doctor who gave me an anti-depressant twice a day, anti-anxiety four times a day, and a sleeping pill. So you can imagine, I was lifeless. I stayed on the medication for a couple of months and went back to the doctor and asked to be taken off. He decided I wasn't strong enough yet to function without medications. I explained to him that I can't remember anything from the day before, that my children are up, dressed, and out on the bus before I could manage to get out of bed. I was a zombie. He still decided that I should remain on the drugs. It was a very irresponsible decision, but I stopped taking the meds cold turkey. I suffered for two months of suicidal thoughts, how to kill myself and my three kids together, because of my fear I couldn't leave them on this earth without me, someone might hurt them. Hallucinations, paranoia, etc. I experienced when I stopped the meds.
I left that doctor and began seeing a therapists and my life changed. Without medications, I learned breathing techniques, I learned (and I am still learning) time management, so that I don't stress about being late, I learned how my elders dealt with stress, I even took a course in college about stress management. Thankfully, because I have suffered so long, I am able to get in front of panic attacks before I have to be taken to a hospital. Anxiety stills roars it's ugly head, but it doesn't scare me anymore. I literally breathe it away. I decided that anxiety and panic were definitely a part of me. I got over the stigma that having a mental illness brings. I don't believe that I just woke up mentally ill but the environment that I grew up in caused me severe trauma and the mental illness followed. I think it is imperative to know the health of our elder family members so we can check for signs and get in front of any issues like these, before they get out of control. If you struggle with mental illness, make it a priority to learn about who you are. The first thing this does is to clarify the thousands of questions running through your mind, making you more stressed. The next is to set boundaries in your life so that you are not getting overwhelmed by everyday tasks. The word NO has saved my life. Also, learn about the side effects of prescription drugs and how they will effect you in the long run. And lastly, talk to someone, a therapist, a counsellor, a pastor you trust. Sorting out the trauma and realising that it's not your fault is crucial to your healing.
Today, I am free of medication and full of meditation. I meditate, I breathe, and I pray through anxiety every single day. I realize that for some mental illness, medication is a must in order to begin the healing process, but like any other illness, life style changes have to be made. I have found healing in speaking my truth, getting to know and love myself, mentoring and coaching others. Sometimes when the spotlight is not on you, you can see things clearer. And what I see and know for sure is that trauma plays a huge role in the development of our minds. My non-profit organization, Girls Like You, Inc.'s mission is to create a place for girls (and boys) to realize their full potential, despite adversity, fatherlessness, trauma, etc. I know that I experienced life the way I have so that I can support others. I was born for a purpose, not to be abused but to be USED as a servant to those who may not have the strength to persevere. I love my life! It's full of everything good and bad, it's full of balance. At the end of the day, I can talk to any human being and relate, encourage, and love them just as they are. Mental illness does not define You..You define You.
Stay Tuned as we will feature Kelly's long journey as a young girl and now woman who is an entrepreneur overcoming hurt, pain, and now joy. Kelly Thomas is the Founder of Girls Like You Inc. you can follow her on instagram @girlslikeyouinc