Karen’s Story

TW: suicidal ideation


Hi I’m Karen and I have PTSD and depression with psychotic features. That just means sometimes I have hallucinations or delusions with my depression. Early on in my journey I couldn’t understand how deeply my untreated mental illness could affect my life. Crazy, you betcha that didn’t mean I shouldn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps and live a good life. After all I am strong, independent, determined, and smart. Help was for other people. As a teenager I got in some trouble and had to see a counselor. I minimized what I was experiencing. Isn’t every teenager sullen, in angst from other parts. However, particularly seeing and hearing things that didn’t seem real. These scared me and I was deeply ashamed. I would not share about them even when asked directly. I was sure that if someone knew what I was experiencing they would lock me up in an insane asylum and throw away the key. I went to college but the voices got louder the visions more intense. It was hard to function and my grades suffered. It was hard to make friends because I had so many secrets. I had to drop out of school and I had nowhere to go. I didn’t ask for help and found myself homeless. The streets were tough but I would not go to the shelter or soup kitchen and never once panhandled. I thought I shouldn’t need help and therefore I wouldn’t ask for anything. My counselor insisted I see a psychiatrist. We talked about my depression, my history of suicide attempts, and touched on the traumas I’d endured. She suggested a medication. It would be the first of a few we’d try before something actually left me feeling any better. I was soon able to function well enough to get a job and then to rent a room. Yet I didn’t tell her or anyone about the voices and visions. My mental illness was accordingly under treated. It really felt like something was wrong with me. Then one day I told the whole truth while staring at my shoes. My doctor asked me a series of questions and said let’s see if we can help you. There was no mention of being defective or dangerous. I started taking additional medication and the hallucinations became easier to deal with. With more appropriate treatment I was able to finish my degree while being a full-time mom to my step kids. I’m able to contribute more to my community. I still have mental illness. It hasn’t gone away. Sometimes I even still have visions and voices. However, with treatment, I get to enjoy my life. I’ve learned that it’s okay not to have all the answers and I can ask for help.