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Our Stories

Michaela: Healing From Childhood Abuse, Age: 29

I eventually was homeless from 17 through 19. Going in and out of shelters I was trying as hard as I could to survive, yet survival was simply running from my past.

How did it all start? When did you first start experiencing symptoms or using?

My journey began when I was very young. As a child I experienced various forms of abuse that I believed I needed to keep a secret. I was ashamed of what was happening, while I was confused and scared because something inside me knew that it was wrong.

I spent my time trying to come across as “normal” – getting involved in sports, making friends, doing well in school, and following the latest popular trends. On the inside I was miserable and continued to struggle to make sense of how I fit into a distorted view of reality. My reality was warped because I couldn’t trust that this life would be good to me.

By the time my junior year of high school hit I was a mess. I was using drugs, skipping school, engaging in self-harming behavior, struggling with an eating disorder, and no longer participating in the activities that once brought me a sense of normality and purpose. This went on for years.

I eventually was homeless from 17 through 19. Going in and out of shelters I was trying as hard as I could to survive, yet survival was simply running from my past. I needed to address the abuse of my childhood, make amends to those who I had hurt in the self-destruction of my teenage years, and finally define my purpose as a whole person.

What kind of help did you get at first? Did it work?

After years of struggle, I found myself on the edge and I jumped. For me this means I attemped to die by an overdose. I was 21 at the time.

Looking back, there were multiple attempts to connect me to resources made by individuals in my life. My mom brought me to psychiatrists, the shelter workers provided me counseling, and a handful of supportive adults in school encouraged me to open up. It was futile.

Their attempts to offer me guidance was unsuccessful because I was not going to be a “crazy” person. I did not believe that there was anything wrong with me, yet that was the message being delivered to me over and over again. “Michaela you are f@$&ing up your life.” “Michaela you are not going to get anywhere acting like that.” I still don’t understand why anyone didn’t just state their observations using a nonjudgmental approach and then ask me what happened.
I didn’t need a psychiatrist – I needed someone who would share with me their own struggles that they overcame.

Were there any turning points where things really started to change for the better?

The turning point in my life was when I realized that I could acknowledge openly that what I had experienced was beyond my control at the time, yet I now had a choice to take control over the outcomes of my life. That I could choose to live a life of self-defined purpose. This included identifying and accessing resources, building a strong support system of compassionate human beings, going to school to understand how I could utilize my experiences to influence change to ensure that others do not have to experience struggle like I had, along with seeking job opportunities that allowed me to get involved in the behavioral health system of Connecticut.

What’s your life like now? What have you been able to accomplish, and what are you working towards?

Since that time when I recognized that I had the innate ability to rise above the circumstances of my life and be something more than a diagnosis, my life has been amazing! There have been times where I have struggled to make sense of challenges and barriers presented in my life, but I am fully aware that I have options. The most basic option being to work through the struggle or to be limited by it. I choose to push through.

I am now married, with three young sons, I have continued on through graduate school, and I am now working and volunteering to help create the opportunity for recovery to be made available to all young people across the state.

I am living the dream – you can too!! To get involved with our recovery network – please email me at michaela@mindlink.org or text me at 8608784296 I need your help to make systems change a reality!!