In this interview episode, it is an honor to have Tiffany on my podcast. New to a diagnosis this summer, Tiffany has dealt with her own childhood trauma and working through it to get to a point where her diagnosis became PTSD and Persistent Depressive Disorder. We discuss life living with a mental illness, how childhood trauma tends to affect us in the mental illness community, how it is to share her story, and living in a pandemic world with a mental illness. Tiffany talks about mental illness being heredity and how her nephew is the light and reason to live each day. Join us as we take a journey through Tiffany’s story.
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My friends from large families never understood why I don’t enjoy family gatherings. I don’t like crowds, even if I know everyone. I don’t see my family often enough to know any of them. This is my extended family, but what about the family I grew up with? I have my parents and two older sisters. I have not spent time with these four people together in over 15 years. That’s the last time I can remember the five of us together. Growing up with childhood trauma can cause one to isolate themselves. My family broke apart and never came back together.
My parents separated when I was starting my teenage years. My sisters and I were happy to see them get away from each other. I never realized at the time how abusive my father was. My oldest sister moved out and moved back in with my mother a couple times. She made her way into the world after some time. My second oldest sister, the middle child, she enlisted in the Army. A good way to get far away from home. I was alone for a couple years before going to college in another city.
I later moved to another state to finish my education and never went back home. I visited a few times, but never moved back. I never wanted to. After a while, I stopped visiting too. I rarely speak to anyone in my family; extended or other. I don’t know any of them well and have no interest in getting to know them. My life has improved without them. Still, my friends don’t understand my aversion towards families and gatherings. Growing up, these were times for arguments and sometimes violence. I have only negative associations with holidays.
I attempted to mend fences with my sisters and parents at different times. There’s some progress but the five of us will never be in the same room together. I’m the only one who hasn’t married and doesn’t have children. I almost don’t want to have a wedding, so I don’t have to invite anyone in my family. My broken family makes me feel I can’t have a family. This isn’t true but I can’t break the feeling sometimes. I struggle with interpersonal relationships. Distrust and pain filled my first experiences connecting with other people. This is something I’m still working on. I want to prove to myself that I can have a family.
I recently had my first appointment with a psychiatrist. I had counseling when I was six and again when I was eight but nothing since. There was a lot of trauma to discuss over nearly 30 years and this was the first session, so I felt I rambled a little too much. I was told this was normal for the intake. I think they got the overall picture but part of me feels like there were things I didn’t get to say. I had to remind myself there will be plenty of other sessions to discuss all the things.
This being the first time I’ve actively sought out help, I’m proud to say I did this on my own. No one told me to get help. There was no court order. I chose this. The was caused due to several factors. I now have insurance through my employer and therefore the costs are less. I could see my personal and professional relationships becoming strained due to some of my issues and I wanted to solve this before I caused serious damage. More importantly, I want those people to see I’m doing something to correct the problem. If others see an effort being made to correct an issue, I think they’ll be more understanding of what I’m personally going through.
Obviously, one session isn’t enough to provide a diagnosis. There are so many titles and subcategories and specific labels. They are leaning towards something in one of the traumatic disorders, but it will probably take a few weeks to get a firm diagnosis. This is just a label to me. Something to tell others. What’s important is the treatment. I can call this whatever I want, and it won’t make any difference if I don’t do something to correct the issues or don’t deal with the trauma on a conscious level. If anything, a name for my trauma and issues will only help me get disability from the state. Is that what I want? No, but I might have to in order to have money to pay for treatment.
This is the first step in a long journey. I don’t know how long it will take. If I focus on the finish line, I’ll feel it’s too far and give up. I can only take it one day at a time. One session at a time. This would be easier if I didn’t need a lot of dental treatment as well. I have almost $1,000 in dental costs I’m saving up for and now I need a couple thousand to reach my insurance deductible. Thankfully my insurance provides a Health Savings Plan that I can put money into but even that’s a long way from having enough money in it to cover all my costs. It’s so expensive just to be alive.