Life After PTSD & FND: A Worthy Life

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Eve Hinson, 2012 on left. Eve and her daughter in 2016.

By Eve Hinson | American Badass Advocate

(Previously Valley Voices, The Fresno Bee | 2015)

One in four is challenged with a mental health illness. I am that one. In 2010, I triggered with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures and PTSD. Before becoming mentally disabled, I was an online designer, social media guru and nationally syndicated blogger. After the trigger, I lost six-years of memory, day-to-day tracking of time, ability to talk and be understood, and my cognitive abilities dissipated at a rapid rate. I also struggled with body tics, tremors, seizures and chronic struck-by-lightening pain. At one point, I needed help  with mobility and basic self-care.

If that wasn’t challenging enough, the stigma of having a mental illness permeated every aspect of life. During the darker days, my words didn’t hold merit with many, including doctors. People would talk in front of me as if I wasn’t there. They’d discuss my life, my history, and what they thought was wrong with me. My stutter, inability to hold my body still and other physical factors made it appear I was intellectually unable to understand. On really bad days, my cognitive ability didn’t help that assumption. What I learned from close family members is they didn’t realize I could understand them. They thought I wasn’t mentally present — and, yes, sometimes I wasn’t rooted to this dimension,  but often enough, I understood what was going on around me.

13268344_10153536517437823_781717896086138913_oLife isn’t like it was before – but it’s still a whole life. It’s similar to yours and different than yours. It’s a worthy life. – Eve Hinson, American Badass Advocate

The stigma interfered with the most basic social interactions. Often, when I answered a question, others questioned my answer. How could I make a good life choice when I was mentally ill? Many treated my decisions as deranged. They knew what was better for me. I felt like a burden and that my contribution on any level had zero merit.

For some years I was bounced between mental health professionals and doctors. I didn’t argue my diagnosis of PNES, but I also couldn’t find appropriate treatment. When I asked my fifth neurologist how I could have a better quality of life, he scratched his head and showed me the door. The neurologist before him told my previous partner, in front of me, that she didn’t think I was malingering (fancy word for faking it) and that if I just believed my diagnosis, it would go away. On the mental health side, my psychiatrists didn’t know how to help – they’d never seen anyone like me in their practice. The honesty was refreshing but not helpful. Treatment ended up being a shotgun approach to medication combined with weekly therapy sessions.

10644624_10152298846957823_430448155827814653_oBy 2012, I couldn’t see an end to the nightmare, physical pain and mind monsters. Thoughts of suicide set in. The compulsion felt like a beast churning under my skin, and I’d get flashes of how it could be done.  I knew I needed to be hospitalized to survive. The help I received was a band aid, but it stuck long enough to find another doctor, one who listened, and she referred me to specialists in the Bay Area.

My recovery and wellness journey began in 2013 with a stay at Stanford Mental Health Behavioral Ward, and then followed up with local peer-to-peer support groups and more private therapy. It wasn’t until Stanford that I heard the word recovery in the same sentence as mental illness. The group leaders in peer-support repeated the same idea: Recovery is possible. That knowledge re-sparked my fight for a real life.

10509498_10152239610987823_4542689671669325872_nI’ve had some successes. Last January, my social worker at Resources for Independence Central Valley, encouraged me to attend the Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement training at Fresno State. I wasn’t sure I’d make two hours, much less two days, but had support and felt included. There I was taught that my story would help others and help fight the mental illness stigma in my community. Once again, my words had merit and value.

That training gave me the courage to apply to the Community Leadership Academy created by RICV.  There I learned that folks with disabilities make up 20 percent of the population, but fewer than a half-percent are active in community leadership positions. The program trained me to participate on boards and develop leadership skills. It is the only program like it nationally, and I am fortunate it is located in Fresno.

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Soon after academy graduation, I applied for and went through the process to become an RICV board member. My soul soared on becoming a part of the community business organization that helped me gain independence. That I was a consumer wasn’t a detriment but a welcome addition. Even with my disability, I could advocate and help others. A few weeks later, I was recommended by RICV to sit on the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities Area 8 Board and soon after was appointed by Governor Brown. My intention is to advocate and help others on a personal level, through legislative action or systematic change.

Today, and every day, is a successful struggle to wellness. Improvements small and stacking, over a great period of time with proper help and support, have made a incredible positive change in my life. I focus on what I can do, not what I can’t do. I’ve learned that sharing my story not only helps those who are experiencing mental health challenges, but it also helps me on my healing journey. Life isn’t like it was before – but it’s still a whole life. It’s similar to yours and different than yours. It’s a worthy life.

 

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