“I dove into work instead of processing my grief... My work became my coping mechanism”
My story began when I was a little girl and I realized my father had severe PTS and Bipolar Depression from serving in Vietnam. I didn’t understand what those terms really meant, but I knew it was the reason why my dad had such a dark side to him.
As a child, I regularly woke to a horrible sound. It was my father screaming in a cold sweat, crying and unable to stop shaking. He would call them “night terrors”. After one of these episodes, he would get really down and become closed off for days. I also could often hear the screaming between my Stepmother and my Dad. He would call her horrible names. I had a friend sleepover once, when he and my Stepmom were in a terrible fight. We could hear them running around the house hitting each other. I was so sick that my friend had to see this part of my life. I called the police on my Dad that night…He was choking her and it needed to stop. I will never forget how my stomach ached with shame.
janelle TALKS ABOUT Her UNCRUSHED EXPERIENCE
I never thought this behavior was unforgivable. He was my Dad, after all, and loved me more than anything. When I was 9, he came into my room one afternoon and stared at me with tears in his eyes. He told me he was going to leave this earth and he loved me and hugged me goodbye. I sat in pure fear overnight, alone, and wondered what I should do. This is how a child thinks…
“If I call and he’s OK… he will be so mad at me. But if I don’t call someone... then I could have saved him…”
Unfortunately, when he drank, his fits of rage and verbal abuse towards me and others began to accumulate throughout my childhood and the trauma he was exposed to was impacting my schoolwork and friendships. I became hyper vigilant and constantly needed my friends approval of love since I was not receiving this at home.
Many years later my father lost his life when he decided to leave the hospital against medical advice, for a small amputation, because he was in full-blown alcohol withdrawal. He passed away due to contracting Sepsis MRSA as he left the hospital with an open wound just to get to his medication of choice - Alcohol.
The day after he passed, I dove into work instead of processing my grief ‘the right way’ by seeking a grief counselor or any other grief support. I turned to what I knew best- my career. My work became my coping mechanism. I moved all over the country, avoided my own family, and lost many friends because I was working every day.
I work in the field of behavioral health and it seemed so easy for me to help others instead of focusing on my own trauma. I worked so hard that I became physically ill and this is where my childhood trauma truly started to surface. I began to slowly have anger issues and fits of rage. I started to cope with the loss of my dad and friends by abusing alcohol. I also was in desperate need for validation, acceptance, and love from everyone.
I became a love addict. Love addiction is a process addiction, meaning I wanted everyone to love me and accept me...I mean EVERYONE. This is a diagnosis most of us do not quite understand. There are many ways childhood trauma can come to the surface. High-risk behaviors such as social media addiction, codependency, infidelity, and gambling are just a few in a category called “Process Addiction”. I was spinning out of control, put myself in some very high-risk situations, and I needed help. I finally made the call and was diagnosed with cumulative PTS from triaging calls for people seeking mental health treatment.
I now see that the most courageous act someone can do is to ask for help.
The combination of the job of listening to difficult stories daily and the fact that I never received any grief support when my father passed away, led me to finally seek the help I desperately needed.
When I finally went to a treatment facility, I realized that all the work I did for others was what I truly needed to do for myself. I am here to share my story so that others, who are in hiding due to the nature of stigma, will know they are not alone. We rarely talk about how trauma can accumulate over time and this is one of the largest components of depression and suicide.
I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACoA) and when my father passed away, I inherited his behaviors - ALL OF THEM. I have to work every day on how to manage my processes addictions and coping, like rage and codependency, through wonderful tools such as apps that help me breathe and meditate. I go to supportive 12 step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), ACoA, and Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) and I see a therapist.
My goal is to help people take care of themselves first, before they take care of others. If we don’t, it will end up bleeding onto the ones we love. I took action so I can be a better parent to my daughter.
Please: If you are reading this and you know that it is time to change... DO IT! For the sake of your children who adore you more than you can possibly know. For the 9-year-olds that just don’t understand why.