- Friends & Family
- Mental Health
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
I got into recovery six years ago. I was hit by (a strong memory of) my trauma in an unexpected flashback when I went into a large retail store one random day. Even today, I don’t even know what triggered it, but I remember that I dropped what I was holding and kept walking in the store until I found a quiet corner, where I called a friend of mine for help.
For most of my life, if anyone would have ever asked me if I were struggling with anything emotional or mental-health related, I would have said that I was not. All of the trauma, all of the emotions, were tucked away for over 25 years and stored in a place with the intention that they never show up again.
After my trauma happened, the rest of my life proceeded pretty normally (without any major complications) and I was always known to be happy and smiling. I had absolutely no recollection, no memory of this incident until the day I went to the store and had the sudden emotional/mental experience that was so intense it made me choke and struggle.
The traumatic incident happened in Alabama, where my family lives. A few months after the traumatic memory returned, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Friends recommended that I see a therapist. I was scared to death to talk about it. I suddenly had bits and pieces of memory that felt accurate, but the connections were missing. It took a while to find the right therapist with which to discuss this situation.
I went to group therapy first and one of the facilitators recommended individual therapy to discover the root of my trauma and abuse and find a way to go through it. I was not thrilled about this idea. I didn’t feel ready for it, but I gave in at some point and found the therapy that I so much needed. I never went to any inpatient facility; I did all in outpatient work and intensive workshops.
It took about a year and a half before I felt leveled-out and stable in my therapy. You can’t expect to go to a couple sessions talk about a serious trauma and be healed and ready to go again. There is no magic wand a therapist can wave above your head. And even today, as my life progressed and is now pretty normal, I still experience occasional difficult times that are helped by some therapy.
My professional history was in retail before I traveled as a musician for some years. I had a friend and mentor who worked in addiction treatment, and she recommended a job for me under her employer. She thought I would be really adept in the field and I was drawn to the idea of having more stability and staying in one city. I took the job, and now I love my work and the fact that it helped me get grounded.
Fortunately, I never struggled with substance use to medicate myself. Instead, for many years, I had fear-based relationship issues ranging from codependency to fear-based isolation. I know that after my memories returned, I needed to get help. If I had remained untreated, I may have ended up engaging in self-harm or some other unfortunate situation. I’m glad that the right therapy saved me from entering a very unhealthy path.
Today, life is better. I love to do anything in the sun. I love to be outdoors. If I need to be inside, you find me by the window if it’s possible. I love to walk with my dog every day. I used to run a lot, but I’m not running too much lately. I’m not in a partnership at the moment. Relationships with my family are getting better. It is a hard process. However, it is possible to learn how to create boundaries and try to apply them to your life instead of living in codependency, discomfort, or isolation. We are getting there. I wouldn’t change anything.
I have a lot of compassion for people who struggle with any kind of abuse or addiction issue. I would never point a finger at someone that is trying to self-medicate such incredible pain with any substance. Unfortunately, if substance use disorders are present, they are also deadly. We need to find something that is equally as powerful to medicate in a healthy way. Get help, instead of numbing and stuffing. It works better and it is better for your physical health.