Jody Betty

@jodybetty | contributor
Jody is an Author, an Acclaimed Blogger, and a Podcast Host. Jody is a childhood trauma survivor who lives with BPD, Treatment-Resistant Depression, Anxiety, CPTSD, and Chronic Suicidal Ideation. She decided to turn her trauma into something positive through her writings and podcast in hopes of letting people know they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings.
Jody Betty

The Fear of Abandonment Issues That Stem From Childhood

I have been walking on eggshells as far back as my memory goes. So much so that if they aren’t there, it draws me outside my comfort zone to the point that I believe I subconsciously create them, not only in regards to others but for me as well. Silence your words, mind your actions and be engrossed with the fear of failure. One that is so great, it inhibits your ability to start things from simple projects to relationships, which brings me to my point; a close friend of mine suggested instead of editing my blogs the 50 times I do, to write about what scares me, and just go off the cuff and hit publish without as much as a second glance. Sounds easy, it comes naturally to her. But for me the fear of failure, the fear of a poor reaction or offending someone is so intense that what she writes in 20 minutes may take me a week. I take the phrase “your own worst critic” to a whole new level. So, as much as it is against every grain of my being, I am open to trying most things once. Most people are afraid of death or disease; fire, heights or perhaps something even more tangible like spiders or snakes. I will admit I am terrified of fire, and not fond of heights, however neither of those fears compare with the one terror that consumes me: abandonment. Simply put, seared in my mind is the fact that has proven true time and time again; attachment leads to abandonment which gives rise to feelings so intense, just writing this is causing anxiety. I understand no one likes to be left, maybe due to the lack of control over the situation, or the fact that it makes you question both yourself and your sense of self-judgment. Perhaps it simply is because it hurts, but for me this pain and fear extends far beyond what the average person deals with. It is debilitating.My birth mother was an alcoholic and drug addict. She was given six months after my birth to clean up and get me back, however her illness proved too much for her and the worker would tell me years later that she had showed up for visitation drunk or high one too many times. As an adoptee, I have questioned for years why she couldn’t try harder, why I just wasn’t enough and why she, in my eyes, abandoned me. Decades later, I understand the depth of her mental illness and realize that she just did not have the coping techniques required, however, nothing fills the space that holds those thoughts and feelings of being relinquished. I mean, who doesn’t like babies? I was bounced around in foster care until I was adopted at 18 months. Every therapist I have seen, and there have been a few, says my attachment issues are a result of not having the nurturing and comfort that babies require. Everyone will argue with me saying it is not possible or very rare to have memories at 18 months, but I specifically remember being dropped off by a worker to my adoptive home and out of sheer terror, went and stood in the corner by the stairs for what seemed like an eternity. My mom would tell me later it was almost 36 hours before I left that spot. I was scared… scared I would be given back again, or have to go to another home where I would experience multiple forms of abuse. My father openly admits he hated children back then and only adopted me because my mom couldn’t have kids, and by him I was treated accordingly. Walking on eggshells was the norm and the situation became more precarious when the domestic violence started. My mom loved me, I do not doubt that, but for me the bond of blood simply does not register in my heart or soul. There was always the fear, the threat of being sent back to foster care, which enhanced the fear of attachment. The only thing I knew as very young child is that if you become attached to something, it will be taken away. It was not a matter of it might, it was in my heart a matter of when. Throughout my childhood, this pattern of what I saw as abandonment was quite consistent. I suffered numerous losses before I was 12, including three deaths, another foster child coming to my home and being brought back to be claimed by the system. From then on, I started to build a wall, brick by brick I constructed it as high and strong as I could, and I tried my best to live safely behind it as often as possible. Try not to care too much; fight off any feelings of love and trust; and most importantly, do not allow yourself to be loved. Those were the mantras I tried desperately to live by as a kid, as a teen and for most of my adult life. If you don’t let anyone in, they certainly can’t leave and that leaves me in control of the situation thereby effectively avoiding being abandoned again. My mom died when I was 19, after a six year battle with breast cancer that spread and ravaged her body while I sat beside her watching and doing all I could knowing it would never be enough and that no matter how desperately I wanted it to be me instead, fate did not choose that path for me. I had six years to prepare, but no amount of time can ready you for such an incalculable pain. For me, not only had I lost my mom, but the one person I had let in my wall; the one person who no matter what I did or said did not leave me until it was time for her last breathe. It will be 26 years since she passed, yet as I write this I wipe away the tears.There are numerous scars on my heart and a voice in my mind that tells me daily it is not safe to venture outside the fortress I have built. That if I do, the past will continue to repeat itself, resulting in more people leaving and the consequent pain from the loss, which in my mind, to this day, is an abandonment of sorts. My brain turns it instantly into self-blame. Maybe it was something I said, or didn’t say; something I did or didn’t do; maybe I showed them too much of myself. Whatever the reason, the pain with each loss for me is amplified and relentless. Living with very few attachments is safer for me, but at the same time shuts me down from new possibilities. Over the years, I have started a slow deconstruction, brick by brick and allowed a few more people in than I am comfortable with, but the intensity of the fear has not changed one little bit, and at any moment I have a construction crew at my disposal. There is no life without loss. Can you relate? Let Jody know in the comments below.

Jody Betty

The Fear of Abandonment Issues That Stem From Childhood

I have been walking on eggshells as far back as my memory goes. So much so that if they aren’t there, it draws me outside my comfort zone to the point that I believe I subconsciously create them, not only in regards to others but for me as well. Silence your words, mind your actions and be engrossed with the fear of failure. One that is so great, it inhibits your ability to start things from simple projects to relationships, which brings me to my point; a close friend of mine suggested instead of editing my blogs the 50 times I do, to write about what scares me, and just go off the cuff and hit publish without as much as a second glance. Sounds easy, it comes naturally to her. But for me the fear of failure, the fear of a poor reaction or offending someone is so intense that what she writes in 20 minutes may take me a week. I take the phrase “your own worst critic” to a whole new level. So, as much as it is against every grain of my being, I am open to trying most things once. Most people are afraid of death or disease; fire, heights or perhaps something even more tangible like spiders or snakes. I will admit I am terrified of fire, and not fond of heights, however neither of those fears compare with the one terror that consumes me: abandonment. Simply put, seared in my mind is the fact that has proven true time and time again; attachment leads to abandonment which gives rise to feelings so intense, just writing this is causing anxiety. I understand no one likes to be left, maybe due to the lack of control over the situation, or the fact that it makes you question both yourself and your sense of self-judgment. Perhaps it simply is because it hurts, but for me this pain and fear extends far beyond what the average person deals with. It is debilitating.My birth mother was an alcoholic and drug addict. She was given six months after my birth to clean up and get me back, however her illness proved too much for her and the worker would tell me years later that she had showed up for visitation drunk or high one too many times. As an adoptee, I have questioned for years why she couldn’t try harder, why I just wasn’t enough and why she, in my eyes, abandoned me. Decades later, I understand the depth of her mental illness and realize that she just did not have the coping techniques required, however, nothing fills the space that holds those thoughts and feelings of being relinquished. I mean, who doesn’t like babies? I was bounced around in foster care until I was adopted at 18 months. Every therapist I have seen, and there have been a few, says my attachment issues are a result of not having the nurturing and comfort that babies require. Everyone will argue with me saying it is not possible or very rare to have memories at 18 months, but I specifically remember being dropped off by a worker to my adoptive home and out of sheer terror, went and stood in the corner by the stairs for what seemed like an eternity. My mom would tell me later it was almost 36 hours before I left that spot. I was scared… scared I would be given back again, or have to go to another home where I would experience multiple forms of abuse. My father openly admits he hated children back then and only adopted me because my mom couldn’t have kids, and by him I was treated accordingly. Walking on eggshells was the norm and the situation became more precarious when the domestic violence started. My mom loved me, I do not doubt that, but for me the bond of blood simply does not register in my heart or soul. There was always the fear, the threat of being sent back to foster care, which enhanced the fear of attachment. The only thing I knew as very young child is that if you become attached to something, it will be taken away. It was not a matter of it might, it was in my heart a matter of when. Throughout my childhood, this pattern of what I saw as abandonment was quite consistent. I suffered numerous losses before I was 12, including three deaths, another foster child coming to my home and being brought back to be claimed by the system. From then on, I started to build a wall, brick by brick I constructed it as high and strong as I could, and I tried my best to live safely behind it as often as possible. Try not to care too much; fight off any feelings of love and trust; and most importantly, do not allow yourself to be loved. Those were the mantras I tried desperately to live by as a kid, as a teen and for most of my adult life. If you don’t let anyone in, they certainly can’t leave and that leaves me in control of the situation thereby effectively avoiding being abandoned again. My mom died when I was 19, after a six year battle with breast cancer that spread and ravaged her body while I sat beside her watching and doing all I could knowing it would never be enough and that no matter how desperately I wanted it to be me instead, fate did not choose that path for me. I had six years to prepare, but no amount of time can ready you for such an incalculable pain. For me, not only had I lost my mom, but the one person I had let in my wall; the one person who no matter what I did or said did not leave me until it was time for her last breathe. It will be 26 years since she passed, yet as I write this I wipe away the tears.There are numerous scars on my heart and a voice in my mind that tells me daily it is not safe to venture outside the fortress I have built. That if I do, the past will continue to repeat itself, resulting in more people leaving and the consequent pain from the loss, which in my mind, to this day, is an abandonment of sorts. My brain turns it instantly into self-blame. Maybe it was something I said, or didn’t say; something I did or didn’t do; maybe I showed them too much of myself. Whatever the reason, the pain with each loss for me is amplified and relentless. Living with very few attachments is safer for me, but at the same time shuts me down from new possibilities. Over the years, I have started a slow deconstruction, brick by brick and allowed a few more people in than I am comfortable with, but the intensity of the fear has not changed one little bit, and at any moment I have a construction crew at my disposal. There is no life without loss. Can you relate? Let Jody know in the comments below.

Jody Betty

When Depression Feels Like Drowning in Sadness

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. I don’t know if it is the borderline personality disorder (BPD) or the depression — or the two of them working together to try and pull me into the water. Regardless of the fight left in me, the weight pulls me slowly under the water, before sinking me to the cold, dark bottom. These are the times I find it hardest to keep going, to keep fighting. These are the times when I question the progress I have made in therapy and wonder why I don’t yet feel better, or if I ever will. These are the times when the smallest of things irritate me, getting under my skin to the point of feeling angry. These are the times when I cry the most, feel the most frustrated and misunderstood. These are the times I wonder if I should fight to cut those boulders off and float to the surface or allow the water to fill my lungs and put my mind and body to a final, peaceful rest. I have clawed my way to the surface more times than I can count and will continue to do so. For me, these major depressive episodes can come on as quickly as the blink of an eye. They are often triggered by the simplest of things, and last anywhere from a few days to a few months. These are not BPD depression episodes which tend to bounce my emotions around more rapidly, like the lines on a heart monitor. These are feelings of hopelessness and despair compounded with an overwhelming sadness that leaves upon me, an invisible heaviness I can physically feel, yet cannot accurately describe. This depression sucks the life out of me, emotionally and physically leaving a sense of tiredness I can’t control. The simplest tasks like getting up and having a shower or doing the dishes can leave me feeling like I just ran a marathon. The exhaustion of doing something so menial leaves me wanting to crawl back into bed and sleep the day away. And the frustration of this draws me further towards the bottom. The depression eats away at my desires. It sucks the pleasure out of the few things that once brought me joy, and replaces them with a complete lack of motivation. It feels like there is just no reason and no ability to see more than an hour ahead. Anything further than that feels impossible and pointless. The depression makes my mind foggy and takes away my clarity and focus. It makes something that comes naturally to me — like writing — become a daunting and overwhelming task, as if I have to dig for the words instead of them just flowing. This depth of depression takes away every last ounce of hope I have. It makes the sunshine less bright and the flowers lose their wonder. This type of major depressive episode has an inner monologue that drowns out any voice of reason. It is louder than and stronger than the positivity in my mind or the therapeutic techniques I have learned to put into practice. It feeds my inner critic with falsehoods so convincing, I have to stop myself from believing them and remember depression is a master liar. It amplifies every negative thought I have ever had in my life. It takes the words from voices of my past, reiterating I am a failure, I am worthless and I am all those things they said, and repeats them over and over like a skipping record. It slowly eats away at my hope replacing it with overwhelmingly realistic scenarios of negativity that are as easy to fall into, like a pit of quicksand. It makes me question my existence, my purpose and if I will ever be able to do anything more than just survive. However, despite the despair and fear, I remain to fight. Despite the feeling of being constantly weighed down, I continue to fight the war in my head and survive its battle scars. I realize this will not last forever. It will pass just as the other episodes have. I know regardless of the depths of dark, cold water I am pulled into, I will continue to fight so I can take another breath and perhaps each time, I will spend be able to spend a bit more time at the surface. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.

Jody Betty

How Experiencing Childhood Trauma Can Contribute to Mental Illness

A close friend asked the other day how I think my trauma has contributed to the variety of mental illnesses I live with. It got me thinking that not only did trauma contribute to my mental health issues, but because it started so young, it, in fact, changed my entire childhood development and personality. I never had a chance to develop properly, because, for me, there simply was never a time I wasn’t traumatized. My birth mother was a cigarette smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic who gave birth to me, a drug-addicted, drunken baby, at the young age of 18. I was removed from her custody and after a lengthy hospital stay, was placed in Crown Wardship, or the custody of the province of Ontario. My birth mother had been given a few months by Children’s Aid to clean up and prove to be a responsible parent but failed to do so. That was when I was introduced to the horrors of the foster care system. During my time in the system, I bounced around to abusive and neglectful homes until I was adopted at 18 months. The sexual abuse, the neglect, the near-drowning had turned me into a frightened mess of a child, who had great difficulty adapting to a new and permanent environment. I eventually settled in as best as I could and thought maybe life had finally turned around for me. Maybe I had actually found a permanent home. Maybe I was actually loveable and wanted. My first memory of domestic abuse is as clear as day. It was just past Christmas, the tree was up, and the open presents were still strewn around. She was sitting on the cream-colored love seat, smoking and drinking a coffee. The tears streamed down her face. As I tried to console her, her tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. I placed my tiny 5-year-old arm around her and listened as she recalled the events of the night before. It only took that one conversation and my only safe space was instantly gone, as was the hope of having a childhood. I now had to become the caregiver and protector, the latter of which I failed at, despite every effort. I was left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. To escape the fighting in the house, I spent a great deal of my childhood out playing with my friends. It was the late ’70s and still a time when children were let out to play for hours at a time. Needless to say, it was unmonitored as compared to today. We could go play at the park alone, walk to the store alone or just walk over to a friend’s house. This was the culture presented in the ’70s and ’80s. When I was 5, the sexual abuse outside the home started and didn’t end until I was 14. There were multiple abusers ranging in age from 16 to 40, and more incidences than my brain will allow me to remember. Some were so devastating the memories will be locked away forever. I tried to deal with the flashbacks the best I could, but I had no coping skills, so I turned to drugs hoping they would make me feel less. Less everything. I tried therapy but didn’t find a fit until I was 35 or so. I was an only child my entire life…minus two years. Of those two years, I have exactly three memories of the older girl my parents fostered. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I found her school records, proving she had been with us for nearly two years. As far as my memory was concerned she was there only a few months, and the memories I had were awful. The fighting in my household increased and after two years of trying, things did not work out (or so I was told) and my mom and I made the long drive to bring her back to foster care. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time, I was a parentified adult. From that second on was terrified to add to the stress and fighting, in case I too, would be returned. There are no words to describe how that felt. The sense of terror that I would be abandoned again was incomprehensible. To this day, it is still my biggest issue in life. In the ’80s, cancer was not as prevalent as it is now, especially at my mom’s young age of 38. I was a messed up 13-year-old by then and now the only person that I knew loved me, was facing this deadly disease. It came with barbaric treatments, repeated surgeries and hospitalizations. The chemotherapy treatments left my mom sick and weak. She spent most of her time between the bed and the bathroom, and just as she started to feel slightly better, it was treatment time again. This battle, with a few short remissions in between, was finally lost six years after it started. I remember every detail of the day, down to the weather and the clothes I was wearing. I was 19 years old, and as far as I was concerned, was now alone in the world. My earliest attempt to end my pain occurred when I was 8 years old. It was an overdose on my Grandmother’s medicine and although I could not grasp the permanence of death, I knew that being dead meant you weren’t here any longer, which for me equated to no pain. The incident was chalked up to “childhood misadventure” and never spoken about again. Since then there have been three serious attempts as well as a handful of failed overdoses. I have had these thoughts so long and so consistently that they have become ingrained. So for the majority of my life, I have lived daily in survivor mode, with suicidal thoughts. Sadly, those are only a few examples of the childhood trauma that I suffered. Medically, we now know that early age trauma can cause under or over-development of certain areas of the brain. The amygdala, which is the control center of emotional responses doesn’t develop properly. The root of many personality disorders is neglect, childhood trauma, witnessing domestic and verbal abuse, and so on. When I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and researched the symptoms and causes, it fit me almost perfectly. I hit nine of the 10 diagnostic symptoms upon receiving my diagnosis, however with therapy and a lot of hard work, I have managed to get a few of them under control now. I live with BPD, treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and deal with chronic suicidal ideation. I take medication. I go to therapy. I reach out for help when I am too overwhelmed to deal with things alone. I have felt like this for so long, I don’t know if I can heal, yet I carry on. I wonder who I could have been, or what path my life could have taken. I compare an imaginary “could have” to the reality of what my life actually is. It is both sad and strange how we can mourn something we never actually had. Trauma ruined my life. Trauma robbed me of innocence and youth. Trauma stole my ability to trust and to feel loved. However, trauma also made me strong, resilient and brave. Trauma gave me the ability to empathize, understand and validate the pain of others. I would not be who I am without trauma. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

Jody Betty

How Experiencing Childhood Trauma Can Contribute to Mental Illness

A close friend asked the other day how I think my trauma has contributed to the variety of mental illnesses I live with. It got me thinking that not only did trauma contribute to my mental health issues, but because it started so young, it, in fact, changed my entire childhood development and personality. I never had a chance to develop properly, because, for me, there simply was never a time I wasn’t traumatized. My birth mother was a cigarette smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic who gave birth to me, a drug-addicted, drunken baby, at the young age of 18. I was removed from her custody and after a lengthy hospital stay, was placed in Crown Wardship, or the custody of the province of Ontario. My birth mother had been given a few months by Children’s Aid to clean up and prove to be a responsible parent but failed to do so. That was when I was introduced to the horrors of the foster care system. During my time in the system, I bounced around to abusive and neglectful homes until I was adopted at 18 months. The sexual abuse, the neglect, the near-drowning had turned me into a frightened mess of a child, who had great difficulty adapting to a new and permanent environment. I eventually settled in as best as I could and thought maybe life had finally turned around for me. Maybe I had actually found a permanent home. Maybe I was actually loveable and wanted. My first memory of domestic abuse is as clear as day. It was just past Christmas, the tree was up, and the open presents were still strewn around. She was sitting on the cream-colored love seat, smoking and drinking a coffee. The tears streamed down her face. As I tried to console her, her tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. I placed my tiny 5-year-old arm around her and listened as she recalled the events of the night before. It only took that one conversation and my only safe space was instantly gone, as was the hope of having a childhood. I now had to become the caregiver and protector, the latter of which I failed at, despite every effort. I was left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. To escape the fighting in the house, I spent a great deal of my childhood out playing with my friends. It was the late ’70s and still a time when children were let out to play for hours at a time. Needless to say, it was unmonitored as compared to today. We could go play at the park alone, walk to the store alone or just walk over to a friend’s house. This was the culture presented in the ’70s and ’80s. When I was 5, the sexual abuse outside the home started and didn’t end until I was 14. There were multiple abusers ranging in age from 16 to 40, and more incidences than my brain will allow me to remember. Some were so devastating the memories will be locked away forever. I tried to deal with the flashbacks the best I could, but I had no coping skills, so I turned to drugs hoping they would make me feel less. Less everything. I tried therapy but didn’t find a fit until I was 35 or so. I was an only child my entire life…minus two years. Of those two years, I have exactly three memories of the older girl my parents fostered. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I found her school records, proving she had been with us for nearly two years. As far as my memory was concerned she was there only a few months, and the memories I had were awful. The fighting in my household increased and after two years of trying, things did not work out (or so I was told) and my mom and I made the long drive to bring her back to foster care. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time, I was a parentified adult. From that second on was terrified to add to the stress and fighting, in case I too, would be returned. There are no words to describe how that felt. The sense of terror that I would be abandoned again was incomprehensible. To this day, it is still my biggest issue in life. In the ’80s, cancer was not as prevalent as it is now, especially at my mom’s young age of 38. I was a messed up 13-year-old by then and now the only person that I knew loved me, was facing this deadly disease. It came with barbaric treatments, repeated surgeries and hospitalizations. The chemotherapy treatments left my mom sick and weak. She spent most of her time between the bed and the bathroom, and just as she started to feel slightly better, it was treatment time again. This battle, with a few short remissions in between, was finally lost six years after it started. I remember every detail of the day, down to the weather and the clothes I was wearing. I was 19 years old, and as far as I was concerned, was now alone in the world. My earliest attempt to end my pain occurred when I was 8 years old. It was an overdose on my Grandmother’s medicine and although I could not grasp the permanence of death, I knew that being dead meant you weren’t here any longer, which for me equated to no pain. The incident was chalked up to “childhood misadventure” and never spoken about again. Since then there have been three serious attempts as well as a handful of failed overdoses. I have had these thoughts so long and so consistently that they have become ingrained. So for the majority of my life, I have lived daily in survivor mode, with suicidal thoughts. Sadly, those are only a few examples of the childhood trauma that I suffered. Medically, we now know that early age trauma can cause under or over-development of certain areas of the brain. The amygdala, which is the control center of emotional responses doesn’t develop properly. The root of many personality disorders is neglect, childhood trauma, witnessing domestic and verbal abuse, and so on. When I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and researched the symptoms and causes, it fit me almost perfectly. I hit nine of the 10 diagnostic symptoms upon receiving my diagnosis, however with therapy and a lot of hard work, I have managed to get a few of them under control now. I live with BPD, treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and deal with chronic suicidal ideation. I take medication. I go to therapy. I reach out for help when I am too overwhelmed to deal with things alone. I have felt like this for so long, I don’t know if I can heal, yet I carry on. I wonder who I could have been, or what path my life could have taken. I compare an imaginary “could have” to the reality of what my life actually is. It is both sad and strange how we can mourn something we never actually had. Trauma ruined my life. Trauma robbed me of innocence and youth. Trauma stole my ability to trust and to feel loved. However, trauma also made me strong, resilient and brave. Trauma gave me the ability to empathize, understand and validate the pain of others. I would not be who I am without trauma. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

Jody Betty

How Experiencing Childhood Trauma Can Contribute to Mental Illness

A close friend asked the other day how I think my trauma has contributed to the variety of mental illnesses I live with. It got me thinking that not only did trauma contribute to my mental health issues, but because it started so young, it, in fact, changed my entire childhood development and personality. I never had a chance to develop properly, because, for me, there simply was never a time I wasn’t traumatized. My birth mother was a cigarette smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic who gave birth to me, a drug-addicted, drunken baby, at the young age of 18. I was removed from her custody and after a lengthy hospital stay, was placed in Crown Wardship, or the custody of the province of Ontario. My birth mother had been given a few months by Children’s Aid to clean up and prove to be a responsible parent but failed to do so. That was when I was introduced to the horrors of the foster care system. During my time in the system, I bounced around to abusive and neglectful homes until I was adopted at 18 months. The sexual abuse, the neglect, the near-drowning had turned me into a frightened mess of a child, who had great difficulty adapting to a new and permanent environment. I eventually settled in as best as I could and thought maybe life had finally turned around for me. Maybe I had actually found a permanent home. Maybe I was actually loveable and wanted. My first memory of domestic abuse is as clear as day. It was just past Christmas, the tree was up, and the open presents were still strewn around. She was sitting on the cream-colored love seat, smoking and drinking a coffee. The tears streamed down her face. As I tried to console her, her tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. I placed my tiny 5-year-old arm around her and listened as she recalled the events of the night before. It only took that one conversation and my only safe space was instantly gone, as was the hope of having a childhood. I now had to become the caregiver and protector, the latter of which I failed at, despite every effort. I was left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. To escape the fighting in the house, I spent a great deal of my childhood out playing with my friends. It was the late ’70s and still a time when children were let out to play for hours at a time. Needless to say, it was unmonitored as compared to today. We could go play at the park alone, walk to the store alone or just walk over to a friend’s house. This was the culture presented in the ’70s and ’80s. When I was 5, the sexual abuse outside the home started and didn’t end until I was 14. There were multiple abusers ranging in age from 16 to 40, and more incidences than my brain will allow me to remember. Some were so devastating the memories will be locked away forever. I tried to deal with the flashbacks the best I could, but I had no coping skills, so I turned to drugs hoping they would make me feel less. Less everything. I tried therapy but didn’t find a fit until I was 35 or so. I was an only child my entire life…minus two years. Of those two years, I have exactly three memories of the older girl my parents fostered. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I found her school records, proving she had been with us for nearly two years. As far as my memory was concerned she was there only a few months, and the memories I had were awful. The fighting in my household increased and after two years of trying, things did not work out (or so I was told) and my mom and I made the long drive to bring her back to foster care. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time, I was a parentified adult. From that second on was terrified to add to the stress and fighting, in case I too, would be returned. There are no words to describe how that felt. The sense of terror that I would be abandoned again was incomprehensible. To this day, it is still my biggest issue in life. In the ’80s, cancer was not as prevalent as it is now, especially at my mom’s young age of 38. I was a messed up 13-year-old by then and now the only person that I knew loved me, was facing this deadly disease. It came with barbaric treatments, repeated surgeries and hospitalizations. The chemotherapy treatments left my mom sick and weak. She spent most of her time between the bed and the bathroom, and just as she started to feel slightly better, it was treatment time again. This battle, with a few short remissions in between, was finally lost six years after it started. I remember every detail of the day, down to the weather and the clothes I was wearing. I was 19 years old, and as far as I was concerned, was now alone in the world. My earliest attempt to end my pain occurred when I was 8 years old. It was an overdose on my Grandmother’s medicine and although I could not grasp the permanence of death, I knew that being dead meant you weren’t here any longer, which for me equated to no pain. The incident was chalked up to “childhood misadventure” and never spoken about again. Since then there have been three serious attempts as well as a handful of failed overdoses. I have had these thoughts so long and so consistently that they have become ingrained. So for the majority of my life, I have lived daily in survivor mode, with suicidal thoughts. Sadly, those are only a few examples of the childhood trauma that I suffered. Medically, we now know that early age trauma can cause under or over-development of certain areas of the brain. The amygdala, which is the control center of emotional responses doesn’t develop properly. The root of many personality disorders is neglect, childhood trauma, witnessing domestic and verbal abuse, and so on. When I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and researched the symptoms and causes, it fit me almost perfectly. I hit nine of the 10 diagnostic symptoms upon receiving my diagnosis, however with therapy and a lot of hard work, I have managed to get a few of them under control now. I live with BPD, treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and deal with chronic suicidal ideation. I take medication. I go to therapy. I reach out for help when I am too overwhelmed to deal with things alone. I have felt like this for so long, I don’t know if I can heal, yet I carry on. I wonder who I could have been, or what path my life could have taken. I compare an imaginary “could have” to the reality of what my life actually is. It is both sad and strange how we can mourn something we never actually had. Trauma ruined my life. Trauma robbed me of innocence and youth. Trauma stole my ability to trust and to feel loved. However, trauma also made me strong, resilient and brave. Trauma gave me the ability to empathize, understand and validate the pain of others. I would not be who I am without trauma. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

Jody Betty

How Experiencing Childhood Trauma Can Contribute to Mental Illness

A close friend asked the other day how I think my trauma has contributed to the variety of mental illnesses I live with. It got me thinking that not only did trauma contribute to my mental health issues, but because it started so young, it, in fact, changed my entire childhood development and personality. I never had a chance to develop properly, because, for me, there simply was never a time I wasn’t traumatized. My birth mother was a cigarette smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic who gave birth to me, a drug-addicted, drunken baby, at the young age of 18. I was removed from her custody and after a lengthy hospital stay, was placed in Crown Wardship, or the custody of the province of Ontario. My birth mother had been given a few months by Children’s Aid to clean up and prove to be a responsible parent but failed to do so. That was when I was introduced to the horrors of the foster care system. During my time in the system, I bounced around to abusive and neglectful homes until I was adopted at 18 months. The sexual abuse, the neglect, the near-drowning had turned me into a frightened mess of a child, who had great difficulty adapting to a new and permanent environment. I eventually settled in as best as I could and thought maybe life had finally turned around for me. Maybe I had actually found a permanent home. Maybe I was actually loveable and wanted. My first memory of domestic abuse is as clear as day. It was just past Christmas, the tree was up, and the open presents were still strewn around. She was sitting on the cream-colored love seat, smoking and drinking a coffee. The tears streamed down her face. As I tried to console her, her tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. I placed my tiny 5-year-old arm around her and listened as she recalled the events of the night before. It only took that one conversation and my only safe space was instantly gone, as was the hope of having a childhood. I now had to become the caregiver and protector, the latter of which I failed at, despite every effort. I was left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. To escape the fighting in the house, I spent a great deal of my childhood out playing with my friends. It was the late ’70s and still a time when children were let out to play for hours at a time. Needless to say, it was unmonitored as compared to today. We could go play at the park alone, walk to the store alone or just walk over to a friend’s house. This was the culture presented in the ’70s and ’80s. When I was 5, the sexual abuse outside the home started and didn’t end until I was 14. There were multiple abusers ranging in age from 16 to 40, and more incidences than my brain will allow me to remember. Some were so devastating the memories will be locked away forever. I tried to deal with the flashbacks the best I could, but I had no coping skills, so I turned to drugs hoping they would make me feel less. Less everything. I tried therapy but didn’t find a fit until I was 35 or so. I was an only child my entire life…minus two years. Of those two years, I have exactly three memories of the older girl my parents fostered. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I found her school records, proving she had been with us for nearly two years. As far as my memory was concerned she was there only a few months, and the memories I had were awful. The fighting in my household increased and after two years of trying, things did not work out (or so I was told) and my mom and I made the long drive to bring her back to foster care. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time, I was a parentified adult. From that second on was terrified to add to the stress and fighting, in case I too, would be returned. There are no words to describe how that felt. The sense of terror that I would be abandoned again was incomprehensible. To this day, it is still my biggest issue in life. In the ’80s, cancer was not as prevalent as it is now, especially at my mom’s young age of 38. I was a messed up 13-year-old by then and now the only person that I knew loved me, was facing this deadly disease. It came with barbaric treatments, repeated surgeries and hospitalizations. The chemotherapy treatments left my mom sick and weak. She spent most of her time between the bed and the bathroom, and just as she started to feel slightly better, it was treatment time again. This battle, with a few short remissions in between, was finally lost six years after it started. I remember every detail of the day, down to the weather and the clothes I was wearing. I was 19 years old, and as far as I was concerned, was now alone in the world. My earliest attempt to end my pain occurred when I was 8 years old. It was an overdose on my Grandmother’s medicine and although I could not grasp the permanence of death, I knew that being dead meant you weren’t here any longer, which for me equated to no pain. The incident was chalked up to “childhood misadventure” and never spoken about again. Since then there have been three serious attempts as well as a handful of failed overdoses. I have had these thoughts so long and so consistently that they have become ingrained. So for the majority of my life, I have lived daily in survivor mode, with suicidal thoughts. Sadly, those are only a few examples of the childhood trauma that I suffered. Medically, we now know that early age trauma can cause under or over-development of certain areas of the brain. The amygdala, which is the control center of emotional responses doesn’t develop properly. The root of many personality disorders is neglect, childhood trauma, witnessing domestic and verbal abuse, and so on. When I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and researched the symptoms and causes, it fit me almost perfectly. I hit nine of the 10 diagnostic symptoms upon receiving my diagnosis, however with therapy and a lot of hard work, I have managed to get a few of them under control now. I live with BPD, treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and deal with chronic suicidal ideation. I take medication. I go to therapy. I reach out for help when I am too overwhelmed to deal with things alone. I have felt like this for so long, I don’t know if I can heal, yet I carry on. I wonder who I could have been, or what path my life could have taken. I compare an imaginary “could have” to the reality of what my life actually is. It is both sad and strange how we can mourn something we never actually had. Trauma ruined my life. Trauma robbed me of innocence and youth. Trauma stole my ability to trust and to feel loved. However, trauma also made me strong, resilient and brave. Trauma gave me the ability to empathize, understand and validate the pain of others. I would not be who I am without trauma. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

Jody Betty

How Experiencing Childhood Trauma Can Contribute to Mental Illness

A close friend asked the other day how I think my trauma has contributed to the variety of mental illnesses I live with. It got me thinking that not only did trauma contribute to my mental health issues, but because it started so young, it, in fact, changed my entire childhood development and personality. I never had a chance to develop properly, because, for me, there simply was never a time I wasn’t traumatized. My birth mother was a cigarette smoking, drug-addicted alcoholic who gave birth to me, a drug-addicted, drunken baby, at the young age of 18. I was removed from her custody and after a lengthy hospital stay, was placed in Crown Wardship, or the custody of the province of Ontario. My birth mother had been given a few months by Children’s Aid to clean up and prove to be a responsible parent but failed to do so. That was when I was introduced to the horrors of the foster care system. During my time in the system, I bounced around to abusive and neglectful homes until I was adopted at 18 months. The sexual abuse, the neglect, the near-drowning had turned me into a frightened mess of a child, who had great difficulty adapting to a new and permanent environment. I eventually settled in as best as I could and thought maybe life had finally turned around for me. Maybe I had actually found a permanent home. Maybe I was actually loveable and wanted. My first memory of domestic abuse is as clear as day. It was just past Christmas, the tree was up, and the open presents were still strewn around. She was sitting on the cream-colored love seat, smoking and drinking a coffee. The tears streamed down her face. As I tried to console her, her tears turned into uncontrollable sobbing. I placed my tiny 5-year-old arm around her and listened as she recalled the events of the night before. It only took that one conversation and my only safe space was instantly gone, as was the hope of having a childhood. I now had to become the caregiver and protector, the latter of which I failed at, despite every effort. I was left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. To escape the fighting in the house, I spent a great deal of my childhood out playing with my friends. It was the late ’70s and still a time when children were let out to play for hours at a time. Needless to say, it was unmonitored as compared to today. We could go play at the park alone, walk to the store alone or just walk over to a friend’s house. This was the culture presented in the ’70s and ’80s. When I was 5, the sexual abuse outside the home started and didn’t end until I was 14. There were multiple abusers ranging in age from 16 to 40, and more incidences than my brain will allow me to remember. Some were so devastating the memories will be locked away forever. I tried to deal with the flashbacks the best I could, but I had no coping skills, so I turned to drugs hoping they would make me feel less. Less everything. I tried therapy but didn’t find a fit until I was 35 or so. I was an only child my entire life…minus two years. Of those two years, I have exactly three memories of the older girl my parents fostered. In fact, it wasn’t until after my mom passed away that I found her school records, proving she had been with us for nearly two years. As far as my memory was concerned she was there only a few months, and the memories I had were awful. The fighting in my household increased and after two years of trying, things did not work out (or so I was told) and my mom and I made the long drive to bring her back to foster care. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time, I was a parentified adult. From that second on was terrified to add to the stress and fighting, in case I too, would be returned. There are no words to describe how that felt. The sense of terror that I would be abandoned again was incomprehensible. To this day, it is still my biggest issue in life. In the ’80s, cancer was not as prevalent as it is now, especially at my mom’s young age of 38. I was a messed up 13-year-old by then and now the only person that I knew loved me, was facing this deadly disease. It came with barbaric treatments, repeated surgeries and hospitalizations. The chemotherapy treatments left my mom sick and weak. She spent most of her time between the bed and the bathroom, and just as she started to feel slightly better, it was treatment time again. This battle, with a few short remissions in between, was finally lost six years after it started. I remember every detail of the day, down to the weather and the clothes I was wearing. I was 19 years old, and as far as I was concerned, was now alone in the world. My earliest attempt to end my pain occurred when I was 8 years old. It was an overdose on my Grandmother’s medicine and although I could not grasp the permanence of death, I knew that being dead meant you weren’t here any longer, which for me equated to no pain. The incident was chalked up to “childhood misadventure” and never spoken about again. Since then there have been three serious attempts as well as a handful of failed overdoses. I have had these thoughts so long and so consistently that they have become ingrained. So for the majority of my life, I have lived daily in survivor mode, with suicidal thoughts. Sadly, those are only a few examples of the childhood trauma that I suffered. Medically, we now know that early age trauma can cause under or over-development of certain areas of the brain. The amygdala, which is the control center of emotional responses doesn’t develop properly. The root of many personality disorders is neglect, childhood trauma, witnessing domestic and verbal abuse, and so on. When I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and researched the symptoms and causes, it fit me almost perfectly. I hit nine of the 10 diagnostic symptoms upon receiving my diagnosis, however with therapy and a lot of hard work, I have managed to get a few of them under control now. I live with BPD, treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and deal with chronic suicidal ideation. I take medication. I go to therapy. I reach out for help when I am too overwhelmed to deal with things alone. I have felt like this for so long, I don’t know if I can heal, yet I carry on. I wonder who I could have been, or what path my life could have taken. I compare an imaginary “could have” to the reality of what my life actually is. It is both sad and strange how we can mourn something we never actually had. Trauma ruined my life. Trauma robbed me of innocence and youth. Trauma stole my ability to trust and to feel loved. However, trauma also made me strong, resilient and brave. Trauma gave me the ability to empathize, understand and validate the pain of others. I would not be who I am without trauma. Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

Community Voices
Community Voices