I want to emphasize that I absolutely do believe it's possible to heal from childhood trauma. But you have to work on it. I don't think this necessarily means you need to check into an expensive rehab facility. But I there is TREMENDOUS value in being able to talk to someone, and get feedback and assurance and validation that you did nothing wrong (or if you did do something wrong, you can work through it and repair the damage). Sometimes we all just need somebody to tell us we're going to be OK!
If you're really feeling like you need to talk to someone, but can't afford to see a psychiatrist or therapist or go to rehab, there are still a lot of options out there for you! Chances are good that there are low cost mental health resources provided by your city or state. I will mention some resources at the bottom of this page. I will also include a bunch of my favorite self help books, and a whole bunch of books and audiobook links, for my favorite motivational coach of all time... Tony Robbins.
It took me a long time to realize (and accept) that I really did need therapy. But after I got it, I thought, crimony why didn't I do this before?!?
When I was a kid, and a teenager, I had a lot more stress and "depression factors" than I was willing to acknowledge. When I was growing up, I got really good at pretending everything was fine... even though it wasn't.
I came from a pretty dysfunctional family, now that I look back at it. I grew up very poor. My parents were divorced, and I barely got to see my Dad. He was a very kind, good person, but he had his own issues with depression, and didn't financially support us. My Mom had a lot of anger towards him. There was a pedophile in my family (who died about 3 decades ago) that "tried stuff" with various little girls in our family, myself included. My 2 sisters had "behavioral problems" and ended up getting sent to the school psychiatrist. My older sister was sent because she was deemed to be way too outspoken, and a "problem child." (Now, I think it was awesome she spoke her mind - she is one of the smartest people I've ever known). And my younger sister was sent because she was extremely shy and afraid to talk (she's super smart too... I now believe she has Asperger's syndrome).
I could sense the dysfunctionality in my family, and it embarrassed me. I just wanted to have a normal childhood, and be like other kids. Why couldn't my family be more like the Brady Bunch? In an effort to try to create some balance in my family, I went out of my way to be an over-achiever. I was very outgoing, and was involved in lots of different clubs in school, like theatre, music, speech, art, yearbook staff. Anything artistic appealed to me.
But I had massive problems with focusing in school, and didn't know why. Because I went out of my way to be "The Good Girl" that didn't have to get sent to the school shrink, my inner struggles went largely un-noticed, and I was failing in some of my classes in school. I still have nightmares about getting poor grades in high school and college, and having to drop out of a few classes (anything with a thick textbook that had to be studied was like a guarantee I wouldn't do well). I don't even know how I got through school. I couldn't focus and I'd read pages over and over again and nothing was sinking in.
Now I realize, my ADD was largely related to my diet, and the stress I was under, and having a clogged liver. I had been on antibiotics from my dermatologist, since the age of 12 (and had NO idea until just this year, how bad they can be for the liver)! It's only now, in my adulthood, that I can clearly see why it was just about impossible for me to pay attention in class. In my 40's I went back to school, with a much better diet, and was at the top of my class. But high school was really stressful for me. I even think I may have had some ammonia in my bloodstream, after I would eat hamburgers for lunch. So much of high school was a blur for me. I had horrible acne and just wasn't able to get those toxins out of my system!
It was hard for me not to understand why I wasn't able to keep up with my peers, and I wasn't yet at the point where I realized I had some really good reasons to see a therapist and get help. I didn't even know what ADD was, until I was in my 20's.
When I was 22 I moved away from home, into a big city, during the winter months. I quickly became depressed (but wasn't able to understand why). I'd never lived away from home, so I thought I was just having a hard time adjusting. But I had a horrible diet (I pretty much lived on spaghetti and diet coke). And I didn't realize I had major Seasonal Affective Disorder, and not getting enough sun exposure (or Vitamin D) affects me in a big, bad way. It was very, very cold and overcast where I lived, and I was going into a serious funk!
I remember flipping through the classified section of the local newspaper to try to find some kind of counselor or therapist who might be able to help me. I just called one person, one time, and she was the first person who's ever told me that my diet really affects me. I'll always remember her saying, "Butter affects you big time, baby!"
I would have liked to reach out to more counselors, but didn't have the money for it. By a stroke of luck, a co-worker told me about a place where you could speak to a counselor, for free or low cost. I couldn't believe a service like this was even available. It was awesome.
I had the best therapist, ever. I'll call her Ava. She was new in the therapy field. All she really did was just listen to me, and validate how stressful my life really was. It was in those therapy sessions that I learned what a dysfunctional family is (I sure had one, all right)! I was able to talk about my eating disorder, and all the things that had stressed me out in my childhood, that I never got to talk about before.
It came as a big surprise to me, one day, when Ava told me I had depression. It was actually pretty embarrassing for me to hear her say that. I even thought maybe she had the wrong diagnosis. I generally thought of myself as a happy, upbeat person. How could I be depressed? I thought of depressed people as being really sullen, sad, and reclusive. And that was not me. I thought of myself as outging and mostly energetic. If I was truly depressed, wouldn't that mean I'd been pretending my whole life, to be cheerful and happy? Wouldn't that mean that somehow, I'd been trying to fool people? Which would mean I'd really been a Big Fat Bullshitter, my whole life?
I didn't realize how much I had been trying to cover up my depression, and not acknowledge it. I had been self medicating with food and caffeine and sugar (I still do this to some degree with the caffeine and sugar). I didn't realize, until I saw Ava, that I had some really good, valid reasons to be depressed, and it was nothing to be ashamed of!
When I had a really good day job with health insurance, I saw two psychiatrists so that I could get Ritalin. One woman was just "ok." The other shrink was downright annoying, and came across as a big know it all. Even though the psychiatrists were a lot more expensive and had more "experience" under their belts, than Ava.... there was nobody who made me feel better than she did.
Ava had a very sweet nature, and was very empathetic. She wasn't trying to psycho-analyze me and figure out what my problem was and what kind of medication would fix me. She was just listening, empathizing, and validating. She'd say simple things like, "I can see how that would be really stressful." Or, "It makes sense that you would want to overeat if the food gives you a good feeling." I would walk out of those sessions feeling so much better! I am thankful to this day, to that woman.
Because I remember the power of just being validated and listened to, I want to encourage any person who struggles with depression or addiction, to seek help. It was embarrassing for me to acknowledge that I needed help, but I soon got over it. It was totally worth it. It became so clear, in those therapy sessions, that I really DID need help, and it wasn't my fault!
If you're unsure of how to find out if your town has a service like this, I would think the best way would be to google "find mental health services." One site that came up was http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-therapy. Also, if you can find out where the local unemployment or welfare office is, I am sure they could point you in the right direction.
There are also quite a few online resources for self help. If you google "low cost counseling" a LOT of different resources will pop up! We are so lucky to live in the era of the internet. Back when I was starting to look for help, the iwnternet was nonexistent (to my knowledge). You had to scan the local paper of the yellow pages to find someone to help you!
A while back I'd seen this great looking website called "7 Cups" where you can actually find someone to talk to at a low cost, and you can volunteer yourself as a listener. I thought this was just brilliant. You can see the website, HERE.
The power of Journaling
I also want to recommend keeping a journal. I will always be grateful to my theater teacher in college, whom I'll call Ken. He encouraged us to keep a journal and it was actually part of our homework! I loved to write, so I loved that this was considered homework. But for whatever reason, I'd never actually kept a journal (aka a composition book) until then. I'd had diaries, but those were more like little secret books tucked away under your mattress. The kind of journaling Ken encouraged us to do was more about creative expression and release.
I find that when I am in a real funk, I can almost always bring myself out of it with the help of a journal. I feel like I am my best counselor, and I guess because I've had enough counselors in my lifetime, I know how it works. You have to get to the core of what's bugging you, and address it, and work on solutions to fix it.
Just the simple process of writing everything out on a page, and figuring out what it is that's depressing or bugging me, is SOOO powerful. Until you do that, you can feel overwhelmed, and powerless to do something about it.
But when you write out everything that is bugging you and causing you anxiety, you can go over each of those things one by one, and craft out a plan as to how you're going to fix the situation. It is such a constructive way to handle the problems in your life. And it's super cheap. You can buy a notebook for a dollar at the dollar store!
I will admit, a cup of coffee or a mocha really helps me to come up with good solutions to problems I'm going through. This may not be for everyone, but it is super helpful for me.
When you can't find someone who'll listen to you... try listening to yourself. I have actually learned quite a bit about myself, through my own video diaries. When I first started doing them, I had to use 8 mm tapes. Nowadays you can do it with a cell phone. Taping yourself and watching how you talk and what you say has given me some insight about myself, and has allowed me to see myself the way other people see me. It can be a real wake up call, but it can also be a badly needed one.
Sometimes, we just need to talk and express ourselves. Even though I'm just talking into a video recorder, I still feel like there is someone listening, because I have a tendency to talk as if I'm talking to a real person - even if that person is myself. Sometimes I catch myself figuring things out, in the middle of these sessions. This is really one of the most valuable things about therapy. Just the fact that it gets you talking, and analyzing, and figuring stuff out on your own!
You can even do your own video journaling in the car, and it's not a bad way to kill the time in traffic (You can safely do this by tying rubber bands to the sun shade on the passenger side of the car). Also, because I'm a pretty talkative person, I find that doing these video journals actually helps keep me from talking too much, in conversations with other people, because you only have so much energy to talk during the day, and if you've already spent time talking into a video recorder, you're less likely to go on and on during a conversation with a friend. When you spend more time listening, you can learn a lot more!
My favorite books and audios for self help
I wanted to include some of the best self-help books I've found. I've been reading self help books since I was 19. You can always learn at least one new thing or see one new perspective from a self help book!
How To Enjoy Your Life And Your Job
This little book is probably the most info-packed self help book I have ever read. I highlighted and underlined it all over the place. This book had so many great tips, and gave me a new way of looking at things. My favorite chapter was, how to not care what other people think. I don't think there's any way to not care, 100 percent, about what people think of you. But that chapter was definitely helpful... and it made me laugh.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
I listened to the audiobook version of this, and it was the hardest, most boring audiobook I've ever listened to (because the author's voice is so droning)... yet... it was the most rewarding, and the one I needed to listen to THE MOST. This is absolutely the best book there is, on personal growth and change, because it makes you take a good look at your life and your behavior and it gets you to take responsibility. If it seems boring or it's just not sinking in.... listen to it again, and again, till it does!
I didn't realize, how much I'd been dodging responsibility for my own actions, throughout my life... until I came across this book. There's a damn good reason it's spent so long on the New York Times best seller's list.
How to Win Friends & Influence People
If you are like me, you might take offense to this recommendation, based on the title. It sounds so maniuplative! Like the book was written just to figure out to con more people into being your friend. And you don't need more friends! You can make your own friends just fine, thank you very much!
But the book isn't about that. It's all about learning what makes people tick, and learning what drives human desire. The fact is, we are all pretty social creatures. And when we are getting along well with others, it's a lot easier to enjoy life. I was raised by a pretty antisocial mom, so this book was really helpful to me.
Peak Performance Principles for High Achievers
This is one of the first self help books I ever read. I picked up a paperback copy at a bookstore, close to where I had a job when I was 19, and was trying to work through some serious depression. I was on Accutane is known to cause depression (in my opinion it is largely tied to the fact that you totally lose focus when you're on it... your brain, your eyesight... both are affected... but boy do you have clear skin!)
The reason I loved this book is because it really teaches you to AIM HIGH. Love, love, loved this book.
And you could say I pretty much love ANYTHING by Tony Robbins. This guy has been through a lot of his own personal struggles in his life. I believe his Mom was an alcoholic, and he went through poverty as a kid. He is just so damn motivating, and truly makes you feel like you have the potential to totally turn your life around, no matter where you're at now. Great to listen to on daily walks.
Anthony Robbins Ultimate Edge: A 3-Part System for Creating an Extraordinary Life in Any Environment
Time of Your Life: 3 Ways to Take Control of Your Life
Edge: The Power to Change Your Life Now
Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement
Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!