Dear Dr. Archer,
I was adopted by a forensic psychiatrist and a diplomat in Ireland six months after I was born. My mother didn't bond with me, as she had given birth to her own son a year before I was born, after many miscarriages.
She was emotionally abusive and horrible, whereas my father was very loving and encouraging. She used all her skills as a forensic psychiatrist to try to break me, but she never succeeded.
We travelled all over the world because of my father's job in tourism. We ended up in Thailand, where he was head of tourism for Asia for the UN; my two brothers and I went to an American missionary boarding school in Malaysia.
I found it very stressful to be mistreated by my mother, and coupled with the culture shock of the evangelical school where the apocalypse was treated as an imminent reality, I had a nervous breakdown shortly before graduation in 1984.
My mother took me back to Bangkok and it was discovered that I had a pituitary micro-adenoma. This required surgery, but I was still suicidal and having psychotic episodes. My mother kicked me out onto the streets of Bangkok at one point. She said I would be crazy forever and would always have to take neuroleptics.
I was sent to London in 1985, and as my father said he would pay for school, I found a Catholic convent school and took some O levels in English language; I earned A's.
I was considered to be very clever and I loved reading. I had a breakdown at the convent and the lovely headmistress took me to Guy's hospital. I had numerous breakdowns in London (I've had 23 in total since I was 17 and now I'm 45).
I did not like living in London. It was grey, damp and people were very unfriendly and a bit rude, and I was desperate to get out. I received my degree in English Literature, and though I was psychotic, I took my final exams and passed. After 14 years of living in London, and some very fraught times of psychosis and paranoia, I moved to Spain where I taught English.
I had escaped! In Spain I met the father of my child, who is Spanish/Australian. We moved to Sydney in 2001 after September 11. Our son was born in 2003, but I had a horrible breakdown a few months after he was born because of stress about my relationship with Michael and his family. Michael got custody of our son and I got partial custody.
I've travelled to about 40 countries, and Australia is a wonderful place to live. The people are friendly, I have a lovely psychiatrist and a very good job. My son is very happy. I went from 2004 - 2010 without having a breakdown. I had a minor breakdown in 2010, due to a bit of stress, and the diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder.
I have paranoia, hypomania and some religious delusions. I am very, very happy and I'm taking Clopixol and Seroquel. I only began to hear faint voices in the last two years - but only at night and only when I'm anxious.
If you are schizophrenic, bipolar, PTSD, depressed, OCD or anxious -- don't give up. If someone says you'll never get better, don't believe it. Try to make yourself happy by changing your circumstances and finding a life that suits you and makes you happy. Be positive.
What a beautifully written letter, you portray exactly what I tell folks every day -- never give up! As long as there is breath in your body, anything -- and I mean anything, is possible. All too often our eventual success is due to our many trials and failures we have experienced along the way.
You show great spirit, Catherine, because you have been through so much! And as easily as you could have become the psychological victim I discuss in The Power Of Hope.
You chose through sheer determination to overcome the odds and become a psychological survivor. Much like Barbara in, Barbara Is A Survivor, Against All Odds
, you could have fed your anger towards your mother, but you didn't. You stuck it out and not only survived, but you have succeeded!
We each have our own unique characteristics -- some good and some bad -- but they make us who we are. If we're able to take the whole lump sum of who we are, and use it to our advantage, then the sky is truly the limit in how far we can go in life.
Thank you for sharing your story with us. I sincerely wish you nothing but the best in life. Please stay in touch with us.