By Gayl Augello:
My life has been anything but dull, this is for sure! My diagnosis came while I was in high school. It came after a mental break after trying to be too strong, from traumas in my childhood, for too long. I was 17 years old and rebelling against everything in my life. I was drinking and doing drugs, I was trying to find a way to hide the pain and secrets any way I could. I thought nobody knew, and that nobody cared. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After months of being caught in a legal system designed for juvenile offenders, and not really for abuse “victims,” I was finally released on my 18th birthday back to my parents. This began an even more difficult journey, one I was not aware of nor realized until many years later.
In high school I was the outcast, the freak. I did not fit in, nor did I want to. I was my own person and continue to feel and think this way. I did not and do not conform to what others think is “normal.” As I once heard, “Normal is a setting on the washing machine.” There is no normal in life. I was bullied as a result of this attitude and style.
I have never had any issue making friends, I am often told I am fun and easy to get along with. While I may not see it, I appreciate this compliment. Friends helped to keep me distracted from what was really going on and helped me to hide from the shame, the memories and continuation of the abuse in my life. I was 5 years old when it began and it continued into my adult life. I am able to look at it now as a life shaping experience, but it has taken me many years to be able to say those words.
I was in abusive relationship after abusive relationship, never understanding why I kept making the same mistakes over and over. Then I met my husband. He was the light in my darkness. Sadly, my light went out in February of 2013 after he suffered a sudden massive heart attack at the young age of 43. I was a widow at the age of 37 with nothing left. He had no life insurance or savings. I lost my home, friends, cars, lifestyle and identity all in a matter of minutes. A mere four weeks later I lost my mom to congestive heart failure. Again, my world was flipped upside down. The two biggest supports in my life were gone, almost all at once.
I began my mental health recovery in full force May of 2013. I refused to let my losses and depression rule me, I am a fighter and survivor. I continue to be very active in my recovery to this day, I do it for me, so that I can lead a happy and healthy life. I participated in outpatient therapy and continue to be active in that, I attended the partial program and psychosocial rehabilitation program full time in 2013. I was very active in the programs and attended many conferences and seminars. One of the conferences was for NAMI in January of 2014, this event changed my life forever. Stacy Pershall and Kevin Hines were the speakers They truly spoke to me. I knew then that I was on the correct path and what I wanted to do with my life. I was able to dream for the first time since my life was flipped upside down.
During my journey in recovery and participating in the groups, I was presented with a career opportunity. I was offered a position as a Certified Peer Specialist and I jumped at the opportunity. It is something I had heard about in the beginning of my treatment and wanted to do from then. I began training in April of 2014 and conquered a huge fear of driving on highways. I accepted the full time position in May of that same year, and have never looked back! My life is becoming more and more fulfilling and enjoyable. I love my job and continue to maintain my mental health. I attend a grief group and will be starting my own in the coming months. My ultimate goals are to write a book and become a motivational speaker. (I am still looking forward to signing your book Stacy Pershall!) I have found my voice and confidence in this journey, and look forward to what the future holds. Life is a journey, not a destination!