• Courtney Phillips

My story of healing – Emmely Byrd

Emmely Byrd deals with dissociative issues, recklessness, impulsive behavior, abandonment issues, bi-polar, depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal tendencies. She’s been working to come to terms with all these labels and that of what mental struggle and illness mean to her.

Learn more about her story of healing below:

Tell me about yourself: I’m the mother of two grown sons and the grandmother of three wonderful grandchildren. I was always interested in knowledge and being a perfectionist. At a very young age, I learned to take care of everyone but myself. Everyone’s needs trumped my own, both mentally and physically. It’s taken me years to become comfortable in my own skin. It’s still a daily struggle to embrace myself.

My story: Abandonment, abuse and neglect issues were rooted in me since I was a child. It wasn’t until I attempted to take my life in 2013 and I had a subsequent breakdown that I began to deal with my mental illnesses by really diving deep into healing.

When I was nine, I was devastated to learn that my father was not my biological father, and at 12, my parents were both incarcerated for dealing drugs. By the time I was 14, I had become a mother to my oldest son and was out on my own.

During the next year, I was raped by a friend, and when I was 17, I became pregnant again, while also caring for my youngest brother. Throughout these years, I never received any help or assistance from any family, and the father of my children was emotionally and physically abusive.

I married when I was 21 to someone who although not the father of my children adopted them to help me rescue them from their abusive father. But we divorced after 8 years together.

I remarried someone who made my youngest son happy but lacked love in the relationship. So, after my children were grown I felt was empty and unhappy. The only thing I believed I had going for me was my career. And then I began to have an affair with my married boss. I was interested in a fairytale, quickly I would learn, fairytales do not come in the form of another woman’s husband. He never added value to my life, but he was like the fire I had to touch. I wanted to believe he was my happy ending.

Living on my own again, I was reckless, promiscuous and impulsive. I drank too much. I was in physical and mental pain. The married man continued to reach out to me. And we sparked things up again, as he made promises of a wonderful future. Then after weeks of his lies, me working 60 plus hours a week, and the stress putting myself through an online college, I felt for the first time that I was breaking down.

I made an appointment to see a psychologist on a Friday, but she couldn’t see me until the following Thursday. By the next Wednesday, the day prior to my appointment, I couldn’t take it.

I had a previous suicide attempt, but this was different. I was tired, so tired. Tired of everything. Tired of not being happy, not being enough, tired of being abandoned, tired of stress, tired just tired. It was like looking at myself but not being in my body. I could literally see myself as if I was flying from the ceiling.

I remember trying to call my brother to tell him I loved him and then waking up in the hospital with a tube down my throat. I had been on a respirator and placed in a medically induced coma for three days.

Emmely with her sons: Shane and Brandin

My two sons had held vigil the entire time, praying over me, keeping people from my room, and knowing what was going on. After a week in the psychiatric ward, I was released to my son to live with me, move back with my ex-husband or remain under psychiatric care.

I was assigned a horrible psychiatrist that triggered every nerve in my body. She placed me on numerous medications and diagnosed me with several mental disorders. I also began to see a psychologist three times a week. I could not and would not accept any mental diagnoses nor would I admit suicide again. My thought was that I just wanted to sleep.

During the next few months, I stopped seeing the married man and remained under psychiatric care. I monitored my drinking. My ex-husband and I decided to be roommates. He convinced me I didn’t need medication and psychiatric care. We married again a few months later. Unfortunately, a year into the marriage this time, everything reverted back to the way it was the first time. He was ignoring me, talking down to me, then he began to call me crazy.

I started going back to my doctors because I was coming apart again, and my health was failing too. He convinced me because my health was so bad I should not work. My doctors agreed. Not only did I have mental issues going, but I was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease (specifically rheumatoid arthritis) and severe fibromyalgia.

I filed for disability and spent about three years in the bed, sick and hurting, unhappy, trying to work on both my failing body and marriage. In 2018, my mom was placed in hospice right after my disability was approved and paid. However, my husband had cheated and spent my money. I somehow felt at my lowest.

I spent eight months helping my son take care of my mother. During that time, we separated again and my mom died. But this time, I decided to continue seeing my doctors, stayed in prayer. I kept my faith, and I decided to start loving myself and working on myself.

Every day is still a struggle and honestly, sometimes we have to change my medications. Sometimes, I email or call my psychologist more than others. I still see her weekly. We have practiced cognitive skills, attempted EMDR, which didn’t work for me. My disassociation keeps me safe. I now have boundaries, and I’m learning at the age of almost 45 to live with a mind that sometimes wanders, wonders, has impulses, is a bit obsessive, compulsive and likes to make me think the worst of myself. I’m also learning to control it too.

What happened to cause your anguish? I relate my trauma to being very young and feeling unloved by my mother. She slept a lot and would put dead bugs around the bed to keep me from crawling into bed with her. She was very obsessive about my hair, but she didn’t feel loving. She also told me about my biological father in a selfish way. She let her boyfriend molest and abuse me and my brothers. And later she even slept with the father of my children and stolen from me.

She was essentially never there for me. It took me until she was on her death bed to forgive her. I don’t want to blame her, but it definitely was these childhood traumas that led to my trying to please everyone and taking responsibility for everyone. This has been constant: taking care of everyone and never putting my feelings first or taking care of myself or thinking about my own happiness in life.

What was the moment that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? In July of 2013, I was sleeping less than two hours a night. I was drinking a lot, being reckless, and feeling like I was falling apart. I ultimately attempting suicide. That was the first time. The second time was realizing that I needed to follow through with seeking care and make it a priority when my life happened in 2015. I again was falling apart physically, mental, marriage, etc.

What does your recovery look like? I still see my doctors regularly. I’m very in tune with my moods, my body changes, both mental and physical. I have a very small circle of people that I allow in my life. I just don’t trust others. It’s hard to help others understand how I am not a victim of trauma; I am a survivor and telling my story is not for attention or pity. It’s for healing and helping others.

It took me from 2013 until 2017 to accept my diagnosis. That was a rude awakening and long journey. Continued care, self-awareness and honestly with myself and others is what helps me to maintain. If I mentally can’t cope with something or something is a trigger to me, I may have to reschedule and I know that is ok because I have to come first. I have to be my own caretaker.

Emmely and her oldest grandson Liam

Where are you now?

I definitely have cycles and setbacks. I try to journal. I feel as though the moon phases affect me. I try to pay attention to the things I watch on TV, the people I’m around, how my body feels, how much time I spend in the bed. Due to the fact that I also have physical ailments and I’m on a tight budget due to disability income, it’s hard to go out and keep up with fashion or hair. So, I budget and try to maintain a positive attitude. I count blessings instead of problems! I spend time with my grandkids. I like going to the park. I like making grapevine wreaths.

One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care:

My true honest advice would be: if you even remotely feel or think you need help, seek it. Don’t wait, don’t feel stupid, don’t think it will fix itself, don’t think it’s a dumb decision to talk about it. Don’t feel like you have to talk to family or friends only, there are even free resources. Don’t feel like you will be stereotyped. Depression, bipolar and mental illnesses have such a stigma attached to them and are used in such loose terms, but they are real. We suffer! They are invisible until you are lying in a casket in front of friends and family. Your feelings matter. What is going on in your mind matters. You matter!!!

Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just a few options for you below:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. 

  • National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences. 

  • Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low-cost health services. These include:

  • Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has lists of directories and organizations that can help in identifying a health practitioner.

  • Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offer resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.

  • Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.

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