Monthly Archives: January 2012

Feeling Wrong

Growing up with abuse, and I think it’s the same with any kind of abuse, we absorb the feeling that we are Wrong. Not that we do wrong, but that something in our core, our very being makes us Wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and do penance all day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are Wrong. Or at least that’s what we come to believe.

Then we grow up into Wrong adults. Somehow we try to muddle through life, trying to do things right. We try to look normal. We try to be good, while always believing we’re living a lie. We live in constant fear of being found out.

Sometimes we choose to give into the Wrong and just live as badly as we feel. We do things we hate, things our conscience tells us are wrong, as we tell ourselves that’s just who we are, that we’re finally being “authentic.” We give up and surrender to the Wrongness.

Or we learn to be good actors. Most of us play our parts so well, we would be worthy of an Oscar, but we can’t admit it’s an act. Not even to ourselves. At least not consciously. We study other people and learn to act the part of responsible adults. We may even act the part of wife and mother, living in terror, because we know we don’t have a clue what we should be doing. After all, we’re only acting out a part, playing a character we have devised. But no one’s shown us the script. We’re scared and miserable.

For most of us, the strain eventually takes its toll, and our carefully crafted veneer begins to crack. Memories remind us of who we are, or rather of what we are: Wrong. It has become a fundamental part of our being.

There is good news. WE ARE NOT Wrong! We were never Wrong. We were created by God in His image. And as Mahalia Jackson used to say, “God don’t make no junk!” And he certainly doesn’t fashion someone in His image and call it Wrong. We were precious children. Gifts of God to our families. Their inability to recognize that and cherish their gifts was all about them, not us.

When a piece of expensive, finely crafted sterling silver is tossed in a drawer or cabinet and forgotten, it eventually looks like an ugly, tarnished, worthless piece of junk. But is it really? No. It is still a fine piece of silver of great value. The fact that its owner didn’t care for it properly didn’t change its value. And that’s the way it is with us. Those who hurt us, for reasons of their own, didn’t recognize our value, but it never diminished that we were, are, wondrous, precious gifts of God.

When you have that light bulb moment, and you realize that you are not Wrong, no matter how you feel, you’re on the road toward recovery. It takes diligence to daily refute the lie and reclaim your value. I pray that you will today begin to recognize what a precious gift you are to the world. Savor it for a while. Wallow in the thought. Then make a decision to choose the truth. It will change your life.


Step 5: Healing

Step 5 — Healing

Woohoo! Now for what you’ve been working so hard for, and, most likely, it will be even better than you’ve imagined. For so long, you couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be healthy, happy, and when you get to this final stage, you will look back and wonder how it could have been so bad for so long. You will look back and know that all the pain, all the work was worth it. That’s how it’s been for me.

If you have DID, it’s time to begin welcoming the parts home where they belong, as part of you – a whole you. I won’t go in depth here about integration: that’s a whole other post of its own. But, I will say that it’s great. And, by now, it may have begun to happen as a natural result of the work you’ve been doing. Contrary to what some people believe, it doesn’t have to be a big deal, and I can tell you from experience, it does NOT mean death to the parts!

But, the beginning of health is not the end of recovery. That will continue for a long time to come. Don’t plan to quit therapy anytime soon! You’re still going to need support and guidance as you learn to navigate life as a healing person.

One important, life-changing aspect of healing means forever giving up the role of victim. Scary thought isn’t it? Not having everyone’s attention on you and your sad story is a real paradigm shift, I know. The up side is you get to have real relationships. You get to care about others and their problems. You’ll have conversations about all kinds of things and be amazed at what you learn from others. You’ll develop interests that have lain fallow for years, because now you won’t be spending all your time and energy on getting well. You can look outward instead of constantly looking inward at what’s happening with you.

Giving back, contributing to society, becomes important at this stage. Stepping outside yourself and your problems to contribute to others gives you a whole new perspective. I think it’s probably best to avoid becoming an amateur counselor, because you might get dragged back into your old stuff again. There are so many possibilities out there. What do you like to do? Consider volunteering at church, working at a food bank, joining Habitat for Humanity, rocking babies at a NICU, getting involved in your children’s activities. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Find out what makes you you. Are you a quiet, indoor person who thinks a great day is to curl up in a corner with a good book? Do you thrive on being with people – going out to lunch and chatting the afternoon away? What’s your favorite color, your favorite food? You may never have been allowed your own opinion on anything. Well, here’s your chance. Grab it and run!

And here’s the best part. Live! Enjoy life. Laugh, relax once in a while and allow yourself to bask in recovery. This is not the end of the road. You may always have scars that cause you pain, and complete recovery is a process. Remember, Even healthy people grow throughout their lives, and you have so much time to make up for. Get with it!

The Guilt Bucket

The Guilt Bucket   This post goes hand-in-hand with Step 3: Take Responsibility. Accepting responsibility and asking forgiveness for the things we do wrong are keys to maintaining successful relationships. However, when sexual abuse has been a part of our history, guilt tends to get in the way. Why is that?  Well, children are egocentric. That is, they think the world centers around them. That’s the way they’re supposed to be; it’s part of the normal developmental process. But when sexual abuse enters the picture, they believe that they are the cause. When we become adults, it means we are left with feelings of guilt. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it is a reality.

So now that we’re adults, what do we do with this guilt? It’s time to learn the difference between true guilt and false guilt.   True guilt is the guilt we experience for the things we do that are wrong. We all come equipped with a God-given conscience that alerts us when we do something wrong. The problem for abuse survivors is that the conscience becomes warped, and we find ourselves continuing to feel guilty even when we’ve done nothing wrong. That’s false guilt.  So what does that have to do with taking responsibility? A really good therapist explained it to me using the example of the Guilt Bucket. He told me to think of it this way: You have a bucket that fills up with the things you feel guilty about. When you fill it up with false guilt, for things like sexual abuse, your bucket becomes full. So when true guilt comes along, you can’t accept it; your bucket is already full. So you reject the true guilt and become defensive when someone calls you on something.   The way to heal it is to dump out the false guilt to make room for the true guilt.

How do you do that? The first step is to learn how to tell the difference between true guilt and false guilt. This is where the 5 Steps of Recovery come in.  You must decide to face the issue, tell the truth and now, learn to take responsibility.  The main issue is looking into the past and giving responsibility for the abuse back to those who were responsible. That’s not easy, so try this. Take a long look at children you know. Now imagine someone approaching them to do harm. Would you then blame the children? Of course not! And yet if you’re like I was, you feel responsible for what happened to you.  It was not my fault, and it’s certainly not yours.

Practice emptying your guilt bucket of false guilt, so it won’t overflow when the real thing comes along. I just try to visualize what’s in the bucket. I “look” at each one in my mind. Was this really my responsibility? Is this something someone else did to me? Is this a choice that I made? Answer those questions honestly, and then you will be able to take responsibility for the things you do wrong while letting the other stuff go. You will be amazed at the improvement in relationships you’ll see when you can take responsibility for your own stuff. It’s just part of being adult. And the most surprising part about this is how freeing it is to be able to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong,.”

What? you say. Yes, I know, I really do know, that to say you’re sorry is to humble yourself and be vulnerable. Those are two very difficult things to do for anyone, abused or not. And notice:  I said humble yourself, not humiliate yourself. Those are two very different things.   One of the first times I practiced taking responsibility for something I knew was mine was with my daughter. I realized how much I had hurt her with all my suicide attempts and cutting, so I told her that, and then I said, “I’m sorry. Would you please forgive me?” I knew I had done the right thing when she turned around with tears streaming down her cheeks. It’s what she needed to hear from me, and it was the beginning of a transformation in our relationship. That was the moment the gap between us began to close, and now our relationship is better than it’s ever been, all because of two words: I’m sorry. They may be the most powerful, most healing words you ever utter.

Step 4: Trust the Process

Step 4: Trust the Process

Once you’ve made the decision to get well, you’ve begun to tell yourself the truth and you’re taking responsibility, you’re in the middle of your healing process. Now is the time for patience as you learn to trust the process. What does that mean? If you’re in treatment with a good therapist, and I hope you are, it means really listen and pay close attention to what you’re being told. Let it sink into the gray matter (your brain, your mind). Force yourself to faithfully do all the assignments you’re given. Journal. If you’re dealing with DID, let your parts talk to you or journal. Let them talk to your therapist and share what they’ve been holding onto for you.

Then, be patient. Recovery is a process: it takes time. Do your journaling and assignments, but don’t obsess over them, allow yourself to rest, take a breather. Live. As you remain committed to your decision to get well, your inner wisdom will let you know when it’s time to move on and what to deal with next. New memories may surface. Don’t panic! Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that your mind will only let the memories come when you’re ready to deal with them. It’s protected you this long, it’s not about to let you down now!

Don’t be discouraged if it seems slow. Slow is OK. Even baby steps are progress. And, you may occasionally get scared and slip back. If that happens, journal, call your therapist. Try to understand why it happened so you can avoid it in the future, then move forward again. As I said, this is a process, and no one can do it perfectly. I certainly didn’t, but I learned to look at even my setbacks as progress, because I learned from them.

Be committed to doing something toward recovery every day: journaling, working on assignments, reflecting, communicating with your parts – something. Just don’t let it overwhelm your life. Otherwise you’ll be living your trauma. You’ve already done that, successfully I might add, or you wouldn’t be here. However, part of recovery and life after recovery is balance. Start practicing it now.

Your relationships may have become somewhat one-sided, with you doing all the sharing and them doing all the supporting. Learn how to be a friend again. Find topics other than your abuse or your therapy to talk about. Ask them questions about themselves for a change. You will start to live your recovery, and it feels oh, so good. Try it. You’ll like it!



The Top 4 Strategies for Staying Sick

Getting well is not easy; it takes conscious and continuous choices to change our past behavior. There are, however, four behaviors that will guarantee that you remain sick.

  1. The top strategy for staying sick is: Be a “rescuer.” It’s much easier to look at other people’s problems and how to fix them. When you do that, you are trying to rescue. It doesn’t work. One, you can’t solve someone else’s problems. They have to do it themselves. Just like you do. Two, it focuses your energy on something other than your own healing, and, believe me: it takes everything you’ve got to do that. You can’t afford to waste it on anything or anyone else.
  1. Focus on the wrong things – “Look! A distraction!” Some people will take any opportunity to avoid looking at and working on their own stuff. Let’s face it. It’s painful; it requires focus and concentration; it’s just plain hard work, and sometimes, it’s scary. One of my common distractions was my family. Now, I’m not saying that families are not important, but everything has to be in balance. Sometimes when I was in the hospital, I would focus on the problems at home rather than on the problems with me. I had to learn that the quicker I focused on my stuff and got a good handle on working through it, the quicker I could go home and help my family.
  1. Start conflict. Sometimes working through things creates pressure, and rather than releasing the pressure in healthy ways, you may pick a fight. It’s usually over something nonsensical. It doesn’t matter, as long as you can avoid your problems, you’d rather be fighting or taking sides in someone else’s fight. Learn relaxation techniques, work on your anger management skills and let other people fight their own battles. You don’t have the time or the energy to waste on meaningless conflict.
  1. And, the number 1 Strategy for Staying Sick – self mutilate. It works every time. It takes away the pain, relieves the guilt and gives you a high you’ve been desperate for – temporarily. Then, like a sugar-high, it drops you like a rock into the chasm of despair. If you self-mutilate, you know what comes after you drop. The awful thoughts and feelings that make your stomach roil — thoughts like, “I thought I was making progress, but now look at me; My family is going to be so disappointed in me; Why can’t I just be normal?; When is this cycle ever going to end?”

Follow these four simple strategies and, you too, can postpone recovery indefinitely.

Step 3: Take Responsibility

Step 3

In the past two weeks, we’ve covered the first two steps: Making the decision to get well and telling the truth. Now we’ll delve into taking responsibility.

Step 3: Take responsibility.

Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to take responsibility for what happened to you. You are NOT responsible for that; you were a victim. The problem comes when we continue to live as victims.  To recover, you must step out of what is often called the Trauma Drama Triangle. If you’ve been in treatment for long, you’ve probably heard about the “Victim, Rescuer, Perpetrator triangle.” Even Pascal would disapprove of this triangle.

Once you’ve been abused, it’s natural to feel like a victim. When you’re a child intimidated or sweet-talked by an adult, you ARE a victim. You have no recourse, no way to help yourself out of the situation. Though it is absolutely true that you were a victim, somehow you probably transferred the blame to yourself, and it turned to hatred. I say these things, because I know how I reacted, and I learned from others that this was common.

That hatred is almost unbearable, and as you grew up, you wanted desperately to feel better about yourself. If you’re like most of us, you discovered that helping others did the trick. It helped the balance scales in your mind to tip, momentarily, from “Bad” to “Good.” So you learned to rescue others at every opportunity.

In this case, being a Rescuer means trying to pull others out of a difficult situation when they could do it themselves. Rather than offering encouragement and letting them achieve victory for themselves, you tend to circumvent the process and try to do it for them. On the surface the motives appear to be pure: you want to relieve them of the pain that you have experienced, not realizing that rescuing is not helpful for the person being rescued and, certainly, not for you, the Rescuer.

One of the reasons it’s bad for you is because it becomes an effective distraction. You don’t have to think about your own pain, because you’re too focused on someone else’s. Also, I learned that most of us, if we practice rescuing too often, begin to feel like the Victim again. “Poor, longsuffering me . . . when is someone going to care about ME. “ You know the drill. So you have to learn to accept responsibility for yourself and your actions only and let others learn to accept responsibility for theirs.

And then there’s the Perpetrator. This one is tough. No one, especially one who’s been through what we have, wants to see herself as a Perpetrator. However, we undoubtedly do it completely unconsciously. As I started looking carefully at my life, I realized that I had become a perpetrator to my kids. Oh, not in the same way that my parents had to me; I protected them fiercely from any kind of behaviors that I recognized as abuse. However, my frequent self-mutilation and suicide attempts, threw my family into a kind of chaos that no one should have had to endure.

Should I be excused because of what happened to me? It wasn’t my fault that I felt the way I did, but my actions were my responsibility. I had to face the fact that, as a perpetrator, I had really hurt my kids. I had to accept responsibility, ask forgiveness and move forward, determined to not continue the behaviors. It made all the difference in my relationships with my kids as they learned they could trust me again, then we began to move forward together as parent and children. It also dramatically improved my relationships with friends. Now I have a great group of healthy friends who may need my encouragement, but neither need nor expect me to fix their problems for them, nor do I need them to do the same for me. It’s opened a whole new world, in which I only experience true guilt, which is a topic for another post.

May 18

Friday, May 18, 2001 was the day I decided to die. I’d made several attempts through overdosing on pills or slashing my wrists before, but this was different. I’d taken plenty of time to think it through to be sure that death was really the “right” thing to do rather than acting impulsively as before. I had thought for a long time that I was bad for my family, especially my children. I had bought the lie that many abused people believe: that it was somehow my fault. I believed that my “badness” was somehow contagious and that it was my duty as a loving mother to spare my children from any further exposure. I felt ashamed because of all the pain I had put them through during the years of my illness and guilty that I had allowed it to go on this long. So this time, I was determined. I planned carefully so there would not, could not be any last minute change of mind, and no one could “accidentally” rescue me.

I took my time taking the pills, washing them down with my favorite soda while listening John Denver’s “I’m Sorry” over and over. I put the gifts I had bought and the letters I had written to my daughters on the dining room table then walked to my bedroom to lie down for a peaceful death. I fell twice on the way. As I lay down, I could feel the sluggishness in my brain. It was starting. It was a relief to let my heavy eyelids  and know that the guilt, pain and confusion would soon be over.

Why I opened my eyes, I don’t know, except that it must have been a “God thing.” Perhaps a miracle? I’m still surprised that I could open them, but I did. And when I did, they focused on the pictures of my two daughters, Catheryn and Elizabeth. I had given careful consideration as to how my death would affect them. Catheryn was 22 and newly-married. Elizabeth, at 18, had just graduated from high school. I believed sincerely that this act was the most loving act that I, as a mother could do. My confused and twisted thinking had convinced me that if I loved them, I would leave them and stop hurting them, stop tainting their lives with my infected presence. Hopefully, now they could lead normal, happy lives, free from the pain and the evil that living with me had forced upon them.

Then, a second inexplicable occurence.  I began to think with a clarity that cut like a laser through my drug-induced stupor—a clarity that I hadn’t experienced even when I wasn’t drugged. And I knew  with a certainty that was beyond a logical thought process—somehow I just knew that with this one act, I would devastate my daughters. Their lives would be changed irreparably. And not for the better as I had thought a moment before. How could they possibly reason through their mother’s suicide. . . how this person of whom they were a part and who claimed to love them could choose to abandon them? I had always been there to kiss their bruised knees or soothe their wounded hearts. But now for this, the greatest pain they had ever experienced, for this, the ultimate abandonment, I would not be there to comfort them. I foresaw their confusion and their rage. And I would never have the chance to explain it. The letters I had written couldn’t possibly convey a logical explanation with which they could comfort themselves. The very person who had given them life was choosing to take her own. That was an irony I knew they would not forgive.

Now what? I was already in the death process. Surely I’d gone too far. I turned on my side and reached for the phone, but the numbers were blurry and seemed to be moving. I fought to make my muscles respond to dial 911. Incredibly, I succeeded and a voice answered. Slurring my words, I told the nameless savior on the other end of the line what I’d done and listened intently to her instructions. She told me to go to the front door and unlock it, because paramedics were on the way. I tried to walk, but collapsed. She encouraged me to get there however I could, so I began to crawl. The distance from my bedroom through the living room seemed the length of a football field.

My apartment was on the second floor with stairs leading down to my front door. By the time I reached the stairs, the paramedics were banging on the door and yelling. The 911 operator was still on the line with me, urging me on. Now she instructed me to put down the phone so I could concentrate on getting down the stairs and unlocking the door. When I finally reached the bottom of the stairs, my energy was spent. The officers were still yelling and couldn’t hear my faint voice when I told them I was trying to unlock the door. Finally, I asked God for strength and managed to put all my weight on the lock, forcing it open.

Immediately, I was snatched up by men in blue as I struggled to remain conscious to answer the paramedics’ questions. After the IV was started, the EKG leads attached and an oxygen masked placed over my nose and mouth, I had a question of my own. “Am I going to die?” A strong man with a compassionate face said, “Ma’am, I won’t lie to you. You’re in bad shape, but we’re going to do our best.” Just minutes earlier dying had been my goal, and now I had to fight to survive.

As I faded in and out of consciousness, I realized that I had made a decision—a decision to live—if I was given the chance. I heard them calling in my vitals blood pressure is dropping; pupils are fixed; heartbeat is erratic. Every time I would drift off, a voice would call be back, “Ms. Miller! Jessica! Open your eyes. Stay with me. Tell me about your family. Do you have any kids?” Anything to keep me awake and fighting.

After what seemed an interminable amount of time, we arrived at the emergency department of the nearest trauma center. Blue coats swarmed around me in a flurry of intense activity. I don’t remember most of what they did. I do remember asking again if I was going to die. A kind nurse patted my foot gently and said, “We’re going to do the best we can, sweetie.”  In some twisted way, I found humor in those words. I’d spent enough time around hospitals to know that those words could often be translated as, “Not a snowflakes chance in hell, honey, but they won’t let me say that out loud.” I thought that to myself, then passed out again.

I awoke to the sound of a voice near my head, shouting, “I’ve got a sinus rhythm!” (referring to the normal rhythm of the heart) and another voice near my feet: “You’re kidding! Is it holding?”

“Yes!”  I heard, followed by the sound of cheers. I had survived.

I had stood on the brink of death and had chosen to turn away. I wasn’t one to play games. I had my chance to just walk into death, and I had changed my mind. So, if I was going to live, then I had to do something differently. It was obvious that what I’d been doing wasn’t working. It had gotten me here in this trauma room, begging God for my life.


Live. How was I supposed to do that? For so long I had simply survived, dragging my feet from day to day. Praying each night that I would not wake up in the morning and greeting the morning with despair.

I had been in treatment for 11 years and was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) early on. I remember when my psychiatrist at the time asked me if I heard voices in my head. I laughed out loud at the ridiculous question. When he questioned why I was laughing, I responded, “Because it’s a silly question. Of course I hear voices in my head. Everyone hears voices.” Instead of laughing with me, his face and that of my therapist, who was also in the room, grew quite serious. “No,” he said, “Not everyone hears voices.” I was incredulous, sure he was joking. “You’re telling me that you don’t hear voices in your head.” I stated, though it was more of a question. He shook his head. I turned to my therapist. “What about you? You hear voices in your head, don’t you?” Now I was pleading. I knew where they were headed, and I didn’t want to go there. As she shook her head, my mind was racing. How can it be that they don’t hear the voices? I hear them all the time. I’ve never been without them. They argue, they tell me what to do and say, and they sing to me. How can it be possible that I’m so different?

After a long moment, my doctor said, “Jessica, we think you may have dissociative identity disorder. It’s what we used to call multiple personality disorder or MPD.”  “Ho, whoa!” I thought. This is what I was afraid he was going to say, but I still wasn’t ready to hear it. After explaining the symptoms the staff had observed (I was hospitalized at the time.), he told me that it was not a diagnosis that he had made lightly. It was only after his own observation, discussion with the staff, looking at my history and careful consideration that he brought it up. “So, now what?” I questioned, surprised I could find my voice.

“Now we begin to treat you more effectively than we’ve been able to before.”

“Does this mean I’m crazy?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Will I ever get well?”

“It takes a lot of hard work, and we’re just learning how to treat DID effectively. But I think you can.”

I wanted to, at least I thought I did. But there was no way I could comprehend at that time just how hard it would be. Anais Nin was right when she said, “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  Or as it’s often been translated, “Change is possible only when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.” It took 11 years for me to get to be willing to make a real change and go toe-to-toe with my fear.

Living with DID

I’d been living with DID for most of my life. That’s why I couldn’t remember a time without the voices. Now that I was aware that this wasn’t how most people lived and I was in therapy,  I wanted to understand how I had developed DID: what had caused it and how to deal with it.

I had remembered being molested by a neighbor, but I had never thought of it as being a big deal. My defenses and my resistance to knowing the truth, the whole truth, was strong. The atmosphere there in the psych hospital and the kindness of the doctors and therapists was something I hadn’t experienced for such a long time that I’d forgotten what it was like to feel safe. I realized that, until then, I didn’t even know I hadn’t felt safe. Memories began to come back at odd times in unguarded moments when I was thinking about anything but abuse. The first snippet of a memory came to me when I was walking on the grounds. A black and white photograph appeared in my mind, seemingly out of nowhere. It was taken from what would have been my perspective, looking on at what was happening. My dress was pulled up and someone, a man, was touching me. In the picture, the man’s head was cropped out so I couldn’t identify him. That’s how it began. Gradually, the pictures changed to movies with sound, but the identity or identities of those hurting me were hidden for a long time. I was only given clues, such as the vivid memory of the wallpaper in my parents’ bedroom. We had moved from that house when I was seven, and I didn’t even remember the wallpaper in my own room. But I could draw in colorful detail the pattern of yellow flowers and vines of ttheir bedroom.

At first, I didn’t trust those memories. I would tell myself I’d seen pictures. Or when a memory of abuse came back, it was like I was watching a movie. I would be certain that I must have seen something like that on television. The fact that I’d never watched such movies couldn’t convince me it was actually a memory. . . my memory.

With time, different parts began to emerge and identify themselves to me. I’m not sure any of them had names before they began to communicate with me. Sometimes it seemed like some of them scrambled to come up with a name, as though they hadn’t needed names when they were communicating openly just with one another. I began to see how my system had been working to keep me operating successfully in the world, as a wife, mother and professional.

When I came home from the hospital to my husband and daughters, we all had to adjust. Catheryn had taken on the “mother” role and felt supplanted when I tried to step back into my place in the family. And then there was the issue of my parts and how my family would now relate to me and my parts.


May 18, 2001 started out as the day I decided to die and ended as the day I decided to get well. And that made all the difference. I decided. I chose. It was just that simple. I created an image in my mind of a line drawn in the sand, a line I would never allow myself to cross again. Over the line, I pictured my finger drawing the date. Now I had made a commitment—not to a doctor, not to a therapist, not to anyone but myself and God. And every time I was tempted to go back to the old ways of coping through drugs or cutting, I forced myself to look at that line. I reminded myself that I had faced death and backed away. Every choice after that resulted from that one critical choice.

It sounds so simple to just decide. And it is simple, but not easy. Now, I had no excuses. I couldn’t back down. I couldn’t run away. And I’d heard it countless times before: It was the mantra at the Trauma Unit at Timberlawn Behavioral Center, which had become my second home. How many times had I sat in Dr. Colin Ross’s group and heard him ask the question, “So when are you going to decide to get well?”

I’d always thought that was a dumb and insensitive question. Did he think I wanted to live this way? Didn’t he know that if I knew how to get well, I’d do it? I wondered. I had just never really “gotten it” before. Now that I did, I realized it was simple. And now, it was time to face the truth.