Healing When Heard
My dear friend, Julie Lewis, is an active supporter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and has asked me to tell my story.
In doing so, I strongly aspire to eliminate the shame and stigma that is so ignorantly and insensitively associated with “mental illness.” Also, let’s stop saying “mental illness”…we should use a more positive, more inclusive phrase such as, “person who identifies as a survivor of psychiatric atrocities.”
This is a first step for me, so bear with me…I am a bit wobbly, yet determined.
"In every living thing there is the desire for love."
In my own starvation, I saw many others who were dying of the same hunger...we all need intimacy, trust, respect and dignity.
Peeling off the perfect facade veneer feels good. Truth, my “father” who demands to be addressed as "Colonel" and "Sir" is a Narcissistic Sociopath (also called “crazy-makers”). I didn't know that as a child, I just craved to be loved. It’s devastating to find out that Sociopaths are incapable of loving…even their children. Power was his tool, not love, this is far from the outer illusion, the reality was a house of explosive violence, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
I’ll give you a brief synopsis.
I was raised in an affluent, apparent picture perfect family in New England. To outsiders, I was: “A" Renee, Most Likely to Succeed, Funny Girl, Best Actress… Inside the home I heard: “Children should be seen and not heard.” “Obey your father.” “Don’t make me look bad.” “You’re too ugly to be an actress.” “What goes on within the walls of this home stays here.” “It's our secret.” (Expletives deleted).
I left home at 16, served an LDS mission in France, taught at the MTC and kept up my collegiate standing ovation status for my performances. Then I started to unravel...ended up at 69lbs and was hospitalized for anorexia. I put on weight and “looked" healthy, yet we are only as sick as our secrets and I still had many. I’d been threatened to silence.
Fast forward… I chose another “daddy” and was off to Hollywood with a Psychopath. Prince Charming to Prince of Darkness. A brilliant Harvard MBA producer who changed my name and number so no one could have contact with me… after 3 yrs of mind control, isolation, emotional and physical abuse, Stockholm Syndrome set in, it was sick, yet I cleaved to him, he was all I had and it was familiar pain. An angel intervened and I was able to escape. He stalked me for a year and used financial and career carrots to lure me back. Having left with no money, no car, and a sparse support system, it was difficult to say the least. I did not return.
I suffered severe PTSD; however, I was able to work with the best doctor in the state. I made great strides and started using my talents to work with agencies locally in developing Healthy Role Models in the Media. I also started getting back into voice-over and on-camera work. Yet, just as the Colonel and Prince Charming wore masks of sanity, I too, wore masks--masks of humor and stability. My abuse demons were doing their dark work and I needed to confront the original perpetrator, my "father.”
One year ago in December, I attended a local “training” (Gestalt Therapy) to deal with 'daddy' issues and to determine why I invited another violent, narcissistic-psychopath into my life. I wanted out of “victim“ mode.
During a bizarre “therapeutic” role play exercise, a 'trainee' approached me and whispered, “You saved my life…I was that taker/abuser." Not a week later, he drugged me, raped me and then fled to LA. (Disturbingly, these groups do not screen for predators). I also kept this silent.
After 15 yrs of no contact with the "Colonel,” I let him back into my life for financial reasons and to obtain a lawyer for the above issue, I was also hoping for closure. I was disappointed in my endeavor. The horrible events that ensued during my visit to Florida are devastatingly ironic…during a drunken rage, he snapped. He beat, and strangled me--leaving me unconscious. I am blessed to have had an angel witness who called 911. She said she thought she was witnessing a murder. She remembers more than I do. I am grateful that my mind blocked out some of the horror.
The emotional beatings continued. The Colonel, a millionaire, tried to bribe and threaten a friend into coercing me to drop the charges. This, I couldn't do without perjuring myself. It was up to the state of Florida. Florida pressed felony charges against him. He then demanded I call his lawyer. A felony record would not be suitable for a Colonel. I did not make that call.
This was my first step to standing in my truth and having a voice. The next day my "father" cut off my phone, my rent, and all survival funds. I had lost my job after the rape and these actions created new physical and emotional issues. I stand in my truth against a lifetime of secrets and abuse. I hold my head high, yet am now penniless and dealing with survival issues, PTSD symptoms as well as neck and potential brain trauma.
This leads up to my "denouement" moment (or moments as it is in my case). There were several “oops” in my desperation to end the pain, with self-medicating sabotage recklessly landing me in the hospital. This time was intentional; I had to end the pain. Waking up in the ICU with tubes, wires and monitors keeping my body alive, I did wake up—my Spirit decided to live.
Where There Is Love, There Is Life —Gandhi
I so want to focus on my lessons learned and all the "good news"... that we are not alone!
It is not weak to allow other people to help you…so I learned the hard way, it actually takes more strength to let people in and show vulnerability… I had isolated myself.
I have learned that “Weakness Portrayed is Strength Conveyed.” So wobbly and choppy here I go: Loneliness is lethal. Every 13 minutes someone—from all social classes—dies of suicide.
We recognize and give much attention and resources to physical cancers, to burned faces and visible dismemberment of limbs--as we should and may I make a plea: people are bleeding internally—emotionally. We All need trust and intimacy to survive; it is a hunger even more pervasive than food. We are born for love and empathy is essential!
About 1/3 of babies placed in the barest orphanages can actually die as a result of lack of human touch and affection, their growth hormone levels drop as well as metabolism...I believe we have a universal Adult On-set of Failure to Thrive. My spirit was in ICU before my body. I had held in so many secrets, covered for the “evil doers" autocracies...I couldn't mask or cover the pain any longer. Honestly, I just wanted to be loved---not for my appearance, not for my academic and acting achievements, or my Beverly Hills "I've made it' Status"...just for ME!
I am grateful for those loyal few in my life; I am awakening with a renewed strength of purpose, like a Phoenix Rising from the ashes. My name, Renee, means re-birth in French. I am born anew… with wisdom, strength, and light that I hope will inspire others out of their darkness.
People start to Heal When They Feel Heard... so, I now use my voice in hopes that telling my story will be a key that unlocks someone else's prison.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Champion of Change...I get involved in non-profits to help others tell their stories—from domestic violence, to rape, to PTSD…ironically, I never ventured to tell my own story…until it was almost too late.
Thank you, Julie, for encouraging me to use my voice. I know I am speaking to and being heard by compassionate, loving people. You are now part of my story-- this is the first time for me to use my voice on such a public platform. Thank you. Please see with your hearts and love deeply. You will save lives.
It is not how much you give, but how much love you put into the giving that matters. —Mother Teresa