A Story of Resilience

Recovery Month 2020

September is recognized nationwide as Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover from these devastating diseases.

The stress we are all feeling from Covid-19, hurricane season and a possible economic recession is real and concerning.  Increasing anxiety and worry makes right now a critical time to take care of your mental health.

Sherry Warner, LSF’s Certified Recovery Peer Specialist Success Coach, went through her own mental health journey. She tells her story of hope and finding the strength to recover.

I grew up with an alcoholic father, an unstable emotionally abusive mother, and a stepfather who molested me for years. Their own traumas impacted their parenting, perpetuating a cycle of harsh shaming tactics and extreme physical discipline. I left it all behind after running away at 18 years old and married my husband at 21. We are on the tail end of raising 5 kids, with the youngest now 16 years old. It’s been no piece of cake.

At an early age our oldest displayed extremely aggressive, violent, even abusive traits that only got worse in time, severely injuring our family dynamic. He lived away from home for 3 years of his teens and I felt broken and as if I had failed as a mom. The trickledown effect of the trauma hurt us all. As a family of 7, we have survived debilitating mental health diagnoses of all the kids and two suicide attempts. We are no strangers to Baker Acts, lengthy behavioral health hospitalizations, and rides in police cars. Our determination was one of the only things that kept us pushing on.

After four decades of chronic stress and unprocessed trauma, both as a child and as a mother, my mind and body started breaking down. I realized I didn’t care if I died, but I wasn’t going to do it myself. I was exhausted, beaten down and hurt by the judgment of family and friends all around me. I experienced panic attacks, crying episodes, constant nausea. I was overweight, bloated, irritable, easily frightened, overwhelmed, and just plain miserable. I wanted, needed, and craved peace and joy but it felt so far away.

I had put the kids first and neglected myself. It was time to use the same advocacy and determination I used in raising my kids and apply it to myself. I saw (and still see) a doctor and therapist regularly. I allowed myself to feel “it” in order to heal “it.”  I started scheduling time for me.

In time, I adjusted who and what I allowed in my life, creating boundaries long overdue. I said no to things that no longer served me and no to all the extra things that were keeping me from taking care of myself.

I left a church that made me feel oppressed and not enough, especially because this church didn’t take kindly to my transgender son and my lesbian daughter. I lost family and friends in this process, but I started feeling better, eating better, and exercising. I started breathing. I was learning to inhale so I could exhale.  I stopped trying to solve everything, because I couldn’t. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around.

Today, I have developed a resiliency that was always waiting to be cultivated. I went to work in a field I was passionate about and realized I have something to offer. I have developed a wellness & recovery action plan for myself and put self-care as paramount in my life. I have helped my kids learn to do the same. We are all doing well now and have a healthy trajectory.

I continue to read, keep an open mind, and listen to my body. These days, I label my feelings for myself and I ask myself why I feel the way I do. I dig deep to understand myself so I can better myself. I can look in the mirror now, tell myself I’m awesome and I believe it. There is a bright future ahead. I know some of it will be rocky, but I also know I have the tools to navigate the terrain and I’m not scared of it.

Cheers to braving my own wilderness.

Recovery Month celebrates all the individuals living in recovery and recognizes the dedicated workers who make it possible. For more information, visit www.nationalrecoverymonth.org.

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