At five, her mental illness story started. She was already a victim of sexual abuse.

My name is Stephanie Michelle Letteer.

I live in the Inland Empire about two hours east of Los Angeles, California. I suffer from bipolar, borderline personality and obsessive-compulsive disorders. I have also experienced PTSD, postpartum depression and drug addiction. I was self-destructive and suicidal for years and looked death in the eye many times. Twice, death looked back at me as I nearly died after overdosing on my psychiatric meds.

This is my story.

When I was five years old, I was sexually abused. Obviously, that was a terrible trauma–especially for such a young child. I almost immediately began to feel the anxiety-related symptoms of PTSD. But I wasn't sure if what I felt was abnormal. At eight-years old that changed. I knew something was definitely wrong–I became obsessed with suicide.

I had a system.

I used the closet door in my room as a gallows. I would employ whatever I could find–a tie, a belt, or a scarf­– as my rope and noose. I would tie the noose around my neck and wildly swing my body on the door. It never worked. I became more obsessed. I continued looking for any means to help me carry out my own execution. Once I remember when driving down the road with my Aunt, I got so overwhelmed with anxiety that I took the seat belt and draped it around my neck and pulled. That didn't work either. I felt so alone. I felt I didn't belong in this world. I really just wanted to die.

I began to see shadows.

Around the same time that my suicidal obsession started, I also began to see shadows. Seeing shadows is one of the first warning signs of a serious psychosis in young people. I told my mother that I had started to see shadows and was feeling a deep emptiness. She dismissed my concerns and told me I was just trying to garner attention. I reached out to others. But everyone just took my illness and swept it under the proverbial rug. The stigma of mental illness is strong and it seems no one wants to admit a family member has serious mental health issues. But that attitude doesn't help anyone and causes a lot of unnecessary suffering.

I turned to self-medicating with over-the-counter pills and cutting myself to satisfy my self-destructive obsessions.

For several years, I fooled myself into thinking I was getting better. Imagine, if a therapist gave you a recovery plan that included abusing over-the-counter medications and cutting slices into yourself. But that was my self-recovery plan and I was desperately okay until I turned eighteen and my psychosis returned like a pack of rabid wolves. 

I began a relationship with a man. At first it was beautiful. But soon the rabid wolves entered into our day-to-day lives. The relationship turned verbally abusive. Most of my family had had enough of my “not normal” behavior and me. They disowned me. I was on my own. I felt so betrayed. I began to cut myself deeper and deeper. This seemed like a metaphor for my life. The more pain I felt the deeper I cut. I couldn't control myself.

Finally, after a cutting incident a friend picked up the phone and called 911.

The ambulance took me to a psychiatric ward. It was the first time that someone offered me real help. The process of recovery was painful and took a long time. I was initially put on psychiatric medication that didn't work. My illness persisted. But my relationship had calmed. Instead of huge fights, my boyfriend would call 911 and I would be taken back in the psych ward for help. That hardly seems like progress, but it was.

Still, in between my stays at the psych ward, I continued my self-destructive behavior. Before it got any better, my condition got really bad. I put those self-destructive behavior on steroids. I decided I would end my problems by standing in front of a bus. I did it. The bus slammed on its brakes and stopped before it could kill me. It may seem like I would have realized that if the bus driver saw me he would stop; but I was completely serious about ending my life that way and wasn't trying to be dramatic. The way I figured it is that everyone would be better off if I was gone. This cycle of hospitalization and destructive behavior lasted for about two years.

Then I got pregnant. 

I would like to say that my pregnancy instantly changed the way I felt. It didn't. But I did stop cutting myself and taking my meds (they were not working anyway.)  My moods, however, would swing wildly and my relationship with my boyfriend regressed and the verbal altercations made a dramatic comeback.

The day I gave birth I felt as alone as I ever had. But my beautiful baby boy gave me hope. That hope was short-lived. I soon entered into my same cycle of abusive thinking and behavior. I returned to the hospital. I thought I was getting better. The meds seemed to be working. But then just like a baseball hit me square in the forehead BAM, I overdosed on my anxiety medications. I was rushed to the hospital and had my stomach pumped. I only remember telling my boyfriend that I love him and hearing my little boy desperately cry out, "Mommy!"

That incident was the final straw for me.

I would either recover or I would leave my little boy to grow up without the love of his mother. My breakthrough was realizing I was addicted to my anxiety meds. If you're addicted to your meds, that's pretty good indication they're not working. I do need the right meds to control my condition. So, a really good psychiatrist prescribed effective medications and I have been in recovery for a year-and-a-half now.

Today, I have a new life.

I wake up everyday excited to be able to communicate with my boyfriend in a loving and peaceful manner. I wake up everyday excited to see what new thing my son will say or do­–­–excited about how much more I will love him each day. The only thing I am still anxious about is being able to share my triumph over mental illness with others. To be able to tell others in my same position that you're not abnormal, you're just sick and like any other disorder with the right treatment you can and will get better, you can overcome. So I am no longer anxious about my story because I just shared it with you.  Maybe it's a blemished rock. But it's also a rock that has been polished into a gem that's now shiny and beautiful.

My name is Stephanie.

I suffer from bipolar, borderline personality and obsessive-compulsive disorders. I have also experienced PTSD, postpartum depression and drug addiction.

That's my story.  My story is a triumph.  Yours can be too!