Shirley: It Hasn’t All Just Been Wasted Time

Shirley Davis
A woman shares her story of recovery from mental illness and her advice for others seeking recovery.

My journey to recovery began 25 years ago. That seems like a long time but, then again, I was very sick.

By age 30 my life had become so unmanageable that I sought out help. I was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder.

Those beginning years of therapy were pure hell. I was accosted by memories and flashbacks of horrendous abuse. I swayed wildly back and forth between believing myself and thinking I was lying. Denial is a powerful enemy. I spent a lot of time inpatient at our local psychiatric ward.

I had just begun my recovery when a tragedy happened. My husband became ill and we had to declare bankruptcy. The clinic where my therapist, Paula, worked would no longer allow me to see her. I had already attempted suicide three times and it became clear to my family I was going to die if something wasn’t done, so I entered an inpatient facility. I placed all my alters on a warm sandy beach in my mind for protection and firmly locked the door in hope that someday I would be able to release them from the past they still lived in. I lived in that facility for over seven years.

In June of 2011 I decided it was time to move on, and I began to look for another arrangement. I moved into a group home in September 2011 where I relearned how to function in the world. I then moved to Mattoon to live with my brother.

I decided to return to college, so I contacted the Department of Rehab and began to work toward my Associates Degree in Psychology. I was seeing a therapist at our local mental health clinic, but all I could talk about was Paula. She finally stopped me and asked why I didn’t see her again. I explained the bankruptcy and that the clinic would not allow me to see her, but she encouraged me. So I called the business office, and to my amazement they have a program for low income people like myself! They wrote off the entire bill and said I could see Paula!

The first session was a joyous one, and I threw open the door to the beach to allow all of me to enjoy Paula’s wise presence. That was three years ago. Now I am getting ready to graduate in December of this year, and I am moving to Springfield to attend the University of Illinois.

What advice do I have? Never give up! Times may seem hopeless, but recovery is probable if you do not give up on your dreams. I’m 55 years old and live in a wheelchair, but I’m moving into the future. I believe that life is not a horrible ordeal to get through and die. Life is a wonderful adventure to cherish. Yes, I could die before I reach my goals but I will still be a success story!

Mental illness is NOT a death sentence nor does it relegate you to the realm of the lost. My time recovering hasn’t been wasted time. I have learned love, patience, and how to tolerate just about anything life has to throw at me. Come with me down the road less traveled. It is waiting!

Last Updated: 04/25/2017