Emma s Story
Seattle, WA USA
"I have had depression and anxiety since I was little. It was always manageable, but it was there. I grew up with a verbally and mentally abusive father, who later told us he was an addict. In high school, I vividly remember having breakdowns, what I know now as panic attacks, before presentations, gym class, and anything that would make me stand out. I couldn’t wait to get to college- I thought it would solve everything.
I’m still not sure what happened my freshman year that caused a chain reaction of mental health issues. Soon after school started, I started self-harming. One of my two roommates introduced me to it, and I started heavily relying on it. Then started my eating disorder.
Right before Thanksgiving, I was transported to a psychiatric hospital because my roommates expressed their concern over my self-harm. I stayed for a week, but this hospital didn’t even remotely help me. The therapist there didn’t listen to me when I was trying to talk. He misdiagnosed me and prescribed me medication that made no sense. I felt invisible in group therapy- I don’t think anyone noticed me. My social worker discharged me with no plan and no follow up. I left and things went back to the way they were.
The next semester was going well up until my 19th birthday. I was raped by my best friend’s friend. When I reached out to my friends for help, I was blamed and told that it was my fault. I was told to never talk to them again. I was raped again by a different guy two weeks later. I didn’t tell anyone about the second guy because I was afraid of what people would tell me. I tried therapy on-campus, but the counselors focused on short term, academic plans. I felt like I had nobody.
When sophomore year started, I tried my best to stay positive and focused on school, but it started feeling like too much. I started drinking every night. I can’t remember when or why I stopped, but I think I wanted to prove to people that I was going to be better. I joined a group on campus called CESA (Campus Educators on Sexual Assault), which helped me process what happened the last semester. I finally felt safe with people. I also worked with a couple friends to bring an Active Minds, a mental health awareness organization specifically for college students, chapter onto our campus.
Through Active Minds, I was able to organize a Speaker’s Bureau. I attended a workshop through the organization about telling your story, and at the end of the year, I stood in front of the students and teachers and spoke about my journey. That semester, I also decided to leave my university in MA and move to Seattle.
I was pimped my second month in Seattle. My pimp raped me, and drove me to and from 'appointments' all day long. In a weird twist, I had to go to Planned Parenthood and when the nurse asked me what was going on, I broke down and told her everything. She connected me to the county's sexual assault resource center, and from there, I met the most amazing therapist I have ever worked with. I still believe that nurse saved my life.
I worked with that therapist for almost 8 months. When I started, I had severe post-traumatic stress disorder and when we finished, I was almost fully recovered. I never stuck with a therapist for very long, let alone 'complete' therapy. She was strictly a PTSD therapist, and she recommended an art therapist for my anxiety and eating disorder. I’m still seeing the art therapist, and I’m absolutely in love with the art component.
It’s still a daily struggle with my body image, but I’m teaching myself how to slowly fall in love with myself."