National Recovery Month Stories: Psych Nurse

Hello everyone, welcome back to to Story Project. This week we have a story from a treatment provider (who wishes to remain anonymous) and she has an interesting perspective on what it’s like to deal with addiction and recovery from the other side, to be the person who watches and guides patients through that process. I think her message shows that people who provide treatment really do care.


As a psychiatric nurse I deal every day with people who are trying to cope with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, schizophrenia, or other mental illnesses. Many of them have been trying to cope with the distress of their illnesses by self-medicating. Some abuse prescription medications such as anxiolytics or pain meds, still others use marijuana and tell themselves it’s “not really a drug,” some drink excessive alcohol, and others take anything they can from LSD to mushrooms to crack cocaine to meth.

The one characteristic all these people have is that they come to treatment in pain. And just being in treatment doesn’t mean they are hopeful about being there. A large part of the staff’s job is to help the patients find that hope. Without it, nothing else progresses because the work in overcoming illness and addiction is hard.

If someone arrives still under the influence of drugs/alcohol they have to go through detoxification. We use medications to try to ease them through that process, but it is still not an easy one. However, almost always after detoxing the patient is much better able to consider other things on which to focus and be able to stay focused on those things that form the steps of recovery.

During treatment, other means of coping with stress need to be found for each patient, and better habits of responding in a new and less destructive way. The lucky ones find the right person with whom to explore, process, and resolve their underlying issues, particularly trauma. Without that process, relapse is all too common.

I admire anyone who makes that first step and starts some kind of treatment. I use the analogy that everyone has a little red wagon and we pull it around, carrying our emotional baggage. In treatment we try to help the patient unpack some of that baggage, put it in the right storage, or maybe even discard some of it, making the wagon a little lighter to pull.

Treatment is available but you may have to look for it. Some people are fortunate enough to be able to afford wonderful private facilities. Others have to hope they are lucky enough to find good care in a public system. Keep looking. Ask for guidance, but seek help if you are dealing with addiction or any mental illness. I have seen life-changing results from getting the right care. Best wishes in your recovery.

Anonymous, RN-BC, MSN



About writingforrecovery

Sarah is a writer and poet who speaks out about issues that make people uncomfortable. Sarah advocates for causes such a sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and mental illness, and often speaks openly about her own experiences. She is determined to abolish the stigma associated with these issues and believes that it starts with people telling their stories, so she started a blog called Writing for Recovery where people can do just that. She is the author of three volumes of poetry and is currently at work on her fourth. She is convinced that there's a novel somewhere in her, and occasionally picks at the chapters so far. View all posts by writingforrecovery

3 responses to “National Recovery Month Stories: Psych Nurse

  • shirleyalexisjohnsonhayden

    I am a Survivor of the corrupted OKLAHOMA State Foster Care System of the mid and late 1970’s, following ABANDONMENT by my mentally ill birth parents, at 1 1/2 years old, which required a 2 yr hospital stint to recover from “Failure To Thrive” diagnosis and “Severe Starvation and Neglect. (Upon my admittance into this medical facility, i weighed only 12 pounds at 18 months of age).

    Following my release from medical care at age 3 1/2, I became Adopted for the FIRST time,and endured 6 years of Isolation, Starvation, Deprivation from School after removal request made by my principal after abuse was discovered by him(no elem education), Ice Baths, and more graphic torture, at the hands of my Adoptive Mother.

    Enduring daily brutal beatings, and being stripped naked before being shoved into the hall closet for the day, i was finally successful at escaping from the closet in which i was isolated for 6 years. (Isolated during the daylight hours that my adoptive father was away at work and returned to bed just before he arrived home).

    I climbed into the 10 inch opening and slide down to the basement floor thru the laundry chute in the hall closet, breaking my arm and giving myself a concussion that still to this day causes painful issues.

    I made my way to the street and was hospitalized and transferred out of OK and my Adoption was later Terminated, just before being flown to WA State and entered into the WA state foster care system, where i endured 2 more failed placement attempts and what i consider as being “RE-VICTIMIZED” by the child therapists assigned to my case, who failed to believe most of my ECT and Abuse, and quickly began JUDGING ME and LABELING ME as a “Difficult and Unruly Child”, at which point I completely shut down as a functioning child.

    After 2 years of foster care and a total of 12 Failed Attempts at Family Placement, I was adopted at the age of 12 and entered into the 6th grade.

    Absolutely Traumatized and petrified of human touch and contact, even having to engage in conversation (at which point, my eyes remained focused on the ground, and never into the face of the person talking to me), was enough to question whether or not I would continue to survive this life.

    At the time of my second adoption and entrance into middle school, I was:

    Unable to Read No clue what mathematics where no clue as to who GOD was, or to the existence of a Higher PowerWeighing only 37 pounds, and only 3 feet 6 inches tall

    Horrendously Traumatized and Terrified of Human Interraction, I became the target of my pediphile, alcoholic father just 3 months after moving into my new home.

    However, this period of abuse was ended, again, thru my own solitary actions following a nightly game of “Russian Rullette”, upon my refusal of my 400 pound fathers advances.

    I hit him in the skull with a Cast Iron Frying Pan and left him (i had hoped) for dead.

    Non trusting of police and therapists, and manipulated by my father bc he told me that my mother would “reject me” if i told her of his contact with me, I ran 7 miles to my friends house and called my mother who was on her night shift.

    Admitting only to the physical and verbal assaults that i had been subjected to, it took me 2 more years before I could find the strength to tell my mother about the fondling, inappropriate parent contact and touching.

    Lasting for a period of 18 months, and never reaching the point of molestation, for me, I never reported my father or the abuse. (Unfortunately, had i, perhaps the 2 other children after me, would not have been molested by him.)

    As a Survivor to the ECT and Abuse that i have endured throughout my lifetime, I continue to DEFY the statistics made by the ignorant therapists of my day, all of which predicted:

    1)i would never BOND with another human being,

    2)nor would i learn how to RECIPROCATE or ACCEPT LOVE from another human being,

    3)Nor would I make it to adulthood, doomed to take my own life during my adolescent years. Granted i endured a failed 10 yr marriage due to intimacy and trust issues, i did however manage to FORM an extremely TIGHT BOND with my only son, during the 15 yrs that i raised him, alone, as a single parent.

    A Writer for Recovery, Inspirational Motivator/Speaker, Volunteer Crisis Responder (having founded 7 of my own crisis support groups as well), Healing and Recovery has been my life-long goal for myself and for those that I lead into “Survivorship” and “Empowerment”, along the way.

    Now at 40 and only recently diagnosed at age 36 with PTSD, PTED, BPD and ADD, I struggle daily with my “CoMorbid Diagnosis”.

    Very few professionals are qualified or even understand how to begin to treat both diagnosis, much less, one without the other.

    The Magic combination of doctors, has been for me, a PsychoTherapist, coursed in Dialectical and Cognitive Skills Development, and a Behavioral Specialist who fully understands and accepts the difficult challenges of a Borderline Personality patient.

    You could say that with my life experience as a traumatized human being, survival, has been my every day reality since my abandonment almost 38 years ago.

    I am currently working on Book #3 of 5 in my “Soul Survivor” Series, which depicts the true life account of the horrendous trauma and abuse endured during my childhood, and as to the impact the trauma continues to have on my adult life.

    • writingforrecovery

      Thank you SO MUCH for telling your story here! Is there somewhere I can read your “Soul Survivor” series?

      • shirleyalexisjohnsonhayden

        Thanks so much for your interest in my “Soul Survivor” series. I am currently in the process of organizing the many directions that my traumatic life experiences have led me, thus far. I have 3 manuscripts and synopsis overviews that i am working on in preparation of submission to traditional publishing companies:

        Book One “Failure to Thrive-The Deprivation of Innocence”, is part one of my auto-bio and true-life account of my traumatic early chood experiences beginning with my initial abandonment from birth parents and covers my occasional periods of abuse by my first adoptive mother, ending at age 6 when i was permanently removed from elementary school, as a result of my principal’s discovery of my horrific situation.

        Book Two “Failure to Thrive – Childhood Manifestation and the Breaking of a Human Spirit”, begins to show the progression of my abuse going from random and occasional periods of abuse and transitions into the daily torture routine that inc periods of starvation and isolation from human contact. The absolute darkest period of my life, detailing the very graphic and explicit torture that i endured in the home of my first adoption, of which I am still, even now 41 yrs old, detrimentally impacted by thru the residual long-term effects of enduring such a prolonged period of de-humanizing torture intended only for breaking of the human spirit.

        Book Three “The Statistic” is still unfinished because it covers the experiences of my adolescent years, and the abuse I endured in the home of my second adoption, and the struggles i dealt in trying to overcame my fears of abandonment and rejection and other messed up experiences i had while learning to cope in the aftermath of trauma.

        And finally, my self-help series is also a 2 part series: Book One: “The Healing Game – Emotional Healing for the Abused Soul” and
        Book Two: “The Healing Game – Mind, Body and Spiritual Recovery for the Traumatized Soul” depicts the step by step progress and set-backs relating to my journey to heal, and the physical and psychological illnesses and disorders that continue to detrimental hinder my healing process, still threatening my well-being in my cont’d Journey to Spiritual Survivorship, thru my adulthood and the life path I’ve walked in pursuit of peace thru Emotional Healing. Book Two “spirit recovery”, details some of my ‘not so welcoming” personal experiences in the paranormal realm, that have interrupted my life, during my attempts at reclaiming control over my ‘damaged soul’ thru the process of rediscovering my spirituality and Spiritual Recovery.

        I am considering for my “healing game” series for self-publishing, for a more rapid approach to my own mental health and well-being, as my mind and body have really become in alignment with each other, as it seems that time is catching up with my need for healing.

        In the last few months, in preparation for the upcoming publishing and release of my first series, I have been accepting invitations from radio show programs and mental health and child abuse orgs wanting to put my story out there to the public and this has been a very empowering period of my life, leaving me in a state of ‘forgiveness’ and ‘acceptance’ of where i am emotionally, as a result of my dark experiences.

        I spend my days inspiring other survivors to heal by sharing their chood experiences with others, in the 4 on-line crisis groups that i originally created for my own benefit, bc there werent any crisis groups in support of the healing i needed to accomplish, in the areas of multiple co-morbid diagnosis of PTED, PTSD, DID, BPD and RAD. I also volunteer my writing and share my adult experiences with trauma leaders around the globe, including boston trauma institute and harvard studies as well.

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