Cleveland, GA


Carly: I was born really prematurely. I weighed 1 lb, 8 oz, and was 12 inches long. I've been blind in my left eye my whole life. I feel like I was born sort of weak and small, you know. They told me that I'd probably never be independent. They had me on disability when I was a little kid and that's how my life was  setup.
Unfortunately both of my parents were addicts. I was removed from their home for domestic violence and drug abuse when I was 12.

By the time I was born my older sister was basically married. I never really knew her. So I was very excited that I was going to live with her.

Unfortunately she took all of her anger out on me. She used to tell me that she hated me. She'd call me a bitch and told me that I was ruining her marriage. I  endured sexual abuse from her husband, so I think she blamed me. 
BW: You think she knew about the sexual abuse?
Carly: Yeah I think she knew and I think she ignored it. They would make me drink vodka.  My brother-in-law did it as a ploy for the sexual abuse but my sister... she would say things like "You can't drink like me.  You're a Pansy." It was not a normal relationship at all. 

After a year and a half they took me out of that home and I went to go live with my aunt. She was a really good person. She had chronic illnesses but she tried really hard to be there to support me. 

By the time I was a teenager I realized how angry I was at my parents for not being there and I was angry at God for letting those things happen to me. I found out that my dad was terminally ill because he had developed cirrhosis of the liver from alcohol abuse and hepatitis C from his intravenous drug use. I was angry at everything and I took a running leap into depression. I  started to cut myself. That's when I went to Laurelwood [mental hospital].

BW: What was your diagnosis? 

I think about my mom and dad yelling and I would be freaking out so bad, crying. I was probably seven or eight.  I remember them saying, “Look what you did to her! This is your fault! You’re making her crazy just like you!” What I relate to my anxiety today is that  feeling I had back then. 

Carly:  Depression, suicide, anxiety and OCD.
I ended up getting pregnant when I was 17. My uncle said, "I don't know where you're going, but you can't stay here." I couch surfed for a little bit. I was homeless for a little bit. I was still in high school. I was so close to quitting, but I didn't want to give up.  I really contemplated suicide at that point. Finally one of my friend's mom found out that I didn't have anywhere to go, so she let me stay with her until I graduated high school. 

I was trying to decide what to do with my baby. My dad's side of the family said I should give the baby up and I considered it. I actually met with a lady several times that wanted to adopt him. But I decided that I couldn't [give him up].

Having my son saved me. Realizing that he was my responsibility and mine alone gave me something to care about and love and a reason to get up and strive and move forward. It gave me purpose.

I found this training to be a certified peer support specialist. For the first time I heard people speak openly about their mental diagnosis and they were thriving. They had lives. They had jobs. Normally mental illness is hush hush, but people were openly talking about their schizophrenia and their bipolar and  hearing voices, but it wasn't looked at as a disability. I thought it was amazing. 

I found out that the [Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network] was hiring so I moved out here against my  family's wishes. They said, "You're not going to be able to make it. There's no public transportation." My mom even told me that God didn't want me to move here.

But I've been here going on three years now. When I moved here I put ads in the paper and flyers out to find transportation. I found some really great people and friends and supports.  I firmly believe that no matter what happens to you, no matter what obstacles you're faced with, there's always a way. 

I used to be angry that these bad things happened to me, but I think that sometimes bad things have to happen for good to come out of them.