Crossville, TN

I think the mental health system has changed in some ways for the better and some ways for the worst. You used to get warehoused in a mental health facility for years at a time. And that was bad. But now you can’t get in when you need it.

Shell: I just turned 50. I've been in the mental health system since the 70's when I was four years old. They diagnosed me with major psychosis and put me on antipsychotic drugs.

If I didn’t have the peer support center, I don’t know what I would do. This place has changed my life because I would just stay at home and rock and not know what to do with myself. Now I come here and I have Suzie and Tammy and they help me do things. They help me get out of my head because my head is a very scary place to be.

My parents, sent me to a special school for kids with mental health issues and I was raped repeatedly for three years when I was 12 by the director of discipline. He was like a vice principal.

Now my diagnosis is major depression with psychosis, borderline personality disorder, OCD, PTSD and eating disorder.I've tried to kill myself six times.  I hear voices. It's something that I struggle with every day. I wake up every day and I just try to get through the next moment.

I've been hospitalized many times. One time  I was in a mental hospital for a whole year in Kansas. All kinds of things happened there. I had a reaction to some of the other patients because they  were aggressive and I was feeling unsafe. So they put me in the quiet room for a whole day, which is just a padded cell. It felt like punishment, like I was being punished for feeling unsafe.

Other times I was wrapped in cold wet blankets until I shocked out.

BW: What does that mean shocked out?

Shell: It's like a form of shock therapy. They wrap you up until you just shake and freeze and you just ... shock. You go into shock. They don't do it anymore. 

Then, I had multiple personality disorder and I was in therapy. My therapist wanted me to stop calling her, so she told me to start calling a helpline. I called the helpline when I was upset and they called the cops and the cops came with guns drawn into my house. I was so traumatized with the fact that they came in with guns drawn that I was switching personalities. They put me in restraints  and retraumatized me. That was the time that I ended up in the Emergency Room strapped to a gurney for 18 hours. It took my parents two days to find me at UCLA medical center.

BW: How does it work when you have delusions? 

Shell: I hear stuff, which is kind of ironic because I'm deaf. So that's how I know I really need help when I take my ears off and I'm still hearing voices, I know I'm in trouble. So it's kind of a good test.

BW: Is it the same message you've heard since you were a little girl?

Shell: Yeah, it's all negative self talk kind of stuff. But it comes from somebody else.  I get commands, hallucinations that tell me to kill myself and that it's a foregone conclusion, that it's compulsory, it's not a choice, that it's something that I have to do. So I get really dangerous and I've come close a couple times. I'm really lucky to be here. 

BW: What do you think the best day of your life was?

When asked about the best day of her life.

When asked about the best day of her life.

Shell: The day I got married. [big smile]. June 20th, 2016.  My wife is  the most wonderful person in the world and ... she just ... she doesn't care that I'm mentally ill, she just loves me for who I am. And she just supports me unconditionally and loves me and it's actually a really cool story.

We met when I was 18, she was my first love. My parents actually disowned me because of her. I lived with her for a little while and then when I was in California my mental illness was such that I broke up with her and switched and didn't remember. So she was just gone and I didn't know what happened. 27 years later I got an email that said, "I just wanted to know if you survived." 

I happened to be going through a breakup at the time, so it was perfect timing. We started talking  on Facebook. And then we were talking every day and so then I came to visit and I've been here ever since.  It was awesome. We filled the church, we had almost 200 people.






Kaelin Part 1

Kaelin Part 1