April 5, 2016

The People →
Michelle Armstrong

Houston, Texas, USA → Mother & Mental Health Advocate → PTSD & Anxiety → Medication, Music & Art.

1. Introducing Michelle

R: Hi Michelle, tell us a little bit about yourself…

My name is Michelle, I am a mother of 2 grown children, 25 & 23, and 3 grandsons. I am currently disabled, at one time a florist, a bill collector and a telemarketing wiz. I am a lover of all animals, people, and nature, I have studied the Bible extensively.

R: Where do you live?

M: I live in Houston, Texas, USA.

R: What do you do for living?

M: I am currently disabled due to Bipolar disorder, PTSD, Anxiety, BPD and Addiction.

R: Did you study?

M: I excelled in school, however, I had horrible circumstances that took me away from my studies.

R: What does family life look like – children / pets?

M: I have no children at home, we have a labrador/German Shepherd mix named Sammy.

2. Managing PTSD

R: Were you diagnosed by a health professional?

M: Yes, when I was 22.

R: What made you see a doctor? What were the warning signs?

M: I started having nightmares and flashbacks when I was 12.

R: Did they prescribe medication? Do you / Did you take medication?

M: Not at that time, they started giving me meds when I told them I was suicidal.

R: PTSD is usually the result of a traumatic event or period in your life, what caused your PTSD?

M: I was violently molested by 8 men from the time I was 2 until I was 16. My mother knew everything, and beat me to a pulp daily…locking me in closets, throwing me from one end of the house to the other. She constantly told me how much she hated me.

“I get lost in thought, it’s hard to concentrate on anything. My mind wanders into the past. I start crying and curl into a ball, and don’t even realise it.”

R: How would you describe having PTSD in your own words?

M: Pure hell! Reliving all of the touching, groping, guilt, shame, being mortified, seeing dark figures in the dark, forcing themselves on me. Daily reminders of how horrible I felt to be touched. Then my mother blaming me for what those men were doing!

R: How does PTSD interfere with a normal day?

M: I get lost in thought, it’s hard to concentrate on anything. My mind wanders into the past. I start crying and curl into a ball, and don’t even realise it.

R: Do friends or colleagues know about your PTSD?

M: Yes, close friends do. They know what happened to me, they understand better.

R: Does it affect your relationship with them?

M: Yes, they have to walk on eggshells, they can’t say certain things, jokes, etc…

R: How do you best manage PTSD? (medication, meditation, yoga, alternative medicines, or something else)

M: I take medication, listen to soft music, watch hallmark movies, I like to view art.

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R: Did any treatments work?

M: Not yet.

R: Do you feel as if you’re in control now?

M: Not yet.

R: How would your life be different if you didn’t have PTSD?

M: I might be able to sleep at night.

R: If you had the option to erase being PTSD, would you?

M: Yes, that would mean that I could erase my childhood.

3. Managing Anxiety

R: Were you diagnosed by a health professional?

M: Yes.

R: What made you see a doctor? What were the warning signs?

M: Panic attacks, loud noises, lightning, guns on tv, bombs on tv…

R: How do you avoid these triggers?

M: I listen to soft music and stay away from loud bombing gun filled movies.

R: Did they prescribe medication? Do you / Did you take medication?

M: Yes.

R: Have you seen a therapist?

M: Yes.

R: If so, Did it help?

M: No.

“I can’t go outside most days, I rock, I shake, I tremble at loud noises.”

R: How would you describe Anxiety in your own words?

M: It feels like I am having a heart attack.

R: How does Anxiety affect a normal day?

M: I can’t go outside most days, I rock, I shake, I tremble at loud noises.

R: Do friends or colleagues notice you’re anxious?

M: Yes, all the time. They say calm down, as if it were easy.

R: Does it affect your relationship with them?

M: Yes, they think I am a neurotic person

R: How do you best manage your Anxiety otherwise?

M: The only thing that works is medication

R: Do you feel as if you’re in control now?

M: No, I am waiting to see a new Doctor.

R: How would your life be different if you didn’t have Anxiety?

M: I would be able to relax.

R: If you had the option to erase your anxiety, would you?

M: Yes, Joe is always telling me to relax, he doesn’t understand, I CAN’T!

4. Being Proactive

R: Do you tell friends, family and colleagues that you have PTSD & Anxiety?

M: I don’t have to, they figure it out pretty quick.

“Some are accepting, others shun me, judge me, think they are better than me.”

R: How did they react?

M: Some are accepting, others shun me, judge me, think they are better than me.

R: Have you experienced stigma in regards to our mental health?

M: Yes, people don’t understand me, I say things not meant to be said..my nerves get me in trouble.

R: Do you know others with mental health complications?

M: Yes, we get along great!

R: How do you educate yourself on management and resources? Do you read specific blogs, magazines or news articles?

M: I try to read everything available on mental health resources.

R: Have you read any great books about PTSD & Anxiety?

M: No.

5. Like-Minded Network

R: Can you recommend any therapists / doctors / specialists / coaches /mentors / clinics / foundations?

M: Mental Health Department Of Harris County, Memorial Hermann Hospital System.

About the image: The pain patches are from occipital neuralgia and chronic. Migraines, caused from all the trauma from early childhood. Everytime I have an anxiety attack it exzasterbates the pain in my head. I am locked inside my house pretty much. The light from the sun, fluorescent and TV hurt my head tremendously. Because of stomach issues, I cannot take any format of pain medication. So I live in Hell.

6. What’s Next?

R: What’s on your horizon for 2016?

M: I would love to write a book.

R: What’s next for your mental health?

M: Try to get stable, and stay stable.

R: Anything else you’d like to add?

M: Maybe one day, I will be able to use my experiences to help others.

R: Thank you Michelle. And thanks for sharing insight into mental illness for Like-Minded Magazine.

Credits
Rodger Hoefel in conversation with Michelle Armstrong
Cover Photo and other images from Michelle’s Twitter

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