- Phi Theta Kappa- National Honors Society/Ivy Tech Community College 1992 & 2010
- Published Children’s Book Peanut Butter Soup– 2004
- Honorary member of the Pro Bono Committee- Legal Services Organization of Indiana/Greater Clark County, District 13-2006
- Published in Digital SLR Photography magazine (worldwide)- 2010
- Published in Real magazine (Australia)-2011
- Constructed and donated website for Greater Clark County’s homeless shelter (Haven House) 2012
- Associate of Arts in Behavioral Sciences- Vincennes University 2010-2013
- CPC/Certification in Substance Abuse- Vincennes University 2010-2013
- Dean’s List- Vincennes University 2013
- Graduated with honor’s from Vincennes University- 2013
- Joined Homeless Task Force in Greater Clark County- 2013
- Began Bachelor’s in Psychology -fall of 2014/Indiana University East
- Dean’s List- December of 2014/Indiana University East
- Inducted into the National Honors Society (Indiana University East) -January 3, 2015
- Dean’s List- May of 2015- Indiana University East
- Became a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success- Sigma Alpha Pi- Indiana University East- August 16, 2015
- May 2016- Inducted into Sigma Alpha Pi: National Society of Leadership and Success
- May 13, 2016- Graduated with honor’s from Indiana University East with a B.S. in Psychology
- October 2017- Began Master’s program for Psychology and Addiction Counseling at Aspen University
- April 2020 – Graduated from Aspen University with a Master’s in Psychology and Addiction Counseling
- February 2022- Began studying for TEFL/TESL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English as a Second Language) certification.
When I was nine years old, I was told by a doctor that I had a heart murmur. He said that I would never be able to have children, do any extra curricular activities, or become too excited. I chose not to believe him. I went on to run in cross country and trak from the ages 9-11, winning more than thirty ribbons and medals. I also had four children, and have lived a life that few might believe is true.
I wet the bed until I was fourteen years old, and often cried myself to sleep- terrified- knowing that I would wake up shortly, soaked again. By the age of twelve, I was clinically depressed, and by the time I was 16, had attempted suicide a number of times. I felt that life had chewed me up and all but spit me out. I was (mis) diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my early twenties. Over the next decade, I continued to bounce in and out of Behavioral Health, not understanding just what was wrong with me. The people around me led me to believe that I was broken or “damaged”; that I was “sick”. It wasn’t until I had studied psychology (in college) many years later that I began to understand just what had actually happened to me. I had been sexually molested by a relative when I was only nine years old. How could anyone possibly behave “normally” under such circumstances? And then I came to realize that I did not have bipolar disorder, or a “personality disorder”, etc.; I was merely responding to the brutality against me, and that my behaviors were to be expected given the circumstances.
I found myself pregnant and alone in my early twenties. I moved into a homeless shelter. After giving birth to my daughter, I moved back into the homeless shelter, taking my daughter with me. Multiply that times two. Years later, I was living in a small apartment, with my two young daughters. A family member wanted my oldest daughter and devised a plot to take her. She called CPS, child protective services, and hatched an evil plan; accusing another family member of molesting my daughter. The government started an investigation, and placed my two children in foster homes.
I fought for the next eleven years to bring my daughters home. At the time, I was in college. I was a med. student with a 3.9 GPA- Phi Theta Kappa. I was doing all that I could to get out of the rut I was in. During that time, the case snowballed downward, collecting lies and accusations- it was an utter and complete nightmare. I lost my mind. I lost my place in school, and was arrested for “kidnapping” my own children. They locked me away in the psych ward. Again. And again. And again.
I was put on a colourful array of medications and psychotropics. I was told by a doctor that I would need to take them for the rest of my life. I chose not to believe him. Over the years, I grew hopeless. I believed, truly, all of the ugly chatter in my head. There were days that I prayed for cancer- I wanted to die- because the emotional pain was so great. Pain and blackness swallowed me daily. My girls never came home. I was in and out of the homeless shelter, more than ten times. The psyche ward became my home away from home. By all means, I should have been a statistic. By all means, I should have died, many times.
Somewhere along the way, I started seeing things differently. It’s as if the light came on, and I could see things for how they truly are. I began to understand that life is like a huge spiderweb, and that we’re all connected. We all need each other. Some of us are dished out a silver plate, with big, fresh juicy grapes, spilling over the edges. Some of us are born with a paper plate and Ramen noodles…and a spoon. (Have you ever tried eating Ramen noodles with a spoon?!) And some of us are born with nothing.
Somewhere along the way, I began to understand that God wasn’t trying to kill me. He didn’t hate me. He was actually just trying to get my attention. He wanted to let me know that all of those horrible things that I had gone through, were not in vain. He was simply “designing” me. He allowed me to go through such tragedies so that I could grow closer to Him. He wanted to give me a deeper compassion for humanity, and a greater understanding.
You don’t get those things from winning the lottery. The more I understood, the more gratitude I began to have, and the world wasn’t so ugly and scary anymore. I found myself at a cross road and knew that I had a choice to make. I could either continue being be the victim, or choose to be a victor. I chose the latter. I immediately began “cleaning house” and by that I mean discarding every drop of self pity that I had stuffed away into the dark corners of my mind.
Self pity had become my greatest ally over the years, and I didn’t even know it. I decided to take all of my childhood pain and collect the broken shards, polish them up, and glue them back together. I wrote a children’s book called “Peanut Butter Soup“, which highlights bullying in schools, as well as underlines such things as being kind to obese people and the elderly. It’s a book about love, simply put. I wanted a tool to be able to reach kids on their levels, and plant some good seeds while I’m at it.
Two years ago I was invited to the elementary school that I went to. I was asked to read to the kids, along with the mayor. (The mayor!) It was “Read Across America” week, and I could hardly believe that I was in the very school I was bullied in, reading to the children of the people who bullied me! What an honour to be able to reach out to their very children, and teach them not to do what some of their parents had done. Yes, it was a terrific honour.
I also enrolled myself at a University so that I could teach myself how to be my own therapist. I grew tired of being the “helpless patient”. I wanted to be the one to actually help others: I’ve been through enough to have gathered the necessary ammunition on the experience side, now I needed to strengthen my theoretical foundation. I’ve been studying Behavioral Sciences and Substance Abuse for the past three and a half years now. I can hardly believe that I’m only a few short classes away from getting my degree and certification. I have been immersed in photography for the past decade (published), and eventually, I would like to develop a Photo Therapy program that marries therapy and photography so that others can learn to better express themselves in a healthy and therapeutic way.
Life has been a wild ride!
Yes, by all accounts, I should have been a statistic. I should have fallen through the cracks of society and shriveled up and died. But I am a fighter, and a survivor. I now know that I have a purpose, and a calling.
As we all do.
What a ride,huh? God truly manifests Himself in ways so bizarre and painful. But I agree with you when you said that it was not God’s intent to kill you, but to heal you through the ordeal you went through. He got your attention and now you live to share what an amazing God He is. Praise Him and thank god for you. God bless you.
February 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm
God bless you too. 🙂 It’s funny- I wouldn’t trade all the hell I’ve been through for whatever my heart would desire, if asked. Because of the extraordinary pain in my life, it forced me down on my knees- I was so mad at God for the first 5 years or so that my kids were taken away. I didn’t understand why God would allow a corrupt system and a wicked foster mom (daughter’s foster mom) to plant such lies against my entire family- she was a powerful woman in the community- I didn’t stand a chance. But then I recalled Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego, Job, Daniel, David (and many others as you know well) – it happened to every one of them, but more importantly, it happened to Jesus also. (He was accused of “perverting the nation”, blasphemy, and all sorts of other allegations- I began to understand that He didn’t “take my kids away”- he simply wanted to give me a new coat, like Joseph. 🙂 The price was pain. But I learned through Him, to die to myself a little more every day, and despise the “world” or the “system of self”. Self promoting, “people hopping”- feeding the ego, seeking praise, and so on and so forth. I’m so very grateful for my trial by fire- in the end, Jesus baptized me in love. I cherish the hard times for those reasons. On sharing my testimony- I think of this Scripture all of the time: (Matthew 10:27/KJV) “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.” I love that. And so I do. 🙂
February 20, 2013 at 9:47 pm
…and so do I.:)
February 21, 2013 at 1:30 am
Yes you do, and I love that about you! xo
March 4, 2013 at 4:02 pm
Oh wow. I am fascinated by your strength and grateful for you sharing your story. It is such a hopeful story! I was also diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 13. My experiences weren’t nearly what yours were, but I was treated as an inpatient at that time, for 10 consecutive months, and continued to have a difficult time with it through my adolescence and 20’s. Finally, I decided to get a degree in Psychology (it was English before that, but who would have EVER guessed based on my atrocious misuse of punctuation) to help me understand it from a different angle. Studying psychology really did help.
You are helping the world in so many ways. I’m so glad you’re here.
March 29, 2013 at 6:12 am
You know, some of the most impressive and memorable people in history led unbelievable (and would-be tragic) lives, but their crushing circumstances squeezed great things into (and out of) them! I think tragedy will either rip your heart out (leaving you cold and, well, heartless) or smash your heart to bits, allowing you to give the pieces away to others throughout your life. I like what I heard somebody say just days ago, “God uses broken vessels more. We pour out more water.” I love that. 🙂
I hope you know that your stint in “PSYCH Rehab” (that has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?) gave you part of your sense of humour; I think so. I look at it like this, most of the material comedians gather comes from hard times and painful memories. They reshape that stuff and make it funny! I think you wouldn’t be the same person had you not “done your time” as well. You make quirks and insecurities charming, and it’s good to have somebody around that’s a little more cracked than me.
I still haven’t decided if you’re a comedic genius and you really are the most “together” person I’ve ever known, or, you really ARE a bit…(going through my mental Rolodex) “colorful” and you embrace your “colors”. Either way, you’re one of my favourite people ever. Thanks for stopping by too. 😉
March 30, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Thank you so much for that, Birgitta! My stint in “rehab” is something that has bothered me for a long time. Having experienced that at the age of 13, I learned to identify myself as broken and cracked. But, adopting a new identity of “comedic genius” or “colorful” as a result of being broken and cracked is something I can work with! 😀
Thank you so much for your encouragement and support. I don’t know how to express how much it means to me.
April 2, 2013 at 9:23 am
Good! Definitely see it for what it is: you’ve gone through some things that others may have died from. It could have taken hold of you like a cancer and devoured you. But you have to believe that had it not been from those difficult and life-changing circumstances, you might have fallen into the category of ‘ordinary” (and that’s the worst thing ever, almost). But you’re “colourful”- and I seriously believe that gave you an edge over those who didn’t go through what you did when you were younger, (And yes, I’m speaking from experience) because you DO have more experience. Therefore, you have more depth. Embrace it. 😉
April 2, 2013 at 9:35 am
Merci de suivre mon blog cher!!! d–0.o–b
May 9, 2013 at 2:29 am
Merci pour votre témoignage de force et de courage parmi tant d’épreuves. La vie vous a blessée, mais votre art est magnifique, d’une sensibilité exacerbée. C’est une merveilleuse revanche sur l’adversité. Et je vous souhaite toujours plus de mieux dans votre vie.
September 27, 2013 at 4:11 am
Kristel, je vous remercie de prendre le temps et de commenter. Cela signifie beaucoup pour moi! Ma vie a été très difficile, mais je sais que tout arrive pour une raison. Nous sommes juste argile dans la main du Potier, eh? Merci encore pour commenter ici, je vous apprécie. :0)
September 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm
J’aime beaucoup l’image de l’argile dans la main du Potier. J’ai connu des difficultés et cela m’a beaucoup appris. Cela enrichit très fortement en humanité et donne accès à des mondes que l’on n’aurait peut-être pas imaginé. Et à la joie d’une confiance dans la main du Potier.
September 28, 2013 at 11:14 am
I just read this. it’s truly inspiring. You are amazing.
October 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm
Hey CP, I’m just now seeing this- so sorry, but thanks for coming by. :0) (I know it’s a long read, but it’s hard to put what I’ve been through into 3 “proper paragraphs”.) I should probably change that to AUTOBio…heheh. Thanks for popping in. xo
October 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm
Oh monochromejunkie, please don’t take me for a fraud!! I need to come clean…..I don’t have pain any longer. You probably didn’t get to my “about” page which says that I had back pain a few years ago (since recovered) and this writing is actually historic. And I too was given the “it’s in your head” response which was deeply unhelpful and insulting at the time. But then eventually I went to a specialist who put me onto a book, The Mind/Body Prescription, which is perhaps similar to conversion disorder stuff but talks about the mind creating pain to distract you from suppressed rage (which everyone has, ie it’s not an underlying psychological disorder). Have you come across this concept in your studies? Anyway that changed everything for me as I could identify myself on every page and this, along with some serious spiritual growth/therapy work I did at the same time, allowed me to reclaim my life. So, in a nutshell, after a lifetime of minor ailments I learnt that I experience pain or illness when I am not ‘connected’ with … my body? The Universe? My higher self? God? …whatever! All I know is when I am shut down and not listening, things go wrong for me. And it’s like the Universe then communicates to me through pain in my body until finally (now) I listen!!
Anyway, this is nothing to what you have been through in your life (I have just read your ’Bio’) and nothing compared to the migraines you are getting from this cyst. That sounds absolutely horrific. [I can’t believe after everything else you’ve had to deal with, you now have this as well!!]. I loved reading your Bio as you are so open and uncompromising in your honesty, and, of course, because you have turned your life around. You are 1 in a million 🙂 and a total inspiration.
I clicked on your blog because I laughed at the comment you posted today on the WordPress Daily Blog and I enjoyed reading your Sabbatical post (as I am officially on ‘sabbatical’ right now [actually it’s extended sick leave after 2 years of unrelenting work stress – what a surprise, sick again!!], trying to decide what the hell to do next!) and stopped there, having no idea you were a pain sufferer. So thank you for your comment as it made me go back to your blog and read more and more. You write so well, I love your distrust of pharmaceutical companies and your commitment to natural pain management, and I think your photos are wonderful. Yay for WordPress! How cool to meet you 🙂
November 8, 2013 at 2:46 am
Yeah, I read that part about you not hurting as much as you used to- I already knew that. So no, I don’t think you’re a ‘fraud’. :0) There’s a lot of truth in what you theorized. And I too believe that we all have what is known as “frozen anger” (rage, as you put it) inside of us, and it traces back even to childhood. Stress and anger are two of the top reasons that we suffer pain: I am no exception. Sometimes, my own stress can be the trigger but also, my cyst is physiologically causing swelling and overactive pressure around my brain stem, which causes tremendous migraines that are indescribable.
Even so, I choose to not give the migraines more than 20% of me, even if I’m suffering a bad one. I suffer enough in life, so when I’m not in the grips of an ugly migraine- I celebrate! I want to make my life about HOPE, faith, love, compassion, healing and joy. There’s sorrow too, yes, but why make that the focus of one’s life? So I don’t. People that see me out and about have no idea that I’ve suffered so much in life, or that I suffer with periodic migraines now. I choose to live though, and life is certainly worth celebrating. :0)
I do hope you feel better in your sabbatical and get the rest you need. Thanks so much for coming by and taking the time to read several posts and spend a bit of time here. That means a lot to me! xo
November 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm
Thank you 🙂 And I totally respect that your pain is from a physiologically cause, its sounds absolutely horrendous and I truly feel for you. My situation was very different. I had a minor injury that just ‘wouldn’t go away’! and I ended up living with terrible crippling pain for absolutely NO physical reason!! Crazy! (and a further reason for the “fraud” apology!) So stumbling upon this theory was a life saver for me. And I forgot to tell you a crucial part of it! Supposedly, the mind actually reduces oxygen supply to the targeted area, which is what creates the pain that I was experiencing. Anyway its interesting stuff. All the very best and I look forward to following your next adventures 🙂
November 8, 2013 at 7:07 pm
..just read your bio….what do i think? in one word…WOW!
no need to say more….you are magical and not of this world….why do i say that? look at all youve been thru…i know if happened to many people, they would have cracked up completely…..carry on, and may all good things come your way! im voting your blog as my “Favorite blog of the week”…hope u dont mind!
November 24, 2013 at 5:31 am
Hi FC999, it’s great to meet you and thanks so much for popping in here. :0) I would dispute the “magical” bit but I can’t argue that I’m not of this world. [Just passing through, right?]
I’m glad to know that you’ve embraced film- that’s exciting. I’m halfway there (digital camera + film lenses via attachments). I just can’t get the same textural feel with digital lenses- love the old film lenses (Helios, Zeiss, etc.) Thanks agains so much for taking the time to write me- that means a lot to me. I don’t have much love for the LIKE button so yes, it means a lot that you took the time to write. xo
November 24, 2013 at 2:21 pm
November 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm
You too. :0)
November 24, 2013 at 2:50 pm
I nominated you for a Sunshine Blogger Award. If you want to participate in the acceptance “rules” you can read my post. http://jfrensley.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/sunshine-on-a-rainy-day/?preview=true&preview_id=846&preview_nonce=3c66a01359&post_format=standard
If you don’t want to I won’t be offended. Just wanted you to know you have brought me sunshine through your writing and stories. : )
January 2, 2014 at 9:29 pm
Thanks for thinking of me, Jenifer, I appreciate that. :0)
January 5, 2014 at 11:02 am
Hey you! I nominated you for the Sunshine Blog Award! =)
January 8, 2014 at 10:20 am
Thanks, Sami! x
January 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm
I just read this and I don’t really know what to say. I’ve suffered but not like this. You truly are a fighter. You keep the faith and that is an inspiration for people like me who’ve gone through physical abuse growing up and suffer from Bipolar Disorder and OCD. You’ll walk the streets of heaven wearing a crown and I mean this from the bottom of my heart. God bless you.
January 18, 2014 at 4:58 am
Thanks for taking the time to read this, Nitin. :0) I appreciate you! I know very well what physical abuse can do to the mind, and yes, we’re SURVIVORS. It’s easy to sit around wanting to die all the time (I don’t, but a lot of my friends feel that way) but embracing life in the midst of terrible environmental and emotional pain is what it’s all about; having the ability to do so and come out on the other side shining. ;0) When it’s all said and done, none of us can say we’ve really suffered compared to Jesus, right? I cling to that. Thanks again for stopping by! It means a lot to me. x
January 19, 2014 at 8:02 pm
You are inspirational! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us! God bless you!
February 19, 2014 at 9:52 am
Hey, thanks for taking the time to read my novella here, and for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate that. :0) Pleasure to meet you.
February 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm
I’ve been sitting at my desk for three full minutes unable to type. I think I’m still processing this bio. The only word going through my head is, “amazing”, but I hate it because it doesn’t even begin to describe how impressed and inspired I am by you.
And oh my god you’re so talented! Consider me b-l-o-w-n away. Completely. Can you hear the wind howling? BLOWN AWAY.
Now excuse me while I go to Amazon and buy your book! Dead Serious.
March 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm
Oh my goodness- thank you! And well, saying “thank you” is right up there with “amazing”…hehe. Really though, I do appreciate you taking the time to pop in and read my (Auto) Bio. Do you know how much crap I left out?! SERIOUSLY.
My book is a special thing to me because my kids were my co-editors. I actually made my son pose (with his toes in his mouth, sort of) so I could draw the Shel Silverstein-esque chicken-scrawled people. I was in a rotten marriage at the time, and that book saved me, truly. It gave me a focus and a purpose, and, overall, a reason to focus on GOOD things, rather than what I was going through at the time.
Thanks so much for your support. ;0) And I want to encourage you to push through with your OWN writing endeavors. Always. x
March 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm
Thank you, some days encouragement from others is the only thing that fuels me. And I *think* I ordered your book – once I put in all my info the page kerplunked so I never got confirmation. I’m holding hopes it shows up at my door in the next week or so! 🙂
March 5, 2014 at 2:11 pm
That’s awesome, thanks! :0) The very first poem in the book is a little shocking. A small child is wrestling with her “anaconda spaghetti” annnnnd she loses. (She ends up missing.) Also, there could be a poem in there about a boy who eats himself. With salt and pepper. Like an “angry goat”. Haha…there are lots of whacky entries that kids (and stoned adults) eat up but it’s packed with cleverly disguised morals that are very important to me: honesty, love, compassion, forgiving others, being kind to strangers, loving all people of all races, religions, disabilities (and “abilities”), the obese, the elderly- the list goes on. It’s a medley of all sorts of things. I hope you enjoy it! xo
March 5, 2014 at 2:17 pm
I’ll filter as I see necessary when I read them to my sons, but the messages/morals are why I bought it and why I want my sons to hear them. Plus, I’m a fan of poetry. I’m actually hosting a poet to help promote her new book next week (3/10). You’ll have to check it out! 🙂
March 5, 2014 at 3:51 pm
Ok, good. :0) I liken some of the poems to the Road Runner, etc.: some of the images of children’s cartoons seem so violent, but at the end of the day, the kid’s know that the road runner doesn’t die. He keeps popping back up after rocks fall from high above, etc. and really, psychologically, what this is saying to the child (on a deeper level) is to “never give up”. I’ve tried to be mindful with PBS/Peanut Butter Soup, and overall, that’s what I want the message to be: love yourself just as you are, love others as THEY are, be kind, and have fun doing it. ;0) x
March 7, 2014 at 2:28 am
p.s. I absolutely will check it out. You have my full support in any area- just keep me posted on the details. ;0)
March 7, 2014 at 2:46 am
such an inspiring story (for me).
I too have learned to be my own therapist, over many years of study and helping others.
It’s so good to have you here with me.
October 5, 2014 at 1:27 am
We have to do that, don’t we? If we didn’t become our own therapists, we’d just be the patient still- and that’s no fun. ;0) Much better as the therapist! Heheh. Thanks for stopping by. x
October 5, 2014 at 2:07 am
Wow! just read your Bio…I’m speechless. You’re AMAZING 🙂 God bless you!
March 12, 2015 at 6:50 am
Hey, SD, thanks so much for coming in and reading my (life) story! It hasn’t been an easy one, surely. But it’s been a great one. I hope you’re able to carry a piece of it with you. x
March 12, 2015 at 12:32 pm
I know…really, you are so inspiring 🙂 I’ve learned so much from you! anyways, I also decided to get a degree in Psychology but after completing my masters in English Literature 🙂 just need you wishes! 🙂 ..Take care, be happy…God bless you Birgitta 🙂 Much love!!!! ❤
March 16, 2015 at 7:25 am
Saw you on another blog ‘excgcmembers’ could you please email me I have a question.
April 9, 2015 at 2:53 pm
Sure, Gail. I actually stumbled upon your blog only yesterday. I was trying to find some info. on what’s been going on lately! (I didn’t find much.) I’ll shoot you an email. ;0)
April 9, 2015 at 4:49 pm
Congrats! From TeD!!!
June 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm
Hi Ted. :0) Thanks! x
June 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm
“Somewhere along the way, I began to understand that God wasn’t trying to kill me. He didn’t hate me. He was actually just trying to get my attention. He wanted to let me know that all of those horrible things that I had gone through, were not in vain. He was simply “designing” me. He allowed me to go through such tragedies so that I could grow closer to Him. He wanted to give me a deeper compassion for humanity, and a greater understanding.”
Barbie, what am utterly powerful story. We have some things in common from your post here. Thank you for stopping by my site and for your Follow. I am returning in kind, and looking very much forward to perusing your site.
May 6, 2016 at 6:57 pm
Hey Chris, thanks for stopping by! My name is Birgitta- Barbie is my friend from Bipolar Barbiecue- that’s how I found your site. :0) And yes, we do have some things in common! I’ve really been through the ringer (as you can see) and depression used to be my constant companion. Thankfully, now it’s more of a distant cousin…heheh. Life is so much better now. Thanks again for stopping by and saying hi! x
May 7, 2016 at 11:04 am
Oh no! My apologies, Birgitta! I shall make sure to correct this in the future. Thank you so much for stopping by AND for correcting me graciously:)
May 7, 2016 at 11:09 am
No problem! All is well…heheh…I got a chuckle out of it.
May 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm