I always tell people that my life began at three years old because it was my first trauma in life which was the suicidal death of my dad. He had what is now known as Bipolar Type 1 with bouts of intense psychosis. In fact, his illness is how I got my name, “Michelle”.
During one of the “episodes”, I was told that he believed for me to be an actual God-sent angel, reincarnated in human form, sent to earth to protect him; therefore, he named me after Michael the Archangel…and since I was a girl, Michael became Michelle. It’s a sweet-ish story, but that’s where the sweetness has a bitter side as well.
See, due to this “delusion”, my dad wouldn’t allow others to hold me or really be around me out of fear. I was even told he once attacked my slightly older brother when I was an infant for trying to pet my head as I slept, and my dad knocked my brother across the room out of fear of “tainting” my innocence (yes a full blown delusion to the rest of the world, but a set-in-stone reality in my dad’s mind) –An impact that unfortunately would open the doors for much of my suffrage several years later after his passing when my brother became “big enough” to try settling scores with someone who was already dead. Therefore, my brother beat me instead.
In my family, mental health was rarely spoken of and never in depth. There were no sit-downs and open dialogue about how mental illness has impacted our family in the past, only that I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting my father’s illness. This sent my life on a very paranoid, and many times, apathetic course since I was already experiencing many of life’s other trauma’s: childhood obesity, extreme bullying in all forms, domestic violence at the hands of my brother, self isolation, major depression diagnosed and untreated for more than a decade, severe anxiety disorder, and an eating disorder than led to a severely distorted perspective of my own self-image. In short, I was dying. Inside and out.
Blessing in disguise
At age 10, I experienced my first episode of binding my body in hopes I wouldn’t be bullied for my size anymore, but of course, it didn’t help. Thankfully, about 2 years prior, my mother signed me up for martial arts classes. I figured it would be a good idea considering my brother was getting bigger and stronger each day, and even at this young of an age, I knew my safety was always in jeopardy. My brother had signed up and so I did too, not realizing how profound the lessons would become to me over the next several years.
My martial arts training became my solace from the emotional and mental distress I was experiencing outside of classes and tournament rings. It was my outlet during some of the most mentally and physically painful years of my young life; but at 15, this was not how I interpreted my existence. In fact, it was during this time I officially hit rock bottom in every way. It was during this time, I had fell so deep into a depression and sense of hopelessness, I was contemplating and planning my own suicide. Greatly in danger of following my father’s fateful decision just 13 years prior.
Obviously and luckily, I survived that moment of time in my life. I’m grateful to say the least since so many others aren’t as fortunate. My survival wasn’t all a bed of roses, as it gave me a chance to change, it also gave me an insatiable anger problem, but at the same time, an immense determination to survive my other hardships…the bullying, the abuse I was experiencing at home, the emotional pain that kept me prisoner within my own mind and body, and learning the information I would need in order to change my way of thinking, and way of living if I ever stood a chance of not only surviving, but thriving in life. To me, there was no choice,