A 31 yr old woman with major depression, addictions and complex, long-standing posttraumatic stress, who has tried therapy, wonders what she can do to improve her situation and emerge from a deep sense of hopelessness.. Question:

I am only 21 pages into your book, Invisible Heroes, and I can''t stop crying. The story of "Frannie" is hitting me the hardest.

I don''t think I''ve ever been in control of my life. I am almost always in a suicidal or enraged state, have addiction problems, and am trying to be the role model of a mother to my two daughters. I feel like I have at least 3 of myself lurking around. I cannot recall one single happy moment in my life and I am 31.

Both my parents suffer from some mental illness and my dad was in Vietnam. I have been molested, raped, physically and emotionally abused. I feel broken.

My eldest daughter suffers from bi-polar illness and her counselors want to know all about my past. The problem is when they make me talk about things I delve into this deep depression and they want to hospitalize me. Needless to say, now I try to lie or switch counselors.

My fiancé is ready to leave and can''t understand what happened to the confident, vibrant woman he fell in love with 7 years ago. I don''t know if "I" ever knew her, but he sure says he did.

I feel like I am drowning and sometimes want to leave my kids and run away. This makes me more depressed. I think your book coming across my desk was a sign, and I wonder if there is anything you could do to help me. I''d like to think there is hope for me out there - after all I am a survivor. However, my hope dwindles a little everyday and darkness comes, and I feel like I want to die or crawl in a hole and never come out. Please help me.


Dear Arielle,

I’m sorry you have to contend with such overwhelming and discouraging feelings. Here is what I think:

First thing, if you are struggling with addiction, you need to regularly attend a recovery group or deal with this in some way. Otherwise, your using will interfere with any other attempts to improve your situation. This could be a core reason why nothing you’ve tried seems to work. Quit using.

Secondly, if you are deeply depressed, you probably could use medication to jump start you out of it. Depression is different from posttraumatic stress, and unfair though it may be, you’ve got both. They are completely different conditions, but often go together.

For your PTSD from the years of abuse and neglect, you need to do some of the things I talk about in the book in Chapter 15, "Ten Ingredients for Comprehensive Healing". This means finding a competent therapist or therapy team with expertise at treating posttraumatic stress - people who are practitioners of some of the methods listed in the back of the book. And then you have to see the treatment through and really stick with it. This, as you know, will not be a day at the beach. But if you get the right therapists, they’ll give you the self-regulation tools you need to handle emotional distress before asking you to talk about difficult things; and they’re not likely to focus on your history anyway, but rather on your coping mechanisms and how you can develop new skills.

Hopefully, along with the day-to-day support (and you may need more than one recovery group) you’ll also be introduced to guided imagery, meditation, relaxation, breathwork; and one or more of the ‘alphabet therapies’ - EMDR, EFT, SE, TIR and the like.

Two resources that we have right here on this site, in case you can’t find or afford the right practitioners in your area, will train you to do some of this on your own. These are Guided Imagery for the Three Stages of Healing Trauma: Nine Meditations for Posttraumatic Stress; And Mary Sise’s DVD, Thought Field Therapy for Stress Management & Peak Performance, which will teach you a very user-friendly method of TFT and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). These two programs can be very effective in helping you make a dent on these symptoms, with or without a therapist. But again, you have to stick with these tools and develop a regular practice with them. And if you’re still using, you’re probably wasting your time.

You can find the right help. It’s out there and it’s available. But there is no quickie silver bullet that’s going to make all this go away quickly. It''s going to take time to remediate all that has been done in the past. You will get uncomfortable and anxious, dealing with all this as a sober, recovering person. But anxiety won’t kill you. It’s just unpleasant.

The main thing is, if you can stop running away from help, or flitting from one thing to the next, when you get overwhelmed and discouraged, you can totally do this. If you can stick with a comprehensive program, starting with addressing your addictions, you’ll get to the other side, just like Frannie did – to not just surviving, but thriving. And the good news is, unlike 20 years ago, when Frannie was struggling with all of this, nowadays we actually know what we’re doing. We’ve learned a lot about how to treat PTS.

And finally, don''t forget, one of the symptoms of depression is a kind of cognitive distortion that has you seeing everything as hopeless. That''s a symptom! It doesn''t mean it''s hopeless!