By Shannon Hutchinson
Dreams – we all have dreams. My dream has always been to be free from my three-headed giant of abuse, bipolar disorder, and OCD. During this struggle, I had desperately hoped to be loved and considered good in spite of my frailties; to truly experience joy and contentment amidst my sufferings; to be in control of life rather than adversity tyrannizing me. For years, experiencing freedom in spite of my giant had been a hard road to follow. However, today, thanks to God, I am free as my stronghold no longer controls me.
As far as I can remember, I have always been afraid. Growing up until age two with a violent father who did and sold cocaine, mom and I were often in constant danger. One day he tried to kill her by putting a gun to her head. Things later got so bad that my mother secretly moved me and her to another state to hide us from him. Although my parents would eventually separate, experiences like those became the starting point of me being terrified of men and of life. Early as a child, I would often panic when I saw a man in church. Even though I spent many years living with loving grandparents, I lived scared as I endured countless days of being abused by my stepfathers.
Different encounters of abuse included eating lye soap, putting ice on my testicles, locked in closet, and eating cereal with dumped pepper. Tired of being trapped, joyless, condemned, and feeling ashamed, OCD obsessions developed in me as I learned to focus heavily upon and tried to be perfect in all I did. I obsessed the way I went to bathroom, took showers, watched TV, how I walked, how much and the manner I ate and drank, how I thought, etc. I did all this because I feared making a mistake and getting hurt. However, through all this, I did not succumb to the temptation of giving up.
Manic depression and fear of abuse made March 15, 1990 devastating to me. While being escorted to the principal office by my female teacher for misbehaving, terror of my stepdad being told produced in me panic, mania, and an extreme urgency to plead to the instructor “Don’t tell my stepdad!” Walking behind her, I meant no harm as I placed my arms around her shoulders to turn her body to face me so I could talk to her. Unfortunately, the principal saw this; the next thing I knew I was expelled from school and forced to spend a month in a psychiatric hospital for “trying to choke a teacher”, a punishment for something I had no intention to do. Even though I experienced much misery over the situation, God still loved me as He kept my heart strong.
Two years later I joined the United States Navy, to get away from my stepdad and to prove to the world “I am competent” and “worthy of love.” I thought if I became a nuclear technician, my shame of “being a failure” would go away. Unfortunately, my back then unknown illness, the pressures of nuclear school and the military, my frailness from being abused, and the intense rejection I constantly experienced from officers and shipmates, led me to defeat again. I barely made it through boot camp and only lasted four weeks in nuclear school. Perceptions of me being more of a failure crushed my spirit immensely. However, the Navy gave me a second chance in another school – machinist’s mate school.
Amidst an enormous struggle, I initially did well. However, when the academics became the most difficult, I couldn’t handle the pressure. One day, as my body was getting weak from the stress of the curriculum, I sought my instructor, Petty Officer first class Davis, for counsel. As I started talking to him in the school hallway, my weary shoulders leaned against the wall. After being reprimanded for doing so, I unintentionally did it again. Petty Officer first class Konkol immediately charged me for insubordination. He later sent me to a senior chief for questioning. After telling the senior chief “I didn’t insubordinate”, the senior officer accused me of “lying to an officer” and soon after, threatened to send me to captain’s mast, a serious punishment for a sailor. After talking to this officer, Konkol then intensely berated me, which invoked in my mind numerous experiences with my past abusers. Somehow throughout all this I was able to hold inside all the pain and anger that was building up. Feeling the anguish for being condemned and rejected again for something I didn’t mean to do, I desperately needed somewhere alone to emotionally break down and cry.
Once Konkol left me, I went to the bathroom to release my emotions. Pain led me to say the words “I’m going to kill that person”, words of frustrations meant toward no one. Unluckily, an officer walked by the bathroom and heard me say those words. Consequently, I was charged by the military for “threatening to kill an officer”. Although I left the military with an honorable discharge, these experiences afterwards immensely hurt me emotionally. My obsessions of “don’t make a mistake” intensified as I struggled to live with the overburdening shame of being viewed both “unlovable” and “worthless”. However, even though often rejected by myself and others, God still loved and accepted me.
After the military, I went to the workforce but got fired repeatedly. When a boss gave me an assignment, I would revert to the emotions and obsessions that I learned from my previous abusers. Fear of making a mistake led to inefficiencies in my work as I often got bogged down in details in trying to be perfect. Unsuccessful in the workforce, I later went to college. Again my depression, mania, frailness, and obsessions took control of me. Getting good grades was a struggle. What made it worse was that my often bipolar disorder / OCD-stimulated bizarre behaviors would lead to more experienced rejection and thus, a greater hole to climb. However, through all this, I still didn’t give up.
Fighting for a diploma, I encountered much rejection and discouragement from many teachers and students. One teacher didn’t want me to “take any more classes with him”, another went to the school chair to have me removed from the university, and one student asked the instructor to have me be no longer a member of the class. Constant rejection like this, my manic depression, my poor self-esteem, my obsessions, school studies, and overall life became so overwhelming to handle that one day, while driving home from school, I was contemplating killing myself. Thankfully, during this crisis of belief, God played a song that gave me hope. I felt God was telling me: “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me”. I did and today I am truly grateful that I did.
In December 1998, I graduated from Tri-State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. I had a 3.48 GPA and was named National’s Dean’s List two years in a row. College was the turning point in my life – not because of the certificate but because of who I met. During my senior year, two teachers (Duane Dobbert and Dr. Wooden) saw my struggles and realized I needed help. With compassion, they saw the good in me and directed me to the school counselor who led me to a psychiatrist for counsel. Soon after, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Few years later, another doctor found out I had obsessive-compulsive disorder. Meeting those two teachers saved my life.
Today, thanks to God, I am very happy and stable. I still experience “don’t make a mistake” obsessions, but am normally able to ignore them with some resistance. I now easily make friends with almost everyone I meet. Although currently on Social Security Disability, I had been a community program coordinator for over three years and had done some clerical jobs. Right now I do retail work.
I feel content today because I finally realized “I am good” – not based on performance but because “I am a special creation of God”. Once I realized that “nothing can separate me from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39) and that “God is not my stepdad, etc.”, I truly have felt love in spite of my frailties. As I surrender with trust and knowledge in Christ, I experience God’s joy instead of the pains of my past.
God used my past struggles to build inside me the desire to show compassion, acceptance, love, and inspiration to all I encounter. That is why I write at Fatithwriters.com and why I created my inspirational, Christ-based web site inpursuitoffreedomministries.com. I hope to create a better world for people just like how Duane Dobbert, etc. did for me.
In life, we all have dreams of freedom. However, personal giants often get into our paths, creating the temptation to give up the fight. When you feel like giving up, read 1 Corinthians 10:13: “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.” Freedom happens when you listen to this truth.