Stigma Fighter: Charlie Kaus

Trigger Warning: Frank discussion of suicide and sexual abuse.

My name is Charlie and I’m a new resident to Canada, formally from the Chicago area. I met and married the love of my life who happens to be a Canadian so I am now waiting on my permanent residency in this fine country. My struggle with mental illness have been lifelong but I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1 in early 2000.

I experience both extreme highs and lows, like many of you may also relate to. I also have severe PTSD and most likely rejection sensitivity, though this is something a doctor has never diagnosed me with. Some days it’s hard for me to even get out of bed, but I pretend everything is fine and force myself through it. What people don’t see is that I spiral down so fast, yet I feel the need to hide it from the world. I try to never say no to anyone, even if I don’t want to do something, for fear that they will get mad and abandon me. I know that these are unhealthy coping mechanisms and I am currently looking at ways to treat these specific issues.

That’s another one of my challenges, fear of abandonment. I will do absolutely ANYTHING to keep people from leaving me including making unsafe decisions for myself. Logically, I know that these choices ultimately lead to a cycle of triggers and lows, but emotionally, I find it difficult to stop. It’s a process that I’m learning.

Through another Stigma Fighter, who has been a dear friend to me, I’m trying to forgive myself for some of the stuff in my past, while also learning to love myself, it’s difficult. Believe me when I tell you saying “I forgive you” and “It’s not your fault” are two of the hardest things to say to myself. I have a tendency to overwhelm people with my clinginess. Most people don’t know that I’m afraid that if I leave them alone they will leave me for good, so I have a hard time forming attachments. I never really learned how to make friends growing up. I went to a special education school about an hour and a half away so I couldn’t really learn to socialize with peers my own age. I think this has led to more difficulty forming relationships as an adult.

I have also been hospitalized twice during my childhood and adolescence, each time was for a 2 month period. I have been abused physically, emotionally, and sexually. Some of what has happened has been called torture. It’s a bitch trying to live with this every day, but I try. I have a metaphorical toolbox of things to do when I feel myself spiraling. Including calling a crisis line and some great friends that I’ve met online. I can’t promise it’s ever going to get totally better but I’m making strides each day.

So that’s the overview of me, now I guess it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

I am happily married to a wonderful woman who is openly bipolar. I am more closeted about mine, but I hope to change that starting with this essay. It’s very difficult for us right now because, as a new immigrant to Canada, I have no insurance. I’m not allowed to work until I get my permanent resident card. I tried to save money when I got here by going off of one of my medications and that was a BIG mistake. I became angry at everything and self-abusive. I frightened my wife. She knew that I needed medications and took me to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). I didn’t want to go, but she knew it was what I needed and insisted. We weren’t sure that we could get the medication from a doctor at a walk-in clinic, although it would have been much cheaper. I know that she looking out for me, but at the time I was very angry with her for taking me to CAMH.

I’m thankful that I’m not violent towards anyone, but It’s a struggle to not be violent to myself at times. I have a history of self harm. I could not make proper judgments and was putting myself in dangerous situations. In America I was in a drug trial where I got my medications in an injection form. But by the time I got here it had run out of my system. I’m now back on my medication, plus a couple others. They seem to be helping.

Another thing I struggle with on a nightly basis is nightmares. I wake up screaming at least twice a night, every night, from some PTSD related nightmare. It’s causing a lot of stress on my marriage as my wife being the only one who can work needs her sleep. I’ve been told in order for me to move past my PTSD I need to be able to forgive the people who abused me. It’s hard, especially when they are so emotionally close. It has been suggested to me to cut these people out of my life but again that’s easier said than done. Now we get into the sexual abuse. I was 14 at a special education school and sleeping under a counter and this older student came in and searched my body and…… It’s been hard to live with that, especially since I’ve seen this person in the community since then.

I have attempted suicide several times. The first time I was 10 years old. The fucked up part is nobody believed me. The details don’t matter and I don’t want to trigger anyone. I feel fortunate enough that I’ve never been high on drugs, which is good for me because I don’t have a middle ground. I either do nothing or I overdo it. I guess that goes with the territory sometimes.

I know I have a lot of work ahead of me. I want to live a full and healthy life. I want what everyone wants, to be happy and successful, and I know I can achieve all of that. Sometimes it’s just hard to pinpoint exactly where the starting point is. That’s what I’m looking for now, and I know with support, I’ll find it.

charlieCharlie Kaus is 38 and originally from Chicago, Il and is currently living  in Toronto.


One response to “Stigma Fighter: Charlie Kaus

  1. Bravo! Welcome to the scary but freeing world of opening up about your mental illness and it’s effects. I imagine this took you some struggles to write and that you did so and its been published is amazing. Much respect and I wish you well on this journey.


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