My name is Kyle Luciano and I am 31 years old. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when I was 14 years old as the result of extensive child abuse. From there I spent years struggling to find meaning in daily life while simultaneously attempting to manage the balance between the “black, swirling abyss and the white-picket fence”. Between the flashbacks, panic attacks, and inability to function in “normal” society, I found myself separated and alone. I have coped with suicidal ideation throughout life, including one suicide attempt at 14 when I was first diagnosed. During this same period of my life, I was also diagnosed with agoraphobia, panic disorder, major depression, and alcohol dependency—each of which are disabling on their own.
With the help of my wife and therapists, I have managed to recover and establish a healthy lifestyle. I have found a personal philosophy that works for me, and I strongly encourage others to follow their passions to find relief, whatever that looks like for them. Currently, I work in behavioral health as an outreach worker and patient navigator to assist others who are struggling with similar issues. In this role, I meet with homeless individuals who suffer from mental health, substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders and assist them through the behavioral health system. that has taken half of my lifetime to figure out. Additionally, I operate as a DBT therapist and provide counsel on situations that fall within my scope. My hope is to work with other behavioral health professionals, using this blog a platform, to have the largest impact on those who need to talk.
“What’s wrong with you?”, my mother would always ask me.
Admittedly I asked myself the same question every day. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why was I so different? The real answer to these questions did not come until years later, but there were plenty of temporary answers that did more lasting harm than the initial problem ever caused. My mother and stepfather were highly religious and hellbent on eradicating evil in all forms. The symptoms of my mental illness looked like demon possession to them, and they were determined to rid me of it at any cost. On multiple occasions, I was forced to kneel and recite prayers for extensive periods of time on crushed stone in the basement of a duplex apartment. The goal was to rid me of my demons, but it only made them worse. These events happened for months before my grandparents discovered what was happening and took custody of me in court.
Entering the “real world” from this experience was strange. My perceptions were skewed, and it was difficult to separate my nightmares from reality. At 14, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, which further confused my situation. After being called the “son of the devil” for half of my life, being told that you have a psychological disorder seemed irrelevant. Following the usual recovery format, I traversed the mental health system alone trying to “fix” myself. From psych medication, to therapist… to therapist, it became abundantly clear to me the answer I was searching for wasn’t readily available. For a period, I gave up on therapy and gave in to my internal whims. Alcohol and mindless behavior provided relief from the symptoms and the monotony of daily living in a way that no therapy could ever deliver. It was easier to be numb. I disassociated.
Then I found a strength and support unlike anything before, or rather she found me. She drives me to do the best I can every day, makes me want to be a better person. She gave me a reason to fight. After years of wallowing in my discontent, I decided to give recovery another chance. This time was different because I was willing to try unconventional methods, was open to new philosophies and alternative medications. For the first time in my life, I felt strong. I did whatever was needed to complete me in all aspects of my health without fear or hesitation. Today, I am able to help others because she chose to care.
In the end, it turns out that love was the missing element that allowed the other therapies to work. We cannot fully realize the impact that we have on others when we stop and listen, but it may save their life.