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Darkness Before the Light
Brittany W. is a sixteen year old girl that has made it through a horrid ordeal when she was fifteen years old. She was diagnosed with Conversion Disorder after losing all of her sight. She has agreed to speak with me about her past with this disorder though it was obvious that it was difficult for her. I am so proud that she was able to inform me about this rare disorder and speak about her hardships. We both hope that this interview will open the eyes of at least one person.
Q: What exactly is Conversion Disorder?
A: It’s when your emotions cause severe physical changes in your body. It can cause paralysis, blindness, and mental dysfunction.
Q: What was it like living with Conversion Disorder?
A: It’s hell on earth because it’s not something that everyone understands, so I got judged for it. I suffered from blindness for about six months. It all happened in stages. The first thing that happened was that I went color blind. Then, I lost my peripheral vision. Then, over a course of about three weeks, I went completely sightless. I was immediately rushed from my high school in Washington, DC by ambulance and then I was taken to a Children’s Hospital. I was evaluated, and the doctors couldn’t see anything medically wrong with me. Therefore, they diagnosed me with Conversion Disorder which I believe was just an educated guess. I still had to go to public school despite being blind. It was just horrible because the kids made fun of me. They called me a liar and said that I just wanted attention, and the teachers were even worse. The principal told them that they had certain obligations because I couldn’t see, but, honestly, I don’t think any of them cared, and they showed it well. They had an attitude about them, like “You can’t see, too bad”.
Q: Did your parents help you through it?
A: Honestly, that’s not a yes or no question, because it took a toll on my mother as well. As you can imagine, it’s hard for a parent to watch their child to go through such a traumatic thing as Conversion Disorder. My mother had to constantly take off of work at the risk of losing her job. As you can imagine, it was frustrating. Sometimes she’d cry in the bathroom hysterically. She’d pray constantly, asking why her child had to go through this. Sometimes, she’d even yell at me…not necessarily because she was angry, just that she was frustrated. The school wasn’t giving me the “special” help I needed. I was being bullied by both teachers and students, having my chair pulled from under me, I would ask people to put ketchup on my fries, and they would put tartar sauce and that just added fuel to the fire. That’s where the depression kicked in. It was unfortunate for my mother because she wanted to help me, but she just didn’t know how. It just wasn’t something she nor I knew how to adjust to. I guess in a way she did help me through it because she remained strong through it all, she stayed a real trooper.
And I will be forever grateful to her for that.
Q: How did the depression add to your stress?
A: I had to go to a psychiatrist due to the depression; that was just stupid. It was stupid because they were supposed to be helping me, and I felt as though they were judging me. They were acting as if I had control over the Conversion Disorder when I didn’t. I was just sitting in class one day, and it just hit me like an Armageddon Flame. They didn’t understand, and they didn’t want to believe it. In so many words, they were telling me that I was insane. Looking back, I guess it’s safe to say that they were no different than the students and teachers. No matter what I said, no matter how I expressed myself (which they claimed I wasn’t doing), they said the reason I was depressed was because I was keeping everything bottled up. They were pretty much telling me how I should feel and how I should think.
Eventually, they decided that I needed to be put on medications such as anti-depressants. They claimed that the medication was to kind of put me at ease, but it didn’t help. One just made me really zombie-ish and the other just put me to sleep. In the commercial for the first, the little egg is all sad and then he takes the meds and he becomes the life of the party. It’s funny because when they put me on the medicine, I expected the medicine to do the same; I thought it was a cure. Boy was I wrong. It just made things worse. I was socially isolated, I sat in the dark…a lot…, I never desired to go anywhere, and when I’d take the medication, it would seem that I would stare at the wall for the longest time. That is what I mean when I say zombie-ish.
Q: Do you think you have fully recovered?
A: Yes, I have. I have because I’ve learned other coping skills like writing and, well, religion. At first, it was a hard thing to move past. The scars will always be there. I feel that the scars from that traumatic experience will always be printed indelibly on my brain. But I am learning to not let that define me.
Q: Is there any advice you can give anyone in a similar situation?
A: Keep your head up and stay strong, because you are really going to need it. Just understand that life is full of hardships and that life is the strangest teacher because “it gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards.”