"When you've finally been listened to, that's when you become real to the world, that's when you grow."
- James, Brave Faces Portrait Gallery


Kristen McChristian - Brave Faces Portrait Gallery

"My name is Kristen, and my childhood was emotionally challenging and left me with scars that still affect me. I have a huge anxiety disorder, PTSD, multiple-personality disorder, and I am dual-diagnosed. I am proud to be three and a half years clean off drugs and alcohol. I’m a survivor of rape and sexual abuse, and I believe my abuser stole my spirit when I was a child.

I have come a long way, from having to give up my children to sleeping on a piece of cardboard by the railroad tracks. Today, I have my own apartment and see myself as a strong survivor.”


"Kiki is my psychiatric service dog, a little 5-pound Yorkie, and before I had her I always stayed inside because my anxiety was out of control. I carry her almost everywhere I go, and when I have an anxiety attack, I rub her front paw, and she makes me feel better.

I had felt a hole in my heart for a long time because I thought I had failed as a mother. When Kiki came to live with me, that hole started mending, and she helped my spirit come back.”


Kristen and Kiki

“When my anxiety skyrockets, that’s when Kiki becomes my lifeline. If I’m having a bad nightmare, she’ll go into my room and lick my eyelids until I wake up. She goes everywhere with me: church, the grocery store and even restaurants where she’ll sit perfectly still and quiet.” 


 

“I have PTSD from the abuse, which began when I was two, and it’s a lot more than just bad dreams. It’s a constant struggle. I’ve had four kids, and every time I’ve been pregnant, it’s brought out new terrible memories of my childhood. When I smell the beer my abuser used to drink, I will feel nauseous and have flashbacks. With PTSD, I’ll think things are going really good, and then a new memory will come out, and I’ll have to go to therapy and work it out.”

(Shown here: Kristen rubs Kiki’s paw to help her anxiety)


 

“I have a dual diagnosis, which means that I have a mental illness, and I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict. My abuse stopped around the age of 12, and around that time I started abusing myself by self-medicating with alcohol. I also started going out with older guys who continued the abuse because that’s how I thought I would feel loved. I didn’t know another way.”


 

“At a young age, I learned to wear different masks because of our family secrets. I believe now my multiple personalities were there to protect me, so I would dissociate from the trauma I couldn’t handle as a little girl. There’s a big stigma with having multiples, and sometimes I’m afraid people will think of the whole Sybil thing and want to lock me up and throw away the key. Now that I’m on really good medication and sober, it’s easier to stay balanced. When I finally realized it was OK for me to have multiples and became more open about it, it was easier to learn coping skills to live a healthy life.”

(Shown here: Kiki keeps Kristen hand steady as she writes.)

 


 

“I have been seeing my therapist Tammy at Hill Country Community Clinic for almost four years, and it took awhile, but she knows everything about me. It’s really cool to have a therapist who will give you a hug, and sometimes, when I’m crying in our session, I see she’ll have tears coming down her cheeks too.

When I was struggling to get clean, my friends Michael and Melanie let me stay in their house, and they gave me things to do. They made sure I wouldn’t succumb to the depression."

 
(Shown here: Kristen with Tammy, her therapist.)

 


 

“My intimate relationship with God provides a foundation for me. The Bible teaches you no matter what your sins are, they’re all forgiven. I made the choice to forgive my abuser because I felt that as long as I was angry at him, he was still abusing me. God has shown me a beautiful garden with weeds. When I pull up a weed, my garden gets more beautiful, and I get stronger.” 


 

Sign up for e-updates!

Need Help Now?

Links

Share your story