Mental Health Journey || Eowyn, Oregon

Eowyn, Oregon. Film photo taken by Birralee Hassen. 

Eowyn, Oregon. Film photo taken by Birralee Hassen. 

Tell me about your journey with mental health.


My journey with mental health started when I was about thirteen. My parents separated, that was hard. I became really suicidal, my dad was emotionally abusive, and I started cutting myself. I was able to go therapy, and get help, for a while.


Then when I was fifteen or sixteen I had repressed memories arise, of sexual abuse by my dad. He was in town visiting, and the memories came back. That was the beginning of the hardest time of my life. I don’t know if it will be the hardest thing that I ever go through, but it feels to me that it will be.


Basically I got PTSD from those memories coming up, and I couldn’t leave my house, for a while, because it was so scary to go places. I dropped out of school, and I didn’t really know where I was, I felt dissociated, it felt like I was in a dream. That lasted about four years. Sometimes I still feel a little bit like that, but much less so.


Through all of that, the main thing that helped me, which is why I’m out here, is that I hiked this particular mountain every day. It was a short mountain, about a five-mile hike, and I would hike it, every single day, for about nine months. Through that, and through therapy, I was able to get to a point where I knew how to take care of myself.


I left the oppressive religion I was in, that was telling me that all of that was my fault, that God had planned it out for me, that he used that to make me a better person. It was really hard for me for a while, because my church told me that because God knows everything, he knew that would happen to me, and he didn’t stop it. So that was the hardest part. I was able to make peace with that, and realise that I didn’t believe in that, and accept that I didn’t believe in it, and that that was ok.


I just kept hiking, started getting into backpacking, and I found a lot of self-awareness, in where I would step. When I put my foot down on a trail, I know exactly where I’m stepping. I know exactly where I’m going. Even if my mind is a whirlwind, I still know exactly where I’m going. One step after another. I was able to stabilise, mentally. Now, it’s still hard, but I’ve gotten married, I’ve finished my high school diploma, and after dropping out, I finished my associate’s degree. I still have really bad days, but life is good finally. It’s time for the next chapter.


So now it’s a matter of managing it, and knowing how to manage it?


Yeah, and that’s why next year I want to do the whole Oregon coast trail, it’s 400miles, and I want to do it alone. I’ll have people join me if they want to, but I want it to be my journey, so I can build my self confidence and realise that this is my life, and no body else can take my life from me. Whatever they do, it’s still my life, it’s my choice. That’s what I’ve learnt. 

Birralee Hassen