This first-person account was shared with HOPE by Yvette, a 50-year-old warehouse associate. All names have been changed for privacy.
I was always the funny one in the family. I was the life of the party. I was the one with the shock value, the one at the dinner table telling the wild and crazy stories while everyone sat there with their mouths open. I thrived on that attention.
I’ve been married twice. The first time was because I’d gotten pregnant, and we were Catholic, so it was the “right thing” to do. It didn’t last very long and we ended up getting divorced, which ironically was even more frowned upon than getting pregnant before marriage. But we got through it and co-parented our daughter, Sarah, really well.
I got married to Miguel when Sarah was five, and he was the love of my life. We had two kids together, Paul and Frances. We got divorced before both kids were even in school full time… it was just a really tumultuous and dramatic marriage, and it wasn’t sustainable. It broke my heart when he left me.
For the next ten, 15 years, I lived my life as a single woman with no worries. It’s embarrassing to admit all the things I did, all the things I let people do to me. I’ve been so disrespected physically, intimately, emotionally, and I just told myself it was all okay. I let it all happen. I wanted it to happen. At least that’s what I told myself, anyway.
Like I said, I was that funny family member you could count on for the stories. I got invited to everything because I gave people such a great time. People would say they lived vicariously through me because I had such adventures with so many people.
But, you know, that kind of lifestyle isn’t something you can sustain when it’s not real. And it wasn’t real, not for me. I met a woman at work who was part of a small, local congregation and she asked me over one night. I’m not sure what it was, but I was compelled to tell her everything. For the first time in 15 years, I just let it all out. I admitted, out loud, that I had been engaged in that kind of activity and that behavior because I was hiding my pain.
She told me that she knew of a wonderful therapist at the church (I was actually concerned she was going to try to recruit me, something I wasn’t ready for). She told me what I needed was a safe place to share my story, and if that was going to be in church, so be it, but it was probably best that I talk to a professional.
Meeting that therapist was the best thing to ever happen to me. I thought I would be ashamed in that office, sharing all the details I did, but I didn’t. It felt like peeling back an onion, like a cleansing. I just kept talking.
I was diagnosed with depression first, and then sexual addiction. They’re related, did you know? A lot of times you hear about sex addiction on TV and it’s like, “Yeah, okay. That’s made up. You just don’t have self-control and you want an excuse to be running around.” But what I learned is that addiction is so much more than that… it’s a whole disorder. Generics, family history, all that stuff… it plays a role.
My underlying, undiagnosed mental illness, which was depression, was likely the culprit of my addiction. I found attention and what I thought was “love” when I was meeting all these new people, all these men, and I thought I was okay with that. By doing that and never really getting close to them, I was getting the attention but I never had to be vulnerable.
Some people with depression turn to drugs or shopping or sleep. I went to sex. And it was never going to stop until I addressed the depression, until I even realized or acknowledged it existed!
I’m still in therapy today and every time I tell myself I don’t need it any more, I take a minute and remind myself I do. Therapy saved my life once, and it saves my life all the time. Depression never truly goes away – I end up in remission – but I don’t want to risk sliding back into a life I no longer want.