Voices

Photography by Denise Beckwith

‘I am  now 47 years old and I was born in Southern Korea in a poor part of the countryside. My story is very hard to tell my story, but I want to tell you. When I was about 7 years old, my parents moved to the city for work, and I stayed with my grandmother with my siblings. My grandmother neglected me and would give food and care to my brother over me because he was a boy.  At this same time, a local teenage boy began taking me into the forest and making me undress and then sexually abuse me. I followed him because he gave me food and I did not understand what was happening. He did this many many times. This only stopped when my parent brought me to Seoul when I was about 9 years old. When I became a teenager, I realised and understood what he had done to me, and felt humiliated and ashamed. I had no one to turn to when I was a child, and now this knowledge consumed me, so when I was 14, I began to cut myself, and I tried to commit suicide by taking 200 sleeping tablets. I couldn’t talk to my father, as he was an alcoholic and physically abused my mother, but not to his children.So I didn’t talk about my mother either. When I went to college in my 20’s I did have the chance to talk to my best friend, and it was really hard for them handle the situation and felt phycological pain from listening. My boyfriend, found it hard to listen. I begun painting which helped me. But as I began talking about it, I began to behave destructively, I would hit my head against a wall, or eat dirt which made my friends feel uncomfortable, and found it hard to know what to do. All I really wanted to do was to talk to my family, and find my abuser, but I was too afraid, as I thought the shock would kill my mother. What happened was in the past, but it became another thing another form of violence that haunted me. I could feel and see my perpetrator beside me everyday. I did experience sexual harrasment as a young woman, but I could say no. When I was a child, I couldn’t say no and its impact was much greater, I was just a child. I always used to think that death would bring and end to my pain. I can’t even remember how many times I tried to commit suicide. I thought of running into the traffic, I thought about death 10 times a day. I couldn’t remember any good things from my childhood. There could have been good things, but this over road everything. I began to have nightmares, and I couldn’t sleep. I thought that someone was trying to kill me and my own thoughts were violent. Maybe I had schizophrenia from ver young, because I do remember hearing voice and seeing things that weren’t there from time to time back then. The schizophrenia  feel was triggered by the sexual abuse when I was a child. At college I started painting, which helped. I also joined a group, and realised I was;t the only person who experienced abuse. After college, I got a job as a 3D animator, and I was very good at my job. But the stress of my job, would make it hard for me to sleep and I would get hallucinations and they got worse and worse. In 1999, I would hear voices were much clearer, saying “if you die, all will be fine” or “ you are lying”  they would also swear at me. I am a kind and gentle person who loves animals, I don’t want to be a violent person, but there is an anger in side me, I don’t want to be a violent person,so there is a fight inside me. So I felt I was giving in. There was a time when things around me felt distorted. I had a good relationship with my co workers, they tried to help me. I was a really hard workers and it was hard for me. In 2000, I was hospitalised without my permission and diagnosed with schizophrenia, I was 29. In a really short time, I was hospitalised three times. My mother really wanted to look after me, as my behaviour had changed very quickly and had become worse. I would talk to a people who wasn’t there. My family never thought I would ever become mentally ill. My family began to treat me differently, I became invisible, they ignored me and didn’t consider my opinion. I hadn’t lived with them, so they didn’t really know about how ill I was. My friends took me to my mother, but I was hospitalised fin this time. The Dr said that there was only a 15% chance I would ever have a normal life., and it I did recover my brain function would be impaired by 50% and I would need to take medicine for the rest of my life If this did not work, I would be hospitalised for the rest of my life. When I came home to my mother, I had severe depression. My sister wanted my parents to permanently hospitalise me, but my mother said no. I wouldn’t take my medication, but kept the tablets as I knew a certain amount would kill me. Mu mother found out and her mother said “everyone may want to give up on you, but I will not” This gave me strength. Then my co workers came to help me. I was an expert, and they needed my help, and I needed them. But my mind had reset, and I had to learn even handling the mouse again.  I was really poor and I welcomed their help. I did decide to quit, but my boyfriend, who had a small office said, just start by sitting in front of the computer. My co workers really wanted to work with me again. I had lost my ability to think logically, but in time all my skills came back and I started my own company in 2002 as a Production Manager till 2008. My work place allowed me to rest when I needed. By I was working on a big project and I began to have hallucinations, and my psychiatrist told me to take pills. My co workers, said don’t take the pills, we will help you and I took their advise. I then started to teach 3D animation at another company which was good. In 2006, my mother died of cancer, and I couldn’t handle the stress, I was now a Company Director. Company politics added to my stress and I once again began to hear the voices again. My symptoms are ok when I am not stressed, but in 2007, it was just too hard. The company had become one of the top 10 animation companies, and the government made changes in 2008 which created more pressure from the government. Now things were coming out of the walls and the ceilings and I thought that the lights in the street were following me. I could feel a big knife, that wasn’t really there cutting me. I wen to a demonstration in the square,  and I stayed there, I became homeless. The violence in the demonstration, made my symptoms worse, and they also got worse, I began to smell things that weren’t there and feel the touch of people that weren’t there,I thought that people were cutting opening my head and cutting my brain. I received a text blackmailing me, so I then went to the river and jumped hoping to commit suicide, but I was saved in and was taken to hospital. I had thrown away my books and my computer, at this time, I new that I had a disability. If I hadn’t been sexually abused as I child, if this hadn’t happen I think that I would not have a disability. In the hospital, they gave me a sleep aid injection, they called it an elephant drug, as it could knock out an elephant. When I woke up, I found myself in psychiatric  hospital, but there were no nurses, just medication. My body was weak, I couldn’t walk or see properly. I was there for only two weeks, but the side effects were huge. The medication impacted on me. When I refused, they would force my mouth open and push them in and make me swallow them. They tied my arms and legs. I asked my family to get out and they helped me, but my sister would get me hospitalised without my permission. I was living alone, and my physical health was deteriorating, I thought that I would die here alone. I met my friend, and he helped me, but from 2008, I also began to have panic attacks. I become scared of everything, it is a vicious circle, my condition gets worse when I am stressed. I did go to hospital voluntarily in 2009,  in a standard hospital and my physical and mental health stabilised. I still become unwell, and when this happened, my family ask for me to by hospitalised. From 2009 – 2014, my family hospitalised me eight times. After I was diagnosed I did recover and so I began to realise that the treatment was not helping me, in fact it was just torture. Being tied up and drugged, is torture. In 2014, I asked and received my hospital records and I wanted to make the government change the laws to how people with psychiatric disability are treated and the manner in which they are formability  hospitalised. I filed in the Constitutional Court, in 2016 the article is not constitutional, and they changed the laws further . I know that there is no real change even though we won the case. There are more than 1,00 victims, and I gathered their stories, I then visited law school and organisation to try and make change. I started an organisation to make further change and create self determination on the way treatment occurs. I believe that what happened to me in my childhood caused my schizophrenia. I have seen other people with the same experience that this has also happened to. I have tried to talk about my experience to Dr’s but they don’t try to listen, they say that it is what happened in the past and to forget about it. But I can’t forget about it even though the impact is smaller, it is what it triggered in my mental health, which is now a bigger impact. It still overwhelms me at times.’

-Anonymous