(Alexandria City va)
Here is My Story for LMEC Testimonial
Written by Kirsten Kaiser 3-3-2009
My name is Kirsten Helene Kaiser and I am the author of Bondage of Self. It is the chronicle of how I got away from a nasty Neo-Nazi Cult. My husband was a leader in a White Supremacist group. We lived in an isolated compound in rural West Virginia for about 4 years and had then moved to Rochester, MN. While in West Virginia we were a mile from the nearest road and a good hour away from any town with a grocery store. We were not allowed to watch TV, see modern movies, eat meat, or have much contact with any outsiders. I used to pass my time reading magazines from the 1920's and I can tell you what, "23 Skidoo" means and why it was such a catch phrase, but I had no idea what was going on in modern culture.
I started to question my husband's beliefs more and more. I was finding it hard to believe that the Jews were really staying up all night long thinking of ways to emasculate white males. In fact, I questioned why white males were so obsessed with being emasculated. I of course was not allowed to disagree with my husband over the issue of whether it was morally OK to eat fish, own leather shoes, mix lemonade with ice tea, or believe that every synagogue was built over the bones of a white woman and a white male baby. Kevin's reaction to my questioning to anything was to keep me awake until I "agreed" with him. I can tell you from experience that after about 36 hours you will "agree" to anything. These torture sessions started to happen more and more frequently and I simply was, “Not behaving as a good wife should.”
Kevin left me and had taken away my children. I was thrown into an odyssey which I describe in my 2003 book Bondage of Self. It was a long and painful process. My book I starts off in the Mayo Clinic’s Mental Hospital, called Generose, and ends up with me being the Keynote Speaker for the United States' Justice Department's Commission on Hate Crimes. I was also interviewed on 20/20, The Learning Channel, “Rolling Stone Magazine”, “Good Housekeeping”, The Southern Poverty Legal Center's “Intelligence Report” and several local papers and local TV stations.
If you are interested in reading my book Bondage of Self, I usually keep several copies in the trunk of my car. The book is $18.00 and if you get it from me I will gladly autograph it for you. The book is also available on Amazon.com. and other book sites.
Today I begin not only a new chapter, but a whole new book for my life. The Laurie Mitchell Employment Center has helped me in many ways to empower me in being my own Self. I found out about LMEC from a flyer at my doctors office. The flyer said, “Free Microsoft Office Training.” It sounded too good to be true, but it was true. I singed up for the 18 week course and I was so happy to have a focus in my life. My teachers were very kind and competent. I am now an MOS. That is a Certified Microsoft Office Specialist in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. This looks great on my résumé.
On Tuesdays, after my TEC 2000 classes were done I had the opportunity to go to WRAP Classes in the evenings. WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I enjoyed the WRAP classes immensely. It was the first time I was introduced to Peer Support. I was able to relate not only to the facilitators, but to the other members as well. We all learn together and from each other how to make a plan for Recovery, how to recognize my triggers and how to handle them without having to resort to the hospital. I feel confident that if my depression reappears I will have the tools in my toolbox to come out the other side. I made very good friends in the class and I was able to add several of them to Recovery Plan, to call when I feel the need of extra support.
I did very well in the TEC 2000 Class. When all the classes were over I started volunteering at LMEC, using the skills I had learned at LMEC. I was soon offered an internship. In addition to my secretarial duties (where I am known as “the Queen of Flyers and of PowerPoint presentations”) I am the facilitator of our Peer Support Group which meets every Saturday at 12 Noon. I am honored and happy that I should be chosen for such a job, where I can pass on the knowledge I have gained from the classes and from working at LMEC, and pass it on to others and to learn from my peers as well.
Just recently I was asked by one of these friends, and former LMEC employee, Violet, to give a speech at the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute. I talked about my story and also about how Recovery is Possible. I had never heard before my WRAP class that I could actually Recover. I am very happy to say my speech went over so well that I have been invited to speak there on a monthly basis about my story, all the services available at LMEC, and Peer Support. I am so proud to be a representative of an organization as well respected and professional as LMEC.
Yes, I still see my doctors, and I take my medications like clockwork, but thank to the teaching and people at LMEC, I no long feel like a “Freak” or a “Sicko.” I had a lot of old tapes in my head about mental illness and I had stigmatized myself! Thanks to what I learned in my WRAP classes and in interacting with the other people at LMEC, in and out of the classes, I no longer think that way. I can’t explain how this has given me a hope for the future. I actually have a good reason to get up from bed in the mornings.
I have finally found my niche in this world. LMEC employees are all extremely nice people and I get positive reinforcement everyday that I am here. There is unusual amount of empathy and understanding to such a degree that I am completely comfortable not only being here, but for the first time I can recall, really at home in my own skin. I just gobble that up and it makes me want to work even harder. I am no longer suffering from all I have been through. Everyone here at LMEC tells me I am so positive and spunky—a far cry from the depressed and hopeless person I used to be. Thank you, Laurie Mitchell, for giving me a life worth living.
Kirsten Helene Kaiser