Unbelievable Strength and Compassion

PaulaWhen Miranda (Mandy) Cook, Therapist for bluegrass.org Housing Support Services told me about the unimaginable childhood/adolescence of Paula, I prepared myself to meet someone who had the life taken out of them.  Paula grew up in an extremely emotionally, physically and sexually abusive home.  Paula, her mom and brother were all abused continuously throughout her childhood by her father.
On the day I met Paula at her home I was greeted by a beautiful, warm, funny and compassionate person.  Her home was in a picturesque country setting with creative and cheerful decorations throughout the house.  She introduced me to Clyde her sweet, 9-year-old Doberman Pinscher.
Eventually the conversation shifted and Paula began talking about her abusive childhood.  She talked about being in constant fear of her father not only for herself but for her mother and brother.  She never knew what would set her father off and make his explosive temper flair up.  The home she grew up in did not have any heat or indoor plumbing.  She was not allowed to go to friend’s houses or have friends come over.  Paula remembers being 4-years-old and thinking, “I am going to get away from this. This is not right.” Her only enjoyment and feelings of safety came from taking care of the family animals and going to school.  She loved animals and had dreams of working in the veterinarian field. 
When Paula was 17, she remembers her dad getting ready to hit her mom once again.  She intervened and told her mom they did not have to live like this anymore.  After years of continuous abuse and violence, her parents divorced and the family started receiving therapy. 
Paula married a very nice man and together they had two great children.  For 16 years she worked part-time, volunteered at the school and raised her family; however, after 16 years of marriage they decided to divorce.  At that time Paula fell apart.  She had constant fatigue (the kind where you cannot physically get out of bed), lost her job and her home.  She was in a constant state of depression and anxiety and was unable to function in any capacity for over a year.  Fortunately, a friend talked her into going to Good Samaritan Hospital where she stayed for 9 days. 
Since Paula had no transportation, bluegrass.org offered her Housing Support Services, a blend of clinical and case management services.  Therapist Mandy Cook would come to her house and work on a number of issues ranging from helping her get on a rental assistance program,  accessing community resources and in-home psychotherapy.  Paula carried a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. She was often too ill to even get out of bed when Mandy would come for their appointments.  They worked out an arrangement with a set day and time for appointments and Paula’s only job was to get the door unlocked so that Mandy could enter the home.  As Paula began to see more hope for her future, she became more and more involved in her treatment and more responsive.  She attended a weekly DBT group, had weekly individual therapy sessions and worked with Mandy on accessing resources to keep her housed and with food.  She is also on a medication that helps her with stability.
After working with Mandy for over 2 years, Paula began to feel better and felt like she could get back into life.  Paula remembers vividly the day she had a hearing to apply for disability insurance:  “On the day of my hearing I also had a job interview.  I had to make the decision on which one to go to.   I told myself I was not disabled, I can work and I wasn’t going to give up.”  She ultimately chose to go on the interview and got the job at the veterinarian hospital. 
In 2011, Paula started attending Eastern Kentucky University where she is majoring in Pre-Veterinary.   She is still working as a Veterinary Technician and was inducted to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars due to her 4.0 grade point average.  She has a very close relationship with her children.  Her best friend in the world is her dog Clyde who has been by her side and given her strength for a number of years.  Clyde was diagnosed with cancer recently, but with the unrelenting love and medical care of Paula, she will make sure he is comfortable and happy for as long as possible.
A few years ago Paula’s dad got very ill.  Even though she had an unimaginable childhood, she still felt that she needed to help him out as much as she could.  He was all alone and living in a camper.  Paula would take him meals and do his laundry.  Her family told her she was crazy and that he was only using her.  Paula says she did it because it made her feel better.  She remembers thinking when she was growing up that the only way her depression and anxiety would end is when her dad would die; however, what Paula felt when he eventually died was compassion and immense sorrow.  Paula states, “No matter what…he was still my dad.”
She now has a wonderful boyfriend and even jokes that she tried to find something wrong with him but couldn’t. She is working and leading a very productive life. 
Paula is a wonderful woman who opened up about her struggles in life.  You wonder how someone who has gone through such hardship can show such compassion for others and have the courage to go back to school, develop new relationships and live life to the fullest.  Paula knows it took a lot of hard work and says she will never give up.  She is a strong and determined woman and will continue to be successful in her life. 
Stephanie Dean


1351 Newtown Pike
Lexington, KY 40511-1277
859.255.4866 (fax)


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