From a Cult to Breaking the Belief System: Dealing with CPTSD
Episode

Heidi Mae Herrington, Influencer and Content Creator

From a Cult to Breaking the Belief System: Dealing with CPTSD

Let’s talk about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and its complexity. 

 

Heidi Mae Herrington, a famous influencer and content creator, bears her heart out about her CPTSD diagnosis in this episode of Everyone Hates Healthcare. Growing up in a sexist and misogynistic cult, Heidi recalls one of her first memories, a reality show, and her journey with trauma, and emotional, religious, and physical abuse. For Heidi’s family, mental illness wasn’t real, due to their cult belief system; it was a demon wreaking havoc from the inside. Therapy helped Heidi deconstruct that system and navigate trauma to where she is today. 

 

Tune in to this incredible story of dealing with mental illnesses and how to rise above navigating through it! 

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From a Cult to Breaking the Belief System: Dealing with CPTSD

About Heidi Mae Herrington:

Heidi Mae Herrington is an American model and cosplayer who has earned legions of fans through her cosplays of characters from popular franchises like Star Wars, Fallout, and DC Comics. She also has a YouTube channel, where she’s known to upload parodies of well-known music videos.

 

EHH_Heidi Mae Herrington.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

EHH_Heidi Mae Herrington.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Everyone Hates Healthcare Intro:
For many people today, healthcare feels like we’re behind enemy lines. The system is geared to take care of us. But why do we feel like we’re in it alone? Everyday stories are a powerful way to shine light on the gaps that make it feel this way. I’d like to welcome you to Everyone Hates Healthcare, where we bring you real people’s healthcare stories unfiltered. And now your host, Michael Swartz.

Michael Swartz:
Welcome back, everybody. I am so excited about this next guest. When we created Everyone Hates Healthcare, I always hoped that fellow listeners would introduce people who have stories that need to be told. And this next guest is one of those. I had a very close friend of mine who a few weeks ago was flipping through TikTok, flipping through Instagram, and stumbles across a creator and influencer named Heidi Mae Herrington. And the video she stumbled across was this video of her talking about her diagnosis of CPTSD. And how she’s starting a series to talk about her journey, what she really did to improve her own mental health, really with the whole idea of trying to destigmatize mental health. So I couldn’t be more excited to have Heidi on this show. And welcome to the show, Heidi!

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Hi. Thank you for having me!

Michael Swartz:
So you’re a content creator and influencer. Tell us a little bit about, it’s, I guess it’s an industry that a lot of millennials, Gen Z’s are hoping to become. But what led you to start creating content? Like what’s your origin story?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yes, so I have a pretty fucked up origin story, which we will get into. But a big part of why I started creating was just because of my, where my life was at, and it was really my only avenue for self-expression and socializing because I was homeschooled my whole life. And then I started working to help support my family and my siblings at 13, and so that kind of negated hanging out with peers. And so I started on social media when MySpace was a thing, and, yeah, yeah, I was in the whole like scene trend. I had like a C name and because influencing and content creation was not anything yet, I was relentlessly bullied by my family and the handful of friends that I had. And so I actually quit creating on MySpace because I was just, you know, being called vain, and nobody understood it, because it wasn’t established yet. And so I stopped creating and kind of like I didn’t tell any of my followers that I was like moving to Facebook. I just kind of moved over there and then flash forward like eight years. And I ended my engagement to this guy and I’m like, well, now what do I want to do? And so I thought, well, if I could accidentally get a big following on MySpace, I bet I could do it again on purpose. And that’s when influencing and content creation was just starting to come into the news on Instagram. And so I set out to do on purpose what I had done as, on accident as a teenager, and that’s how I got into it.

Michael Swartz:
Wow. So let me ask you this. What, what’s your favorite social media platform that you’re using right now?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Oh, man. So I’d have to say, I’d have to say TikTok. And the big reason is just because it’s so different. And of course, like at this point, Instagram has copied TikTok. So it’s really kind of the same short-form video idea on both of them. And I didn’t start my TikTok until the pandemic happened, which forced a, a layoff onto me and a career change. And so because I’m a content creator, you know, I’m an influencer, but I do also work a full-time job as well. So I went from touring to just being at home and I was like, well, good a time as any to start a TikTok because I knew I needed to because it was the next social media site. And so at first I did not get it, at all, because it was such a different take on content. And then it quickly became my favorite one. And so I now between Instagram and TikTok, I try and split my time and create for both of my platforms.

Michael Swartz:
Yeah, TikTok is something that I just started using, looking at, and it’s definitely a lot there. So that’s.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Oh yeah.

Michael Swartz:
It’s awesome that you started on MySpace. I remember top eight how many fights were started on who’s on your top eight? Good times, good times.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Oh, yeah.

Michael Swartz:
So what? Can you, tell us a little bit about where you think? So you got diagnosed with CPTSD, but you know where, where did you start, where in your life did you start experiencing trauma? What was the trauma? What was that time? That was the first kind of nudge towards it?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
So, yeah, so my trauma started. The first memory I have of it, I was, I think, three. So very young, my parents were in a cult when I was born. And this cult was, it would be similar to the belief system that the Duggars have. So women can’t cut their hair, they can’t do anything without a man’s approval. You know, they shouldn’t speak up. Guy has to take, you know, make all of the decisions in the house and then couple that with this, the satanic panic that was happening, because I was born in 88. And so it was this cult was a mixture of very sexist, misogynistic attitudes towards women and then advocating for physical and verbal and emotional abuse of kids because, you know, a demon was around every corner and an evil spirit could get into them. And so if they had an evil spirit, you had to spank them until you broke their spirit was what the term they used, which is just, you know, Christians speak for beat them into submission. So my first memory of trauma is being three and being held down because they believe they had a Jezebel spirit, which was like sexual, like a sexual demon. And, you know, I’m three and I’m being spanked with some kind of like, I think it was, it might have been like a tree branch or something. These weren’t like, when I use this term spanking, it was not like a hand. It was like a wooden implement. And so that’s my first, yeah, that was my first traumatic memory. And it just, it, it went on for a long time. My dad left the cult after a few years. My parents did, he realized, like, oh, this is kind of fucked up. But even though they weren’t in the cult anymore, the cult beliefs were still in my family. And so it was still like everything was punishable by spanking. And if you took a piece of candy or food that wasn’t explicitly given to you by my parents, then it was stealing. And so, you know, I had a lot of, I have a lot of blackouts from my childhood that I was aware of as a child. And it would be, you know, it wasn’t until two years ago that I realized it was dissociative amnesia and dissociative blackouts. So I would literally like from starting from when I was three to up until I was like 13, I would just kind of come to, and like doing something, like similar to if you’re drinking, you know, you like come to in the middle of an action or a sentence, and that was happening to me for ten years. And so I just, I genuinely would lose time and I wouldn’t know where I had been or what I had been doing. And I also, because of the cult and the cult was very like anti-medicine, there’s no such thing as like medical conditions, it’s all like demons. And if you pray hard enough, you know, you’ll get better. And if you don’t, well, you didn’t pray hard enough. And so I didn’t, and I was homeschooled as well. So I had no, I had no vocabulary to express what I was going through to my parents. I just genuinely did not have the words as well as like the cult had firmly established my parents as people I was terrified of because I could be, you know, spanked for anything, and, you know, starting at three years old. And I mean, I remember one time like I was excited because I made it the whole day without getting spanked. And then during like the nightly prayers, I think it was like seven or eight at the time, while my whole family was praying, I scooted across the floor because I wanted to sit next to my mom. And then when everyone, the prayer was over and they opened their eyes, I got spanked for it because I was like disrespecting God.

Michael Swartz:
Really?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
So, yeah. So it could be anything that I never knew exactly. Like there were obvious, like rules, like, don’t take a piece of candy and, you know, like, don’t lie. But there’s also random things like, oh, you have a look of a spirit of rebellion, so now you’re getting a spanking. And so it was just absolutely terrifying. And also, like, just as a cut away, I’m very close with my parents now, and my mom’s in therapy, my dad’s in therapy. So, you know, everything that I mentioned, like they are fully like, yeah, we’re so sorry. Like, I can’t believe we did that.

Michael Swartz:
So.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
…. Please, no one who’s, nobody who’s listening, like, go hate on my parents.

Michael Swartz:
So when, again, I am, if you saw my jaw right now, it’s on the floor. But what, when did your parents start to realize that this is probably not right what we’re doing?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
So, you know, it happened incrementally. You know, they left the sexist cult, but they still have the, like, spanking and demons and all that kind of like physical and verbal abuse. Then they went in, like attended another cult for like six months, which is always kind of like funny to me. There’s a cult podcast I listen to and they’re like, we’re going to talk about … and I said to my mom, I was like, Oh my God, it’s one of the many. Like because my parents took me there, like all of us there for like six months. But I would say they, my, so I have two younger siblings. I have, I have three younger siblings and two older. And by the time my brother Gabe was born, he’s six years younger than me. My parents, by the time he was like two, my parents had stopped the majority of stuff. And my little sister Miranda, she’s eight years younger and she never experienced any of the physical and verbal abuse that I did. So I would say the last time that I really remember it happening would be when I was like, I think at the very last time I was 13, but it wasn’t all the time up until I was 13 and it was actually like a, so one of, one of the series of events that I strongly believe really influenced my CPTSD because I had dissociative blackouts and I would lose time, when my Nana was visiting, and I remember this so vividly, even though I was quite young. So my Nana was visiting and jelly beans went missing. And don’t ask me how they knew, like some jelly beans were missing, I don’t know. But my dad had this habit of lining up all of us children in the kitchen, and nobody could leave the lineup until somebody confess, which was just the worst. And so we’re all lined up and my parents are like, well, you can’t watch the Lone Ranger movie we are going to watch tonight until somebody confesses. And so me and my like eight-year-old, you know, brilliance, it’s like, well, I really want to see The Lone Ranger, and I can’t really say what I did today because I lost 45 minutes, so it’s possible that I could have taken those jellybeans and not remembered. And so, you know, those two things, I’m like, okay, I’ll say I did it because I could have and I want to watch this movie. So I said, I did it. I got, you know, the spanking for it. And unfortunately, my older sister, who actually took the jellybeans, was like, wow, why didn’t I ever think of this before? And that kicked off like 3 to 5 years of my two older sisters just doing whatever they wanted and taking whatever they wanted and me taking the fall for it.

Michael Swartz:
Oh.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah, yeah. And this is like these series of years were like the most dramatic for me because I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t doing it, I figured out I wasn’t doing it, you know? But my parents were, like, very confused because they didn’t know what was going on, I was confessing to it. And so they tried spanking more, they tried emotional abuse. And so, like, mixed with religious abuse. Like, how could you, like, God loves you. Like, what happened to you? Just, like, pile on all of the emotional abuse on top of the physical abuse of the spankings. And also, like when we were getting spanked, you couldn’t cry too much, and you also couldn’t cry at all. Like you couldn’t not cry because if you cried too much, you’re faking it, and they’d spank you more. And if you didn’t cry at all, then you were rebellious and you’d get spanked more. And so there is this, yeah. So there is this psychological torture of like in the midst of being physically abused. I had to gauge my reaction to mitigate what I was going through. And if I got it wrong, I would get more. And so there is this like, cycle.

Michael Swartz:
From three years old?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah, yeah. And so the psychological component and the emotional component and then the physical component, like all of it, was terrible. And so I really like that is where the CPTSD really, you know, it’s kind of like just take your pick of what caused it because it was all bad.

Michael Swartz:
So I have to say, and I think your, your note should be stressed even more. You said you had a great relationship or a good relationship with, with your family now. And.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
That’s incredible.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah, it’s really amazing. One of the really fun and I’m being absolutely sarcastic things about CPTSD is a lot of people don’t know that they have the condition because people with PTSD, there is a before the trauma. So when the PTSD starts, they can be like, wow, I used to be happy. I used to not react this way. So they have a comparison internally, but CPTSD because it’s so often starts in early childhood, there is no before. And so I was completely unaware that I had had a traumatic childhood and that I was suffering from CPTSD. I had no idea because I had no like, oh, other people don’t become terrified when the room is silent for too long. I just thought like everybody was like that, you know, or if there’s a disagreement, other people don’t find that they’ve locked themselves in the bathroom and then be like, wow, how did I get in here? I just it was so normalized to me because I had never known anything else. And so it took meeting my current partner, we had dated as teenagers and it didn’t work out, and then we reconnected five years ago. And he realizes that in two text messages like, Oh my God, everything that I thought was a character flaw before she is undiagnosed, like there is there is stuff going on here. And so he, he amazingly was very supportive and accepting. And over a period of months, he very gently guided me towards realizing that I needed help because I was just completely oblivious. Like I was suffering from an eating disorder, I was suicidal, I was dissociating for like days or weeks at a time. And I was like, yeah, no, I’m fine. Because I had never known anything other than just suffering mentally. And so he, you know, after a few months, I, he sent me a podcast where this lady in the podcast said, you know, I didn’t know that if you aren’t depressed, you don’t have, I’ll kill myself is like option B. I just thought everybody had that like, oh, I’m embarrassed, I could make it right. I could hide or I could kill myself. But she realized that people without mental illness, they don’t have that third option. And that was the first time I’d ever heard that. And I was like, Oh my God, I think I might need to be diagnosed. And so I, my partner took me to the mental health place and waited for me while I got evaluated. And initially they didn’t even diagnose the CPTSD because, you know, they need the symptoms, and I was not even aware that I was experiencing the symptoms. And so I started getting therapy and medication five years ago. And then it was about two years ago that I finally told my therapist, you know, hey, Adam wanted to, my partner wanted to talk to me about me leaving the window open when I left our apartment. And one minute he’s like, hey, we need to talk about this. And the next minute I realized that I have ran into my bathroom and lock the door and then sort of like, come to my senses. Like, what? What am I doing in here? And then I told her another instance where we were, he was driving and I was in the passenger seat and someone cut him off on the highway and he’s like, dammit, and like, frustrated, like, slapped his hand on the steering wheel. And I jerked away and reached for the car door. Keep in mind, we’re moving. And I, I had been so overcome by this feeling of, of like get away that my body was reacting to, to this incident in a way that made me think like, hey, maybe I should mention this to my therapist. And that’s how she actually diagnosed me. Before that, I had no idea that I was experiencing those things and that I didn’t have to keep experiencing those things. And so going into therapy, because my family didn’t have a lot of … beliefs, but there were still like vestiges of them. And so there was a lot of push back to me starting therapy and getting medication because of the cult. Like, you know, mental illness isn’t real, it’s a demon or you’re not trying hard enough. And so there was a lot of disapproval from them. And my therapist would just keep encouraging me. And by saying that, you know, the family dynamic was so toxic and unhealthy that me doing something healthy was me rocking the boat. And so nobody wants the boat getting rocked. But if you don’t stop, people will either stand off with you or leave the boat. And that is actually what ended up happening. I no longer talk to my two older sisters because they just bought down with it and never stopped being those abusive people. But my mom and my dad, you know, over two years time, realized that I was actually happy and that maybe there was something to this whole therapy thing. And so and also, like, part of like, during my journey, I was very honest with them about, like, what I was going through, like a very unexpected part of therapy was and sort of unearthing all of this stuff that I had repressed and turned inward was just I was so angry, like, so angry. And my parents were like, what the heck? And, you know, they don’t do it. But I would just like, be honest with them and, and tell them, like, you know, when, when this happened, it really, like that really messed me up. And, you know, I started having asthma when I was about three. And because my dad didn’t believe in medicine, he would never take me to get an inhaler. And so I would suffer exercise-induced asthma attacks all the time as a child. And I was never taken to a doctor to make it better. And, you know, I realized like I went in, about four years ago I went to the doctor for it and they told me that, they’re like, when did this start? And I’m like, oh, yeah, when I was three, but, you know. But they told me that untreated asthma attacks lead scar tissue in your lungs. And so I was really upset about it because I have 40% loss in the deep passageways in my lungs from, you know, the cult telling my dad that medicine doesn’t know anything and just trust God in us. And so, you know, I mentioned it to my dad a couple of times, and it was actually like six months ago, I said something about it and he’s like, I’m really sorry. You know, it’s like I thought I was, I thought I was doing the right thing. But, you know, it hurt you, and I’m really sorry for that. And that was just incredible to hear.

Michael Swartz:
It sounds like when you started opening up and really noticing and it’s a great thing you had that support system in your partner throughout all of this.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
By … The power of being truthful and actually facing that trauma in the face as unbelievable.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Oh, thank you. I think part of that is my, my coping mechanism like to get through my childhood was very much, um, proactive. I would do things. And also, like, I firmly believe that when we are abused, we either internalize or externalize the pain, especially when it’s at that point when, you know, you can’t process it, it’s too much. And so I internalized the pain, and so I, and I also, like in my mind, every time something would happen, I would promise myself that I would never make someone else feel the way that I felt because I had no one protecting me. I had no one noticing what was happening. And so I promised myself that I would do the best that I could do to help my younger siblings, to shield them from the worst of it, or even, you know, a little bit of it, because it wasn’t nearly as bad as when my two youngest siblings were born. But I really sort of developed this very proactive coping mechanism. And so any time I learn something new about my mental illness or my CPTSD, I’m very proactive in addressing it because I think it’s just a healthy form of control. Because now that I know what it is, I can do things to make it better. And for me, I have a niece and a nephew, and my parents would sometimes babysit them and I would hear them say similar things that they would say to me when I was a kid. And it would trigger that protective, um, like, I don’t think so. And so I would, you know, talk to my parents about it and, I just, the way my character developed is I just can’t, I don’t have the capacity to know that I can do something and then just not do it.

Michael Swartz:
That’s, that’s really a great way of looking at life. And I wonder how many people are, because I didn’t really know what CPTSD was. I heard of TSD, but do you have any idea like how many people are, are out there that have no idea that they have?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
I believe, Yeah. So I believe, you know, once I figured it out, I was like, Oh my God. So I started reading and I highly recommend the book The Body Keeps the Score. My therapist recommended it to me, and it was the first time that, you know, the book deals with PTSD, but a lot of the symptoms are extremely similar. And so it’s the first time that I had words to describe what I was going through, because one of the features of PTSD and CPTSD is that when the, when it’s triggered, the left side of your brain goes dark and the right side takes over. And so your logic and communication skills are like down. And so it made it to where I almost couldn’t verbalize what I was experiencing in these because it was purely physical and emotional and like I couldn’t sink in my way out of it, I couldn’t rationalize and I could hardly describe what it felt like because it just it felt like the most like being punched in the stomach and feeling sick and terrified and just a feeling of like, I have to get away, I have to make it stop. And it took me, you know, like six months of therapy to even be able to verbalize that part of it because it’s so instinctive and it’s, you know, your limbic system takes over. So it’s deeper than your conscious mind. And it is just a, just a fun little train ride to hell when it happens. And so when I started understanding it and I looked it up, the data I saw, you know, which is the Internet, so who knows? But it estimated that 30% of people with PTSD don’t know it. Which is.

Michael Swartz:
Goodness.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah, yeah. And I absolutely get it because that was me. You know, I would dissociate. I was depressed, I had anxiety. I had an eating disorder, which was just another way of coping. And I you know, if someone asks me, like, how is your childhood, I would be like it’s great, you know, there’s a couple of bad times. But, you know, to cope with, to cope with all of that trauma, years of trauma, you have to bury it, you know, and years of that. And having no before to compare it to I just didn’t, I didn’t know. And another like fun thing of developmental trauma is, you know, when trauma happens to you repeatedly, when your brain is developing, that is when you are learning how to see and react to the world. And if you are traumatized a lot during that period, you, your brain adapts and you learn that certain things mean things that are not necessarily accurate outside of that abusive situation. Like an example I like to use is when I was growing up, silence meant that something really bad was going to happen or I had really, like, done something wrong. And so I either had to make it better fast or I had to get out to get away from what was coming. And even as an adult, silence makes me deeply uncomfortable. And so for the first, like two or three years of my relationship, you know, my partner would come home from work, and if he was slightly less talkative than normal, I would feel that he was mad at me and I would feel like I have to fix this, I have to, I have to find out what I did. I have to fix it. I have to make it better. And that was the CPTSD because that was how my brain developed to interpret the world and how to react to it. And I was just completely unaware that there was any other way of interpreting silence.

Michael Swartz:
Yeah, it’s, I mean, just thinking about that 30% number and what you’re describing, there’s, I don’t know if it’s, it’s got to be millions of people out there that just think what’s happening is normal. So that’s why it’s so important for people like you to tell your story, because if you don’t hear, you might never know. You might be in this dark place and thinking it’s completely normal.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah. And that was, you know, that was me. And that was part of why I decided I decided to start a series about my CPTSD, was realizing that without the knowledge that what I was experiencing was something that could be treated. You know, I had no idea that life could be better. I had no idea that I could feel happy for more than like 30 minutes. I had no idea that I could feel, like relaxed because one of the symptoms of CPTSD is hypervigilance. And so I was just always on the alert for danger, for signs that I was going to be abused because that’s how my brain adapted to survive. And I just didn’t know. I didn’t know that there was a different, any other way to experience life than that. And when I started, you know, getting treatment and for me, EMDR has been really, really helpful. And I started seeing improvements and I was like, Holy shit, this is like, this is incredible, you know? And one of the downsides of PTSD and CPTSD is that it typically is a lifelong condition because your brain has changed. But that’s something that I’ve come to peace with because I’ve been, you know, treating it specifically for two years. And even though I have the same triggers, I don’t have the same depth of a response to them, you know, so before my partner, like getting cut off in traffic and being frustrated, you know, I almost threw myself out of a moving car. And, you know, a few months ago, the same thing happened and I felt very uncomfortable. But I went, you know, internally in my head, I’m like, okay, Heidi, this is just the CPTSD. Like, it’s okay, you know, you’re safe, which is like a very important, like safe race for me. It helps me to start calming down and coming back down to reality. And I’m like, you’re safe, it’s okay. Like, this discomfort you feel is just the condition. Like, just breathe, it’ll be fine. And so I was uncomfortable for 30 minutes. And then it was fine, you know, and that’s a huge improvement over almost exiting a moving car.

Michael Swartz:
Yeah, that’s night and day difference. So.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
By the way, it’s interesting you bring up EMDR. Just to let you know, I am fascinated by EMDR and what it does. And for all the listeners that it’s like, what? What is this EMDR? It’s, I think it’s like eye movement desentization, something like that. But it essentially rewires the brain from like, almost like when you dream, you’re rewiring your brain, but it’s a proven treatment process. So I got to ask you this. What? How do you find EMDR? Like what? What led you to try out that treatment?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
I got so lucky in that the very first therapist I was matched with was trauma-informed. And so I’ve been with the same therapist for five years. I’m still with her, and she was the one who diagnosed me with it. She’s the one who recommended the book, who recommended EMDR. I just got so lucky, I never would have thought to do that. But it really is effective. And it’s, you know, it’s weird. When you’re doing it, it’s like it’s like mental telephone where you start with the trauma memory and then you let your brain go to the next thought and then the next thought, and then the therapist will stop you and ask like, what are you feeling? What are you thinking? And then you just follow that down, and it’s crazy emotional because trauma is, it’s spiderwebs on itself and it builds. And so, you know, a lot of the trauma that I experienced had a similar, like negative cognition attached to it. And so, you know, I started my first EMDR session. I started with my first memory at three. I was like, you know what? Let’s start with the worse, let’s just go for it. I don’t care, let’s do it. And so, of course, it was oh, God, I was an absolute mess. But that, that one led to like the, you know, being framed by my sisters. And that led to, like, a breakup with someone who is, you know, now my current partner but the love of my life. And all of these were linked by the negative cognition, which in my case was that I was the problem. And this is actually like a very common CPTSD symptom. And one of the defining differences between CPTSD and PTSD is that CPTSD really affects your relationship to yourself and others, and it often obliterates self-esteem, it destroys even like your sense of self. And a lot of times you feel damaged, wrong, just like you’re the problem, you know, like and that for me was what it was, you know, going through EMDR in this session, like the negative cognition was that I was so fucked up that I didn’t even know I was fucked up. You know, I just came out of the womb so incredibly wrong that everything that I would ever do was wrong and everyone would realize I was wrong and nothing I could ever do is right. And I was so wrong I never even realized it. And like, this was I was never aware of that thought, but it was running through all of the traumatic events. And every time a trauma would build on the previous trauma, that would be almost internally, like a confirmation. Like if my trauma was confirming like, yeah, you are fucked up. And you know, this is all happening at a very subconscious level and EMDR unearthed it and I’m like, Holy shit, this is amazing. I mean, not, not what had been going on, but just how, you know, starting with the memory and for my therapist does it with, like holding little buzzers that vibrate, doing that was helping me process the trauma and trace the, tangle down to find the things that were attached to it.

Michael Swartz:
It’s incredible. It’s, and I think it’s, when you said EMDR, not enough people know about the treatment and.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
You said you were lucky in finding such a great therapist through this journey. But it’s incredible to hear you talk about it and the journey you’ve went through. It’s, it really shows that people and listeners are out there and going through these things, it’s okay to talk, it’s okay to open up. I think it’s, case in point, now, I have to ask you this, because you did send over this. So from, from three years old in a cult, all this trauma, a break up.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Mmhmm.

Michael Swartz:
What about Wife Swap? Like, what happened there? Because.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Oh, yeah.

Michael Swartz:
You can write a book about everything you’ve been through.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah, so I’m glad you brought it up. So, okay, so to get back to sort of like the timeline. Born into a cult, so that started very young. Then from about 8 to 13, my sisters were framing me. So I was being, you know, physically, verbally, emotionally abused almost every night for all of those years. But reason I know is 13 when it stopped, as my sister tried to frame me, my oldest sister tried to frame me for the last time, and this is like the second time I was like, I am not saying I did this anymore. This is it, I don’t care, like I’m done. And so I, you know, the first time I said I didn’t do it, I still got punished for it. And then the second time my mom was like, hmm, it really doesn’t seem like she might have done it. And so that was the last time that that happened. And so that was when the worst of the abuse stopped. And so right around probably about six months after that, my dad has always been a one-man band musician at fairs and festivals. So like touring musician, but at fairs. And so when I was 13, my, the industry was changing, my dad could no longer support us. And so my parents came to myself and my five siblings and were like, hey, here’s the deal, we want to start a family show because the market is like looking like that’s what’s working. You don’t have to do it, but if you do it, we won’t have to be impoverished. And my two older sisters were like, no, and myself and my three younger siblings were like, okay, we’ll do it. So, you know, and to me, like there was like, they gave me a choice. But like, what kind of a choice is that? Like, I could help my family, not, like, actually survive. Like, I’m not going to say no. And so we started this family show that we did at fairs and festivals and actually built it up to like a six-figure business. And so it was like, it was fun. It was like music and comedy, family show, like little like comedy skits, sort of like a family-friendly, like SNL, but with also, like, parodies in there, too. Like we had puppets and stuff, it was really fun. And so Wife Swap contacted my family and we’re like, hey, what you’re doing is great. We want to feature you on our show. And so my parents were like, well, let’s pray about it. And like, just I’m an atheist now. So my cynicism will come out …. My faith has sort of like primed me to become an atheist later, … Well, God didn’t do shit then, like, I don’t know what would make him kick in now. So my parents like prayed about it and they’re like, oh yeah, we should do it. And like, they were also like sort of being manipulated by this prophetess lady who is just conning my parents out of a lot of money. And she was like, oh yeah, it’s definitely God, you should do it. And so Wife Swap spent about four months really buttering up my family and love-bombing us. And so they would say things like, wow, like what you’re doing as a family is so inspirational. Like, you know, the US really needs to see what a family working together can look like. And you have such a great message to share with America and like, just hitting all of the things that my family wanted, you know, have a good story, inspire people to like, figure things out and work together and all that stuff. Um, so like going into it, you know, four months of love bombing, it’s very effective in getting you to trust these people. And when it came time to sign the contracts, we only had them for, like, 30 minutes. And my dad was still trying to, like, flip through them because they had brought the contracts to the fair we were at, but then they, like, filled up the day with other things and they were like, oh, we need to leave in 30 minutes. But like, here, sign these contracts. So it was very just like out the gate, it was shifty. But at this point, they had already developed that trust thing with us where we fully believe them. And so my dad, like he did some through a couple of pages, and he’s like, what’s this here that says you can cut and splice audio to, like, make us look bad? And they’re like, oh, no, no, that’s just technical because like, sometimes the sound bite will have like a car passing. And so we just have to be able to move audio around sometimes. But we would never make you guys look bad.

Michael Swartz:
No way. That was in the contract?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yes, I actually have the contract still. My mom saved them, so I have them and I actually read through them a few months ago. And it just gets worse, it gets worse. But they didn’t give us, like everything that they were going to do with us is in there, but they didn’t give us the time to look through them. And then when we were filming, they actually took the contracts away, too, so we couldn’t reference them. So part of, when they were filming with, I was 21, I think, this is like 2008. So I was living at home, working, supporting my family, and all the adults had to take a 700 questions psych eval that really just picked you apart. Well, some of the questions were like, what are your triggers? But like, done better than that? So it’s like, what’s something that makes you really sad? What’s something that makes you really angry? And then the first conversation with the other mother, you know, I had told the psychologist, like, you know, something that makes really me really sad is feeling alone because I had sacrificed my peers and having a social life to support my family. And so the first conversation with the other mother, she looked me dead in the eyes and says, you’re alone, you don’t have friends, nobody cares about you, I don’t care about you. And looking back now, me running out of the room and locking myself in the stage perfectly tracks with my CPTSD. But now, from, like, knowing my condition, I see how absolutely despicable what they did was, because they used the psych eval to find our trauma, and then they purposefully triggered our traumas to force us into fight or flight for entertainment. And there is a thing called re-traumatization, which is where you are hurt, you are traumatized again in the same way. And they did that and they reenacted those things. And like me telling my, me telling that psychologist, you know, that fear of mine, that was not just like a fear, that was a fear caused by trauma. And, you know, that’s the fear that would creep in my mind when something traumatic would happen, that I am alone. Nobody loves me because I’ve just been abused. And then on camera, they say that. They, they take my, like, secret fear, my deep negative cognition from years of abuse. And they say it to me like a fact. And it’s for, yeah, yes. And it was ten days of this.

Michael Swartz:
So, so, so.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
Just for the listeners that don’t know what Wife Swap is, can you kind of go into what?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yes.

Michael Swartz:
Yeah.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
So sorry I keep cutting you off, too, I dont know that.

Michael Swartz:
No. Keep on going. I’m on the edge of my seat right now.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
So Wife Swap was a show that was on ABC, a major network show, where two families from like opposing beliefs would, the moms would swap places. And so Mom A would go to family B and Mom B would go to family A, and they would, for the first week, make the new mom live by the family rules. And then the second week, the new mom would make the family live by her family’s rules. And the premise of the show was put as a way to help each other grow and learn and all sorts of like positive spin. But the reality is that.

Michael Swartz:
….

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yes, but the reality was that, they found vulnerable families, loved-bombed them, set them up to be embarrassed and ridiculed, and then triggered them repeatedly into fight or flight while cameras were rolling.

Michael Swartz:
For two weeks.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah, well, actually ten days, but they said it was two weeks, so. Yeah, and so, so I realized like day one of filming, like, oh no, oh, no, this isn’t what I, this, uh uhh, this is bad. But one of the clauses in the contract was that if you held up filming, they would sue you for $1,000,000.

Michael Swartz:
No.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
And you know, this is like 2008, so, you know, it’s more money than two. And so I’m like, I don’t want to do this anymore. My dad’s like, I don’t want to do this anymore. And they’re like, well, you got a million bucks? Because if not, you have to do it. So we were trapped in a situation where the producers knew our deepest triggers and traumas and would trigger them whenever they felt like it. And so from my experience, the producer and director played good cop-bad cop with my dad. But it was actually very effective with my dad. So I was like, oh, damn it. So then I was trying to outwit the director and producer to manipulate them where they didn’t know that I knew what they were doing, because if they knew, they could threaten me with the lawsuit. But if they thought that I was playing by their rules and I’d simply outwitted them, I could get away with it. And so, again, I’m in this psychological torment trying to protect my family from ridicule, like ridicule while also being like having my trauma forced on me while cameras are rolling, knowing that America is going to be laughing at my pain. And it was one of the worst experiences of my entire life. Like, absolutely it, it was terrifying, it was mortifying, like I was so stressed out. I, like, stopped being able to eat, which then, of course, they’re like buying me all my favorite foods to try and, like, trick me into it. They actually, at one point, it didn’t end up on the show, but they, they were able to trigger the other mother that she had to fight and they gave her a pair of scissors and she wound up like coming running into the room with them to dismember a puppet that our audiences like across the US thought were real. Because most of our audiences are like four-year-olds, five-year-olds, six-year-olds. So she’s, the producers told her to, like, cut a finger off the puppet for every rule that was broken. And so in my mind, I’m like, Holy shit, like a five-year-old is going to think that we’re letting their monkey get dismembered. Like that is really fucked up. And so my dad went to grab the puppet out of her way and she swung the scissors at him and he grabbed her wrist to stop her from hitting him with the scissors. And then the producer and director ran in screaming, I’m in the room watching this happen. Just being retraumatized, like, just. Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
And they didn’t show that?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
No, no, they did not. And they didn’t show what she said to me either. They had already decided going into it that like my family was, there’s always like one family that was worse than the other. And so they decided that my family was worse than hers. And so they just removed anything that she did that would have made her and her family look worse. Just removed it and actually, like cut and splice audio to make my family look worse.

Michael Swartz:
And it was a contract.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yep, it was in the contract that we didn’t have enough time to read. And so it was, and then, of course, like a year later, the show premieres and then it just, that was awful. I still remember the actress who played Topanga in Boy Meets World. She was on like a talk show. And she, their talk show had my episode on and they’re like, oh, yeah, Heidi, you know, who’s never had a boyfriend? Which, side note wasn’t true, but who’s never had a boyfriend, but she let’s carnies, like feel her up behind the tilt to the world, and like that’s on national fucking television. And yeah, and like after the show premiered, I dropped my last name from all my social media, and I only added it back in this year. I didn’t want to be associated with it.

Michael Swartz:
Did you get a lot of people that like, when the show premiered, did you have people, friends, or people recognizing that it was you? Like you basically had to read that whole nightmare?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah. Yes, I had people recognizing it was me. They it actually destroyed my family’s business as well. So that was the beginning of the end of our family business that we built into this really successful thing, because they ridiculed it and they painted my family in a way that fairs didn’t want to hire us. And so it really like destroyed a lot of what we had built together as well as traumatized all of us. Not so much my two youngest siblings because they weren’t, you know, legally adults. So they were spared a lot of it. They were spared a lot of the direct abuse. But yeah, it was just absolutely mortifying and humiliating, and like it’s on Hulu right now, which is just so much fun. And, you know, they had me they cut and spliced audio to say that I’d never had a boyfriend. I wasn’t allowed to, like, pick my own clothing. They just portrayed me as this, like, completely like, isolated, inept girl, like woman who was still a girl. And it’s just very embarrassing. But no one, yeah, and no one knew what it was actually like to go through. And at the time, like, I tried telling people, but nobody wanted to hear it because at the time they’re like, no, this is a great show. Like, no, no, like nobody wanted to know what actually went down because it didn’t match their idea of what it was supposed to be like, and so I had never talked about it. And then I brought it up one time in therapy, this is last year. And my therapist was just like her jaw was on the floor. And she said that what the psychologist did telling them was so wrong that they shouldn’t be allowed to practice. And it’s the first time I’d ever heard that what I went through was wrong. Like what they did to us was wrong. And so I just randomly filmed the TikTok about it and then it went viral. And that sort of like that was the first kick-off for me talking about trauma, because it was this highly traumatic experience that was just insidious and, and terrible that the producers and directors knew what they were doing and did it anyways, you know, by the end of the film. Yeah, and by the end of filming, like, the film crew wouldn’t even, like, look us in the eye anymore. They were so ashamed of what they’d done.

Michael Swartz:
That is.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
That’s, so the, if there’s any listeners that are documentary creators, I think there’s a documentary out there, the old stories of reality TV. Like it’s.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
It’s crazy. And the, I just don’t know how it’s legal and let alone you know, he, you talk about this re-traumatization, that’s, that you went from a cult, for sisters and you getting basically taken the blame to starting to build as a family to go in through this complete nightmare for the entertainment of the of America. It is, so, okay, so you go through all of this, like bring us through the shows over, the show premiered, what, when does that journey start? You say your partner is kind of the person who nudged you in the direction. But tell us, you know where did you go from this whole experience, what was next for Heidi?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah. So after Wife Swap, the family business went for about 3 to 4 more years. But just like losing business the whole time, that was our peak, was right before we filmed. And so I, a lot of my life I use, I like to joke and say that I self-medicated with Dick and the Bible, but I would alternate between them. So, so I would be like, well, I feel absolutely terrible and I’m sad all the time, like, maybe if I’m a better Christian, it’ll work, it wouldn’t work. So I’d be like, okay, okay. And like, better Christian evolved like, not fooling around, not doing anything that like, purity culture would disapprove of. So like kissing and holding hands, only dating like the whole nine yards, praying every day, devotions, yeah yeah. And that wouldn’t work because it will not work on trauma. So then I realized, okay, the Bible didn’t work, so I’m going to, like, just throw myself into dating and fool around and like, that’ll work. Well, it didn’t work. So I would just alternate between the two. And so after about four years after Wife Swap, I was like, back to the like, I’ll medicate with Dick phase. And so I met this guy on an online dating app. And he was British, he lived in Branson. And so we started dating. And then he, you know, we started talking about getting married. And so he proposed to me like after like eight months of dating in London or in Paris, actually at the Eiffel Tower. So then I was engaged, and I had moved out. So the show was like officially ended at that point, they enrolled my younger sister in high school so that she could, like, experience a normal life. You know, like the show, our show had declined to the point that they’re like, well, okay, that’,s that’s kind of it. And so I was engaged to this guy. Then I realized, like, I still wasn’t happy, I was miserable. And also I knew I didn’t want to be married. And I also knew I definitely didn’t want to marry him. So I ended things with him and wound up essentially homeless because I was living in a place that his parents had bought for us, I was driving a car that he had bought. Um, and I moved back in with my, um, I moved in with my brother. I was just, like, sleeping on his floor, and I’m just trying to figure life out because I had been operating under that subconscious cult belief of, like, you’ll be fulfilled as a woman if you get married and have kids, like, that’s all there is for you, that is all you need. And I got up to the brink of being married and realized like, uh uhh, this isn’t doing it for me. And so that’s when I realized, well, if I did social media on MySpace by accident, I can do it again on purpose. And so I was homeless. I stumbled into a job in brand ambassadors at events, and so I started doing that. And just like studying social media and finding my niche in social media. And so then I realized one day I’m like, well, I’m traveling for work, why don’t I just move back to my parents house? So I asked my parents, they said yes. So I think I was like 24 when I was, 23 or 24 when I moved back home. And I, after I ended my engagement, I essentially had to start my life over from scratch. So I moved in with my parents, traveled for work, and the whole time I was building my social media and creating content and just also very depressed and suffering from CPTSD, and I had insomnia. And so my life is at the point where because of my coping mechanism of being productive, I could make myself work. When I was dissociated, when I was numb, but I could not make myself do anything for fun because I couldn’t feel fun. So there was no point in, you know, turning on the TV when I felt nothing. And so I would just work constantly on social media, on content, on learning, photography. And then if I wasn’t working, I was just laying in bed. There was no enjoyment, there was no fulfillment. It was just an absolutely, like, numb, just drive to work. And my parents are like, hmm, she seems like a workaholic, but that’s as far as it went in terms of recognition. And so I worked my way up from being like the brand ambassador in, like motorcycle events for progressive insurance to being like the assistant tour manager, so I was managing the girls, and I would work 15 events out of the year, make a living, and then in my off time I would create content and just build my social media as much as I could. And during this time, the first Suicide Squad movie came out, and so DC Comics did like, hey, we’ll do a photo contest. And so I entered it along with my brother and we won, and they flew us out to the San Diego Comic-Con. And while we were there, DC was like, hey, you guys are cool. Do you want to like, take over our Instagram for the day? Which of course, yes. So that really like, kicked off my social media. And for me, you know, because I traveled so much, as, you know, I was homeschooled and also traveled like 6 to 9 months out of the year ever since I was a very small child. So there’s never really been a place that felt like home aside from the Internet. And so for me, the Internet is where I feel the most at home, making content, like making funny videos or like putting outfits together, just for me, that is where I feel the most comfortable. And so that kind of was going along really well. And then Warner Brothers asked me to go on an influencer trip with them to Brazil in 2019. So I went there, got to meet Margot Robbie and Gal Gadot, and it was really, really awesome, and then COVID happened. And so my job at motorcycle events was nonexistent. And so that was lots of fun. And I wound up starting my TikTok, and then I got a job as a content creator at a local marketing agency. And so, that’s sort of like brings me to today, but before, I’ll backspace a little bit, I reconnected with my partner five years ago, so this is like, right, probably like, I don’t know, I’m out of date, but I was still touring, I was still living at home and touring with the motorcycle industry. And I, he and I dated off and on as teenagers. And, you know, at this point, I’m just like, really not doing well mentally. And I had a dream about it one night and I was so jaded and just suffering. I was like, well, I wonder if he’s still alive. And so I looked at my phone and I just had this first name and I thought, like, this is probably not him, but I’m going to text it. And it was him, somehow, like 13 years later, and we started talking and, you know, two texts and he’s like, Oh my God, she’s not diagnosed because like in those 13 years he had been diagnosed with bipolar and had gone through treatment. And so he was talking to me with fresh eyes and was like, oh, wow. And so, you know, I’m still just in a really bad place. And he knew completely what he was getting into by talking to me and by helping me, and he decided that I was worth it. And he worked so hard, so hard that first year and a half, two years, I mean, I would be triggered. My CPTSD would be triggered daily by the smallest things. And he just, he would just sit there with me and hold me and talk to me and, and wouldn’t take it personally, you know? And one time, one time I was convinced he was cheating on me and he wasn’t. It was just another fun thing about being traumatized and having difficulty trusting people. And he never made me feel bad about it. He was actually the first person to ever present the idea to me that my CPTSD and the resulting depression and anxiety, wasn’t me, it was separate from me. So like, I wasn’t overreacting, but the CPTSD was going a little bit crazy. And it really like this idea that I was not, the conditions that I was experiencing really helped me to start feeling a sense of identity and a little bit of self-esteem because, you know, I had my whole life, I thought, like, I’m fucking crazy. Like, I don’t know why I do these things. Like, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I this, why can’t I that? And then it just, you know, it’s a spiral down. And he was the first person to be like, it’s not your fault. You didn’t choose these things, you didn’t choose to be traumatized. You’re not choosing to react this way, it’s just the trauma, it’s just the CPTSD. And at first, like, we didn’t know about the CPTSD, so it was just the depression and anxiety. But he, I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for him, like, I might not even be here because I was very suicidal with a plan right when we started talking again, I would just, you know, the nature of trauma and mental illness is that it gets worse if you don’t treat it, it does not go away. And I had been untreated for, you know, two decades. And so it had just progressed to the point that I just didn’t want to live anymore. And then he came back into my life and, you know, he saw the value in me that I couldn’t see. And he put in all of the work and effort and, you know, talking to me late at night when I’m like, crying. And, you know, I would just have these depressive episodes where I would just couldn’t stop crying or I would just feel when I would feel suicidal, he would like take me for a drive and talk to me and like, if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think that I would still be here and I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t be able to talk about these things. I would never have even known what was wrong with me. And so, yeah, I credit him solely for doing that.

Michael Swartz:
So I know you said you’re an atheist, but you, that dream, what a sign, you took that sign, whatever that thing is, you know.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
Whatever you want to do is what you want to believe. But it’s just so crazy how you had that and you acted on it. And.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
And he was there to listen. Somebody who’s gone through maybe not the same exact thing. But something and was able to be that support system. And I think it just goes to everybody needs to really be there. And I think that’s what when my good friends sent over your video and said, hey, you need to reach out to her. I was so excited because what? I didn’t even know the extent of everything and through in your entire journey, but I knew that just based off of some of your videos, the story that you’ve started to tell needs to be told. Because, I mean, I was looking at one of the posts you did, and there was so many comments that of people going through the same thing and you didn’t just sit there and not comment back, you engaged with that community. So I think you need to keep that series going. And every time you speak about it, you’re going to be helping that 30%, just like your friend did your journey.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah. And for me to even beyond, you know, the 30% that are undiagnosed, the because I think it’s about 7% of the population of the US has PTSD, there’s a lot more people who are completely unaware of the condition and the symptoms and how to talk to people with that and how to support people with the condition, you know, and how to not shame them because that’s a huge part of it is just the shame of, of suffering and feeling like it’s your fault for not being able to be normal. And, you know, my younger sister had tried to help me a few times, but like, before my partner came back into my life. But she used words and it wasn’t her fault at all, but she didn’t know that saying things like, you have to get a therapist. All of the CPTSD and my trauma heard was like, you’re not doing right because you should be doing this. And so her best intentioned effort to help me completely backfired because it wasn’t what I could hear through what I was suffering from. And so whereas my partner took the approach and he told me, when we started dating again, he told me that he wanted to know all of me. And he said, even the parts of you that you’re afraid no one will understand or that you think are shameful or ugly, I love you and I want to know every single part of you. And it was just pure acceptance. And it wasn’t with a you should do this or you’re not doing this. It was just, I want to know you. And even when he asked me if I wanted to go get diagnosed, he asked me, you know, he said, what do you think if I went with you to get diagnosed, do you think that that would be okay? And it was from this place of, of asking my consent. And it came across as helpful and understanding instead of, well, you’re not doing enough or you should do this or you shouldn’t do that. And people with this condition, like all we hear about, is what we’re not doing enough of and what we should do. You’re overreacting, you shouldn’t do that, what’s wrong with you? Why can’t you be happy? Like, why are you acting like that? Like it’s all shoulds and cants and. And so we just feel so ashamed of our inability to even understand what’s happening to us. Because, again, it starts so young most of the time. And that’s another reason I wanted to do this series was just to create more people who are trauma-informed. Because Adam being trauma-informed, my partner being trauma-informed, he was able to help me in a way that people who weren’t couldn’t. And another really great thing, my job actually where I work, so I started talking about my trauma and my CPTSD, and one of the owners, who was my manager, he still is my manager, we were just talking one time and I told him about my save phrase that like starts calming me down and bringing me back, which is you’re not in trouble. And so I didn’t know that he took note of that, but we had to have a meeting and, you know, I had made a little mistake. And so I just went into that meeting, just, I’m already triggered at this point because, of course, like, I’m in trouble. And so we sit down and he looks at me and he goes, you’re not in trouble like, it’s okay. And I was like, Oh my God. And like, that trigger that was building started quieting back down and he told the other owner and so she just and he let her know because he knew from talking to me that this was, you know, I suffered from CPTSD so it made working a job incredibly difficult. And so he wanted to help me not have as many triggers. So he remembers that phrase. And then he told the other owner. And so when she needed to talk to me, she was like, Hey, can we just chat real fast? Like, nothing’s wrong, everything’s okay. And I realized that he had done that. And like the experience of working in a company that we’re the leaders are making the effort to be trauma-informed and to take note of my condition and make it easier for me is just absolutely incredible. And I, I, just makes me think of, like, how many other people could watch this series and learn to be, you know, trauma-informed and listen to friends or family or coworkers or employees and make their lives a little bit easier and help you manage the life with this condition, that makes managing life really hard sometimes.

Michael Swartz:
Yeah, well, I mean, you gave a perfect description of why we created this and why we have people like you on. I think, what, it’s, it’s powerful. And, you know, all the listeners that are business owners hearing it from that employee’s perspective, the importance of not only the condition, but just your entire team’s mental health, mental well-being, it really is important. And I think what’s happening today with you having a lot more people starting to speak up about mental health from athletes to celebrities. You brought up to me before we started recording, you’re now on this journey to really destigmatize mental health. And I think it’s powerful to hear, for the longest time, you thought you were the problem, and it wasn’t until you started really understanding what a, for, you know, for people that are out there, that are sitting there and they’re thinking, you know, that’s kind of how I think, or, you know, I, I’ve always thought I’m the problem. Do you have any advice for how can somebody who is either already started on that journey or maybe doesn’t even realize, like, what’s your advice for the people that are feeling something that don’t even know that they’re feeling something?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
So my advice would be, first of all, you’re not the problem. There is absolutely nothing wrong or broken with them. And if you’re feeling, you know, something that I have said has resonated with you, I highly recommend reading the book The Body Keeps the Score, which has the, just the most amazing description of trauma and PTSD and examples of it, which that book really helped me to understand my own reactions and my own condition. And I am a huge, huge believer in therapy. I know that not everybody has access to it. And so doing a little bit of Googling, but keeping to, anytime I use Dr. Google, I stick to just the authorized people. So like psychologists and psychiatrists, don’t read a Facebook post about it necessarily, but just to look into it a little more and The Body Keeps a Score is great. Breneé Brown is a TED talker. She’s also really great in talking about some of these things. And I think internally thinking about it and if you have someone that you trust and you want to talk to you about it, just to sort of like verbalize, it really helps. And again, if you think that you’ve experienced some trauma or if you think you might have CPTSD, there’s a lot of really good articles online about it, but you do have to sort of sift through them because it’s not recognized as a separate diagnosis in the DSM five, even though it is, it is more like a variant of PTSD. And so The Body Keeps a Score is a great one. And then there’s I believe it’s a website. I want to say it’s like something recovery. I have a terrible memory, which is funny enough, like another symptom of CPTSD. I actually told my partner the other day I was like, yeah, you know, like that memory problem I have, trauma. But yeah, I definitely recommend The Body Keeps The Score is a really great starting place for learning more about trauma and PTSD and how it affects us.

Michael Swartz:
And then do you have any advice for the people that might not be going through something but might like your sister? Your sister.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Yeah.

Michael Swartz:
Was well-intentioned. What’s, what’s your advice for the people who might have friends or family that’s going through trauma or have experienced trauma and it’s having an effect on them?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
My advice would be if there’s someone in your life that you notice is struggling or, or they feel they seem to be down a lot or overreacting, approach them from a place of just support and acceptance and understanding. And I wouldn’t even come to them and be like, are you depressed? Because a lot of times, you know, speaking from personal experience, I was so ashamed of what I was going through that I was constantly repressing it. And if anybody had asked me, I would have said no, because it’s such a, it’s like a secret. You feel like it’s like a scarlet letter that marks you as, as messed up and broken. And what helped me the most was my partner just talking to me and then asking me like, you know, how can I support you? How can I be there for you? So you could even be, say, like, I want to be the best friend, partner, parents, you know, how can I be that for you? How can I be there for you more? Like, or I noticed you had a bad day, what can I do to help? You posing it as questions and like an accepting question of just wanting to support does way more, in my opinion, than you need to get therapy, or, or have you tried Zoloft? You know, because a lot of times those feel like accusations. And so just asking what you can do to help or what you can do to be a better friend or if you know that they like to watch movies or let’s say, like horror movies and be like, hey, do you want to have a horror movie night and just be a safe place for them, which, you know, my partner was the first safe place I had ever experienced. And a really important part that I actually haven’t touched on yet was my partner was the first time I had experienced a safe place or unconditional love, and it was the unconditional love and the safety that gave me the strength to address these things that I felt were shameful secret. And so if there’s someone in your life that you want to help or be there for or you feel is struggling, just come from it at an angle of being their safe place and their support. And you don’t even need to talk about the exact issue. You know, all my partners said was, I want to get to know you and the parts of you that you’re you think no one would love. He didn’t say like, I think you’re depressed. And it was that acceptance and that support and that safety that got me to the point where I was ready to open up about and even open up to myself about what I was experiencing.

Michael Swartz:
It’s powerful, powerful advice. So I know because I’ve been on your Instagram bit, on your TikTok and people are commenting, you’re giving advice on there. So where can any listeners find you? Where are you at on social media? And we’ll put all the links to the book and your social. But where can people find you?

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Thank you. I am on TikTok and Instagram and Facebook as HeidiMaetrix. But it’s M A E in Maetrix. That’s my middle name. Really hokey but I love it and you can find me under that username on those places and I actually will be editing the second episode of my CPTSD series and I’m starting with just the very beginning of what is it? And then I’ll be going through symptoms, what, you know, what happens to your brain during a CPTSD episode? Because I think it’s very important for people with this condition and people in their lives to understand like you can’t at logic, CPTSD or PTSD episode, it’s not going to happen. So if you want to know more about CPTSD and here’s some second-hand therapy, my therapist actually, her and I were talking about it. She gave me some things to recommend for my series, so I’ll be passing some straight second-hand therapy for anyone who doesn’t have access to it. And just talking more about the condition and what it’s like to live with it and things that you can do to help with it or help others that you know that might be struggling with it.

Michael Swartz:
Definitely put the links in. I know I’ll be watching. But, Heidi, it’s been, it’s been an unbelievable time talking to you. And you can’t get enough credit for the journey and through all the hardship where you are today. So I just thank you for your time today.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Aw, thank you for having me. It’s something I could talk about a lot because it is, unfortunately, a very large part of my life.

Michael Swartz:
Yeah, well, I think talking is, there’s people out there that are either going or need to go through it. So talking is the best thing to do about it. So I appreciate it, and I appreciate all the listeners and see you next week.

Heidi Mae Herrington:
Thank you so much.

Michael Swartz:
Hey listeners, thanks for tuning into another episode of Everyone Hates Healthcare. If you have a healthcare story, we want to hear it. All you got to do is shoot me an email with My Healthcare Story in the subject line to [email protected] Also, check out all the episode notes, resources, and more ways you can take control of your healthcare. All you got to do is just visit HealthKarma.org/Podcast while you’re on there, help us out. Don’t forget to drop us a rating a review and share it with all your family and friends. Can’t wait to see you next week.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • Trauma may result in our brain blacking out memories from those events.
  • Many people with PTSD have a before and after the trauma.
  • People with CPTSD have no before the trauma. 
  • CPTSD can express several symptoms, like blackouts or unintentional reactions to specific aggressive actions done by others. 
  • Individuals with PTSD usually don’t know they have it. 
  • When PTSD is triggered, the left side of the human brain shuts down, making people unavailable to communicate correctly. 
  • CPTSD and PTSD are life-long conditions because the brain has changed. 
  • EMDR is one treatment for PTSD and CPTSD. 

Resources:

  • Follow Heidi on Instagram and TikTok.
  • Get a copy of “The Body Keeps the Score” book here.
  • Remember to send us your Healthcare Story to [email protected] with the subject line: “My Healthcare Story”