07 Sep Alexa Conners: Pro MMA Fighter & Mental Health Advocate
What inspired you to be so passionate about mental health?
My father suffered from mental health illness his entire life. He never seeked counseling, didn’t take the medication he was prescribed and most of all, stayed a prisoner in his mind. On Sept 16, 2015, my father murdered his fiancé and then later shot himself in a Wal-Mart parking lot when the Virginia State Troopers were making a well fare check on my father. I never want people to feel the pain that my family still endures today.
What is your age? How old are you when the incident happened?
27. I was 24 years old when my father died.
How many siblings do you have?
3 siblings, brother and 2 sisters, I am the oldest.
What was your childhood like?
Childhood- secretive and hard. My father was extremely controlling. But we looked like the perfect middle class family on the outside.
Please give a description of your father?
My father: He had a huge heart, that inappropriate funny dad who made everyone laugh, very intelligent, he was one of my most favorite people on this earth. Until he unraveled slowly and started to turn into a person I no longer knew who he was.
Were you close with your family?
I am very close with my family.
How did the stigma affect your family?
Losing my dad was hard and is still very hard today. But what haunts us and hurts the most is knowing he took Joy’s life. He let his most evil demons take over which could have been prevented if the mental health system wasn’t so flawed.
Was your father diagnosed with a mental illness?
Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Bi polar, Narcissistic, Depression, Paranoia.
Did your family notice any early signs of a mental illness?
Yes, we saw it take the turn for the worst when two of his best friends passed away.
Was your father in therapy? If he was not in therapy, do you think the stigma affected the reason he decided not to seek help?
My father was in and out of the mental health facility two different times but never stayed in therapy once released. He was too worried about “getting back” at the family for making him go into treatment. My dad never admitted something was wrong with him, also looked weak to go to therapy in his eyes.
How has your father’s mental illness affected you and your family?
His mental illness carried down to us kids. We have forms of PTSD from the way we were raised and learned traits and actions from him that were not healthy. We all struggled with accepting that just because our Dad did what he did, did not mean that we were going to become him. We each have our own “stuff” from our childhood, but we work every single day to improve ourselves and grow as people. That’s all you can do, be willing to work on you.
What brought you to the place you are at now?
Honestly, my siblings have brought me to the place I am today. They started recovery treatment and decided for themselves to stay in the programs to better their lives and learn skills and techniques to help overcome my dad’s wrongs and also cope with his loss.
I started to go to EMDR trauma therapy and my therapist has helped tremendously. I will forever be grateful for the time she has invested into me and to help me recover from years of hell.
How do you think raising awareness mental health awareness and doing work to eradicate the stigma affects people who are silently struggling?
I think raising the awareness and speaking out about our story will help those who went through something similar; additionally one’s loved one who is terrified to leave an abusive/mentally ill person. Hopefully we can encourage others to leave the situation, or if they are struggling in the ways my dad was, we hope hearing our pain and how much we love and miss him today will give them the strength to fight for themselves.