HUNTINGTON, TX (KTRE) - Every day, a Huntington woman gets out of bed and walks everywhere she needs to go, whether it be the grocery store, the post office, or even the movies. It's all a part of her therapy to cope with years of depression, but thirteen years ago, her life was very different.
"It's been a hard road. It's been a very difficult journey. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," said Donna Whitwell.
Back in 2002, Whitwell was a hard-working mother. She was a nurse, and was providing for her two children. But one day, she said she just snapped.
"I had what you might call the 'superwoman syndrome,' thing going on. Well, one day I just started gaining weight, and I wasn't eating. I could not sleep for nothing, and they tried me on several different medications. None of them worked," Whitwell said.
She quickly began to gain weight, eventually gaining so much weight she got up to 215 pounds. She began to see several doctors who told her she had hypothyroidism - a problem that doctors initially thought was causing her depression.
Hypothyroidism causes weight gain, depression, and inability to sleep, Whitwell said.
"I could not sleep. I couldn't eat. I had no energy. And so I started having these suicidal thoughts that would just not leave my mind," Whitwell said.
Then, tragedy struck. Whitwell said she woke up months later in a Waco hospital after a failed suicide attempt, but that wasn't the last time.
"I was having these suicidal thoughts of driving my car over a bridge and into the water," Whitwell said. "So, I drove myself from Palestine to Tyler and that was the beginning of my journey to try and figure out what was wrong with me."
Whitwell was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and later, full-fledged depression.
"Right before it happened, I felt very hopeless. I felt like a failure. I was feeling like a burden, and I couldn't understand wh with me praying and stuf things just didn't change for me," Whitwell said. "Whenever I was first diagnosed with it, I was so ashamed of it. I felt like it was something I had done wrong, and I felt like I had been wronged."
Yet, her battles weren't even close to being over. Whitwell said one day her then-boyfriend got so mad at her he began to beat her. She said he beat her so bad that she felt as if she was going to die.
"My lower back was broken, and I learned how to walk again. I learned how to just get up and put one foot in front of the other. It was not an easy journey. But, I'm not willing to give up," Whitwell said.
Whitwell said she began to educate herself about domestic violence and was astonished about what she found out in a pamphlet.
"I almost just dropped it cause everything was him," Whitwell said.
She then moved back home to Huntington, where she started a period of recovery. She said she first began walking everywhere and then got a pet dog.
Even though Whitwell is still dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the domestic violence, she said she feels as if she's been given a second chance.
"By the grace of God, he wasn't done with me yet," Whitwell said.
If you have a survivor's story or know of someone with a survivor's story, email Michelle Reed at email@example.com. She is specifically looking for a survivor of bankruptcy.