On February 1, 2012, I (Don Shetterly) was invited to be on the Dr. Drew show airing on CNN – HLN. The show was discussing conversion disorder and the Leroy, NY medial mystery case with the girls that had developed ticks and twitches. In 1991, I suffered through a conversion disorder and have fully recovered from this experience.
Fortunately, I had some experience being put on the spot with questions, because I was extremely scared and nervous going into this experience on the show. I found Dr. Drew, Dr. John Sharp and the staff of the show to be very professional, understanding, and respectful. I still remember the first time I really talked about some of my child abuse story when a producer of the Oprah show called me up in regards to the 200 Men (Male Survivor) show in 2010. The subsequent interviews I did for local newspapers, gave me an opportunity to learn and grow as I publicly began to tell my story to strangers. I have always been open about my story, but to talk to complete strangers is much more difficult. In fact, this is really one of the first times that I have publicly talked about my experiences with conversion disorder.
It is interesting to look back at the events of the day. Just prior to the Dr. Drew show calling me, I had been through a rough couple of days and events. They are personal in nature, so I won’t share them publicly, but the day the call came through, I really wanted to just hide and be left alone. It is comical looking back, because at first I didn’t want to take the call, but then seeing that it was the Dr. Drew show on the phone, I thought it might be a good idea to speak with them.
Honestly, it was not easy talking about these experiences and I began to cry as a result. The emotion that was coming up was overwhelming because I was connecting with all these events of the past. I really did not realize just how much of an emotional charge was still residing within my body. The producer on the phone was patient and understanding, which helped greatly. Once the emotions came out, I was fine and more focused.
When they asked if I would agree to be on the show, I said yes. Little did I know the events that would transpire as a result of doing this show. I had very little time to get ready before a car service came to pick me up. On the way to the studio, the driver of the car wanted to know what my story was and why I was going to be on the Dr. Drew show. I explained it was about conversion disorder in connection to the Leroy, NY story. Being able to talk about this with a complete stranger helped take some of the fears and nervousness away that I was feeling at that moment.
I felt very respected by Dr. Drew when it came to the show taping and the questions that he asked. The last thing I want to do is become a media spectacle. I could tell that he really understood conversion disorder and he was a very compassionate person. I’ll never forget that time on the air where I felt truly honored and respected in this process.
On the way home, I remember feeling energized and exhausted at the same time from the emotional high of the experience. My mind was thinking about a million things and processing the experience. After all, when I woke up that morning, I had no idea I would be on the Dr. Drew show. It is one of those moments that happens and you have to stop and see that your role in the universe is part of a bigger purpose.
As we were nearing the house, I asked the driver of the car if I was supposed to tip him because I really didn’t know what proper protocol was in this situation. He told me that no, it was all picked up by the show and that I was the celebrity. I laughed at the thought of being a celebrity for I am just one simple and ordinary person living in a small town in Florida.
A few days passed and all of the sudden I received an email from someone who also was dealing with conversion disorder. They had been flipping through channels and happened to come across the show at the exact time I was on. When they heard me talk about my experiences, they began to search for a way to contact me.
After getting in touch with me, I shared with them about therapy that I have used to help me fully heal from conversion disorder. It is called Unified Therapy which was created and developed by Dr. Paul Canali of Miami, Florida. The more I explained to them, the more they were interested in learning more. After a conference call with Dr. Canali, they made a decision to travel to Miami for some treatment. I still remember the words they told me was that now “we feel like we have hope”. These words touched me deeply in more ways then anyone can imagine. I remember feeling like there was no hope in life for me when I was going through the experience of the conversion disorder and getting no answers from the medical community.
Last week, I went down and spent a week with the conversion disorder survivor at Dr. Canali’s office. This was the first time in 21 years that I have met anyone face to face who knows what this disorder is all about. It meant the world to me and I saw this person begin to have their life transformed. There is no magical overnight cure for conversion disorder, but it is a process of learning to connect with your body and let go of the traumatic moments in life you have experienced. It is about learning that nothing is wrong with you, but that all of this is stored energy from trauma looking for a way to exit the body. Yes, I realize that is a simplistic way to look at it, but once you understand this, healing will grow exponentially.
Little did I know that morning when I woke up, that I would be a link to someone beginning to find their way through the pain they experienced in life. I shudder at the thought if I would have refused to talk to the Dr. Drew show out of my selfishness in the moment, dealing with the struggles I was facing in life. Sometimes we never know how we will be used by the universe to be there for someone else.
I feel honored to have met this conversion disorder survivor because it not only began to change their life, but it changed my life in many ways. Before this connection, I had done a great amount of healing in my life and in my body, but observing the process they went through, connected in an innate way with my body to help me learn parts of this process I had never fully understood.
For me, I don’t want people to pity me for what I went through. I don’t want people to compare their trauma to my experiences because trauma is trauma. Yes, some of us get varying degrees of what we experienced, but trauma is trauma. What I want people to take away from my life is that if you have been through some of the events I have been through, hope and healing is possible. It may seem like a more difficult challenge than you have the strength for but I want you to see from my story, that it is possible. It requires us to take the step of realizing we need help and then never giving up until we find the way to healing in our life.
To read a transcript of the Dr. Drew show I was on, click this link
To read about my story in my book, Hope And Possibility Through Trauma, click this link.
For more on Dr. Canali and Unified Therapy, click this link.