Lea: The light at the end of my tunnel

I consider myself blessed to be able to share my experience with clients through my role as a peer specialist in hopes of helping them find the light at the end of their tunnel like I found mine.

My story began at a rather young age. Mental illness runs heavily in my family – most notably mood disorders such as bipolar depression and major depression.

I was directly impacted by my father’s struggle with major depression and subsequent suicide when I was nine years old. This traumatic loss at such a young age led me down a dark road as I found myself face to face with heavy thoughts and feelings that I can only imagine were similar to my father’s. It scared me because I was too young to understand what these thoughts and feelings were, or what they meant; I had no understanding as to why I felt completely empty inside.

I faced many years with this overwhelming sadness during which I sought both family and individual therapy. As I grew older, it became more complicated. I learned more about who my father was and I grew angry. I learned that I came from a broken family and that my mother suffered severe physical and emotional abuse by the hands of my father when I was just a toddler. There were numerous occasions where my mom, sisters and I had to live in battered woman and children’s shelters throughout my childhood. I do not have a clear recollection of my childhood and have repressed many bad memories and possibly exposure to violence.

Learning this information steered me on a reckless path because I did not know how to manage the anger and sadness that was so deeply rooted within me. I engaged in self-destructive behaviors which included using drugs and alcohol and harming myself – these were my inadvertent ways to cope.

It has been several years since I have engaged in reckless behaviors and I am proud to say that I have come out on the other side. It has been a long road, but I have come to terms with my trauma and have forgiven my father, which was a huge step for me. Through tremendous support from immediate family members, close friends, and my own will to not let my trauma dictate my life and my future, I have made it out alive. Instead of partaking in reckless behaviors, I now choose to focus on school (I am currently enrolled in a Masters of Marriage & Family Therapy Program) and engaging in many outdoor activities such as hiking in the mountains, swimming, and fishing. I also enjoy painting. I utilize these activities as not only hobbies, but positive coping techniques as well.

I have been employed through North Range Behavioral Health since June of 2016, and I consider myself blessed to be able to share my experience with clients through my role as a peer specialist in hopes of helping them find the light at the end of their tunnel like I found mine.

— Lea Powell