Krista’s Recovery Story

(The following is a transcript of Krista’s Recovery Story.)

Hi, my name is Krista. I’d like to talk a little bit about my story about my mental health recovery. 

Ever since I was a child, I remember being plagued by anxiety, although I had no understanding of the concept at that time. I would always handle situations differently than most of my schoolmates would. I never wanted to be any kind of bother to my parents or the teachers…pretty much any adult because adults were always busy with their work and I had a sense that I should not take any attention away from their work and onto myself. So, with this idea in my head, as early as preschool, I would always remain silent. I thought this so much that I would keep quiet even in situations in which I really needed help or was physically hurt. I just couldn’t bother the adults. This was never something I had heard someone tell me, at least not to my recollection. Anxiety manifested in a very odd way during my childhood and it would continue to change over the years, especially during my teenage years.

In middle school, I was chubby and I had no idea about what was trendy to wear, so I was bullied. This contributed to a loathing of the body that I was born into and periods of very deep depression. Depression became a daily task to handle and coupled with the anxiety, by the time I was in high school, I began self-harming and experimenting with alcohol and marijuana in order to find some kind of peace and balance but it was fruitless. Even though I had not yet reached out to a doctor for a proper diagnosis, I had an understanding that depression was to blame and after finding a self test for depression, it was informally confirmed.

I managed to keep my grades up all throughout high school, maintaining a place on the honor roll all four years, and I participated in recreational softball, volleyball, I was a member of the Spanish club and I had many friends. I graduated and was accepted into Penn State at the Beaver campus. I loved everything about that first semester. I did well, made Dean’s list and I was super eager to get back to classes after our Christmas break, but unfortunately life had some other plans for me.

On January 6th, 2007, only a few days before the break was over, I was heading to work when I was hit, head on, by a drunk driver doing about 60 mph in a 30 mph zone that happened to only be two blocks away from my house. I remember everything so vividly; the sound of the crunching and twisting metal, the smell and heat from the airbag…and I was stuck, unable to open my door or even move. I remember looking down at my upper thigh and seeing not a straight thigh, which immediately told me I had a break in my thigh bone. I was wearing my seatbelt which, I was told, saved my life. So after 45 minutes of cutting the metal away, I was taken out, driven by ambulance to the closest hospital where I was then transported by Life Flight to UPMC’s trauma unit in Pittsburgh. After 6 days of tests, traction and surgery I was released with a shattered right femur, a broken right ankle, 7 breaks in my right foot and a badly sprained left knee and ankle and was wheelchair bound for 3 months. This was the darkest period of my life…everyone was going back to classes and getting on with their lives…I was at home, unable to even stand up and at that moment I felt so completely alone, like everything was happening without me. So, as the physical pain began to very slowly subside, the emotional pain I felt grew out of control and the pain pills I was prescribed helped just a tiny bit to take some of that loneliness away. That was all it took. I started needing them to help mend the pain not in my legs, but in my heart. Once the doctor called and told me to start weening myself off, no mention of a plan or possible withdrawal symptoms or what I could be facing, I decided to start getting them from the streets and, little did I know at the time, this would turn into a decade long addiction.

At my absolute worst, I was spending about $300 a day to support not only my own habit but also my boyfriend at the time and his habit. There was nothing I would not do to get my fix no matter who I hurt and this was the furthest away from the true person I was and what I stood for. I was such a good kid and when I looked in the mirror, I was ashamed, but the power of addiction really has a way of pulling down the veil so that obvious things can be hard to see. They say that if you stay in addiction it only leads to 3 different, possible outcomes of where one might end up; Jails, Institutions or Death and my journey was exactly the same. Finally, after the fourth stay in the county jail for drug related crimes, something became very clear to me. When I was incarcerated, instead of keeping to myself and isolating, I asked questions and listened to stories…stories of horror, yes, but the strength, resilience and over all demeanor of the women I spent time with opened up something inside of me that I haven’t felt in years…compassion, knowing the worth of every single person and also that if they all took just a quarter of the strength they showed in dealing with what life had given them and put it toward something positive and helpful, they could end up never going back to that place, making a life and living it well. I wanted with everything to portray that to them, but in order to do so and have any credit at all, I knew it had to start with me.

During my last incarceration, I spent 4 months thinking and planning and writing down ideas of how I could make something happen in my life so that I could then focus on getting myself in a position where I could share my experience and show everyone that if I could do it, they could as well. After the 4 months, I was sent straight to my first attempt at a rehab, but it all worked out for me and what I needed in my own recovery. At the rehab, they had invited a Certified Peer Specialist to share her story of recovery and it was then that I was inspired and motivated to learn more about Certified Peer Specialists. Once I was finally home, I took the list out that I had made while incarcerated and I started taking action, one step at a time. I reached out to The Office of Vocational Rehab, I told them what I was interested in and it just so happened that the case worker that was helping me had worked with the supervisor over at The Mental Health Association in Beaver County. It wasn’t too long after that I was working there, starting at the bottom and would gradually work up to a variety of different skill sets and of all of my experiences with The MHA so far, the one that I feel most proud of and that I keep close to my heart is having the opportunity to go back into that same jail and share with the people there hope, wellness tools, resource connections and anything else my team and I can think of that may help them develop a clear and healthy recovery pathway for themselves…catered to their own needs and strengths.

When I stop and think about my life and my journey, I am so amazingly grateful that I was able to truly learn and grow from all of life’s downfalls. There is a quote that reads “For how can one see color in perpetual green, and what good is the warmth without the cold to give it sweetness?” I think this quote is a perfect way of saying that bad times, just like good times, can have many benefits for later in life. We just need to learn how to listen and how to be thankful for the learning experience. Without those bad times, the good times can slowly begin to lose allure. My recovery is a never ending journey, a life change and for all the ones lost to drugs, alcohol, mental health crises, whatever it may be, change direction and give it a chance…every single person on Earth is worthy of a happy and fulfilling life.

If you or someone you love is struggling, the Mental Health Association of Beaver County is an awesome place to start the journey of recovery. Call 724-775-9507.

Click to hear Bob’s story