A Story of Hope: Victoria's Story
November 07, 2023
I have struggled with mental illness for the last decade or so. As a lifelong athlete, my entire identity and sense of self-worth was tied to my performance on the field. So when a brain injury ended my college sports career, I lost that piece of identity and completely fell apart. I sought treatment for an eating disorder and other mental health issues, but ended up graduating college in a good spot despite experiencing some really hard things. For years, I managed my issues pretty well using consistent outpatient therapy and medication. Then, a year ago, a devastating accident not only shattered my body, but also my mind.
In addition to broken bones, that accident left me sleepless, unable to use my mental health medication, and triggered intense symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and, ultimately, a severe depressive episode. I tried to cope on my own through outpatient therapy, but my mental health continued to deteriorate. I was struggling at work and struggling to maintain relationships with family and friends. Everyone around me was concerned. Finally, 6 months after the accident, my outpatient therapist sat me down and told me that I needed to pursue more intensive care.
Having such a complex range of mental health and physical conditions, it was difficult for me to find treatment. It felt like no one was willing to help me, and I questioned why I should bother to keep trying. After another dead end, I attempted to take my own life. Just two days later, I connected with HopeWay.
I came to HopeWay so deep into my symptoms I couldn’t function. I was fearful that I wouldn’t get better. I truly did not think I was helpable. But as I participated in different therapy sessions, I observed others around me come and go, have breakthroughs, and make significant headway in their recovery. These moments helped me realize what’s possible if you stay, you do the work, and you follow the plan.
About a month into treatment, I told my therapist that I was thinking about going back to school after leaving HopeWay. She just sat back and smiled. In response to my look of confusion, she said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you talk about anything future-oriented.” She was right. I was considering a future for the first time in a very long time.
Slowly, I felt myself coming back to life. When I first got to HopeWay, I had no desire to compete – typically a significant part of my personality as a former athlete. As we played games and other activities in Recreational Therapy, I felt that competitive drive return. In those moments, I realized, “These are things that I enjoy. I’m having fun!” I had forgotten what fun felt like. I was surprised how I gravitated towards music and art therapy. I even learned how to play the ukulele, something that I still practice daily as a stress reliever. Together, my therapist and psychiatrist helped me understand my anxiety and depression, find effective medication, and develop skills to help manage my symptoms. I used to frequently ask my therapist when I would be “fixed.” She helped me realize that I wasn’t a broken item that needed to be fixed. I was a human being in pain who needed time and care to heal.
The people at HopeWay saved my life in a lot of ways. I felt immensely loved and cared for there. It was a community, not just a treatment center. It was the place I needed to put myself back together one piece at a time.
When I first came to HopeWay, I didn’t want to be alive anymore, but I knew I wanted to want that. Today, I not only want to be alive, I feel overwhelmingly happy to be here. Managing my mental health still takes work every day, and I do struggle sometimes. But the skills I learned at HopeWay allow me to confidently face those more challenging moments head-on and continue making headway in living a healthier, more balanced life.