What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?

I was born to parents who were addicted to drugs and alcohol, and a mother who was physically abusive and neglectful. I was taken away at 3 years old, after going through a rape, abuse for multiple years, and my siblings overdosing on my medications. I was put into the foster care system where I was raped repeatedly by an uncle. We, my siblings and I, were removed from my aunt and uncle, and taken in by my grandparents after my biological parents signed away their rights.

Shortly after moving there, severe abuse, neglect, and anger problems started. Both of my grandparents had very strict rules and often beat us for random reasons. Around the age of 7, I remember I started to feel depressed and attempted suicide for the first time. My sister walked in on me and convinced me to stop. I also started picking at my scalp as a way to self-harm. At the age of 8, I was diagnosed with depression. My grandmother was a retired LPN, so often times when I hurt myself or tried to kill myself where I needed medical attention, she handled it herself, as I was too young to understand how to “correctly” kill myself.

At the age of 12, I was finally taken away from my grandparents, who had adopted us in 2007. We were put back up for adoption and moved from Chamberlain to Fort Pierre. I ended up continuing to threaten to kill myself, as well as self-harm, so I was sent to HSC in Yankton, SD. I was there for a month and then sent back to Fort Pierre. However, treatment did not help, and I continued to hurt myself and ran away twice. I also assaulted my foster mom and destroyed much of be belongings. When I was being arrested, I kicked at the cop trying to arrest me. I was charged with two assault charges and a property damage charge and sentenced to mandatory treatment.

I was sent to Abbott House, where I lived for 1 year, 10 months, and 18 days. I successfully left the program and moved into their foster homes in December of 2013. During my time in the foster homes, I began to struggle again when my great grandmother died. The last time I ever hurt myself or someone else was October 30th, 2016. I had attacked my foster home out of anger, then attempted suicide. I was taken to Abbott House for three days and then moved to a different foster home. It was there that patience, love, understanding, and logic helped me overcome the trauma of the past and let go of those thoughts and urges to hurt myself and others. I was able to go to college, where I graduated with an associate’s degree in human services and went back to work for Abbott House. I have had a few slip-ups over the years where I was tempted to kill myself or self-harm, but I used the coping skills I was taught and my support system to help battle them. I have been clean for almost six years, and I plan to stay clean for the rest of my life.

 

 

What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

Treatment at Abbott House; medications to address my depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder; continued therapy; foster parents who were patient, kind, understanding, and loving; Avera Behavioral Health (I went there in December of 2021, where I was diagnosed with BPD); writing poetry; and self-help workbooks.

 

Based on your experience, how can we work to build resilience in ourselves, our loved ones, and in our communities to better face life’s challenges?

People struggling with similar issues I faced need someone who is patient, understanding, loving, and does not pressure them to talk, but lets them know they are there when they are ready to talk. There needs to be a lack of judgment for how they are feeling and coping, no matter how “positive” or “negative” the coping skill is. They also need honesty. For me, when someone was honest and upfront about how difficult it would be to overcome what I went through, but let me know they would be there every step of the way, I had faith and hope. And when I was told to “get over it,” that I was “dramatic,” that I “needed help,” or told that it’s “easy to move on,” I felt discouraged and misunderstood.

 

What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?

You cannot just “get better.” People who struggle with self-harm, suicide, or mental health will have good and bad days. You just have to be there no matter what and help them through.

 

Check out the Great Minds with Lost&Found episode featuring Cherokee: