Tag: addiction

Niko Hathaway

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

Over the course of my life, I’ve dealt with significant and at many times severely debilitating symptoms of social and generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar type II (frequent and persistent severe clinical depression with occasional hypomanic episodes), as well as ADD. The diagnoses are all interrelated, and in my eyes, symptoms of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

Moving through life with this much neurodiversity without an understanding of what is actually causing so much stress can bring a person to their breaking point—especially in a society that is not designed to recognize and support the gifts that people like myself bring.

I wasn’t raised to talk about mental health. My depression started as early as the third grade from what I remember. I recognized early on that I was different, and my way of “being” in the world didn’t fit the typical mold. Feeling I would be cast out or looked down upon, basically “in danger,” I forced myself to do the things that were expected hallmarks to success—work hard in school, college, and grad school, and go into a high-paying career in a field that helped people.

In college, my dreams were to be a director/producer for music videos, but I was told it was too hard to make it in creative videography. I ended up working as a production assistant for TV news, and when I saw the distortion in “the news,” I became disillusioned. I was encouraged to pursue a job in healthcare to make an impact in the world. I got into a competitive graduate program but realized early on I did not feel passionate about this career. I listened to everyone else instead of my heart. I developed many unhealthy coping mechanisms like an eating disorder and a massive substance abuse problem with alcohol, as well as other addictions, to cope with the pain of deserting myself. I had abandoned myself to become what I was told was safe and expected.

The repression of my truth and use of harmful coping mechanisms to deal with this repression led to symptoms and diagnosis of major mental illness. To add fuel to the fire, as a highly sensitive, deeply empathic person who did not know herself, I was drawn to imbalanced romantic partnerships where the focus was on meeting the emotional needs of the other at the expense of valuing myself or even being visible.




What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

The journey to understanding the events that cause the appearance of groups of symptoms that we call “mental illness” was the key to overcoming the challenges I faced. This has taken a lifetime of deep introspection, counseling, life coaches, mentors, endless studying and a willingness to face the things we are taught to turn away from. I needed to do a lot of “mirrorwork” and “shadow work,” and I continue to do these practices. “Mirrorwork” is confronting the things that make us uncomfortable about others and examining why and what wounding they are reflecting to us. “Shadow work” is taking a deep look at the parts of ourselves that we hide away, are ashamed of or try to repress and instead trying to understand.

Once I worked through disillusion, programming and shame, I was able to explore the things I was interested in but was told I “should not be” when I was younger. This included deep spiritual study in world religions, the wisdom traditions, and mystical philosophies, as well as learning about how power structures work in politics, religion, banking, and capitalism and how fear is widely leveraged to build controlling narratives that make us question and doubt ourselves. Learning to question literally everything I’ve been taught and push back when things feel out of alignment has been essential to taking my power back. Really, that is the most powerful work I have done—to challenge the systems, beliefs, and values that were impressed upon me since birth so that I could access my truth vs. what I’ve been conditioned or told was my “truth.”

I haven’t had any symptoms of any of my previous diagnoses for several years now. Freeing myself from as much oppression as possible and challenging myself to do so has been my saving grace. The key was learning about myself, bucking societal norms, and making the effort to trust myself versus what was taught to me that helped me to stand up for myself and follow my own personal truth.

“Unlearning” is a life-long journey that is best started as early as possible. My resources range from psychology textbooks to lectures by spiritual thought leaders and everything in between. I would highly recommend the books Radical Self-Acceptance by Tara Brach, Belonging by Toko-Pa Turner, and Untamed by Glennon Doyle. On Instagram, I love the accounts The.Holistic.Psychologist and Toniagy. I talk about my journey and everything that has helped along the way in my podcast, Brave Never Broken with Niko Hathaway.


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?

Education is the first essential step—learning what healthy thoughts and behaviors are and are not. When we are educated, we are able to recognize imbalance within ourselves and our environments. Resilience is built when we lean in to the discomfort of actually recognizing imbalance, calling ourselves on it and taking the necessary steps to create change.


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

Diagnoses are simply a helpful way of identifying a cluster of symptoms. They don’t define a person.

Jessica Cline

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

I have struggled with my mental health for the majority of my life. In my younger years, I didn’t understand that is what fueled a lot of my missteps through life. My unaddressed depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder led me into a life of drug addiction and external validation.  

I began my rehab journey in 2013. While I was in treatment in Florida, I was diagnosed with those mental health disorders, but due to extenuating circumstances, I could not continue my treatment/medication and soon relapsed. In 2015, after a series of horrible events, I found myself in South Dakota, starting over with two suitcases to my name. Even after all the years of therapy, and trying to understand my drug addiction, it still didn’t click for me—I was still seeking external validation and love in all the wrong places. I still had no idea who I was or what I was worth. 

In 2016 I terminated an unexpected pregnancy, and that is really what I called the “beginning of the end,” after a pretty big downward spiral. While I wasn’t in active addiction anymore, I was still in that addict mentality—the “storm” followed me wherever I went. I had job loss after job loss. I couldn’t even find a way to be honest with the therapist and psychiatrist I was seeing.  Eventually the pain was too much, and I attempted suicide.  

After that, I had a weeklong stay in a behavioral health unit. I was determined to “get it right” this time—if I could do enough and be enough, all of this would go away. I still couldn’t see my mental illness as something that had to be handled on a daily basis—it’s not something I can just FIX. It’s something I grow to learn and understand.  

In the fall of 2017, I attempted suicide for the second time. I had spent an entire month on my couch, not working, not showering, hating myself, my partner resenting me—and I determined that I was not made for this world. It HURT to just be awake. It hurt to just exist. I thought I had done too much wrong, and there was no way my life could get better.  

Thankfully, through a support system and the enduring love of my grandparents, I made my way back to North Carolina. I spent the next 18 months finding myself, not looking for a new boyfriend, not chasing a high that would never be enough. I found my way back onto my feet and really discovered who I was and how strong I truly am.  

Mental health is not a weakness. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Once I learned to embrace my mental health and my story, and grew to understand that my journey is part of who I was, the real healing began. Now in September 2022, I am currently engaged to the most perfect man and 7 months pregnant with a sweet baby girl. I have a career I love, two dog babies that are my entire world, and the best friend group I could ever ask for. I have made all of my amends, and I am happy and in love with who I am today. 


What resources have helped you to address this challenge?  


I can’t say there is a specific thing/resource that has helped me—it’s been a variety of things over the years. Finding a hobby, having a support system of friends and family, having an animal. I’ve seen a few therapists/psychiatrists over the years, and they have helped in their own ways. I did spend some time with AA/NA, and having that network of people was very nice. 


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? 

I think taking the time to understand and learn your specific mental illness/struggles and triggers is the key to staying ahead of things. Learn about yourself. Build a support group that you can reach out to. Find a hobby to keep you distracted when the days get too hard. Practice emotion regulation. 


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

It’s OK to have mental health issues. It’s not something you can just “be better” than. It’s an illness that has to be maintained and nourished so YOU can stay healthy. 

Tayler McCarty

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

I was introduced to the word suicide at age 13. A good friend of mine came to me about a “suicide pact.” Being so young, still so naïve to what the world had in store for my life, I agreed. Talking about how sad we were and making these plans it almost felt like planning a play date, not our final moments. The day we had chosen was set for two days before our very first day of high school. I had then changed my mind, still treating this plan so lightly and not seriously, I asked her over and over on social media for her to let us at least go to one day of school, but her mind was set. I don’t think at age 13 I knew the severity of “death.” Final was something I don’t think I could nor can I still wrap my brain around. That crisp September morning, I woke up to a phone call. She was gone. She left without me. To this day I carry around the guilt of not telling anyone. If only I would have done something. I felt like such a coward for staying. She left this world alone, and I will live with that forever.

Losing her changed my life in so many ways. After that my mental health spiraled downward. I was put on anti-depressants and played roulette with psych meds, trying to find something that worked. I have attempted suicide three times.

At age 22, I got pregnant with my son and lost him at 23 weeks pregnant. I delivered him unexpectedly alone, at home. After two blood transfusions and two surgeries, I developed a highly addictive relationship with narcotics, which lead me into the next six years living life in addiction. During one detox off of opiates I got desperate and graduated to methamphetamine. At this point I had developed schizophrenia on top of my already diagnosed anxiety, manic depression (with suicidal ideations and tendencies), ADHD, dissociative disorder, and an eating disorder (body dysmorphia).

I have had three substance abuse treatment stays. For the last one, I was away from home and my two daughters for 4 months. I will celebrate 3 years clean and sober on January 2, 2022.

I still battle my mental health struggles daily. However, every day I am dedicated to taking care of myself and my mental health as well as helping others. Three months ago, I achieved a goal I have had since I was a junior in high school—I finally got myself into a spot mentally and physically where I applied to become a crisis counselor for the crisis text line. After a long submission and them contacting references, I was accepted! It has been an amazing feeling to give back to the same places that helped me pull through some of my darkest days. I want people to know it’s okay to not be okay, and there is hope and help out there. You matter. Your story matters. SO STAY.


What resources have helped you to address this challenge?

The support and family I have built around me. My resilience and strength to keep pushing on. Podcasts and Ted talks. A couple mental health mentors along the way.


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?

Shame dies when stories are told in safe places. Bottom line, we need to be making places more “talk” or “open door” friendly. There needs to be more educational tools given to certain work fields. We need to be teaching our children about healthy coping skills, rather than pretending it won’t happen or thinking if we bring hard subjects up to our kids that maybe it’s planting a seed in their heads to do those things. Stopping the stigma that kids should be seen and not heard. We need support groups for all ages in grief, dual diagnosis, etc.


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

This too shall pass. Do not make a permanent decision for a temporary problem. What you feel now is not a forever feeling. And there’s hope and help out there. Everyone’s story matters, and tomorrow wouldn’t be the same without you in it.

Bridget Swier

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

The moonlight reflected off the still water, and all I could think as I sat alone on the beach in the dark with a giant bottle of whiskey was, “I want to feel the kind of stillness and peace the moon and the water have. Maybe if I walk out into the water, let it consume me and not fight it, this unbearable pain in my chest and heart will be gone.” I was exhausted from carrying a heaviness in my chest, heart, and soul for most of my life.  

 Looking back, I can see this as a warning sign of the danger I would soon be in because a few short months after that night, I would try to end my life.  

The pain I had been carrying from a lifetime of unresolved trauma was taking complete control over my life. I had tried everything to escape facing the excruciating feelings of worthlessness, abandonment, rejection, and agony associated with surviving every form of abuse possible over my 35 years of life. Nothing I tried was healthy or worked long-term, and many of the unhealthy coping skills led to more trauma created by my own choices. I used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. I felt so unlovable I searched for validation in risky sexual behavior outside of my marriage. I overate, over-exercised, overworked, furthered my education, and tried to put on the mask of a perfect wife and mother. It was only a matter of time before all those vices stopped serving their numbing and escaping purpose and presented a whole other set of problems for me to face. The consequences of my poor coping skills became so great I only caused myself more pain and shame.  

I was so good at hiding my suffering from almost everyone around me. Those who knew me from the outside didn’t see all the ugly I felt inside. Many people referred to me as a “success” given all the trauma I experienced. My perspective was the polar opposite. I knew I had always been a fighter, resourceful, and did what I needed to do to survive, but I was tired of just surviving life. I didn’t want to continue to feel that life was only about surviving; I wanted to feel internal peace, happiness, and joy, which had always eluded me. I didn’t have the energy to keep fighting to find it anymore. The force of the knockout punch from life was just around the corner and would be the lowest point in my life.   

After chasing another hollow relationship with a man filled with false promises and no foundation, I had filed for divorce. The relationship would be my next quick fix to find the happiness I longed for, but I felt conflicted about walking away from a marriage with so much time invested in it. My soon-to-be ex-husband of 17 years saw me spiraling out of control. 

On the night of my suicide attempt, I drank heavily and came home after the bars closed. I imagine in his frustration; my husband threatened to take full custody of the children. The thought of this was more than I could bear. In my eyes, they were the lifeline I had clung to for so long, and he just threatened to rip them away from me. Mid-fight, I walked into our bedroom and tried to end my life. He came back to our room, saw what I was doing, moved to stop me, and immediately called 911. 

I don’t remember much after he called 911. But I do recall my four children standing in the doorway of their rooms, crying as they watched their mom roll down the hallway on a stretcher to the ambulance. Days later, when I woke up, I remember their father sitting beside my hospital bed clutching photos of our children and with tears streaming down his face begging me to live for them. The guilt and shame I carried from that night and what my ex-husband and children witnessed would haunt me for several years. 

I had mixed feelings immediately following my suicide attempt. I was angry and embarrassed because I had failed to end my pain. I was worried about what people would think of me when they found out. I was in so much pain before, and it felt so much worse after I woke up. Surviving confirmed all the worst beliefs I had about myself. I couldn’t even get dying right. Yet, I didn’t necessarily want to die, but I desperately wanted the anguish to die. How was I going to pick myself up this time? Where do I go for help if I don’t want to die? My life felt so out of control with no idea how to gain some sense of composure, find a will to live and keep fighting.  

It was a slow and tedious process to find the path of recovery that worked and fit for me. It was painful as hell to face all I had been trying to escape for so long, but it was the only way I wouldn’t find myself right back fighting myself for my life. I realized I needed to put as much, if not more effort, into healing from the inside out as I had in finding ways to avoid the pain.  

Complex trauma meant complex treatment combinations. I needed medication to help stabilize my mood and emotions. I couldn’t deal with my PTSD and severe depression without helping my brain manage it with medication. I found a personal counselor who was well trained in complex trauma and met weekly for two years. Over time, my therapy planted the seed of hope that it might be possible to find my way out of the darkness and into the light. I started to dig deep to find out who I was, not who I told myself I was because of the violation’s others had committed against me. I had to learn to combat the negative self-talk that crept into my mind. Slowly, I gained strength, and my courage to keep facing the heartache increased. 

Five years after my attempt, I felt strong enough to use my story to help others, and I began a career in suicide prevention and working with families who have lost a loved one to suicide. Never in a million years did I think everything I went through would serve a greater mission, and my story would be the driving force for a passion in letting others know they are not alone.  

It has been eight years since I tried to take my life, and I still am mindful of my mental health. I still take medications, have weekly counseling sessions, learn about self-care, and enriching healthy relationships. I continue to learn about shame, release it, and discover who I am again as an empty nester and a loving wife. Life’s hardships can still be overwhelming to balance, but today I feel far more equipped to manage them in a healthy, productive way. There are still times where the residual effects of trauma rear their ugly head. I now know I am strong enough to thrive through those moments and am reassured, knowing they are just for a moment.  


What resources have helped you to address this challenge? 

At the time of my attempt, I did not feel like there were many resources aside from psychiatry, counseling, and close trusted friends. I utilized advice from my psychiatrist for medication recommendations to find the right combination of medicine that would make my PTSD and depression more manageable. I utilized a counselor who was very knowledgeable in trauma, leaned on my trusted friends, and explored my faith beliefs to find a church who offered other kinds of support groups. When I attempted there were no suicide attempt support groups to attend.  


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? 

Yes, mental wellness is an individual’s responsibility, but it is not something to be done alone. As a community, we need to gather around and embrace those struggling and reinforce the reassurance no one has to go through hardships alone. Judgment serves only the purpose of shaming and guilt; it serves no positive purpose and causes additional harm. One may not understand the suffering an individual is going through, but a conversation built on the foundation of understanding, compassion, and empathy can make an enormous difference. It is everyone’s responsibility to be educated about suicide and offer support. It is dangerous to think, “this doesn’t or won’t affect me, so why get involved until it impacts my life?” Sadly, it can be too late by then. Take advantage of classes and workshops offered on how to hold the hard conversation about suicide. You could save a life by knowing how to address it properly and where to get someone, or yourself, help.  


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

Anyone can be affected by mental health challenges and suicide. Suicide does not care about social status, employment, income, education, race, gender, age, or religion.