This is the second part of the essay about the day I learned that my mental health labels might have all been coming from my trauma experiences. It’a about how all Kansas Certified Peer Specialists earn a pin that says, “I’m a walking miracle.” This is my miracle story and how I realized I can help everyone move to the other side of their diagnosis.
What winning the Olympic Trials Taught Me about Trauma-Informed Care (part 2 of 3)
…..After I won the Olympic trials, I wasn’t happy. I was scared. I was horrified. My main opponent in the trials had been the only athlete in U.S. Judo history to have medaled at both the World Championships and the Olympics. I lost the first day of the trials after a questionable referee’s call. Because I had gone into the trials as the number one ranked athlete, we had a two out of three fight-off the next day. I won both of those matches by split decision, and both were very close with no scores.
The scariest thing for me was realizing how near I had come to giving up.
I told my fiancé at the time, “I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to pull it out if it had gone to a third match.” The trials were featured on ESPN, and the commentator said that my performance might have required the most heart of all the people who made the team. However, it felt terrible to me. There was something I had wanted so much, something that meant the whole world to me, and I had almost given up. Winning the Olympic trials was a positive event, but I also had some very negative feelings.
My recovery story and how “I’m a walking miracle:”
In a way, this parallels the greater battle that came later for me. I was labeled with a mental illness five years after I stopped competing, and given a total of twelve diagnoses, a few of which might have been accurate. I was very sick for a long time, and now I am not. Now I have a great life with many close friends, joyful hobbies, housing I’m proud of, and exciting, ever expanding career possibilities.
But there was a time when I was dangerously ill that I had none of that. I had given up on my dreams and thought that none of what I wanted was ever possible again. I thought for sure that I was going to be one of the 15% of people with serious mental illness that die by suicide, and that I wasn’t going to make it to my 30th birthday. For a very tough time in my life, I was willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen. There’s a line from one of my poems that explains this feeling, “…that place where I decided there’s nothing left. I thought my life and my family and my career were over….”
I made six suicide attempts, and this is another fight that I almost lost. I earned a button during the certified peer specialist training that says, “I’m a walking miracle,” and I truly am. I have a line in one of my poems about one of the suicide attempts that said, “I was trying to hang myself in the barn, when saved by the one 30-second chance that the neighbor walked in.” It was indeed that close.
I performed this poem for a crisis handling training this spring for our whole agency. I told them about this time in my life where only several miracles had saved me. I told the story so powerfully that I put myself back into it. I hadn’t fully realized how close things actually were. I have a poem, that partly says,
“…Scarred in the hard for the lack of regard for the best yet to come.
Learn not to succumb so that could still become
This powerful fierce human. Being…”
Here’s the video of that poem earning my I’m a Walking Miracle Pin in my certified peer specialist job: